Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Friday, April 19, 2019

By His Stripes

The prisoner sat quietly in his cell, waiting for the guards. The firelight from the courtyard flickered through the bars of the narrow window above his head, revealing scratches on the stone wall. The man reached out, traced the rough angry characters, and spoke: "Yakob."

Across the city, in a squalid room, Yakob's feverish mutterings quieted. His wife, basin and cloth in her lap, gasped as she reached out to wipe his back, torn from a Roman beating a week ago, and found fresh whole cool skin under her fingertips.

The prisoner walked the length of the cell, passing his hand over the wall. His fingers found a deep gouge that ended abruptly in a broad gash.

In a tent in a desert work camp, an elderly slave sat up suddenly and lit a lamp with trembling hands. He stared in amazement at his left forefinger, as flexible as a ten-year-old boy's, unscarred by the mark of a careless chisel slip that had nearly severed it fifty years before.

The door clanked open. The gentle step of the prisoner was not fast enough to suit the impatient guard at the door. He opened his mouth to bark an order, then stood openmouthed as the prisoner passed him. With his tongue, he poked at his cracked molar, and felt no echoing stab of pain.

In the courtyard the prisoner was shoved along by the guards. He stumbled and caught himself against a long low row of streaks on the dusty wall. In the servants' quarters blind Maryam, daughter of the gatekeeper, her fingertips calloused from brushing them along guiding walls, opened her eyes and for the first time saw the morning stars.

The growling mob hustled the prisoner to the praetorium, all except the temple guard who stood in wonder, opening and closing the hand that had struck the man in the face, the motion no longer hindered by the puckered skin of an ancient burn.

The Roman soldier sighed in disgust at the prisoner's blood splattered across his sandals. He wiped his leg with a cloth, then wiped again, searching vainly for the scars of his wound he received from the rebels at Galilee.

In her cool room facing the courtyard pool, Claudia finally fell into a deep placid sleep, untroubled for the first time in years by the terrors that nightly tormented her dreams.

As Veronica held the grimy veil against her breast, watching the condemned man stagger away from her under the weight of the beam, the blood soaked through her dress, warming and melting away the hard tender lump that had troubled her for months.

Levi fixed a vinegar-soaked sponge on a stick and pressed it against the chin of the dying man hanging above him. As the vinegar mixed with spittle and blood dripped down his arm and shoulder, it carried with it all the pain of the pinched nerves that had kept him from standing straight for so long. He reached higher, finally resting the sponge against the man's mouth. The man sipped, shuddered, strained against the nails in his feet, and gasped, "It is finished."

Hannah woke suddenly at this cry, clawed at the sheets across her face, and pushed past the shattered rock of the tomb opening to gaze at the distant hill where a bloodless man with arms outstretched had summoned her forth.

1 comment:

mandamum said...

This is beautiful. I read it to my middle children, and my older ones read it themselves. Beautiful. Thank you.