It is most likely the worst day of
his life.

He was born in this place, this
farm; he knows it as intimately as any husband might know his spouse. He knows
the boundaries marked by the ancient fences, and he has mended them with his
own hands on more than one occasion, forging time and again the winding barrier
meant both as protection and restraint. He, himself, is restrained—upright and
obedient.

He has given the days of his life
to the care of the livestock. He has fed and watered and killed if necessary.
He has watched the youngest grow into the oldest, and he has named some. He has
herded and protected and mended when ill, and he has done it with the sure
knowledge that it is his duty. He has prided himself on the fact.

He has toiled from the lucid
rainbow of sunrise to the fiery death of the same, and worked under the slow
climb of the moon. He has readied himself for the next day by the glow of
lamplight, and raised himself while the day is still dark in order to
accomplish his tasks. He has tilled the land by the sweat of his brow, sowing
seeds with his hands, tending the fields as the seeds broke and grew,
harvesting the crop as the seasons moved on. He brings the harvest in as food
for the family, for his wife and children, for his aging father, for the
animals that would need it once the winter hit.

To the study of scripture he has
devoted himself, after the fashion of his father; he has spent dark and cold
evenings meditating on its meaning, burning it to his memory, pondering it
again as he toiled under the sun. He has attended the meetings and festivals;
he has observed the Sabbath and instructed his children to do the same.  He follows the Law of Moses and struggled to
do right in the eyes of his fathers both heavenly and earthly. He is thankful
for his life and his blessing, and the inheritance that will be his once his
earthly father has passed on, away from this world.

But then his weasel rat of a
brother shows up, that one who so long ago took off with his share of their
father’s wealth, heading towards the city with a sneer and a prideful gait,
like a mongrel unaware of its shabby coat and horrible breeding. Like a pagan
Gentile his brother forsook the ways of his father and embraced the world, most
likely eating forbidden food and never sleeping in his own bed but those of
foreign women, of prostitutes. 

His brother left this life of honor
and righteousness for one in a filthy city with filthy people doing filthy
things, and most likely had lost every bit of that fortune that their father
had strove to collect over the years of his life. It has been many months since
the family has heard from this brother. Most have assumed he is dead, which was
better than thinking he enjoyed his new life so much that he didn’t bother
sending any word to them. 

And now, now, this pig has the nerve to come back, without one cent of the
fortune that was given to him (heaven knows what disgusting things he spent it
on) and clothed in filth, unclean as the uncircumcised, no sign of that haughty
mongrel pup that left so long ago. From his place working the fields he can see
his brother now, still far off, heading down the worn path towards his former
home. There is a swell of anger, of righteous indignation, in his chest at the
sight of him, and he clenches the tools in his hands so strongly that the
weathered wood cracks a little. But the worst is yet to come.

With a cry his father runs from the
house—how long has it been since he has seen his father run? He dashes as
quickly as he is able towards the lone figure, and when he reaches him the
father snatches his son up in his arms with strength unheard of at his age.
From his place in the fields, the good brother—the upright, faithful
brother—watches his father clutch his estranged son to him and weep—he can hear
it from here—and the anger in his breast changes to confusion, to hurt. Now
they are heading towards the house, and he can see—is that his father’s ring,
there flashing from his brother’s finger? And his coat, around his filthy
shoulders? And his father is waving to him, out in the field, shouting for him
to go and kill that calf they were saving for some special occasion, to kill it
and bring it back to the house for the feast being held tonight.  And he feels his body go cold now, not with
anger, not hurt, but that strange, deep-seeded dread that perhaps all the
things he had dedicated his life to were near worthless at this moment, in the
eyes of the man that meant the most to him. And he decided that all those days
he wished for word from his brother were mostly foolishness, and he wished with
all his heart that he had died after all.

Even his death could not possibly be
worse than this.

© e.g. allis

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