Written By Abdun Nur
“There is a war raging, between the soulless psychopathic and the souled empathic, unfortunately most of the empathic don’t know their at war.
The reasoning empathic soul, could ‘not’ knowingly subjugate, encroach, impose, dominate, exploit, ridicule, or suppress any other soul, ‘always’ they give them liberty. Only a soulless psychopath seeks to dominate others, seeks power for its own sake, seeks to indulge their nature free of accountability.” Abdun Nur
The next day, all dressed in her best clothes, the old woman was outfitted to attend the funeral. Almost at the stroke of eleven Cathy honked her car horn on the road in front of the old woman’s garden. The old woman collected her handbag and locked the front door, then walked, as quickly as she was able, along the overgrown path towards the road.
As she opened the car door Cathy greeted her, “Morning Gwen.” she said with a beautiful smile. “You managed to fight your way out of the thicket masquerading as your garden path.” She joked.
“Morning.” Gwen replied once she’d organised herself in the seat, ignoring her comment, her mind on death and long forgotten friendships. She was thinking about the moment of time, how you were playing in a garden collecting apples with your best friend one second, then almost the next moment in a car going to her funeral 70 years later.
When they arrived, Gwen and Cathy joined the large group of family in front of the church. Gwen acknowledged no one, this was family she’d not seen in many decades, and who were almost beyond recognition now, from any souls she’d known.
How many years has it been?” A well-dressed woman, wearing too much make-up, and smoking a cigarette, asked as she sidled over.
“Sorry, do I know you?” Gwen asked, the smell from the woman of strong perfume and stale cigarettes hitting Gwen’s nostrils almost physically.
“I’m Delicia.” She replied expectantly.
“You are?” The old woman pondered… “Del? The daughter of Aunt Enid?” Gwen guessed.
“Yes.” Del replied.
“I’m surprised you recognize me?” Gwen said quizzically.
“You’re the centre of gossip, of course I wouldn’t have recognized you otherwise.” Del smiled.
“You were a small girl last I saw you, barely out of nappies, that must have been seventy years ago or more.” Gwen pondered.
“Don’t remind me of time. How old I’ve gotten, time is so fleeting Gwen. You look amazingly well, seriously, you’ll have to tell me your secrets of eternal youth after the funeral.” Del smiled but was distracted, and turned slightly to watch the spectacle, as the assembled hoard noticed the arrival of the under-takers funeral car, followed by a long line of black cars and other cars behind them, all pulling into view at the front of the church.
After the body had been carried into the church everyone wandered in and took a seat on long rows of wooden benches; as they entered each was handed a small page with two hymns printed on it. Cathy found Gwen as she entered the church and led her to a seat where her family were sitting.
The vicar made a speech, although he didn’t know Hilda personally, then Hilda’s daughter gave a tearful eulogy to her mother, several people were crying when she’d finished.
The vicar told everyone to stand and to sing. “The lord’s my Shepherd I’ll not want.” The loudest voice was the vicars, but Gwen didn’t join in, she just stood quietly.
After the body was loaded back into the undertaker’s car, the whole entourage took to the road forming a long line of cars. All drove slowly to the crematorium about five miles away.
There the whole process was repeated, everyone congregated outside the entrance to the chapel of the crematorium waiting for the body to be placed.
After the crematorium a family gathering was arranged with a buffet at a local pub, Cathy encouraged Gwen to go.
In the pub Gwen stood away from the groups, it took little time before people came over and spoke with her, she learned a little of those she’d known, in what seemed to her now another life, she discovered who’d died, and a little of the lives of those who still lived. She was a popular target; she was accosted in rapid succession as people wanted to gain gossip and tittle-tattle; her mysterious presence was a strong attraction for the ones who loved to talk.
Eventually Cathy drove Gwen back, arriving home at just turned six.
When Gwen was finally alone she felt vulnerable, and a little disturbed by the reality of death and her own inevitable end. The years had flown by, she’d always felt a little fearful of death stealing her life’s work and reflected on the brief nature of existence, as she sat in her favourite chair with a nice cup of tea. She didn’t fear death, only felt the loss was too high a price, the loss of her passion, of her labours, of the prospect of all future creations she would never be able to fashion.
The following week it rained, but on Saturday it was raining very heavily and the sound of the storm filled the room, which always made Gwen smile, she liked storms, they made life feel more real. Suddenly, her quite reflections were ended abruptly by an unexpected knock at the door.
When she opened it, a large group confronted her, headed by Cathy; the group was composed of her formerly alienated family, those with whom she had lost touch, until the funeral. “This is unexpected.” The old woman said, seeing the multitude that were being lashed with rain and blustering wind. Gwen felt uncomfortable, as if her privacy was being intruded, which made her stand and stare. Then, after a few seconds she realised she wasn’t presentable for guests, and attempted to tidy her hair and straighten her clothes.
“You’d better all come in out of the storm quickly.” She said when she finally realized their distress.
“Your garden is a real barrier to socialising Gwen.” An overweight woman, with a purple rinse in her hair complained as she closed her umbrella in the hallway, Gwen just looked and said nothing.
The family filed in filling the living room, they were soon drinking tea and eating cakes and biscuits, chatting among themselves. The old woman had brought in every chair she owned, and once all were seated, she sat down herself.
“So why’ve you all come?
And with such a terrible storm outside?” She asked them in a slightly dry tone.
“All have missed you, and we decided you’ve endured the pain of your loneliness for long enough.” Cathy said. That of course wasn’t the real reason that large group of women had braved the storm to visit Gwen. She was the wealthiest member of their family, this made her interesting, inheritance and blood, but what made her more interesting was the mystery of her life, they wanted gossip, they wanted to nosey around her house and see how she lived, they wanted to know what had happened to her over the past decades, they wanted in short for her to reveal personal and spectacular facts they could spread, embellish and exaggerate.
“You mistake the pain of loneliness, for the glory of solitude. Loneliness only exists if you have a poverty of the soul, solitude is chosen by a soul that wants no distractions. Only in solitude are we truly free. Solitude stimulates the creative mind; it hones the skills, and focuses all perceptions.
I learnt how to be happy again through solitude, now I can’t tolerate being around people who drain that state of love. Being solitary is central to the art of loving. I need no escape from myself. I need no other to validate my being.” Gwen smiled, her statement was a vailed condemnation of the entire group, she knew human nature, she knew the real reason this group of clunking hens had weathered the storm to sit in her living room.
The group sat in silence. A woman, who was Gwen’s cousin, spoke. “But we’ve missed you, we’re all amazed at the work you’ve done, the paintings are quite beautiful…
You know. Really you should share them with the world, they’re a treasure from what I can see.”
“If I shared my work, then the luxury of my solitude would no longer exist, solitude is an achievement, not a sufferance.” Gwen replied.
“Sixty years of solitude must be enough surely?” Gwen’s cousin, the deceased Hilda’s youngest sister, asked.
“Solitude teaches you many things, but beyond that it gives you peace, allows complete independence, teaching you to rely only upon yourself, and most importantly, for me, it affords a profound silence to focus the mind.” Gwen explained.
“If you wouldn’t share your paintings, you should, at the very least teach your skills to others, I mean, if I were you, I would, for such abilities to be lost would be a sin.” Cathy said earnestly.
Well I suppose it would depend on the student, with the right student it could be interesting I suppose, to develop their abilities. But I don’t think I would…It’d waste too much of my time.” She mussed.
“I work at the university, in administration, I know the art professor, I could talk with him; maybe if he came here you could discuss finding the right student, or other ideas?” Cathy suggested.
“Well, if he’s willing, I can entertain the idea at least.” Gwen said to be polite her ego getting the better of her in the moment, and in the hope of ending the subject, and smiled, but thought nothing would come of it, just idol chat.
Cathy told the group that each painting had its own story, and briefly explained some of what Gwen had conveyed about the painting over the fireplace.
A very fat woman in her seventies pointed to a painting she’d been studying since they arrived. “Gwen what’s the story of this painting?”
“Ah.” Gwen replied. “The village idiot.” She answered.
“Is that its title, it’s a very beautiful painting.” The canvas was six feet across hung and dominating one wall.
Gwen stood and walked over to the painting and looked for the number she’s written on the side of the frame, then she walked over to the bookcase and selected a book, she returned to her seat, opened the book at the right place.
Smiling at the group of ladies, Gwen began the story. “In a rural village there lived a very quiet man, he smiled at everyone he met, was always in a good mood, never said a bad word against any other soul, always helped anyone who needed it, without asking anything in return.
He kept himself to himself, and to his own business, but was always open to happily pitch in, even without being asked.
The people of the village considered him an idiot, and all took advantage of his generous and undemanding nature, they laughed at him for working so hard for free, and even to his face they made fun of him. But the village idiot didn’t return any of their ill will; he was always polite, and simply smiled.
People would steal from him, and he didn’t complain, he grew food in his garden and all would just help themselves without asking or thanks.
He made toys for the children, and would give them free, he was skilled at creating these objects and the children enjoyed their wonderful gifts throughout the village, he didn’t leave out a single child in his efforts.
He lived in a small cottage on the outskirts of the village, and would leave the village once a month and return a few days later, as the villages didn’t pay him for anything, people assumed he had a job to maintain himself on these days every month.
Their contempt for the village idiot, grew with every wrong they inflicted upon him, it was ever evolving, the more they took the more they felt entitled to steal, like all thieves. A villager needed furniture for his home, and while the village idiot was away, emptied his house, taking almost everything, leaving the cottage empty except for the village idiots few intimately personal possessions.
When the village idiot returned home, he found he’d no bed to sleep in, no table to eat from, no oven to cook with, no bedding even to sleep on the floor.
His only response was to lift his eyebrows and sigh. He left immediately and returned the next day with bedding, a bed and other furniture, setting himself up once more in the cottage.
A villager needed slates for his roof, and while the village idiot was away, he stripped the slates from his cottage to put upon his own house.
The spring weather was windy and wet and when the village idiot returned his home was in a sorry state. With no other option he left, to organize alternative shelter.
He returned a few days later with a large number of roof slates and other materials for his repairs, but while he was away the villagers had stripped away the stone and timbers that formed much of his cottage. So he simply turned around and left.
The summer market opened in the town and no sign of the village idiot had been seen. People came to the village to buy at the market and asked after the friendly and helpful villager. “He’s left, to who knows where?” The villagers said.
“That’s strange.” The market goers said. “Has no one investigated what’s happened to make certain he’s safe?”
“Who cares?” The villagers said. “He was an idiot.”
But, people soon discovered the real story of why the village idiot was no longer around, and word spread far and wide of the mistreatment of the missing villager by all the villagers, people began to avoid trading with the village; they looked upon the villagers as corrupt and dishonest, shunning them.
The people of the village suffered financial loss, and were fast becoming social outcasts. The village soon became known as the village of the idiots.
A villager was in the main town nearest to his village, and heard what others were calling his village, so he asked. “Why do you call our village, the village of the idiots?”
“Because you abused the wisest soul in your village to the point you drove him away. Then insulted him in his absence to the point you drove away your neighbours.” Was the reply.
Year after year the village became poorer and poorer, the people were sad and ashamed of how they had acted, not because of guilt, but because of how those around them now perceived them.
They had a meeting of all the villagers and it was decided, they would work together and restore the house they had destroyed, replace the furniture they’d stolen, rebuild the beautiful garden, and make the cottage far better than the original.
After they all worked together to achieve this goal, they nominated someone to go out and search for the man they had abused, to find him and ask him to return once again.
The searcher looked from town to town, he asked all he met, whether they’d seen the man he searched for, but no one had.
Returning to the village he explained his failure. The villagers were now isolated by those around them, no one would trade with them, people laughed at them and called them idiots behind their backs, they were becoming poorer and poorer, as no one even wanted to talk with them.
We’re in the same position we placed the man we called an idiot, a few of the villagers concluded, then we must follow his example some said, they began to help each other without demand or thanks, they created gardens for all to share, they went out to the neighbouring villages to give them help, to provide them with free food, even though they had laboured to grow the food themselves, to always be happy, and to smile and be friendly.
As the years passed the market returned to a vibrant and happy place, far better than anything of the past, village life was filled with happiness and joy, and everyone tended the cottage of the missing idiot, in hopes of his return, for now all knew he was indeed the wisest man of the village, because he had taught them by example how to live in happiness.” Gwen finished her story with a smile.
As she had told the story the group had all been staring at the painting, and could see some of the story unfold on the canvas, as she’d revealed it.
The group chatted for another hour. When the crowd had left the old woman cleaned up the mess, then sat down in front of the coal fire with two cats on her knees, relaxing. Her thoughts dwelled on death again, the aged faces of those she’d known as young women brought the reality of oldness back to the fore, she again contemplated her life, as she gently stroked a cat, and how fleeting it was. “This adventure of life is both precarious and its labours fleeting.” She said to the cats with a sad smile.
Click Link: Chapter Three
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