The Crabtree Family Bible
I first heard of the Family Bible when I was eight. Aunty Laura had just been committed to a home for the mentally unbalanced, described to me as ‘the place they lock away the flaming lunatics’ by my Dad. Apparently he had never liked his sister in law, ever since she called him a Godless barbarian, which was the first time they ever met.
I carried the bible into the house. Mum and Dad had been to Aunty Laura’s flat and cleared out all her stuff, carting it all back in my dads old Ford Cortina. As I walked up the drive I looked in wonder at the huge book with its wooden cover and decorated metal lock. I was fascinated by it and it looked to my eight year old eyes as if it were a thousand years old. I took it to the dining room table and inspected every inch of the cover. Then I opened it and tried to make out the words.
“What are you doing with that old thing, son” My dad said, “give it here and I’ll put it with the rest of your aunts junk in the loft.”
“Let him look at it” my mum had said, “It was my grand fathers”
“We aught to be careful” Dad said with a smile “We don’t want him turning into a bible bashing loon like the rest of your family” and he took the book away and carried it to the loft. I cried I think. Something about that bible made me want it more than I’d ever wanted anything in my short life.
Aunty Laura had been committed instantly upon her arrival back in the country. It took some years before I pieced together the events that led to her confinement. Eventually I discovered that she had been in Greece, visiting churches on the islands. On her arrival back inAthensat the port, she had seen a magazine stand, and suddenly taken it upon herself to buy a bottle of lighter fluid, spray it over the back of the stall and set a match to it. No one had been hurt, and the Greek police had been persuaded to return Laura toBritain, where, due more to her behaviour whilst in custody than her crime, she had been sent to the mental institution.
At the age of fifteen I was having trouble with myself and everyone around me. It was then, whilst trying to hide some pornographic magazines in the loft, that I found the Bible again. Upon seeing it I was struck with the memory of my childhood infatuation, opened it and for the first time, began to read. I read words like “he that blasphemeth the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death” and “those being filled with unrighteousness and fornication, who knowing the judgement of God are worthy of being put to death”.
The following day the world looked like a very different place. I saw sin everywhere. I saw the sins of children as they fought in the playground; I saw the sins of old people as they sat idly in their homes. I saw the sins of my teachers and my parents and my friends. I saw the devil peering out from behind every ones eyes.
I think I was in a kind of trance all of that day. It was like a state of panic, induced by all the wickedness around me. In chemistry class a boy on the back row said that he had had sex the night before, with someone from the all girls’ school across the road. I told him he would be doomed to hell, unless he repents to God for his sins.
Then he said that I should shut my mouth and called me a 'Jesus creep'. I stabbed him with the pen that was in my hand. It was only a biro, but it pierced the skin just below his ribcage, in the softness of his belly. I stabbed again and again screaming “YOU WILL REPENT, YOU MUST REPENT” until I was dragged away, leaving him lying on the floor, his shirt red with his own blood.
That was four years ago. I am better now. I spent the time in a home, like the one my Aunty still lives in. Gradually I began to see people around me again, and not just sin and the devil.
Last night I went back up to the loft and the Crabtree Family bible was still there, just where I had last read it four years ago. I carried it down to the bottom of the garden, poured lighter fluid over it and dropped a match. It took an hour for it to burn. I watched it till the end. Now all that’s left is some ash and a blackened metal lock.
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