I looked through the list of my posts today. I was looking for a story that I was sure that I had posted and could not find it. If it is there it exists under a title that I do not recognise. What I did find was a swarm of posts with the legend Draft appended to them…. pieces that I had started off to write and which were never completed or posted. Some were completed and then pushed aside for future consideration. These were full of the vitriol I oft-times feel for my fellow humans and yet realised that if I published them would be at worst ignored at best dismissed by some readers with little thought as to the ideas or feelings behind them:
As she entered the small town square it seemed that the populace looked up in unison, on some unseen unheard signal. On seeing the old woman the market traders started to pack up their stalls, parents ushered their children and even their dogs into their houses and shuttered the windows and doors. Even those masters of independence, the cats, were scooped up and taken indoors. The town square was, as if by some invisible broom, swept clean, was empty of towns people
She sighed and started on the inevitably fruitless search for a morsel to eat. Next came the equally fruitless knocking on doors and pleading for a bite to eat.
Behind a door a baby’s cry was stifled by a parental hand.
As she approached the well for a drink she saw that it too was inaccessible to her by dint of a huge timber cover locked and chained in place. With a sigh the old woman settled at the foot of the large tree that offered shade at the far end of the square.
Time passed and no-one stirred. Suddenly the woman caught sight of a dust cloud in the distance beyong the gate of the town. As she watched it grew larger and eventually she could make out the figure of a handsome young man. The cloud was caused by his enormous, richly embroidered cloak trailing behind him.
As if on a new signal there was a flurry of activity as doors and windows were unbarred and children ran excitedly into the previously deserted square. market stalls were set up and even the dogs appeared to be excited.
The handsome young man strode into the town square and held his arms spread out in front of him. Children crowded around him and half dragged half guided him to a stool that had been set out near the tree.
The woman gazed in wonder as a carpet was spread at the young man’s feet and in no time atall became covered with fruit and cakes, bread and bowls of spiced meat.
The children sat at the edges of the carpet and their parents stood behind. A large dish of water was drawn from the well and handed to the young man. He first drank and then washed his hands and face in the cool liquid. A skin of wine appeared and he drank a draught.
The young man spoke.
He told stories and sang songs. He recited poems and rhymes. Every story, song and rhyme was greeted with applause, laughter, smiles even tears from time to time.
After an hour or so the storyteller stood and moved the stool nearer to the tree where the old woman sat and started to feast of the gifts that had been given him.
Suddenly the young man seemed to notice the old woman watching him and proffered a loaf of bread and a a cup of wine. The old woman smiled her thanks and he smiled back as she ate and drank.
“Tell me who are you? And why are you so popular?” the woman ventured after being pressed to eat some ripe figs.
“My name is Story,” the young man replied,” and I am indeed lucky for no matter where I go in this great world of ours the people always welcome a good story. Tell me who are you?”
The woman paused and sighed,” MY name is Truth and I am afraid that those same people that love your stories do not like Truth. They say that Truth hurts. They are scared. No one really wants to hear the truth.”
The young man nodded and smiled at the woman. He stood up stretched and started to gather together what remained of the gifts given him earlier.
He paused and looking down at the woman said, “You know, I very rarely go without. Indeed I often have enought to provison an army it seems. Why don’t we share and travel the world together? When we approach a town, a city or a village then you can hide under my cloak. I would be glad of your company upon my way.”
And this is what they did. Story and Truth. Truth and Story
Still, today, you will find, where ever a good Story is told, Truth is not far behind.
I cannot remember when or from whom I first heard this story but for the last ten years or so of my career I made sure that this was the first story that I told to any new class or group that I taught. I have told it to children as young as five, changing the woman’s name to Lesson, and to groups of adults of all ages. Among the latter I have been asked permission to re tell the story.
If, perchance, anyone reading it here knows the author or where the story originates, please let me know.
Please also tell the story, in your own way of course.
And try to consider the truth (or lesson) within this story itself: You do not like the truth, do you?