Below the Three Steps

for my father on his birthday

When the sun set they could no longer move uphill. “It’s the genius of the place,” explained Nuncio, talking quietly in the evening’s hush. “While the sun shines each penitent may climb as his will allows, but with the first stars movement ceases.”

Hoopla hitched the reed that served as belt a notch or two tighter. It was still, improbably, green. “And so we are confined, here, then?”

“No,” said Nuncio. “Look over yonder. See you the crowds that have alit upon the slopes? To them we may go, if you’ve a mind. It’s only movement uphill that’s not to be done, not all movement together. To have said otherwise as I did was to misspeak, and a disservice done to you.” He smile widely. “It’s all over with penitence I am, suitably. Let us follow our eyes and see what we may discover.”

Hoopla shrugged and they went across the mountain, picking their way delicately among the rocks. Nuncio was canny but they still tended slowly downward, forced unavoidably off-course by boulders and trees. “Oh, ever so,” said Nuncio. “Rare it is to be climbing uphill and easier always the downward path. Primrose and wide and easy.”

“You’re too metaphorical,” complained Hoopla. “Talk sense, can’t you?”

Nuncio laughed. “It’s all an allegory, my wizened friend, and who’s to say which the symbol, which the reality?”