You can read this Fiction in PDF format of PAROUSIA Magazine Easter Issue by following this link
Our elder brother was crazy. Maybe he was born crazy. The rabbi in our synagogue always warned that my siblings and I shouldn’t listen to him, but I couldn’t help it. He spoke with the type of voice that drew you until you realised you were kneeling before him. Kneeling! That was what father hated. He had found himself kneeling before his own son as he blabbed about the ‘Kingdom of God’ like he knew everything about it. I could see in his eyes that he wanted to beat my elder brother but he didn’t, something prevented him. Perhaps what Miriam told me about an angel visiting my father was true. She said it was the reason he didn’t send my mother packing back to her father’s house when he found out that she was pregnant before he ever went in to her. Father and mother never talked about it, and if I asked them, they would just send me away to go and buy wood.
That they never talked about it didn’t make it go away. People always pointed fingers at us, whispering among themselves whenever we passed. Our age mates would chant “mamzer! mamzer!” anytime we went out to play with him. I would fight them, hurling them to the ground, splitting their lips and getting mine split until they stopped. I was bigger and stronger than our brother who never seemed to hurt a fly, and like his elder I felt the urge to protect him. Once, when we got back from the field, father looked up from his work at my bloody face before his eyes strayed to our brother.
“Jesus,” he called, “could you leave your brother out of your ministry? See, he’s getting the worst of it.”
Our brother, who was fifteen then, responded, “Those who save their lives will lose it, and those who give their lives for my sake will have it.” He paused and stared at father. “Yet, the battle is not for the strong.” He turned to me, “it is by the Spirit.”
Father could no longer hold himself. “You’re mad!” he exclaimed. “Mary, come and see your child.”
That was eighteen years ago before Jesus began getting into serious troubles. Father never talked about him and forbade us to. He blamed mother for over pampering him. Father said he had become delusional and anytime the scribes visited he would ask me for a bowl of water and wash his hands before them, saying he was washing his hands off Jesus. He always said it like he had bitter ale in his mouth which he wanted to spit out, because it reminded him of Martha. Our sweet Martha who had fallen under our brother’s spell and went with him to a large gathering of people who wanted to hear him speak. Roman soldiers had scattered the crowd and in the ensuing stampede, Martha lost her life. This did not stop mother from loving him still, not even after he was arrested for blasphemy and inciting the people against their leaders.
“They have no case against him,” mother kept insisting, even when she was alone, washing the back of the new pot she just bought from the market.
The day he died, the day they killed him, I was out in the fields walking about, struggling with conflicting emotions. Mother was there at Calvary. She was probably kneeling before him as he whispered huskily in that bewitching voice of his. Father, Joseph, Simon and Jude were at home where I had left them. Our mother’s love for Jesus was a million times what she felt for us, which turned me into many shades of envious green; Martha’s death which he did nothing about although people kept telling us he did miracles; this and his voice, the delicate way he walked, his frail nature, the discourses we have had and the many peaceful years between us had me tottering on the brink of hate and love, rage and compassion, anger and understanding, until I felt myself going mad.
The skies darkened like they felt at one with me and became overcast. Somewhere, thunder boomed and I watched a streak of lightning draw a jagged line up there. I can’t remember how long I sat in that dark field before I was startled by screams coming from the direction of Calvary. My heart took a break while I felt the darkness seep into my soul as schadenfreude battled with my feeling of great loss. A tear crawled down my face which I quickly wiped off. I was supposed to be my father’s son, my father’s legitimate son.
“James,” the voice was soft, silky, and seemed strange yet familiar. I turned, she was glowing.
“James, he came, just as he promised. He speaks the truth.”
“Martha…” My throat felt like the wilderness of Sin, my mouth like a faulty engine struggling to work.
“It’s me, James. Believe him.”
“Believe who?” But she was gone, like that streak of lightning I had observed. My chest grew taut and my mind became a storm. It was this way for four days till I heard that voice again on my way to the farm.
“James.” I turned. This time I didn’t need an unseen force to bring me to my knees.
I cried out, “Rabboni!”
Samuel Ogechukwu Emmanuel is a writer, poet, songwriter, and an incurably optimistic romantic who writes so he can read. He has been previously published in the Kalahari review, shortsharpshot and other literary sites and blogs. He resides in Abia State, Nigeria.