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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Fearful (08/23/07)

TITLE: If He Comes
By Sherry Wendling


Miryam would never think to look for her here. She must be alone; she must think. Elisheva sank onto a stone bench, her chest pounding. Baruch HaShem…Will the horror never end? In the night four more Israeli soldiers had been ambushed by snipers. Three dead; one critical. She’d eaten nothing all morning.

Perhaps this tourist spot, with its peaceful palms and flowering shrubs, banked along a gurgling stream—perhaps this place would be safe. The kind tour host of the third group had even contributed three shekalim to make up her entrance fee.

Safe…She clutched at her middle. In the beginning the fear had been nothing but small rats, clawing at her belly from time to time. But now…

Ari. Oh Ari… How quickly he’d grown, that kinky-headed baby brother with mischief in his eyes! Papa had spared nothing in celebrating his bar mitzvah, only two years before he...

Elisheva squeezed her eyes shut against the memory. It would forever be with her. The bustle of the souk inside Jaffa Gate…The fat grapefruit, held up for inspection…The sudden, thumping blast that rocked the earth from blocks away…Her panicked feet, carrying her screaming behind the sirens, frantic to locate her brother in the fleeing crowd…Smoke everywhere, the piteous wails of the wounded and shocked. Strong fingers had dug into her frozen shoulders, jerking her away from the horror in the gutter.

It was a left arm—no body attached. Dark, curling hairs sprouted just above the wrist. What had been an elbow was now a rag of raw flesh, ringed by the tattered, blood-soaked roll of a sleeve, a white sleeve. On the second finger, engraved with the letter chai, rested a handcrafted, gold ring. Ari’s bar mitzvah ring.

Intifada, holy war, shrieked Hamas, and the killings escalated. In the trembling months to follow, Papa slipped away to Abraham’s bosom, his heart shattered with grief. Old Devorah next door couldn’t even hang out Bibi’s tallit to dry without fear of attack. The small rats in Elisheva’s gut had multiplied into an army of ravenous rodents, their long tails snaking around her lungs, squeezing out the clear Jerusalem air that its citizens barely dared to breathe. She wondered how Miryam could remain so calm.

This morning, at last, she’d found out. “What??” she spat. “Congregation Melech Shalom!” Traitors! “Sister, what have you done?”

Miryam’s tender gaze made her squirm. “You know he is coming. At the right time, he will be here. And then, dear Elisheva…What if I am right?” One might almost think she, Elisheva, was the little sister.

“I am upsetting you,” the girl breathed. “I will leave. But ask yourself this: Isaiah fifty-three—why is it never read in the synagogue?” The door closed behind her with a soft scrape, leaving Elisheva alone with her nightmares. If he comes…

That was the mightiest dread of all.

The third tour group approached, and Elisheva rose from the stone bench to better observe her kind American. He led his flock toward a small, rectangular opening in the rocky hillside. All chatter hushed. One by one, they ducked into the old tomb, then out again. A few wiped away tears as they emerged. She frowned. Had Miryam been here, too?

Finally, the group moved on, settling in a grotto with flat-rock seats. Their song drifted toward her on the afternoon breeze. Then the leader’s voice: “As a sheep before its shearer is dumb, so opened he not his mouth…”

Isaiah fifty-three. Elisheva knew it better than her sister could have guessed. All right, then. I will see for myself.

The inside was bare. She crouched by the stone burial slab, her slender fingers exploring the headrest. Over the years, thousands of adoring hands had rubbed the stone smooth. Christian hands. A strange trembling gripped her knees, her shoulders, her jaw.

HaShem Adonai! What if…? She drew a sharp breath and made herself say it. Out loud. “What if he comes, and he is You?” She rose to her feet, hands clenched. “What if he—if You—turn out to be…” Her ears pounded.


Afternoon light shafted through the narrow entrance, drawing her face upward into the sun. Elisheva closed her eyes, wet trails tracing her cheeks. The next breath pulled itself from her deeps, stretching her ribcage until her small shoulders squared. The army of rats scattered to the four winds.


Miryam! She must find Miryam.

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This article has been read 1241 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Lynda Schultz 08/31/07
Verna Cole Mitchell 08/31/07
This wonderful story touched me in the deepest part of my heart. What a gifted writer you are.
Dianne Janak08/31/07
Thank you for writing this. It was gripping at the core, and unforgettable. If this does not meet teh criteria of fearful, I don't know what does.
Sharlyn Guthrie09/01/07
Excellent! I especially like the metaphor of the rats, and the way they scatter when His name is spoken in faith. Powerful!
Joanne Sher 09/02/07
Amazingly powerful. I loved seeing bits of my Jewish past throughout this piece. Very realistic and authentic. Sent shivers up my spine.
Dee Yoder 09/02/07
Wow, this is vivid and descriptive. You captured the varied views of modern Israel, and the conflict of the MC and her search for truth.
Jan Ackerson 09/03/07
This is wonderful! The paragraph beginning with intifada just took my breath away. Gorgeous, gorgeous writing.
Edy T Johnson 09/06/07
Oh Sherry! What powerful writing. How did you do it, getting so much story under the word limit? I haven't read this week's EC stories, yet, but I cannot imagine anything better than this. You manage to string your words so exquisitely, like matched pearls. I love how visual it becomes for the reader. I hope we'll be seeing more of you, friend. (And thanks so much for your comment on my "confused" entry. I really appreciated it.)
Janice Cartwright09/08/07
I hardly know how to begin - no comment can do justice to this amazing work of art, bold strokes in vivid colors, intricate detail and delicate dabs in other places, it fairly rings with the pathos of the Jewish plight and their veil soon to be lifted. I wish I could display this in my home somehow. Wow!
Loren T. Lowery09/14/07
Written with a reporter's eye and a tender, Christian's heart. Such realism is often hard to read and more often ignored, making talent such as yours even more necessary. Wonderful job.