"Now, Yvette," said her mother, as they started down The Old Kent Road, "we have to drive down to Aylesford, to see Maisey, who is not well, as you know. She has moved to a bungalow in Kent, but I need you in the car to tell me the way." Yve looked at her mother incredulously and then asked, "Where in Kent is this Aylesford?"
"I'm told it's near Maidstone, which is the county town," replied her mother. "We got to get out of London on the A2 and follow the road towards Dover via Blackheath."
"I've never been to Kent before," mused Yve, staring hard at the AA map on her lap.
"The address we're going to is on that piece of paper on the dashboard," continued Yvette's mother, ignoring what her daughter had just told her. Yve picked up the paper and held it tightly in her hand for the rest of the journey, which took some two to three hours. When they arrived they both got out of the car and walked up the garden path.

Yve rang the bell and stood back from the door, to await its opening. Her mother leaned forward, to get a closer look at a tiny hand-written note that was pinned to the front door. "This note," announced Yves's mum, "says that Maisey has been taken to hospital this morning. It's nearby at Barming. It says we should go to the Friars, in Aylesford and talk to Father John, one of the monks there."
"Who left the note there?" Yve asked.
"The ambulance crew, by the look of things," answered mum.

The pair drove into the village and asked a kindly, well-dressed man for directions to the Friars. He told them to drive along the only road through the village and on the way out they would see the sign to the Carmelite friary. This they duly did.
"If you leave me here," said Yve, "I will find Father John and talk to him..."
"I'll go to the hospital, to see what has happened to Maisey..." said her mother.

Yve watched her mother manoeuvre the car back down the drive towards the exit to the Friars, then turned to walk to the main building. As she did so she came upon an open courtyard filled with benches in front of an altar bearing a white linen cloth and two large candles. The benches were filling up with people who had arrived in large numbers for a morning Mass to be said in the open air. Music began to play and a team of three Roman Catholic priests in clerical garb processed towards the altar. Yve found a seat on a nearby bench and sat down to watch the proceedings.

Approximately half way through the service one of the priests stood at the prominent lectern and began to read from a large Bible placed thereon. Yve recognised the passage as the story of Abraham’s obedience to God in being prepared to sacrifice his son Isaac on an altar that the two were to build on Mount Moriah. The priest then cleared his throat to deliver a short homily on Christian faith. He concluded by saying, “… in obeying God, Abraham actually strengthened his faith and received a great blessing, namely that God will make Abraham’s descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. So it is with us. If we obey God our own Christian faith will be strengthened.”

One of the other two priests stood and thanked Father John for “sharing his thoughts with us.” The service continued. Yve sat patiently waiting for it to end but at least she now knew who Father John was. Before she could get up to leave the middle-aged man sitting next to her introduced himself to Yve as Marcus. “My mother insisted that I bring her here on a coach trip, but I’ve no time for this religious stuff; it doesn’t make any sense to me at all. Anybody today acting like Abraham would be guilty of child-abuse,” he told her, leaving her alone to sit next to his mother who was sitting close by. His comment struck home forcefully as Yve sat pondering it. She remembered that in the New Testament there is a passage commenting on the Abraham story, to the effect that Abraham had another belief, namely, that God would raise Isaac from the dead. This thought made her feel much better.

Eventually Yve rose to find something for lunch. She had eaten almost nothing during the morning, just a packet of crisps for breakfast, swallowed down quickly with a hastily prepared mug of instant coffee. Now she was very hungry. She found a restaurant next to the bookshop and joined the queue waiting for a table. A woman stood behind her and immediately started a conversation. “This is very strange,” she said, “it’s always been self-service here and now they’ve got waitresses at the tables taking orders. Would you credit it?”
“I’m very hungry,” observed Yve.

After some minutes a smartly dressed young man led them to a table for two, thinking that they had come together. They sat down opposite each other and perused the menu. Yve was disappointed to find that there was nothing that she recognised except fish and decided to have that.
“I’m Agnes, by the way,” said her companion, “and I ought to have the fish, I suppose, as I’m Catholic. What are you having?”
“I’ll have fish as well, I don’t fancy anything else,” said Yve.

The waitress appeared to take their order. She re-appeared a few moments later. “We’ve only got two fish left in the place,” she announced, “both cod.”
“That’s fine,” said Agnes.
“And for me,” added Yve.
The waitress disappeared to fetch some soft drinks for them both. She eventually returned with a covered plate and placed it in the centre of the table. Agnes lifted the lid to reveal two fish lying side by side. Yve was dismayed to see that one fish was quite long and plump, but the other was rather small and thin.
“Help yourself,” said Agnes, eying Yve rather coldly, she thought.
“No please, you help yourself,” murmured Yve.
“Be my guest,” said Agnes.
“No, I insist,” said Yve.
“Okay, I will,” said her dining companion, helping herself to the large fish that lay between the two women. Yve reached with her fork for the other fish, noticing that Agnes had also taken a rather large helping of vegetables and French fries.

Yve watched Agnes carefully as she saw how her dinner companion was tucking into her meal enthusiastically. Agnes reached out for the salt and pepper, sprinkling the former liberally on her plate of French fries and the latter on her other vegetables. She made no attempt to hold more conversation with Yve. Her attention was solely on the food on her plate. They both continued to eat in silence; Yve in a rather desultory fashion, given her state of hunger. Eventually, recognising that something was not quite right, Agnes looked up at Yve and asked, “Is everything okay? You seem to be rather out of sorts?”
“Yes, everything is okay,” replied Yve.
“Well, you are looking very glum, I must say and I think I know what the cause is,” replied Agnes, softly.
“Really, you do?”
“Yes, it’s because I accepted your invitation to help myself to the fish isn’t it?”
“No, not that you helped yourself but that you…”
“helped myself to the bigger fish?”
“Yes, that’s it; you helped yourself to the bigger of the two fish…”
“Now, tell me,” asked Agnes, earnestly, “if you had served yourself first, which fish would you have chosen?”
“I would you have taken the smaller of the two!” said Yve.
“So, now you have in front of you, exactly what you wantedto eat !” observed Agnes.


Tag der Veröffentlichung: 27.11.2011

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