He was a hard worker. Competent. Quiet. Did as he was told. And slowly, he gained our trust.
Slowly, he began making suggestions for improvements. “Perhaps try pulling the plow like this?” he’d say. “Maybe stack the hay bales this way?” Harmless little things.
The village elders were upset. We’d always done things our way. Even if they weren’t the best ways, they were our ways. Who was this stranger to tell us differently?
But the elders let us try the stranger's ways, and they worked. And so he was accepted into our village.
Accepted by most, that is. One of the elders, the oldest and wisest, wouldn't fold. He railed against the stranger. “He’s trouble, is what he is!” he spat. “The elders before us are spinning in their graves. Mark my words, no good will come of him. I’ve seen it before, believe you me!”
We laughed at the eldest, the other elders joining us. Told him he’d gone daft in his old age. He stomped down to the cemetery near the river, sat on the bank under a tree and sulked. We soon forgot about him.
The stranger was one of us now, though we still knew little about him. He continued to make suggestions, but now they were mixed with orders, demands. “Give me half the wheat crop, to sell at faraway markets where it’ll bring a better price,” he told us. “Make me fine shirts of linen, to prove to them I’m not a backwards country farmer.”
The village elders folded to his demands. “He's improved our crops. He’s brought us forward. Give him whatever he wants, with glad hearts!”
The eldest, of course, protested. “He’ll take our crops, the best our village has to offer, and we’ll never hear tale of him again! The elders before us are spinning in their graves. Mark my words, no good will come of him. I’ve seen it before, believe you me!”
We laughed again, told him sitting in the sun had softened his mind. He again stomped down to the river. We soon forgot about him.
The night before our traders were set to leave for the faraway markets, our village had a large celebration. Drinking, dancing. We feted our stranger, who’d brought us forward.
We awoke the next morning and the stranger was gone, with our wagons of grain. With several of our strong young boys. With my sister, and the sisters of others as well. With our future.
The next year, another stranger appeared. He was shot on sight. LS