Jeuz took a garlic clove from the ceramic bowl and popped it into his mouth. Chewing softly for a moment, he swallowed the juice before leaning over the roof parapet spitting the pulp into the darkness. He wondered if those dressed-up women with their flickering lamps sitting against Laadan bar James’s house were swatting mosquitoes. If they didn’t have the juice in their blood, it wouldn’t help if he threw pods to them. Even if he wanted to, his stiff old shoulder wouldn’t cooperate,
A whispery breeze tip toed across the roof, carrying a hint of chill and a promise of a good night’s rest. Jeuz unrolled a goat skin blanket and pulled it over him as he lay down upon a straw filled mat. He hoped those noisy women would cease their babbling so he could sleep. Their diminishing chatter gave hope some were snoozing.
His stocking-covered head had barely hit the mat before he began to dream. He was a young man again, before he lost a leg to a sword wielding Roman soldier in a senseless dispute. He was bear hunting tonight, with two friends on a Judean hill. They were creeping up on the snarling beast when -- he was rudely awakened.
A young man running down the narrow street was shrilling “The Bridegroom is coming --- the Bridegroom is coming. Go out to meet him.”
Of course he is, Jeuz thought. That’s who those women are waiting for. He had wondered if it might be a wedding party. Miriam, Laadan's daughter, was of marrying age.
A glance into the heavens told him it was near midnight. Out of habit he looked toward the water- clock on the municipal tower, but it was too dark to discern the time and he hadn’t heard any bells. He turned over, repositioning himself on the mat and snuggled the blanket under his chin. Voices below, some excited, some angry, puzzled him. He couldn’t quite make out the words. Clambering up, he hopped to the parapet.
The increasingly strident babble of the women, some highly agitated, became discernable. He could see animated actions though he didn’t recognize the individuals.
“Quick, give me oil from your vessel,” a tall girl demanded. “My lamp is going out.”
“So is mine,” echoed four other celebrants in unison, begging with outstretched palms. In their other hand they lifted proof – a dimly flickering lamp.
A beautifully dressed woman wearing a white silk head scarf took charge. She stepped forward, palm raised outward, a gold anklet on her right foot reflecting lamp-light. “If we give you our oil, we won’t have enough. Hurry to a vendor and buy what you need.”
“But, there isn’t time” the tall one complained. “If we leave, the Bridegroom will come before ….”
“Foolish ones, you should have thought of that. If you are quick enough, maybe …”
“Please. Don’t do this. We are friends. Share with us.”
Before the oil-seekers returned, the Bridegroom arrived with an entourage of family and friends. Some were singing a lively song. Others laughed, teasing the groom, shouting cheerful advice. The five maidens with brightly trimmed lamps held high shouted greetings, welcoming them. Everyone went through the gate into Laadan’s house dancing and rejoicing. The door was shut.
When the festive noise muted, Jeuz returned to his mat. He was happy for Miriam and Laadan. Surely they knew, if it were not for his leg, he would have joined them.
Sometime later, loud knocking on Laadan bar James’s door and frantic voices awakened Jeuz. Women were crying out, “Lord. Lord, open unto us!”
The Bridegroom’s voice resonated in the chilled night air: “I tell you, I do not know you.”
Outside, there was stunned silence, followed by weeping and wailing.
Inside, in the presence of the Bridegroom, there was jubilation.
Jeuz, scrunching back down on the mat, tried to get comfortable. But, he could not sleep. Surely, he thought, there is a lesson to be learned here.
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Fictional story based on Matthew 25: 1-13
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