The market in winter was brutal. With his left hand Hermes pulled the wool covering closer around his weathered and worn face as he shifted the basket of apples to his right hip. If only the wind would die down, but it's teeth were as the maw of the great white Polaris, hibernating in his lair up on the mountain top.
“Hermes, here!” called his mate of almost forty years, beckoning from one of the stalls which she had gone ahead to dicker and banter for.
The old man paused and regarded Becca tenderly: she who had born their four sons, had planted, reaped, and come to the market at his side for so many years.
Hermes recalled it clearly: that day so long ago in September dawned with a sunrise golden and honeyed. The daughter of one of the traders who came to barter with his father had hair that matched, and a face like a rose with dew on it.
Finding her at the water hole filling a skin, Hermes stood a little way away and watched awkwardly, wondering what to say.
Without even looking at him, she had spoken.
“My father may be open to discussing your thoughts.”
The Bedouin had indeed been open.
“Four camels I will take for the girl.” Worth so much more, he'd thought.
“I will cook for you, will bear your children, and be your help mate,” she'd whispered softly at the marriage feast.
Her eagle eyes, almost completely hidden under her cloak, spotted him standing.
“Hermes, did you here me?”
“You've done that and more, my love,” whispered Hermes as he jostled his basket through the crowd.
Josh, born with the spring lambs and their first, approached and took the basket from him.
“Father, rest. I will help in the stall.” His blue eyes, mirroring Becca's were dark with concern.
“It's...all right, son.” Hermes allowed him to take the basket and turned back to fetch the next one.
The next thing he knew he was sitting propped against a small tree. He reached to rub his left shoulder.
“That old thing's acting up again,” he murmured, thinking of the knife wound he'd taken one hot night some years ago when tempers flared at a meeting, and a man was there who had spoken strange things to them. His words hadn't occurred to him in some years.
“Who are you to bring such lies to our people?” The elder of the council had leapt to his feet, his face aflame with rage.
“I only bring to you what is truth.” The man dressed simply in a tunic spoke directly.
“Truth?” The elder spat. “What version of truth is this, but fantasy? To say that a man of the Jews has come to save us; this is heresy!”
“Sometimes truth sounds strange in ears that refuse to hear.”
“Kill him!” screamed the elder, brandishing his own staff to beat the man himself. The man sat watching him with an odd smile, strangely peaceful.
“That is not our way, learned one.” Hermes had jumped up, emboldened by something in the man's words and in his countenance.
“You will not speak out of turn, impudent one!” The knife came from the folds of someone's cloak.
Unaccountably, the man threw himself between Hermes and his attacker. The knife found its mark in Hermes's shoulder nonetheless. He'd rolled in pain to the floor, as the attack turned on his savior.
“Heed...my words...and live,” the man whispered, his blood pooling beneath him.
“Father!” Josh, looking for him, dropped to his knees at his father's side.
“Josh...must tell you...” he spoke as clearly as he could, but the words died before they were spoken.
“Father, I'll be right back.” the young man leaped to his feet and ran.
“But Josh, I need to tell you what the man said...” his lips moved feebly.
“Don't worry about that, Hermes.” the man who appeared at his side shone brighter than any noonday sun in summer. “My messengers are many. It's time for you to come home.”
Hermes rose, and there beside him of a sudden was his bride, honey hair and rose lips once more. His sons gathered around them.
“Becca, my love.”
Taking her hand he followed the man toward a mountain, verdant with spring hope.
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