My Writing

I try to put examples of some of my writing, both poetry and fiction, here from time to time. This is a short story which I hope has a relevant theme for this time of year.

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Gifts

‘Please, can you help me; I need to get through.’

The big man turned from watching the people in front, preparing their performance, to glare at the woman who was tapping on his shoulder. A small, fragile woman, no longer young, with face and hands that had seen years of hard work. Her blue garment was clean, but old; as were the sandals on her feet. All bore traces of the thin, white dust that covered the local roads in the dry heat of summer. Evidently she’d spent some time walking here.

‘We’d all like to get nearer,’ he said. ‘We’d all like a better view. But you can’t. Look – there’s no room to fit in.’ He gestured to the tightly packed mass of people standing in front of them. ‘There’s too many here already.’

‘But I have to see him.’ She pointed towards the man at the front. ‘I’ve got to give him these.’ She patted the bag she was carrying. Made of what looked to be old, brown leather, slung over her shoulder; it looked heavy.

The big man frowned. He looked at her uncertainly.

‘What?’

‘He forgot them. When they left, they forgot them somehow.’

One of the security guards appeared suddenly beside them, his attention perhaps attracted by their discussion.

‘What’s going on here?’  

He was another big man, broad shouldered and muscular, with a craggy face that had clearly known trouble; and, just as clearly, knew how to deal with it. He wiped a gnarled hand across his forehead. Rivulets of sweat were leaving tiny streaks of tan within the dust on his cheeks.

‘Gods; this heat,’ he muttered. ‘You’d think a storm was on the way.’

‘She says she wants to get to the front to see him’, the first man said, edging slightly away to give the guard more room. ‘Says she’s got something of his’.

‘Does she. Well, I doubt he’s going to be bothered about that just now, with the show about to start. He’s going to be a bit busy. They all are.’

‘He will’, the woman insisted.  She looked intently at the guard. ‘He will want them. They’re an important part of the whole performance’.

The guard looked doubtful. Her eyes boring intently into his gave him a vague sense of unease.

‘First I’ve heard about it,’ he said. ‘What is it you’ve got?’

She opened the bag she was carrying so lovingly, as if it contained precious things. He looked surprised when he saw the contents; as did the first man, peering over his shoulder.

‘Does he really need them now? he asked, peering above the heads of the crowd. ‘Look, they’ve started.’

‘Please,’ she said. ‘He needs them. He should have had them before they started. If I can just get through, it might not be too late…’

He hesitated, then shrugged. ‘All right; we can try.’ Turning again, he began clearing a way for her through the tight press of the crowd. The woman followed, murmuring apologies to those he shouldered roughly aside.

By the time they reached the front he was red faced, and sweating even more profusely.  Two other burly security men were standing there, helping to control the crowd. He didn’t attempt to push past them, but clearly he was the one in command.

‘She wants to see him,’ he said, indicating the woman. He suddenly noticed how frail she looked; he hadn’t noticed that earlier. He reached out a muscular hand to give support beneath her elbow. It was a gesture uncharacteristic of his kind, and she acknowledged him with a brief smile.

‘She has something for him – says he needs it.’

‘I doubt it,’ one of them said, grimacing; ‘Can’t you see he’s busy?’ He nodded towards the man everyone had come to watch. He and his companions were already on stage, in full view of the crowd beneath.

‘But I’ve got these,’ the woman said. She stepped towards the new guards, holding the bag open for them to see. ‘He needs to have them.’

‘Not at the moment, he doesn’t, I should think.’ The second guard  extended a hand to push her back, but his companion brushed it aside.

‘Wait a minute; let’s take a look, mate,’ he said.  

The two studied the contents of the bag for a moment with puzzled frowns, before looking at the man with her.’

‘What are they?’

The woman answered for him, before he had chance to speak. As she spoke, the smile swept across her face, lighting the tired curves of her features like sunlight after rain.

‘Birthday presents,’ she said. ‘He forgot them.’

The men studied her for long moments, lips pursed, puzzled expressions on all their faces. They seemed to be struggling with their emotions, if such men could be said to experience emotions as others do.

‘What’s it going to hurt? the leader said.  A big man, still red faced and sweating after his struggle to bring her through the crowd to this point. He looked at the other two, and motioned for them to step aside.  

‘Go on – get yourself through.’

The smile came briefly again, transfiguring the thin, pinched face. ‘Thank you.’

‘Thank you all,’ she added, to include the other two guards. ‘You don’t know what you’ve done.’

The three men watched her walk out in front of the crowd. A sudden hush fell as she stopped just in front of the man at centre stage and opened her bag.

‘It’s taken me so long to find you,’ she said. ‘All these years.’

The man, looking wearily down at her, smiled as she knelt and began to set out his long-lost birthday presents – gold, frankincense and myrrh – at the foot of his cross.

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