Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Jamal & The Hermit

Flash Fiction Friday Writing Prompt: This week’s story challenge is to explore a character’s defense mechanism at work in under 1500 words in any genre you want.
Fate has written a tragedy; its name is “The Human Heart.” The Theatre is the House of Life, Woman the mummer’s part; The Devil enters the prompter’s box and the play is ready to start. - Robert W. Service, "The Harpy".
Jamal struggled with the last few feet and heaving out of breath, threw himself down at the summit of the mountain. "Oh my sweet God," he thought to himself, "I never thought I would make it!" He panted, trying in vain to catch his breath in the thin, icy air. He looked down over the edge and surveyed the hard climb he had just surmounted. Each jagged rock and switchback seemed to taunt him still, even though he had spent three of the hardest days of his life climbing them. He turned his attention away from the precipice and back to the object of his journey. There, in a patch of scrub pines, stood a crude stone hut with wisps of smoke rising from some unseen chimney.

Jamal made for the hut in some haste but paused at the ill-fitting door, almost afraid to knock. "Come in young one," came an ancient voice from beyond the door, "Come and warm yourself by my fire." Jamal stooped to enter the small doorway and let his eyes adjust to the smoky darkness of the interior. A small, withered old man sat hunched by the fire and beckoned him to sit down.

"Oh great master, I have traveled so long and so far to seek you out. I-" Jamal began.

"I know why you have come," the old man interrupted, "You have come, like many before you, to seek the answers that you could not find below. You have braved the mountain, seeking the answers to life's hardest question. You want to know what life is all about, don't you?" The old man thrust a steaming cup of tea in his hands and turned away from him to gaze into the fire once more.

"Yes, oh master. You know my innermost heart. Please, wise one, tell me what I must do to live a good and happy life!" Jamal's eyes grew wide and he leaned forward so as to catch every word that tumbled from the old man's weathered lips.

"You must..."

"Yes, yes." Jamal trembled.

"You must find a pretty girl and settle down. Have children. Enjoy yourself and try not to think too much."

Jamal sat in silence as the words rolled around in his head. "That's it !?!" he barked incredulously, "Get married and try not to think too much? That's it?"

The old man poked at the fire with a stick, "All of life is a sad and funny play. Sit back and enjoy the show." The old man shrugged as if there really wasn't anything more to say.

"You can't be serious!" Jamal sputtered, "There has got to be more to it than that!" Jamal swore loudly and smacked his knee. "You sit up here at the summit of the mountain, reading and contemplating the wisdom of the ancients, pouring over the holy word day after day, and communicate with God himself, and that is all the wisdom you have to offer? You sir, are a fool! You are no wise man at all!" Jamal spat on the hard packed earthen floor.

"I never said I was wise. You did. I tell you to go and find a wife and live a happy, simple life because I do not want you to make the same mistake I did and live the cold, solitary existence of an aesthetic as I have done. Go, drink the wine, make love to a woman, smell the flowers." Jamal shook his head in disbelief.

"Besides," the old man continued, "Who is the greater fool? The old fool who wastes his life at the top of a mountain seeking something that cannot be found, or the young fool who risks his life climbing the mountain seeking a shortcut to enlightenment?"



  1. The old man poked at the fire with a stick, "All of life is a sad and funny play. Sit back and enjoy the show."

    First, absolutely a great story!
    Second, I really agree wholeheartedly with the words of the old man. Out of all the people I have ever met some of the most obnoxious are those trying to find some grand meaning in life.

  2. This is magnificent and I was going to quote the same lines Beach did. There is more wisdom in those few words than in all the volumes philosophers try to study. Top notch tale with a message we all should follow. Don't be such a deep and mystical outcast--live your life and have a great time doing it!

  3. I'm not sure how well I did with the prompt as the old man's defence mechanism is the moutain and that doesn't really get explored much but I did enjoy writing this one and I'm pleased with the way it turned out. I would have liked to go into more detail and back story for both Jamal and the old man as well but I just didn't have the time. I wrote this in twenty minutes right before the deadline and I didn't flesh it out much but the bones of what I wanted to say is there. The whole story is pretty much just setting up the old man to say "All of life is a sad and funny play." the bit about "Sit back and enjoy the show came from an interview with George Carlin who was discussing his philosophy.

    Thank you both for dropping by.


  4. Unfortunately, I'm completed sober, that being said I enjoyed your tale. Nice message and clever use of the defense mechanism prompt!

  5. Great story, Doc! :-)

    I agree with the 'wise' one's sentiments - so many people these days are travelling through life at break-neck speed that they don't ever make time to just sit and enjoy the journey!

  6. Ha! Perfect story. Advice that is impossible to take, but this is just so well told. I mean, honestly, who is not fool enough to try climbing the mountain? That's what it's there for...!

  7. Very nicely put, Doc. I am totally ashamed to admit it reminds me of something Mallory said on "Family Ties": "Be happy, try not to hurt other people, and hope that you fall in love!" (In discussing her philosophy of life.)

  8. Always wanted to climb a mountain. I haven't because of that whole falling down thing, but after reading this I felt like I did complete the trek.

    I needed that advice too. Great work Doc! Now, because your story said to, I'm off to drink wine and find me a woman...


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