Thursday, August 25, 2011
FICTION FRIDAY: One More Time, Chapter 19A
CHAPTER 19A - MAY, 30 CE – THE SEARCH
Hamath sulked. Enoch knew not to talk to his master while he was in one of these moods. Despite Hamath’s promise to Dorcas that he’d hurry to Jerusalem, once out of sight of the city, Hamath slowed their pace to a walk and pulled a wineskin from his tunic, muttering to himself. Enoch wondered if Hamath had been sipping on the wine earlier as well from the way he swayed on the horse's back.
“It would only be what she deserved if I never returned,” Hamath muttered, taking a hefty drink from the skin. “There are more congenial women in this world, I know. She has gall, saying I can’t come back unless I bring Paulos with me.”
Enoch cast a sideways glance at Hamath, but Hamath continued as though he were talking to the wind.
“After all I’ve done for her, you’d think she’d show more gratitude. I married her, didn’t I, and brought my family name to her? Oh, all right, she already had a good family name. Well, I keep her supplied in jewels and beautiful clothing, do I not? She already was rich, but I’ve treated her well. So what if I look at other women? All men do that! I am no different.”
Enoch paid careful attention to the trees and rocks on the other side of the road and started when Hamath addressed him.
“Tell me, Enoch, are all wives happy with all of their men’s actions? Do they all look at their husbands as though they’re worms just because they gaze at another woman, or is it just that ill-tempered woman I married who can freeze a man with one cold look?”
“I’m not married, but I’m sure you’re right, sir, probably most women object to their husbands gazing at other women with desire in their eyes.”
“Of course I’m right. Women! Dorcas tries my patience beyond bearing. It’s the nature of men to look at attractive women, and I’d be less than a man if I didn’t. That woman should rejoice that I’m her husband. When I get home, I’ll beat her. That’ll prove to her I am the man of my house. And if I find Paulos, that will be just fine, and if I don’t find him, what does it matter? It’s my home as much as it is hers.”
“Of course, sir.”
Hamath whipped his horse to a punishing gallop, and Enoch had no choice but to follow. He hoped Hamath’s anger abated before they winded their horses. But Hamath pulled up to a walk as soon as they lathered. I should have known he would. Enoch smiled to himself. Hamath has no love of walking, and he’s fond of his horses.
They made it as far as Ptolemais the first night. When they found an inn, Enoch took the horses to the inn’s stable and made sure the horses would be fed grain and rubbed down properly.
Hamath ordered a plate of food at the Inn. Enoch could take eat the stale bread and cheese that ungrateful woman, Sarah, packed for them. After a good bit of wine with his meal, Hamath decided to stroll around town. There should be a willing wench somewhere, and there’s no Dorcas around squinting her eyes at me. He spotted a likely tavern and entered the door. A woman stood near the door alone, and Hamath had drunk enough wine that she looked attractive. He approached her, but arrived just a heartbeat late—another man laid claim to her. The man was larger than Hamath. Even though he had imbibed a lot of wine, he hadn’t become a total fool yet.
He wandered past the couple to a table, hoping the man thought that was his original destination. A serving wench brought him a glass of beer, giggling and dodging away as Hamath tried to put his arm around her waist. Things were just not going his way. After several more attempts and many glasses of beer, Hamath staggered out the door and wondered where the inn went. He squinted blurrily this way and that, but nothing looked familiar. He squatted next to the tavern wall and dropped his head to his chest.
Enoch waited a couple of hours before he searched for his master. He found Hamath sprawled next to the wall of the tavern and helped him to his feet. Enoch supported Hamath as they made their way back to the inn.
“Thish ish a mos’ unfrennly vil—village,” Hamath hiccupped. “I bleeve I sh’d go t’ bed now. Can you fine me a bed, Enoch ol’ fren?”
“Yes, sir. This way, sir,” he said as Hamath leaned in the direction of another tavern. Enoch was able to get Hamath to the inn and into bed without too much difficulty. He sighed with weariness as he lay on the floor by the door, wrapped himself in his cloak, and went to sleep.
Hamath woke Enoch in the morning groaning, “Oh, my head. Where am I? How did I get here?”
“We are in Ptolemais, sir, at an inn. We arrived here yesterday.” Enoch avoided the subject of Hamath’s intoxication.
“Oh. I remember. I feel like I’ve been run over by an entire Roman legion.”
“Shall I fetch you some breakfast, sir?” Enoch rose from the floor and ran a hand through his hair.
Hamath shuddered. “No. Maybe later.” He groaned again. “I guess we should get on the road. Get our horses ready, Enoch.”
“Yes, sir,” Enoch ignored his own growling stomach.
This day’s ride was rougher than the day before, a lot of it uphill. Hamath didn’t try to keep up any conversation at all. Enoch didn’t start any new topics, either. Sometimes he was hard put to answer his master tactfully. Hamath expected him to always be truthful, though not so truthful he insulted his master.
When they stopped in Araba at an inn, Enoch noticed Hamath didn’t look for trouble like he had the night before. Apparently even Hamath had his limits.
From Araba, they traveled south. It took five more days of travel to reach Jerusalem. Hamath made no more attempts to contact prostitutes, and he avoided taverns as if they were poison.
Once they entered Jerusalem and found an inn close to the center of the city, Hamath and Enoch ate their fill and mounted their horses again to explore the city. Jerusalem had to be one of the largest cities in their world, with close to 80,000 permanent residents. Enoch heard it could easily balloon to 150,000 during the Feast of Booths, the Passover, and the Feast of Weeks. The Feast of Booths and Passover were past, and the Feast of Weeks wouldn’t begin for some time.
At the end of the first day, Hamath wiped his brow. “I don’t think we’re going to find the slave trader today. We asked every passerby willing to stop if they knew of him, but no one knows him. Or at least they won’t admit knowing him. We might as well go back to the inn.”