Wednesday, November 30, 2005

A short story

Joey lives in Naarat, a town where nothing ever happens. He's engaged to Miri, a younger girl. He's in his twenties and has been married once before. His first wife, Naomi, died giving birth to their daughter (who died too). He's close to her family, and to his own. He is a carpenter.

Joey really loves Miri. Miri loves him, too. He's never touched her; she insisted on waiting until marriage, even though most of her friends are no longer virgins. He wants her, but he respects her wishes. They're going to be married soon-- it's less than a month now. They're not allowed to be alone together, since they're engaged, which helps with the temptation. He can't wait.
Joey's tall and brown-haired, with gentle eyes. Miri is short and dark and her eyes are bright and dancing.

Right now he sits at a bench carving. He's making a candle holder for one of the Friday night candles. A friend has asked him for it, and it's not any trouble.

Miri runs up behind him and covers his eyes with her hands. "Guess who."

"My Miri," he guesses, grinning. "It's a good thing you didn't knock the knife out of my grip. Someone could have gotten hurt."

"Only you or me," she says. "No one else is here."

"Oh, what a scandal!"

They laugh. Then Miri turns serious. "We could get in a lot of trouble if they find us alone together, you know."

"Hey, you're the one who came here. Why are you here, anyway, Miri? You never come just to visit me." She always has to have a reason. Miri's one of those people who follow the rules. If she's breaking them, something's wrong. Joey looks at her with anxious eyes.

She slips lightly next to him and the pit of his stomach tingles in response to her feathery touch. Miri is his bird. "Joey, I missed my last period," she says.

He looks at her uncomprehendingly. "So? It will come."

Her hand sneaks onto her flat stomach, pats it. "I think I might be... um, pregnant."

Joey sighs. He knows she knows how babies are made. "Miri, you can't be pregnant. It's not scientificially possible. A woman gets pregnant with a man. She doesn't spontaneously grow a baby."

"But... I had this dream," she says and looks down.

Joey thinks maybe it's something important. If Miri risked breaking the rules to tell him about the dream, there's something he needs to know about it. "Tell me about it, Miri," he says and takes up her hands, so tiny in his large white ones.

She swallows audibly. "An angel. An angel came to me, Joey. He said I was going to bear the son of the Lord."

"The Lord?" Joey repeats, dumbfounded. "The Lord God?"

Miri nods mutely. "It was the angel Gabriel. He said I would give birth to the son of God."

Joey kisses her chastely, on the cheek, not knowing what to say. "Dreams are dreams, Miri," he says finally.

"But Joey."

"What is it?"

She hesitates. "At least part of his message was the truth, though."

"Look, skipping one cycle isn't anything to worry about. You're not pregnant."

"Not that!" Something is odd. Her voice is tinged with desperation. "He said my cousin Elizabeth is pregnant, too."

Joey raises his eyebrows. "Your cousin Elizabeth is barren, Miri."

"Yes, that's what I thought too."

Thought? Joey wonders. "So what's the truth about it, then?"

Miri's palms are clammy. "So I went to visit Elizabeth."

Joey nods, prompting her to go on. "And?"

"She's pregnant, Joey. Six months. There's no doubt about it. She says if it's a boy she and Zach will name him John."

Joey looks at her evenly. He doesn't know what to believe. "That's not even possible," he says.
"Does she look pregnant?"

"Well, yes, of course."

"Then how come you haven't noticed until now?"

That's something Miri hasn't thought about. He sees her eyes flickering thoughtfully now. "I don't know," she says. "I haven't really... I expect her to look the way she does in my mind, you know? I wouldn't notice a difference unless it was sudden and drastic."

Joey isn't convinced. At all. "So you think you're pregnant."

"I'm... I'm almost positive." Her voice is surer, now.

Joey extracts his hands from hers and turns away. If she is pregnant, there's got to be a reason. She hasn't denied her virginity, but she hasn't claimed it either.

And she's on his other side, now, anxious and beautiful. "What did I say?"

"Who is the father?" He barely manages to choke the words out. His voice is hard as a rock.

"What?" Miri sounds like a yowling cat to his angry ears. "There... there isn't a father."

Joey stands up, slaps her across the face and strides away. He leaves the candlestick behind.

Friday, November 25, 2005