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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Valley (08/10/06)

TITLE: The Dirt-Dweller's Story
By Jan Ackerson


My name is Nathan. Not long ago, I was Nathan the Leper. Along with the other afflicted unfortunates of Galilee, I lived in the Valley of Lepers. I say lived, but it was a shadowy existence, wretched and cold.

Each morning, together with my tattered companions, I scrabbled up the sloping walls of our valley. We approached the village, darting into the refuge of a tree or a rock if a traveler should appear. No one shares the road with lepers.

Once near the village, we took our places as close as we dared to the other beggars—the blessed blind, the lucky lame—and began to call out for alms.

There is a hierarchy among beggars, and lepers occupy the lowest spot. Like scorpions, we are dirt-dwellers. Even Avram, that lame old man, did not hesitate to throw rocks at me. He would spit on me if he dared, but he was afraid of becoming unclean as well as lame. We glowered at each other from opposite sides of the gate.

At sundown, we lepers returned to the valley to partake of our daily meal. Emptying our clothing of the scraps tossed at us by reluctant alms-givers, we created a watery stew. A wilted leek, a fish head, a crust of bread—oh, there was a veritable feast in the Valley of Lepers each night. How I cursed the God of my ancestors with each miserable morsel!

One morning we emerged as usual from the rocky archway that formed the entrance to our valley. There were ten of us that day; Reuben and Elam had remained curled on the ground, twitching in uneasy sleep. I was hoping to benefit from their sloth by claiming Reuben’s spot under a shady sycamore.

We had almost reached the village when a small company of men emerged from a copse ahead of us. Their voices carried in the morning air; one of the men was called master. I had not much use for holy men—their aim with rocks was better than Avram’s—but the rumbling in my stomach compelled me to call out in my most pitiable voice. “Master! Have mercy on us!”

I was expecting nothing but scorn and disgust.

I was hoping for a coin or a morsel of food.

I was given my life.

The master turned to look at me, though a few of his companions urged him toward the village. He spoke. His words were for us all, but they penetrated the scabbed and thickened layers of my skin, into my very soul.

“Go. Show yourselves to the priests.”

We stumbled to the temple, ignoring the angry shouts of “Unclean!” that filled the air. I felt as if I walked in a column of light. When the stunned priests pronounced me clean, I had no thought but to get to the valley as quickly as possible, collect my meager belongings, and return to my parents’ home. How I longed for clean clothing and a tender touch!

As I gathered my tiny parcel and prepared to leave the valley, I noticed that Hiram the Samaritan had not returned with us. This did not surprise me; we dirt-dwellers had shown him no compassion, forcing him to sleep closest to the waste pit each night. Nevertheless, I was curious, and I interrupted Isaac, who was scurrying up the slope. “Where is Hiram?”

Isaac snorted. “That dog? He went to wag his tail at the master.”

Isaac’s words haunted me, even as I found comfort with my family. I could not stop thinking of that enveloping light, and the look in the master’s eyes. I decided to find him, to feel again the power that had revived my dead flesh. A few inquiries in the village, and I learned that the master’s name was Jesus. He had moved on, headed toward Jerusalem.

I have pursued him for days now, following the rumors of healings that linger in every village. I get closer every day, and by walking steadily tomorrow, I believe I will finally reach Jerusalem. He is there—I feel it.

But tonight, I will camp some distance from the city. There is great commotion on the road; apparently there is to be an execution of some petty criminals. I have seen enough cruelty in my lifetime—I have no desire to join the crowds who will witness this spectacle.

Just one more day—then I will find Jesus, and thank him for my life.


Luke 17:11-15

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This article has been read 1731 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 08/17/06
Great "what if …" extension of the story of the 10 lepers.
Teri Wilson08/18/06
Fabulous ending.
Jen Davis08/18/06
Wonderful storytelling and great writing. A very realistic extention to the Biblical account. I especially enjoyed the way you ended your story. You gave the reader just enough. We know the rest of the story. Great title too!
Helen Paynter08/19/06
Great. Really well told, and I loved the twist at the end.
Evan Peck08/21/06
I really enjoyed this. The first half was wonderfully descriptive. I love writers who can capture a subtlety of the scene in their work.
Marty Wellington 08/21/06
Wonderful tale of the leper; really brought the Biblical account to life and made it personal for the reader. I also enjoyed the tie in to the crucifixion--masterful, as usual!
Ruth Neilson08/21/06
if only the leper knew that the man he was looking for was found on one of those crosses...

Beautifully done! Loved reading it.
Lynda Lee Schab 08/22/06
Ah - the one who went back and said, "thank you!" I always wondered about him! :-) My favorite three lines:

"I was expecting nothing but scorn and disgust.

I was hoping for a coin or a morsel of food.

I was given my life."

Awesome, powerful writing.
Joanne Sher 08/22/06
No question why this is in masters - Jan, this is stunning and so descriptive and a wonderful, wonderful message! This is completely tactile in its description - the detail is wonderful and so vivid!
Corinne Smelker 08/22/06
I learnt something interesting in Bible Study with this story. If you look at the original Greek, the one who returned to thank Jesus actually received a different healing from the others.

Lepers begin to lose digits and extremities, and the 9 were healed from leprosy itself, the disease left them. But the Samaritan was not only healed from the disease, but his body was also fully restored as though he had never had the disease! When I first heard that I had to check it out, but the Greek in the Strongs and Zodhiates confirms that.

Great story telling!
Venice Kichura08/22/06
Excellent!! I'm sure this will score high!
Jan Ackerson 08/23/06
Beth Muehlhausen08/23/06
Awesome! I, too, like this part...

I was expecting nothing but scorn and disgust.

I was hoping for a coin or a morsel of food.

I was given my life.

....especially b/c of the strong verbs. Expecting, hoping...but was given. We're all there, expecting and hoping either from a worldly point of view or a supernatural one. And yet, the bold commentary is that GOD GIVES us LIFE!!

Goooooood stuff!
Shari Armstrong 08/23/06
Very well done, I wasn't sure if he'd be the one who went back or not, till I got there :) Timeing is everything...
Kim Sandstrom08/30/06
Iloved reading other's comments almost as much as I enjoyed reading your story. Your vision and interpretation are layered and accessible. Perfect!