One stormy night, much like the ones you remember where the wind rattled windowpanes and thunder boomed outside, a knock sounded at the door.
A poor troglodyte who had been travelling for eight years across the vast continents stood outside in the rain as a slightly older woman answered the door. The man could see a warm fire and a table set with the woman’s dinner inside the cottage.
‘What do you want?’ the woman asked. She pulled her shawl closer to her shoulders and stuck her face out to check to see if the man was alone. He was alone and from his shivering she could see he was cold.
‘Could I have a bowl of soup and some bread,’ the man said. ‘And perhaps some respite from the storm.’
The woman looked the man up and down and found his tattered clothes and walking staff to be no real threat and she consented. ‘Wait here,’ she said, and she closed and locked the door and returned back inside.
Before too long she returned to her dinner, ate, and retired to her favorite chair by the fire. The rain beat harder outside and she pulled her most prized quilt closer to her chin. Then a knock came at the door.
The woman rushed to the door and, now quite put off from a second disturbance of the night, asked, ‘Who is out there?’
‘It is I,’ the weary traveler said, ‘the one you made promises to.’
‘Oh,’ the woman said, aghast at having forgotten. ‘Yes, just one more moment. I was putting things together when you interrupted me and I had to stop. Please give me a minute.’
‘If that is all you ask,’ the man said, ‘please take another, and thank your dear soul for helping me. For you see, I have not eaten in almost six days and barely have enough money to get to the next village. Anything you can do will be most grateful.’
‘Not only will I help you,’ the woman replied, ‘I will add a few coins to my gift and see that you are most taken care of. My aunt owns a tavern just down the road and she will put you up for the night. Just give me some time to put your things together.’ With that she closed and locked the door once more.
Turning back to the fire her thoughts drifted soon to the cold rain outside, to her full stomach, and to all the people she knew that loved her, or even if her friends and family did not love her she believed they were thinking of her at that very moment.
She sank back into her chair, pulled her quilt up to her ears and thought of how such a long day of feeding the horses and goats and chickens deserved a nice nap before reading a book before bed. After all, she lived alone in her cozy home and only then did she recall of having forgotten something or someone. Then a knock came at the door.
The woman pushed off the quilt, her head now hurting from all the noise from the storm and the constant banging at her door. She was not quite sure what she was thinking, as you often do upon first waking in the early hours of the morning, when she screamed out, ‘What the hell do you want?! Can’t you just leave me alone?!’
The poor man, for that was exactly what he was: without job, without money, without family in this foreign land, looked with sad eyes at the woman standing in the doorway and turned without a word and walked back out into the rain. The woman stood for a moment watching the storm and darkness devour the visitor and only then did she realize what she had done.
The next day the sun rose and spread its rays onto the wet ground, drying slowly but surely as if there had never been a storm. The woman, however, intended to find the traveler that had come to her door, but she decided to do so after a nice, hot breakfast and a short nap. She had stayed up late the night before and considered it wise to get some rest before taking on a journey that might last the whole afternoon.
At the hottest point in the day the woman, all sweaty from her own travels through land and lane, found the traveler seated quite peacefully in the shade beneath a great oak. The day was in fact beautiful but the woman believed it horrid since she had to walk in the hot sun for hours.
‘Why didn’t you come to my door this morning?’ the woman asked. ‘I had promised you food and money and a place for the night. If only you would have waited.’
‘And where are these things now?’ the traveler said, looking over the woman who only had her bare hands to show him.
‘That’s not the point,’ the woman said. ‘I promised—’
‘What is the point?’ the man said. ‘This is a new day, I am a new man, and I no longer need your help.’
The woman, hot and confused from her own private journey, stared at the man for a second longer than she had wanted to, and it was only then did she see him for the angel he was.
CG FEWSTON was born in Texas in 1979 and now lives in Hong Kong. He’s been a Visiting Fellow at Hong Kong’s CityU, and a Visiting Scholar at the American Academy in Rome (Italy).
He’s the author of several short stories and novels. His works include A Father‘s Son, The New America: A Collection, Vanity of Vanities, A Time to Love in Tehran, and forthcoming: Conquergood & the Center of the Intelligible Mystery of Being; Little Hometown, America: A Look Back; and, The Endless Endeavor of Excellence.
You can read more about the author on Facebook @ cg.fewston – where he has 275,000+ followers