A Faded Leather Satchel

A Faded Leather Satchel

A Story by Ethan Jobalia
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This is the story of an old man on a quest for enlightenment, and his one final worldly possession.

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A man walked down the street entirely naked. Eyes, obviously, trailed him as he went. Most attempted at least to keep a semblance of etiquette and kept their sight to eye level. Others, many times unwittingly, let their eyes wander, only to be instantly regretful of their mishap. The man did not care. He cared for very little. In fact, he cared for only two things. The first was God. This, here, was a man certainly of God, and one moreso whom had taken God without and within. He had taken an oath as a young man of sixteen to escape the army, but had since been converted to a believer. The second thing this man cared about was his satchel.

He carried a faded leather satchel with him everywhere he went. In a sense this was his only article of clothing, and in truth this was his only possession overall. As a priest of the faith he partook in, he was not meant to love anything in the world, but this satchel was gifted to him by his grandfather, and he was not too soon to leave it behind. He had loved and admired his grandfather as a man of great renown, and as a man who had practically raised him after his parents died. He certainly had not had an easy lot in life but his grandfather had helped to ease his suffering.

Within the satchel he carried only a small jar of jam and a slice of bread, both left over from his last meal. These he kept purely pragmatically to ensure he did not starve if no one had food to give. He was, in fact, a beggar (and a good one at that, or so he liked to think.) With his satchel and nothing else he would walk down the street, looking for the symbol of his faith above the doors of various houses, hoping to find someone who could feed and sustain him another day. It was a simple life, but meaningful.

As someone constantly on the brink of starvation, he always felt the closest to God when he was closest to death. When he was especially hungry and could no longer walk, he would set himself down where he stood, be it in the street or on the sidewalk, and simply listen for God’s voice. Often he would hear it, or so he assumed. It was hard to tell through the hunger what was real or not, but did it really matter if it was God? The voice itself was godly enough. The voice would echo two sentiments.

The first: “My son, you must eat. A priest alive is better than a priest dead, no matter how spiritual his final moments are. I will be here when you are ready, but now is not your time.” And he would divulge a location of a house with the mark. The question always remained, however, whether this was God sending an omen, or his subconscious remembering a mark he passed by on a different day when he was less hungry.

The second sentiment expressed by this voice was much more troubling. “Your satchel that you carry with you. It is keeping you from me. You long for the immortal plane of existence and for true peace and enlightenment, yet you keep your satchel. It binds you to this mortal plane. Why?”

The monk always answered likewise: “You would not understand, my dear God, but this satchel is more important to me than the most profound peace on Earth. When I am with this satchel, I am happy. I am able to find peace in the world enough but also the small joy I have in this one possession elevates my level of being more than could possibly be achieved through spirituality. I know I will never truly know if I am right until I remove this satchel, but today, God, is not that day.”

And so the priest walked on, always traveling to new places, always carrying naught but a satchel, until one day he came across a small townhouse. Within the townhouse lived an ordinary man with an ordinary family, and above the door sat an ordinary mark of the faith. They were required to feed him.

The family was poor, and could barely feed enough mouths as it was, and so the priest, always one to lend a hand, helped them to sell their eggs from their small chicken coop at the market. The selling was not hard work, but it took its toll on the man, and eventually he had to move on as was his calling. He knew this, but through his short time helping the family with their work, a third thing did this priest begin to care for. The boy and him had grown a special bond that went beyond the work they did together. They boy would ask questions about life, religion, faith, spirituality, and anything else he could conjure up. The priest would simply laugh and give his best guess.

The priest knew he had to move on, but was finding it harder and harder to do so. After about a month staying with this family he felt such a great urge to move that he forcefully starved himself in presence of food to simply have a conversation with God.

“Dear God, I must move on, but how am I to do so with this boy here. It seems more and more he needs me and I need him. Without him I am but a stranger on the street with no one to talk to. He gives me a person to answer questions for and I to him give answers.”

“My child, you have found yourself in a similar dilemma once again. You have lived on the road, correct?” The voice responded.

“Yes, my Lord.” The priest stated aloud.

“And having lived both on the road, a mobile life and one without a place today, and now with a family with food on the table and a bed in the attic, you have seen the difference between happy and fulfilled. Which one has made you happy, and which fulfilled?”

The priest thought for a moment. “I would venture to say that as much as I love staying here, I feel something is missing, or, to put it another way, I do not feel like enough is missing. I may be an old man not long for this Earth, but moving and learning and striving for spiritual perfection seemed to me much more of a way to live. There is, yes, food on the table and a warm bed, but I had food from time to time and sleep before. I guess I would say I am happy now. I am content, but content hardly makes for a meaningful life. I am only fulfilled through my struggle. The boy makes me happy, but the boy does little to further my understanding. I know what I must do now.”

The old man stood up and walked to the door of the attic, where he found the little boy hiding and listening. “Are you leaving?” He asked looking up.

“My child. My fate lies on the road ever ahead, and to stay here is not my calling. I am happy here and I would not want to leave it for the world, but that is exactly why I must. Before I go, however, I want you to have something.” The man responded.

“What have you to give though? You are old and possessionless, and I am sure all knowledge you contain has already been imparted on me.” The boy thought pensively.

A small glint shone in the old man’s eye, imperceptible but to the keenest hawk. Without a word, the old man lifted his satchel off of his arm. The spot it had lied for the last many years was rough and red on his skin, and much of the leather shedded from the satchel as it moved more than it had since it’s gifting. The boy received this gift with honor, for he knew what it was and its significance. The old man, without a word, walked out of the house and into the setting sun, never to be seen by the boy again.

The old man the next day was found by a lost passerby, sitting in a darkened alley slumped over against a stone wall with a slim smile on his faded lips - dead. The boy, never learning of the fate of his old mentor, soon joined the priesthood of the religion and began the long process of removing himself from all worldly attachments. As the end of the boy’s life neared, and as he aged, he too became a wandering monk. There were only two things he still held his attachment to. One was God. The other was a faded leather satchel.

© 2020 Ethan Jobalia


Author's Note

Ethan Jobalia
I would appreciate critiques and what I could improve on for future writings! Thank you all!

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Added on October 7, 2020
Last Updated on October 9, 2020
Tags: priest, monk, satchel, leather, enlightenment, spirituality, religion, short story, moral

Author

Ethan Jobalia
Ethan Jobalia

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