Friday, September 02, 2005

Free - We help a town

The butterfly was joined by a second. Then a third.

Then more.

And some of them began to fly into the room.

A few people in the crowd began to notice. I saw some pointing, heard some whispers.

But the priest, the judge and the farmer seemed not to notice.

“Of course it could have been him,” the priest said. “Look at him. He has the dark skin of a devil’s servant.”

This was while I still had my Turkish complexion. Over the years my skin grew paler.

“Still,” the judge said. I have seen the boy. He has delivered baked goods. His father does own a bakery in Kringlesburg.”

“Ah, the devil is trying to seduce him, too,” the priest said.

I wasn’t angry at him. He did not look like an evil man. He looked frightened. And tired. I noticed his eyes were red. From lack of sleep? Crying? Maybe he was staying awake taking care of his people? Maybe praying for them?

Still, it was time to end this. I nodded my head.

At that moment, a butterfly landed on the end of the judge's long nose.

He sputtered and sneezed.

Other butterflies flittered in and out among the poeple.

There were dozens of butterflies.

People swatted at them, but they stayed just out of reach.

The constable tried swatting at one with his club.

The club slipped out of his hand and flew just past the head of the judge, who sputtered even more.

"We will have a recess," he screamsed, storming out of the room.

By this point, people were laughing.


A delay. And people in better spirits. This was exactly what I wanted.

The butterflies continued their flitting for close to an hour. Then one by one they flew back out the windows.

The judge did not return for nearly two hours.

When he did, the word had to go out for the people to come back.

Then they had to find the the priest and the farmer, who had disappeared.

Finally, they were found. Both had fallen asleep in the rectory!

At last, nearly four hours after the first butterflies had entered the courtroom, the judge called out for order.

Then we heard other noises outside.

Several people stood.

"More butterflies?" someone asked.

Many people laughed.

“No. There’s cows out there!” someone exclaimed.

The crowd surged out of the courtroom. Nicholas, Ann and I followed – the constable in tow.

Peter sat on a horse. He had with him a half dozen cows.

“What is the meaning of this,” the judge said.

“Why, this is a gift,” Peter said. “From Nicholas.”

He pointed to me.

“Were did you get cows?” Anna whispered.

“I was ready for all needs,” I whispered back.

Then I said to the crowd, “Friends, I bring these cows as a gift to you in this time of need. Your children should drink milk to keep them from getting sick and to build their strength.”

“They…they might be cursed,” the farmer said.

“Don’t look cursed to me,” one of the townsmen said.

I heard one man add, “Not like the cows on his sorry farm.”

“My friends and I came here to see if we could help,” I said. “I know some simple medicines. Nicholas and Anna are a baker’s children who were bringing food.”

At the mention of food, all eyes turned to the constable.

“They had food? Where is it.” An older man said.

“Well, I, um, I have it in the jail to, um, keep it safe,” he said.

“Get it,” the judge said.

The constable ran off toward the jail.

The judge looked at the farmer.

“Are you sure these are the people you saw in the woods?”

The farmer looked around at the eyes of his fellow townsmen. He could read the messages in their eyes.

“I, er, might be wrong.”

The priest stepped forward.

“I may be wrong as well,” he said.

“We all make mistakes,” I said. “Now is the time to help.”

We did help. Over the next few days we nursed the sick. I taught the people about boiling all water, and keeping the soiled water away form all drinking water. Nicholas helped to build some privies – decorating them in his own style.

Anna taught the women about cleaning their hands before cooking. She also showed them how to make a community soup to that they could share all their food to make sure that there was enough.

As for Kaiser, he was no longer a savage attack dog. He followed Anna everywhere, and was soon playing with the children, most of who recovered quickly from their illnesses.

Sadly, some of the very sick children and adults died. We had several funerals.

I spent long nights in the church praying for their souls. The priest often knelt beside me, lost in prayer himself.

Two weeks later, we were ready to leave. The priest blessed us.

“I am sorry that my brother and I falsely accused you,” he said. “But I can tell by your kindness and your actions that you have already forgiven us. You are saints.”

“We are just people who care,” Nicholas said.

I kept my mouth shut.

As we rode out of town, Peter, who was riding next to our cart, loudly said to me, “So you’re a saint, eh?”

Anna smiled.

“I think he is,” she answered, then said to me, “I have never seen a man of your years work with so much energy.”

“Years? You don’t know the half of it,” Peter laughed, and rode ahead.

I looked at Anna and shrugged.

But I thought: If there is any saint here, I am looking at her.


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