Mr McBale watched from his farmhouse window the violent thunderstorm raging outside. Rain lashing and wind rattling the window pane. The storm was right overhead. Terrific bursts of lightning flashed across the sky. It was not a night to be out on the coast of Ayrshire. In the room a warm fire crackled, and the sound of Mrs McBale, busy in the kitchen, comforted him, as he thought of his crop of barley being battered by the storm.
A loud knock at the door interrupted his worrying, and brought Mrs McBale from her kitchen.
At the door, standing about 6ft tall, under torrential rain, was a smiling young man, 16 or 17 years old, seemingly unaware of the dreadful weather conditions. With tousled hair the colour of straw and bright blue eyes, his face had an innocent radiance, as if born yesterday. His clothes, curiously familiar to Mr and Mrs McBale, were dirty and torn and several sizes too wide for his slight frame. His feet were bare. All three parties stood staring in silence, until Mrs McBale stepped forward, held out her hand, and invited the young man in.
Sitting by the fire wearing an equally large clean set of Mr McBale’s clothes, with a generous mug of hot chocolate, the boy seemed most contented.
“What brings you out on a night like this?” asked Mrs McBale.
“I don’t really know.” he said in a bright soft voice. “I just found myself in the middle of the field.”
“Where do you live?” She continued. The boy looked up to nowhere in particular.
“I don’t know if I live anywhere.” He said without any trace of anxiety or concern. As if appearing in the middle of a field, in the middle of the night, was the most normal thing in the world.
Mr and Mrs McBale looked at one another and shrugged. “Well, it’s late. Said Mrs McBale. We’d better make a bed for you. Maybe the morning will bring your memory with it!”
The following day was clear and bright. Mr McBale filled his lungs with the fresh cool Scottish air. The barley was in surprisingly good shape despite the efforts of the storm. ‘A few more days and a bit of sunshine….’ he thought, but stopped suddenly, noticing that the scarecrow usually standing in the middle of the field, was no longer there.
He made his way through the crop, expecting to find the scarecrow lying broken, but instead found burnt barley stems around a patch of bare ground. A lightning strike. There were footprints in the muddy soil leading to a line of trampled barley going straight to the farmhouse. Then he remembered where he had seen the boys tattered clothes before. He looked back and forth between the space at his feet, where once a scarecrow stood, and the spare bedroom window of the farmhouse where a young man lie sleeping. His mouth fell open. “It can’t be!” He said. “Can it?”