Thursday, 3 April 2008
The Christmas Pitchfork?
When Steven Dory arrived at the farmhouse of Brightstone, the lights were up. His beloved Simone was home from reporting in the war zone and was in the kitchen, cooking up delights. When she saw him in the doorway gazing at her, she smiled, raised her wooden spoon and declared,
"No more war, more good food!"
Steven chuckled and Simone's mother told him to go through to the living room and she'd bring the coffee through.
"If you're good you'll get cake too," Simone said, then grinned mischievously, "so no cake for you then?!"
Steven stuck out his tongue at her and went through to the living room. The Christmas tree was like something out of faeryland, all lights, tinsel, baubles and in between, dark green shadows. Steven was about to sit down when he noticed on the wall a large wooden trident draped in lights. He stood looking at it for a moment, frowning as he tried to work out why it was there. Surely the trident was a symbol of the devil's pitchfork? Or the sacred trident of the sea god, Neptune? Either way, why was it there for Christmas?
"Alright Steve?" Simone's mother asked as she brought the coffee in.
He gestured to the trident, "A new Christmas thing I don't know about, Martha?" he asked.
She gestured for him to sit and paused for a moment before sitting beside him silently and pouring the coffee.
"Christmas is a time of goodwill. A time also to be thankful for what we have. Oh it was a long time ago, but without an act of goodwill... Simone would not be here. Simone's father would not be here," she murmured quietly.
"Simone's father?" Steve asked.
Her father was a big ox of a man, square-shouldered, broad-headed and with the gentlest nature. But Steve could not imagine anything defeating the old man. For if his hair was now white and his hands showed time's touches, yet the old man was still a strong ox of a man. Martha smiled at the question and handed Steve the coffee.
"When Peter was a little boy, so the story goes, he loved to wander in the forest behind the old house. It was a big forest and very old. His grandmother used to warn him... you'll laugh, but it's true. She used to warn him about the faeries. Naturally, being a boy he never used to take her seriously. But it happened that one day his father was in the barn spreading out the hay and somehow it wouldn't come right. So Peter got down, took a pitchfork - and joined him. Still the hay wouldn't settle and Peter's father began to suspect the faeries were in the barn. Well the pitchfork Peter had was solid wood carved. No nails or screws in it at all. But his father knew that if he mentioned faeries to Peter, the boy would laugh. So instead he handed over his own pitchfork - that one on the wall, to Peter and swapped it for the all wooden one.
You see Steve, the faeries don't like iron. They don't like steel either because it has iron in it. Peter was a young boy then and his father loved him. He knew that the faeries would harm the boy if they could. They don't like being pushed about and they certainly don't take kindly to mockery. Peter's father told him to go indoors and take the pitchfork with him. To ask if the supper was ready. Peter wondered at this but he did it anyway because he was hungry. No sooner had he left the barn then he heard voices. He knew that he'd left his father in their alone so he wondered who the other voice was, being curious as boys are.
He was about to go back in the barn when he heard his father say clearly and aloud,
"Yes, you can have the first thing that comes through the barn door. But I warn you, you won't like it."
Peter wondered about this and was about to go back into the barn when he remembered that his father had asked him to find out if the food was ready. So he ran back to the house with his pitchfork and asked his mother. But she guessed something was up and asked him what it was. Well he was a little unsettled about it all so he told her. She told him to put on her crucifix of steel first. Then she told him to open the barn door and throw the pitchfork in. Then he could go in and tell his father that supper was ready and there was enough for the family and the little folk besides.
Peter laughed at this but said he would do it. His mother wouldn't let him go until he had promised and she was so solemn about it that he said he would promise to do it. He went back to the barn, opened the door wide and threw the pitchfork in, shouting to his father that supper was ready and there was enough for the family and the little folk besides.
Then his father picked up the pitchfork and handed it to someone in the shadow of the hayloft. But the person there recoiled and said something. The pitchfork was brought with Peter's dad and with Peter back to the house and food was left in the finest plates outside for the faeries. Peter laughed about it then, but some time after a very small, very old man dressed in the fashion of the 16th century met Peter in the wood and asked him to come along. But he'd have to throw away the old cross about his neck first. Peter wouldn't because his mother had given it to him. The old man got quite cross, stamped his foot deep into the earth and then followed it. Since then that pitchfork with it's rusty old iron nails has always been in the house. Peter's father gave it to his son to protect him from the faeries and he still wears his mother's old steel cross - even in the bath. But there, it's the 21st century and nobody believes in such things as faeries any more. Let alone that they might be dangerous."
Martha patted his knee kindly and smiled, but Steven now realised why Simone never removed the steel cross she wore. It was given to her by her father, she'd said.