The Shepherd

the shepherd

I’m not sure if this is true but Frederick Forsyth wrote the novella, ‘The shepherd’ on the spur of one winter’s evening in 1975 after his wife said she wanted to hear a ghost story about Christmas. And boy, what a story it turned out to be. I am a great lover of spooky tales. Not the Stephen King kind but para-normal stories which tense you up deliciously and have a twist in the end. Frederick Forsyth’s forté is tales with a twist.

Every December 24th evening, CBC Radio broadcasts an audio recording of ‘The shepherd’ by a renowned radio broadcaster, the late Alan Maitland. I don’t exactly know from which year the broadcasts began but I have been listening to it ever since we got here. It’s something like the radio broadcasts that we have in Bengal, on Mahalaya, before Durga Puja, something we have all heard multiple times but still like to sit around and listen to, so mesmerizing is the rendition and so moving the content.

Alan Maitland  was a longtime host for CBC Radio. In his “Fireside Al” segments on As It Happens and other CBC programs (“Frontporch Al” in summer time), Maitland frequently read short stories. Some “Fireside Al” segments continue to air on the program to this day, particularly his Christmas Eve readings of stories such as ‘The shepherd’ and O. Henry’s ‘The gift of the Magi’.

You can listen to the audio reading of ‘The shepherd’ at the link below:-

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2_bLEqmBi0&feature=youtu.be

Meanwhile, let me fill you in on the story without letting on the awesome ending……

It is Christmas Eve, 1957, and there are cozier places to be in than the cockpit of a de Havilland Vampire fighter-Bomber. But for the Royal Air Force pilot who has just taken off from West Germany, this single-seat jet is the only way to make it back to England for Christmas morning. His flight plan is simple and the fuel tank is full. In sixty-six minutes, he will be back sipping a beer in the mess hall at his base in England.

But things start going wrong as the plane is over the Channel. First the compass begins to spin in every direction and then the radio dies. Lost and alone above the English coast, the pilot is searching for a landing strip when the fog closes in, signaling certain death. He is about to call it a life when a shadow appears around 500 yards to his 3 o’clock position. It is a World War-2 twin-prop Mosquito fighter-bomber. Like a ‘shepherd’, the Mosquito guides the Vampire to a safe touch-down and then vanishes into thin air.

For the pilot, it is a miracle and a gift. There’s more. Remember the twist I was referring to? Well, the name of this writer is not ‘spoilsport’, so I’ll let you find out the rest on your own.

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Ahem…I am finding it hard to resist the temptation to spill the beans about the ending. My fingers are restlessly hovering over the keyboard, like hyenas over an antelope.

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Then again, ‘jerk’ is not my second name so I won’t let it out. For a change I’ll show the world the awesome strength in my will power.

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Heck, I never could keep a secret, y’know. So, tough sh-t, I’m going to tell you what happens in the end. You can chuck me out of the group if you like. No, you can’t. I’m the admin.

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I suddenly realized something. Haven’t read the book yet. Whimper…..
😀

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