15 Feb


The day, which had started as a nightmare developed into something a great deal worse as all sorts of things, many of them unmentionable, were done to Brother Imageous, and yet, several hours later, Imageous found himself, minus facial hair with its accompanying greasy knotted, flowing locks and wearing clean hospital-issue pyjamas, tucked into a hospital bed on a private ward in which, to his mind, far too many shiny things twinkled and sparkled.
Imageous wasn’t used to things that sparkled. He didn’t like them because he didn’t trust them.
The doctor had been most offensive when he had arrived and had actually touched those parts of him that hitherto very few people had dreamed of touching, and had tut-tutted at what he had seen and ordered one of the (admittedly pretty) young women in their starched uniforms to shave his unmentionables.
This act of downright aggression probably ought to have brought a huge amount of relief, but who were they to do it? What right had they do anything to his painful flesh? Pain was provided by his Lord as a penance and ought to be suffered rather than relieved, surely?
When he hesitantly broached his theological problem to the nurse she flashed a hugely attractive smile at him as well as two rows of dazzling teeth, far too white to be real, thought the Brother, and told him that the work she and the doctors were doing on his behalf would extend his life quite a lot if he responded well, thus providing him with many extra years in which he might worship whomsoever he chose to worship, so don’t be such a silly boy and do as you’re told.
That shut him up for a while and he watched with fascinated horror as quite a lot of wriggly things were pulled from various painful parts of him and placed distastefully into a stainless steel dish where they continued to wriggle.
“You really are terribly infested,” sighed the nurse. “You must have been in a great deal of pain.”
He didn’t know what infested meant, but remained silent anyway, choosing to keep his ignorance to himself. He had been in a lot of pain, but he had always assumed that was par for humanity’s course. It was man’s suffering because of all the sin you could see everywhere you looked, particularly if you looked at prostitutes.
Now he was finally in a far-too comfortable bed and feeling sulky and relatively pain-free.
The trouble with pain, he mused, is that you can feel it day in and day out for year after year and only fully appreciate it when it’s taken away from you…
Not that all his pain had gone. Not all of it, by far, but enough to make a difference. And, he mused, when a lot become a little it might as well be nothing…
He was now appreciating the near-absence of pain for the first time in half a century and was absolutely certain that it was wrong. He needed the constant nagging of agony to remind him of something or other, he wasn’t quite sure what but knew it must be there. Man’s imperfection: maybe that was it. Or his own frailty against the pressures of the world.
He was provided with a hot meal which, on top of his hunger, made him feel sleepy, so he inadvertently went to sleep only to be woken by a different nurse after a very short time because he had to swallow a range of dodgy looking coloured items that, he thought, might well do his devotions a great deal of harm if they were in any way pleasant. He swallowed them anyway, because it was too much trouble not to, and gratefully slipped back to sleep.
His dreams that night were so insignificant that he couldn’t remember having them, but he did miss the big black bird he had hoped would put in an appearance with its scruffy piece of paper. But the night passes peacefully and when he was woken next morning by a set of beaming white teeth he actually felt refreshed enough to contemplate making an escape.
If nothing else, Imageous was an opportunist, and that very next day he was presented with a huge opportunity.
His side-ward door should have been locked, but it wasn’t, the policeman who was bored to tears sitting outside it had paid a visit to the male toilet where he sat reading his wife’s copy of “Fifty Shades of something or Other” in order to wile at least a few minutes away, and when Imageous peered out there was absolutely nobody in sight.
And Brother Imageous availed himself of the opportunity, and walked out of the room he was in, down a corridor where if he was noticed at all it was by staff who didn’t know that he was the mad man in the secure room and, following a series of arrows attached to the words WAY OUT, found the main entrance and drifted through it as if he did that sort of thing every day.
Maybe it was because he was a bald, clean-shaven elderly man and the prisoner had sported an obscene amount of facial hair, but he wasn’t challenged once, not even when he took his hospital-issue pyjamas onto the public highway.
He was free! And didn’t it taste good! Free, and without the greater part of the pain he’d lived with for most of his life. Free, and not smelling of decades of dirt, dead skin and allied bodily fluids together with an army of maggots he had been host to. Free, and didn’t the air smell good!
Free, and it started to rain.
Brother Imageous knew about rain, though he hadn’t felt much of it splashing on his skin because the great majority of the past seventy-three years he’d spent incarcerated in a tumbledown Monastery. This rain started to make him wet, very wet and very quickly. His pyjamas started to cling to him, and that was far from pleasant, especially as a great deal of his body under them was covered by dressings and medication.
He looked around him for shelter. There were a few trees, and as it was summer they had fairly copious canopies. Behind him was the hospital and around him were trees, a road with vehicles (he was getting used to these) whizzing along it, and trees.
The rain became heavier. It became torrential. And he felt correspondingly more and more miserable as he stood beneath a tree and let excess rain make its way between the branches and fall in large and cold splodges onto him.
He might have been warned against sheltering from a storm under trees, but if he had it was totally forgotten.
Many of us live our lives without meeting a person who has sheltered under a tree that gets struck by a bolt of lightning, but that’s exactly what happened to Brother Imageous shivering under that tree. It might have been his unlikely deity, of course, controlling aspects of the weather or it may have been pure chance, but the very first explosive flash of lightning and crash of thunder hit his tree and sent it toppling in the most beautiful slow-motion towards the ground and brushing, fortunately only brushing, Brother Imageous with its outermost twigs as it settled, in the rain, onto the already puddling Earth.
That might have been the end of him but for the fact that a fairground wagon was pulling up because the driver couldn’t see an inch in front of his windscreen, but once he had stopped he could the oddly-dressed figure of Imageous as he dropped to the ground beneath a toppling tree, and knew he must help.
And as he closed his eyes to pray to whoever it was the Brothers prayed to, Imageous saw the wagon and the sign painted in wonderful decorative calligraphy on it.
© Peter Rogerson 02.02.17


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