© 2000 Jane MacDonald
by Jane MacDonald
"Well, Simon, have you recovered from the wedding?"
"Not really." Simon spread his hands in a gesture of resignation.
"I'm going to miss that kid forever. Sure, she doesn't live far away,
but I'm telling you, she left a hole in our household. All that
laughing and playing around and teasing her little brothers and
sisters--she was the life of the place, and now I'm hurting. She's
been gone three days, and we're all moping around like a bunch of
paid temple mourners."
"I understand. I like her, too." Barnabas, another farmer who, like
Simon, lived a few leagues from Cana, was both a rival and a friend.
He and Simon tried to outdo each other at the grain auctions, to get
an extra shekel or two for every hundredweight of wheat, but each was
highly successful. Even though they competed, both rejoiced when
either found some cause for happiness, and they commiserated when one
suffered a setback. "Let's go have a drink and talk about ways to
defraud the Romans--that'll get your mind off your troubles." Simon
laughed and agreed.
At the little tavern in the town center the host welcomed them and
quickly served them the wine they always drank. It was still early,
and they found themselves almost alone.
"Before we get off the subject," Barnabas said, "I want to tell you
this: that wedding reception was by far the most lavish, the best
prepared, I've ever been to. You deserve congratulations. If I start
right now, before my Martha is even ready to talk about boys, I'll
never match it." He lifted his glass and bowed to Simon. "You gave
that girl a sendoff nobody around here is ever going to forget."
"Don't kid me, Barney." Simon swallowed a draft of his wine. "You'll
probably import a band from Jerusalem and invite the Procurator. I
just gave you a little something to inspire you."
"No, really, it was great. The food, the drink, the decorations,
everything was perfect."
"Thanks, Barney. We tried. My wife is still a wreck--she's the one
who deserves the credit. She worked her butt off. But one thing still
"We almost had a disaster on our hands. We ordered six jars of
pretty good wine from Abe, the guy down the street from here, and
figured that would be plenty. Well, somebody underestimated bigtime.
Within about an hour after the reception started it was clear that we
were going to run out. Ruth was having kittens. She was wringing her
hands and carrying on and telling me to get some more in a hurry. How
was I going to get more? It was after sundown, Abe's place is a long
way from our house, and I didn't even know if he'd be open. Then this
woman, one of Ruth's friends, said leave it to her. She lives just
down the road in Nazareth--Joseph's wife, the carpenter, you know?
"I figured she must have a couple of jars at her place for some
reason and she'd send somebody off to get them. She zipped over to
her son and whispered something in his ear. He was there with two or
three guys I'd never seen, friends of his from out of town somebody
told me, and when she talked to him he looked thoroughly unhappy. But
he headed back to the kitchen, so I figured he'd go after the jars.
"Anyhow, about five minutes later my steward, you know, James, came
sidling up and gave me a mug. `Try this,' he says, so I took a sip.
Listen, that wine was so much better than anything Abe has I nearly
choked on it. I mean, it was good. Like some of the best imports that
I was too cheap to buy. You tasted it, right? So James smiles and
says, `The servants put the worst wine out first, and now they're
pouring this. I'm going to have to knock some heads.'
"Okay, Mary's son got the stuff, but how he got it so fast really
has me stumped. He can't have gone back to her house. The servants
claim he found some water jars that were full of it back in the
kitchen, but I know better--there was no wine back there. I'd just
checked. Go figure."
Barnabas was sympathetic.
"It's strange, all right. I know that guy. He used to help Joseph in
the shop. Joe's a first-rate carpenter, but the kid spent so much
time down at the synagogue and taking trips to Jerusalem to talk to
the rabbis that he's nowhere near as good as his dad. Some people say
he's into politics, and that bothers me."
"Oh, yeah, "Simon said. "I've heard something about that--they say he
talks some kind of religious reform, too. But Ruth says it's all
talk. She thinks he's a great guy. All the women that hang around the
synagogue seem to like him."
"I'm not so sure that's a good recommendation," Barnabas said,
smiling. Then he frowned. "We don't need anybody stirring things up
down here--the Romans give us enough grief without that. I'm a little
worried. That fellow is going to get into trouble one of these days."
"They come and they go," said Simon. "I wouldn't worry about it if
I were you. Maybe he'll go into the wholesale wine business."
(This story was published in the Summer, 2002, issue of
The Sidewalk's End.)