Friday, April 1, 2011
Fiction Friday: One More Time: CHAPTER 4A, APRIL, 29 BC – AND THEN PAUL GOES MISSING
Dorcas’ mother and father, Proteus and Thecla, arrived. The older couple were visibly well off. They arrived in a litter carried by six slaves, curtained from the hot sun, followed by their personal servants. Proteus and Thecla settled themselves into the guest room with the assistance of their servants. The servants and slaves didn’t appear badly treated, Sarah observed. Martha gave the men a large room close to the stable to sleep in. Thecla’s personal servant, Mary, was the only woman, and she’d sleep with Hamath’s other unmarried female servants and slaves. I’m glad I made such a large kettle of stew. I guess Proteus’ litter slaves would be hungry enough to polish off the entire pot by themselves—it’s lucky I made more bread than I expected to need, too. I might need to add a little to the bread started for tomorrow, too. Those six strong slaves who carried the litter could probably eat us out of house and home all by themselves!
One of the slaves, a young Hebrew by the name of Ben-Oni, had a bad cut on one arm, sustained when the one of the poles supporting the litter slipped and the ring support slashed his arm. It fell to Sarah to clean it and apply salve and a bandage to the muscular 17-year-old’s arm. With the extra cooking, cleaning, and tending to the wounded young man, there’d been no time to sit down and talk to Tamara about her astounding use of the word “aspirin.” Besides, Tamara had been busy playing with Orphah and the puppy. They also had their handmade dolls—Orphah’s doll even had clothes, and she shared some of them with Tamara. Sarah noted that Orphah’s doll looked similar to Tamara’s. Sarah found herself wondering if Paul made that one, too.
By the time the day was over, it was dark, and she felt exhausted. Tamara had fallen asleep on a fur mat made from some animal, probably a goat, near the fireplace in the cooking area. Sarah picked up the child and carried her back to their house. She walked into the dark house, thankful for the moonlight coming in the window, and she wondered why Paul hadn't left a lamp lit for them. Tenderly, she laid the sleeping child on her pallet.
“Paul?” she called softly. There was no answer. She felt her way through the shadows to Paul’s pallet. With a sinking feeling, she realized the bed was empty. She found the lamp on the table, and lit it. It didn’t appear Paul had been there since their argument that morning. A sense of panic rose in her throat. Where could he be? Had he been beaten and robbed of his meager earnings from begging? Had he fallen and been unable to get back? Was he still angry and maybe stopped at a tavern? That doesn't sound like the Paul I know, but this is a different world.
Sarah sat down. She had to think—which way did he say he’d go—to the city gate? Let’s see, Tyre is an island connected to the mainland by a very narrow long earth causeway built by Alexander the Great, so Tyre only has one gate, on the east side of town. Yes, that was it. She’d ask Martha to stay with Tamara while she went to look for him. She ran to get Martha, stumbling once in the dark over a rock in her path. Martha stood chatting in the courtyard with the young slave, Ben-Oni.
“My master is through with my services for the day” he said earnestly, after Sarah finished her breathless request. “It might be well if you have someone along to help you if your husband needs help getting back here.”
“Won’t you get in trouble with your master if you leave?” Sarah asked.
“No,” he replied. “As long as I’m here when they need me in the morning, my master’s very lenient with my time.”
Martha headed back to Sarah’s house, assuring Sarah she’d stay with Tamara as long as she was needed.
As Sarah and Ben-Oni hurried toward the city gate, Ben-Oni turned his head toward Sarah and said, “I’m praying for your husband. You mustn’t worry. God is telling me you should have faith.”
“Faith? Your God is telling you I need faith. I hear no voice,” she said a little sarcastically.
“God speaks to my heart. I don’t hear an actual voice, either,” he smiled.
“All my heart feels now is fear. My husband hasn’t ever done anything like this before,” she said frantically. She added, “I don’t believe in your God—or any god. I haven’t believed in God since I lost my mother to cancer I was 13 years old.”
“Did you find her?” asked Ben-Oni.
“Your mother--did you find her?”
“Oh—no, I meant, she died from cancer.”
“I’m sorry. That must have been sad for you. Tell me, what is ‘cancer?’”
“It’s a bad disease that people die very slowly and painfully from. Anyway, that’s totally beside the point tonight,” she continued, changing the subject. “Paul could have fallen and be lying horribly injured somewhere, or maybe somebody mugged—I mean hit and hurt him, stealing what little money he had. He’s probably lying somewhere, out cold, maybe. We’ll have to find a way to convince Hamath send for a physician.”