A Village Story

I wrote this on 12th July 1995, if the date in the file is credible.

At one point I called it ‘My Simplest Story’.

At another (until about two minutes ago) I called it ‘My Russian Story’.

But, for the moment, let’s just call it -

A Village Story

One day a man, a farmer, went down out into his field and found a deep hole. The farmer was terrified, as there had never been a hole in his field before. The farmer looked down into the hole, but could see no bottom to it; he threw in a clump of earth, but heard nothing. In terror, the farmer ran to the bell-tower in the village and swung on the bell-rope.

When the other villagers arrived, they all asked him, “What is it? Is it the war again? Was it the radio?”

But the farmer refused to tell them anything until they brought his mother to where he stood.

Now, the farmer’s mother was a bedrid old crone who had lived for the last ten years in a huge brass bed in the attic of the farmhouse. But with all the villagers helping, they managed to carry her and her bed down the stairs, out onto the street and most of the way to the bell-tower. She did not wake up.

When the farmer saw his mother, riding along the street in the huge brass bed, he fell down on his knees and cried:

“Go and look in my field. There is a hole without a bottom. It is the work of the devil.”

Dropping the farmer’s mother roughly, the villagers ran off to have a look into the hole. The children led the way.

When they got there, they looked all over but saw nothing remarkable. It was noon and the sun shone down hotly on of them.

“He has made a fool of us and made us lose half a morning’s work,” said one man.

“He always was a liar,” said another.

“Let’s teach him a lesson,” said a third.

As an angry mob the villagers rushed back to the bell-tower, intending to teach the farmer a lesson; but when they got there they found him, dead, in the black shadow beneath his mother’s bed.

His mother was asleep.

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