Christened by St. Michel
By Sally Madison
Carrying an empty basket down the rocky path from the abbey on her way to retrieve supplies, Elizabeth paused to sit and pray for a moment in St Peter’s garden. Usually she ignored the seagulls that live on the island, but not today. One of St. Michel’s sea gulls flew low over head, released and “christened” her. “Yuck!” she cried, as she looked at her worn dress, and assessed the extent of the damage of the white and black liquid discharge, all over her. ‘Dirt from hard work was one thing, but this was disgusting.’
She grabbed her basket and hurried down to the bay to clean her self, nearly tripping over a well-dress man, who was climbing up the rocky path to the abbey. He looked familiar, but it didn’t occur to her why.
At the lonely beach, Elizabeth threw her basket down quickly, as she ran into the surf and began splashing water onto her only dress. Sensing a presence, she quickly raised her head to see an elderly woman watching her. Elizabeth presumed she was a pilgrim who was resting on a rock near-by, holding her walking crook. Seeing Elizabeth’s distress, the sage called and motioned to her. “Come here, child,” encouraged the woman, “let me help you.”
Apprehensive, Elizabeth studied the stranger. She was the oldest woman Elizabeth had ever seen. Her dark weather-beaten face was as wrinkled as a dry withered apple; her nose was long and crooked; her long dark dress and cloak were faded and tattered; her back was bent with great age. Elizabeth hesitated, but the woman’s companionate smile replaced trepidation with trust.
“Your hair is soiled, my child, as well as your dress,” the elderly woman commented. “Come, lay in the water here, submerge yourself and I will help remove those gull droppings from your hair.” Elizabeth accepted her help and lowered herself on her knees, and then she turned on to her back in the water, so the woman could reach her hair. The woman worked her gnarled fingers through Elizabeth’s long tangled tresses and messaged her scalp. It was so comforting and relaxing that her body became almost limp, floating under the gentle pressure, as if she were under a spell. “It is said, that St. Michael’s sea gulls bless those who have a special purpose in their lives. You have been chosen by St. Michel,” she whispered in Elizabeth’s ear. “But, to serve this great purpose, you must leave the island to fulfill it.”
“HaaMmmm,” Elizabeth acknowledged, without words.
The soothing motion on her head subsided. Elizabeth sat up with a start, “It was Voltaire!” She remembering the man on the path was, and why he looked familiar. Then, again in a moment of realization, “If I recognized Voltaire, then my memory must be returning.” She turned to thank the elderly woman, but there was no one there. She was alone on the beach, with her basket, with only sound was the ocean waves, lapping against the rock.