There And Back Again
Sidey’s Weekend Theme is “doing it right”…
The bar door opened, and Isaiah walked, no, slouched in, shoulders hunched, looking every inch a man with a sad story to tell. The barman groaned inwardly, but hoped for the best.
“The usual, Isaiah?” he said hopefully, reaching for the bottle of fig-juice.
“Stuff your fig-juice,” said Isaiah, “it isn’t worth a shite.” He thought over that sentence. “Well, it is, obviously, but it’s not what I need right now. Give me a cup of wine.”
The barman sighed. Isaiah hadn’t drunk wine since the time a plague of frogs had flattened his entire field of corn, and on that occasion he had been eventually carried home by his arms and legs singing a lusty version of “Danny Boy”, a song that has been around for a lot longer than most people think.
The barman didn’t actually want to know, but it is born into all barman to ask. “What’s wrong, Isaiah?” he said.
Isaiah knocked the wine back in one swallow and nodded for another. “The prodigal son has returned,” he said.
“Oh,” said the barman, who had no idea what that meant.
“Zebedee’s home,” explained Isaiah.
“Your brother? Yeah, I’d heard he went away.”
“Yes, Father divided his fortune between us and Zebedee went off on a “gap year” with his half.”
“What did you do with yours?” asked the barman.
“I’ve bought two of every type of animal,” said Isaiah. “I hear there’s a guy going to be looking to buy some soon.”
“Anyway, you say Zebedee’s back,” said the barman. “What’s he been up to?”
“Everything, as far as I can make out,” said Isaiah. “he drank, back-packed, pearl-dived, visited four of the wonders of the world, swam with dolphins -”
“They’re some sort of big fish,” explained Isaiah. “And then there were the women.”
“He swam with women?”
“No,” said Isaiah. “Not unless that’s a euphemism. And there’s a joke in there somewhere about the breast-stroke that I’m in too bad a mood to make.”
“Sounds like he had fun,” said the barman, a bit wistfully.
Isaiah snorted. “Of course he had fun,” he said. “That’s the problem.”
“Er, have you ever heard of brotherly love?”
“Look,” said Isaiah. “He’s not home because he missed us, or realised the error of his ways. He’s home because he ran out of money, and was having to live with pigs.”
“What, the Ephesians?”
“No, actual pigs,” said Isaiah. “He was so hungry thinking of eating their food, then thought, hang on, our servants get to eat better than this.”
“How come you still have servants, if your dad divided his fortune between you?” asked the barman.
“Coz he made another fortune after that,” said Isaiah. “Remember the plague of frogs that destroyed our crops?”
“Do I ever,” said the barman.
“Well, Father sold off all of the legs to some French guy,” said Isaiah.
“What did he do with the rest of the frog?” asked the barman.
“Search me,” said Isaiah. “That’s one of the world’s great mysteries, where the rest of the frog goes. Maybe there’s a frog mountain somewhere. Anyway, my brother came home. He didn’t even bring souvenirs, unless you count the year’s laundry that he brought home for Mother to wash.”
“Were they thrilled to see him?” asked the barman.
“Thrilled? They killed the fatted calf for him to eat.”
“Ah, not thrilled, then,” said the barman. “It can’t be much fun eating a cow fed on fat.”
Isaiah looked at him as if he were mad. “It’s the best food we’ve got,” he said. “Father said that he had been lost, and now was found. It made him sound like an umbrella from the Lost Luggage Room of a camel stop.”
He stared gloomily into his drink, then muttered something.
“You’re right,” said the barman. “Sod ’em.”
“No, the town,” said Isaiah. “I was thinking I should have my own gap year. I’m going to go to Sodom. That or Ibiza.”
“Much of a muchness,” I hear, “said the barman.
“I mean, look at me,” said Isaiah. “I stayed at home, the good son. I worked in the fields, I minded the farm, I spent my evenings down here just drinking fig-juice. And they wouldn’t even give me a goat when I asked for one.”
“Well, you have two of them already, apparently,” said the barman.
“Shut up,” said Isaiah. “WI’ve always been the one doing it right.” He took another long swig from his wine.
“I’m the Laura Ingalls of our family,” he said.