Here is Chapter Eleven…
Chapter Word Count: 3032
Monthly Word Count: 7508
Ambigo woke up to a litany of cursing. By the time he awake enough to see where the swearing was coming from, he realized that Petros had left in the night. Ambigo had heard the phrase, “Swear like a carpenter.” He had also heard the phrase, “Swear like a sailor.” He had never heard the phrase, “Swear like a Hispanic priest.” Father Garcia was swearing in at least three languages and at such a level that Simon was unable to cajole or console him.
The light was peeking out over the horizon, burning off the cool air. Ambigo decided to wash in the cool water he found feeding into the cave when he gathered water the day before. He expected the swearing to be finished by the time he returned, but the rest of the team had merely joined Father Garcia in the lamenting.
Ambigo stoked the fire, boiled some water and started to make a poultice for the ringworm for the young girl in the shanty town. He had expected to see the girl again the previous evening, but she didn’t return.
“This smells good. What is it?” There was a lag in the cursing and Jaime began to notice Ambigo’s work. The young man picked up the poultice and nearly ate it before Ambigo stopped him. “It’s a treatment for the ringworm that the little girl in the village has. I thought I’d walk over there before we leave and give it to her.” The rest of the team looked at Ambigo incredulously, but Tad was the first to speak, “Don’t you care that we lost Petros?”
Ambigo shrugged and crushed the tree bark, “I don’t see what the big deal is. We know he’s going to go back to Galilee. We’ll follow him and maybe by then, he will have met up with Jesus. The way I see it, the more we interfere, the less likely he’ll be to encounter Jesus.” Simon rolled his eyes, “Ambigo, I know you’re a little out of it because you didn’t get all the trainings that we did, but you need to get it into your head. We can’t change history. There is no way that we can interfere with Petros meeting up with Jesus. It’s just not going to happen. Considering how paranoid he is, I wouldn’t be surprised if he already knows Jesus and is trying to protect him from Roman spies.”
Ambigo nodded and finished crushing the tree bark. The mushy substance was nothing compared to the antifungal creams that he could purchase at any drug store back home, but it would at least treat the symptoms. Untreated, that ringworm was going to become an open wound that could get infected and maybe even kill the young girl. That was a worst case scenario, but Ambigo knew that they were living in the worst environment possible. He also realized that the necklaces that she carried around her arms could potentially spread the fungus to others. Ambigo couldn’t make Petros trust him. All he could do was focus on what he could control.
The rest of the team calmed down. By the time the crowd started lining up at the cave, Madi was released. She walked past the team directly to Ambigo, who was crouching by the fire. She nearly knocked him over with a hug. She smelled like the herbs that John had been burning in the cave, but she was warm and dry. She whispered, “You were right. We shouldn’t have let anyone else in the cave.” Ambigo returned the hug. The rest of the team inundated her with questions. “Did you get the confession?” “Did he hurt you?” “Are you hungry?” Ambigo was able to quiet them and he just hugged her until she was able to sit quietly among them.
Father Garcia handed her some figs, “You missed the singing last night.” The rest of the team gave out a slight groan and she looked at them, expecting an explanation. Simon continued, “There was a huge party and they wanted us to sing. Ambigo volunteered and you will never guess what he sang.” She looked at Ambigo, “What could he sing? No one would have understood any songs he might know.” She smiled mischievously, “Did you sing a Gregorian chant in Latin and contaminate them all?” Tad laughed out loud, “No! Worse!”
She giggled, “What could be worse than that?!” Jaime volunteered, “He sang some cowboy song about a stripper! Sing it, Ambigo.” The horror on the faces of his team members from the night before came back to him. He had never found out what he had done that was so wrong. “No. I’m not going to sing it. I was just trying to stop you guys from singing any hymns.” Tad laughed, “So, to prevent us from contaminating the crowd with a hymn, you sang a song with the phrase, ‘Try and find Jesus,’ in the chorus. Madi, you would have died, he said, ‘Jesus’ about twenty times. By the time he had to explain what ‘Try and find Jesus’ meant, we had totally given up on preventing contamination.” Father Garcia continued, “By the end of the night, there were a hundred drunk people singing, ‘Try and find Jesus’ over and over. We just laughed and laughed.”
Madi giggled and turned to Ambigo, “Really, Ambigo, how did you think that singing a song like that would be better than a hymn?” Ambigo was red with embarrassment. “I didn’t even think about contamination. I just didn’t want to hear anymore hymns about God. Then I got up there and the only song I could remember was this old country song that my old girlfriend used to sing. I was lucky I could remember anything at all.” They laughed, but Ambigo continued, “Are we not supposed to say the word ‘Jesus’? Is this another thing I missed out on?”
Father Garcia answered his question, “Actually, we think the name Jesus was a later addition to the story. We can’t be sure, so we are searching for ‘a rabbi from Nazareth’ and it’s best if we don’t say the word ‘Jesus’ until we actually find the man and learn his true name.” Madi was still laughing, “So how did you explain the song?” Simon answered the question, “He actually did a really good job of it. He said that ‘Try and find Jesus’ meant that you should get closer to God. The funniest line was about the figs.” Simon nudged Ambigo to tell the story, but he wasn’t enjoying the recap as well as the rest of the team.
Jaime continued the story for him, “I could tell he was going to choke when he came to the line, ‘Eat a lot of peaches.’ He just stood there with a blank look on his face. He ended up telling them that it meant, eat a lot of figs and it was supposed to be funny. Can you imagine what eating a lot of figs would do to you?” They laughed and held the figs up to Ambigo’s mouth and singing the song. A group of people near them started singing along and soon the entire crowd waiting outside the cave was once again singing. Ambigo just tried to concentrate on the poultice.
Madi laughed, “Well, it doesn’t sound that bad. How did you explain, ‘Blow up your TV’?” Ambigo blushed and Tad answered for him, “I tell you, he did a really good job. He said that phrase meant to quit spending so much time entertaining yourself. The crowd loved the song and it turned out a lot better than we thought. When I first heard the song, I was just cringing, but he was amazing.” Ambigo stood up, “I’m going into the town to find that girl with the ringworm and treat her. I’ll be back soon.” Madi stood up, “I’ll go with you.”
The two of them walked quietly as they neared the shanty town. Ambigo was the first to speak, “Did John hurt you?” Madi’s lips pursed, “No. He didn’t touch me except when he dunked me in the water. I didn’t even know there was a pool in the back of that cave.” Ambigo nodded, “I didn’t see the pool, but I found the stream that feeds it toward the back of the cave.” They walked in silence for a few yards before Madi spoke again, “I got the confession on film.” Ambigo nodded, “After you went in, we realized that may happen. Father Garcia could have gotten the confession if he had been paying attention. He felt horrible at missing that opportunity.” Madi shook her head, “I don’t think he would have been able to handle it. I’m glad it was me in that cave.” They were quiet and nothing more was said.
When they arrived at the shanty town, Madi exclaimed, “When you said town, I expected more than this.” The makeshift tents and dwellings looked worse in the harsh sunlight. Within minutes, the young girl Ambigo was looking for approached them, “A necklace for the lady?” Ambigo shook his head, “Where is your mother?” The girl responded, “I told you, I have no mother.” Ambigo nodded, “Yes, but you also told me that your uncle has the demon and sometimes you need to tie him up to keep him from hurting himself. I don’t think it’s you who is tying him up.” The girl nodded, “My father ties him up.” Ambigo nodded, “Then take me to your father.”
Within minutes, the poultice was in the father’s hands. Ambigo explained, “Do you see this marking on her arm. This will go away if you follow my directions. Every evening before she sleeps, you will put this on her arm. Every morning, you must wash it off. Her arm must stay clean and dry and the marking will go away. If you do not do this, the marking will get worse and she might die from it.” The father tried to argue and complain, but Ambigo refused to hear any excuses, “You have lost her mother. Don’t lose the daughter. Follow my directions and she might get well. If you don’t follow my directions, she will certainly get worse.” The father took the poultice and gave Madi a necklace in exchange. “Don’t put that on your neck. Let me wash it well before you wear it.” Madi nodded and they walked back to the cave in silence.
By the time they returned, the team had packed up their belongings and were ready to get on the road. Ambigo carefully put the sandals on his feet. Over the last two days, his injuries had healed and he was eager to protect his feet on this walk to Galilee. Madi commented, “Where’s Petros? Did he leave without us?” Father Garcia looked sheepishly at Simon and responded, “He escaped last night.” Madi’s brow crinkled and she looked at him unblinkingly, “Escaped?” The sheepish look on Father Garcia’s face reddened. Simon responded, “Yes, we had him secured, but then Father Garcia insisted that we trust him. He snuck off in the middle of the night.” Madi cocked her head to the side, “Secured?” Ambigo translated, “They jumped him and tied him up.”
A guilty silence fell over the team. Madi looked from one face to another and finally rested on Jaime, “You got this on film?” Jaime blew out a puff of air, “As well as I could. I kind of got bashed in the eye when we decided to rescue you from the cave…” he looked from face to face with a glimpse of panic, “I think I’m going to need an adjustment.” Madi face grimaced in anger, “Let me get this straight. First, you decide to rescue me and get in a fight. Then you kidnap a SAINT and tie him up. All of this happens, and the first thing you tell me about is some stupid SONG that Ambigo sang that MIGHT have contaminated a few people?!”
Simon started leading the team toward Galilee, “Some mistakes were made.” The rest of the team followed him on the road. Jaime added, “Oh yeah…um…Father Garcia might have called Petros The Fisher of Men to his face…that too.” The rest of the team grunted in agreement. Madi nodded, “Oh yes, I can see why you told me about Ambigo first. It was the least of our worries.” The team followed Simon in a quiet shame, while Madi seethed.
Ambigo’s feet were a bloody and aching mess by the time they arrived at Galilee. The sun was sinking into the water as he washed them. The fishermen were returning from a long day of hard work. Simon and Tad started discretely asking questions while Father Garcia tended to Ambigo’s feet, “Is there something that I can put on these wounds?” Ambigo shook his head, “No. I just need to let them heal.”
The priest held out his hands, “Give me those sandals.” He took them from Ambigo and placed them with his bedding, “Don’t wear them again. Maybe you’re allergic to them.” Ambigo shook his head, “I don’t think so. They just aren’t right for me.” Father Garcia shrugged, “Sorry. I tried.” They were quiet for a moment, watching the sun reflect off the rippling water. Ambigo spoke, “Thank you for making those sandals for Armani.” Father Garcia nodded and they listened to the water birds squawking at the fishermen for handouts.
When Tad and Simon returned, two men were with them. “Father, this is Philip and Andrew. They know Petros.” Father Garcia and Ambigo stood up and greeted the men. Andrew spoke first, “You don’t look like Roman spies.” He looked at Ambigo’s feet, “You look like shepherds.” Father Garcia smiled, “Petros is convinced that we are spies, but we are merely searchers looking for holy men.” Andrew nodded, “He said you would be looking for him and here you are. Even the woman is exactly how he described her. You are not a prostitute?” Madi looked at him firmly, “No,” she replied icily.
“Well, Petros took his wife and left here. He was so sure that you would follow him.” Father Garcia shook his head, “I’m afraid we gave him quite a scare. Do you know where he went?” Andrew gave them a mischievous smile, “I’m supposed to tell you that he went to Nazareth to warn his friend the rabbi, but he really went to Kadesh. He has family there and he is going to hide there until you are gone.”
“Well, we are going to Nazareth, so you can be assured that he is safe. We just hoped that he would come with us.” Father Garcia looked at the two men, “Do you want to come with us?” A large smile came across Andrew’s face, “Petros is a fool. Of course I want to come with you. I want to be a Fisher of Men!” Father Garcia cringed at his misspoken words repeated back to him.
Ambigo queried, “Why do you want to be a fisher of men?” Both the team and the two men looked at him as if he were silly to ask. Andrew hesitated, “I guess I’m looking for…” He turned to Philip for help and the other man responded, “I don’t know about Andrew, but I am excited to go to an interesting place. Petros always comes back from his journeys with strange stories. I want to have some stories of my own.” Ambigo shook his head. “Before you decide to come, you need to know that this is not an easy journey. I decided to come because I thought that it would be a great adventure. Instead, I have sore feet and there is a man in the world who doesn’t trust me.”
Simon added jovially, “And he had to sing!” Jaime responded with a playful voice, “Yes, I had to help build a fence.” The others laughed. Madi added, “I had to spend many hours at the weaving loom.” Her voice made the activity sound as if it were a torture and the two men’s eyes crinkled in merriment. Ambigo held up his hand, “What I’m trying to say is that we are not offering you adventure. We are searching for one man among thousands and we’re…” Ambigo paused. He wanted to tell them that Simon was…not quite right. “…we’re a little zealous. Did Petros tell you about what we did to him?”
Andrew eyes, that were laughing just a second before, clouded with fear, “He said that you tied him up, but I didn’t believe that part of the story… sometimes he… exaggerates.” Father Garcia’s face was filled with shame. “Well, he didn’t exaggerate this time. We…” He quieted and the entire group waited to explain the actions. Madi squinted at him in anticipation. He finally spoke, “I can’t justify what we did. He made it seem like he knew the man we seek. We couldn’t leave the site and he was trying to run away. We thought that tying him up was the best option, but I realized I was wrong and that’s why I untied him.” Simon rolled his eyes.
Philip smirked and glanced over at Andrew. Andrew returned the playful look. “You untied him?” Father Garcia nodded. “Well, I couldn’t undo the knots. Simon untied him, but I made the decision.” The two men burst into laughter and Philip responded, “You should have heard Petros’ version of the story. He told us he burnt the ropes after you went to sleep and started to creep away. When he got to the road, the Roman soldier caught up with him, but he fought free and kept running all the way to Galilee.” The team laughed at Petros’ exaggeration, but Ambigo noticed a flush of red color Simon’s face.
When the laughter died down, Father Garcia patted Andrew on the back. “We leave for Nazareth tomorrow. Knowing our faults, do you still want to come with us?” Andrew looked at Philip and they both nodded. The team cheered. Ambigo joined in the cheer, but he couldn’t help feeling uneasy about taking them along.