a Miracle for Fences

Fences was a rich old man.  Not in material wealth, but rich in songs.  Although, to many in these hills, his songs were too unbiblical, too ungodly.  Some called them “dirty” songs, or “filthy” songs.  To Fences, they were the poetry of manly lust.  And, if he used the words “fuck” or “cunt” too many times, well that was how it had to be.  When hectored for his songs, he might say: “Well sir (or madam, as the case might be), what does a man fuck, if he doesn’t fuck a cunt?”  Then he would sit, or stand back as called for, cross his arms on his chest and look his critics in their eyes, as if to say: “You do better.”.

He was popular in local bars on a Saturday night, mostly.  Anyway, he didn’t have to pay for his drinks.  If he came home drunk, that was no problem because he had lived alone all his adult life.  Sure it was a broken down shack, with a leaning too far to the right outhouse, but it was his ... his alone, owned free and clear and so hardscrabble that not even the taxman bothered to make a demand for such a woeful place as this.

He gardened well enough, but besides his songs he was known most widely for his ability to wish a well.  “Get old Fences”, folks would say, “If you want to find a well with good water.”  So from far and wide they came, and they would drive him to their places, and he would find the water for them, and then they would pay him, sometimes in money, sometimes in trade, and sometimes in drink.  Unless, someone warned them about his songs.  You didn’t want him drinking around you, if you didn’t want his songs.

One Spring day, with the green world waking up from its Winter’s sleep, Fences was driven out of the hills to a village.  It was a big village, for it had more than three bars.  A young couple, she pregnant, he following his father into the coal mines, had been gifted by their families with an almost new house, whose well had gotten tired and died.  So “old Fences” had been called upon, and down he came.

He hadn’t made yet a fresh willow dousing stick for the season, so he brought with him his pair of bent copper wires.  He held them in his hands, by the short length, and wandered about the property.  When the water was found, the copper wires would jump apart, for they were loosely held, both pointing forward.  The bigger the jump, the closer to the surface the water; and, if Fences felt some tingles, the stronger those were, the more pure that spring.

Not too far from the front porch of the house, the wires jumped apart, and Fences almost dropped them so strong was the tingle.  When that happened, there came laughter rolling off the porch, and he looked up to see an older woman sitting in a rocking chair.  The couple invited him to sit on the porch, and introduced him to the pregnant girl’s grandmother, Miracle. 

Miracle was wrinkled of face and thin.  Neither short nor tall, her hair was long and well cared for.  She liked to laugh.  She was also blind, and Fences had a hard time getting his head around whether or not she saw the jumping copper wires or not, for certainly when that had happened that’s when she had laughed up on that porch.

Right from the start she teased him with her conversation.  If Fences had been more socially aware, he would have noticed the strange questioning looks that passed between man and wife.  As it was, when the time came for payment, and husband and wife were discussing what to do, Miracle spoke up and directed her granddaughter to an old chest at the foot of the grandmother’s bed.  By this means was brought a very old and heavy leather pouch, from which Miracle carefully extracted three silver dollars, which she insisted was to be the payment.  Everyone knew better than to argue.

As the couple readied to return Fences home, Miracle spoke up, once more in that no non-sense yet teasing tone, explaining to all that every few weeks Fences was to be picked up and brought to the house for Sunday dinner.  Turning her sightless eyes right at him, she went on to explain that not only was he to come and court her, but she expected him to start right away to fix up his old shack, and make it ready for a new bride.  Everyone else was speechless.

Just before their parting, Miracle spoke once more: “I may be blind, but I have the sight.”, settling once and for all the nature of her authority.

For Fences the matter was disturbing.  Exciting, yes, but deeply disturbing.  The first thing he noticed was that he seem to have lost his songs.  On Saturday night he would go to the bars in the hills, and as the crowds got more rowdy, when the demand for a dirty set of verses was made, he could not remember a one.

Still, it was Spring leading to Summer, and there were wells to find, so Fences was busy.  Most everyone offered trades, and he found himself gifted with all manner of objects of a bit disrepair, but nonetheless filling up the shack with less ramshackle bits and pieces of furniture.  He traded for some labor too, and the outhouse was moved, a new hole dug, and it was set upright this time. 

A silver dollar went a long way as well, and so he got some nails and paint and a couple of used tools and set to work.  People even traded fresh cuttings and plants, and his garden became richer, and there were flowers and herbs springing up everywhere.  It was as if the land around his house, having rested from his failure to really care for it for years, had decided to wake up full of surprises that only the green world can give.

Once a month the husband would come and drive him down to that three bar village, and Fences would sit on the porch with Miracle, and ... sort of talk.  He didn’t know what to say, and if there was courting going on, it was she that was courting him.  Over time he told the stories of his life, and she also told hers.  They became acquainted that way, and Fences found in himself some stirrings which were very unfamiliar.

As Fall started to end, and the October rains warned of November’s coming cold, Miracle sent the husband and wife, with their newborn, away for the day.  Clearly she wanted to talk to Fences without others present.

Fences and Miracle settled in on the porch, each dressed warmly for the Season, and each with a cup of sweetened with a bit of honey hollyhock tea on their laps.  Then Miracle spoke, more serious than usual: “Fences, ... you are a virgin aren’t you.”

The tea cup bounced a bit on his lap.

“Don’t be shy”, she went on.  “I am not, and that will make up for all the deficiencies.  Human bodies, your’s and mine, are like fine musical instruments, created and set in tune by our Lord.”

Fences couldn’t look at her.  A bulge formed in his pants and the tea cup slid to the side, and almost off his lap, before he was able to grab hold of it.

“I want us to marry before the snows.  I’ve a dowry of old coins and nice things, and I need to make for us up a good bed, a temple for our lovemaking.”

The tea cup hit the floor of the porch and broke.   Neither cared.

By the next Spring the treasure of old coins from that heavy leather bag had provided a horse and a buggy.  Miracle, it turned out, also had a fiddle in that chest at the end of the bed, and the two of them began to play and sing together all over those hills, and even sometimes down into the valley as well.  Fences had his songs back, and their voices were as sweet as the water in the wells he found.  No one was surprised that Fence’s songs were no longer coarse, for the beauty of their music found words that must have been born in heaven, and which then drifted down in the company of angels.

At the same time these words were as honest and as explicit as the crow of the cock at sunrise.  And, just as potent in stirring life into action, the same way a child wakes up and with boundless energy crashes headlong full tilt into the daylight hours, plundering the fields of flowers and forests with hands and face and feet and heart.  Everything in those hills was made from the lovemaking of all that lives, and even the stones were not left out, for the waters of life burst forth from hidden rocky shoals, showering all with its vital juices.  When Miracle and Fences sang, folks clapped their hands, tapped their feet, sang along and danced. 

As  Miracle had told Fences on their first night as husband and wife: “There is nothing wrong with your manly lust, my love.  Nothing wrong at all.  All the same, we are partners, and you must now become familiar with the ways of women, which compliment and support all that you naturally are.”

After that, no more words were necessary, and all instruction was hands on.