A tale of the boy and the Master by Lynn Moffett

    “Outta the way, cur!”

    The boy ducked the man’s hand before it could make contact.

    “Scat! You don’t belong here!”

    The throng pushed him this way and that. He crept through them, intent on reaching his hiding place as they cursed and spat on him. They came to listen in such a hurry, they often pushed him so hard he fell. His knees seeped from repeated scrapes.

    He didn’t care. He didn’t want to be noticed.

    He always tried to find a place to disappear. Behind a tree or bush, or around a corner where he could peek and still catch every word.

    A woman screamed, “Climb back in the dunghill where you belong!”

    He darted away from her.

    If the men with the Master caught him, they would send him away again. They said he was too young to be so far from home. Little did they know he had no home and he stole his meager possessions.

    That part of his life, stealing, was over. The Master didn’t like thieves and even if the man never knew, the boy wanted to please him.

    His clothes might be mere rags, but he washed them every week so he wouldn’t stink like so many others. His worn sandals were too big and often tripped him.

    Hunger walked with him every day. The small bundle he carried contained the first food he’d found in a while. There it sat, out in the open, alongside a tiny creek. With all the people walking by, no one seemed to see it. He vowed not to eat one bite until there would be no more words for the day.

    The Master never shouted. Nevertheless, his speech reached everyone. He spoke mostly about the Kingdom. The words warmed the boy to his toes. He didn’t understand why.

    Sometimes the words shamed the hoity-toity priests. The boy recognized the hatred on their faces and often overheard them plotting to destroy this kind man so many came to for help.

    People stumbled forward with sticks to support them and walked away straight and tall. Others came carried on boards or beds with the hope their lot would change. He remembered the old woman who bent down and touched the bottom of the Master’s robe. The look on her face turned from torture to sheer joy.

    The boy shrank away when the lepers arrived, but not this special man. He touched them. And they weren’t lepers anymore.

    The boy would hide close by when the Master met with his favorites, away from the crowd. He didn’t want to miss anything.

    Today was like all the ones before, but more people crowded together in this treeless place. The familiar ones didn’t push or shove anymore, only the strangers did that. And the Sadducees and Pharisees, in their finery, always muscled their way to the front. They thought they were so important.

    Not so with the one who changed things. In his simple clothes, he outshone them without trying.

    The boy never learned to read Torah like the others. Would that help him understand the Master better? Wishing didn’t matter. He decided to be content with who he was and what he had.

    The talk lasted a long time. He devoured every word more truly than what he would eat tonight when the moon came up.

    This hiding tree had taken root close to where the tallest of the favorites rested. This put the boy so very near the Master, he sometimes forgot to breathe.

    One leaned over to another. “He needs to stop and send them off so they can eat.”

    The Master heard. “Phillip, they do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”

    “We brought nothing, Rabbi. There are over five thousand people here.”

    An impulse pushed the boy. He stood and crept out of hiding, careful not to trip.

    The Master saw.

    The boy cringed with the knowledge he wasn’t fit to stand before this man, but uncertainty fled as he met the eyes. “I c-c-can help. I have five loaves and t-t-two fish I found along the c-c-creek this morning. I didn’t steal them.”

    “I know, Asher. Thank you. These will do nicely.”

    He knows my name. He knows who I am and what I’ve done. The boy thought he would fall down dead. He didn’t. The Master’s smile held him upright and he felt cleaner than after a swim in the sea.

    From that day on, the boy, Asher, never hid his presence. He traveled with the favorites like a mascot, but with the Master like a friend.


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