Friday, April 22, 2005


the child, fifty-three

It was a very tired and discouraged Starr who sat by the fire that evening. She barely touched her supper, and as soon as Forest assigned someone - not Stone - to the first watch, she pushed up from her seat by the fire and started off towards the women's tent.

Stone caught up with her before she could disappear inside the tent. 'You all right?' he asked.

'I've been better,' she mumbled.

'Care to talk?' said he, drawing her after him to a lonely spot some distance out from the camp. They sat down side by side on an old log. 'So,' he said, 'that bad?'

'Oh, Stone, it was awful! No one listened!'

'I'll listen,' he promised.

'Well, I went to each of them, and I told them this: I think I know what will put a stop to all these arguments - if we start looking at each other as being all in the same body together, and start really loving each other...' She sighed hugely. 'And that's about as far I ever got.'


'Yeah, ouch is right.' Holding up her fingers, she started ticking off the responses. 'Lucy said: Are you saying that I'm not loving? And Joy said: Why are you telling me all this? I'm not the problem. And then Linda said: Look - I'm willing to stop arguing if Lucy will - but she's going to have to stop it first.'

'Oy,' said Stone.

'And then the guys! Forest told me: Hey, I never get into an argument unless I'm right. And if I'm right, why should I have to bow? As for James, he gave a snort and said: Somebody needs to take that boy down a notch or three!'

'That sounds a lot like those two,' put in Stone.

'Only Jack came anywhere near to agreeing with me. But what he said was: Look - I like what you're saying, but I'm not going to be holding my breath expecting it to ever happen.' And she lapsed into unhappy silence.

'Umm,' said Stone. 'But what about the others?'

'Others?' said she.

'Yes. Mal, Morgen, Mac. Didn't you talk to them as well?'

'Oh! Uh... I didn't think I needed to. I , uh, haven't noticed any problems with them,' said Starr. After all, she thought, what trouble would angels be up to?

'You haven't? But don't you think...' And then Stone stopped and gave a brief chuckle. And then a second one.


'Oh, I was about to ask you if you didn't see it as a problem that Mac was trying to steal my girl. But then it hit me: how could he be stealing you from me, when I had already shoved you as hard as I could away from me? Which is a mistake,' he added, 'that I don't intend to make twice.'

Oh. Gently, slowly, she said, 'He wasn't really trying steal me from you, Stone. He never had that kind of interest in me.'

'Hmm. Well. Hmm.' He ran his fingers through his hair. 'Guess maybe I need to forgive him, huh? And, uh, ask his forgiveness as well.'

Silence fell over the both of them for a bit. Eventually, she spoke again. 'You know what's strange, Stone?'


'The fact that all of this - loving each other, forgiving each other, putting up with each other - Stone, we knew all this at the start. Didn't we? But we let it slip away. I don't mean just the two of us - you and me. I mean the whole group, all of us. We knew how we were supposed to treat each other! So, what happened?'

He shrugged. 'Life happened. This journey happened. Being thrown together with other people happened. Well, and the enemy happened too.' He thought a bit longer, then added, 'You know for me, there are times when I will know a thing here,' he tapped himself on the forehead, 'but then it will take me going through something really hard, really heart-rending, before the lesson gets burned into me here.' And he poked himself in the chest. 'Has it ever been like that for you?'

Yes. Oh, yes. He was very right.

'So where do we go from here, Stone? How do we help the others to learn what they already know?'

He thought about that, thought long and deeply, frowning, pondering. And at last he said, 'Maybe we don't.'

His reply took her completely by surprise. 'But... but they have to learn it! They have to stop doing what they've been doing, and learn to love!'

'I know, Starr-girl. But... I think they are learning, Don't worry about it. These things that they're going through now, this is all very much the same sort of thing that you and I went through. And I think they are about to come through it and out the other side, just like you and I did.

She frowned glumly, looking hardly comforted.

'Starr-my-girl. What you did today reminded them of what they used to know. You planted the seed. What we are supposed to do next, I think, is pray for them. We'll pray for their eyes to be opened, just as ours were. And for the lesson to get burned into their hearts, like it did for us.'

She didn't look happy. 'I was hoping... well... that it could be easier than that. For them.'

'Yeah. Easier. And quicker.'

Quicker! Ohhhh! And now she looked so unhappy that Stone snuggled his arm around her and held her close for a long, long while, before at last standing and steering her gently towards her tent, where he said a sweet good night.

She curled herself up in her blanket inside the tent, turning her face away from the others, not wanting them to see her cry and wonder at the reason. The reason was simple enough to her: she had just toted up the amount of time Stone was talking about, and realized that this was going to mean at least one more trip around this awful mountain!

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