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Friday, April 29, 2011

FICTION FRIDAY: One More Time, Chapter 7

Previous chapters can be found on past Fridays' posts.

Mehida could feel every bone in her old and bent body, and her aching joints protested as she tottered along the road from the village of Nain to her home, market basket on her arm.

“I’m an old woman,” she muttered to herself. “I shouldn’t have to do this myself at this age. I should have a strong son to take care of me now, but here I am, the mother of one daughter who deserted me to run off with that fisherman. Then my husband up and dies, and now I have no one to take care of me.”

Mehida often talked to herself when she was alone, whether on the road or at home. It helped pass the time. She almost didn’t see the man’s still form lying beside the road, so intent was she upon not falling as she walked and talked. However, when his leg moved out in front of her, it was notice the leg or trip over it. Or at least she assumed it moved out in front of her. But then, her eyes weren’t as sharp as they used to be either.

A soft moan escaped the man’s lips. Mehida came closer and knelt on creaky knees next to his thin form.

“Who are you?” she demanded. “And what are you doing lying here in the middle of the road trying to trip an old woman?”

He only groaned again.

“If you don’t get up, someone will run over you with a wagon,” Mehida scolded toothlessly. She poked him with a boney finger. “Are you listening to me or not?”

No response.

“Well then, I’m going to pull you off the road.” Mehida stood and tugged on one arm, but she couldn’t lift or pull him. She grasped his other arm and pulled again.

“Come on, you have to help me.” She heaved until her wrinkled face turned red.

The man squinted his eyes and frowned at her.

Mehida knelt again and laid a hand on his forehead. “You are burning with fever. Did you know that?” she asked.

He nodded almost imperceptibly.

She shook her head. “I can’t help you if you won't walk. Wait here. I’ll get help.”

The man glanced at her though bleary eyes and then closed them again.
When Paul awoke again, it was to great pain. Two men lifted him, one by the arms and the other his legs. He screamed in pain when the shorter of the two men took hold of his right leg.

“Wait,” said the taller of the two men. He lifted Paul’s tunic to look at his leg. The board bracing his leg had slipped to a point where it did no good at all, and the open fracture was swollen and red with infection.

“My name is Joel, and I’m a physician. This man is Abidon, my assistant.” The tall man spoke in a low comforting tone. “This leg doesn’t look good, my friend. Let’s get you off this road, and then we’ll see about setting this and getting rid of the infection. What is your name?”

“Paulos,” he muttered through gritted teeth.

Joel placed the board where it would hold the leg stable and bound it. He turned to Mehida. “Where do you live, old woman?”

“My house is under that smoke.” Mehida pointed to a plume of smoke rising above the trees. The two men formed a cradle with their arms and carried Paul, who groaned through gritted teeth all the way to her house. They laid him on the elbow-high bed, and Joel pulled the tunic up again. Paul raised his head and saw a line of white where the broken bone just above the knee cut the skin. The swollen leg was hot and oozing puss and blood. The physician shook his head as though he thought this wound looked hopeless.

He motioned to Abidon. “I’ll need for you to hold still,” he told Paul. “My apprentice Abidon will also hold you, but please try not to struggle. We will have to cut some diseased tissue away and reset this bone. It will hurt.”

To Mehida, he asked, “Do you have any wine?”

Mehida cackled, “Yes, indeed. It keeps me company sometimes on a long day!” She scurried to her basket, took out a skin of wine, and poured a healthy amount into a cup.

“Good, that will do.” He held the wine to Paul’s lips. “Take a large drink, my friend; it will make the surgery go easier. Old woman, don’t put the wine away, we’ll need it again later.”

Mehida eyed him. “Are you sure you're a physician?”

“Yes,” responded Joel. “I’m a physician in Nazareth.”

“Well, all right then. Just so you don’t drink all my wine yourself after this young man finishes his portion.” She cackled again. “I might have need of it myself later, and it’s too heavy to carry from the village very often. I’m an old woman, you know.”

Joel and Abidon both smiled.

“We hadn’t noticed,” Abidon said.

Mehida cackled merrily, shook her head, and sat on the floor by her table.
When Joel made the first incision a few minutes later, Paul screamed. He stopped screaming only long enough to take breaths during the entire operation. He tried to still his muscles, but it seemed they had a mind of their own.

Apparently Joel and his apprentice were a team well used to working with each other, because Abidon knew exactly what to do and when. They pulled on the leg until the bone snapped back into place. Then when Paul thought the pain could get no worse, Joel sewed the open wound and dumped wine on it, whereupon Paul screamed one last time and passed out.
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