Monday, August 07, 2006

Upon the Breech of My Long Silence

I had little Foolishness to offer.

The long and the short of it is that. We returned from a wonderful vacation in the Catskills. Israel had already begun its war against Hezbollah. The world continued to move. I did not want to keep up. Couldn't really.

You see, two things have happened, lately.

The first is the recovery from this past year. We worked harder than ever at the school this year. I felt sore from the effort--much of it in vain, nevertheless. I felt raw from my misplaced entry into chapter politics. Most of all, I felt dead tired. It was time for time off.

Second, I'm writing up a storm. You see, I'm haunted by a story. Can you keep a secret? I think this is a big one. So I grasping it anecdote by anecdote. It's important, it's compelling.

It takes a lot of time and attention.

Want a taste?

Do I have to remind you that the following excerpts(s) are copyrighted 2006? I didn't think so! Of course, if you want to share snippets of excerpts, feel free, as long as you attribute it. But why am I telling you? You're all experienced! You know the deal!

Try it, you'll like it!
“Move your feet!”

I struggled to do so—too late. Shammah stepped in and pressed his blade against my own with all his weight. I collapsed like a drunken Ishmaelite. He shifted his grip on the hilt of his blade and brought it down to my exposed gut. Had I truly been in battle, I would have fed the crows.

He offered me his hand, along with a bemused look. Glaring at him for the one, I took the other and stood up.

“Blade work is about balanced, David. You can’t just lunge and slash. Keep your feet under you when you thrust.”

“You have at least fifteen pounds on me, brother,” I protested.

“So will many other warriors. That won’t stop them from killing you,” He replied.

We assumed our opening stance. He motioned me toward him with a fast jerk of his chin. I took a quick breath and stepped in. He parried in stance, then stepped back to block my follow-up. I stepped with him.

“Good!” He said.

Then he pressed into me again. This time, I stepped back as he brought his weight forward. Parrying his overhead slash, I kept my feet moving as he had instructed. Then Shammah came at me faster. I back-pedaled, caught on the defensive.

“Don’t cede the initiative! Reposition and strike!” my brother commanded.

I angled to my right and then made my move. As he thrust toward where I had been, I easily parried his blade away, opening his center. I spun on my foot and then trust.

Shammah wasn’t there.

I fell into the gnawed grass. His blade pressed into my back.

“What was that?” he asked me.

“Taking back the initiative,” I answered.

“Yes, so that the worms will have a worm meal.”

“I had you.”

“Yes, you did. Then you twirled like a Canaanite dancer. I could have skewered you right there.”

“So what should I have done?” I asked, feeling the first tremble of rage boil up from my gut.

“Don’t overcommit to the parry when you change position. Just move the trust off center. Then strike through. Don’t waste time with stunts like that!”

I flung my blade across the pasture. The nearest sheep shied away, wary of my temper.

“I guess that ends today’s lesson,” Shammah said.

“I’ll never serve the Anointed if I can’t fight!”

“You’ll never fight for the Anointed with an attitude like that!” Shammah responded.

“Easy words, coming from you, brother,” I snapped, “You, Abinadab and Eliab have already served in the Anointed’s army these past two years. Meanwhile, look where I am!”

“Yes, let’s look where you are, little brother,” Shammah said. His voice softened, but a darkness had crossed his piercing eyes. While my eldest brother Eliab had an explosive temper, Shammah was slow to anger. When he did, he would not shout as Eliab did. Instead, he spoke lower and softer.

I preferred my eldest brother’s outburst.

“Our father entrusts you with the prize of our family’s wealth,” Shammah continued, “Our family enjoys the prestige that his hard work has earned. You safeguard the fruit of his labors. Think on that before you squander it over some misplaced lust for blood-drenched fields.”

He stared long and hard at me. I shriveled beneath his quiet anger. I looked away.

“But I want to fight with you and our brothers! I want to serve all Israel, too!”

Shammah’s eyes softened. “There are many ways to serve our people, David. Shepherding is honorable work. Does not El Adonai shepherd his own people?”

“When he’s not winning glory for himself on the battlefield,” I answered.

My brother laughed. “A shepherd with a warrior’s heart: that’s my little brother, alright!”

He tussled my hair. Just then, the wind shifted. The terrifying odor bathed me like a sudden winter shower. Birds scattered from nearby trees. The sheep bleated in distress, and they scurried.

Too late. An old lion bounded from nearby overgrowth. He pounced on the nearest of my father’s sheep; a lamb that had recently been weaned from his mother. The savy old predator did not kill the lamb, for he had already seen my brother and I. Instead, he took the stunned lamb and dragged it back toward the brush from which he’d come.

I sprinted toward the beast. My sling at the ready, I closed within fifty paces—the closest I dared, even to a beast so old. My left hand pulled a smooth stone from my pouch. I set the sling, and then whirled it twice over my head, snapping it at the end of the last cycle, as a Benjaminite had taught me. The stone flew true, and struck the beast home in the crown of his head, between the eyes. The startled beast dropped the lamb as I loaded another stone. My brother raced toward my left. He shouted at the old lion, drawing it’s anger toward him. The beast took the bait; he charged my brother. Shamah raised his blade and dropped into a stance. He did not need to tell me what to do next.

If I missed, the lion would pounce on Shamah and tear him apart, sword through his heart and all. If I struck true, the beast would fall on my brother’s blade stunned, and the sword would finish him.

My second shot did not miss.

Only the lion did not fall on Shamah.

He whirled on me, instead. I had no time to set another stone. Dropping my sling, I drew the bronze dagger that every shepherd in Israel carried. He pounced on me just as I raised it toward his throat. I had thrown myself back to escape the full onslaught of the beast’s weight. My breath fled as his paws crushed my chest. Even as I gasped beneath his massive bulk, I felt his warm blood gush over my hand and forearm. My dagger had opened his artery. He roared in protest. Shammah finished him with a deep thrust through his skull. With a strength born out of his fear for me, he shoved the dying lion off me with one shove.

“David!” He shouted.

I coughed and gasped again for air. My ribs cried out. Somehow, I took in a breath, then another. The burning in my chest soon dissipated. After several minutes, I could sit up. My ribs no longer protested.

“By El, little brother, I should whip the skin off you, myself, and spare our father the trouble,” Shammah shouted.

“The lamb,” I whispered between coughs. Only by El’s grace could I even do that.

“A lion nearly kills you, and all you can think about is a stupid sheep?”

I made to crawl toward it. His hand gently pressed my sore shoulder. “I’ll see to it.”

As he made off, I lay down again. As I closed my eyes to the afternoon sun, I felt a warmth wash over me that I had never felt before. With it came the strangest sense of peace that I had ever experienced. Was I dying.

“Shepherd my people.”

The voice was little more than a whisper. I opened my eyes, and closed them against the sun’s glare. Shammah was too far away to have whispered. So who did?

What did it mean?

The warmth faded, like dew before the dawn. I felt strength slowly return. The ache of my ribs and sternum, while still excruciating, abated enough for me to sit up with greater confidence. I would soon be able to stand.

Shammah returned. He cradled the lamb across his shoulders. “Here’s your grateful prize, little brother.”

My brother knelt down to me, and then he placed the lamb on my lap. The grateful animal licked my face as I rubbed its neck.

“Your more trouble than your worth,” I muttered.

I looked at my brother. He looked at me as though I had grown six heads and a tail.


“You chaffe at shepherding Father’s flock, and then you risk your life to save one of them.”

“Didn’t you say they’re our family’s wealth?”

He laughed. “Little brother, when I said you were a shepherd with a warrior’s heart, I didn’t know how right I was!”

I tried to stand up. My ribs screamed, and my legs betrayed me.

“Easy, David,” Shammah said, as he rested me on the ground, once more. “I’ll get help. Try not to die or get eaten before I return.”

When he left, I thought again of that voice. While it sounded no more than a whisper, thought I could make out who it was. It sounded like my own, only it wasn’t.

What did it mean?
Well, what do you think?

There's more where this came from, I assure you. Much more.

For the time being, this story will be my principle pursuit. I'll check in here when I can and offer up some more samples for your enjoyment. Thanks for your patience. In the meantime, expect me when you see me!