Mary Ella Vause BSN, RN, FNP (ret)
About 500 words
WHEN THE BISHOP COMES
by Maryella Vause
Folktales take on a life of their own. This one lives in our family. It is used and abused by all ages. With food still left on some plates, “Time for desert,” is announced. That’s when one of the grands or greats will say, “Ah yes, dessert is like when the bishop comes.” Everyone laughs, remembering:
Long ago, high in the mountains of Romania, a gypsy woman sat by her campfire. Her brightly painted, covered wagon stood just outside the ring of firelight. Her tired old horse grazed at the edge of the forest. Potatoes boiled in a black iron pot swinging over the campfire. The old woman sang to herself. She thought happily of her delicious supper.
“This will be a fine meal for us,” she said to her only companions, a little yellow dog and a skinny, tabby cat. “We will eat well tonight, but many others are not so lucky.”
She thought of the villagers far below in the valley. Tomorrow she might go down to town and tell a few fortunes. People need to hear good news in hard times.
Suddenly, a ragged, old wanderer stepped into the firelight. He looked like a walking skeleton. His tattered clothes hung on his skinny bones. His tired wrinkled mouth tried to smile. "Gruss Gott! Greetings, kind old woman," said the vagabond, taking off his worn hat and holding it over his heart. He looked longingly toward the pot of boiling potatoes.
The old gypsy stood up, put her hands on her hips.
This starving man will eat all my supper. Yellow Dog, Tabby, and I will go hungry, she thought.
"Are you hungry, old Wanderer?" she asked her uninvited guest.
"Very hungry," he said, keeping his eyes on the ground.
"Would you like some potatoes?" She questioned, but she already knew the answer..
"Yes, thank you, I would like some very much," he said, stepping closer to the fire.
She served him a big plate full of potatoes, which he quickly devoured.
She got an idea.
“Here sit beside the fire,” she said spreading a blanket for him.
"Do you want some more potatoes?" she asked, smiling graciously.
"Yes, please, I do," he said.
So she gave him another plate full of potatoes.
When he gobbled up all of those, she said, "Do you still want some more?"
"Yes, I could eat a few more," he held out his plate.
She gave him another serving of potatoes. He ate those, too.
Then she demanded, "NOW, are you full?"
"Yes, thank you, very much. I'm quite full. I couldn't eat another bite." He patted his full stomach.
"Good!" she said, "because now, I am going to put in the chicken." She got up to add a fat, plucked chicken to the pot.
"Oh, I could eat some chicken," said the vagabond with new enthusiasm.
"Just a minute! You said that you were full and could not eat another bite!"
"But I could eat some chicken. Chicken is like when the Bishop comes."
"What do you mean? What has eating my chicken got to do with 'when the Bishop comes'?" inquired the gypsy.
"Well, don't you know," the hobo said, "down in the village, when there is a special service at church, the place can be completely full. People are standing in the aisles, even out onto the market square. There is not room for one more person inside the little church.
Then the Bishop comes. Somehow, no one knows how, there becomes a way before him.
The Bishop just walks right through the crowd, down to the altar, and right up to the very front of the church. Now, chicken is like when the Bishop comes!"
The old gypsy woman laughed so hard that she gave that skinny vagabond some chicken.
“Dessert is like when the bishop comes,” works at our house, too.