Here is Chapter Five…
Tad and Simon’s fence neared the property line of the neighbor to the north. The industrious workers had only a week left of their month’s sojourn with Marit and they wanted to finish the fence so they could start on a rudimentary barn for the little family. They ran into trouble before the sun hit its peak in the sky.
“What are you doing on my land?” Tad and Simon were approached by the familiar man who wanted them to work for him for six months in exchange for clothing. The man didn’t recognize them at first, but Tad was quick to remember, “Hello, our Levite friend. We are raising a fence on the property line. You should be thankful for getting a fence without effort.” He smiled at the angry man and watched his face contort in recognition. The Levite became enraged, “You beggars! You ask me for clothing and now you steal my land!”
Simon came between Tad and the Levite, “Gentle sir, we are placing the fence on the property line. It is quite obvious where your shearing ends and Marit’s begins.” Simon pointed to the clear distinction, etched into the coarse grasses. The property line was quite visible. Marit had showed them the property line and had not claimed it was anything different than where her mowing ended. The man scoffed at the clear line, “So, her imbecile boy mows my land.”
Tad rose to Armoni’s defense, but Simon calmly reasoned with the man, “He is not an imbecile and he does not mow the land. Marit herself scythes this area and she showed us the property line. She is much shorter than you and the cut marks are quite different from yours.” The three of them looked at the clear property line again, but the Levite erupted in another outburst, “She is using you to steal my land! That Samaritan cunt!”
That was when Simon punched the Levite in face. The man fell to the ground and Simon pounced on him, locking his arms around the man’s neck. He brought his face close to the man’s ear while Tad tried to pull him away. Simon bellowed into the man’s ear, “Marit is an honorable woman! You will give her the respect she deserves as a widow in the community. This land is to be handed to her son as it came from her husband and you will give her the respect that she deserves!”
The loud and angry voices brought the rest of the party and Marit from the homestead. Simon heaved the man to his feet, arms still tight around his neck. “Marit, this man has dishonored your name.” Then, to the Levite, Simon reproached, “Apologize to her!” The man looked at her with disdain. Simon shook him, “Apologize to her or I will snap your neck like a twig!” He applied minor pressure on the man’s voice box, causing an involuntary squeak. The man acquiesced, “I am sorry I dishonored your name. I saw these men building a fence and I believed it to be on my property.” Simon shook him a bit more, “After looking at the land, I believe they are correct and are placing the fence correctly. I apologize.” Jaime and Madi squinted at the scene with unblinking eyes.
Simon released the Levite and shoved him toward his land, “Leave us! If I hear that you have bothered this woman, I will return and shame you before your family and the elders. If you leave her alone, then this matter is forgotten.” The man looked Simon in the eye and the rest of the team saw a moment of strange bonding between them. The man turned and headed back to his home.
Marit’s eyes were large with fear, “Simon, my boy, what have you done? That Levite is a bully and he will return the minute you leave us!” Simon shook his head, “Marit, sometimes the only language bullies can understand is force.” He looked at Father Garcia, Ambigo and Jaime and spoke in English, “Will you guys help us finish this fence? I need to teach Marit and Armoni how to protect themselves when he does come back.”
Father Garcia spoke in simple Aramaic for the group, “We will help Tad finish the fence. You teach Marit and young Armoni all that you know.” Marit looked to Madi, who encouraged her to go with Simon, “I will return to the house and continue weaving. You need to learn how to protect yourself.” The rest of the team started the sweaty work of raising the fence. Jaime talked in labored breathing, “We only had one pair of sandals to finish anyway.” Father Garcia corrected him, “Two pair of sandals.” Jaime squinted at him, but remained silent.
Ambigo had gotten a burst of adrenaline from waking to the sound of fighting in the distance, but the exhaustion of the previous evening was catching up with him. He was eager for the month of sheepherding to end and to finally be able to be with the rest of the team. He failed to notice that he had gotten his wish and was with the team now, working on the fence.
He watched young Armoni practice combat moves with Simon and his mother. “Where did Simon learn all that?” Ambigo puffed out, “Do they teach priests how to fight?” Father Garcia’s face was flushed with effort, “Simon isn’t a priest. He is a military officer. He served in Saudi Arabia, the Middle East, and Africa. They flew him to us from Spain, I think. He was negotiating with the Basque Separatists when he was called to us.” Ambigo shook his head, “I thought he was a priest.” Tad shook his head, heaving a post, “No, that’s me. I’m the ancient language expert and Simon is the Anthropologist. I’m the priest and he’s the soldier.” Ambigo watched Armoni hit Simon deftly in the gonads, collapsing him. He wondered if that was an intentional part of the training.
“So when you said it was Simon’s job to keep us safe, was that with Sociology or Soldiering?” Ambigo held a piece of the fencing in place while Tad secured it. Father Garcia stood up, looking at the writhing Simon, “Sociology first and Soldiering as a last resort. We’re here to observe, not interfere. That’s all we can do here, is observe.”
Ambigo had a flash of an idea that had never occurred to him. “What if we find out that Jesus was just a normal guy. He wasn’t the Savior and he didn’t perform any miracles. If we have the chance to save him from crucifixion, are we just going to let him die?” Tad and Jaime looked at him with confusion, but Jaime spoke first, “Duh, Ambigo. You can’t change history.” Ambigo hefted the fencing, “I don’t see why not. We’ll be right there with him. If he happens to be a normal guy who has been falsely accused, then we should help him. Don’t you think?”
All work stopped on the fence. Tad and Jaime looked to Father Garcia for direction. Father Garcia calmly explained to Ambigo, “In our haste, it seems that you have been under-informed again. Oh, where do I start?” The work started on the fence again and Jaime started explaining in the Father’s place, “When Dr. Tate explained it to us, it made perfect sense, but now that you’ve brought that up I don’t know if I can tell you anything more than, ‘You can’t change history.’ That’s about all I learned from Dr. Tate during that lesson.”
Father Garcia breathed heavily with the physical labor, “Do you remember the energy crisis we had a few years ago? There were rolling brownouts all over the country? Remember?” Ambigo remembered vividly the numerous times the hospital’s generators had kicked in during that time, “Yeah, I remember. It had something to do with the aluminum manufacturing companies, right?” Father Garcia corrected, “Actually it was the aluminum manufacturing companies that bailed us out, but yeah, they had something to do with all of this. You see, the reason the electric cooperatives were short on electricity was because major blocks had been sold to an unnamed source for an ungodly amount. It didn’t matter to the coops that the cities they were supposed to be servicing would have to deal with brownouts. The coops were making five times the amount of money on their electricity generation if they were willing to sell their blocks to this undisclosed buyer. The buyer was Dorinda Gates. She was the sole heir to the Gates fortune and she had bought enough electricity to put the entire nation into an energy crisis.”
The conversation died for a moment while they held the fencing in place so Tad could secure it. They all breathed deeply and picked up the tools for digging again. Ambigo questioned, “So what did Dorinda want with all that electricity?” Jaime shook his head and Father Garcia patiently continued, “She wanted to change history.” Father Garcia was silent as they dug and Ambigo held his tongue, even though he knew he couldn’t win a contest of “The Loser Speaks First,” he thought that Father Garcia must have paused there for a reason.
“She wanted to change history,” Ambigo thought to himself, mulling the thought over in his mind. He waited for Father Garcia to continue. The priest was chuckling to himself, “I was just thinking of what Father Aldemon would have done if he was called to dig fence posts. I can just imagine his fat belly. I am so lucky that I have my health. Look where it has brought me!” Ambigo looked around the modest farm and saw Simon in the distance, teaching Marit and Armoni. The sky was blue and the sun was beaming down, burning Ambigo’s ears.
“She wanted to change history?” Ambigo asked. Father Garcia nodded, “Oh yes. Her daughter had died at some outdoor concert. It was a strange combination of heat and alcohol poisoning. She heard about Dr. Tate’s research and financed him for most of his first years. When the machine was tested, the first real team went back to the day before the concert to prevent her daughter’s death. They failed.”
They placed a post, hefting it into the hole and securing it into place. The priest continued, “Dorinda Gates bought up enough electricity to send back several teams. Each team that went back failed.” They held the fencing in place so Tad could secure it. Father Garcia puffed with the effort and Ambigo felt the lack of sleep sapping his body of energy.
“There are only a finite number of windows within any lifetime. Dorinda Gates’ next window is about five years away. Dr. Tate, however, believes that it is impossible to change history. He sent fifteen teams back to save that girl and each one failed. If they were able to save the girl, there would be no reason for Dorinda Gates to finance the teams. If they saved her, they would create a paradox. Dr. Tate speculates that no matter what they do, they can’t save her.” They continued digging and Tad added to Father Garcia’s story, “That doesn’t stop Dorinda Gates, though. She’s willing to send the teams back as many times as she can to try to save her daughter. She doesn’t care what Dr. Tate thinks. But when you think about it, Dorinda’s life and finances are finite. No matter how rich she is, she can’t live forever. When she dies, they’ll stop sending teams back to that outdoor concert.”
Ambigo let the small noises of their work keep him company while he thought about the miserable heiress with all the money that her family could leave her and no family. He couldn’t hold in his questions, “So, you’re telling me that no matter what we do, we can’t stop them from killing Jesus?” The three men grunted and nodded. Ambigo shook his head, “Bullshit. I don’t believe it. You can’t tell me that I have no control over something like that.” Jaime was the first to intercede, “You know, I felt just like you and then Dr. Tate went into this really detailed discussion about why it was impossible to change documented history. You know how he talks and talks and he thinks that you understand him, even when he lost you on the first sentence? Well, he did that to us for two hours. All I know is that guy has been studying and working on this his whole life. If he believes we can’t change history, then we can’t change history. They tried to save that girl a ton of times and every time, they couldn’t”
Ambigo shrugged, “Sounds like incompetence to me.” The three men chuckled, but Tad was the first to speak, “Believe me, Dr. Thomas, when we are at the crucifixion of Jesus, you will be safe in the knowledge that there was nothing that we could have done to stop it.” Ambigo blew out his breath, “You guys probably don’t even want to stop it.” Father Garcia quietly responded, “It’s not about what we want.” Ambigo shook his head and puffed out the rest of the air in his lungs.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Jaime was squinting at him. Ambigo held tightly to the fencing, “I didn’t say anything.” Jaime held the other end steadily, “You know what I mean.” His tone was angry and he held his eyes on Ambigo. Ambigo just shook his head, “I just forgot what it was like to be around religious people. You know, I’m just a little worried about you guys when you finally meet this Jesus guy. What if he was just a normal guy who was in the wrong place at the wrong time? Worse yet, what if he was a fake?” Ambigo looked Jaime in his useless eyes. The cameras between his eyelashes filmed them silently.
Tad secured the fencing in place and there was no reason for Jaime and Ambigo to continue holding it, but they were in a face-off, each waiting for the other to let the fencing go first. Father Garcia intervened, “Ambigo, all of us have had our dark nights. There is not a true Christian who hasn’t thought that maybe all of this wasn’t true at one time or another. That is why it is called faith, Ambigo. We don’t call it knowledge. We call it faith. I trust the Lord enough to know that what we see and experience here is His Will. Let’s imagine for a moment, Jaime, that Jesus is a fake.”
Both men released the fencing and looked at Father Garcia. Tad, equally stunned, twisted the lashing in his hands. Breathless from the effort and the argument Jaime questioned, “A fake?” He placed his hand uncomfortably on the fence and then removed it and ran it through his hair. “Yes, Jaime. A fake. What if we document with your very own eyes that Jesus Christ was not the Savior?” Jaime fidgeted uncomfortably. Tad was twisting the lashing into a large coil. Ambigo even felt uncomfortable at the thought of documenting the chicanery of such a revered figure.
“I didn’t give my eyes up for nothing. I know that Jesus is the son of God.” Jaime squirmed under the gaze of Father Garcia. “No, Jaime, you’re right. You didn’t give up your eyes for nothing. Even if Jesus isn’t the Savior, he is still the son of God, just as you are. Just as I am.” The lashing strained under Tad’s hands. He released it and it quickly uncoiled. “If Jesus wasn’t the Savior. Then who is?” The Father smiled at Tad, “Yes, indeed. Who is?”
“I didn’t give my eyes up for nothing. I know that Jesus is the Savior!” Jaime directed the attention away from Tad and back to himself. Father Garcia calmed him, “Jaime, my son, please lower your tone. The voices on these hills carry and I don’t think Madi and Simon are ready for this conversation.” Jaime turned toward the newly secured home down the hill, “You’re right. Madi shouldn’t hear this.” He breathed heavily and Father Garcia continued, “Let’s just think about God’s Will for a moment.”
Tad and Jaime nodded and uncomfortably fidgeted. The three men turned their eyes heavenward and took in deep draughts of air while Ambigo watched. The work on the fence hadn’t continued since this conversation had turned to such an emotional subject. Tiny tears grew in the corners of Jaime’s useless eyes. He faced the Father with his realization, “If Jesus is not the Savior, then we were sent here by God to reveal that he was a false prophet.” The tears broke free and Jaime clung to Father Garcia, “I don’t want to document that Jesus was a false prophet.” Father Garcia pet his head like a scared animal, “It doesn’t matter what we want. We are here for the truth. If Jesus is the Savior, then we are here to document his miracles. If a mistake has been made through history, then we are here to right it. Either way, we are doing God’s Will.”
Once again, Ambigo felt like an intruder on the scene. Jaime sniffed and refrained from touching his eyes, allowing the tears to evacuate on their own. He shook his arms and picked up the rudimentary shovels and started digging. Ambigo noticed that Tad was unmoved by the idea that Jesus was a false prophet. The two of them locked eyes for a moment before picking up their own tools. The four men worked in silence save for the sniffling from Jaime.
When the silence was broken, Father’s Garcia’s voice was hushed and reverent, “Ambigo, I would appreciate it if you didn’t broach this subject with Simon or Madi just yet. The two of them have depended on the concept of Jesus as their Savior to keep their sanity and their lives.” Ambigo nodded in acquiescence to his request. As an afterthought, the Father added, “Let us all pray that we find Jesus to be our Savior and not a cheap magician. Madi’s psyche will be difficult to rebuild, but I fear that Simon would kill a man who posed as a savior.”
Tad and Father Garcia looked to the field where Simon was teaching Marit and Armoni self-defense, but Jaime turned toward the small house down the hill. Ambigo kept his eyes on Tad, watching his every move. The barn never did get built.