Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Charade (08/14/08)
TITLE: Heralding the Herald
By Ellen Dodson
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Zechariah clasped his throat but felt no vibrations as he attempted to answer. In a show of zeal followed by contrition, he pointed to the sky and then pounded his chest self-punishing before clasping his throat again. Slowly, the crowd dispersed from the man whom God had silenced. Elizabeth adjusted wisps of gray behind her veil and shadowed him home.
Her tired eyes tried to keep up with him as he flitted about their home, surrounding a small table with a tent made from chairs, veils, and tapestries until he’d created what Elizabeth presumed to be an unintentionally irreverent semblance of the holy of holies. Standing atop a chair, Zechariah tried to make her understand by swinging both arms down at an invisible being and pointing to himself. Then he pointed to the sky and assumed an unnaturally poised and radiant countenance. Finally, his arms arched overhead, and then dovetailed into a rocking cradle as his wild eyes turned from heaven to light ever long on Elizabeth.
But Elizabeth looked away, seeking air and sanity from the window’s circular cut of sky and cedar. LORD, began her prayer, my husband entered your temple this morning in praise, but returned to me afflicted. Do not forget us, O LORD, though we fade and wither.
Seeing Elizabeth’s pain, Zechariah emphatically shook his head and lunged at her. Elizabeth gasped but could not escape his embrace or the sudden feathers on his hands as they caressed her stomach and every aging curve and dip of her. She met his eyes, no longer sharp, weathered stones, but shiny, large olives ripe with ardor and promise. She remembered those eyes, how they used to follow her.
That night, amid worry, compassion, and envy, Elizabeth tenderly submitted to a husband who’d forgotten that he was old.
But the next day proved too much for Elizabeth as Zechariah prostrated himself over their dishes of dates and broth to smack the cup of wine out of Elizabeth’s hand an instant before it could reach her lips.
Taking in his wife’s resigned shoulders and the rivulets of wine on the wall, Zechariah pleaded LORD of heaven, my wife cannot read what I would write on parchment and out of my transgression, You bind my tongue. Pity us now, Almighty One. Loose Your love in these hands so that I may balm her ache.
Six months later Elizabeth tucked hair that had thickened behind her ears as Zechariah breathed out noiseless laughter and tossed bits of bread dipped in the wild honey that she seemed to crave into her mouth. Elizabeth winced and smoothed her gown taut against her hard round belly. Again, they watched the show of elbows, knees, a head, and perhaps even fingers protruding from the otherwise perfect sphere. What was this special little miracle--a delight to them and to the LORD--trying so hard to say?
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