Here is Chapter Twenty-Three…
Chapter Word Count: 2822
Monthly Word Count: 45,362
“No, that’s too big. I don’t want pliers. I… I don’t think I should try to pull it. I don’t want to break the tooth.” The local healer shook her head. “What do you care? The tooth is bad. If it comes out in two pieces or one, it’s the same. The cure is to remove the tooth before it goes to his mind.” Ambigo ran his hand along his forehead. “This tooth is important. It needs to come out in one piece.” She shook her head. “I looked in that boy’s mouth. It’s not so special. I saw a Roman woman once who had a replacement tooth. You could go to Rome and replace that tooth if it’s so important.”
Ambigo just looked at the woman and blinked. He didn’t know what to say to her. “Okay, okay. If the tooth is so important, no pulling. We’ll cut it out. It’s just so risky cutting. The patient swallows the humors and it makes them sick.” Ambigo nodded. “You’re right. We need to make sure he doesn’t swallow too much blood.” She produced her tools and Ambigo looked at them greedily. “All the folks are saying that you saved the divers.” He took his eyes off the instruments. “No. I didn’t even know what to do. It was the woman on the shore. The only thing that was different is that there were lots of us there to help her.”
The healer nodded. “I taught her how to massage the sickness out of them… They didn’t even call for me that night… It kind of makes me feel useless when the town doesn’t call for the healer.” Ambigo realized that he had stepped on her toes without even knowing that her toes had been under his feet. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know anyone. I had just come to town that day.” The woman nodded and he continued, “We’re leaving again when my friend heals.” She kept nodding.
When she finally spoke, Ambigo was more than willing to hear her. “We’ve never had divers sickness and didn’t lose one or two divers. I didn’t even know it was possible to save them all.” He waited to see if she had anything more to say, but she was quiet. He carefully replied, “I think the only difference is that we had more people. There were seven healthy and five divers at first. If there was some kind of alarm that the woman on the shore could sound that would bring lots of people, then I suspect you would hardly lose any. Maybe a bell or a gong that she could sound. Then, the town could come and help her instead of just you and her alone.” The healer nodded and said no more.
“I’ve never seen a man drink that much and still stay standing.” Petros shook his head and handed Simon another bottle. Simon quietly kept drinking and swished the alcohol in his mouth. “He’s a big guy. It takes more liquor to knock out a big man than a small one.” Simon called out in English to Ambigo in a slurred voice, “Hey Doc! Maybe I could just swish with alcohol every day and that would fix my tooth and I could keep it and I wouldn’t have to be stranded here and I wouldn’t have to go to India with you. I’d really like to go home when all this is done. I was gonna retire after this mission, you know. I thought maybe I’d be able to find a girl if I retired.”
Ambigo patted his back and replied in English, “Listen to me Simon. I’m going to try to get the tooth out intact. It’s a long shot, but I thought that if you swallowed your tooth a couple of hours before we’re supposed to be zapped home, it would probably work for you. You have to let me do the extraction, though.” Simon’s glassy eyes looked back at the doctor. “You’d do that for me? I promise to… Wait… This is another test, isn’t it, Doc?” Ambigo shook his head. “No…”
Simon nodded vigorously. “Yes, yes it is. I’m supposed to say that it’s God’s Will and whatever he wants, is a-okay with me, right?” Ambigo shook his head. “Sure, Simon. It’s God’s Will. Whatever he wants, will be and we can’t stop it. Do you know what God wants right now?” Simon shook his head. “No, do you?” Ambigo nodded. “God wants you to go to sleep and he wants you to stay asleep until I get your tooth out. Can you do it?” Simon nodded. “I’m gonna sleep right now, -k-?”
It was as if a light turned off and Simon fell back into the bed, mouth wide open. At first, Ambigo thought that Simon was faking, but he had really passed out from the alcohol. The extraction went very quickly. The decay had gotten so bad that the tooth would have collapsed had Ambigo applied even a small amount of pressure to it. He showed the healer proper surgical technique, from washing to suturing, even though the wound only needed two stitches. She asked educated questions and he realized that she was trained far beyond what he expected from her.
“I don’t think he swallowed any blood, so he shouldn’t be too sick. I just hope we can keep it from getting…” He didn’t know how to say “infected” in Aramaic, so he just cut his sentence short. Simon continued to sleep while Ambigo washed the instruments. “Thanks for letting me use your tools.” She sniffed. “Where did you train?” Ambigo looked at her. “In my homeland. You did very well. Where did you train?” She looked around and whispered, “I trained in Greece. All the best healers train in Greece, but you do things differently. That white stuff that stopped the humors…”
Ambigo brought out his pouch. “It’s aluminum sulfate. It doesn’t work if the humors are… squirting out. It only works for smaller wounds. Don’t let the patient eat it… they will vomit. A little bit will stop the bleeding. His mouth was so dry, it worked. It usually doesn’t work in a mouth, only on the body. Would you like some?” Ambigo divided his stash in half. The woman gratefully took it. “Where did you find it?” He sighed, “I don’t know where we were. I found it in the sheep country…”
The woman stuck her finger in the powder and tasted it. “Ahh! Cake alum! This is cake alum! The curriers use it to tan the leather in the sheep country!” A chill went down Ambigo’s spine and he could hear Madi’s angry voice screaming at him days ago. “It’s curriers, you idiot. He’s the patron saint of people who tan leather.” The healer handed her half of the stash back to him, laughing. “My husband’s brother has a large supply of this! I had no idea it stopped bleeding!” Ambigo nodded at her jovial spirit, trying to shake off the chill.
“You will never guess what we have heard, so we will tell you!” Philip was so excited that he burst into Petros’ home, bringing two men. They were tall and dark-haired, but fair in skin. “We have to tell Simon! He will be so happy!” Philip ushered the men into the small room where Ambigo had nursed Petros’ mother-in-law to health.
“Simon! Wake up! You will not regret the loss of your precious tooth any longer when you hear what the Thunder Brothers have to say to you!” Simon rubbed his eyes while the rest of the team crowded into the small room. Petros looked at the visitors. “James and John! How long you’ve been away! I had heard that you were to see John the Baptist. I went there myself and brought back this crowd.” The two men nodded at the gathering in the small room. “What news do you have for us?!”
“Apparently, it’s world-shaking news of interest to your visitors. We just thought it was a passing story for you. Philip makes us think it might be more important than we thought.” Simon sat up. “Okay, Philip. Tell me the news. Maybe it will be enough to make Dr. Thomas let me out of the bed. I am sick to death of the flavor of cloves and I long for a walk.” Ambigo saw him chew down on the packet of crushed cloves that he had made for him. Madi and Jaime came to the other side of his bed. “Who are these guys?” Madi asked unceremoniously.
The young men smiled at her, allowing their white teeth to show. They said in unison, “The Thunder Brothers!” They made a thunder noise together and jostled each other in what little space they could in the small room. Jaime asked for more specific information. “What are your names?” They looked to each other and the taller one spoke, “I am James and this is my brother John. We are the sons of Zebedee. We have been traveling and we heard a story that we thought Petros would find interesting, but Philip thinks all of you want to hear it.” John spoke, “He thinks this story will heal your friend and send us all on a trip. We just got home and he thinks that we will take him on a trip!”
Madi and Jaime looked at each other and then looked at the rest of the team. Ambigo realized that these young and rambunctious boys must be more of Jesus’ disciples. He sighed heavily and hoped that they lived up to their legends. Father Garcia urged them, “Tell us the story, then.” The brothers looked at each other and then faced Simon. James spoke, “While we were waiting for John the Baptist, we heard of a man who is able to heal the crippled.” Simon asked, “Do you know where he is?” John nodded. “A day’s walk from John the Baptist’s cave. A little over two days’ walk from here. We can take you if you are suddenly healed by this information.”
Simon looked at Ambigo. The Thunder Brothers looked at Ambigo. Soon, every occupant of the room looked at Ambigo. Father Garcia asked, “Dr. Thomas. When do you think Simon will be healthy enough to see this man who heals cripples?” Ambigo sighed, “He can leave in two days if you promise to walk slowly. We must take the walk to this man in three days. I fear that Simon would push himself faster than he should.”
Simon nodded. “Your story has healed me. We leave in two days!” The room shook with cheering. John exclaimed, “Well, this man has healed a sick man that he never even met. He must be a miracle worker in person!” Ambigo pushed the visitors out of the room in an effort to allow Simon as much rest as he could before they left.
“So, James. Tell me about your experience with John the Baptist.” Petros asked them in a friendly, but serious way. James shook his head. “I know you said it was moving, but we just hated him.” John nodded in agreement. “They wouldn’t let us go in together. We had to go in alone.” Petros nodded. “Oh yes. I forgot you two might be sensitive about that. When you were with him, did he give you interesting ideas?”
James shrugged. “I have to apologize to widow Alphaeus for shearing her cat.” Andrew laughed loudly. “That was you?! You know, widow Alphaeus blamed me for that. She hasn’t said more than two words to me since then and we were, what… I don’t know… I think we had twelve years. She hasn’t spoken to me for eight years!” James ran his hand through his hair. “Yeah, I’m supposed to apologize to you too for letting you take the blame. I’m supposed to bring you back to him if you accept my apology.” Petros, Madi and Ambigo nodded, well aware of their own pacts made with John the Baptist.
Father Garcia added, “Well, you’d better make your apologies soon. We leave in two days.” James nodded his head. Petros asked, “So, John, what of your visit with this man? Do you have to apologize for kissing Ruth?” John’s forehead crinkled. “No. I didn’t even think about Ruth… She should apologize to me for marrying Zachariah instead of me.” Petros laughed loudly. “Maybe she wanted only one husband instead of two. You and James are never apart enough to entertain a wife properly. If not Ruth, then what?”
John looked at the group sheepishly. “I don’t know about James, but he told me not to talk to anyone about it.” Petros’ face blushed and the mirth that had been there a second before evaporated with the coloring. Ambigo chimed in, “You’re right, John. You don’t have to share your experience. A meeting with John the Baptist is not pleasant for most people.” Madi nodded and averted her eyes from the group shyly.
Father Garcia tried to revive the merriment that had flown from the room. “So, you saw John the Baptist and then you saw the man who heals cripples. You’ve had a momentous journey!” James and John shook their heads and spoke in unison, “We didn’t see the man.” James continued speaking, “We just heard about him when we waited for John the Baptist.” John picked up where his brother stopped, “There was much… waiting.” James laughed. “There was much partying! Every night, there was a loud, noisy party! You didn’t tell us how much fun the town is!”
Petros looked at the members of the team and they felt the shame of their actions. “I wasn’t really able to enjoy the party…” James and John looked at him incredulously. “You couldn’t enjoy the party?!” they responded in stereo. Petros shook his head. “It’s actually a funny story when you look at it. These guys thought I was going to run away, so they tied me up and because they attacked me and tied me up, I pretty much thought they were going to kill me, so I was worried about that instead of enjoying the party.” Father Garcia added, “It’s actually not a funny story at all, is it? I’m sorry about that, Petros.”
Petros shrugged and smiled jovially. “It’s alright! I remember the meat. It tasted good.” James and John nodded happily. Ambigo asked, “There was a little girl there selling necklaces. Did you see her?” The brothers looked at each other and then back to him. James spoke, “No… did you fall in love?” Ambigo laughed and shook his head. “No! She was a young girl, too young even for you.” The boys shook their heads. John teased him. “Why do you care? Did you want a necklace?”
Ambigo shook his head. “I was just wondering if she was still sick. I gave her some medicine and I was hoping it helped her.” The boys shrugged. James replied, “We’ll be back there soon when I take Andrew to see John the Baptist.” The team groaned. Jaime responded, “I don’t want to wait for him again! Dr. Thomas, didn’t you say that it was bad for us to see him?” Ambigo shook his head. “I wouldn’t recommend it, Andrew.” James laughed. “Don’t let them scare you. You only have to fear if you are not living a life with God. I know you, Andrew. You walk the path of God every day.” Andrew’s eyes flitted nervously.
James added, “It is fun to wait for John the Baptist because there is a celebration every night!” He jumped, “I almost forgot! You have to hear the new song we learned while we were gone.” James and John stood up, ready to entertain their friends, unafraid and unashamed. They sang in perfect harmony and were happy to share their new song with the strangers and loved ones.
He was a timid traveler with a story to tell. She was a woman of the street. They met at a well. He said, “Bring me some water.” She said, “How dare you speak to me.” He said, “Sit right here and I’ll tell you a tale Of how life should be.”
Stop telling stories, don’t you worry Go into the country, be a good wife. Plant a little garden, reap the wages Gather the fruit of eternal life.
Philip and Andrew laughed and clapped at the song. Andrew called loudly, “Teach us to sing it! I’ve never heard a song like it in my life!” Madi whispered to Ambigo, “It’s amazing! It’s the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well.” Ambigo shuddered and replied, “No it isn’t!” He and the rest of the team were appalled to hear the song, parroted back to him in Aramaic to the tune of “Blow Up Your TV.”