The Little Slab Hut

“Red in the morning, a shepherd’s warning. Red at night, a shepherd’s delight.” My pa always said that to me when there was a pretty sunset. I don’t think he ever asked why. The saying’s usually ‘bout a sailor, but I guess pa changed it to shepherd because he was always a shepherd. And so was his pa. And so was his pa’s pa. Our family’s all been shepherds since they come from England, and Normandy before that, and who knows where before that!

I don’t want to be no shepherd like them.

Pa only went to school for a year till he broke some kid’s arm in a fight. They kicked him out. Ma was the opposite. She learned readin’, writin’, and she even become a teacher. Till she married pa that is. Now she’s a wife and a ma. She keeps the little slab hut warm in winter and cooks meals for pa and me, but I think she misses teaching. That’s why she teaches me. We’ve got a bible and a world globe, and “that’s enough to learn everything there is to know” she always says.

When pa’s around she teaches me about Jesus.

When pa’s not around she teaches me about symbolism, politics, biology, Roman history, Jewish history, the Nicene Creed, the Medici Popes, the witch burning in the middle ages and Protestantism. She even says there’s a link between Greek myths, Viking myths, Pagan myths and Jesus. It’s all in there. More than anything she taught me to ask “why?”

Pa don’t like it when ma reads stuff from the bible that ain’t written in words. She calls it “reading between the lines.” He calls it “sacrilege”. Ma says it’s sacrilege to waste the brain God gave you, but she don’t say that to pa.

One day I tried to tell pa how science can tell the weather. I told him why red in the morning’s a shepherd’s warning. I said “Pa, they say the wind always blows west cos of the spin of the Earth.” I didn’t notice, but he was already turnin’ red. “When the sun sets in the west and lights up the storm clouds, it’s cos they’ve already passed, but in the morning, the sun’s in the east lighting up the clouds in the east. It means they’re gonna blow our way.”

“Kid, that’s God who sends them warnings to us shepherds. Remember it! Did your ma tell you this sacrilege?” I held my lips tight. I didn’t mean to get ma in trouble.
“Did your ma tell you this?” He boomed.
I stayed quiet.
Pa walked all calm like towards the house without sayin’ nothin’.

Now it’s up to me to keep the house warm and cook the meals for pa. The bible taught me ‘bout hemlock. It looks like a carrot plant. Maybe I’ll cook some up for pa one of these days, seein’ as he’s the reason I’m digging my ma’s grave.



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