+JMJ+ Welcome to part 32 of A Journey, the rough draft for a WIP set in New Testament times. Jonah and companions are still on the run and need to reach Capernaum and allies soon.
And now the journey continues. (Still featuring plot holes large enough to drive a couple of camels through and probably some typos and that is what editing and revision are for.)
A Journey – Part 32
Third Day for the Fourth Time, Tuesday
If only we could have stayed in Capernaum, the Centurion has many friends there but we could not risk it with the Zealots or whichever group it was searching for us. This made it unsafe for us as well as the people who live there and have been loyal friends to him and his servant. Oh, and I have finally learned their names. Our centurion’s name is Gaius and his servant is Marcus. I overheard them talking to one another. We are, after all, crammed into this house while we plan our next move. Or while Gaius plans our next move. He quite naturally took charge and sent Marcus to scout around to see if there is any talk about us or any troops searching the area.
I had hoped to spend some time with Rachel. I have so many questions for her but Yaakov has been with her every moment so I tell myself that I do not mind if my questions remain unanswered a little longer. Of course, I do mind but now is not the time, so I let it go.
The rest of us are ate, drank, and rested, unsure of when our next opportunity to do either may arise. Only Raphael took no food or drink that I see, and remained on alert and vigilant and barely relaxed at all when Marcus returned with welcome supplies and unwelcome news. There has been talk in the town of escaped prisoners and Centurion, I mean, Gaius is now being identified as a traitor to Rome for helping those prisoners escape.
Blessed are You, King of the Universe, You have seen to it that individually all of us (except for Mary who lives here) have spent little time in Magdala.
Some of us are well-known in Capernaum, some less so, and though we all need to go there, for various reasons, we cannot simply stroll into town in the full light of day.
Yet this is precisely what Gaius proposes we do. Incognito, of course. Mary has many garments in her house, some of them are the among the finest I have ever seen, and some of them less so. I might almost think she had used these to hide in full sight before. (Or had helped someone else to do so. But surely she was not in on the plot to steal and hide the dead rabbi’s body.) Whatever the garments previous use, they are useful to us now as we quickly change our clothes and hide the ones we were wearing. The most difficult to hide will be the uniform that Centu–Gaius wears. I convinced him not to destroy it or leave it behind. We may have need of it. We may be able to use it to convince someone that the Cen–Gaius no longer has need of them.
“You surprise me, Jonah. What a sneaky bit of deception, and, most deceptive of all, without telling a lie.”
“I thought for sure you would make a joke about that.”
“About? Oh! You know I am not like that. Or I had hoped you would know that. But we have not known each other long. Hopefully you will not make any jokes about me being a loud and barbaric pagan dog of a Roman.”
“Be assured, I had not thought of you that way.”
“Other Romans, yes, all other Romans, perhaps, but not you.”
His eyes narrowed but then the corner of my mouth twitched before I could stop it and he laughed. The tension was broken for a moment but it did not last. We heard voices outside in the street and then a fist pounded on the door. Gaius reached for his sword only to remember that he was no longer wearing it. The men demanding entrance to the house made ready to force the door, but then a woman shoved her way past them and stood before them (and between them and the door), resplendent in her finery, bewitching and placating.
“So impatient. What is it you want that makes you so rude, hmm? Have you no manners that you act this way trying to force open the door to a lady’s home?”
“A lady!” We could hear the sneer in the man’s voice clearly through the walls. The woman’s voice lost none of its gentle allure.
Mary moved silently into the room with us. We were in the back of the house and there was a room between our room and the door. “Adira. An old friend,” Mary whispered in answer to our questioning looks.
Listening to the voices we learned that these men were going to every house to search for us. Or had already done so. Mary’s house is on the edge of town so we were the last house they were to search and they were by now tired and thirsty and ready to end this unsatisfying job and press on to a more enjoyable pastime. When she offered to buy them all drinks at the inn closer to the center of town, we listened as their talk and laughter grew fainter and fainter as they moved away. May the Lord forgive sweet Adira for any of her sins for she has likely saved all of our lives on this day.
Gaius decided we should split up and begin to move out of town now while the searchers were occupied, rather than waiting for nightfall.
I agreed. “I am anxious to be away from here. And Mary needs to reach the other disciples in Capernaum before they begin to wonder what has happened to her and come looking for her. No sense in all of us being caught.”
I wondered for a moment why everyone was looking at me in such an odd way and then I realized why. “I said ‘us,’ didn’t I? Well, stop looking at me like that, it is annoying.”
They all turned away from me at that but I feel sure they were still thinking about it. I know I was. Am. (I find it increasingly difficult to keep my tenses untangled. When I think of the events I am recording, I get caught up in them as if they were happening to me now all over again. But I must return to my account of what happened.)
Mary wanted to go ahead, alone, as she could cover more ground that way, but Gaius would hear none of it. He was not going to allow a woman to travel anywhere unescorted. At this she bristled but he only wanted to protect her, especially since these ruffians were searching for us. The few that were on the doorstep were not the entire group. He would not allow her to go and that was that. I thought she would continue to fight him over his insistence but she finally seemed to understand and even to appreciate his concern and said so.
And the moment he was not looking, she slipped out the door and was gone.
Centu–Gaius’s face, when he is angry, turns as red as his Roman uniform. And he was beyond angry. But night was falling and soon we, too, must slip out of the house and continue on our journey. Gaius has allies, in Capernaum north of us and from which we had recently escaped, and in Tiberias to the south of us, both places full of Jews who hate Romans and other gentiles, and Romans and other gentiles who hate Jews, and to make things even more pleasant, Romans and other gentiles who hate each other. Though not every Jew, Roman and gentile was filled with this hate, enough were. More than enough.
Raphael tells me that due to his status as a God-fearer and for his generosity in building it for them, Gaius has more allies there among the Jewish leaders of the synagogue in Capernaum than anywhere, certainly more than in Rome itself, where he has exactly none. He has spent little time there in his life. He feels more at home in a place where most of its inhabitants think of him as an outsider and a pagan. But he has seen the beauty of the land and her faith and something of it has seeped into his very bones.
I made a note to myself to spend less time in Nazareth, Sepporis, Jerusalem and with the Community at the Dead Sea, and more time in Capernaum.
As we prepare to head out into the night, he cannot decide whether or not to take with him or leave behind his fine gladius. If he takes it with him and hides it on his person, and we are caught by the Zealots and searched, we will probably all be killed before he has time to unsheathe it. If he leaves it behind and someone finds it, they will know a centurion was here.
They will not hesitate to kill all of us because they will see me as nothing more than a traitor gone over to the enemy. His people will see him as a traitor, fighting and killing other Romans (that is the story that is going around about how we had to fight to escape death in the garrison) and those on the Roman payroll and to help a mere Jew, in their eyes an atheist who refuses to worship their gods. So here we are, each caught between his own Scylla and Charybdis.
Nico and Joseph are rested for the journey. They said their prayers earlier and then spent the rest of the time sleeping. I do not blame them. They are older men and the day left them weary. But now they are awake and when they finish the evening prayers we will head out. Gaius has made his choice but he does not tell me what it was and I do not ask.
Rachel and Yaakov pause in their never-ending conversation long enough to join us as we ready to depart. We have to reach Capernaum soon. I hope Mary of Magdala has encountered no difficulty and that she will be there waiting for us when we arrive. I know she was anxious to be back with her fellow disciples. I think she was afraid the dead rabbi would appear again, to them all or to her alone, and that she would miss this if she remained with us. I still do not believe any of those stories but I know she does.
We each carry water and food for two day’s travel. The sun slips behind Har Arbel and one by one the stars come out, as we slip, one after another, into the coolness of the night, out of the house that sits on the edge of town, onto the road before us and onward to whatever the Lord has in store for us, blessed be His Holy Name.
End of Part 32
Other parts of the story are linked on the Fiction page.
- I confess that I named Adira for Adira Tyree in Babylon 5. Also, Adira is a Hebrew name meaning strong, majestic, or mighty. So the internet tells me.
- Har Arbel is Mount Arbel. It really exists. I have not made up any towns or mountains. Yet.
Thank you for visiting and reading. Until next time, whoever and wherever you are, please stay safe and well, virtuous and holy, and remember, we are all on the journey to the heavenly city. So pick up your cross daily and follow Him, so you can become who you were meant to be: a SAINT! May the Lord bless and keep you and yours, and may His peace be always with you. +JMJ+
Image in the cover: From the east, Nazareth, Holy Land, from Wikimedia Commons, public domain.