BROTHER SIMEON'S SHOCK
Brother Simeon was weeping.
There was nothing he seemed to be able to do that was right. Father Abraham had just chastised him, this time with a fistful of birch twigs that looked harmless enough but which hurt like mad when Father Abraham was in a bad mood as he was now.
It had been like this.
Late the previous night, before midnight prayers, he had heard a noise that he couldn't place. So he had done what any good brother would do, and gone to investigate. There were bandits about, hoodlums of the wild living, it was reported, in the forest south of Nottingham. It was known that they thought nothing of raiding churches and cathedrals, stealing silver and even gold artefacts if they were left unattended. It was a scourge of the century, and no matter how hard Father Abraham prayed, his prayers had no effect. The thieves still came like ghosts in the night.
It was as if God wanted chalices and pendants to be stolen.
It was as if the brothers themselves were being tested by a deity they barely understood.
So he had crept out, hoping to catch a thief at work. What he would have done then was a problem because he was hardly the bravest of men, and knew it. But somehow the property of his Lord should be protected, should be fought for. It was sacred, precious, wrought from metals that had been blessed and studded with precious stones from the four corners of the known world.
So there he had been, out there in the world, looking furtively for signs of an unwanted stranger. A thief. A brigand. A godless vagabond.
Sneaking out there in the moonlight he felt totally vulnerable. He could see nothing amiss, no trace of an interloper, but still he had that uncanny feeling that there might be someone out there, in the shadows, just beyond his range of vision.
Brother Simeon's heart was pounding, though to the unknowing eye he might have looked as brave as a warrior. A soldier of his Lord. A protector of all that was right and holy.
There was a scuffle out there. He heard it, a foot shuffling against the stone cobbles of the walkway.
“Hey!” he yelped, “who goes there?”
He knew he sounded pathetic, but the challenge had to be made.
There was another shuffle, another sound of something rubbing against something else, a gasp, almost a feminine sound, a giggle, also feminine.
“What evil is there?” he called weakly, his voice wavering.
“Stand forth!” urged a voice that was so authoritative it needed obeying, so Brother Simeon obeyed. He had to. It was what his life was about: obeying authority.
A light appeared, a feeble candle-glow that must have been hidden by the interloper and which dimly washed over two figures standing in the shade of an ancient, crumbling wall.
Father Abraham was standing there, his surplice and vestment raised by one hand of an almost naked female figure, a nun judging by the remnants of her wimple that somehow clung to a mass of golden curls, and her grip of his vestment revealed the Father's outrageous erection.
“My cell!” rapped Father Abraham. “Now!” he added, and Brother Simeon had no alternative but to scurry off, obediently. Father Abraham was perfect, and his every word should be obeyed.
He had to wait half an hour, maybe even longer, and the severe Father Abraham finally appeared, carrying his bunch of birch twigs.
“What were you doing out of your cell at night?” he barked.
“I heard...” stammered Brother Simeon.
“You heard nothing!” raged the Father. “I was out there, seeing that all was well, attending to godly matters!”
“But … the girl...” twittered Brother Simeon.
“Did not exist!” snapped Father Abraham. “A vision put there by the necromancer to tempt you down the road to hell! An apparition with no earthly substance at all!”
Brother Simeon had to believe the explanation. The words were issuing from the Holy Father's holier mouth, and must be absolute truth.
So he accepted his thrashing, wiped his blood on an already stained rag when it was agonizingly over, and backed out when given the order to leave, thanking Father Abraham for the pain he had administered most expertly, and grateful for his god for guiding him down the path to salvation.
© Peter Rogerson 22.05.12