Saturday, November 21, 2009

Old Elliott lived in a small cottage at the end of the track on church property. In return for the small cottage, he maintained the stone walls about the church's cemetery. Elliott was a sturdy old man, with broad fingers and a close trimmed beard. He had been to Jerusalem with the crusades, and neatly tucked away on a crude shelf above the rafters of his home were carefully preserved seashells from the very shores of the holy land. The kids from ‘round about would mob him as he worked, begging for stories of palm trees, turbans and camels in a faraway and sun-drenched land. He always obliged, leaning heavily against a wall as he talked- his eyes alight as he mouthed the words. The men in town also plied him for stories, but those were of a different sort- Italian girls and battles- whores and blood spattered walls. He was honest. His tales didn’t require the spice of embellishment, but none could tell if his stories carried the tone of a confession or something else. Although the stories were told well, on that point he remained inscrutable. When the soul which had animated his sturdy frame bid farewell and he was laid in repose, surrounded by seashells, he lay as inscrutable as ever. The priest said of his servant, “We know his stories as does the God before whom we all stand naked, but God also knows the secret mystery of his heart."

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