Frankie’s Present

Frankie woke up with a start.

“Oi! What’s that in my hair?”

“It’s my present to you.”

He turned around trying to look, but every time he turned around, it turned around too, disappearing on him.

“I’m lopsided now.”

I couldn’t restrain my laughter. “You?” I hooted. “You are complaining about being lopsided? You don’t even have two cards that match, and you’re complaining about being lopsided?”

He wilted slightly. “You’ve got a point. Now that you’ve had your fun, do you mind picking me up and carrying me to that mirror?”

I did so.

Frankie with his present in front of the mirror

He was silent a long time.

“It’s rather pretty, in a strange, ugly kind of a way,” he said at last.

“So are you,” I pointed out. “I think it’s rather in keeping with your overall style, no? Colourful, a bit old in places, and somewhat eccentric?”

“It feels funny,” he protested feebly, his final objection.

“You’ll get used to it. Humans even get used to nasal piercings. Look on it as an ear-piercing.”

He became thoughtful, less self-conscious. He even preened a little.

“What’s it for?” he asked.

“That should have been your second question, not your first,” I said helpfully.

“Indeed? Then what should I ask?”

“You should first ask ‘What is it'”.

“What is it,” he asked obediently.

“It’s a St Christopher’s Medal,” I told him.

“Wha – ?”

“St Christopher carried the Christ-Child over a flooded river, at great risk to himself. Christians believe medals portraying him will keep them safe when travelling, as he kept the Christ safe. You might end up with a Christian.”

“Are you a Christian?”

“No, Frankie, I’m a Pagan. I’m surprised you haven’t caught onto that yet.”

“Well, you know how it is. I have so many different cultures and belief-systems in me, I don’t really know what I believe, and my travels are such a whirl of people and places it’s hard to keep track. If you are a Pagan, why did you give me something Christian?”

“Good question. Because, as a Pagan, in St Christopher I recognise the Pagan archetype of the Ferryman, a godform who bears the souls of people in transition from one shore to the other, from the land of the living to the land of the dead. If he did not do that job, dead people would get stuck here, and the place would be even more full of ghosts than it is. A ghost is someone who never made that journey with the ferryman. Again, he is a symbol of safe travelling, the Christ-child on his back representing the newly-innocent soul moving on to its next destination. Again, a beautiful and powerful symbol of safe and appropriate travel.”

His Ace Swords wrinkled as he thought. “I can see that,” he said. So what if I end up with someone with different beliefs? Or no beliefs at all? What then? You didn’t think of that, did you! Ha!”

I smiled quietly. (Around Frankie I’m actually the grown-up, which is quite unusual for me). “If you end up with someone who has different beliefs or no beliefs, I would hope they recognise that I gave you a little token symbolic of your wide travelling (you have been to far more places than I have, after all), and symbolic of my goodwill and my wish that you travel safely and never suffer a ripped card or a spill or something.”

He thought again. “What happens when the name is pulled out of the hat and I stop travelling?”

“Whatever the winner wants, if they have strong feelings about it. I would like you to keep the Ferryman forever – after all I gave it to you for a reason – but ultimately it’s up to them as your new owner. Perhaps they could pull a card and you could give your own opinion as well? Get them to write to me and let me know …”

Frankie didn’t answer. He did a twirl in front of the mirror.

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