Previous Challenge Entry (EDITOR'S CHOICE)
Topic: SCUTTLEBUTT (rumor or gossip)( 10/03/19)
| TITLE: Believe it or Not |
By Robin Newberger
| ~ 1st Place |
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This daily ritual has been her task since she was a young girl, first with her mother and sisters, now a solitary one, her daughters grown with families of their own. Decades of daily trips to the ancient well was gradually chipping away at Susanna’s ambition. Forty-one years of women’s work has made her robust, but her spirit grows weary. Life feels tedious and monotonous and her burden as heavy as the water pots she carries upon her shoulders.
Susanna heard the two women talking. She had been half-listening to them while she drew water, too involved in her thoughts to give heed to what they were saying. They had finished filling their jars and were now deep in discussion about something. Susanna bent down to transfer water into the vintage earthenware jar, glancing over her shoulder in their direction. A twinge of guilt checked her spirit. She shouldn’t be listening to gossip. The Book of Proverbs warns against being a talebearer.
Finishing her task, she rose and returned to the well with the goatskin bucket to retrieve more water. Her mind begged for quiet. If those women would just leave. The well was a place of solitude for Susanna. Though she was weary from the work, the water was soothing to her mind. This was the one time of the day that she could be alone, just her and the sound of the water. She lowered the bucket into the well, feeling its descent as the rope passed between her fingers, breaking the surface of the water. Closing her eyes, she could better judge when the skin was full. It had become her time of meditation.
For a brief moment, she was in her quiet place. The dialogue behind her interrupted her thoughts once more, but this wasn't idle gossip after all. Susanna turned in their general direction. Engrossed in their discussion, the women took no notice of her. She knew these women from the village. Rizpah, a woman close in age to Susanna, spoke intently to her companion, Joanna.
“That’s what people are saying. You haven’t heard this?”
Joanna shook her head in disbelief.
“Yes, I heard about it. But it’s impossible. Why do you believe such things?”
Rizpah continued in her retelling of what she had heard, unfazed by Joanna’s unbelief.
“Resurrected, indeed!” Joanna scoffed.
“The sun is affecting your mind, Rizpah. Jesus of Nazareth was crucified. He died and he was buried. We know this. Everyone knows this! Dead people don’t come back to life.”
Susanna’s thoughts swirled. Could this be true? All of Israel was buzzing about the death of Jesus. It was common knowledge. She also heard rumors that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead just weeks before in the town of Bethany. News from the north trickled down slowly to Beersheba, but fantastic accounts such as this one circulated quickly. Now this about Jesus being alive? Joanna was right. Dead people don’t come back to life. Susanna wanted to believe the story about Lazarus. She desperately wanted to believe that death was not the end. It was just so incredible. Unable to make sense of it, she put off deciding what to make of it.
Rizpah believed the rumors concerning Jesus, and her friend’s skepticism did nothing to dissuade her.
“I believe it, Joanna. I believe He is the Messiah that our people have been waiting for.”
Susanna turned away from the women, returning to her work. Her strong hands transferred the remainder of the water. She looped the handles of the goatskin into her sash and deftly raised the earthenware pot to her right shoulder for the journey home. The sun was dipping lower in the west, giving way to dusk and bathing the clouds in swaths of orange. As she walked, she thought, the gentle tinkling of her anklet accenting her steps. Despite the heavy load she carried, Susanna felt a burden lift inside her. Rizpah’s testimony echoed through her mind.
“I believe He is the Messiah...”
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