Okay, I know my writing partner on this project just posted his part like a few hours ago… But I had to write this that fast. Because I am getting so excited by this whole thing. I decided to have Jesus make an appearance in our story. I know, this is a strange choice for someone who constantly makes fun of organized religion, but I do think Jesus was real. Maybe I should have let you discover him without the spoiler… ***(AFTER-THE-FACT SPOILER ALERT)***
Anyway, here is my next addition to our tag-team story about a ring…
The Heirloom… part 5
by Arthur Browne
Saa spent two years under the tutelage of an elderly Greek scholar whom he always referred to as Master. Gone were the times when young Egyptian boys were trained in the ancient hieroglyphs of their ancestors. He and his fellow students were taught Greek and Latin. Never once during that time did the lad remove the silver ring with the small green stone that had been tied flat to the inside of his wrist by the beautiful lady. Sometimes, when he couldn’t sleep, he would watch the ring, mostly covered by the thin rope of braided palm leaf, as it rhythmically bounced to the throb of his pulse.
The Master was an important person in the court of Gaius Valerius, the Prefect of Egypt. When the master wasn’t teaching new scribes to help keep track of the tons of wheat and other trade goods that left Egypt for Rome, and the other goods that flowed back into the lands thereabouts, he was busy writing a history of the Roman conquest of this part of the world. The Master developed a fondness for Saa, and when he had the opportunity to travel throughout the region on a fact-finding mission for the Prefect, he brought the boy with him.
They embarked on a trading ship, and after a short stop at the city of Pelusium on the other side of the Nile delta, they left Egypt behind, following the coast as the ship skirted the sea, making port at Gaza in Judea. The Master decided that this was as close to Jerusalem as he was ever going to get, and so he elected to leave the ship and travel to this ancient city. He felt he needed to see the city in order to write about it convincingly in his history of Rome’s triumphs in the area. He planned to make his way to Caesarea by road after a quick visit to Jerusalem, and that it would still be possible to perform his official duties within an adequate period of time.
The trek to Jerusalem was not an easy one. Saa and the Master joined an armed caravan of merchants, and spent many a day on the road, the Master riding on a donkey while Saa slogged along beside him. On one particularly hot day, as the caravan came within sight of the walls of Jerusalem, the man who was in charge of the group, a large and splendidly-bearded Phoenician, decided to call a stop for lunch a little earlier than usual because of the large crowd that was gathered beside the road. They were all listening to a man speak.
The man stood on a small pile of boulders, addressing the crowd around him in a voice that carried well in the still, dry air. Saa couldn’t understand a word of Aramaic so he busied himself preparing food and a place for the Master to sit. While the Master took refreshment, he seemed to be listening with half an ear to the man who was speaking. Saa took note that not only were the crowd listening raptly to what the man said, but the members of the caravan were engrossed in the words as well.
“Who is that man, and what does he speak of, Master?” Saa asked, finding himself lulled by the soothing tone of the speaker on the rock.
“He is called Yeshua, as far as I can tell, young scribe, and what he is speaking of is nonsense… with perhaps a dash of sedition thrown in. But this language befuddles my ears and he is too far away for clear hearing by a man of my advanced years. Trouble yourself not, but rather put your mind to bringing me a few more of those dates for my repast, if you would be so kind.”
Saa set himself to the task at hand, and within the hour, the crowd had begun to disperse and the caravan was being packed up to get back on the road towards the city perched on a hill in the distance. As Saa carried the blanket upon which the Master had sat back to the donkey, he was jostled by a dark-haired boy about his own age. Saa had time neither to apologize not ask for one, as the boy disappeared into the milling throng of people.
The boy, one Josiah by name, of no family at all and a sneak thief and cut purse by trade, glanced down into his hand where he clutched the ring, still wrapped in bits of palm leaf cord. Cutting the cord, even though it was tight to the other boy’s wrist, was a notable accomplishment. He hadn’t even drawn blood, and his sharp knife hadn’t been noticed. Josiah looked up and stopped suddenly when he realized he was about to plow into someone. Standing before him was the man who had been speaking to the crowd from the pile of rocks. Josiah hadn’t listened to a word the man had been saying, though they spoke the same language. He had been too busy looking for his next victim.
The man said not a word, but smiled gently at Josiah, and reaching out, he put one hand on the boy’s shoulder. Josiah looked into those eyes and saw what he had never seen in the eyes of another human being since his mother had died when he was very young. He saw love. The man turned away and resumed talking to some other men.
Josiah stood rooted to the spot for several minutes, and then, instead of heading back to the slums of Jerusalem where he made his home, he took off running after the distant shapes and dust clouds of a small caravan on the road. He had no idea what possessed him to wish to return the ring to its rightful owner. He justified this strange decision by telling himself that the owner of the ring would give him a reward of some sort.
When at last he caught up to the caravan he was dismayed to find that it was not the right one. This was just a large family group returning to their homes after trading in the city. He had gone the wrong direction and now had little chance of finding the one from whom he had stolen the ring. And, for reasons he could not fathom, this made him unutterably sad.