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* The Library - Fiction for the Heart *

The Gathering
Ch. 14 - The Raggedy Man's Story

For the next few weeks he remained at a distance, always silent, watching, his eyes sad and weary. He hadn't been able to give them a name, so they continued to call him The Raggedy Man, and he seemed content with that. He watched them as they tended to their new arrivals. He watched from the base of a nearby tree while they sang and talked. He sat and watched and listened during their evening sharing around the fire. But never did he come close and join in.

Both Mara and the little fairy were totally enamored of him, old and dirty as he was. And there was an aura of mystery around him that Magda didn't understand. His eyes, for instance. They weren't the eyes of an old man, even though they were tired and hurt. He was a puzzlement. So, she watched him too, and let her truth seeker reach out to him.

"He's punishing himself for something," she told Mara one morning. "He feels bad, like he's done something very very wrong and deserves to be punished."

Mara said, "What could he possibly have done wrong?"

"I'm not saying he has. But HE believes he has." Magda furrowed her brow. "He feels like… he feels a lot to me like... the Voice."

"You mean, maybe he was a once part of the Voice?"

"I don't know, maybe," Magda chewed thoughtfully on a long blade of grass, "Maybe he doesn't remember. Or maybe he doesn't want to know."

Mara frowned. "He doesn't want to share his pain."

"No," Magda said slowly, "He doesn't, does he?"

Mara said, "I think he'll avoid his pain as long as possible. I don't think he's used to letting it out. But, he's seen us sharing.. If he's holding something he's ashamed of, he's got to know it's safe to share it here. He's seen that we still love, no matter what it is."


They let him hide and avoid himself for another week, and then they decided to push a little. That night as they settled around the fire, Mara went to the Raggedy Man, who was sitting on a rock a little ways away. She took his hand and drew him, resisting, to their circle.

"Please, won't you join us? Wouldn't you like to share too?" Magda asked him.

He shook his head and started to back away, but was stopped by Mara's pleading eyes and Desiree's insistent swooping around his head. Reluctantly he sat down.

"I don't know where to start," he said.

There was a moment of silence while they waited, then Girda suggested, "Start with who you are."

He sighed and bowed his head. "I am the son of my father," he said. "So he told me. And so I believed. Well, most of the time I believed him. I tried to believe him."

He paused and sighed again, and looked around at them with eyes that pleaded for understanding. He must have been encouraged by what he saw in their faces, because he continued, though his speech was punctuated by many pauses and much sighing.

"There were times when I felt like ... sigh ... like He and I were equal, the same. And there were times when I felt like I actually knew better than Him. As if I were the father and HE were the child" ... pause... "Maybe that was my true sin, my doubt of Him. ...sigh ...

"It was my job to hold things together. So He told me and so I believed. I was LOVE, he told me. And loving was my job. So, I did my best. I brought love to bridge the gaps between warring peoples, love helped soothe their angers, with love I comforted their grief and terrors. I thought I was doing well, until I looked behind me and realized that fires I thought I had put out had sprung up again as soon as I moved on. Little fires had sprung up everywhere - hatreds and jealousies and fear and petty quarreling. The little fires were growing and spreading and I knew soon it would be a vast burning that no one could stop. I couldn't take care of them all! I tried, but I couldn't! It was too much. I tried, because He told me that was my job, my reason for being alive. I had come into existence, He said, to help Him with these problems."

He began to laugh, a low, bitter laugh. "Fix it, that's what he really meant. 'Just go fix it and don't bother me with it. Take care of it, so I don't have to deal with it.' I grew angrier and angrier. Why wouldn't he at least give me some help? If He was the Father, and I was only the son, why couldn't HE fix it?!?"

His stern face began to crumble and he burst into angry tears. Sobbing and shouting, he cried to the night, "Why wouldn't you help me? Why was it all my job? It was too much, and I couldn't do it!!"

He stood and shook himself, as if to shake off the anger and the tears, and began pacing around the circle. He began to speak again, softly, as if to himself.

"I tried to tell Him - something was dreadfully wrong in the fabric of things, and love was not enough to fix it. He said if it wasn't working, it must be because they chose not to let love in. They were choosing wrongly. But, after all, he said, they were free to choose. He began to get loud and angry. If they insisted on hanging onto their angers and fears, he said, they were choosing not to follow His path, and maybe they just didn't belong with Him, and they should just choose to leave.

"I knew he was wrong! But I didn't know what to say to Him, and besides, I didn't know anything else to try. It all seemed so incredibly hopeless. But I knew I couldn't stop trying, I couldn't just abandon them, I couldn't do that!"

He squeezed his hands together as he paced, wringing them and moving back and forth more quickly now.

"He said it was just like what happened with Her. She had doubted Him too. She had constantly questioned Him and accused Him. She, too, had insisted on having and holding onto angers and grievances and fear. And He said she always ignored his attempts to educate her. He tried to get her to change, if not for Herself, then for the Children. But she was obstinate, he said. All she brought to their world was dissent, discord, demands, and doubt. They fought and fought and fought and finally she got fed up and left."

He stopped pacing and gazed into the fire. "That's what he said happened. But I saw, like a vague memory of a dream, the true events. I saw Her, I saw them arguing. I saw Her and I remembered Her." He began to cry again, soft tears of grief as he remembered. "I saw that last fight, I saw Him leap at Her, I saw Him throw Her out, cast Her out, I saw Her tumbling away into the dark vastness of space."

"sigh ... I stared at Him in shock, I had not believed Him capable of telling such a lie, but I realized it was no lie. He believed she had left of Her own accord. He was even feeling some hurt and abandonment, although it was well hidden. I think some part of Him had jumped forward to get rid of Her and then jumped back and hid. And He honestly didn't remember doing it."

He began pacing again. "I was devastated. Memories of Her flooded through me. I looked around and realized we had ALL blocked our memories of Her, in order to appease Him. By unspoken agreement, She was no more. We had probably done it without even knowing it.

"I became aware how much was going on unconsciously, how many lies-that-were-not-lies were being told, how many of us had split or broken apart because parts of us were either unacceptable to Him, or were acting on their own. I felt into myself and realized I was distinct from other parts of me. For the first time, we - my other parts and me - looked at, and spoke to, each other.

'I want to go find Her,' I said.

'The Father is Right in All Things,' one part said.

'I can't do it,' I said. 'Love is not enough to fix all this. Maybe She can help.'

'Your doubt makes you weak,' another part said. 'We should be confident, head up, march forward for Him, defeat the enemy or die trying.'

'Yes,' a third part said, 'your doubt works against our love. It must be your fault we keep failing!'"

He paused, both in speech and body, and sank to the ground. "They cast me out," he said, his voice breaking. "They cast me out as if I were a demon."


They sat with him in quiet empathy, his sobbing and the soft crackle of the fire the only sounds in the deepening night. Desiree flew to his shoulder and rested her little head on his cheek. His tears fell on her and rolled down her back, but she didn't seem to notice.

"They cast me out," he sobbed. "I didn't know what to do, where to go. I stayed near them for a while, like a ghost, trying to get their attention. They wouldn't see or hear me. Every so often they would toss out another part, usually one that felt doubt or despair like me, and I would pull it in to myself.

"I finally decided to go look for Her. I followed Her trail, which by then had grown quite cold. Nevertheless, She has quite a distinct scent, rich and sweet like honeysuckle, and the more I followed the trail, the stronger my memories became, and the easier it was to follow Her. Somewhere along the way, quite by accident, I discovered I wasn't the only one tracking her. She was being followed by another, as well. The dark enemy was stalking Her."

They all gasped and shivered and moved closer to one another.

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