Sunday, January 22, 2012

Faith Works 1-28

Faith Works 1-28-12

Jeff Gill


The prodigal wakes up from his nightmare




It was as if he was reviewing his life to date.


He saw his angry encounter with his older brother, who had tried to point out what wasn't working in how he operated the oil press, then suggested they trade places between the olive trees supervising the pickers, and tending the bottles under the spout of the press.


Kicking over one of the precious amphorae, he stormed into his father's counting room, demanding his share of the inevitable inheritance immediately. He saw his face as if from without, watching himself carefully not look startled when father consented – the thought was just to press the old man into enough money for a long weekend in town, away from big brother.


As if from above, he saw his journey out of the home province, and past the crossroads to the market town the other, unfamiliar direction to the larger city farther away. There he met the denizens of the nightlife, the old familiar crowd of fast dealers, slow waiters, and languorous women. His moneypouch steadily emptied, the nights rolled by in anonymous procession, the days passed without his waking to see them until sunset served as his wakeup call.


Then he found himself in a chance conversation at a taverna, where the flute and tambour were not so loud as to make talk an effort. It seemed one of his drinking companions had recently inherited an olive grove, and he had no idea what to do with it.


After a few off-handed suggestions, his new friend asked if they could ride out together tomorrow (at dawn!) and review this new plan. The evening ended uncharacteristically early, and the landlord looked oddly at him as he saluted heading in to bed not long after dark.


The next day, the situation was as clear to him as it was a total confusion to the heir, and after a few adjustments to the mill, some words with the field overseer, the heir made an appealing offer for him to manage the property. They shook on it, and a new life began.


Success breeds success, and soon there were other well-to-do property owners who asked for his counsel, and paid in imperial coinage for the privilege. By the time another growing season had passed, the rented upper room was left and the young man moved into a small, unused villa of one of his clients a short canter from the city gates. Downstairs, a pair of scribes kept track of the contracts he negotiated, and copied out the letters of instruction to ever more far-flung estates where overseers wrote at their master's command to get direction from him on making the most of their land.


The nights were shorter, he saw more of the day, but there was plenty of time to party, and each week a different woman was escorted out to the villa with few expectations. One particular girl, whose smile and conversation amused him, stayed for three weeks, but that was as long as he let those relationships (if that would be the word) linger.


Gold in a storeroom piled up before his eyes, days flickered past as if by magic, faces of the women and the scribes and clients changed – and then he turned, and looked in a mirror, and saw himself aged, grey-haired, wrinkled. And he saw his father's face, but hard and bitter.


Then he awoke.


Scrambling out of bed, he walked quickly into the wide front room of the homestead. The housekeeper smiled up at him from the fireside, and asked "would you draw me one more pail of water?" As if this part was the dream, he slipped on his sandals, and went into the courtyard, leaned over the coping of the well, and heaved at the thick rope.


When the bucket came into his hands, he grasped it firmly with both, and looked at the surface of the water. His youthful visage stared bemusedly back at him.


Carrying it back into the house, he almost ran into his older brother at the door. "Hey, you saved me a trip, thank you." Then, more softly, "Are you alright? You look a little queasy." Answering quietly, "No, I'm fine," he continues inside to set the water near the fire, and then on into the counting room.


There, his father was already at work on the accounts, getting a head start before breakfast. "Good morning son, does the dawn find you well?"


And he answers "Yes; but Father, I had the most horrible dream."


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and supply preacher around central Ohio; tell him your story at or follow Knapsack @Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment