Category Archives: Parabolic

A Story, Whilst I’m Not Sleeping

The Suicide arrived at the gates of heaven with the rope still around his neck. It seemed like he had been travelling for a long time and he was very tired. Wearily, he knocked and was mildly surprised to find that the door in the gate swung open to reveal a friendly-looking man wearing a Friar’s brown robes.

The Saint welcomed him in and showed him to the comfortable quarters that had been prepared for his arrival.

The noose remained around the Suicide’s neck – hanging down, with five neat loops creating a perfect hangman’s knot, and a further six feet of rope dangling to the floor and trailing behind him, tripping him up from time to time and occasionally tangling round his legs quite completely. One day, the Saint asked him, “Why do you still wear that thing?” “I’ve tried to take it off but it doesn’t want to go.” The Saint left it at that and afterlife went on.

One day, the Suicide approached the Saint, tapped him on the shoulder and gestured to the rope. “This was the only decision I ever truly made for myself.” He turned away sadly and went on his way, barely noticing as one of the loops of the hangman’s knot loosened.

Another day, “I must have hurt so many people.” The second loop of the knot loosened.

As huddled as two people can be round a fire in a courtyard, “I need it to remind me.” The Saint gently replied, “You’ll always have your scars.” The Suicide felt around his neck and touched his arms – how had he never noticed the welts and tears left by the trauma before? How had he failed to see the marks of a lifetime of pain? Something shifted inside him and the third loop loosened whilst the remaining two stayed true and tight.

Days or months later, “This is all that I have.”
“Do you really want to carry this ugly thing with you for all eternity? Look at how it’s getting in the way of doing the things you enjoy.” The Suicide sat and thought and realised the truth of it – if only he could be rid of this troublesome rope! The penultimate loop came away.

Not long after that, “This is who I am.” The Saint leaned over and whispered in his ear. Sitting back up, he said, “That is your true name, who you are, what you have done, the lives you have touched. That is who you are. It was first given to you at your birth and is given again to you in your death. You will not forget it again.” And the man realised this was true. The final turn of the knot loosened itself and, as he stood up, it slid from his shoulders. The Saint took a step forward and it looked like he trod on the end of the rope as it slithered down – but he was just picking it up and tidying it away.

His scars glowing with a strange and beautiful light, and grasping his new and old true name deep inside, the former suicide walked through another door and further into paradise.

The Man from the KitchenThe Party II: Screaming on the Inside

Somewhere, at the end of a long, dark road, the sounds of a party can be heard. The only light in the street comes from within the party and, outside one of the windows, it is possible to make out a forlorn, broken lamp post – standing straight and tall: a guard against the darkness, not realising that that it had been overcome long ages hence.

Inside, there is a man – one man amongst many – and he sits, fidgeting and glancing every now and then through the window at the broken lamp post outside. As he sits, he is vaguely aware of memories of the time he spent helping in the kitchen: happy times learning to cook, how to throw a meal together from whatever was available – salads, steaks and sandwiches, peaches, pies and puddings – he became the master of every type of food he could imagine and others besides. His main impression though, was of a large number of years that had passed very quickly indeed. Eventually, he had asked for a chance to serve the food to the guests. He took one tray through and was invited to join the celebration – he looked back towards the kitchen door, saw the chef smiling encouragement and nodding, and began learning a whole new set of skills.

Soon, his conversational art was second to none – his witty repartee, his eloquence and generosity in argument, and his breathtaking ability to spin a story out of the most meagre of beginnings were balanced by his talent for listening: other guests would open up to him, and many found themselves, quite unexpectedly, sharing their darkest secrets and most joyful desires with him. He found himself very-much in demand among the talkative element of the party.

And, so it was with the musical, dancing, artistic amongst the revellers. The man from the kitchen had something to offer all of them.

He would sing – dirges and ballads, limericks and love songs – all as the mood demanded, often seamlessly moving from one style to another as the night went on.

He would play the piano or guitar – sometimes as part of a group, sometimes to accompany his own voice, and sometimes simply as a solo performance – and the guests danced and sang along and partook of all he had to offer.

Sometimes he would dance and whoever he danced with left the floor feeling like they were the only one in the world that mattered, but were more than happy to see somebody else take their place and dance with this extraordinary man.

In dimly lit corners of the party were the artists, poets and painters – all practising their own particular arts and sharing their work with any interested party-goers. The man from the kitchen, whilst not an artist himself, would provide helpful suggestions and valued criticism, which when acted upon would improve the works in question. His manner was such that nobody even thought to take what he said with bad grace – his eye for detail was simply one of his gifts.

Time passed and the party went on and, having thrown himself into all the party had to offer, the man grew tired and restless.

Now, he sits at the window, his eyes looking outwards but seeing nothing. He is troubled by the memory of a sound he heard long ago and, deep within his chest, he can feel the locks and restraints clicking gently open. In his mind, the noise grows and he struggles to recognise it until its volume, mass and speed are an inescapable disaster, rushing towards him, that he can do nothing about. He stumbles to his feet, remembering a time outside: if he can only get back to that time, then everything will be all right. He takes one step towards the door, two, three, another lock opens but two more steps and everything will be all right. One more step, his hand grips the door handle and the scream tears itself from him: a sound so raw, bloody and terrifying that the guests (who have never heard such a thing in the entire history of the party) for moment stand rooted to the spot. By the time they turn to stare uncomprehendingly towards the door, asking themselves what the hell that noise was and what will become of the party now, the man from the kitchen has slipped outside and closed the door behind him.

Some time later, when he has gathered his thoughts together and decided that it’s quite possible for him to sit forever, leaning back against the lamp post and quietly watching the shadows on the window – it’s then that he feels a hand on his shoulder and hears a warm, inviting voice that he remembers from a time before the kitchen say, “Thank you.”

The Party

There is a man in the street, outside a party. The sounds of the party are spilling out into and washing over him: laughter, glasses clinking, music, conversation – the general sounds of revelry. The only light in the street comes from the party and the man is lit dimly as most of the light is blocked by people inside, enjoying themselves and casting shadows onto the street. In the dim light, the man casts a dimmer shadow as he kneels at the foot of a broken lamp post, screaming.

He has been screaming for a long time and is utterly alone – just the man and his scream. He cannot remember a time when he hasn’t been screaming. Sometimes he curls up in a ball and sleeps and, for a while, there is blessed silence, but he is unaware of this – he is screaming as he falls asleep and the sound of his screams wakes him up.

The party has been going on a long time and he would love to go inside. But he can’t stop screaming and he knows this would disturb the others and he doesn’t know how to stop.

One day, he feels something different. He feels an arm across his shoulders and the warmth of somebody kneeling next to him. He has no more idea of how long this stranger has been holding him than he has of how long he has been screaming. As the stranger holds him, the man notices that his screaming is becoming less intense and is giving way to sobs and tears and sniffles.

The stranger carries on holding him.

Eventually, the man is silent. He has no more tears, no more pain, no more screaming. “Come inside.” says the stranger. The man is reluctant – his clothes are dirty, his trousers torn at the knees from years of kneeling, he can’t face the people inside, his voice is hoarse, it’s all too much for him – too soon. “Don’t worry,” says the stranger, “come in the kitchen and we’ll have a cup of tea.”

Together, they stand up. And, holding each other, they shakily walk inside.