Sunday, 7 September 2014

The Vagabond Saints

Where the sky welcomed the road at the far edge of town stood large monoliths of rock pointing straight at the stars; perhaps in an earlier time they had names of gods or demons but these days they were simply known at the Vagabond Saints.
My Grandfather had told me a story that they were the remnants of men who had idled too long at that point and who had been turned to stone by the forces who got annoyed by such things.
There was something peculiar about them – there always had been. They marked the boundary of the electric road, for it was known that if you switched off your car engine as you passed the Vagabond Saints the car would just keep on going.

Some said it was just a trick of the eye, that the land was actually going downhill at that point but the line of the horizon made a mind think otherwise. Other folks said it was where the underworld met the living and as such should be treated with reverence, and then there were those who laughed at such stories but who would run past at dark time when they were coming home from the bar and the beer was wearing off, taking away their protection.

I knew what they were, they were magic and that’s all I needed to know. One day when I was fishing at Gracey Hollow, I was in the process of pulling a trout out but if that fish didn’t want to fight to the very last. As I was easing the hook from its mouth, it gave one last fight and managed to drop back in the pool. The little creature ripped my finger open with the hook and the red of my blood was colouring the water.

I ripped a part of my shirt and wrapped it around the finger, praying that as long as God didn’t let my finger fall off , I would keep going to the church on a Sunday. As I got back to the border of town, I stopped to get some rocks out of my shoes. I rested my bleeding hand on the Vagabond Saints just to steady me like when all of a sudden a big beautiful warmth flooded through my body and the old bloody finger healed up. Like it was good as new.

I ripped the cloth off completely and sure enough there wasn’t a cut or a line or anything to say where the blood had come from. I got up and walked into town with a story in my head that I would be keeping to myself.
An autumn came and went, along with a winter and soon it was Spring again – the thing that happened at Vagabond Saints had been long forgotten. Until the day me and Jake who was my younger brother went into the Yellow Hills to try and see a wild cat. There wasn’t too much happening up in those hills so we called it a day a couple of hours before sundown.
As we descended Lawyer Pike, Jake slipped and I run to grab him but he fell a good 30 feet or more. My head flashed a million stories and none of them were good. I knew I was going to climb down there and find my only brother dead and gone. There were even crazy thoughts about how I was going to explain it to my parents. Like that mattered.

When I got there he was lying face down and moaning like he was somewhere else. I know that doesn’t make too much sense but that’s the way it felt that he wasn’t occupying his body at that time. I didn’t want to move him but it was going to get dark soon and the wild things would be sure to get him. So I flung him over my shoulder and I started to walk towards town hoping that I wasn’t causing too much damage even although he kept moaning.
At Vagabond Saints I sat for no more than a minute, as I lay Jake to rest a while. The funny thing was, he wasn’t moaning as much and that didn’t feel good to me. The next thing I must have fallen asleep and suddenly I was being slapped on the face and someone’s calling “Wake up”. It was Jake saying he was cold and that we’d better get a move on.
I told him I was sure he must be dying and he shouted “Not today, brother, not today”.
On the way back home we talked and talked and Jake felt that he’d just been winded, nothing more.
Life took me away from the town and from the Vagabond Saints, the way it does with everyone. I got a job at the other end of the country and I met someone, we settled down and raised a family.
Then one day the world opened up and swallowed my whole, my son, my love, the apple of my eye was sick. I would have laid my life down there and then if it would take away his pain but there seemed to be nothing that I or anyone could do. They were talking a few months at most, so you’re already ahead of me here, I guess. I took my boy to my home town. I pushed him in a wheel chair around the streets, showing him where I grew up and where I skinned my knees and then we finally stopped at the Vagabond Saints and I told him to touch the stones and he did and he smiled.
From that moment on, he just kept getting stronger and stronger. The doctors thought it was a miracle but I knew better, I knew he’d been cured by the Vagabond Stones. Then I began to wonder what do you do with something like that? Do I tell every sick kid in the area? Do I go to the press or the television people?
My boy and his girl came back to town a few years later to get married – he just loved the place although we never talked about the rocks. One balmy night, a few days after the wedding I went walking out to the stones, alone. There was a clear sky and a bright moon and I felt as if I could have walked forever.
I touched the stones just to say thanks and that was when the pain shot up my left arm, followed by a massive pressure in my chest, then my legs crumpled from under me as I got ready to say goodbye.

bobby stevenson 2014

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