Today is St George’s Day and I’m sure the vast majority of English speakers are quite familiar with the story by which he is known – he is a fearsome dragon slayer.
But I know better. I have inside knowledge. A good friend of mine, Martin Little – you may have heard of him – has told me about the day he bumped into St George. Here’s an excerpt of his story, to set things right.
I walked into something hard, then bounced right off it. It felt like I hit the ceiling, bounced off a wall and then landed awkwardly. As I tried to right myself, my wings got in the way. I lost my balance, tripped over a rubber plant in an enormous gold pot and smacked my head against the wall opposite. This last action landed me square in the middle of the corridor, on my backside.
“Ow,” came a muffled sound – from where?
I shook my head delicately, confident that the ringing in my ears would settle down at about the same time as I would stop seeing double.
Then, I picked up one of the two clipboards and twisted onto my knees, searching for the source of the ‘ow’ noise.
“Phew! I thought ye were never gonna get up,” mumbled a gruff voice. “What did ye have for breakfast? Lead pancakes?”
My eyes zeroed in on a scrawny figure standing by the wall in front of me. His face was handsome and a little chubby, like that of a child, but the voice did not seem to go with the face. A thin handlebar moustache made him look like somebody’s eccentric uncle. And that was before you took into account his striped cotton slacks and flamboyant rainbow shirt with bouffant sleeves.
“Who are you?” I asked slowly, mystified.
“St. George, famous dragon-slayer, at your service.” He took an elaborate bow, brushing his floppy hair out of his eyes with a gesture that was turn of the century and nonchalant at the same time. It reminded me vaguely of a badly staged pantomime performance by a rural community amateur acting group.
“Smashing!” came the gruff voice again.
No, it can’t have been him. His lips hadn’t moved a fraction. And I should have seen them move, since my eyes seemed to be glued to his face, mesmerised and non-blinking.
“Is that… is that mascara?” I pointed vaguely towards his face.
His expression became abashed as he dropped his eyes, like he’d been caught with his hand in a jar of cookies, while on a strict diet. I’ve been there, I should know.
He found his voice, then. Smiling apologetically, he said, “It’s bronzer, actually. I… I’ve got standards to maintain. You won’t believe the peer pressure in this place! What with all the gods trying to be so perfect.” He waved a hand absentmindedly in an effeminate gesture.
“Har, har, har…” a throaty laugh exploded behind me.
This time, it broke through my trance. I spun around and clapped eyes on the most bizarre creature I had seen in the last… well… few hours. He was, I supposed, an angel. Only he was the size of a body builder and had the face of a gurning champion – ugly as hell and covered in stubble. He was wearing the same pillar-box red jacket I had seen on the messenger angels earlier in the day, but with red leggings instead of green. On his wide chest shone a badge, about the size of an Olympic gold medal. D.Opey, Guardian Angel, it said.
He watched my increasingly disbelieving expression with a frown. I tried to control my lips, but they broke rank and stretched in a wide grin. I started to chuckle.
“What’s so funny?” he grumbled at me, glowering.
I bust up. Holding my stomach, I raised a hand and pointed rudely at his badge. I would have said ‘sorry’, but I was beyond words.
The panto guy, St. George, stretched his neck to look over my shoulder and mouthed the name, squinting slightly. He didn’t seem to get the reason for my hilarity. Which only made it funnier.
“Mr. Opey, what are you doing in this part of the building, may I ask?” he eyed him critically, sounding irate.
“Trying to keep clumsy boy here from doing himself serious mischief, what do you think?” He rubbed his enormous belly with gentle, circular movements. Then he changed to rubbing his behind.
“Shouldn’t you have gone off duty after the handover?”
“Should. If only there’d been one! Ye think I’m enjoying myself tagging along after a loose nut like ‘im?” He twisted his thumb towards me. “And risking me permanent injury every five minutes?”
“Hey!” I protested to his irreverent attitude, suddenly sober. “What have I ever done to you?”
“Huh. Wha’ haven’t ye, more like?”
I felt my brow crease in bewilderment. “I don’t know what you’re on about.”
“He’s your guardian angel, it seems.” replied St. George, helpfully.
“I have a guardian angel?”
“Of course you do. Everybody’s got one.”
“I have a guardian angel,” I repeated, trying to convince myself that I was still sane. An extremely ugly guardian angel, dressed head to toe in eye-watering red.
“Um-hum,” D. Opey grunted, staring me up and down contemptuously. “See what I mean?” he directed his question to St. George. “Not the brightest button on the planet.”
Under normal circumstances I would have bristled at the implication that I might be as quick as the average village idiot – the second time in less than twenty-four hours, as well! – but I was too amused to feel irritated.
“I have a guardian angel called Dopey,” I laughed openly now, holding onto the wall. “Well, that explains.”
“Why my life’s been such a hopeless, downward spiral.”
“Ye think you got a rough deal, do ye?
“I know I did. In fact,” I turned to St. George, “I would like to put in a complaint about that.” I still couldn’t stop grinning. Chuckles escaped my lips every other word.
The giant red tomato by my side scoffed.
“Er…” St. George blinked repeatedly, shaking his head, “You should try the Complaints Department.”
“Yeah.” My turn to scoff. “I’ve spent half my time here looking for it.”
“He has,” Dopey confirmed, nodding gravely.
“Thank you,” I decided to be nice to my angel, just in case. Then I turned back to George. “I’ve been sent to General Enquiries first,” I said, to show that I knew what I was doing, “but there was some mix-up with the form… and the sample,” I remembered, “and I was never told what I should do next.” I tried on my best innocent expression. “You wouldn’t be able to help me, would you?” I girlie-batted my eyelids at him.
St. George opened his mouth as if to speak, then closed it again. He frowned and pulled his lips to one side, looking extremely confused. He scoffed, then sighed, and then shrugged his skinny shoulders and shook his head back and forth. I wondered, for a second, if he was in the middle of a yoga routine that I might have interrupted. Finally, he spoke.
“Yes, er… I suppose that would be in order. Er…” He opened his mouth a couple more times, then ordered his thoughts. “What’s your name?”
“Um… I wasn’t aware you were coming in today – not that anyone tells me anything, but… your name was definitely not on the printout.”
“There must be some mistake, then,” I fibbed, shrugging, to make it look more convincing.
Dopey squatted, groaning, looking like he was going to pick up the feathers that had just drifted down, behind me. I stepped on his toes. If he was indeed my guardian angel, I was going to make him look after me. Properly, this time.
“Aah,” he groaned quietly.
I shot him a warning look, and watched George frown from the corner of my eye.
“I mean no disrespect, sir,” I turned towards him, hoping to divert his attention from Dopey and, hopefully, feathers. “But, I always had this image in my head. Of you, I mean.”
“I always pictured you in a chain-mail shirt, heavy armour, you know, shield… You don’t even have a sword,” I finished in an incredulous tone.
George sighed heavily.
“I know. It’s that blasted dragon.” He turned his steps back the way he’d come. “Shall we?” he shot me a wary look over his shoulder.
I hurried along, keeping close behind him.
“What does the dragon have to do with it?”
George sighed again, clearly uncomfortable with the subject. He cleared his throat to speak, but Dopey’s booming voice intruded.
“Ha-Hah! The rumours are true!”
“What rumours?” I asked at the same time as George winced, squeezing his eyes tightly shut.
“They are, aren’t they?” Dopey pressed his advantage.
“Dopey, behave,” I chastised him as if he was my pooch.
He gave me a contemptuous glare, an ‘as if I care what you think’ expression on his fleshy face.
“It’s ok,” George answered, sighing again. “It’s fine, really. It is true.”
Dopey whooped and did a couple of sideway kicks – his own, personal, cheerleading routine, by the looks of it.
“What rumours?” I repeated my previous question.
“The ones abou’ t’ dragon,” Dopey sniggered.
“The dragon… well, it’s just that the dragon… wasn’t much of a dragon,” George confessed, a shamed look on his face. “It was no more than a large gecko.” He paused for a second, then explained. “I was only trying to do a good deed. Pomona, the goddess of fruits, heard the creature scuttling behind a large consignment by her back wall. She’s scared of all sorts of little critters, bless her. I happened to be passing, so I offered to go and check.” He shrugged. “She was watching through the window. I suppose the shadows might have made it look worse than it was… You know how gossip travels. It got out of hand.”
“Yeah,” I nodded. I knew all about gossip. And about getting trouble in return for good deeds.
“It was a mistake. An accident.”
“Easy mistake,” I agreed.
“For a while,” George continued in a subdued tone, “I tried to fit into the picture people had imagined. But it’s hard to meet such colossal expectations. Eventually, I had to give it up. The armour got heavy. I never realised how hard it is to keep iron from rusting all the time. The slightest drop of rain… I was spending so much time polishing the darned thing, that I’d almost forgotten there was a world out there. And then… birthdays. I kept getting axes, spears or bows and arrows every time. Not one new music album, not one box of truffles.” He frowned, disgruntled. “I don’t even like sharp objects.”
I rested my hand gently on his shoulder in sympathy. “I understand,” I said, putting a lot of compassion in my voice. “Still, you look good now,” I gestured towards the wacky costume he seemed to be wearing with pride. “Suits you.”
Crazy! A saint was looking to me for reassurance! It just goes to show that no one, in heaven or on earth, is ever free of insecurities.
You can find the rest of Martin’s adventures in a few places, but here’s one link, to get you started http://www.amazon.com/Martin-Little-Resurrected-ebook/dp/B006E38ELO/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top