Mama was silent for a moment. But she was a mama. As soon as the truth was out, she instinctively began to
protect her daughter. “I had thought better of Joseph,” she muttered.
Mama might be a mama, but Mary was in love. “No, Mama, it wasn’t Jo—” she blurted and covered her mouth.
It was too late. “MARY!” Mama wailed. “You’re having somebody else’s baby?”
“Mary, I love you. Loved you. Since our parents sealed their agreement, I have lived for the day you would be my
wife. And now you’re pregnant, but not by me, and you expect me to believe that…that story? Do you really think
I’m that stupid?”
“But it’s true!”
“Enough!” he yelled. “Your lying about it is the worst. I could maybe love you even if you carried another man’s
child, but to live with such a liar would be impossible!”
Two days later, four travelers entered Nazareth from the hill road. One, sporting a crusty mustache and beard,
looked fixedly ahead. He led the second, whose long ears twitched away flies. The third rode atop the second,
and the fourth rode inside the third. Probably only the fourth one was comfortable.
It was a cross, from which hung a stinking, rotten body. Large, black, baldheaded birds sat on the crosspiece.
More wandered on the ground below, checking for scraps their compatriots might have dropped. Flies clouded
the scene like a buzzing shadow. Above the victim’s head was nailed a placard written in Latin, Greek, and
Aramaic: HIGHWAY ROBBER.
“And what shall he be called?”
“Yeshua,” replied Joseph.
“A fine name. Is it a family name?”
“His father chose it before he was conceived,” Mary answered.
“Then it is good you had a son.”
Herod was a family man. Two of his wives were also his nieces. He held matrimony in such high regard that he
had married ten times.
“The moon won’t be up for several more hours.”
“That’s odd. It’s awfully bright.” She looked out the window and froze. “Joseph, come here!” Alarmed by her
surprise, he joined her immediately.
A white glow cast stark shadows away from the house. Copper bells jangled in the street. Something was moving.
Something big. Several somethings. Horses, camels, and their drivers, to be exact.
The snake did not have terribly good eyesight but could see light and movement well enough. It could also sense
warmth. That was how it hunted. Warm things came in two sizes: swallowing size and danger size.
The sun was hot. Hardly anything grew to their left, and the salty water to their right was undrinkable. Small wadis
crossed their path every so often, promising water but lying every time. Late in the afternoon, a dark line
appeared ahead and to the right, between the flat glare of the sky and the sparkling glare of the sea.
“A rumor is afoot that something was smuggled out of Bethlehem a little over a week ago. Something like myrrh
and gold. And a baby. It is not a rumor that we would like Herod to hear.”
One moon waxed and waned over Jewish and pagan lands alike. Every full moon marked another month of
Yeshua’s asylum. He took his first steps on Egyptian soil. His first words were spoken in a foreign land, but not in
a foreign tongue.
Jews and Egyptians speak different languages. Chickens do not. Poultry had never dared to build a tower to
The Roman garrison was gutted and ransacked. A body clad only in a Legionnaire’s kilt lay in the street. His
armor, weapons, and head were all missing.
Two men on horseback blocked Joseph and Mary. One held a Roman sword that had probably been owned by
the former owner of one of the horses. “What’s in the saddlebags?” he growled.
“Most everything we have.”
The bandit was unsympathetic. “Most everything you had, you mean. Hand it over, and make it quick!”
Joseph removed the pannier from the donkey and started to lay it across the horse behind the rider.
“Not there,” the thief commanded. “In front. I want to see what I’ve earned.” Then he ogled Mary. “But you do
have something else that can ride behind me.”
“That you cannot have.” Joseph gripped the haft of his knife. The bandit raised his sword, which was by far the
Mary groaned. “I can’t understand you two, behaving like little heathens! Why can’t you be like—” She swiveled
her head. “Where is Yeshua?”
(All snippets (c) 2010 by Don Bemis)
Outside the Temple, people were getting restless.
Incense usually didn’t take that long to offer. The
priest already should have pronounced the
blessing, but he was still inside.
“Do you suppose he died?” some asked.
“He looked pretty old,” others agreed.
Finally small bells could be heard again. The
draperies moved. The priest apparently had not
died. If the volume of the jangling meant anything,
he was indeed more vigorous than most. Dwarfed
by the great doorway, he tottered out, his eyes
wide with shock, and his body trembling violently.
His mouth hung open above a quivering beard.
A murmur arose from the front of the crowd.
Zechariah raised his shaking hand and they
quieted. He opened his mouth.