Friday, March 16, 2012
Fiction Friday, ONE MORE TIME, Chapter 41
It hadn’t been a good day. Sarah brushed limp hair away from her sweating cheek and wondered if Paul felt as weary as she did. Tamara’s face next to her pillow looked palid. It had been another long night with one of Tamara’s fevers. They’d just finished the mid-day meal, and Paul had gone to teach the other children while she took Tamara back to their house to nap.
Sarah had just dropped her own head on the pillow when Benoni arrived. Sarah gave a glad cry and pulled Benoni into a hug. “Benoni , what a surprise! It’s so wonderful to see you, Come in.” The young man looked thinner and a little, well, scruffy. And tired.
“Are you well, Sarah?” Benoni’s gaze took in what she knew had to be deep, dark rings under her eyes.
“I’m a little tired, but well. Oh, Benoni, you must meet Paul—he has returned.”
Tamara walked into the room, rubbing her eyes with one hand as she held her doll by the arm with her other. “Benoni, do you remember our daughter, Tamara? Tammy, this is the one who tried to help me find Papa when he disappeared.”
“Are you the one who has fevers, Tamara?” asked Benoni.
“Yes,” Tamara yawned. “You couldn’t find my Papa because he was stolded,” she said, “but he is back now. Jesus sent him back to us.”
“Jesus did?” Benoni said, eyebrows bouncing up. “How did He do that? I thought Jesus was in Galilee. Was your Papa in Galilee?”
“I don’t know,” Tamara said. “But Papa is home, and his leg is all better.”
“His leg has healed, too? This is truly amazing!”
Sarah laughed. “You would have to talk to Paul. And I’m not sure even he knows exactly where he was, but yes, his leg is mended.”
They began the walk through the courtyard. “There is something else new, too, Benoni. We are becoming Jesus’ disciples, even as you are.”
Benoni hung his head and couldn’t meet her eyes. “Oh, Sarah, I haven’t been following Him. I did earn my way to freedom, as I hoped to. I saved the life of my new master’s son from a lion stalking him while he herded the family’s sheep. But when I became free, I didn’t go to follow Jesus. I followed myself instead.”
“But Benoni, you were so enthusiastic for Jesus—what happened?” Sarah asked. “You were a large part of the reason that I began believing in Him.”
“My master was so grateful his son wasn’t eaten by the lion that he gave me my freedom and 50 pieces of silver. People had been telling me what to do for so long that I didn’t know what to do with myself.” He blushed crimson. “A young and pretty prostitute came to me as I was walking on a road in Damascus. I spent all the money my master gave me in just the next week. She threw me out once I had no more money. I was so ashamed I didn’t think Jesus would be interested in having me for a disciple after that.
“Now I’m without anything, and I’ve been dependent on the hospitality of strangers. I went first to the house of Proteus, but no one was there. I decided to come here in hopes perhaps you might recommend me to Hamath and I could be his servant or slave. I don’t do well on my own. I guess I’m more of a servant type than innovative enough to be on my own in this world.”
“You’re not the first person to make grave errors, Benoni. Everybody in this world has done things they’re ashamed of. The past can’t be undone, but I’ve begun to think it can be forgiven. There is a Psalm of David that Jonas, a rabbi here, told me about. David had done something far worse than what you just did. He committed adultery with the wife of one of his soldiers. Then he gave orders that caused that soldier to be killed in battle. David wrote down his shame and his repentance in the Psalm. Then it says something about the sacrifice the Lord really wants is a broken and contrite heart.”
“That fits me. My heart feels like it’s broken and bleeding, like it will never mend. I’d do anything to make it up to Him.”
“Then tell Him that. Find yourself a quiet place, and tell Him what you did and how you feel.”
“But Jesus isn’t here. How can I tell Him that?”
“I don’t know how, but Tamara says He can hear you anyway. Just ask her.”
Tamara, who had been talking to and petting Keddy, looked up at the sound of her name.
“What, Mama?” she asked.
“Does Jesus hear you when you talk to Him?” Benoni asked her.
“Yes. He hears me, and He talks back to me, too,” she said with confidence.
Benoni looked hopeful, or at least a little more so than the woebegone youth of a few moments ago.
“Now,” said Sarah, “Let’s go find Paul, and then Dorcas. Hamath isn’t here, but Dorcas is. Maybe she’d hire you or knows of someone else who needs a servant.”
They walked into the house and then on into the playroom where Paul prepared lessons for the children. “Paul, do you remember when I told you about the young man, Benoni, one of Proteus’ slaves, who helped me look for you?”
Paul stood. “The one that they sold?”
“Yes. This is Benoni. His new master set him free when he saved the life of his master’s son. He’s looking for work and wondered if Dorcas might be willing to hire him.”
Paul grabbed Benoni’s right hand and pumped it, much to his apparent bewilderment. Benoni obviously had never seen or participated in that action before. Paul gave Sarah an “oops!” look.
“A Greek custom, in some places,” Sarah said, covering for Paul’s modern-age blunder. “It is called a ‘handshake.’ It’s a way some people greet each other, especially men when they first meet.”
“Oh,” said Benoni. “I’ll remember that. It seems a good thing to do.”
The three of them went in search of Dorcas and found Martha instead.
“She isn’t here,” Martha said. “The Mistress went out to look at a piece of jewelry that a vendor told her about. It is a beautiful piece, so I heard—obsidian and gold—in the shape of a fish. The vendor said the piece was owned by an Egyptian princess, or someone else of royal blood somewhere. Or maybe it belonged to a Babylonian princess or an Egyptian prince. I don’t remember. She should be back soon—the Mistress, not the Egyptian princess, and, and I can tell her you wish to talk to her.”
Sarah nodded. “Martha, maybe you can help us. Do you remember Benoni, Proteus’s slave?”
Martha’s face spread in a wide smile. “Oh, yes, of course I remember you. Welcome back. Did you come to tell us that Proteus and Thecla are coming back to visit already? Oh dear, I’ll need to air out the guest quarters again. Oh, wait, didn’t Proteus sell you to someone else? So did you bring us other guests? Are you come to give us some other news? Oh, yes, hmm, and you wanted to know if I could help with something?” Martha scarcely took a breath between questions, and her face quickly danced between welcome, consternation, curiosity, and concern.
Benoni eyes twinkled. “I don’t know if they are coming back to visit; yes, Proteus did sell me to another master; no, I didn’t bring any other guests; no, I don’t know any other news; and yes, I hope you can help me with something. Do you know if Dorcas wishes to hire any more servants? Or if not, do you know of another household that needs a servant or slave? I’m in need of a place to eat and sleep.”
Martha chuckled and reddened. “Oh, I do chatter on sometimes, don’t I? I don’t know if Dorcas needs additional help, but you should ask her. There is another family I know who was looking for a stable boy, but I think they wanted to buy a slave rather than hire a servant. I think you should wait for Dorcas, first. And you look like you could use a meal. Come with me. There was a bit of food left in the servants’ quarters after the mid-day meal, and I think that might sustain you until the last meal of the day is ready.”
Benoni cheerfully followed the still chatting Martha to the servants’ quarters. Paul hugged Sarah, and the two of them went their separate ways, Sarah to prepare the evening meal, and Paul to finish preparing the next morning’s lessons for the children.