It was 1977, December 24th cold and miserable. Sister Victoria Beatrice was feeling depressed. Nothing seemed to have gone right for the Nuns in her order this year. They had a small convent house located in small town in Boston called Swineshead but belonged to a bigger order of Nuns The Order of Saint Agnes who were based down in Cornwall.
Their mission was to help the poor but things had simply gone from bad to worse over the year they had been there. Sister Victoria Beatrice was starting to loose her faith in God.
They were hungry and cold. Her responsibilities at the order were to keep the garden stocked with vegetables and feed their chickens. Nothing ever seemed to grow properly and the chickens seem to be constantly on strike. It was going to be a lean Christmas dinner this year.
She tossed and turned in her meagre and creaky bed. Finally; staying awake so long she realised it was Christmas. She couldn’t sleep worrying about what the sisters would eat that day, as there really was only so much gruel a person could stomach.
She felt she had failed them it was her responsibility to make sure there was fresh vegetables and eggs in the larder, and all there was at the moment was a few potatoes, Brassica, and some swede and carrots not even any meat nothing. Firstly because the bulk of their food went to feed poor children, and secondly sadly the rabbit traps had yielded nothing lately.
It looked like they would have to sacrifice one of the hens perhaps one of the older ones who was free loading and not laying, still the thought was unsettling, as all the hens touched her heart even if they could be hard work at times and her Sister Superior had no idea she had named all the hens.
Why was God punishing them? They worked hard and helped as many people as they could but it left the Sisters with very little themselves.
The full moon was keeping her awake as it shone through her old mullion windows with leaded lights. It was casting weird dancing shadows around the room. Enough was enough, she decided it was no good just laying there, a walk around the garden and wall of the grounds might make her feel a bit more positive and she could check the traps perhaps this time they would be lucky. She quickly got dressed into her habit, and put her winter cloak on, as it was really cold and frosty out.
Pondering and lost in thought suddenly she thought she saw something glistening ahead of her in the moonlight, it was quite large or so it seemed an odd shape maybe more then one, cautiously and with trepidation she edged her way towards this sparkly object holding onto the wall as she did so. There was definitely something there shining in the moonlight rays.
It was Christmas Eve a Saturday. Graham was glad his shift was over finally and he could leave to get home to his family. He was a maintenance engineer for a large poultry factory in Norfolk, and his job was to keep the lines moving and well Christmas was one of the busiest times of the year for him.
He had expected to be away for at least a week, until the production line was shut down to give the maintenance engineers chance to give the plant an overhaul and clean before the holidays were over and the new batch of birds arrived.
To say he hated his job would be an understatement but it paid the bills. It was hard for him to see the birds trussed up moving along a conveyor belt to their death and the sight of the ducks being herded to their doom just following so innocently well put him off eating meat for life. He shook himself no point in getting maudlin he just wanted to get out of there. It was lunch time and he still had a four hour journey in front of him.
His home was by the sea a town called Seaham. It was nearly a 4 hour drive so he wanted to get going. He had chucked his bag into the back of his van, and was sitting in the drivers seat lighting his cigarette before he moved off, when there was a tap at the window. It was Brian the foreman he indicated for him to lower his window. Here you go mate a nice bottle of whiskey to enjoy Christmas with.
Whilst he was talking subconsciously graham could hear the back door of the van open and something sounded like it had been chucked in there, and then the bang and click of the door as it was shut. “Thanks Brian, that’s really kind of you mate, I was just doing my job”. “Yeh well we know but you always go the extra mile and keep us going”. He nudged me with his elbow and winked I have got Stan to put something for you in the back of your van, its a surprise. “Ok I said fine, I better get off as the wife is expecting me at tea time as family are coming over for Christmas Eve see you in the New Year”.
“Happy Christmas” he shouted loudly to all those who could hear him and with a quick wave he was off.
Radio on, he switched his mind off which was the only way he could cope with the long journey home he practically put himself on auto pilot. The heating went on and he just drove towards home thinking about the days ahead with his family. Robert his oldest wanted a bike, and Nancy their precocious 2 year old just wanted anything she was very spoilt sadly. His wife Becky was a great mother and a good wife, he was really looking forward to seeing her and the kids and settled down comfortably for the long arduous journey ahead of him.
His mind just drifted as the van ate up the miles and then suddenly a smell permeated his brain. It was becoming unbearable and it shook him out of his daze. The heater was on still and he noticed a weird light in the sky apparently there was a rare full cold moon on Christmas night. A fleeting thought made him chuckle perhaps they would see father Christmas against the moon better not say any of that to Robert otherwise he would never go to bed.
Dragging himself to the present, he thought to himself crikey it cant be my socks, I know I wore them for a few days, but not even my feet are that stinky. It was 2 hours into his journey and he just had to find somewhere to stop, so he got himself off the motorway and found a sign for Swineshead and the moon was already in the sky like a beacon guiding him there even though it was only about 4pm. There was a Parking sign ahead so he headed for that. It was a layby and on one side by the grass verge was a brick wall. He stopped, got his jacket on, and went around the back of the van.
He opened it to the worse smell ever the stench of rotten flesh or blood hit him full on. There on the floor of the van incredibly was a naked turkey, goose, and duck, all leaking out their bodily fluids onto his lovely clean van floor. They had not been dressed but obviously just came off the last of the line before the workers dealt with them ready to be packed.
Ugh, he had a strong stomach but even that was making him feel queasy. What on earth was he going to do? He still had about 2 hours left on his journey. Quickly gathering his thoughts he looked at the wall by the side of the layby it wasn’t so high he couldn’t toss the birds over there. He knew it wasn’t the right thing to do, but hopefully there would be foxes about who would feast well that Christmas.
The road was very quiet as it was Christmas eve at 4pm most people were home. Quickly holding his breath and checking the road for traffic, seeing nothing; one by one the birds were unceremoniously chucked over the wall.
Quickly and feeling a tad guilty he reached for the large roll of blue paper towel one of the essentials of being an engineer you never knew when you might need it and boy did he right now from the back of the van.
He wiped his hands and as much of the fluids off the floor of the van. The by now smelly wet blue paper towel was chucked into the bin at the side of the layby thank goodness for that.
He quickly shut the van door, went back to the front of the van took his jacket off and got back into the drivers seat. Boy he needed a cigarette after all that and really could have done with a drink. A stiff one. He looked at the bottle of whiskey Brian had given him, but with a strength he didn’t know he had, he resisted the temptation to take a swig out of the bottle. Drawing the smoke into his lungs, he slowly started to calm down.
You wait until he saw Brian again, he was so going to get an ear bashing. As he sat there he pondered on what would happen to the birds, he hoped they would be found by a fox or badger, he didn’t really want to waste but needs must unfortunately, if only he really knew what happened to them! He turned his van on and continued on with his journey home.
Sister Victoria Beatrice, with her heart in her mouth and holding her breath with anxiety, got to the mound on the floor, and instantly recognised 3 large birds, there on the ground glistening in the moonlight was clearly a very large turkey, a goose and a duck still with their heads on but naked with no feathers. She drew in a sharp deep shocked breath how on earth had they got there they were not mangled so not a secret hoard of a fox or badger how very odd.
She was stood there bathed in the light of the full cold moon looking upwards then back to the ground. Yes they were there, real. It was a MIRACLE a miracle she believed God had heard her prayers and sent them to her to feed her Sisters and the poor in her town, they would all feast well for the next few weeks with this bounty regardless of where they came from, they were a manna from heaven how they got there was not important as she knew in her heart that they had been left there by a higher being.
As she was close to the garden allotment she grabbed the wheelbarrow, and quickly placed her precious cargo onto the barrows tray and turning quickly full of excitement and joy she rushed back to the convent house, to wake up the Sisters and tell them all about their Miracle, the miracle of the cold moon……never to be forgotten for many a year. God hadn’t forsaken them one just had to pray harder and believe and good things can come right, as was proven that rare night of the 25th December 1977 yes a rare night in deed.
Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.
Note: This is a work of fiction but perhaps tinged with a little bit of truth but the writer is claiming the 5th amendment. I hope you have enjoyed it.
Copyright Zenda Trim.