DAY 37: Random Story #2 – Part II

Gardiner looked despondently upon is mother’s countenance and said, “I adjure you, Mother, do not refer to him in such a contemptuous way! Surely there can be exceptions to our hatred for Italians, and, now that I think of it, perhaps there is no need for our antipathy at all…”

“I will not stand to hear such words uttered in my household!” Mrs. Williamson cried hysterically. The corner of her mouth twitched violently in the idiosyncratic way that it did when she was angry, and she continued, “Leave us, Nathaniel! You are not welcome here!”

“Mother, please, I -”

“There is nothing you can say to defend this man!”

“He does not need defending! What has he done wrong!”

A heavy silence followed. Mrs. Williamson’s breathing was loud and strained. Nathaniel’s eyes darted between Gardiner and Gardiner’s mother repeatedly, as if following the ball at a tennis match. The air was uncomfortably still awhile, before Mrs. Williamson said, having regained her composure, “We have every reason to hate these people. Do you know what they did to us, Gardiner?”

“Other than show us kindness, what?” Gardiner replied edgily.

“They murdered your youngest sister.”

“Francesca was not murdered, Mother! She still lives; I can go get her right now if you don’t believe me…”

“No. You had another sister. Her name was Emilia, and she was the most precious little girl I could have ever prayed to birth.” A tear slid down Mrs. Williamson’s cheek, and she closed her eyes, saying with difficulty, “He was an Italian assassin. He said the murder was to augment the honor of Italy, and that her screams were like the tunes of mellifluous lays to his ears. Since then, I have harbored an intense hatred for all Italians; they have shown me nothing but a desire to harm others for their own selfish gain, or to appease their motherland’s greed for additional ‘honor’.”

Gardiner’s mouth was slightly ajar, and Nathaniel’s face blushed red with shame. Another silence followed, more painful than the last, wherein no eyes made contact with others. After a time, though, Nathaniel turned to face Mrs. Williamson and said, “I will leave, then, for the shame of such an action, conducted on the behalf of my people, burdens my heart.” He pivoted on his heel and started to leave.

“Mother, how can you blame all of Italy for the actions of one man?” Gardiner asked, stealing several glances towards the departing figure of Nathaniel.

“I have my ways.”

“The assassin was only one man…”

“How can you argue for one of his kind, when they took your sister from you when she was barely three years old!”

“Nathaniel didn’t do it! I implore you, Mother; surmount your prejudice, and give him a chance! Extend your hand to a man in need. He has nothing! He needs love, sustenance and some clothes on his back. Give him that much!”

Mrs. Williamson’s eyes wandered to Nathaniel, whose figure was silhouetted in the dying sunlight. She sighed and mumbled, “Bring him in for dinner.”

“NATHANIEL!” Gardiner cried, and ran to retrieve the vagabond.

The evening passed pleasantly, and though Mrs. Williamson was loath to accept the newcomer, she found a place in her heart for him, and learned to love him in spite of his nationality. Nathaniel came by once every week after that first meal, and grew to know the Williamsons very well over the years. When he laid down upon his deathbed half a decade later, Mrs. Williamson never left his side, and inundated Nathaniel’s hand with many bitter tears as he closed his eyes and went, as the passing of a soft wind, to be with his Father in heaven forever.

THE END.

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DAY 36: Random Story #2 – Part I

Gardiner Williamson despised Italian food to such an extent that he despised Italians as well. The reason for this animosity is debated, but theories can be derived from his troubled childhood, and the unfortunate Ital0-events therein. These shall be outlined below, and delineated in meticulous detail, to make certain that perusals shall not engender misconstruing…

Gardiner was born to a destitute family in the tiny, fictional Italian village of Guadilla. His parents, however, were not Italian; in fact, they descended from Russo-French hybrids who had formed their own communistic society in between Austria and the Balkans. Needless to say, as this is not mentioned anywhere in history, their society did not last long, and they were compelled to flee to Italy, where they made a name for themselves in Guadilla. Though they prospered in this little village, the Williamson family disliked Italians immensely, and, albeit contributing to the society, were never fully assimilated into it, preferring to mingle as infrequently as possible with the locals. This mindset was passed on, inborn, to Gardiner, who learned to dislike Italian food intensely, and, by extension, Italians themselves.

One day, though, Gardiner met an old hermit who was wandering near Guadilla, with naught be a few rags on his back and a haversack over his shoulder. The decrepit old man, with a tousled beard, bald head, chiseled countenance, gray eyes, and a scar running diagonally across his face, said unto Gardiner: “I am Nathaniel. Would you do me the honor of giving me your name, young lad?”

“Gardiner,” Gardiner replied. “To what end are you striving, wandering in the wilderness outside of Guadilla?”

“I am a pariah, having been ostracized because of my appearance and impecuniousness,” Nathaniel replied. “I do not hope to achieve anything by meandering through the countryside, but find that having no goal avails me better than striving to meet one.”

“How so?” Gardiner said, for he was having difficulty comprehending Nathaniel’s words.

Nathaniel smiled and said, “Are you not destitute? Surely you should understand the mind of one who has nothing and knows nothing.”

“We were poor once, but are now well-to-do, for my father owns a steel company,” Gardiner responded. “I was too young; memory does not serve me in my youth.”

“Then I have no hope of impressing upon you the significance of wandering without an aim,” Nathaniel answered him, and turned to set off to the south. “Farewell.”

“Wait!” Gardiner cried, before Nathaniel had distanced himself more than ten feet from him. “Would you like to have supper with us?”

“Us?” Nathaniel inquired, pivoting on his heel and raising his bushy eyebrows.

“Me and my family, of course! My parents, my brother and my two sisters.”

“I would not be able to forgive myself if I intruded!” Nathaniel said, shaking his head  sadly. “Perhaps another time, when you have secured the sanction of your family…”

“Come now! They will not mind it, and I do not know when I will see you again. Follow me, Nathaniel!” And Gardiner started back towards the village. Reluctantly, Nathaniel followed.

As the sun descended into the western horizon in a brilliant conflagration of orange and purple, Gardiner and Nathaniel came to the footstep of the Williamson residence, whereupon Gardiner rapped lightly upon the door and said, “I am home, Mother!”

Mrs. Williamson came to the door immediately and opened it, her face brightening at the appearance of her affable son. “Hello, Gardiner! Come inside. I have prepared some wonderful non-Italian foods for dinner this evening, and I have a reason to believe that it will be a sumptuous, Italian-less, thoroughly enjoyable repast indeed!” Then, upon sight of the vagabond, her radiant face grew dark and forbidding, and she said, “Who is this squalid man, Gardiner.”

“This is Nathaniel,” Gardiner replied. “I asked him to join us for dinner this evening.”

“Your ancestry, Nathaniel?” Mrs. Williamson asked brusquely.

“Full-blooded Italian,” Nathaniel replied proudly, beaming amiably. “I wish to thank your son for his invitation to dinner this evening; I have never been called to such a meal, you see, and find the solicitude of others for my wellbeing to be touching and uplifting.”

“We do not accept Italians here,” Mrs. Williamson said, tightening her lips and knitting her thin brows.

The smile faded promptly from Nathaniel’s face. “I beg your pardon, ma’am; does my nationality offend you?”

“Indeed it does. I have never taken well to Italians.”

“Surely there can be exceptions, Mother,” Gardiner said pleadingly. “I do not like them either, but this one seems nice enough.”

“What aspect of Italians do you abhor, ma’am?” Nathaniel asked, attempting to keep his voice as pleasant as possible.

“Every part of them. Their mien, their detestable behavior, their inordinately immense collections of lima beans, and their Italian-ness! What more is there to be said?”

“Am I presumptuous, ma’am? Certainly not. Do I like lima beans? I despise them, actually. Am I being rude to you as we speak? I pray that I am not.”

“What have you to say for being Italian?” she asked sharply.

“That I cannot change. My blood shall be Italian until the day I die.”

“Then I cannot suffer your entrance into this house,” Mrs. Williamson replied. “I will not besmirch this lovely dwelling with Italian filth…”

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

 

 

DAY 35: Incoherent/Random Story #1

To compensate for a lack of ideas, I have decided to start a series of random stories. They will most likely make little sense, and will probably be very difficult to follow, vague, and incomprehensible; one would, if using technical terms, call this “stream of conscious”, which I discussed in a post long ago in the days of yore. I hope you, to some extent, enjoy these little pieces of prose; they will undoubtedly be strange, but some meaning might arise from them, I suppose…

 

Mikhail lived under a rock in a hole. Needless to say, this did not afford him a pleasant view, nor did it facilitate happy living. Indeed, his life was rather depressing, and often he fell into states of melancholy and despair. His siblings – sisters and brothers alike – had died in a recent skirmish between his family and a rival family’s household, along with his parents and many of those people he had grown to love and adore. Now he was alone. He had dug a simple hideaway in the ground, rolled a stone over it, set torches along the interior, and proclaimed it “Home!”.

But it wasn’t home. It was a prison. A prison for his thoughts, a place to repress his sadness and let it fester a while longer, to leave his wounds exposed to the grime of his hovel and let them fester while he paid them no heed. It was a dwelling where every sorrow could be buried deep into his soul and left there to grow larger and larger. So long as it pained him not, he cared for it not. Little did he know that burying does not heal.

He had not seen the sunlight for weeks. He had prevailed upon himself to go out only when necessary to fill the room with oxygen, and to procure a month’s worth of viands for his meager meals. He tried to avoid others when he was out – drew his cloak over his head to obscure his face in shadow – but there were whispers everywhere he went, and he caught words like, “recluse” and “hermit” and “pariah”. He tried his best to remain insouciant to these, but “pariah” always got him, and he shed a tear whenever he heard it. “It isn’t right,” he grumbled to himself, whilst eating a stale carrot for dinner. “Folks ought to looking after the hurting, and not spurn them as if they’re lower than dirt. Don’t they know my sorrow?”

But they didn’t know his sorrow, and for that reason, the “creepy old man living under the rock” remained as infamous and notorious as ever. Soon, rumors started to spread about how he strangled little ones in the middle of the night – how he stole from the merchants attending to their business on the street. Before long, Mikhail wasn’t allowed into the town, and his food grew scarce. This brought him even greater sorrow, and he said to himself, in a low and quavering voice, “Wherefore have I incurred the opprobrium of shameful conduct, when I have not done anything to deserve reproof?”

Gradually, Mikhail grew sick. His food was running low, he could not leave his dwelling, and he remained inert for long periods of time, depression gnawing away at him in his inactivity. Seven days after being banished from the town, he fell upon his bed and could not rise. He closed his eyes and fell into a deep, troubled sleep, and in the dream that he subsequently had he wished many times that he could die and escape the torment of illness and solitude.

Then, he was awakened by a sound. The rock above him was moved aside, and a faint light gleamed in upon his dismal hole. He heard a muffled voice. “Is anyone down there?” It was sweet and kind, and called Mikhail out of his drowsiness instantly. He found strength in his legs again, and, heaving himself off of his rickety bed, went to the exit hole and looked out. There, just above, was a girl, clad in a white dress, with a benevolent smile on her face, radiant cheeks, a happy countenance, and a mane of golden-blonde hair. She reached out a hand to him and said, “Take it. I will lead you to a place where there is no sorrow, for the Lord loves you, and is calling you home.”

Mikhail reached out, and the girl took his hand. She led him up a flight of golden stairs to a gate in the clouds; magnificent, encrusted with jewels and guarded by two seraphs, flanking the entrance, attired in armor of the finest make. Those gates flew open, and Mikhail, every pain fading from his face, beheld the Living God, and fell into His embrace.

Upon the earth, no one was cognizant of Mikhail’s passing for a long time. He was a mere shadow, flitting hither and thither occasionally and then vanishing. He was nothing to anyone, and the villagers of the town heeded him not. One day, though, about a week after Mikhail had died, a young boy, of about thirteen, ran to the town hall and greeted the councilors with: “The old hermit is dead!”

The councilors laughed and the mayor said, “Is he? Finally! He has held on to life for far too long, boy. It is better that he is gone.”

“Shan’t we hold inter him as any corpse properly should be?”

“He does not deserve the honor. Let him remain in his hole; that shall be his grave for the rest of time.”

“Is there no sorrow among you for his passing?”

“Boy,” another councilor said, leaning forward and folding his hands, “we have other matters to attend to that must be discussed at once. This hermit is of little consequence to our current topic of discourse, and as such ought to be disregarded. There is no sorrow at all. He strangled children, boy, and stole food and items from the merchants. The despicable fellow deserved death, and we ought not to mourn him.”

The councilors bid the boy leave, and he did, but the boy never forgot that chiseled recluse who lived in the hole under the rock. “A sorry tale indeed,” he said once to his grandchildren. “That is why we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and comfort the hurting, Frederick. Because God asks it of us, and because we ought to do it if we love our brothers. Remember that, dearest progeny. Remember.”

 

In Christ,

Ryan

 

 

DAY 34: A Glass of Water (Don’t Forget the Ice!) and Milk with Ice????

Have you ever drunk a glass of water, brimming with ice, on a pleasant summer day? If so, the content of this post will probably seemed cliched or banal to you; you may as well skip over the first half of this post. Go on ahead. Do it.

A refreshing glass of water, consummated by the addition of ice cubes

If you’re reading this, you’ve obviously disregarded my exhortations. That’s both flattering and hurtful. The notion that you want to read this post as much as you do fills me with joy, but the idea that you do not trust me when I adjure you cuts me to the quick.

Not really, of course. The above is mostly filler. A blogger takes what he can get, eh?

I’ve recently started drinking a lot of ice water. For the most part, I’ve not thought much of water; it’s just a simple necessity, and not worthy of enjoyment or delight. Admittedly, imbibing it after working a few hours on a balmy day is pleasant, but at any other time, it’s just a tedious thing we do.

Putting ice in that glass, though, adds a new layer of refreshment to it that I hadn’t expected was possible for it to achieve. Now, I look forward to filling that vessel with some of those pleasantly chilly little cubes, and draining the liquid slowly as I go about whatever business to which I might be attending. I’m drinking one right now, actually.

Then there’s milk with ice.

Your countenance has probably assumed an expression of bemusement and bewilderment. Go ahead and check it in a mirror. I’ll wait.

You probably didn’t listen to that exhortation either. But that’s alright. I’m used to it.

Milk, attended with ice, is actually wonderful! After some sessions of golfing last summer, I would go over to my friend’s house and hang out with him for awhile. Whilst there, he introduced me to this strange compound, and I was instantly delighted with it. It was the perfect blend of flavor and coldness that relaxed me after several hours of sweating in the burning sun. Try it! I warn you, however, that if you let the ice melt, the milk will take on a disagreeably pungent flavor, and will be VERY unpleasant to drink. But you probably won’t heed that exhortation, so I shouldn’t’ve bothered giving it….

I jest. I jest.

In Christ,

Ryan

DAY 33: Blogging Recreance and the Evils of Procrastination

Hey everyone! It’s been awhile since I’ve posted – almost a week, actually – and I am completely ashamed of my egregious behavior. In sooth, I have lost the blogging war, and crave the indulgence of my two opponents, Abby and John, so that I might continue to write without incurring the opprobrium of shirking my duty. I’ve had a terrible spell of weariness as of late, and, consequently, my writing, and will to write, has suffered.

The paragraph written above can be set into the two categories which compose the title of this post: “Blogging Recreance” and “The Evils of Procrastination”. I’ll start with the latter.

One of the major causes of this lengthy lapse in blogging has been procrastination. “I’ll do it another day,” the blogger always says, and, inevitably, this “another day” turns into a week, which transforms, anon, into a month. This is the scourge of every writer. Procrastination is absolutely unacceptable, and the surmounting of it is essential to achieve if anyone ever wants to be prolific in prose.

Another one is “Blogging Recreance”. In other words, the fear that, when you sit down to write, no ideas will come to mind, and that if ideas do come, you will not be able to do them justice because you don’t know how to write them out as you envisaged them. In truth, however, you will never learn how to write these vague ideas if you don’t try and suffer through them. That’s something that I have to learn to do constantly, unhindered by my fear of not doing my subject justice. Just take a deep breath, close your eyes, shake your hands a little bit, relax, and get started. Whatever comes out might be rubbish, but rubbish begets greatness. No one starts out excellent. PRACTICE. PRACTICE. PRACTICE.

I am going to attempt, as amends for my misdeeds, to write fifteen blog posts this late afternoon and evening. Whether or not I will succeed is to be seen later on. I trust, however, that God shall take me where He will, and that, whatever happens, all shall be well in the end!

In Christ,

Ryan

DAY 32: The Complexity of a Bean – Part I

Richard Morris, an affluent English gentleman in possession of a modest fortune, was meandering through the London thoroughfares when his life was suddenly changed.

Richard Morris didn’t attempt to break out of the mould of the elite upperclassmen. He was fairly wealthy, and he wanted everyone to know it. He wore a suit with a cravat, a top hat, polished shoes, and his hair was combed back so particularly that not one single strand went awry. His countenance was solemn, his lips perpetually pursed and his eyebrows knitted together, as if he was always in a state of avid concentration. His mien was one of firmness and sobriety; his manner was stiff and formal, never breaking the propriety of decorum, and most would say that, if a train were coming his way, Richard would remain as erect as ever whilst walking ponderously away from the tracks, his pace as slow as it would have been if he were sauntering through a drawing room.

Fortunately, he had not yet been involved in such a situation, and, he prayed, would not get involved in one in the present or the future.

Richard did have one foible, though, in the aspect of formality and adherence to conventions; he loved walking in the rain. As such, he often returned to his abode sopping, and his servant, Ambrose would have a difficult time making certain that his suits would not get ruined from such exposure to water. Richard didn’t care much, though. Even now, as torrents poured upon him, he remained straight-backed and grim faced. Yet in his heart, there was great joy. He doffed his top hat and held it in both hands as he walked, closing his eyes and relishing the feeling of each individual drop gracing in pate.

Then, there was a crash.

He felt a surge of electricity course through him instantaneously; there was a temporary burning sensation, like every internal extremity of his body was on fire. He was sure that he was going to explode and leave a mess on the London thoroughfares, and prayed to the Lord that his remains would be few and far between, and that it would not be two much of a hassle to clean him up. Even in the face of death, Richard’s respect for others, and his desire for sanitation, won out over his fear.

But when the burning had ceased, he found that he was still standing, with his hat in his hands, as if nothing had happened. He looked around and saw no one, immediately wishing that there had been some pedestrian present to witness what had happened to him. Was it a dream? Had it just been the product of his own imagination? Or had he really, indeed, been struck by lightning.

One thing was for certain, he felt different. He suddenly didn’t care much for propriety or decorum; he found it more difficult to remain erect while walking. He couldn’t contort his face into an expression of sobriety and solemnity any more, and the air about him at turned into one that would make a passel of little girls laugh in hysteria. Had the lightning done it? Had it altered his disposition? Had something changed irreversibly in his nature?

Then, one object came to his mind: A bean.

Whether it was his weariness (being struck by lightning can wear a person out, contrary to popular belief), or an alteration in his brain – resulting from the lightning – he could not tell, but he suddenly had an inordinate desire to consume this harmless little article of food.

He rushed home at once.

TO BE CONTINUED…

In Christ,

Ryan

 

DAY 31: Lemonade Mouth

I will not attempt to deny that Lemonade Mouth is not an appealing name for people looking to watch a Disney Channel movie. However, looks, and ridiculous titles, can be deceiving, as is the case with this film. Originally a novel written by Mark Peter Hughes, Lemonade Mouth follows the lives of five teenagers at Mesa High School as they struggle with their own personal insecurities, struggles, and, in some cases, secrets. Needless to say, this is quite surprising for a Disney Channel movie, since the subject matter in most is – though somewhat deep, in rare cases – lighthearted and unmoving. Lemonade Mouth breaks out of the mould, so to speak, and gives us serious content and character development that makes the band mean something to us in the end, rather than just relying on popular music, heart shattering boy-girl relationships and drama to carry the plot.

At least, that’s what they were going for, anyway.

"Lemonade Mouth" singing their improvisational lay at the beginning of the movie

The five teenagers are certainly “a ragtag crew”, as they are called in the movie. There’s Olivia White (portrayed by Bridgit Mendler), a shy, clumsy, friendless individual suffering from

bereavement and shame (the death of her mother and imprisonment of her father, respectively); Stella Yamada (portrayed by Hayley Kiyoko), a rebellious, raucous and committed “rocker” whose parents are geniuses, and pay little heed to their “aberrant” daughter; Mohini Banjaree (portrayed by Naomi Scott), an Indian girl whose father is strict and expectant of her daughter’s utmost dedication to academic achievement; Charles Delgado (portrayed by Blake Michael), the brother of Mesa High School’s champion soccer player, Tommy Delgado, who is expected, by his parents, to take their eldest son’s place in the limelight on the field; and, finally, Wendell Gifford (portrayed by Adam Hicks), whose father, a widower, plans on marrying a woman much younger than him, to the resentment of his son, who doesn’t think it appropriate or acceptable.

And there aren’t any spoilers in that whole paragraph. We get most of this information in the first ten minutes of the movie.

This, in essence, establishes the foundation for the rest of the film thereafter. We see each of these characters develop in numerous ways, particularly through their reaction with one another in the band, and through “making their voice heard”.

A picture of one of the most beautiful, powerful scenes in the movie

In fact, the band acts as a sort of crucible for each of them, in which they are tested, battered, chiseled, beaten, and molded into entirely different people. Their friendship – the bonds, interwoven among one another – helps them stand against many challenges and sorrows, and gives them a crutch to lean on when they need it most. In particular, Olivia, combatting the shame of an incarcerated father and the sorrow of having lost a mother, needs their companionship the most, and is given the tender words and gentle embraces that she needs.

Olivia’s story was the most poignant, by far. I won’t tell you any more for fear that it will ruin it for you, but trust me when I say that, when you see it, it will be worth your while. If anything, watch the movie just to see her story, because it’s something beautiful that I have only seen Disney Channel accomplish one other time.

So, I liked the story. I liked the effort put into the plot. I liked the characters, and the changes they went through. In other words, it was deep; deeper, in fact, than Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.

But each of these elements were set on the back burner and left to simmer out of sight before they were drawn out at various points in the movie, having not yet been fully cooked. Not enough time was dedicated to addressing the characters’ struggles to make them moving and real. Even Olivia’s, while still being moving (no lack of time could detract from her powerful story), was just not touched on enough. I was really disappointed! Here was a golden opportunity to flesh out these characters and their relationships with each other, to tell us the sad story of a hurting girl in need of comfort, and it was missed as if it was unimportant! I needed that extra time spent with Olivia. I needed more of those moments where she and Wendell grow to become better friends. I needed to see Olivia’s tears vanish in joy, and to see Wendell transform into a better person through his gentle love for his friend. But it just wasn’t there. There was one scene that had some of it (pictured above, to the left), and another that had a little more, but that was all!

**Pulls hair out in despair**

What we get in this movie, instead of true relationships, is the illusion of true relationships. We hear Stella talk about how the band had been great for her, and how it had helped everyone else, but we don’t actually see it. It just happens. One moment they’re depressed, and then they’re all better, and we’re told it was because of Lemonade Mouth. But they still set it all on the back burner! They just don’t elaborate enough. They fell into the cliches of Disney Channel movies, focusing on the shallow relationship between Mohini and the oh-so-charming Scott, and the secret love Charlie harbored for Mohini, more than they did the relationships and the characters. It just doesn’t work; we can’t be attached to characters who are getting involved with jerks like Scott, who are just in it to take advantage of the girls they’re dating. Ostensibly he changes in the end, but I didn’t believe it. The moment Mohini forgives him for flirting with another girl, he puts his hands on her face and leans in to kiss her. That’s all he cares about. I’m with Mohini’s dad on this one.

So, Lemonade Mouth didn’t do it for me. Almost, but not quite. I appreciated the content – the story, moving struggles of Olivia, and the changes that the characters undergo -, but the lack of time given to the good aspects of the story marred what could have been an excellent movie. And what happens in the end? Lemonade Mouth becomes a big hit, and plays in huge concerts that rival those of the illustrious Miley Cyrus. They succeed. But do they really? What have we seen happen to people who get involved in fame? Their lives are ruined. They grow obsessed with money, themselves, their self-image, and forget who they are – what’s really important. What friendships they might have established at the beginning of the movie, when they were “less famous” people, don’t matter at the end. They’re rock stars now – celebrities. They’re “living the dream”.

But the dream I saw in this movie was at the beginning, in the gentle words Wendell had for Olivia when tears ran down her face at the thought of her dead mother and imprisoned father. The true beauty of the movie lies therein: Not in Lemonade Mouth or in the members’ rise to stardom, but in their relationships. Their friendship needed to be taken off the back burner, and set up front, for everyone to see.

Three stars.

In Christ,

Ryan

DAY 30: A Bucket of Water – Part II

The boy was despondent, and ran to the woods, sitting down beside a brook and weeping bitterly. The susurrant murmur of the stream at his feet comforted him a little bit, but, in considering the extent of his sorrow, availed him not a whit. Hot tears streamed down his doleful little face as he gazed hopelessly about him in that little clearing, wondering if someone would come to alleviate his distress.

Indeed, his desire was sated, for a girl, not ten years of age, came out of nowhere from the far edge of the wood adjacent to the clearing. She approached him solemnly, with ponderous steps, and upon sitting next to him, said, “You are sad. Why?”

But the boy could only manage, “Who are you?”

“Who I am is not important. I’m only here to help. Why are you sad?” she repeated.

The boy wiped his face, as if ashamed of the tears that had stained his visage red, and turned his flushed countenance towards the girl to say, “I have done a terrible thing. I gave my water bucket to a drunkard because I did not want to work. Now the drunkard has burned that very bucket, and I have nothing left to carry water with. The blacksmith has always wanted me to bring water down to him, so that his thirst might be quenched, and his weapons cooled, and, as a display of gratitude, he gives my father weapons free of charge. But when I did not bring the water to him today, he grew angry, and told my father that he would not give him any more weapons. Now my father is as mad at me as the blacksmith, and I cannot be in either’s presence without being reprimanded.”

“It sounds terrible,” the girl responded, sympathy in her little glittering eyes. “Do you know who this drunkard was?”

“Does it matter?”

“If it’s who I think it is, it might,” the girl said.

“No, I don’t know him by name, but he was tall, had a scar across the front of his face, and an unkempt beard.”

The girl remained quiet for a moment, then said hesitantly, “He’s my father.”

“Your father?” the boy replied in disbelief.

“Yes. And he did not burn the bucket. He took it home with him, so that he might give it to me to draw water.”

The boy was bemused. “To what purpose?”

“So that he won’t beat me.”

“Beat you?” He was taken aback. How could a man beat such a mellifluous, innocent little girl?

“Yes. He told me that if I drew water for him everyday, and brought it to him to drink, he would spare me the bludgeon.” A tear crept down her face.

The boy felt empathy for the girl. He knew what it was like to love someone, and not be requited, for that was the situation with his father. He laid a gentle hand on her shoulder and said, “What shall we do, then?”

“I don’t know. Perhaps we could share the bucket?” she suggested, sniffing after having sobbed for a time.

“The brook is too far, as is the well whence I draw my water. It would take too long, and the blacksmith, as well as your father, would grow impatient.”

“What else can be done, then?”

“Nothing. You may keep the bucket. You need it more than I do. I will only incur the contempt of my father. You, if the bucket escapes your grasp, will suffer the abuse of your father’s hand. I would rather be tormented with words than have you be tormented with the fist.”

She kissed him lightly on the cheek in that innocent, childlike way and said, “Thank you.”

So the girl, after embracing her newfound friend, took up the bucket, which she had hidden on the edge of the wood, drew water from the brook, bid the boy farewell, and departed. The boy, pleased he could help, but anxious about the meeting he would soon have with his father, returned to the village. He had reached the edge of the forest a while later, in view of the village, but was frightened, and did not wish to enter. So he laid down and fell asleep.

The next morning, he heard cries in the village, and saw several men disperse in many directions. He heard his name repeated, over and over, and for a brief moment he wanted to return. But the thought of his father, and the resentment with which he would be welcomed home, weighed heavily on his spirit, and he ran back to the brook, hoping to see the girl there again.

But she was not there, and did not come. The boy ran his hands through his hair, pacing back and forth along the bank of the brook, his face etched with sorrow and concern. Lines were drawn there in his countenance that made him look like a grown man, for despondency can have that effect on even the youngest of people.

At last, the bitterness of his circumstances clutched his heart, and he fell like a stone to the ground, tearing at the grass and sobbing uncontrollably. A rain began to fall. He felt himself to be a detestable animal, worthy of being beaten and mocked; he groveled in the mud, wishing that he had not given that bucket to the drunkard – desiring that he had not – imagining what his life would be like if he hadn’t. He had caused so much anger, and he felt terrible for it. He had let those he loved down.

Then, the girl came. She was sopping, her hair clinging to her shoulders and back, her little face streaming with rivulets of water, and her dress bogging her down as if she had stepped into a quagmire. She said, “Follow me!”

“To where?” the boy replied. “Not back to the village, I pray!”

“Yes, back there. Everyone is looking for you! You’re making such a fuss over nothing!”

“My father hates me, now that I have failed him!”

“No he doesn’t; he’s been looking for you, and been pining ever since you left. Come back with me.”

“How can I trust that he won’t be mad at me?”

“Why would I lie to you?”

The boy paused and looked soberly at the girl, brushing as wisp of hair out of his eyes and considering the whole situation for a moment. What if she was wrong? What if his father still hated him? What if he would have to endure the opprobrium of being the child in the village that his father hated? What if everyone hated him when he came back?

But then again, what if she was telling the truth, and he was writhing in the mud out here for nothing? What if he was exacerbating the situation by his own actions? What if returning would fix everything…

“Alright,” he said at last, and walking to her side, continued, “I’ll trust.”

So they walked through the rain drenched forest for a long while until reaching the village, which was now illuminated with dim torches and filled with more raucuous shouts than ever before. The boy walked timidly with the girl into the village, and, upon sight of him, the townsfolk ran to him and began to encapsulate him in multiple embraces, thanking the Lord that he was well, and that no ill had come to him. The boy was, to be sure, surprised at this greeting – doubly so when he saw his father run towards him and hug him. The man, clinging tightly to his son, said, “I shouldn’t have been angry with you, boy. I was a fool. I beg for your forgiveness!”

“You have it,” the boy replied, and when he was released from his father’s grasp, inquired, “But why the change of heart? And why is everyone greeting me so joyously?”

“Because they know what you did for me,” the girl answerd him. “They know that you sacrificed the bucket for me, when you could have taken it for your own purposes. Everyone appreciates that, including me. When they heard that you had vanished because you felt terrible, they began searching for you. We praise God, knowing that you are alright now!”

The boy smiled.

THE END.

In Christ,

Ryan

DAY 29: A Bucket of Water – Part I

There once lived a young boy, about eleven years of age, who went back and forth between the well and the village to draw water and bring it to the blacksmith, who needed it for drinking and cooling hot iron. This blacksmith, who was always grateful to the boy for providing him with such a convenient service, would subsequently deliver his completed weapons to the boy’s father, who collected them for no discernible reason. The boy’s father would continue to urge the boy to deliver the water to the blacksmith, so that the blacksmith would continue to send weapons to him, and the blacksmith encouraged the boy’s father to encourage the boy to bring him the water he sought after, so that he might quench his thirst, and cool his weapons.

One day, when the boy was delivering the water to the blacksmith, a drunkard from the village tavern waylaid him and said, “What have you got in that bucket, boy?”

“Water,” was the boy’s timid reply. “I’m taking it to the blacksmith.”

“What does that despicable feller need that for anyhow?” the drunkard asked.

“To cool his weapons, and quench his thirst,” the boy responded. He quavered a little, so that the water in the bucket vibrated.

The drunkard seemed to appraise the boy for a moment. He looked the lad up and down, gave a nod, and said, “I will take that bucket, and do your work for you, lad. You have worked much, and need rest from your labor. Go, and repose on your cot. Be at ease.”

The boy was pleased, but anxious. “How can I trust you?” he asked.

“You cannot,” was the drunkard’s reply, and he departed.

So the boy returned home and reposed on his cot, just as the drunkard had told him to do. He lay there for a while, but his conscience got the better of him, and he rose to retrieve the bucket and go to the well.

But the bucket had been burned by the drunkard, and the boy now had no vessel to store the water. He wept bitterly over the smoking remains and cried, “Why? Why did I do this? Why was I recreant to my solemn duty?”

In the end, because the water was not delivered, the blacksmith’s weapons were not cooled, and his thirst was not quenched. Angered, the blacksmith did not send weapons to the boy’s father, and, in turn, the boy’s father grew enraged towards his son. In the end, no one was happy with the other, and the boy did not know what to do to make amends.

TO BE CONTINUED…

TOMORROW: THE CONCLUSION…

In Christ,

Ryan

DAY 28: A Cruel Joke…

There once was an Englishman who lived in London. One day, he found the entrance of a secret tunnel, hidden in a brier patch, that led to a majestic golden door in a subterranean city. Standing next to that golden door was a monk, clothed in a plain brown habit, bound at the waist with a thin cord.

The monk bowed and said, “Wherefore hath thou come, traveler? Art thou a vagabond?”

“No,” quoth the Englishman, shaking his head and gesturing towards the towering golden door. “What lies behind that door, noble monk?”

The monk bowed again and said, “I cannot tell thee, for you are not worthy of knowing.”

The Englishman, bemused, replied thusly: “How, then, can I become worthy?”

The monk bowed a third time and said, “You must count every blade of grass in England.”

The Englishman, startled, bid the monk goodbye and set out to complete the task. It took a very long while, and when he had finished, he returned to the monk and said, “I am finished. Now show me what is behind this door.”

The monk bowed a fourth time and said, “No. You are still not worthy, my friend. You must now count every drop of water in the ocean.”

The Englishman was frightened, and, with the thought of this novel difficult challenge, he set out to complete the task laid before him. Once he had finished, he returned to the monk and said, “I have counted every drop. Now, reveal what is beyond this door!”

The monk bowed a fifth and final time and said, “So it shall be, for you are now worthy.” The door opened, and the Englishman’s eyes grew wide with shock and pleasure.

Do you know what was behind that door?

We can’t tell you. You’re not worthy.

In Christ,

Ryan

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