Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Retreat (as in quiet time away) (08/01/05)
- TITLE: Varcarlos
By dub W
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“Beba esto, lo ayudará a dormir.” He told me to drink what was in the cup to help me sleep, that much I understood. I figured I had little to lose.
I took a sip, I think it was anisette based, very bitter, but he was right, in my exhausted state, the obviously alcoholic drink put me to sleep. When I awoke sunlight was peaking through a mountain pass. We passed through colorful villages, farming communities, and sprawling mountain ranches. As we topped a ridge I saw a small city in the valley below.
My driver stated, “Varcarlos.” Then he turned the car up a steep hill, I noted that the pavement left us after less than a kilometer. The car continued until we came to a small stone house where I was escorted into the cabin, it was a one room shelter or possibly a former barn or stable. A long table and half a dozen chairs were set in the middle of the room; two older women came in through a side door, one woman was carrying a large basket which I later discovered was full of breads and cheeses. The second woman had a carafe of wine which she put in the middle of the table.
We feasted for an hour and I smiled at my companion’s conversations, though I understood little. Finally, my driver tapped me on the shoulder and motioned for me to follow him. Behind the stone house were a tiny shed and two saddled horses. He motioned for me to take one of the horses, I mounted, though it had been several years, I was an experienced rider, memories left from the days my daughter Monique took riding lessons and I rode with her thank you Lord Jesus.
The path narrowed and we rode along mountain ledges until we came to a plateau bordered by a deep forest. Next to a fast moving stream was what I guessed was a mission. We tied our horses to the front gate and went inside. Except for one priest who nodded to my guide, I saw no other people within the small collection of buildings.
We walked through the halls and the priest pointed to various rooms, there was never a word spoken, but I was obviously being given a tour. The last door he opened was room with a cot and a table. He indicated I should go in. I walked into the tiny room and turned around. My guide and the priest were gone. On the back of the door was a brown robe, and on the table was a leather bound Bible, other than that I saw no other accoutrements. It was obvious what my job was there – to rest and pray – to mourn over Margaret – to retreat to Christ and heal my soul.
Each morning there would be food by my door, I discovered it was the only meal of the day, and soon apportioned part of the bread for later. I stayed close to my room, and only ventured through the compound to stretch my legs. There were other rooms like mine; a small stone kitchen, seating rooms, and a chapel. I saw nobody the entire six nights I was there, although I thought I might have seen the shadow of the old priest early one morning. On the seventh morning I heard voices and a commotion in the outer courtyard area of the mission. The old priest appeared at my door and motioned for me to follow. We entered the small courtyard where a number of men were standing around a fountain. The conversations seemed excited, although in Spanish and some in French. I realized immediately it had been a long time since I heard a voice, and a long time since I had been in direct sunlight. I squinted as I stepped out of the shadow. Suddenly, I recognized the hulking frame of my friend Maurice, he noticed me almost immediately, and then turned and put his hands on the shoulders of a young woman and turned her toward me.
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