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The Fool on the Hill
Martin rose quietly from his bed, grabbing his hat off of the coat rack, he stepped out of his small house. Martin Hamish was a man that would be described as heartless as a rock by his neighbors. He lived alone in a cottage on top a hill in the small town of Ballintoy, Ireland.
“Hamish you done writin’ that book yet? Bet its got another sad ending” inquired Albert, the Blacksmith, who lived closest to Martin.
“What business is it yours now?” Martin said, sneering. Stumbling off, Martin turned his back towards Albert, walking away as Albert looked at him, confused.
Yes the people of Ballintoy were not fans of Martin Hamish and he knew this fairly well, but as far as he was concerned, he had little reason to care for their snide remarks. He had more important things to focus on. Squinting at the bright sunlight, he groaned.
“Mor, come here lad.” Martin’s mutt, Mor, peeked its head out from the small shelter of wood Martin had constructed for him. Mor stayed close behind his owner, ready to follow him wherever he should go. “It’s too bloody bright out here I’ll say” Martin mumbled. He walked down a small path that lead to the shore. Martin never liked the rough sea, or the green-blanket hills, or the woods that surrounded his house. In fact, the only thing that Martin Hamish cherished was his home and the income he made. Perching himself on a rock, he pulled out his journal and began to write.
Martin Hamish was the author of several unpopular, yet decent books. The contents of those books were that of mystery, often with grim and never happy endings. He made money from them, but not much, only that of which supplied him enough to pay for food and ink and paper. As he looked over the rocky sea that lay before him, Martin tried to think up an ending for his latest novel when he was suddenly interrupted.
“Hamish! Oi! Hamish!” shouted Steven, the son of the family who owned the general store a mile from his home.
“What on earth…” Muttered Martin as he stood to approach the boy.
“Your cottage! It’s aflame! Sir please come,” Steven said, panting. Martin didn’t say anything, he simply dropped his notebook and ran with the little strength he had up the hill towards his cottage. The smell of fire clogged his nose and mouth as he approached the smoldering wreck.
“Who’s done this? Who?” Martin yelled at the crowd that had gathered around the house. Two people were throwing buckets onto the flames, trying yet failing to help it die down. Flames licked the walls and thatched roof, a wooden beam had smashed through the center, and the middle had caved in. “My writing! Everything! Gone! Someone better have a bloody good explanation for this,” He growled. One woman slipped her arm around her child, pulling him back in fear. Mor let out a bark and stood behind his master, fearful of being burnt.
“It was an accident sir! Gilbert and I were jus’ having a smoke, I dropped mine and it set the grass aflame, I ran to go tell you an’ Gilbert got the town but it was too late!” said Steven.
“Yea’, sorry sir. Was only an accident,” mumbled Gilbert, the paperboy, looking down at his feet. There was ash on his face and hands, he had clearly tried to help put out the fire. Martin put his head in his hands as he looked at his home, and all of his life’s work and purpose, gone, burnt to nothing. Mor sniffed and walked towards the flames. Yelping he raced back towards Martin and nuzzled into him.
“It’s all right now, Mor, don’t you go on yapping,” said Martin softly as he patted Mor’s head. He realized now that his satchel, the clothes he was wearing, and Mor were all he had left. Sighing, he put his fingers to his temples, trying to think of what he should do now. The cottage was clearly beyond repair, as mostly everything he owned was flammable; wool, wood, his pages and books, even his money was now gone. He looked up to see the townspeople staring.
“H-Hamish, mate you know we’d be willing to help,” Said Albert, stepping forward. Sounds of agreement were muttered from all sides of the group.
“You lot hate me, why would you be doing this?” Said Martin, squinting his eyes. Everyone thought he was the town grump, didn’t they? After all, after Martin’s wife had died, he shut himself up, he was rude to everyone. Why did they want to help him?
“Doesn’t mean we won’t help ye out,” Travers, the banker said. Pushing the glasses up on his pointed nose, he looked through his pockets before pulling out several coins. “Here ye are,” He said, smiling. Martin wasn’t one to take charity, but he knew it was better than nothing. Turning the corners of his mouth upwards into what he hoped didn’t look like a grimace; Martin hesitatingly reached out and took the coins. He furrowed his brow looking at the coins in his palm before hearing a thunk on the ground. Looking down he saw two blankets and a withered out coat. Minnie, one of the children, grinned up at him before running back to her proud mother. Soon everyone had given him either one article of clothing, bread, or money.
“I-, thank you,” Martin said in disbelief. Giving small smiles and pardons of good luck, the townspeople walked back towards their village. Martin bundled up all of his new possessions into one of the blankets and slung it over his shoulder. Deciding that he would spend the night at the Tavern, he joined them.
The next morning, Martin made his way down the cobblestone path that trailed through the village. He was shocked to see that many of the people he passed had smiled at him. He simply stared at them in an utter disbelief. Sunlight shone brightly in his eyes as he walked down towards the sea. Suddenly it didn’t bother him anymore. He smiled and laughed as Mor chased a squirrel, even smiling at the once-despised ocean. Sitting down on his rock, he began to think, he didn’t have a home, little money, and only one, unfinished book to sell, but he didn’t feel bothered. In fact, he felt upbeat. He took out his book and soon finished another chapter within an hour. Mor approached him after chasing the squirrel and sat next to him.
“Why don’t I feel sad no more, Mor?” He asked his dog absently. Another wave of realization hit Martin. He didn’t need his house, he had the Tavern. He didn’t need those copies of books; he is almost done with his new one. He didn’t need his money, he had enough supplies to last him a while. He wasn’t hated by the townspeople, he just assumed he was. And in addition to all that he had Mor, who stood as his family. Martin Hamish realized that what he thought he cherished, money and a desolate home, were not what he cherished at all. Happiness swelled inside him. Patting Mor’s head, Martin pulled out his book yet again, he wrote an ending to his current chapter.
‘Our cherishment lies not in what we perceive, but what we are yet to see. For human trepidation may lie in losing our belongings, but we may never lose our hope. And never lose the life around us. What we cherish, is often unknown, and it only takes a great understanding to be thankful that all we contain at this moment has been given.’
Smiling to himself, Martin stuffed his quill and book into his bag and made his way back towards his village. All was well in the village of Ballintoy.