Bible Snaps: Episode 21 … Wood Choppers Solstice

Thrillers, Chillers & Sci-Fi Killers. Whether or not you believe the bible is true, it contains stories that trigger imagination.

Wood Choppers Solstice

My ax clips the side of the log and lands in the dirt instead of the wood. I sense the unease of the men. Why let a cripple do the work if you can have your pick of able-bodied men?

Ignoring the scrutiny, I focus on my target. The momentum of my swing hits at just the right spot in the wood and splits the fibers. With a resounding thunk, the round block cracks in two.

“Not bad for a lame man.” The heavyset one reaches for the rolling piece, but I’m quicker.

“Chopping wood is not about strength. It’s about timing.” I use my staff to wobble the split portion upright between the two stones wedged in the dirt. “By sundown, my stack will be higher than all the rest if you give me the chance.”

I swing again, fracturing off several small pieces just right for kindling.

A thin glum man steps forward. “Another man from your family can do the job. You know this.” He strokes his glossy beard and briefly meets my gaze but then looks beyond me as men often do when they confront my disability.

“No. Another man can’t do it. I’m the one chosen by my family. My grandfather suffers with palsy, and my brother is seven. The rest of the household are women. My mother is a widow.”

The thin one brightens at my revelation. “Of course. Our point exactly. Your women can supply water. It’s wood or water in your case.”

“No. It will be wood.” Using the cart as my brace, I stand as tall as I can, ignoring the humiliation. “You’ll see. You won’t regret the decision.”

The seven men turn aside to discuss my proposition. I can’t make out their mumbling. Occasional glances are cast my direction.

I continue to hold my position, refusing to let them see the strain of it. Their faces seem less angry. Every man in our entourage knew we were destined for slaughter after they discovered our deception, but now, in exchange for our death, we are cursed to provide a life of servitude. Each Hivite clan gives a worker to haul water or chop wood. I’ll do whatever it takes to secure our family’s safety.

I reluctantly decide to mention Miykah. “My brother will gather the wood for me.” I throw in this bit as a last resort.

“Who? Him?” The thin one points to Miykah who, until now, has managed to avoid scrutiny by busying himself with laying a foundation for the wood stack.

“The boy belongs at home.”

“He’s my responsibility. My grandfather is too ill, and my mother carries the child of my dead father.” The fresh truth of our life tumbles out of my mouth.

The group looks at the thin man who seems to be in charge, and he shrugs. “Agreed. For now. But do not seek revenge if something happens. Today will be a test. Work until the sun goes down. The pieces must be suitable to burn on the alter.”

The men leave and Miykah beams at me. “Now I’m a man, too.  I’ll run tell mother.”

“No, Miyka.” I hold him back by the crook of my staff.  “You’re not a man. You’re in the firewood business. If by noon you gather more than I can cut, then you can tell her after lunch. Until then, we work harder than anyone else to make sure our stack is taller than all the rest.”

We fall into a rhythm and the morning passes. For the most part, I finish chopping before Miykah brings more wood. I can tell he’s getting tired, so we take a short rest together. He has lots of questions.

“How long do we have to bring them wood?”

I wonder the same thing and answer truthfully but without concern. “What I’ve been told is that it’s for the rest of our life. But you know how life can change.” I refer to the fact of death that took our father.

“Why must we do it all our life?”

“Because we deceived them, and they’re punishing us, I guess.” I explain how we got into this predicament. When our men first heard of the powerful nation that wandered through the lands, they scoffed in disbelief, but then after the destruction of nearby Jericho and Ai was accomplished, a serious debate about our future broke out. Finding a strategy to address the threat was debated back and forth.

“Tell me what happened. Do it like you do when we pretend.” Miykah’s eyes are bright with the adventure of it all. I know by his expression, he’s more excited than afraid.

“I can’t play now. We’ve got to get back to work.”

Miykah looks sad and kicks at the dirt.

I sigh. A little play might make the whole weight of our altered life seem less real. So I begin the game and use different voices and actions to give Miykah the discussion as if it were a play I’m acting out.

“One neighbor said, No god can do these things. The stories are inflated. They’re flesh and blood just as we are. If we combine our strength with the strength of the Amorites, then these people can be stopped.

Then then the other men argued against him. “The total destruction of Jericho and Ai can’t be overlooked. Didn’t the leaders of the caravans describe a hideous sight?”

“How bad was it?” Miykah interrupts.

I know enough to spare him the most gruesome details. I speak gently. “Everything was destroyed. Flattened. The walls. The people. Everything.”

“But don’t they ever lose a battle? Someone said they tried to fight Ai before and lost.” “Yes. You are correct. And that’s what some of our men argue about. The failed attempt

of Ai is a sort of proof that the Israelites are not invincible. Some of the men argued that we could find their weakness and stop them.”

“Then what happened?”

“The arguments lasted for two weeks, and finally the matter of the Israelites became very urgent. Their people were on the move again. Our men decided to deceive the Israelites instead of fight them. When mother placed patches on grandfather’s clothes to make them look old and loaded moldy bread into his sack, grandfather was disgusted.”

Miykah nods, bobs his head about like grandfather, and speaks in a creaky voice. “It’s embarrassing for a man to slink about in a disguise. What’s wrong with an honest fight?”

I laugh at his impersonation. “Of course. That’s exactly how he said it. And mother snapped back at him and said there was nothing wrong with a little peace.”

“She said it was better to be humble than dead.” Miykah knocks over the small tower of miniature wood blocks he’s stacked and stands. “She said we should make friends with the Israelites and that then maybe she and grandpa would still have breath left to argue.” He puts his hands on his hips and glares at me. “If I was in charge, I would be more brave and less sneaky.”

“What do you mean?”

“How did Joshua find out the truth?”

“I don’t know. He heard it from someone, and when he came with men to our city and asked why our men had deceived them and pretended to be from a faraway land, only grandfather was brave enough to answer.”

“Why are the Israelites taking everything from everyone?” Miykah kicks the wood scraps away from his feet.

“They say they were given the land by their God.”

He snorts. “I don’t believe in their god. Our gods are stronger. Aren’t they?”

Thinking about the same question, I don’t answer at first.

Miykah pokes me. “Aren’t they?”

“We’ll see little brother. We’ll see.” I pick up my ax and let it dangle, feeling the weight of it tug against my sore shoulder.

Miykah shoves me and almost causes me to lose my balance. I reach for him, but he runs past me and yells, “Don’t call me little. I’m almost as big as you.”

I laugh as he storms off.

Several hours later a group of Israelite warriors leave the camp. I’m told that Gibeon is surrounded by the Amorites.

“They’re angry with your people for striking a bargain with us.”

My heart stops in my chest. “I must go to my family.”

“No. You will not go. If you do, you’ll not survive. Five nations surround your city. You stay here. We’ll protect your family. God is with us.”
They leave just as Miykah approaches with another cart full of wood. “What’s happening with the warriors? Are they going to fight? Who are they fighting?”

“No one.” I lie. “They’re practicing. They’ll be back by sunset. Which is just enough time to finish making the tallest stack of wood.”

We eat our grapes, bread and cheese and then start back to our task. Miykah works to prove he’s a man, and I work to cover my fear. I’m glad he’s forgotten about going back home to tell our mother.

We work all afternoon, and my brain runs circles at the thought of war, and even more so because of the numbers. Five against one is very steep odds. Because of my handicap, I’ve had some experience with challenging odds. There’s always more than one way to tackle a problem.

Isn’t there?

A battle of six armies stands between me and the family I love. I’m hoping that the god of the Israelites is stronger than any god I’ve ever known.

I look to the sky and whisper a prayer to a god I don’t know.

Miykah shades his eyes from the evening sun that now hangs low in the sky and says, “I don’t see them.”

Neither do I. There’s no sign of returning warriors.

The sun just sits there.

We work until Mikay has to climb to stand on the cart to reach the top of the stack. Our wood pile is now about thirteen feet square at the base, by thirteen feet tall.

It seems to me the sun stays out to watch us fail. It whispers warning of night but still holds onto the day. “What can you do, lame one. You are nothing compared to me.”

Finally, my entire body revolts, and Miykah stops talking from weariness. I let him rub out the knots in my shoulders, and I put a bandage on the place on his foot where the leather rubs.

“Do you think she’s worried? I never went home to tell her.”

“I told the soldiers to mention us when they got there.”

“Why would they go to our city?”

Caught in my lie I’m quick to explain, “For refreshment. Practicing war makes you hungry and thirsty.”

“I’m hungry and thirsty.” Miykah takes out the last of our food and offers me a bite of the bread first.

I wave back to him “I’m not so hungry. Mostly thirsty.” I take a sip from the goat skin and stretch out onto my back. “You will quit before I do.” I whisper to the remaining light.

The next thing I know, the faces of the bearded men appear over me, and they are yelling, “Get up woodchopper. Get up. Our God has delivered you.”

I sit, but Miykah jumps to his feet and puts his hand protectively on my shoulder.

“You’ve been asleep.” The thin man accuses, and the corners of his mouth twitch.

“We were just resting.” I mumble groggily. “We’re ready to start again.”

“No.’ The thin man says. “You’re done. Go home.”

“Please. We’ve worked hard. There’s still time. The sun has not set.”

The men laugh as if I’ve just told a hilarious joke. They march around the stack of wood and pat the logs and sometimes pat each other on the back and laugh some more.

Miykah hands me my crook and I stand with all the dignity I can muster. “I’m sure you see that our wood stack is as good as any. Perhaps it’s no bigger than others, but it’s certainly adequate.”

“Adequate? You call this adequate?” The thin man roars at me and gestures at the pyramid of wood we’ve made.

At this point, all of the men fall into fits of laughter and some are doubled over. I want to believe that they’ve all gone mad, but our lives demand that they’re sane.

“Please tell me what you want, and I’ll do better.” I say politely, a tactic I find useful when men are unreasonable.

The next thing I know, the thin man embraces me. I’m so startled by the gesture that I lose my balance. Miykah rushes to my rescue and head butts the thin man in the stomach. “Leave my brother alone. Our stack is as tall as any of them and you know it!!”

“Miykah!” I bark out his name and grab him by the neck, but offense has been taken.

The men gather around us, and the thin man pushes a boney finger into my chest. He speaks slow and deliberate. “You know what, little brother? You are wrong.”

Miykah pulls at the word “little”, but I tighten my hold.

The thin man continues. “Your wood stack is not as tall as any of them. It’s by far the biggest.”

Puzzled at his answer I slack my hold on Miykah and he grabs my hand.

The thin man winks at him. “It’s perhaps because you’ve been chopping wood for more than one day. The battle we fought was fierce. Still, your enemies were being conquered but daylight was leaving, so Joshua, our leader, ordered the sun and moon to stand still.”

He points to the sky. “Just as you continued to work in the day, the battle continued to be fought in the day, because the sun gave us light for another whole day. Joshua spoke it. God willed it, and it was so.”

Our discussion is abruptly halted because some warriors return and there is a commotion

about some of the Amorite kings who have gone to hide in the caves. The Israelite leaders charge me to return to serve as a woodchopper, and then they release us to make our way home.

When we reach Gibeon, it is after dark. When mother sees us, she cries and all the house gathers to hear our story.

When we are finished, grandfather says, “Maybe it’s true what is said about their god. A god who can make time stand still is perhaps the greatest of all.”

That night I rub my lame leg to keep the circulation going. When I finally settle into bed, I’m unable to sleep right away. I can’t stop thinking about this new deity, the Israelite’s god who seems undeterred by strength or timing. He gets done what he needs to get done using any method or manner he chooses.

Perhaps there’s a way for him to be a woodchopper’s god, too. I stare at the moon and fall asleep wondering.

 

This fiction short story is inspired by Joshua chapter 9-10:1-14.

 

 

My new blog series, Bible Snaps, are short fictionalized accounts of the more chilling stories in the Bible. There may even be a few “science fiction” type stories that reference biblical disasters that seem to conflict with the laws of nature.

If you follow along, there’s a couple things you should know.

My “Bible Snaps” aren’t an attempt to settle the question, “is the bible true?” Each person must decide that on their own. My goal is to jump into the head of bible characters and try to imagine living the experience described in the story and then use fresh and personal words to tell it.

My other goal is to keep these posts “snappy” quick. In doing this, I might only “snap” a portion of the bible story to tell, but I’ll always give you the bible reference so you can read the actual bible text that inspired me.

There are also other reading options on my website.

If you don’t like my Bible Snaps Stories, then check out “Five,” my medical Sci-Fi supernatural thriller story. All 67 episodes (blog posts) are now available, and if you read them from beginning to end, you’ll have read the entire book and will be ready for my sequel, “Six.”

If you don’t like “Five”, then read my other short stories on this blog- (search word, “un-proverbial”) or Psalms blog posts. All of these were posted before January 2015.

Just read me. I’d be honored to have YOU in my audience!

One final thought.

Why do I re-tell the “bad” or chilling parts of the Bible?

We live in rough times. People suffer under injustice. It’s good to see how the Bible, an old book that many value as true, contains helpful stories of people who were oppressed yet managed to live, survive, and thrive.

Don’t take my word or anyone else’s word about the Bible. Give it a read for YOURSELF. You may be surprised by what you find.

Thanks,

Ann

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