What makes us human?
Well do I recall the day my wife and I
visited a bar called The Misfiring Musket,
nestling on the banks of Ireland’s river Boyne.
I, being a leading literati in the world of fictional adventure, groaned,
when at every alcoholic pit stop, she would boast about my latest comedy,
Love On The Little Big Horn,
about a couple obsessed with General Custer
and his demise at that battle of the same name.
It was a military encounter described by historians
as little more than a skirmish,
yet portrayed by Hollywood in martial tones.
But am I much better than those ignorant movie moguls, I wondered,
with my near factory-output of literary trash?
As the wife prattled on, buttonholing the cook and asking
for a recipe for his lovely sausage and mash,
I reflected that the battle which took place barely a stone’s throw away from this little pub,
bedecked with battlefield relics, has been lauded by some as history-making,
maybe even deserving of a Hollywood epic.
Then my eye caught a faded painting, reputed to be several centuries old,
depicting an inter-planetary visitor, with the caption,
‘A much maligned prophet, and a visitor we should have made welcome.’
Intrigued, I asked a fellow drinker about this – professor James McDaddle,
supping ale with BBC radio presenter Jeremiah Grapevine,
who had been invited there to launch his new radio feature, What Makes Us Human.
The answer intrigued me, ‘It refers to a female from another universe,
who came here in the middle of a battle.
The one between fought between the protestant William of Orange and his catholic rival, King James.'
He laughed, ‘Apparently even this famed inter-planetary visitor couldn’t bring these two sides together,
and was snubbed by military chiefs who had power in a land whose motto is ‘One hundred thousand welcomes’.
‘We had to wait for the arrival of that very immoral president Bill Clinton!’
‘Maybe this female from another world knew something about humanity,
and should have been welcomed,’
said a young woman who sprang up, and introduced herself as Theresa Toogood,
sporting a badge proclaiming ‘Jesus Saves’.
The prof asked her opinion, only for us all to be regaled with tales of first-century
ancestors who’d fought off Roman invaders, in a bloody carnage that disfigured her beautiful land.
Until one, a kilt-wearing woman warrior called Mary Littleluv,
appeared out of the mist swirling around the mountain known as Helvellyn.
Natives always claimed she appeared out of nowhere,
but autocratic bishops later claimed they must have misheard,
and she came from the celestial domain of Heaven.
This scary female then encouraged the warlike Cumbrians to turn away from the path of violence,
and helped them in this aim by falling in blove with an enemy, centurion Marcus O’Reliuss.
Ancient parchment discovered in the Roman settlement of Hardknott
– reputedly written by this military leader – is said to have declared that his wife was ‘Out of this world’.
Laughing about this story, Theresa said, ‘My mother always claimed
I bore a resemblance to drawings of the warrior woman, and as a child I was known as a strange girl.’
After regaling us with this snippet of ancient history and refreshing herself with a glass of stout,
which I’d provided at the cost of a stern look from the wife, she implored us all to,
'Be born again into the arms of Jesus, and so bring a lasting peace to their troubled land'.
This forthright lady told us about her village of Muttleforce, in the English county of Cumbria.
But the missus, a confirmed atheist, scoffed at her claim that
humanity could only be defined if we were ‘born again’, in a Christian way of course.
Listening to all this was a fellow called Timothy O’Farrell,
who joked that he didn’t fancy going through child birth a second time.
Though being very handsome, Tim didn’t half curse, but she put up with it believing he was destined for fame.
After chiding him for swearing, he laughed, ‘I was educated by the Jesuits, who swore like troopers.’
Later I made notes for my next story: ‘Interesting characters – a lady who
professes a link to a pagan warrior, and a young actor who I’m sure is destined for stardom.’
Hearing she was accompanying her acting buddy to Hollywood,
I determined to keep tabs on them, somehow believing our paths would cross.
Sure enough, after my return to that place of moving pictures,
where I, as a writer, was much lauded, I heard a familiar voice shout,
‘Repent and you will be saved, for in this town of make believe there is only one star – Jesus Christ.’
Some journalist in the know shouted, ‘Your boyfriend’s an upcoming film star!’
‘Yes,’ she laughed, ‘but I’m working on him.’
It was her, that lady from Belfast sermonizing by a statue of Abraham Lincoln,
the president whom history records as having freed the enslaved.
I wondered, was there some thread in these random events,
that led this lady and the handsome actor here, far from her English village?
My next glimpse of them was while researching a novel,
The Cavalry Man Who lost His Spurs, a sequel to Love On The Little Big Horn,
which brought me to the General Custer, a ‘red neck’ bar in the US sate of South Dakota,
where I was surrounded by arrows, rifles and make-believe scalps,
that, according to the tourist blurb, were from the Indian wars.
History records that one actor in this wild west adventure didn’t follow the script
– an Indian called Crazy Horse who outfoxed the pride of Custer’s Seventh Cavalry,
at a battle above that sparkling little stream called the Little Big Horn.
I was wondering how this little woman would cope with this rowdy crowd,
but she quietened them with her most stirring sermon, and everyone applauded the little evangelist.
‘That’s the best speech I’ve heard since I saw that president address Congress,’ commented one old timer.
‘What was he called? Oh yes, Abraham Lincoln.’
Then her actor beau O’Farrell piped up, ‘I was in that film.’
‘What’s your next role?’ Asked the curious chap.
‘I’m playing a soldier in the US 7th Cavalry who follows an officer who led his men with reckless abandonment.’
‘Oh, you don’t mean the one whom this bar is named after?’
‘Indeed, the movie depicts him as a vain-glorious fool,
unfit to be regarded as a ‘Great American hero’ by the people of this state,
because he foolishly led his men towards a huge Indian Encampment.’
At this the drinkers turned nasty and we were run out of town in a hand cart,
to be rescued by an ethnoarchaeological expedition,
which had just discovered a cave painting depicting a fabled woman warrior,
known as the Saviour Of The Sioux.
Theresa was astounded by a resemblance between it and those found in her native Cumbria,
and I noticed a marked resemblance to the painting I’d seen in that bar by the river Boyne.
A year later I attended the premiere of a film, May The Muttleforce Be With You,
in which a female hero arrived on earth after an argument with Luke Skywalker,
who apparently was a ‘spoilt brat’.
Learning of this the producers of a well-known movie franchise,
the one about wars between stars, threatened legal action.
Timothy O’Farrell, one of the cast of this independent flick, made by Born Again productions,
said, ‘I saw enough of that in Hollywood, warring stars I mean.’
He added that the film was funded by a cooperative bank called Save With Jesus.
Of course, the occasion wouldn’t have been complete without the presence
of those two clever chaps I’d met in that Irish bar, The Misfiring Musket.
Timothy quipped, ‘We were going to call the movie What Makes Us Human,
but couldn’t agree on a definition of it.’