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Fic: Making Merry : Chapter Two

Making Merry
Chapter Two
by Nix Winter
all rights reserved
copyright 2013


Judas shaved another thin layer from the plank he was working, slowly shaping the wood to his will.  Shaping wood had been his father’s trade and his father’s father’s trade. His hands were smaller, but he could see his father’s hands sometimes as he did the same tasks, motions he’d watched as a child. The curve emerged slowly, patiently, as he worked through the morning, pulling the back of the new chair from nothingness into being. Just a chair, just wood, but it pressed itself into the world like a baby being born. He ran a rough thumb over the smoothed curve and smiled. He could hear his father’s voice in his head and imagine the praise was for him.

“Oyi, Judas,” Martha said as she carried his lunch into his workshop. “There’s a man asking about some woman from your town. I saw him in the market, but I didn’t have time to talk to him. I’m sure someone will tell him you’re here. You don’t know anything about a woman who ran away from a marriage, do you?”

Judas gave all his attention to one last slow slide around the curve he was shaping. He knew it would be the last one he’d ever make with that tool, in that shop, in the home he’d made for himself, the last moment with the tools of his father’s hands.  Finally he looked up, smiled, and just barely caught the pencil that fell from where he’d tucked it behind his ear. “Nope. Don’t know anything about a woman running away from a marriage. I’d go look for this man, but I have so much work to do. Did you catch his name?”

“Isak from Kerioth. Do you know him?”

Judas reached out for the bowl of stew his neighbor had brought him, dark strands of hair slipping to hide dark eyes for just long enough for him to get his composure. Isak  was his cousin, who had always taken the honor of the family very seriously. “Never heard of him. That cradle I was making for you - it’s finished.  You should take it.”

“I can’t pay today.”  She said, her face twinging for a moment. As a widow she had more freedoms than some, but along with that came a dependence on kindness and chance.

“No worries.  Today feels like a good day to give gifts. It’s still not marked with my stamp, so anyone could have made it.”

“But you do such lovely work!” She said, moving to run her hands over the smooth cradle. HE’d filed the shape of a bee into the headboard, carved the family name into the footboard. “I want your mark on it!”

“Well, bring it back tomorrow and I’ll put my mark on it. It’s not that heavy, but I can carry it to your place. That way you can get a feel for what it’ll be like to have the little one arrive. Those will be better times.”

“I hope so. You’re very kind. You need a wife.”

“Perhaps one day,” he said. “For today, I do what I can with what I have. Besides. I’m a man. If you didn’t feed me, I’d starve!”

“What nonsense. Will you bring it for me?”

“Of course!” He said before downing the rest of the stew she’d brought him.

She smiled, rested an arm over her pregnant belly. “I don’t know where I’d be without you, Judas.”

“I’ll always help, in any way I can!”

It only took a moment to carry the cradle to the house next over and then he was back. This had been his home for five years and while it was small, only the work shop and a small loft bedroom, it had been the best home he’d ever had. A sense of urgency gripped him, sending his heart racing as he grabbed a travel bag and began picking what would fit in the bag, what he could take and what he couldn’t.

Choosing was so hard. Each piece of his life spoke to him. There were so many voices in the wood, metal, bits of glass, and worn cloth of his life. So many things he couldn’t take with him seem to wail in his mind. The chair would stay unfinished, but he grabbed up his father’s awl, his cup. Moving very quickly, he caught up a wedge of hard cheese, a hammer, his savings of coins, and then the bag was full. He dared not take a larger bag or he’d draw attention to himself as he made his way out of the town.
Standing in the doorway to his shop, the open road only one step away. Taking that step felt like the first stone being thrown. His head snapped around and he ran back into the shop, across to the workbench to a small carved box that would not fit in a pocket or his bag, but inside there were several smaller objects, one of which was a child’s carved cow. It was his son’s cow and he enclosed it in his hand for a moment before settling it into his bag.

With a quick, determined step, he left. Martha waved and smiled. He waved back and quickly disappeared into the evening shopping crowd. The Sabbath would start in hours and there was always a fevered rush to settle affairs before that happened.  He had to make it out the gates before dusk, when they would close.

Through the market people called to him and he waved back, making like he had some very normal, very ordinary, not full of panic mission to be on.
Once he and his cousin had been close. For children, life can be so simple. Once he was through the market, he pulled his crowl up to cover his head like a hood and picked up his pace.  The little cow that had belonged to his son called him, but he knew he couldn’t reach into his bag and wrap his fingers around it now, couldn’t do anything to draw attention or look even remotely suspicious.

His son had been so perfect with dark eyes and a smile that trusted so openly. The loss of him was a grief he doubted even God could heal. How could such a deep wound ever be healed and leave him still who he was?  Wailing had done nothing at the time to bring warmth back into his son’s body. The sickness that took them both, his husband and his son, had left him physically untouched.  To him it was proof of a curse that he’d brought on himself. That he’d lied... that he’d accepted what everyone else said... that he’d gone along with what everyone else thought to be true - maybe that was why they’d died.  God punished him for being a coward. From that moment forward - he did not lie!

The hand that caught his arm, caught him hard and nearly jerked him from his feet, spun him around, and there he was looking up into the dark eyes of his once beloved cousin, but there was no trust in him now, no love, only an acidic hatred. “It is you!”

Judas pulled back his fist and laid it straight into his cousin’s face, a hard blow that came from an arm that worked through the light of the day. Blood sprayed and sent the bigger man staggering back. Freed again, Judas ran, racing for the gates. Out of the town, free.. he’d find a new place.. farther away, much farther away.

The roar behind him was so loud and mixed, crashing up against the roar of his heart in his ears that he couldn’t hear anything, but he knew they’d be after him. Hate was contagious and unforgiving.  The crowd broke over him just outside the gate, pushed him from the road, displacing tents and various vagrants who then joined in the rage over their disruption.

His bag was ripped away, the precious contents spilling and rolling in the dirt.  He fought back, hitting and clawing, but clothes went next. Shouts of whore! Liar! Demon! All rose fast and hot. Knuckles scuffed, he punched and fought, telling himself there would be a break, that he’d find a path, that he’d find his way out of the mob in a moment, just one more breath, then he’d find a way!

The crowd’s press lessened and he thought he had the break he wanted, but it was just the circle forming around him, giving them all space to see  and distance so that the rocks wouldn’t hit them. He snarled at them, still too shocked to actually hear any voices distinctly... everything was adrenalyn and fight. He’d never apologize! Never back down! Never beg! Never lie! Lying caused the death of those he loved most and he’d never do it again.

Then the first stone hit his shoulder, shaking the bones of his body, echoing sharp pain through him, like his bones could break in a million pieces, sending a scream through him that echoed deep into all the days of his life to that point. The little child he’d been in his father’s arms screamed deep inside him. The second rock too him from the other side and he staggered, holding his arms over his head to the stones from hitting his face, but there was Martha, framed by his arms, her face twisted in rage, a stone in her hand.

“Whore! Liar!”

He went to his knees, heart melting like pitch, dripping away with the blood that ran down his arms.

When the crowd in front of him backed away, he felt a roar of joy.. that he could be that terrifying, even in that moment.  He was a monster. He’d always been a monster, a man who looked like a woman and there was no amount of praying that would lift his curse.

Cloth that settled around his shoulders, warm, soft, and he hung his head, wanting to fall into the dream of soft protection, unsure of why someone would clothe him then, grateful for the moment, even if it was just one more moment before the rocks tore him apart one cry at a time.  Gentle, warm hands closed on his shoulders and then lifted him to his feet before wrapping the cloak all the way around him.

“Rabbi!” Martha screamed, “What are you doing? This woman has deceived us!  She is a demon!”

A strong arm wrapped around Judas, holding him tenderly. “Only God can see clearly what lays in the heart.” He raised his hand and pointed to those at the front of the circle, looking into their eyes in ways that a normal man could never do. “In your hearts you are no cleaner. You find flaw in another so that you may say that it is not within you. God claims this man for his service and none of you may deny God.”

“You’re a fool!”  Isak growled, “That’s my cousin Yonit! She was to marry again, but she ran away! She killed her son and husband and fled! You’re a fool to protect her! We’ll stone you too! Liar! Two liars!”

The rabbi’s voice called, soothed, boomed over the mob like the gentle thunder of god. “The liar is the one who can not see what is true.  Truth is beyond what is mad in mud. It is what is made by the hand of God.  Judas, look at your town folk and tell them, did you kill your son?”

Then in his hand there was the little cow, broken now, trampled on, but nearly whole. Judas grabbed of it, tears in his eyes, but he held up his head and spoke truth more deeply than he’d ever done. “My son and husband died in the winter six years ago. I blamed myself... I said that if I had never denied what I knew to be true, that they would have lived, but I know that I am too small to cause such things. I swore then that I would never lie again. I am a man. My name is Judas. I have done only good in this town, clothed the poor, helped all who came my way.”

“Does he lie,” the rabbi asked. “If there is a demon it is in the murderous rage that would have had you kill an innocent man.”

“It’s not a man,” Isak screamed, but the crowd had already lost its thirst for blood and the setting sun brought the Sabbath, one way or the other. “Stop!”

“You are not God,” The rabbi said gently to Isak, “So you may not know the nature of another. Go in peace and serve others in kindness.”

An arm still around Judas, the rabbi guided him back on to the road, parting the milling crowd as they went. When they were farther along, Judas looked up at the most beautiful man he’d ever seen, like seeing dawn from a night he’d known would never end. “Who are you, rabbi?”

“I am Jesus of Nazareth. Travel with me for a while.”

“Yes, Master, anywhere!”

Previous Chapter


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