by Christopher Agostino
The Rectory at the church was known for its beautiful gardens full of lovely flowers. One day the Rector was walking through the garden, muttering to himself so intently that he didn’t notice the ox standing in the flower bed until he’d run right into him.
“Oh, you miserable animal, trampling my flowers!” said the Rector, “what was our Lord thinking when he made such a ridiculous beast as you? You’re a heathen and a foul smelling one to boot. What are you doing in my flower bed, you monster?”
“Father,” said the ox, “the fields have lain so fallow that I was hungry, and I noticed that your beautiful flowers have been overgrown with clover. So I thought I’d eat the clover and clear the bed.”
“So you were hungry, the nerve of ya, with a gullet like that when aren’t you hungry, you awful thing you,” replied the Rector, ” and my lovely gardens ‘overgrown with clover’, you say. And why do I need you to be bringing me more to worry about, you giant lump of flesh, when I have my own troubles enough to keep me company. Like how am I to replace that leaky roof when the baskets come around half empty and so little money in the box? And who’ll be teaching the Latin Grammar now that Miss Willis has gotten herself in that way? And what about the trouble that rascal Michael is in, what will Father Timothy think when he hears of that? And sure that the garden has gone to pot with Bertie’s back in the state it’s in. What about that rattling window and that sticky door? And just how are the nuns going to keep a handle on Sarah and Tilly when those twins have a mind for mischief?…”
“Father,” interrupted the ox, “perhaps I can help a little bit.” And he lowered his head to resume munching the clover in the the flower bed.
“Ah, and it’s a great good friend to the church that you are, you marvelous creature you,” said the Rector, “would that more of my flock could see the task before them and set themselves to it. Ah, what a lovely day. Don’t the flowers smell wonderful?”
The start of this story came in a dream, during the night of August 30, 2009. I dreamt I was performing at something like a library and I finished a long story and said I’m going to end with a tale about an unusual animal. Kids started calling out guesses, I told them they’d never guess it, because it is a musk ox. Then I duck out of the room to the hall where Lorraine is in another room and I ask her to tell me the story of the musk ox. She relays a tale that starts like this one, with the ox in a flower bed and a character like the priest complaining, but her story has no ending – so I don’t know what to do as I need to go back to the audience, which is when I woke. It was early morning. I thought about it in bed to craft the complete tale and, even though I fell back asleep, I remembered it upon getting up and wrote it down. I keep a composition book by my bedside because I can sometimes snatch useful bits of story or visual images out of dreams.
When I sat down to write it out as a story I did some quick research and discovered that the Musk Ox is found mostly way up in the Artic Circle – so I turned him into just a regular ox.