Here is Chapter Fourteen…
Chapter Word Count: 2748
Monthly Word Count: 15,435
“If you’re such a great rabbi, why didn’t you perform the ceremony at dinner?” James quipped at Jaime. Jaime was sitting near Mary. She held onto his hand tightly. He responded, “It is my duty to honor my father. He is the head of this household.” The house was noisy with conversation. Father Garcia and Joseph were talking intently while Madi filmed. Simon tried to discretely extract more details about the temple in Egypt. Jaime had been unable to remove himself from Mary’s side, so he had been filming her all evening.
“Mother, dear?” Mary’s swaying head moved in James’ direction. “I want to show Jesus the improvements we made in the workshop. May I take him out there?” She patted Jaime’s hand and finally released it. Jaime stood up. “Ambigo, we are going out to the workshop to see the improvements. I think you would be interested in seeing this. Will you come outside with us?” Jaime looked at him, unblinking. Since the last adjustment, he had lost much of the movement in his eyes, just as Madi had before him. He moved his entire body to see now, instead of just his head.
“Hey Tad,” Ambigo called out, “come with us to see the workshop.” Tad nodded and completed the escort for Jaime. James, who had seemed so bold just moments before, cringed at the additions, but he stayed silent. The four men stepped outside. Ambigo breathed in the fresh, night air. “Thank you for inviting us to see your workshop, James. The house was getting stuffy.” James tried to control the swaying of his head and faced Jaime. “I never believed in you.”
Ambigo laughed inwardly at the image of it. He had never believed in Jesus either. Jesus was just a nameless entity that people invoked when they wanted other people to listen. Jesus was just a curse word to use when things got frustrating. Jesus was just another name for the things that are supposed to be good in the world. Here Ambigo stood, just a walk to Egypt away from finding Jesus and he still didn’t believe in him. Yet, it was all so funny. James didn’t believe in Jesus and now, his long lost brother was standing in front of him, or so he thought.
Jaime looked at James, squinting carefully. James continued, “What’s going on? First you tell my father that you are not his son, then you tell us you ARE his son. First your name is some weird name like Heimey and now it’s Jesus. Camel dung!” Tad laughed at James’ invective, which brought James’ ire to him instead of Jaime. “This is a joke to you?!” Tad shook his head and replied, “No. I’m sorry.” He laughed some more, “I’ve just never heard anyone say the words ‘camel dung’ in such a manner before.” He laughed again and while the rest of the men watched him between laughs. He spouted loudly, “Camel dung!” He said the phrase a couple more times, laughing in between each and the other men eventually laughed with him. Ambigo tried to explain, “Camel dung isn’t a swear word where we come from.”
The laughing died down with a sigh and Ambigo wiped his eyes. Tad spoke first, “Seriously, though. Jaime was unaware that Joseph is his father. He has spent most of his life in the temple. We’re his family.” Ambigo was unaware that the deception was to go any further than Mary. He listened in shocked silence as Tad embellished the lie. “He didn’t even know his given name. We call him Jaime, because the records for his given name were lost. All we had to find you was that his parents were from Nazareth and that his father was a carpenter. Fortunately, you are the only carpenters in the town.”
Jaime, Tad and Ambigo watched James’ face. His head swayed rhythmically as he pondered the change in familial standing. “You will be living with us?” Jaime shook his head, “No. I’m not sure, but I think we are leaving for Egypt tomorrow. Aren’t we?” Tad and Ambigo nodded in agreement. “You are the first born?” Jaime reluctantly nodded. He looked to Tad for guidance. Tad placed his hand on James’ arm. “He will be returning to Egypt. He places no claim on the rights of a first born. His family is with us. You have the birthright.” James looked at Jaime with suspicious eyes.
“My whole life I’ve heard stories of you and I didn’t believe them. My…” He looked at Jaime. “…our mother told me that she was visited by angels who told her that you are the Son of God and the Messiah… Do you think that’s true?” Jaime showed no signs of panic. “She hasn’t told me any of those stories.” Ambigo was surprised at how eloquently Jaime was able to avoid the question. James continued, “She said that when you were a child, you taught the rabbis at the temple in Egypt about God. You were so knowledgeable that they wouldn’t let you leave…” The sentence sounded like a question. Jaime answered, “I don’t have very many memories from childhood.” Ambigo sensed a coat of shame wrapping around Jaime.
“My whole life I’ve heard these stories about you…” James sighed. “They were told so many times that I felt like they were fantasies. I thought they were stories that my mother told herself to feel important.” His voice sounded as it were coming from the past, “I have a brother in Egypt, teaching the heathens about God…” His voice trailed off and he looked Jaime over from his head to his feet. “You look like father…” It sounded as if he was trying to convince himself. It was quiet between them as James pondered.
Ambigo ambled away from the group. “So where is this workshop of yours? You promised us a tour.” James mumbled, “It’s back there, but it’s too dark to see tonight.” He sounded ashamed and disappointed. Jaime patted him on the back, “Well then, let’s go back into the house and let our dear mother have more time with me before we sleep.” The three of them went back into the small home.
The next morning, the team gathered their belongings and prepared to leave. “You are leaving without attending synagogue?” Mary’s question hung in the air like a feather. It flitted across the faces of the team members who turned to Simon and Father Garcia for direction. Father Garcia shook his head ever so slightly. Jaime noted it and answered, “It is a long walk back home, mother. We have much work to do in Egypt.”
James asked, “You will walk on the Sabbath? A rabbi…” he paused for effect, “…will work on the Lord’s day?” Ambigo was surprised to note the acid in the man’s tongue. The words sounded like an accusation. They sounded like a test. Father Garcia responded happily, “If it broke the Sabbath to walk, none of us would get to the synagogue.” He smiled at the man, trying to bring him to their side of the conversation. James’ head swayed uncomfortably. “There is a difference between walking to synagogue and walking to Egypt.” Father Garcia allowed his eyes to glint, “It depends on how far away your synagogue is. Ours is in Egypt.”
Joseph interceded, “Truly, though. You will not attend synagogue with us? You will deprive my wife of sitting next to her long lost son?” All eyes looked to Jaime for an answer. Jaime looked to Father Garcia for some answer. Once again, Father Garcia shook his head, almost imperceptibly. “I’m sorry, my dear father. I must leave. I’ve disrupted your home enough and now I have to go.” Mary’s ever-pitching body stood up. The graveled voice of the matriarch spoke, “No son of mine is going to work on the Sabbath. You will attend synagogue with us and you will leave tomorrow!” Such an amount of force came from the tiny woman that the team was shocked. She turned to Madi, “Tell your husband that he will stay. You must attend synagogue with me! The town must see me with my son, the rabbi, even if it is only once.”
Madi looked at the woman with her steely eyes. She turned her entire body toward Father Garcia for orders. He shrugged and a long whistle of air left Simon’s body. Madi turned to Jaime, “I protest, my dear husband. Your mother must be allowed to present you at synagogue. The town will want to see you by her side after such a long absence. It is your duty.” Madi turned back to Father Garcia and he patted her arm. Jaime responded, “You’re correct, Madi. We will go to synagogue.”
Ambigo noted Mary’s gait as they walked. Based on her walk, his six month prediction might have been a little early. The fact that she could walk on her own at all added at least three or four months to her prognosis. Of course, she could be dead in a couple of months if she refused to eat. He knew that sometimes victims would reject all food, despite the texture. It only took a few months for them to starve to death after that. He realized that he was completely incapable of telling the team exactly how long she had. Even if he had been back home, he would have been just as helpless.
When they arrived at the town square, the team was accosted by the villagers. They greeted Mary with joy and allowed her to bask in her pride, showing them her handsome son and his interesting wife. Ambigo watched James, however, and his stomach filled with a stone of anticipation when he saw James approach the rabbi. He was able to draw Simon aside and whisper, “I saw James talking to the rabbi. I don’t like the look of it. I think he’s trying to pull something fishy.” Simon nodded, but Ambigo felt like he disregarded him, so he searched out Father Garcia.
“I saw James talking to the rabbi. I have a bad feeling about it.” Father Garcia patted his arm. The gathering was friendly and happy. The crowd was noisy with excited greeting. “He probably just wanted to make sure Mary received the attention she wants. I’ll keep my eye open just in case.” Ambigo shook his head. “Let’s make sure we sit near the exit just in case, okay?” Father Garcia nodded and whispered to Jaime, who directed the family to an area near the exit.
Before the ritual started, Ambigo’s fears were confirmed. “As you know, we have a visitor who has not graced our presence since he was a baby. Jesus, the son of our carpenter, Joseph, is here, visiting family. He has been in Egypt these many years, ministering to the heathens, and we hear he is a great rabbi. Jesus, come up and let the congregation get a better look at you.” The rabbi’s voice sounded friendly and without malice, but every cell in Ambigo’s body begged him to run away. He looked at Jaime and tried to stop him, “Don’t go up. I don’t like this…”
Jaime seemed reluctant, but acted as if he had to appear before the town. “Soon this will be over and we will go to Egypt to find the real Jesus,” he whispered in English to Ambigo. He headed up to the front of the assembly and people touched his hands as he walked past. He approached the rabbi and turned to face the crowd. The rabbi handed him a scroll. “Please, preach to us as you have preached to the heathens.” He had a smile on his face, but it seemed as if he was challenging Jaime to perform for the town.
Jaime looked down at the scroll and the rabbi lifted it to his eyes. “Will you not read to us?” Ambigo could see the revelation on Jaime’s face. This rabbi was trying to discredit him. He was trying to shame Mary and Joseph in front of the town. It was as if Jaime was inflated and he appeared to grow two inches taller. “I learned in Egypt. I cannot read this text. I am a visitor here. I would not dream of taking your place, sir.” He handed the scroll back and tried to return to the back of the hall.
The rabbi kept him from leaving. “Surely you would not deny us. Are you unwell? Heal yourself. Whatever you have preached to the heathens will be sufficient for your own countrymen.” The color drained from Jaime’s face. He looked at the rabbi and then he looked at the crowd. Ambigo saw panic overtake Jaime’s motionless eyes. He looked to Father Garcia for direction, but the priest had no instruction to give him.
Then a strange look overcame Jaime’s face. Ambigo worried for a moment that he was having a waking seizure. His gaze fixed on an unknown point and his eyes wiggled strangely. It was as if he were daydreaming. After the seizure, Jaime regained his composure as if he were unaware of the moment lost in time. His face was determined. The young man’s hands clenched and the veins popped out on his arms. He stood as if he were a nobleman.
“Verily, I say unto you. No prophet is accepted in his own country.” Jaime said the words so loudly and with such conviction that Ambigo was surprised. He heard a large breath drawn in unison from the team. He glanced over to them and recognized the looks on their faces. It was the same look of horror that they had when he had sung for the crowd in the shanty town. Tad was the only person from the team that looked amused. In fact, he was the only person in the entire synagogue that looked amused. When Ambigo scanned the crowd, all the people either looked confused or angry.
The rabbi questioned him, “What do you mean, son of Joseph?” Jaime replied and Ambigo finally realized why the team was so upset. He was reciting scripture, “Many widows were in Judea in the times of Elias, when the drought came and there was great famine throughout the land, but unto none of them was Elias sent.” The rabbi tried to argue with him, “Just because Elias did not minister to the widows of his land doesn’t mean you cannot preach to us.” Jaime responded, almost unaware of the words of the rabbi, “Many lepers were in the land of Judea in the time of Eliseus, the prophet, but none of them were cleansed except Naaman, the Syrian.” Jaime emphasized the word Syrian to highlight that Naaman had not been a Judean.
While the rabbi and Jaime argued, the townspeople whispered among themselves. “Is not this the son of Joseph?” “He is the great Messiah that Mary has talked of her entire life?” “This is the rabbi that brought the word of God to the Egyptian heathens?” As the argument continued, their whispers became full voices. “He is not a rabbi!” “This is not the Messiah!” Years of talk from Mary about her son, the rabbi and Messiah, culminated in one angry betrayal. The townsfolk were angered by his words, it was true, but the anger had festered with thirty long years of bragging.
Ambigo had been paying more attention to the angry crowd than to Jaime’s words, so the riot did not surprise him. He grabbed Mary and screamed, “Run!” to Joseph and his family. He carried Mary out of the building and handed her to James, “Do not go home tonight. Take the family to the next town for the evening. Hurry! Run!” They were scampering away to the south when Ambigo re-entered the synagogue. He could not imagine what a crowd of angry townsfolk would do to Jaime.
Nothing he nor Simon nor the rest of the team could do could stop them. They pulled him from the synagogue and dragged him kicking and screaming to the edge of the town. Had Ambigo been less concerned with the condition of his feet when he arrived in Nazareth, he would have noticed that the city was built on a hill. A very large hill. A hill that could kill a man if he were thrown down it. It was from this hill that they tossed Jaime, head first.