The Half Lemon

onceupunatimeblueThere was a priest who went to see the world after taking his oath. After many years of wandering, he finally arrived in a small village in the middle of nowhere. The people there were faithful and believed but they had no church; they had to go to the nearest one which was in a small town 25 miles from there. The priest took the initiative, asked the Church for support, and with the help of the local men they built their own church. From there on, he was celebrating the Sunday masses, joining together men and women in Holy Matrimony, and saying prayers at the funerals.

Many years passed by like that.

At the end of an ordinary mass, in early spring, on a chilly Sunday morning he was just guiding the people out of the church, was about to close the gates when an unknown man stepped into the churchyard.

With his dirty and torn clothes, he stood before the priest and said: “Priest, please be good and give me half a lemon!”

The priest was a good man, and even though he thought the request was a bit strange, he went back to the rectory, took out a lemon, cut it in half, took it back to the man and gave it to him, who looked back to the priest with gratitude. However, the priest was curious. He asked “Son, why do you need this half of a lemon?”

With a look of fright on his face he rushed out of the churchyard gate and took off.

A week later, around the same time, when the priest was leaving the church, he found himself in front of the same man in the churchyard. The man said, “Priest, please be good and give me half a lemon!”

The priest was surprised by the appearance of the man and his strange request. Of course he was good, went back to the rectory, and brought the half lemon. Placed it in the stranger’s hand and immediately he asked, “Here it is, my dear son, but please tell me why do you need this half a lemon?”

The man was obviously frightened and immediately ran away but the priest was not sluggish either and ran after him. He wasn’t in a very good condition, he has never run so much and so fast before so he was out of breath by the end of the village, almost fainted. He thought the strange man might appear again next week, and it would be nice if he could keep up with him, so he spent his week working on his cardio. It turned out to be a good idea, because as he thought, the stranger entered the churchyard on Sunday. The priest didn’t even wait for the request, he was good, and brought the half lemon.

The man said, ‘Thank you priest for being so good and giving me half a lemon.”

“Don’t mention it son,” said the priest. “But please tell me, what do you need it for?”  By the time he finished his sentence the man was already running, but the priest was close behind. They were running for a while and the priest was starting to feel exhausted when they arrived at a wide and swift river. The stranger without thinking threw himself into the river and swam across the river and disappeared on the other side. The priest didn’t follow because he couldn’t swim. He was annoyed when he got home. He spent the next week learning to swim at the swimming pool in the small town 25 mile’s away. He was anxiously waiting for the next Sunday; now he was sure that the weird fellow would visit again. On Sunday, as he was closing the church, the gate creaked, and the man entered. “Priest, please be good and give me half a lemon!”

The priest was good, went back, put on his swimming trunks, his running shoes, grabbed half of the lemon and took it to the stranger. “Here it is, my son, but please tell me, why do you need it?”

The guy was terrified, rushed out the gate with the priest following. He reached the river, swam across, the priest right behind him. He kept running on the other side of the river and the priest was still on his tail. They kept running until they got to a tall tree on the verge of a deep ravine. The man climbed the tree with the agility of a cat, the priest not knowing how to climb a tree, stood on the ground. He was cursing everything as he walked back home. The following week the villagers watched as the priest in the garden of the church climbs trees, jumping back and forth, and generally behaving very strangely. The priest didn’t care, he was exercising obsessively, preparing himself for the meeting. On Sunday before the mass, he put on his trunks and running shoes under his cassock. In fact, he was good and put half a lemon in his pocket in advance. The mass finished much earlier than usually, and he emptied the church as soon as possible so he could warm up. In the same exact time the mass should have ended, the strange man entered the churchyard.   “Priest, please be good…”

The priest was already handing him half of a lemon, and asked, “Son, why do you need it for God’s sake?” The man ran away terrified, the priest followed him. They ran to the river, swam across, ran to the tree, climbed up. The priest almost caught the stranger when he grabbed a vine and swung to the other side of the ravine. The priest was about to have a stroke, but then he saw another vine. Whoop, he grabbed it and swung across. There, however, he encountered an unexpected obstacle: it was a plane graveyard and the man closed himself in one of the wrecks. The priest was raging as he walked around the wreck several times, but he found no entrance except for the sealed door on the side of the plane; he had to open it somehow. He was furious but he went home. He spent every day at the village’s locksmith and learned every possible way of opening a lock. On Sunday he held the mass in his swimming trunks, running shoes, on his back in a waterproof backpack was a crowbar, a cutting torch, a wrench and a drill, then he stood in front of the church and waited for the man. He was there on time. “Priest, please be good and give me half a lemon!”

“There you go, son” Handing him the lemon, because he was good, but in the same time he grabbed the stranger’s arm, pulled him close, and with obsession in his eyes, asked “But what do you need it for?”

The panic came over the man again as he made his escape from the priest’s hands and ran away, but the priest was very close behind. Racing to the river they quickly got across, running up the tree almost breaking their necks, one after the other swung across the ravine, the man barely managed to close the door of the wreck in the priest’s face. Little did he know that the priest would not stop there, because he grabbed his backpack and started working on the lock with his tools. In less than an hour the heavy door creaked open. Inside, the stranger was shivering in horror, he was afraid of the priest’s fierce and triumphant look. The priest slowly strode up to the man, crouched down, and very quietly, with a friendly smile on his face, gently asked, “Son. You have been asking for half a lemon for the last few weeks. I’m very happy to give it to you, even in the future, I am only asking in return that you tell me: why do you need it?”

“All right, priest …” Came the answer in a trembling tone. “I will answer your question, but please, be good, and do not tell anyone.”

And the priest was good, and never told anyone.

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