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The Day I met Jesus.
The Day I met Jesus.

Here's a story to warm the cockles of your heart and has that added bonus of being true.
I may have hinted this yarn somewhere before, but since it involves someone who went down in history,
a re-telling shouldn't be too out-of-order.

It was 1968 and I was eight years-old. Living in a small town and having acquired a mentality suitable for such
a slow, out-of-touch environment, the edge of my world ended anywhere over a mile south of where I lived.

Why south? -you may ask. Well, that was because I lived on the northern edge of a town where miles of countryside
waited to be plundered by a kid my age and anything that could be classed as a street or a collection of houses,
all resided in the direction my mother would call the town centre. South.

The macrocosm of a child is bound in a special type of barb-wire, it snags things that adults fail to hold as important.
For myself at that time, knowing where an owl makes it's nest or finding a dead dog are jewels that far outshine the
knowledge we adhere to in the grown-up world.

Bogged down with societal bonds, adults stop smelling the magic and I honestly believe they also lose that connection
between themselves and a reality that lengthens their time here. Still, 1968 was surely going to be the same as last year
in my little kingdom.

But unknown to me and probably my parents too, the world outside mine was up to all sorts of weirdness.
There was a war in a jungle somewhere between the Americans and someone never truly explained. The fella who
killed Kennedy said he wouldn't be seeking re-election and the black-dude who wanted us all to look beyond our facia
differences was shot dead in Memphis.

Making sure the string around the rim of my jam-jar wouldn't snap and checking that my fishing net didn't have holes in it,
the news that the widow of that Kennedy-guy and was marrying some Greek with lots of ships and the Zodiac Killer
was just testing his wings out on Solano County's Herman Road were something beyond my appreciation and certainly
my interest.
Noisy incidents in another room.

John and Ian were waiting for me at the bottom of my little street. It wasn't called a street, it was called 'Gardens' because...
well, all the terraced-houses had gardens, I suppose. Life doesn't have to be complicated, you know?
These two boys were four years older than me and if you can think back to your own youth, that meant a lot.

Older boys knew about sex, older boys knew lots of good stuff like that and if you're quiet and listen, sometimes you can
learn a thing-or-two. Wisdom is currency in the world of a child, it purchases standing and it strengthens character.

Where adults talk in a language of the gordian, the kids with the scuffed knees and bubblegum-smelling breath articulate
their opinions with tones of simple dread and the accumen of warning.
It's all about preparing yourself to die and become one of those adults.

As I walked behind the two boys, I listened for the enlightenment. Where we were going to capture red-bellied newts
could wait, there was 'stuff-mining' to be done and in their chatter, I could already hear the sounds that told me that
such a type of gold was nearing the surface.

Stuff like, the contents of golf balls is poisonous and made from crazy-men's semen, whatever that is. What time was
best to clamber over the wall of the alley behind my house and keeping low and quiet, watch through the frosted-glass
of a downstairs bathroom window for one the two young women showering in the house strangely labeled 'for Students'

Keeping up with John and Ian's brisk pace, I discovered that students are older girls who can think. They can make you
look silly with their brains, but their bodies are fantastic. Scaling that wall at my current height was still beyond me and
the desire to observe women with pubic hair was even more distant. Still, the ammunition of data can be carried and
used later.

We were heading down the main road that in 1968, could never imagine the amount of traffic that uses it now. The
wisdom being dispatched slowed and accepting that if you look up at the sky when you run, you travel faster, I trotted
behind the pair as they crossed the highway that had never known a traffic jam.

As we passed the school that they used to to attend and the one I still did, John and Ian turned their focus on what lay
ahead. It wasn't whether the recent rains had over-flooded the place we were going to and it wasn't the concern that
we might be trespassing on private property at some point. Even the suggestion that the creatures we sought didn't
actually inhabit the many pools that paralleled the ash and cinder path we were travelling to, wasn't the main concern.

It was that we were entering a different land, a realm peopled with kids who may take umbrage at our invasion and
require a payment of kind. Namely a fight. As my cheap sand-shoes slapped along the pavement and my jam-jar
knocked against my bare-thigh, I wondered if this expedition wasn't the exciting and sunny adventure I'd imagined,
but a trek to altercation with strangers holding high dudgeon and the need to deliver a bloody nose.

But you can't turn back and run. You can't show your cowardliness in the shadow of older kids. You just can't.
Changing the position of my fishing net like a soldier re-shouldering his rifle, I kept in the march towards an unknown
enemy that would undoubtedly make me cry and certainly bleed.

It's called -because it's still there, 'The Black Path' and it links a road that once assisted a steel-rolling company that
created shaped metal for the country's needs to a newer breed of manufacturers. Something with the then-swanky
title of an 'Industrial Estate'.

In truth, this set of one-floor buildings comprised of two businesses, a tyre-outlet and a set of offices that typed
something. It was there and the Town Council had funded it, so I suppose it merited calling it something fashionable.

But The Rolling Mills was quite different and held a history of patriotism and the working-class sense of hard-work-maketh
-the-man. Sprawling for as far as a child's mind could comprehend, the smoke-pluming and noisy factory once produced
metal window frames until the Second World War shouted that it needed assistance.

Nissan huts, armour-piercing shells, tanks and Bailey bridges were all manufactured there behind the walls higher than
any kid could scale -naked student or not, but by 1968, their main requirement was construction steel for a world that
knew what 'good steel' really meant.
The Rolling Mills was an immoveable object when I was growing up and nothing but-nothing would ever make it go away.

In later years, I would visit the public house that served the men who toiled in the taming of the molten snakes that were
disgorged from their shaping rollers. It was on the corner of the Black Path and belonged to a time of we've gladly relinquished.
The front Bar was always hot with a raging coal fire and the rear 'Games Room' was freezing, open to the elements due
to the door being useless after a customer was smashed through it.

Saturday nights were for swollen faces and bruise-closed eyes. No pool cue was ever broken over the head of a reprobate
and no pool-ball was ever thrown at a fleeing client. Such equipment was stolen years before. Cigarette smoke was in the
air alongside 'High-Karate' aftershave that was given at Christmas.

During the week, the tavern would see dirt-smudged faces staring into horse-racing results in tabloids, whilst gulping
down their ale to quench their thirsts. A line of thick wooden-soled shoes that protected the Mill's employees feet could
be seen at the pub's front door.

These scuffed and studded Frankenstein boots were to guard from the screaming metal that quietened it's wrath
between the tongs and the legs of those who drank their breaks away. 'On the tongs' was a task where the money was
made and yet, extremely dangerous.

I have a friend who's father sported a galleon tattooed on his chest from his navy days and took on the tongs back in
the seventies. One winter's evening, a stretch of metal came bolting out of the rollers and for some unknown reason,
decided to 'scream'

This is a rare action, it's when the semi-soft metal bar twists and jumps from it's controlled route to the next set of
elongating  metal drums. This particular beam screamed and hunted down my friend's fleeing father and out-doing the
metal's cry, he also screamed as it left it's mark and turned the inked-galleon into a ugly birthmark of remembrance.

That clanging place forged men and metal, and to a child, was an eternal palace of the Gods. It closed in the nineteen

Our quest for the miniature dragons took us into a municipal park that I recognised when my older-sister used to take
me out in a push-chair. I'd never realised it was so far away from my home and even though there was some comfort
to be gained by this revelation, I kept it to myself. I might have been only eight, but I knew one did not mention being
even younger when among those who were lighting your way towards the teenage years.

Pretending the surrounding location meant nothing to me, I dared to walk faster and get alongside John and Ian.
I recall it was summer because of the foliage and there wasn't any snow. The rain I mentioned should also be a good
indicator because no English summer is a real summer without it pissing down somewhere between May and August.

Giant elms surrounded the play-area and along with creaking oaks, shrouded another part of the council-ran property
that wouldn't -or shouldn't be interesting by children wanting to find dizziness on the cast-iron roundabout or enjoy
gathering dog-shit on the back of their clothes by sliding down the towering chute. That 'other' place was a cemetery.
All the play equipment was made by Wicksteed Kettering by the way, a name that will never leave me.

The beginning of the Black Path took us under a railway bridge that serviced the North and South sections of the Mill.
John imparted that bats lived under this shadowed construction and it had been said that they sometimes swoop down
and bite.
Needless to say, my wide eyes scanned the rivet-welded reinforcements for the twinkling of licked fangs and leathery
cloaks in our passing.

The daylight on the other side displayed a field to my left, holding a pond in it's centre that John assured both Ian and
myself, never dried up even in the hottest of summers. It was a said a giant pike patrolled the depths and would watch
from the murk for solitary children gambolling on it's banks. John said so.

To my right, a high metal fence contained a tangle of bramble bushes and the barrier continued to a place I never heard
of until then. It was a Gypsy Camp, a settlement of people that kept themselves to themselves. Ian commented that the
community were known as thieves and rarely bathed. Thinking of the terrible fish in the pond, my young mind could
appreciate why. We followed the path to the left.

The pot-holed tarmac gave way to the ash and cinder, the waste material of the Rolling Mills. It was officially a path now
and the trees and bushes that bordered the route didn't seem to suffer from the dumped clinkers. Every step made a
loud crunching sound and I wondered to myself if the supposed feral-families in the camp behind us would give us a
second thought.

Adjusting my snake-belt and hitching my short pants up, I was changing from a bewildered kid in a foreign land into a
hunter of fiery-bellied amphibians and an explorer with my companions. My older companions.

I say that because I had friends of my own age, but such solidarity is only maintained when parents don't intervene with
the use of holidays. Summer is when the English-made company called 'Butlins' is utilised and families would spend a week
at a holiday-camp with a social structure that held communal spirit as a prerequisite.
Without the need for violins, my family couldn't afford such vacations and so, I was with older boys wandering under
some bushes.

We made our way through the dark tunnel of leaves for around ten minutes without speaking. Occasionally, a large pool
would appear at the edges of path and stunted willows sat in the flooded waters. The hawthorn bushes on our right
stopped and brand-spanking new wooden fence hid whatever there was to be hidden. It could have been ten feet-tall,
but I was eight years-old and proportions were not paramount at that age. Big and little were usually the measurements.

The trees and bushes stopped and before us was lay the narrow path cutting through several pools of dirty water.
John announced that this was where the newts lived and I licked my lips in excitement. I hadn't been beaten up and
the vampire bats had not taken my blood.

Engraving Egyptian gravel-gliphs on my knee as I crouched down to fill my jam-jar with water, I felt the thrill of anticipation
that I'm sure anglers feel as they set up their gear.

I could suggest other light-hearted and positive thoughts a young person may deliberate during the trials of their age, but this
isn't a story read out to a afternoon-drowsy class of school children. When you're the youngest in the group, you wait for the
mood shift of the senior, the sea-change of the elder when what you rightfully own can be taken by force.

True childhood happiness is built on a base of suspicion that the world isn't what your parents told you, even if
you want it to be. It's real and I reckon it's part of being prospective prey. Anyway, my jar was filled.

If such beasties existed in the smelly standing water, they'd found a grand hiding place. The aroma of the over-rated
puddles contended with the oily stink of recently-applied creosote of the fence and my goodwill began to wane in the
bouquet of malodor.
My salamander-empty jar dangled from the remains of a nail on a post as I scooped and frowned, frowned and scooped.

The bamboo cane bent at times, but I knew it was only an indication that either the fishing net had caught the
edge of a discarded car tyre or a willow root finding it's blackened drink. Melville's Ahab, I was not.
Curses were muttered, eyes met in doubt and the sun shone down on all of us.

When the suggestion came from John that the newts may be using pools hidden on the other side of the fence,
Ian and and I agreed it was worth taking a look at. Like Musketeers, we examined the height of the fence and it's
pointed top. Each unplaned board had been cut to hold a sharp apex and if I was to garnish the situation with
hyperbole, I could say the clouds touched the tips.

John went first with a fair run-up. Grabbing the diagonal edge of a board, he began to make his feet imagine
they were still running and scrambled his body upwards. Pushing with his arms, a leg cleared the 'V' and
without sitting on the top, he dropped into the unknown on the other side.
John's shaven-head appeared after a moment and asked for the containers and the nets to be handed over.
Emptying my jar of only thing I'd captured this day, the taller Ian serviced the request.

Up he went and after dangling against the warm wood for a second on two, began his ascent to the jagged top.
Ian's baseball boots scraped for purchase and with sinews contracting, he too slipped over the fence.
Although, I secretly believed a rib was grazed by one of those spikes in his journey.

I didn't make it. I could say my attempt was thwarted by the cut I acquired when I grabbed one of the spikes,
but the reality was that I was too small and too weak. My rubber soles burned in their haste to propel me into
the realms of my peers, but my spirit didn't hold the same verve.
Looking forlorn and looking up at the mocking barrier, I awaited the verdict from those who were winners.

John's head loomed over between the wooden skewers and said if they would take a look around and if the
newts were found, he'd drop a couple in my jar. I nodded and showed his my greased-stained wound.
The palm wasn't really bleeding, but any injury can be used to explain a failing.
John's eyes told me that it was my problem and without a word, disappeared from view.

There was no internet, no mobile phone to pass one's time away with on a slow-moving summer's day.
But before that ever-changing invention came along, kids still had the ability to get through a waiting period.
For me, I inspected the terrible damage to my hand and wondered if there was an older kid's anecdote that
said creosote was a deadly poison.

That was when the priest came by.
A man of around the late-twenties, but to an eight year-old, he was just an adult. Sporting the usual all-black
garb with the white dog-collar, he carried a slight smile that increased as he saw me sitting beside the post
that had once held my newt-container. Sans newt.

He was dark-haired and I'd guess women would say he wasn't ugly, but I cannot vouch for what students
would think, of course.

There are words to inflate the actual reason for this story and considering what he said -and if I was a religious person,
I could nail some colloquy to the mast of taking theological credenda serious to enhance society's values.
But my jar was empty and my hand hurt.

"Hello" the priest said as he passed me. I was sitting like one of them old Cherokee Chiefs that John Wayne looks down at
in the Saturday morning matinees I'd been to. The smile never faded as all I offered back were distrustful eyes.
Priests and Vicars belonged in the world of 'do this or you go to Hell' and for a child, the rules of family and schooling were
more than enough to contend with without worrying about laws that concern the afterlife.
I hadn't got the hang of this one yet.

Not being married didn't help. I was still too young to appreciate innuendo of religious celibacy, but when a teenager implies
a weirdness through a clerical axiom to a boy of my age, it's a baton of wisdom that you keep close and use like a crucifix to
ward off the unknown aspersion.
The priest was at my 10 o'clock now and slowly falling away from my interest.

As the sun made my greasy injury look slick, I thought about John and Ian chuckling in merriment among fleeing
splashing basilisks escaping swooping nets. I pondered mangled flesh (come on man, really?!) and yet imagined
wriggling newts.

My absorption dwelled in the possibilities that they would judge a small amount of their catch and my input to
the situation. Would the older boys decide that four newts were two newts each...? Maybe even three of six
divided equally?

"Do you know who I am...?" the priest said watching me from where the Black Path turned the last of it's length towards a
side entrance to the fabled Industrial Estate. His convivial features had gone and for a second, I wondered what might happen
if I tell him I didn't hear his question.
Quickly checking the spool of my cerebral tape-recorder, I acknowledged the query with a stare, I mean, what do you say to a
guy who wears his shirt-collar backwards?

Maybe I could advised him to seek out the Pope and ask him if he knew the confused cinder-path walker's identity or even
check for a name on the back of his underwear. Can God help...? Is there a prayer that doubles as a finger in the phone-book?
Only soapy-naked students would know for sure.

But I didn't. I felt I was being trapped somehow and this question was some-sort of controlling ruse.
I wouldn't have been able to word it like that then, but the feeling was tangible and that's all prey needs to ready it's escape.
To the pond behind me...? I could skirt the edge and avoid the snapping maw of he beneath the surface and maybe the pike
would treat the chasing priest to Jonah's mode of travel?

Vaulting the fence was out, wound-or-no wound, my little legs would fail me and the priest could grab me from behind and
dispatch the wailing kid in delphic ways I was too young to think about. The Gyspy Camp may save me from this questioning
and staring man of the cloth. But would it mean a life of the Artful Dodger...? All light-fingered and eyes of the bandit.

The seconds that I'd like to call 'months' that wavered in the air between us held no noise except for a faint clang of a metal
serpent being tamed in the rolling mills behind me. I assumed the priest was waiting for an answer. The faint memory of
overhearing a conversation about some cabalistic act of buggery within the Church swam past like a mocking Pleurodelinae
 but it was beyond my years and all I knew was it involved choirboys.

Then the priest told me the answer that had presumably alluded him and assumedly -myself. However, the information didn't
resolve my rising panic.
"I'm Jesus, that's who I am..." he said with a tone of haughtiness and for reasons only he knew, repeated that last part.
"...That's who I am" With that, he went on his way.

Watching the retreating messenger of God, I wondered what just happened and whether the danger was over.
I would be fifteen before I thought that I'd should've checked his hands for holes and asked him to fix my own.
A Catholic friend that will always be close to my heart and could fight like a demon, once imparted to me during those growing
years that a Jehovah's witness was a person who believed the man who witnessed Jesus being burned at the stake.
His name was jehovah.

The priest didn't look charred.

The end of the story is that there were no newts on the other side of the fence. John, Ian and myself tramped home without
any incident to mention and I never told them of the strange encounter.
Paul met Jesus on the road to Damascus, I got the cinder track to an Industrial Estate.

And God knows what happened to my fishing net.
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Messages In This Thread
The Day I met Jesus. - by BIAD - 05-13-2018, 06:23 PM
RE: The Day I met Jesus. - by Mystic Wanderer - 05-13-2018, 09:23 PM
RE: The Day I met Jesus. - by Wallfire - 05-14-2018, 11:03 AM
RE: The Day I met Jesus. - by guohua - 05-19-2018, 03:36 AM
RE: The Day I met Jesus. - by OmegaLogos - 05-31-2018, 07:34 PM
RE: The Day I met Jesus. - by guohua - 05-31-2018, 09:28 PM

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