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The Thief's Sister
by Julie Michaelson
03/28/13
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Some of the guards
went into the city
and told the chief priests
all that had taken place.
And when they had assembled
with the elders
and taken counsel,
they gave a sum of money
to the soldiers and said,
'Tell people: "His disciples
came by night and stole
him away while we
were asleep.".............
...so they took the money
and did as they were directed.
[Matthew 28:11-15]
************************
Place: Jerusalem.
Time: The Week following
The Resurrection.
Characters: Abaccus, a Roman guard;
and Aliccia, the sister of the Thief
on the Cross.
____________________
Abaccus stood at the wooden
door of the small, thatched-roof
house. The scent of fresh cow manure filled
his nostrils. Through some very discreet inquiries,
Abaccus had discovered the whereabouts of
this particular house, and more
importantly, its occupant. He was
a bit nervous: dressed in street
clothes, and not the Roman guard
uniform that he usually wore; Abaccus
wished to appear as a friend,
and not as a frightening enemy.
In his cloak pocket was the cloth
bag of coins which the Jewish elders had given him, just yesterday.

Abaccus took a deep, nervous
breath, and knocked. He waited.

Slowly, the small, cracked wooden
door creaked open. A lovely young
face appeared in the narrow opening.
"Yes?"
The voice belonged to a girl, no
more than seventeen, but one
whom had already seen a great
amount of pain, suffering, and
tragedy: too much for such a beautiful young girl.

"Hello."
Abaccus nodded politely, and
quietly: clearing his dry throat,
and grasping the left side of his
cloak where the cloth bag of coins
lay. He drew another deep breath
and spoke.
"My name is Abaccus......and....
and, I wish to give you my sympathies.....eh, with regard to
your older brother's......eh....recent
death."
Abaccus nodded once more: lowering his head in respect.

Immediately, the lovely young
face disappeared from the opening
in the doorway, and
the crack in the
open door drew to a close.

All was quiet. The tiny house
was at the end of a dirty, narrow
street that backed up against the
edge of a farmer's manure pile
for his cow pasture. Very little
grew in the yard, except for a
few straggly plants, and weeds.
Flies buzzed about everywhere.
No birds even hopped about,
or chirped. The sky above was
gray, and full of dark clouds; the
morning air was chilly and damp.

Abaccus sighed deeply, and
pounded a fist on his handsome, broad forehead. He
whispered to himself.
"What a FOOL you are, Abaccus!
You change your clothes.....but,
your countenance and name are
still very ROMAN! You IDIOT!"
He closed his eyes, and gritted
his teeth. What should he do....
NOW? Suddenly he withdrew
the bag of coins, and looked about
the barren, very neglected yard.
Then spying a rock, Abaccus walked
over and picked it up: removing his
cloak. Hurriedly, he tied the bag
to the rock, and then wrapped his
garment around it: making it appear
as a small bundle of food, perhaps,
or household goods. A present
of sympathy for the lonely,
grieving peasant girl of the small house. Then he stepped to the wooden door again, and rapped lightly on the splintery, old boards. Without waiting for anyone
to answer, Abaccus leaned over
and gently placed the brown bundle
at the bottom of the old splintery
door.

Then, he left.

But the next day, he was back.
This time, Abaccus had brought
a basket of fruit and bread loaves,
from the market. He had covered it
with a fresh clean cloth, to keep
the buzzing flies away from its
contents, and again placed it at
the bottom of the rotting wood
door. Before stepping away,
he gave another gentle rap-rapping
at the door.......and, left.

And, the next day......
and, the next.
And, the next.
A month passed.

Still, the door never opened
and the young face would not
appear. But the following day,
Abaccus saw that the basket of
fruit, or breads, or meats, or
blankets....was gone. And his
heart would lighten.

One day, Abaccus showed up
in work clothes; he led a donkey
toting a small cart of gardening
supplies. As usual he walked
over to the wooden door of the
cottage, and placed a basket of
fruit and bread loaves on the
edge of the bare path, that
winded its way up to the old
stone house. This time, however,
he didn't leave, but set about
his gardening tasks: pruning the weeds, and
straggly shrubs, and planting seed
in the tiny garden beside the house.
He was aware of the creaking
sounds of the door opening at the
cottage, but didn't even turn his
head; he went right on working.....
long into the day, till the sun began
to set. Then......he carefully set
the gardening implements by the
door, in a sturdy wooden box, and
left: walking back to the city
with his donkey and cart, in tow.

Six months went by.

Each day, before his guard work,
and long before the sun came up,
Abaccus would ride his horse
to the edge of the city, leave it
to an attendant, and then walk
quietly to the little house on the
outskirts of town.......where, he
would leave a new basket or bundle,
of food, and gardening supplies.
Then, just as quietly as his very
first visit, Abaccus would gently
rap on the old wooden door, and
without waiting for a response....,
leave.

One early morning, on a day of leave from guard duty
at his station, Abaccus brought his donkey and
cart to the yard of the small house: ready
to do another full day of gardening
and planting. As was his custom,
he first walked over to the splintery
little wooden door, and set a covered
basket full of fresh fruit, nuts, loaves of bread
and a cooked fish, on the doorstep. He didn't knock
this time, but as he moved away,
the door opened.

The door opened all the way this
time, and the young woman stepped
outside. She hesitantly reached
for the handle of the large basket,
and then stood quietly by in the
open doorway.

"Good morning, m'am."
Abaccus kept his distance beside
his cart. He nodded respectfully:
keeping one hand on his donkey's
rein.

"Morning, sir."
The girl lifted the basket and hugged it close to her slim body.
She nodded: keeping her eyes
downcast.
"Thank you......for the food, sir....
Abaccus, it is?"
The girl wore a large old apron
over her dark dress, and was wearing
a ragged headscarf.

But her face was incredibly lovely,
her eyes large and wide,
and her hair was thick, and dark,
and shining.

She belonged in the court of a
king's palace: not in the front yard
of this decrepid old house, on the
edge of a farmer's cow manure patch.

"Yes."
Abaccus kept his face somber.
He didn't move: afraid that the girl
would run back into her little
house again, and shut the door.
"Yes, m'am."

The girl nodded, and whispered;
a tear slid down her right cheek.
"You.......knew......my..... BROTHER?"

Abaccus shook his head; being
a Roman, he was clean-shaven,
and had no beard. He had a square
jaw, and high strong cheekbones.
".....Not really, m'am."
Abaccus paused, and then spoke.
"I am a GUARD........the month
before last.....I was working at the
PRISON......I....saw you.....the last
time you....visited....your brother....
before......."

The girl lifted her head; her scarf
blew in the morning breeze, and strands of lovely hair blew across her large, glistening eyes. Two
tears slid slowly down her heart-
shaped face.
"....his........crucifixion?"

Abaccus breathed deeply,
and pursed his lips: grimacing.
"Yes, m'am.
Yes, m'am."

The girl closed her eyes. She
nodded: gripping the basket to
her dusty apron.
"I.....see.
I see....."
She lifted her eyes once more.
"Yes. I was there......to see him....
just before he was......condemned....
we only had each other.......there is
no other family......."

"Yes, m'am."
Abaccus nodded. He was a tall,
well-built man: taken as an orphaned
Roman boy into the Roman army, and
unaccustomed to any family, himself.
"I understand......"

"His name....... was Gereth."
The girl's face was now wet
with huge tears that dripped down
her lovely face.
"He took to.......stealing.......
after our parents died......
trying to keep a roof over me........"
The girl's soft voice broke off,
and she suddenly looked away:
her lower lip trembling.

"I understand."
Abaccus spoke softly, also.
He looked up toward the sky: the sun
had begun to come through the
thick morning clouds. The smell
of vegetables, and flowers were in the air: the
tiny garden, that Abaccus had planted,
was beginning to sprout.

The girl turned her big tearful
eyes back to Abaccus: her small
pointed chin lifted just slightly.
"I cannot keep the money which
you gave me, sir. I still have it
in my house.....please wait just
a moment, and I will go and get
it....."

"NO!"
Abaccus interrupted her.
"No! You must KEEP it! It isn't
MINE! I did not EARN it!
It is from those...........priests....
and elders!"

"What?"
The girl moved out of the shadow
of her doorway; her face was even
lovelier in the morning sunshine. Her
soft voice became genuinely curious.
"I.....I don't....understand?"

"Please......."
Abaccus stepped forward. He
held out one hand, placatingly.
"Allow me.....to.... explain."

The girl frowned much too seriously
for the years of her youth, and then
nodded slowly. She set the basket
on the ground, and then sat down on the low, crumbling stone wall that lined the edge of her house. She
sighed, and whispered: clasping her
small hands in her lap.
"I am listening."

Abaccus breathed deeply as if
he had been holding his breath
for a long, long time. He looked about:
there was no other place
to sit, so he sat down on the hard,
cold ground. He paused a moment
before speaking.
"As I said, I am a guard.......a
Roman guard. Yes, I have worked
at the prison....but, I take my station
at the governor's office when I
am needed."
Abaccus sighed deeply; he was
hungry, and longed to ask the girl
for a piece of fruit from the basket
that he had brought, but he was
afraid that she might shut her door
again him.....if he became too familiar.
"I was......at the governor's office...
after.....the crucifixions, that day.
Several of the Jewish.....elders...
came in to see the governor.....requesting for guards
at the tomb....of that.....MAN....
who had been crucified....along with
your...........brother."

"Ah."
The girl spoke up. She nodded:
grimacing and closing her eyes,
as if remembering a harsh, terrible
thought.
"Ah, yes.........that man....Jesus?"

Abaccus nodded.
"Yes.........HIM...
Well........I was one of the men
chosen to go along with the elders...
to go with them, and to stand guard
.......in front....of Jesus's tomb."
Abaccus paused for a moment;
the girl was not speaking, or getting
up to run back into her house: in fact, she seemed genuinely interested. He continued speaking.
"We were told to stand the guard
all through the night...and, the next..
so as to keep anyone from attempting to ......OPEN the tomb...
or....to...STEAL...the man's BODY..."
Abaccus allowed himself to give a
brief, ironic smile. He chuckled to
himself.
"I thought the idea was.....ABSURD...
of course.........but I am merely
a soldier. I only do what I am told..."
Abaccus shrugged. He continued.
"Well......it was during the last hours, of the second night. The men and I....
there were the four of us.......had just finished a bit of bread......two
of us were going to sleep for several
hours, while the others stood guard...."
Abaccus suddenly stopped speaking.
The girl had gotten up, uncovered
the basket, and rolled a piece of
fruit to him, across the grass and dirt.
He caught it, and murmured a 'thank-you'. Then he began polishing the fruit on his tunic, before continuing on.
"Suddenly the earth began to quake!"
Abaccus stopped to took a bite of the fruit.
He chewed for a moment, thoughtfully,
and then went on.
"It was an EARTHQUAKE! We all
fell to the ground! Holding our
arms over our heads! It was HORRIFIC!"

The girl was chewing on a piece of
fruit also, and just stared with
fascination: her tears had dried on her cheeks, and she brushed away a long strand of hair away from her face. She nodded with interest.

Abaccus continued.
"Suddenly there was a LIGHT!
A huge ....LIGHT! And this... was in
the middle of the NIGHT! And
all of us....SAW...it! And....it was
a MAN! A MAN! Like LIGHTENING, he was! Like a man...
and yet....NOT a man! All in WHITE....he was! We were TERRIFIED.....and not the one of
us are squeamish men....I ASSURE... you..."

The girl leaned forward; she seemed
interested in the story, and not in her
grief for a moment.....and, for that
Abaccus was glad. She stared,
and spoke up.
"And......THEN.....what HAPPENED?"

"Well........none of us really can REMEMBER."
Abaccus shrugged, and took another
bite of fruit.
"The next moment......it was broad
DAYLIGHT......several hours....into
the MORNING........and, the tomb
was now....OPENED! OPEN! Wide...
OPEN....the stone had just
tumbled away....a huge, MAMMOTH stone, it was....
and, inside the tomb was......"

"EMPTY?"
The girl seemed to speak up,
in spite of herself.
"Was it.....EMPTY?"
Then she got up, carrying another piece of fruit, and walked over to the donkey; she stood there, holding
the beast's velvety muzzle, and allowing it
to take huge bites out of the fruit.

Abaccus smiled. Then, he chuckled.
"YES! YES!
And, we were all....quite ASHAMED.........as you can IMAGINE! We had to....go...BACK..
to those priests.......and tell them...
that we weren't men enough to guard one dead man's TOMB.....for
the bit of TWO NIGHTS! And that......we must have....FAINTED...
at the sight of some strange...
VISION.....and, EARTHQUAKE!"

The girl's hair was blowing with the
morning's spring breeze; she didn't
know that she was a vision, herself.
"What did they DO.......
I mean.....the priests?"

Abaccus shook his head: even
months later, still bewildered, and
in awe.
"Instead of becoming ANGRY...with
us....they offered us.... MONEY!
MONEY.....to keep QUIET....about
the earthquake....and the strange
vision.....and, to tell everyone that
those disciples of HIS....of JESUS...
had crept over, during the NIGHT...
and stolen his BODY!"

"Oh........I SEE..........."
The girl continued patting the donkey's chestnut-dark mane.

Abaccus stared at the farmers' cows, away down the fields, next door. He shook his head, and murmured.
"It was a LIE.......I TELL you....and, all four of us....KNEW it..........a LIE."

The girl stood quietly by the donkey;
her dress was of cheap, old material,
but her skin was like fine porcelin.
"But.....what did the four of you...
BELIEVE?"

Abaccus looked up as if wakening
from a dream. He shrugged,
spoke firmly: his jaw gripping
tightly.
"That this Man....this JESUS....
really WAS...the Son of GOD.....
ALL of us.......BELIEIVED....
and, that was when I felt quite
ASHAMED........for taking the MONEY........"
Abaccus smiled sadly.
"And, that was when....I remembered
YOU.........and, suddenly I knew that
I had to give the money.....to YOU..
I felt that....He....wanted me to give
it.....to you....."

The girl's lovely head tilted slightly,
in great puzzlment.
"Who?"

Abaccus smiled with great happiness.
"Jesus."

A moment of silence passed between
them.

Suddenly, the girl reached out her
small hand. Very shyly, she whispered: her long, lovely hair
blowing in the newly-awakened spring breeze.
"My name...... is........Aliccia."

Abaccus stood up. He smiled.
He was in love.

And,
he took
her
hand.

The End.
**********************
And behold,
there was
a great
earthquake,
for
an angel
of
the Lord
descended
from heaven
and came,
and rolled back
the stone,
and sat upon it.
His appearance was
like lightning,
and his raiment
white as snow.
And for
fear of him,
the guards trembled
and became
like
dead men.
[Matthew 28:2-4]

Copyright 2013.
_____________________


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