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Fool on the Hill


Harry Buschman

Simon opened the flap of his multi-colored tent and looked out at the passing crowd. An endless line of people, four or five deep, all of them staring fixedly ahead, marched by. Looking to the right, the line stretched as far as he could see. Looking to the left it disappeared around the bend in the road and into a grove of trees.

As usual they were in no hurry, their faces, to Simon at least, seemed unexpressive. The children trotted by, taking two steps to their father's one - the women, one step behind.

Simon let the flap of his colorful tent close behind him and sat on the little hill by the side of the road. He was at peace with himself. His night had been restful and the morning sky promised clear weather the rest of the day.

Would this day be any different than yesterday? Simon had good reasons for thinking today would be just like yesterday ... and the day before.

For 2000 years Simon had been sitting in front of his multi-colored tent watching an endless parade of people pass by. He shouted advice and consolation to them from time to time, but he didn't know where the people came from or where they were going. As they passed by he read them stories from the leather book he carried – stories of magic events ... turning wine to water ... of saving the animal kingdom from drowning. He tried to impress the passers-by with his knowledge of the book, but in fact he knew very little. He had never been anywhere. Even Sam, the Falafel man, who set up his shabby little refreshment stand next to him was born in Algiers and had studied the Koran under the tutelage of an Imam. Simon, on the other hand, was born in the tent he lived in.

This morning the sight of Sam, the Falafel man reminded Simon how hungry he was. He intended to wait patiently, and the moment Sam got his fire going and while the meat was roasting Simon would pay him a visit. After sampling everything he would give Sam an honest appraisal and in payment he would read passages to Sam from his limp leather book and pass his hand over the refreshment stand in blessing.

He would then go back to his routine on the little hill in front of his multi-colored tent and watch the passing crowd. "Dear me," he would say to himself, "where do they come from? Where are they going?" To pass the time he would reach in his side pocket and take out his harmonica, and tap it on the palm of his hand. He would play the familiar music he learned as a child. The notes were well known to everyone and the words could be found in his leather bound book.

Many people stopped at the Falafel stand. Sam had food and drink for sale. These were things everyone wanted – children and adults had learned that their journey was made more enjoyable by a refreshment stop at the side of the road. There was little reason to stop at Simon's tent. There was nothing there but an old man with a leather bound book and a harmonica. They had already spent too much time at the Falafel stand – they must push on. Simon was sensitive to this and he sat staring with ill-concealed vexation as he saw money pass between the passing crowd and Sam the Falafel man. He tried moving his tent in such a way that the crowd would come to him before they came to Sam. It was unsuccessful. Sam set himself upwind of Simon the very next day.

Time marched on, with one year much the same as the other. The passing crowd of today could barely be distinguished from the passing crowd of yesterday. Simon wondered if he served a purpose sitting on his hill by the side of the road. He was filled with doubt and there was nothing in his little leather book to give him guidance.

He began to ask questions. He put his harmonica back in his pocket and asked an old man eating a Falafel where he was going.

"Wherever the road takes me," he replied.

That seemed to Simon to be a logical explanation. Not only that, it seemed to cast great doubt on his purpose in living in a tent by the side of the road.

©Harry Buschman 2007

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