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Friday, December 9, 2011

Fiction Friday: One More Time, Chapter 27B, A Plot Begins (continued)

Jonas's son Dathan looked up from sorting cloths. “Abba, I remember the birthmark. Mama told me a story a bird that got lost and then found its way to live with her.”

“Yes, I remember that day. You touched her birthmark and asked her why she had one, but not you or me.” Jonas’s eyes looked moist as he ruffled Dathan’s hair.

“I don’t remember any women who looked like that,” Paul said. “I’m sorry. I wish I could help, especially after all the help you’ve given Sarah.”

“Putting the Greek lessons together has been no trouble,” said Jonas. “In fact, it broke up the tedium of the days. Sarah has been a good friend, and Tamara is such a delightful child—I enjoyed the times she came with Sarah. When she thought you’d be home soon, she jumped up and down with such happiness that I mistook her for a wild hare.” His eyes twinkled at Tamara, who wrinkled her nose in an imitation of a rabbit.

“Yes, she does get a little enthusiastic, doesn’t she?” The proud papa smiled down at his active daughter, who began playing hide and seek around the bolts of cloth with Dathan.

Paul returned his gaze to Jonas. “Hmm. You know, Jonas, this slave master might have been the one who abducted your wife. From the brief time I was with them, I got the impression their operation wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up, uh, I mean legal, and I think they’ve been abducting people for a long time. I just thought of something else, too. This slaver seemed to be superstitious. I wonder what he would do if a ‘ghost’ showed up in his camp.”

“What do you mean, a ‘ghost’?” Jonas asked.

“They left me for dead. As far as they knew, I was either already dead or wouldn’t live through the night. Had it not been for the old woman who rescued me, I would have died. This slave master must operate in this area, picking up slaves and taking them back to Jerusalem. Maybe we could find out when he will return next time. I can spread myself with some oil or something to make me shiny and ask him about your wife and the other missing people.”

Jonas placed his hand on Paul's arm. “Don’t put yourself into danger, my friend. I’ll see if some of the merchants know anything about this slave trader. Obviously, the cloth merchant must know something, since he aided them in abducting you, but he’s not here. Besides, he was too willing to kidnap you; perhaps he wouldn’t be the best one to ask.”

Paul nodded. "With some help, I think there would be little danger involved. Bildad and his companions would probably be so frightened at seeing a ghost they won't feel much like attacking."

“There is a curious rumor going around, speaking of ghosts,” Jonas said. “Several of the local people here early this morning swear you appeared out of nowhere at the city gate this morning. According to them you didn’t come through the gate. Have you anything to add to this?”

“Perhaps the sun was in their eyes. I assure you, I’m not a ghost!” Paul laughed, but it sounded phony, even to himself. “Maybe a trick of the combined fog and sunlight.”

“Perhaps,” said Jonas, his eyes narrowing. “Perhaps.”

He turned to his son. “Dathan—I need my measuring stick that I left at home. Would you please go get it?”

Dathan had been following the discussions with avid interest, and he scowled as he left.

“Now, my friend Paul, the fog wasn’t that thick this morning. I confess I’m probably more curious than my son and the crowd combined. Are you a magician?”

“I was afraid that wouldn’t be an adequate explanation for you, Jonas. You are much too observant.” Sarah laughed and touched Paul’s elbow.

Paul glanced at Sarah, and she nodded. “If anyone will understand, Jonas will, and he’s not one to share everything he knows with every stranger within hearing.”

Paul sighed. “I hope you won’t be calling for the guards to haul me off to the nearest prison or decide that I’ve gone insane, but I think a Man called Jesus put me here. I don’t know how or even why, all I know for sure is that a Man in a shining white robe gave me the choice of dying—or at least being a lifelong cripple with enough scarring to frighten young children—or coming here to Tamara and Sarah. It wasn’t a hard choice. I wanted more than I know how to say to be able to see, talk to, and hold Tamara and Sarah again, scarred and mangled or not.

“The next thing I knew, I was standing next to the gate and people were looking at me as though I was an apparition. It must have been quite a shock for them—I know it was for me.”

“What about the story about the old woman called Mehida? Was that true, or were you perhaps not rescued after all?”

“That’s also true. I was injured severely again when I was on a road and was crushed between two large, um, wagons. The next thing I knew was that I was standing next to this Man in glowing white.”

“That’s quite a story, Paul,” Jonas said. “I’ve been hearing some astounding tales about Jesus of Nazareth, but discarding them as just that—tales. Perhaps I should listen to them with closer attention. I think perhaps you might have left some parts of this story out, but one day you might be confident enough of my friendship to tell me the rest.”

Sarah took Paul’s arm and looked at Jonas. “In all the time I’ve known Paul, I’ve never known him to lie. Yes, there are other pieces to the story, but all that he said is the truth. Maybe one day we can all talk more about this. It would be too long a story for this day with so many interruptions.” She smiled as a customer walked toward Jonas.
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