Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Whine (05/23/13)
TITLE: Whine to Water
By Jack Taylor
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Ebenezer dashed into the supply room. The amphorae of wine he hoped to see full were empty. He counted the large pointed clay jugs. Ten of them. This wedding had drawn a larger crowd than he expected. He stroked his speckled beard and squinted to see if the darker corners of the room might reveal hidden treasure.
Isaac, his right hand man, had already checked local merchants and reported that they were out of stock. There were important guests here to be served and he had nothing to give them. Benjamin had been sent to check in nearby locations. Nothing had arrived yet.
For fifteen years he had been the steward of the larger weddings in this area of Galilee. Never had he been unable to find enough wine or bread to make his hosts happy. Never had he left his guests feeling unsatisfied. Never had he shamed the bridal party and hosts by making them appear to be cheap and inhospitable.
The churn in his stomach called for him to settle it with a little wine and he drained the last few drops from a small serving bowl which had lain abandoned on the hard packed floor near the white plastered wall.
“God Almighty, maker of all that gladdens our soul, hear now the whine of my heart as I beseech you for mercy.”
The steward heard the swish of ankle length dresses as Dinah and Phoebe glided into the room. They held the large kraters, the clay bowls into which the wine would be poured before it was finally emptied into the kylix (mugs) from which the guests would consume it.
Ebenezer cringed as the warm sensation flushed across his cheeks. He shrugged his shoulders and shook his head. The ladies paused in mid-step and looked at each other. The laughter in the other room depended on their ability to satisfy the needs of parched throats.
The bride’s mother stepped into the room with her kylix extended. “We are down to the dregs. Please refill the kraters. We have more guests arriving.”
Ebenezer faced her squarely. “We have already had more guests than we expected. Your son is very popular and your daughter has married into a large family. I mixed the last amphorae with plenty of water to stretch it. The wine is finished and the suppliers are out.”
The woman spun on her heels and left. Ebenezer followed her and watched her engage her son in conversation. A moment later she returned. “Do whatever he tells you.”
The son rose from his place, engaged guests along the way and finally stopped nearby. Ebenezer noticed his eyes first. Dark hazel orbs that radiated peace. Scanning the room. Briefly looking up. Stopping when they focused on the six stone water jars under an awning.
Ebenezer strode to the jars. Surely he hadn’t run out of water for the ceremonial washing. In all his chasing after wine he had ignored this important aspect of hospitality. The stone jars could hold up to thirty gallons and they were clearly not full.
There was no judgment in the son’s words. “Fill them to the top.”
Ebenezer nodded to Isaac and Benjamin and the two young men raced away with kraters to find the town well. He glimpsed out into the courtyard and saw the bride’s mother pacing anxiously between guests. Trip after trip was taken until the jars were filled to the brim.
The son extended a krater. “Draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.”
Ebenezer filled his krater from the jar and walked with as much dignity as he could manage to the master of the feast. It was clear his kylix had been drained.
The ceremonial water was poured and without hesitation it was tasted. The steward expected a frown and scolding. Instead, there was a distinct sense of pleasure and joy on the face before him.
The bridegroom was waved over. “What is this?” whispered the master of the feast. “Everyone else brings the choice wine first and saves the cheaper wine for those who have had too much. You have saved the best for last.”
Without stalling he waved the rest of the servers out into the crowd and the choice fruit of the grape poured its healing elixir into the souls of those who had come to celebrate the joy of new love experienced.
Ebenezer filled his kylix twice. His whine subsided. “Some water! Some son!”
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