26th November

Jack and the Man

One day Jack’s sitting staring at the fire in a dwam when there’s a knock at the door.

It’s a tall, thin man with grey hair and sorrowful eyes.

‘Hello, Jack,’ the man says.

‘How dae ye ken it’s me?’ says Jack.

‘I used tae bide in this hoose,’ the man says.

‘Naebody bides in this hoose but me and ma mither,’ says Jack.

‘Oh, and is your mither at hame the noo?’

‘Naw, she’s away oot,’ says Jack.

‘Weel, can I come in?’

The man seems harmless enough, so Jack lets him in and sits him by the fire in his mother’s chair and makes him a cup of tea.

‘Ah,’ the man says, ‘it’s a fine thing, a guid fire and a cup of tea.’

‘Aye,’ says Jack.

‘And did ye make the tea and chop the logs and set the fire yersel?’ the man says.

‘I did,’ says Jack.

‘It’s a fine thing tae be practical,’ the man says. ‘Are ye guid wi yer hands?’

‘Better than wi ma heid,’ says Jack.

‘It’s a fine thing tae ken yer ain strengths and weaknesses,’ the man says.

‘Aye,’ says Jack. And then they sit in silence, and Jack quite likes that,
the two of them just staring into the fire, not speaking. But after a while he looks across and says, ‘But how did ye ken ma name?’

And he’s all alone! He looks behind the chair and all through the house, but of the tall, thin man with grey hair and sorrowful eyes there is not a sign.

I must have fallen asleep, he thinks. I must have been dreaming.

But then he sees the cup of tea he made for the man, and it hasn’t been touched, even though he saw the man drinking it. So he drinks it himself, and then he washes the cup and puts it away.

‘I’ll no mention it when Mither comes in,’ he says to himself. ‘I’ll pretend there’s been naebody here but masel aw the time.’

So he waits for her. And he still has that warm, comforting feeling from when he and the man were sitting in at the fire together, not speaking.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
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