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The Waters at Meribah

Seduced by her love of all things British, a young, female, American priest becomes the vicar of a quaint village church in rural England: but the cultural divide between her and her parishioners is harder to bridge than she’d expected. When a group of itinerant hippies sets up an illegal camp on the edge of the village, she finds herself deeply attracted by the colorful anarchism of the newcomers and defies public opinion to befriend them. Like her, they are outsiders. In the eyes of the parish, however, sleeping with one of the leaders of the group is going too far.

Jen Banfield is bound to her church by ties of duty, but she is depressed and frustrated by the self-righteous apathy of village life. She can hardly help but be drawn to the visitors, and as a result she not only questions her own life and values, but also falls in love.

It turns out that the newcomers’ journey is not as purposeless as first appears, and they have not come to the village by chance. Like the Children of Israel in a sermon preached by Jen, they are on a journey that they hope will eventually lead them—literally—to a promised land, a place where they can realize their dream of self-sufficiency. Jen, falling under their influence, embarks on her own journey through a wilderness of uncertainty towards self-reliance and a re-awakened sense of joy.

Here's an extract...

“What—” I’d put my hand in something unspeakable. Perhaps not all that surprising given that I was clambering around in a dumpster.  Just a little bit further—


I slipped and banged my knee against something, and with gritted teeth muttered a word that the congregation at church had certainly never heard me say. I had it by the leg, though. A hefty tug, an ungainly scramble down, and the bounty was mine. Jazz turned her flashlight on it.


We gazed at the little wooden coffee table I’d rescued. It was a little scratched, but basically sound.  “Not bad!” said Jazz. “Sand it down an' paint it, could be straight from Ikea.”


I grinned and hugged my loot to me. “I’ve been looking for something like this for months. It’s just right for the corner of my study.”


We’d waited until dusk was falling before beginning our tour of the trash cans and dumpsters behind the retail premises of Barton. So far the evening’s haul had included six boxes of sushi in apparently perfect condition (“we often find sushi, they chuck it after a day” explained Ted), half a dozen wire clothes hangers pounced on by Jazz, a dented box of slightly stale doughnuts, and a miscellaneous assortment of fruit and vegetables that Ted had proclaimed to be “just a bit bruised.”


“Oi! What's going on?” I could just make out some kind of a uniform behind the blinding light of the flashlight.


“Run!” shouted Jazz, but adrenaline had already pre-empted her. I followed the others as we fled out of the car park and across the road, the uniformed security guard in close pursuit. I could hear his boots on the tarmac close behind me.


Jazz and Ted ducked around a corner ahead of me, an alleyway entrance, bordered by chain link fences. I followed hard behind but I was impeded by the little table I was carrying, and I lost speed on the corner. I felt a hand close around my shoulder.


For a moment, then, I felt real fear, an icy, adrenaline-fuelled defibrillation. What if I was caught? What would happen? Worse, what would happen if I were recognized? If the parish found out?


The hand on my shoulder closed hard around it like a vise. The man had caught up with me now and I felt his boot connect with my ankle, trying to trip me. I stumbled, clutched at the fence with my free hand, and nearly went down. I could hear his breath near my ear, coming in gasps.


But desperation gave me strength. As I stumbled, the sudden movement had taken the guard by surprise, and I had felt his grip loosen. I wrenched my shoulder free, and used the fence to pull myself up and forwards, away from him. Then I was running along the alley as if all the fiends of hell were behind me: following the other two, dodging around corners, sprinting down more alleys and all the time listening for the sounds of pursuit that grew steadily fainter.


Jazz slowed to a trot and turned down another street, then another, and then finally stopped under a tree and leaned forward against it, gasping, her hands on the trunk. Coming up beside her, Ted leaned her shoulder against the tree and held her side with the other hand. I allowed myself to collapse forwards, bent at the waist and panting.


“Holy moly,” I said, as soon as I’d gotten my breath back enough to speak. “That was …invigorating.”


“Yeah. S’not much he could ‘a done, though, ‘f he had caught us,” replied Jazz.


“He might have called the police.”


“Nah. S’not illegal, is it? Worst he could do is give us a bit of a bollocking.”




“Yeah. They just wanna scare you off, thass all. Try an’ stop you coming back.”


“Hooked yet?” asked Ted. I could see the light from the streetlamps glinting on her piercings. 


I nodded with enthusiasm. My heart was pumping from the exhilaration of the hunt.  “Oh, yes.” I replied.