A job on a rainy day at a remote location. Hundreds of shards of glass have mysteriously appeared on the ground, where sheep could step on them. Some of the shards are two feet long, like glass daggers.
The small workgloves I have won’t do for this. I could use the old welding glove, but there’s only one and it will only fit on my left hand, which is awkward. I go to find it.
It works OK. I can get the shards of glass out of the earth, and into a plastic bucket, then carry the loads of glass to the storehouse.
I keep telling myself, as the rain runs down my neck, to slow down, be patient, be careful not to stumble on the rough ground, it’s not worth getting cut out here, with nobody within a mile and no water to wash with except the rain.
I take the last bucketful into the high-ceilinged storehouse. As I walk away, I see some roll of paper on the stone floor, among all the rubbish. I keep walking. The paper is covered in sheepshit and birdshit, like everything else on the floor. Then I stop, rebuking myself for having no spirit of adventure. I still have the huge welding glove on my left hand after all.
I walk back, pick up the clumped roll of paper, and shake it. The dirt on it is all dry, it falls away like a thick skin, to reveal the yellowed cover of a book. Senor Saint by Leslie Charteris.
I walk out to the steps, shaking the book on the way. The rain has stopped. I sit down.
Holding the book in the big welding glove, I look at the copyright page. 1959. I begin reading and find myself in Latin America. After a few minutes, I realise this Saint bloke is different from the one I’d seen for years on TV and in old films. There’s far more depth and poignancy to the thoughts of the Simon Templar in this book. What did they do for TV/film then, excise his soul? The Saint in this book is looking to help people all the time, like the one on TV, but behind that is a boundless pathos, a sorrow for the world, that can be sensed between what the Saint says. It’s awkward, turning the pages with the big welding glove on. Sometimes I mistake bits of birdshit or sheepshit stuck to the page for punctuation, and have to shake the book in annoyance until the bits fall off. The Latin American heat comes up into my eyes and brain from the pages, and from the characters, from their hard, terrible lives, and from the Saint’s pity and deep sorrow and his attempts to intervene on behalf of these afflicted humans he encounters, his attempts to use his skills at thievery and fighting and deception to intercede on behalf of others and help them out of predicaments they might have been stuck in forever without him. And behind all that, you keep wondering what deep affliction is hidden away in the Saint himself to make him roam the world in this way, looking for others to save.
After an hour, I realise the heat is not coming only from the pages of the book, the real sun has come out strongly overhead.
I look up. A rainbow is directly above, straddling the sky.
I walk back into the old storehouse and drop the book where I found it.
I put the old welding glove away for another day.