I actually wrote this story way back in high school, then did some serious editing and rewriting on it back in 2001. It gives you an idea of where my head was at back in the ’60s and ’70s.
The Bells of Oakhill
By Jillian Grace Page
A shimmering, translucent rainbow sphere broke through the gray clouds above Oakhill County and descended slowly into the midst of a park, where a few dozen of the town’s youngest citizens were at play. It was a crisp winter day, and the children were amusing themselves with fortress-building, tobogganing and the odd volley of snowballs.
“Ohmygawd!” a lad cried out from atop the toboggan slide, pointing upward. “Something’s coming down!”
The object — which was shaped “like a giant upsidedown egg,” someone commented — came to rest near them, then dissolved as a man emerged from within. He was tall, dressed in a simple brown robe and sandals. Golden hair hung loosely about his shoulders, and he had a gentle, handsome, bearded face with sparkling blue eyes. He took no notice of the chattering youngsters, who were fearlessly gathering before him, but stood in the snow with his hands clasped in prayer while he gazed up at the sky.
“Glory to my Father in Heaven,” he chanted softly. “Glory to my Father in Heaven . . . ”
While he prayed, the park was transformed into a beautiful oasis. Warm summer sunbeams streamed down as the clouds parted, evaporating the snow instantly to reveal a soft, lush lawn. Flowers and bushes sprang up here and there, and with them came the hum of bumblebees, butterflies and the like. The sleeping oaks shivered and creaked as they awoke, their buds bursting forth into thick green leaves.
And then, to the great delight of the children, who were gleefully applauding every transformation, dozens of varied birds alit on the branches, singing in multiple harmonies to this glorious summer day in the middle of winter.
Finally, the man turned his attention to the children, grinning slightly as he surveyed their innocent, indeed comical, wide-eyed faces.
A little girl called out: “Are you Jesus?”, and then giggled.
“That is one of my names,” he told them in a deep, rich voice. “And this garden is a gift for you from our Father . . . But why are you still clothed for winter when it is summer?” he asked, with a broad smile.
There was a great deal of joking and laughing — at their own expense — as the children peeled off their outer garments. How funny they had looked in snowsuits and hats and gloves and boots on a summer day.
“Let us retire under an oak and talk,” the man said, sitting cross-legged, like Buddha, beneath some sprawling branches. The children sat in a semi-circle before him. “Are you pleased with the garden?” he asked them.
Everybody nodded, with a chorus of Yeah-s! and Hooray-s!
“My daddy says Jesus lives in Heaven,” a boy said. “Are you from Heaven?”
“Yes,” the man nodded. “And how I love to walk in my Father’s garden, and to talk with its young caretakers. And how wonderful . . .” He was interrupted.
“Can you do any more tricks?” a lad blurted.
“Yah! Make us some ice cream!” another boy shouted.
“Ooh, chocolate!” someone exclaimed. “Make some chocolate ice cream!”.
“And some cookies!”
In a moment, all the children were shouting requests.
“Coke!,” “Chips!” and “Candy!” “Toys!” “Walkmans!” and “Money!” Everyone wanted something.
The man held a finger to his lips and waited for the din to die down.
“Children,” he spoke at last, “I have one more gift for you, worth more than all the riches on Earth. For behold, I shew you a great mystery here . . .”
There was a brief outburst of grumbling from some, and chattering from others, but most agreed that a “mystery” was better than nothing.
The man held his finger to his lips again. “Let us pray.”
They fell silent and bowed their heads.
He smiled . . . and began: “Our Father, who art in Heaven.”
“Our Father, who art in Heaven,” the children repeated.
“Hallowed be thy name.”
“Hallowed be . . .”
The shrill ring of a bell from that wintry world beyond the park pierced the serenity of the moment. It rang for a full 10 seconds, and before it was finished, the children were on their feet and slipping into their boots and snowsuits.
“We’ve got to go now, sir,” a lad said. “We’ve only got 8 minutes before the next bell!”
“But, what about . . .” the man started to ask.
“No time now,” a little girl explained. “Lunchtime is over. We’ve got to get back.”
“Thanks for everything,” someone shouted.
“It was great,” others enthused. “Thanks!”
With a chorus of goodbyes and a few blown kisses, the children were off and running, every one of them. A boy stopped and shouted back, “Hey mister, if you’re still here after school, we’ll come back and play with you,” and he was off again.
The man watched them run across the road to the school yard and back into the cold February afternoon. They fell in line with other students and filed into the school. A teacher poked his head out and, ssured everyone was inside, slammed shut the metal doors.
For a few more moments, the visitor luxuriated in the garden’s warm, earthy breeze until he heard the faint toll of a church bell. By the time the school’s second bell had rung, he had donned his celestial robe and was ascending to his abode, the park slipping back into winter as he rose.
– Jillian Grace Page
Copyright. 1971, 2001