As you know by now, I am trying to write 50,000 words of a first draft for a novel in 30 day as part of NaNoWriMo. So for my post today, I thought I might try the waters a bit. This is the first chapter of my novel, and I’d love to hear your opinion. The name of the book is SEDITION, and is about a first century Jewish freedom fighter trying to get the Romans out. Tell me what you think of my manuscript, or should I say, nanoscript.
In the end, Yeshua stood as an unusual combination of being both better and worse than considered. This notable criminal, who eluded Roman crucifixion and sacrificed himself on the cross of his own indulgence, finally had his life taken from him by the children of the very ones who cried for his freedom. He perished as Judaea lay dying without her even knowing it. And in the wane of her days, she shirked the shroud that covered her and kicked at the goads of Roman oversight. This last burst of life hastened her death.
Since her folding into the empire, Judaea squirmed under Roman governance, paying large tribute to fund palatial opulence. And while the darlings of the Eternal City tinkled with silver and dripped with oil, the remainder of the peninsula languished in poverty. Her structure became too broad for such a flimsy foundation, and that which stood on iron legs wobbled on feet of clay.
Yeshua witnessed the first and the last regarding Roman time in Palestine. And as the Jewish days grew short, it had yet to be seen that Roman days were shorter. What Yeshua would come to know is that the ultimate of empires is presided over by the One Whom the Ancient of Days would give an everlasting kingdom. And as it was with our Lord, Yeshua’s birth was angelically pronounced, although for reasons far less endearing but nearly as grand.
Abbas wept as he entered the Court of the Gentiles on his way out of the Temple. His tears blended with the rain from a rare storm that pelted the sacred town. He ran under an awning that merely channeled the rainwater to pour from a cloth spouthead at the end of its reach no more than a cubit from the wall. He reached for a small purse he wore on his belt, and from inside he removed a piece of bread and a segment of cheese. A distant howl snapped his attention to a far perceived danger. As he searched for the beckon’s origin, he held his food in his two hands, and the bread and cheese grew damp.
The moment he started to leave the Temple, he anguished over the lack of response he received for his question – or more to the point, abundant responses which seemed to contradict. What made things worse, the priest said nothing Abbas had not already known. His head hurt every time he strained to consider what Moses actually meant by uncleanness.
Abbas heard a distinct bark, and again, he looked up to see whence it came. The dark conjoined with the rain made it impossible to notice anything other than dull shapes. Only his memory of the Temple made any sense of this perception, and soon he nibbled a small bite of bread and cheese. He resumed walking home, even though he was not sure he wanted to be there when he arrived. But because of the rain, he didn’t wish to wander about without shelter. Finding a friend’s house meant talking about his troubles, and that was less preferable to standing in the rain.
As he neared the Temple Gate, he heard one more bark behind him. He turned and again saw nothing, but this time a small movement against the night broached his senses. Somewhere over to the left, he walked in search of something definite, as it was a soul’s quest for the absolute that brought him out in the rain and to the Temple that night, but that ended with much frustration. As he passed a small well, he heard the bark again, this time much closer. He looked down and saw a small hound with a matted grey coat of tight curls made tangled by the storm. Abbas bent down, but the dog backed away. He noticed the animal had a limp in his back leg. The dog lowered his head as he paced rearward. Abbas offered the dog some bread, but the dog continued his distancing. He laid the full piece of the bread and the cheese on the ground beside the well and stepped back. The hound remained at an alert distance. Abbas turned back toward the Temple Gate and walked out. He could hear from behind him the food being consumed.
Abbas had not walked far outside of the Temple when he heard the bark again. It seemed he had made some kind of friend, for the dog followed him. This time, when Abbas looked at him, the dog held his head high and wagged his tail with cherished praise. Abbas smiled and the dog approached, not with the hope for more food, but with an offer of shared camaraderie. The dog looked up at Abbas, and he down to him. Their eyes engaged, and as Abbas looked into the dog’s eyes, he grew overwhelmed at the presence of some strength. The longer he gazed down, it seemed to Abbas that he was staring into the eyes of God. The dog presented to Abbas his pain from being lost and failed discovery, and Abbas wept again as he knelt and scratched the dog between his ears.
Abbas resumed his tender journey home, a measured distance he grew in fear in accomplishing. Not that his troubles are gone, but every difficulty in life is made better with a companion, especially a dog. After a few steps he looked behind him and the dog was gone. He scanned the near horizon and looked through the rainfall to houses that lay alongside the street. Abbas whistled, but there was no more sign of his dog. When he turned back around and faced homeward, a man stood before him, almost a cubit taller than he, and built with a soldier’s stock. The rain fell all about him and yet he remained dry.
“You had better step nearer if you wish not to become any wetter,” said the man.
“Who are you?” said Abbas.
The man stood motionless and silent, waiting for Abbas’s compliance. Abbas approached and the rain ceased falling on him, just as it had for the stranger. Beyond that, Abbas suddenly seemed dry as if he had not been in the rain all along.
“Do you wish to come to my home?” said Abbas.
“What brings you out here tonight, Abbas?”
“I, I had a question for the priest.”
“And did you get an answer?”
“Too much of an answer.”
“Which is no answer at all.”
Abbas looked around for the dog, and he heard a small chuckle come from the stranger.
“What is it that you do, Abbas?”
“I am a lawyer.”
“So you are aware of the proper and right response for any situation.”
“You could say.”
“Then why did you have a question for the priest?”
Abbas looked down and remembered his hunger, and wished he still had some bread and cheese. The stranger put a hand on his shoulder, and Abbas looked back up at him. It so closely resembled the near incident when he saw the eyes of God in his newly found and now lost friend that it made him shudder.
“You are suffering, and it is only just that you suffer,” said the stranger. “You have a piece of gravel as it were in your soul. It is cutting you, irritating you from the inside. It is a truth that you are unable to deny, and yet, you are also unable to acknowledge it.”
“What is this truth?”
“You know the law, but you do not know the Law. You have studied the Talmud and all of the traditions of the elders more than you have the Torah itself. You are familiar with what Rabbi Shammai says about the uncleanness and what Rabbi Hillel says about the uncleanness, yet you have not taken the time to read what God has said though Moses.”
A great shame poured over Abbas. He tore his outer garment and beat his chest with his fist. In so doing, he drifted backward so that he stood in the rain once more, but for his anguish, he was unaware of this. Abbas lowered his head and bobbed his torso in a silent petition. The stranger stepped forward and embraced him.
“Do not despair, Abbas. This condition does not have to remain in you.”
Abbas looked up, and said, “So what does the Scripture mean when it says a man should give a writing of divorcement if he finds some uncleanness with his wife?”
“Do you want me to tell you, or do you want to study for yourself?”
Abbas smiled and nodded.
“Beside,” said the stranger, “whatever it is that Shamiel has done or not done, whether it is Moses’s uncleanness or not, you are not going to divorce your wife, are you?”
“I suppose I will not.” Abbas looked up, and continued, “Was it for this you have come to me today?”
“No. I have come with a message for you. You will have a son, and he will do great things for his God, but you will not be alive to see it.”
“My son will do great things in the service of God?”
Abbas vainly hides a small laugh with a hand to his mouth.
“So this is why I should not divorce my wife.”
“That, and so much more.”
The stranger handed a fresh piece of bread and segment of cheese to Abbas.
“You never answered me. Would you like to come home with me tonight?”
“Do I seem as a man who needs shelter? Besides, I do not think you wish me to be around tonight.”
All that matters to a man, more than what he can accomplish with his life, is naught compared to the success of his son. Abbas felt as if he had grown and is now as tall as the stranger. He had learned to be content and would continue with this frame for the rest of his life. He knew his existence would now be measured in the upbringing of his son. Abbas hurried home, walking the most direct route, minding not that it was traveling in the rain, and greeted his wife with a kiss on her forehead and a precipitous wink. The trouble of the day had been forgotten. Abbas and Shamiel conceived a son that night.