Chapter Five can be found here.
“Let us pause,” said Luke. “My fingers ache.”
“This was your idea,” said his companion, leaning back and gazing out over the city. From their vantage point upon the housetop, Rome gleamed in the morning light. Armor and chariots flashed as a military procession passed in the distance. The sun turned iron to silver and bronze to gold. It was a splendid sight.
Luke’s companion scratched his nose, evidently unimpressed.
“My dear Luke, you have only yourself to blame if your fingers ache. You insisted on taking notes.”
“A foolish decision,” said Luke. “This may come as a surprise, Paul, but other people are not always as wise as you. Not everyone can be as wise as Paul, whose writings are renowned in Rome and Jerusalem and all the provinces in between.”
“Do you think you are the only one ever to have suffered the pain of aching fingers?” asked Paul. “Every time I wrote a letter I asked, ‘O Lord, how long until you provide your servant with a scribe?’ My life has been difficult here in Rome, you know, but I have one great consolation: our brothers from the synagogue write my letters as I dictate.”
Luke nodded with mock seriousness. “It is certainly a blessing for the churches, which are no longer burdened with the difficulty of deciphering your handwriting. Your letters are hard enough to understand when they are written clearly.”
A moment passed as Luke flexed his fingers and loaded his quill with ink. “I am ready,” he announced. “Where were we? Ah, I remember. We left you dangling from the wall of Damascus in a basket. Paul, would you kindly pay attention? I will never finish my book unless you stay focused.”
“I apologize,” said Paul, rubbing his jaw. “I have a toothache.”
Luke laughed. “A toothache? I thought you were meditating.”
“I was thinking of someone I once knew,” said Paul. “I have thought of him often in past weeks.”
“Before my conversion, you know, I went from house to house in Jerusalem arresting all who professed faith in Jesus of Nazareth. One afternoon I raided a home where some of the Lord’s disciples were meeting. There were about a dozen men with me. The moment we entered the house, an old man jumped up and said to the others, ‘We are discovered. Run!’ Then he charged at us.”
Paul chuckled. “Since I was the first to go down, I do not remember exactly what happened. I was later informed our attacker knocked out five of us before he was arrested. The strange thing was that he stopped fighting once the other disciples had escaped. After his arrest, we learned the man’s name was Jehu. He had been a notorious assassin before becoming a disciple of the Messiah.”
“What happened to the man?” asked Luke.
Paul made a chopping motion across his neck. “There was no trial,” he added. “Jehu reminded me of Stephen. Neither was afraid to die. Jehu’s execution made quite an impression.”
“Besides the one he had already made upon your face, I suppose.”
Paul smiled gingerly. “My jaw hurt for weeks. Since then, I think of Jehu every time my teeth ache. You know, there is one thing I shall never forget about him.”
“What about them?”
“They were the calmest and kindest I have ever seen.”
I enjoy telling a story from multiple perspectives. The Infinity Manuscript, a novella I posted as a serial on this blog, delivered each chapter from a different character’s point of view. As a writer, I like bouncing from one character to another as I tell a story. (I really hope it doesn’t annoy my readers.) This story is another victim of my favorite narrative trick, and it’s been fun for me to describe Jehu’s journey through the eyes of six different characters.
This story is also a victim of rushed rewrites and revisions. I’d like to expand, fix and polish it someday. Maybe next Christmas.
I like to imagine solemn historical figures having a lighter side. We don’t really get to see Luke, Paul or anyone in the New Testament being anything but serious. (Paul occasionally betrays a hint of humor, but not often.) I wonder what kind of things made men like Luke and Paul laugh. I mean, P.G. Wodehouse wasn’t born until 1881. What was funny before Wodehouse?
Thanks for reading!