Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Uncles/Aunts (04/17/08)
TITLE: A Terrorist in the Family
By Gregory Kane
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I don’t even know my uncle that well. He left our town before I was born. My mother was the youngest of seven and her early memories of him are sketchy. Her abiding impression is of a religious fanatic, ever anxious to prove himself holier than his neighbour. It didn’t take him long to dismiss the easy-going religion of our friends and neighbours. Late in life, my grandfather allied himself to the fundamentalist sect of the Perushim and my uncle was among his first converts.
Being such a famous man, stories abound of his adventures, but I’m never sure how many of the tales are apocryphal. They say he blinded a man on one of his trips and he lead a prison riot on another. What I do know is that he travelled to the Holy City to further his studies and that he gave himself heart and soul to the Perushim. My uncle is loath to tell exactly what happened in those years. They say that he aided in the arrest and execution of religious dissidents. Later on he spent time in Syria, followed by a period of further preparation in Arabia. At some point he underwent a mystical experience in the desert, leading to his swapping allegiance to yet another sect, this time the Naziyr faction.
I first met my uncle when he paid a short visit on his way to Greece, although I was too young to remember much more than a short, kindly man with a beaky nose. When he passed through some four years later, we were awash with exciting adventure stories, although by then I was too tall and far too shy to beg a seat on his knee. Then this year my mother announced that she would bring me on pilgrimage to the Holy City. I suspect that she would like me to study here in the future, but there is an excellent university in Egypt that interests me far more. Such matters are in the will of God.
Our visit to the Holy City coincided with the return of my uncle after an absence of several years. Although they brand him a terrorist I never saw him carrying any weapons. Instead he arrived laden with chests of gold and silver – gifts, he said, for the poor and needy. But controversy continued to dog him. I suspect that what it comes down to is simply jealousy. The holy men in the assembly were unable to best him in debate and they could not abide a ‘heretic’ having the last word. So they stirred up a mob and urged on the riff-raff to tear my uncle limb from limb. Indeed they would have done so, had not a platoon of Italian peace-keepers intervened.
I hear that the soldiers were all set to torture him in order to extract a confession. But there was some quibble over nationality and jurisdiction, so he was thrown instead into a stinking, flea-ridden cell. I think that he could easily have rotted there but the holy men of my people – I use that expression with all the contempt that it deserves – still wanted his head. Forty of them made a pact not to touch food or drink until my uncle had been slaughtered. On the following day, as he was being brought through the streets under armed guard, the assassins were to pounce and end his life.
It never happened. As soon as I heard, I went and told my uncle. He in turn sent me to speak with the colonel in charge of the garrison. I think the man was more worried about losing some of his men, but he arranged for my uncle to be transferred in the middle of the night to another facility. And he has remained there ever since.
I visit him from time to time. We talk about the Mashiah, whether this Jesus really was God’s chosen one. I’m as yet undecided but my uncle Paul is persuasive. And he is family. I still wouldn’t dream of climbing up on his knee, but it’s good to sit at his feet and listen to his stories. After all, he has nowhere else to go.
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