Let me tell you a story
Once, the Jumbly Man was returning from washing his woes, striding along, deep in thought. It was coming close to night and he began to look about for a camp.
As the sun gave the trees ever longer shadows, he saw a she-oak that would provide shelter and fallen needles, a comfortable place to rest. As he came closer he saw a figure huddled to the side of the tree. It appeared to be a small woman, huddled in on herself. He called out a jumbly greeting, saw a flash of a face full of fear as she scrambled to her feet, trying to stumble away.
Jumbly could see she was hurt. In a few long strides, he reached her and caught her under her elbows before she tumbled. The woman whimpered and cowered away from him. He jumbled soothing sounds at her and brought her back to her position at the tree. Distressed he watched as she huddled away, her face averted, shaking in fear. In rumbly jumbly tones he told her that he would not harm her and left his canteen near her while he set about making camp.
After gathering wood for the fire, he used the she-oak leaves to make cushioning either side of the fire and placed a blanket across each. Her clothes were little more than rags. He dug into his pack and took out his long weather proof coat and laid it on the bed closest to her.
The woman had seen the canteen and was greedily gulping water, watching him from behind tangled hair and the corner of her eye. Jumbly smiled and indicated that he would get water for her to wash and make food. The woman turn her back, shaking.
Jumbly was nonplussed and shook his head, jumbling softly to himself as he tried to figure out what to do. He could see she was badly beaten, covered in bruises and swellings. The arm he could see was nearly black with bruising. He shook his head. He suspected she had not moved away because she had given up and was exhausted. That she was afraid made sense given the blood that had poured down her legs and dried there. She was injured in some way. Jumbly could help but how was he to get near her?
He returned to camp suddenly anxious that she wouldn’t be there. She was. She still had her back to him but had moved closer to the fire. Jumbly decided. He had found animals over the years, hurt, caught by snares, severe injuries, or simply exhausted beyond endurance and afraid. He decided to treat this situation as though she was a small wounded creature who needed his help.
Moving slowly about the camp site, he heated water on the fire and pulled a bowl from his sack. Sprinkling herbs from pouches into the bowl, he poured the water just before it boiled. She watched him. While it steeped, he set about making dinner. The woman’s eyes were riveted on the fire and the stew bubbling there. Jumbly scooped a cup, offered it to the woman, who reached to snatch it away. Jumbly held on to catch her eye. She scowled at him but nodded when he mimed to eat slowly. When she was done he rinsed her cup and gave her water to sip. He gave thanks and ate his own stew. The woman indicated that she wanted more food and was startled when Jumbly rumbled a laugh. Yes, there would be more if she kept down what she’d already eaten. The woman looked down at her starved, bloody, bruised body and the eyes she raised to Jumbly were haunted. She nodded, sipped her water and began to doze by the fire.
Jumbly gently moved the stew to a less hot part of the fire until later, keeping his movements slow but not silent. She hadn’t slept long before she jerked awake and looked wildly about her. Her eyes fell on Jumbly, the fire, the stew and she calmed, holding out her cup in silent entreaty. Jumbly burbled with humour and the woman tilted her head as if just now realising that she couldn’t understand his words. She took his meaning though and settled back with her second cup of stew, eating slowly, after giving thanks. When finished, Jumbly indicated the bowl of warm water and herbs with the rags he had steeped in it, for her to wash her wounds. The woman’s eyes were darkened with pain but she nodded and took the bowl, retreating from the fire for a modicum of privacy.
Jumbly could hear her soft sobs as she wiped away and cleaned the horror that had been done to her. He heated more water, slipped different herbs into her now clean cup and waited. Again, before the water boiled, he poured it into the cup and set it aside to steep. He made a drink for himself and took the chance to ready himself, his pack, the fire and campsite for the night. The woman returned. She looked exhausted. Jumbly moved slowly, took the empty bowl from her and helped her to her bed. She crumpled down and would have fallen but Jumbly caught her and handed her the brew. Sniffing, she nodded, sipped, returned the empty cup, then rolling up in her blanket, she laid down, sighed and fell asleep.
Jumbly let out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, finished cleaning up, rolled into his own blanket and lay, staring into the fire as he pondered her story. Whatever it was, she was safe now. He felt a great welling of fierce protectiveness for her and rage at those who hurt her. They would pay. He sent his rage into the Light and vowing to protect her, he gave thanks and slept.
to be continued…
(c) CLHHarper March 2014