Sunday, 4 August 2013

Behold and See - a short story

A hot and dusty Sunday was coming to an end when the Hupacki family and their field workers were sitting down to their evening meal. It had been a long, back-breaking day picking fruit and everyone was glad to be tucking in to sorrel soup with eggs and home-made noodles. Roast chicken and potatoes would be next. Outside in the barnyard someone was shouting. It was the Jarek, the Hupacki's eldest son, who worked as a conductor on the railway. He was making such a commotion that everyone rose from the table to watch him running down the path from the main road to the farmhouse. His peaked cap was on an a precarious angle, his satchel was undone, his tie was loose and he was without his jacket. Whatever's happening?

Presently, Jarek burst in through the front door. He stood there panting, sweat pouring down his face, having run all the way from the station. "A miracle! It's a miracle! In Lublin! A miracle!" He looked amazed, astounded. His mother rose to her feet first. "What? Jarek! Tell us!"

"The Madonna.... in the cathedral... is weeping tears of blood!" replied the young man, breathlessly. "I tell you - all the people on the train are talking about it! They've seen Her! They've seen Her face moving - they said it was like in the cinema, the lips were moving... and real tears on Her cheeks! Tears of real blood!" Jarek's father, sitting at the head of the table had been helping himself to another ladle or two of soup from the tureen, now bid his son sit down and speak with sense. "Tell me - what happened?"

"Father - I was on the six o'clock train from Lublin to Dęblin... Everyone... was talking about it - many of the passengers had seen this with their own eyes! A miracle!" said Jarek. "In Lublin!" Silence descended upon the table.

"Holy Mary, Mother of God..." whispered his aunt Stefa, who was here for the fruit-picking with her two elder boys and Hanka, her younger sister's orphaned daughter. "After all that we have suffered, at last, a miracle - a sign..." she said.

Hanka, a sad-eyed and solemn girl, looked closely at her cousin Jarek. Unlike her aunt's sons, whom she loathed - cruel, crude and ignorant boys - she respected Jarek as being friendly, grown-up and therefore a credible source of information. He'd not talk rubbish in the house, were it rubbish. Jarek's father scraped back his heavy chair from the head of the table and pulled himself up to his full height. Looking at his eldest from across the room, he bade him tell God's own truth - what had he seen?

Jarek attempted to restrain himself, and to speak calmly, but was finding it impossible to do so. "I have never seen or heard anything like this! The Madonna - the painting to the left of the altar - after High Mass, some people were praying in front of it - and a nun noticed tears running down the face. She called out, many people - the verger, some altar boys - saw the tears too! I talked to four or five people on my train who had also seen the tears with their own eyes! When I left  the train, I saw people at our station wanting to buy tickets to Lublin... the cathedral is full of people - queueing up to see this miracle! This is... God's work for all of us to behold! In Lublin!

Hanka sat there, intrigued, amazed. Nothing like this had ever happened in her life. Only bad things. He father dying in the first days of the war. Her mother and sister dying just as the war was ending - and in so a terrible way that everyone told her that she was too young to know the truth, yet she had witnessed everything, and kept that a secret to herself. And life at her aunt's with those two awful boys, always wanting to do rude things to her, was unbearable. And now this - a sign from the heavens - that the Blessed Virgin Mary does indeed care about Her people on earth...

The girl slipped from the long dining table amid the excited hubbub, with Jarek still at the centre of attention; she made her way across the cobbled courtyard to the barn where everyone helping with the harvest was sleeping. She found her straw mattress, her pillow, under which she kept a little coloured postcard of the Black Madonna of Częstochowa and a rosary she'd got for her first Holy Communion. She held them in her hands.

As she knelt by the mattress, unbidden, a calm, comforting voice said to her, "Come to me".

See part two of the story here.

This time two years ago:
Quiet afternoon in the bazaar

This time three years ago:
The politics of the symbol

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