The familiar sound stopped me in my tracks. I knew the best thing was to stop now, right where I stood. What unseen danger was Mother protecting me from this time? I planned to stop anyway. I always feel something in the air when I know it's time to stop. Why can't Mother realize I can take care of myself? "Yes, Mother!"
"I simply want to know where you were going! You don't have to act like I don't think you can go where you want, I just want to know."
Who does she think she's fooling? She knows very well I am going to sit outside the shop with my basket and hope for a few shekels. What else can I do? The last time I tried to play with the other kids in the village, she had a fit. You would think I was a leper the way she acts. We were playing blind man's bluff, only I didn't need a blind fold. We thought it was great, but she came out yelling at them. I tried to tell her it was my idea, but she wouldn't listen. She never listens. When I ask her why I can't see, she says, "It is God's will. Only He can tell you." When I ask her "Why can't I learn to make pots like Father?" she says, "You can't see." When I ask her "Why can't I talk to the girls down the street?" she said, "Because." That's all, just "Because!" What am I supposed to do? Sit around all of my life wondering why God made it so all I can do is sit around all of my life wondering why.
"I'm going to sit in front of the shop and watch the pretty girls go by. What do you think?"
"Just be careful. I love you, Joshua."
"Yes, Mother, I love you too." I just wish you'd let me alone.
"Joshua." Micah's call rumbled up from what must have been the deepest voice in all Jerusalem. "Want to go down to the marketplace? You'll make more for the afternoon. I'm going down soon. You can come with me."
"Thanks Micah Bar Samuel. Mother wants me to be near the shop, just in case. I guess I'd better say here." Why didn't he say “Joshua, would you like to go to the temple with me. I am going to pray and study the law. You may come to study and listen, then someday you can celebrate your Bar Mitzvah.” Why didn't he say, "Come Joshua, we will sit in the marketplace and listen to the elders and the business and the talk."
"As you wish Joshua. I’ll talk to your father and maybe you can join me another day." The tall man bent down to carefully place a few coins in Joshua's basket and walked off.
"Joshua, hey Joshua! Come with me to the marketplace. Lazarus has a new donkey. It's supposed to be the biggest one in the city. Don't you want to come see it... I mean smell it ... ah...touch it ..."
"It's okay Eleazar, you..."
"I know; you've told me a hundred times, but I'm such a haystack. Come on; let's go before I say something really stupid. Here's my elbow; now let's go!"
"Mother, I'm going with Eleazar to the market. He is going to take me to see Lazarus' new mule. Bye Mother!" On his feet and down the street, Joshua pretended not hear his mother's voice.
"Joshua, you get back here this ...Joshua!"
She wasn’t really mad, just talking to herself. "Oh, why should he stay. He never gets a chance to do things with boys his own age. Jonathan is so funny about letting him act his age. I don't know why he won't let Joshua be a boy. Heaven knows he’ll never be a man like his father.
"Come on Joshua, your mother will catch up with us. Let's run."
"Right past the baker's and the carpenter's, let's walk. I love the smell of this place. The quiet aroma of the baker's shop curling around me like a morning mist and the carpenter's shop; his shop smells of wood and smoke and oils and men. They all jump out at me; each one trying to get my attention first."
"Let's go so I don't have to listen to you any more."
"We must be getting closer to the donkey seller's shop, I smell Lazarus now."
"Don't you mean the donkeys?"
"Donkeys are supposed to smell like that. No, I smell Lazarus first. Hey, why are you pulling me. I thought we were going to the donkey sellers, not the Pool. "
"It's nothing, just something in the way."
"You mean someone. I know Sari is here in the marketplace. You don't have try to protect her from me. What happened was a long time ago. She doesn't hate me or my father, so let's get back to the donkey stall."
"Sometimes I just don't know about you. For somebody who's blind you don't seem to care much about what you are supposed to do. I couldn't look a girl in the eye if our fathers had done that to us."
"If you could look her in the eyes, you wouldn't have to worry. Come on; the new donkey. Good day Sari."
"Good day Joshua Bar Jonathan. How did you... ? I will never understand how you know I'm here in the marketplace." Sari tugged at the rope in her hand. "Come on goat. He does that with everyone, but he knows it’s me half way across the market place. I wonder if he knows me better because we were supposed to be married soon. I know our fathers meant well, and I know that many children are promised at birth, and I know that if he weren't blind we would have our wedding feast in just a year or two, and I know that God in his infinite wisdom knows what he is doing, but it still hurts. I still want to know the joy of love, and children, and more children, and seeing them have children and watching my sons in the fields, and hearing them read from the holy book, and ...oh, why does it have to be this way." The goat simply bleated back as if to say, "Let's get going."
Further down the marketplace the boys crossed the door post of the donkey sellers. "Eleazar, is she pretty?"
"The new donkey is a jack."
"No, I mean Sari. Is she pretty?"
"Oh, I suppose you could say she was pleasing to look at."
"’Pleasing to look at sounds’ like somebody's sister, thanks."
"Lazarus, I brought Joshua to feel your new donkey. He really knows the feel of a good animal. He has eyes in his fingers."
"Good day boys, but I don't have time to talk with you today. The centurion wants to see this new donkey of mine. Says he wants the finest for a Roman officer. I'll be lucky to get half of my cost for him if the centurion wants him. They never pay me what my animals are worth, but what is a humble animal trader to do?"
"Thank you any way Lazarus, and may he hate your donkey and all your animals from now on."
"Thank you Joshua, and I hope that was a blessing; not a curse."
The rest of the day passed quietly for Joshua and Eleazar. They wandered from stall to stall, looking, smelling, touching, and tasting the rainbow of things in the market; finally, Joshua stopped in front of the temple for a while before evening prayers. He always did well that time of day. When Eleazar brought him home, the sun was dipping behind a cloud for the last time that day.
"Joshua, where in the name of Moses' beard have you been? I needed you to sit the shop today while I went out to dig more clay and you were nowhere to be found." Jonathan's voice had a hard edge to it. Good thing Joshua had done well in the marketplace.
"I went to market with Eleazar, Father, and then I stopped in front of the temple. Look, 15 shekels, 2 denarii, and a silver piece from Micah."
"I'm glad you did so well, but you still should have been here at the shop when I needed you. Get ready for dinner." Joshua crossed to the washbasin to clean the marketplace from his hands and face. "Joshua," his father continued as he crossed the room. "There is a new teacher in the area. I heard of him from your uncle over in Galilee. They say he does miracles."
"Haven't we gone through that often enough, Father. If El Shaddai himself were to be in Galilee, I might go, but I'm tired of chasing after smoke. That's all they ever are, smoke." Joshua quickly steered the conversation in a totally different direction. "Father, when are you going to start showing me how to throw pots on the wheel. I know I could do it. I can feel it in my hands. I know the rhythm of the wheel, and the shapes of the pots, and the feel of the cold smoothness of the clay as it dries, and ..."
"Joshua, there is more to being a potter than just throwing pots. You have to dig the clay and prepare it for use. You have to be able to see the colors of the clay to get a beautiful pot. People who have eyes want pots that look nice as well as hold water. I'm sorry son, but I can't get your hopes up about being a potter. Learn to be a good beggar, then you will be able to feed yourself when your mother and I die. Now finish washing for dinner. You are late, again."
"Yes, Father." You'd think once he would let me try, let me show him that I could do it. One of these days, I'll show him. I'll learn another trade and become rich and famous. I'll have servants just like the master potter of Jerusalem. I'll even have Sari for my wife. I'll be the first blind carpenter in all Israel, and then I'll fly around the sun and make my home on the moon. At least I'll be a good beggar and give money to Sari through the temple.
After dinner that night, Joshua went to bed with too much on his mind. All the sounds and smells and thoughts and dreams struggled to find a place of quiet in his mind to be ordered away for the night. Each one found no room for a quiet thought, no room amidst the sea of what would never be.
© 1998 Laughing Wind Production Company. All rights reserved.
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