June 18, 2020 at 4:19 pm #115091
Six year old Chena Batjehoshaphat laughed as she and her two brothers chased a plump frog.
“Hurry! Hurry! Before he reaches the stream!” Nine-year-old Malachi rushed ahead, shoving his little sister aside.
Far behind them Levi, his chin only reaching a finger over the tall grass began to cry. Chena glanced back, her shoulders lowering, but the urge to catch the frog before her elder brother was strong. Malachi grinned, and lunged, sliding into mud as his hands closed on the smooth body of the reptile.
Just when Chena was about to growl in fury the thing slipped from the boy’s grasp and plopped into the stream at the edge of their farm.
She resisted the urge to mock him or gloat. Instead, she turned with a lifted chin, and marched back to Levi. Hugging the toddler to her chest, “Don’t worry, you’re not alone.”
His grubby hands touched Chena’s face, “I want mommy Keena!”
His sister nodded, and then glanced back with narrowed eyes on their brother. Malachi had risen. His tunic was caked with mud, and he swiped mud off his arms with a curled nose as he stepped toward them. His feet slid around in his gooey sandals.
“We can’t go back until Malachi gets clean. If mama saw him like that?” Chena’s own nose crinkled, and Malachi paused to stare at them, lips parting, and eyes widening slightly.
Then he lifted his chin, and pointed at Chena’s face, “You don’t look too good yourself. Wait till mama sees the tear in your skirt.”
Chena looked away as his mouth lectured her. But it was short.
“We need to beat daddy home.” She whispered, then pushed to her feet. The sister then held down her soft hand for Levi to clasp.
The little boy complied, and with Malachi stalking behind they pushed through the grass. It didn’t take long for Malachi to start babbling again. “Do you think we can talk papa into going into town tomorrow?”
“You just want to see Ruben.” Chena brushed her long sweaty locks out of her face, and glanced back to him.
Malachi’s shoulders slumped, and then he ran to where he and Chena walked beside each other. “You like Rachel, do you not?”
Chena smiled weakly while helping Levi’s little feet over a large rock. “Yes, but I like home more.”
Malachi just smiled and stared off in the distance where their single-roomed house let out a tendril of smoke. “Race you.”
Chena’s jaw tightened, and her eyes grew serious. “No!” Her sharp tone stopped him in his tracks. She cocked her hip, placing the hand that wasn’t clutching Levi’s on her waist, “We can’t leave him again.”
“Hmm,” He nodded, opening his mouth to say something, before clamping it shut, and keeping it that way.
Good. Chena sighed and looked about. The sun was just lowering on the horizon. Spirals of purples, and pinks flaking out. A subtle smile spread over her face. Papa called it Eloha’s painting. He would make a new one every morning and evening. Every one beautiful and a testament to His grandeur.
On their entrance to home Jaden jumped to her feet, and pointed to the door, “Malachi ben Jehosaphat, you know better than to come in here like that. Go wash yourself now. Chena,” The woman’s voice was hard, but not mean. “Go clean up Levi, and,” Her head cocked, and the mother shook her head. “Milk the goats, then come in here. You can sew up your dress tomorrow.”
“Yes mam.” The children instantly moved to obey.
“Oh! and Malachi?” The youth turned about, “When you’re done washing, please bring me some water,” He nodded.
Levi squealed when Chena began cleaning his little arms and legs, then became silent as Malachi chattered. The toddler’s brown eyes wide as he surveyed the elder boy, he then laughed, and began chattering as well. Chena just smiled, and finished her task.
As she and Levi headed back to the home, her eyes caught on a form approaching. Tall, with broad shoulders, and an empty seed bag over his shoulder, her papa’s pace picked up when he saw people were out of the house.
The six year old released her brother, and raced to her daddy. Malachi also forsook his washing, and charged to his papa.
The man laughed, and lifted his young daughter in the air, twirling her once, before letting her sandaled feet touch the ground. Chena’s giggling as her father’s long black beard tickled her olive-toned face. Then he ruffled Malachi’s dark hair, and bent down.
Then they all walked back to the house. When they reached Levi, Jehosaphat gave his youngest son the same greeting. The little child giving a peal of laughter as he was thrown into the air, then caught safely in his father’s callused, yet gentle hands.
Mama then came out, wiping her hands on her apron. She smiled more with her eyes, than lips, but the joy flushing her cheeks was clear as her husband set their child on the ground and hugged her.
She stood on her tip toes, for she was quite short and he tall, to kiss Jehoshaphat’s hairy cheek. “How was the planting?” She asked while taking the bag off his shoulder.
“It was well,” He whispered before sucking a deep breath, and closing his eyes in delight, “What is that?”
Mama looked down a second, her eyes sparkling like Eloha’s stars. “Leek soup, with chicken.” After a short pause she bent down and hefted her baby, “Why don’t you go make sure your son washes up?”
As the father and son walked back to the well, Chena heard papa ask, “How did you get yourself so dirty?”
Malachi grinned, “We were chasing a frog papa…”
“And don’t forget the water Malachi!” Jaden called after the pair, and Chena smiled.
“Wash your feet Bee,” The mother ordered while going back to their fire. A large pot was hung over it, boiling and steaming nicely as a hot bath.
Chena sucked in a deep breath, then let it out with a slight groan of bliss as she obeyed.
“Wait!” The mother turned around, “Sorry Bee, but Ruth and Naamah need to be milked,”
Chena nodded, then fetched their pail fro a corner.
The family enjoyed their night together. The food was good, and the boys didn’t speak of anything boring.
Once on her pallet once more, Chena was tucked in tightly as a caterpillar by her mother. A soft kiss brushed her forehead, and whispered ‘I love you’s’ were exchanged. As the child fell into a peaceful sleep she had no thought of the marrow…and what it would bring. As it should be, for she was just a child.
Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.June 18, 2020 at 6:41 pm #115100Beth Darlene@beth20
I’ll make sure to read this lol!
Jominkreesa! For the weirdos who know what it means! 😉 I love you guys!June 19, 2020 at 11:28 am #115135
I think this is the one you already read. *embarrassed look* I haven’t edited yet. Sorry.
Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.June 19, 2020 at 2:52 pm #115144Eitan@eitan
Oh, I wrote a whole comment and then the electricity fell…
Your writing is really good! Descriptions, punctuation, etc., you do it great. Good job!
You’ve also portrayed good the relationships in the family. Malachi sounds like a real elder brother, and I say it as an elder brother 😉
The main problem with the pre prologue is that… It’s unnecessary. I’ll ask you a brutal, but important, question:
I read a book, and the first few pages are about kids playing, and than meeting their father, and than eating soup… Why would I continue reading?
The first chapter must grab the reader, so he will read the entire book. You need to have a hook – a question the reader wants to know the answer to, or a general statement he might agree or disagree with. The hook must occur in the first few paragraphs, sooner is better. A useful video about writing first chapters.
By the way – a prologue is there to deliver information you can’t deliver in the first chapter. You don’t really have a prologue in your book – which is perfectly fine!
Personally, I think that you should start your book right from the scene with the Romans attacking Chena’s house. It’s much more interesting and grabbing beginning.
Another, smaller problem I had with the pre-prologue is the POV. As a general advice – don’t use omniscient POV. As much as I know, readers don’t like it. It’s better you use Chena’s POV (and, thus, more childish language), what will also help you developing her character. I recommend you Jerry Jenkins’ article about mastering POV – you can find it in google, and I’mnot sure I can add more than one link to the comment…
Two small notes:
1) I’ve already said it before, but it’s better you not use Hebrew when not necessary. It might confuse the readers. And by the way, people here spoke Aramaic, not Hebrew 😉
2) I somewhat embarrassed to say, but – frogs are amphibians, not reptiles… Sorry if I insulted you, I’m sure you know it and I by no means think you’re stupid.
That’s it. Waiting for the next chapter! 🙂
You don't need to see the wind itself in order to hear the rustling leaves.June 19, 2020 at 5:42 pm #115148
I’m sorry you had to start over. 🙁
Okay, pre-prologue has disappeared. 🙂 The Roman scene it is.
I watched the video you linked, and might again. (:
Another, smaller problem I had with the pre-prologue is the POV. As a general advice – don’t use omniscient POV.
So, you likely don’t want me to do this in the
prologue(: First chapter:
‘If she had been awake Chena would have heard a cry in the late night. She might have known it was her brothers, she might have not. Malachi had bolted out of the house when the smoke from the fire the Roman’s had lit got too thick. One of the officers had chased the youth but a minute before he was grabbed, and taken him away.’
Oh, I just read the article by Mr. Jenkins. (: I was mostly raised (and am being raised) on classics that use ‘Omniscient’ POV. In that, most were written 1950 or before (mostly 1800s). *Smiling dubiously* I will take your (and his) advice.
I’ll send you the next chapter when I’ve acted on all (or most) of your edits. 🙂
P.S. I know you mentioned the point of view before, I’m sorry it looked like I didn’t pay any attention to what you said…
Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.June 19, 2020 at 5:45 pm #115149
Oh! Do you want me to start a new topic for every chapter?
Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.June 19, 2020 at 7:54 pm #115161
a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted
Joab ben Elizer, of the tribe of Judah owned a large, one roomed home with a wide guests’ courtyard in Bethlehem. It was a small, though not unimportant town, two miles from Chena’s home. Joab had a wife, named Rachel, and one ten year old son named Ruben ben Joab.
The ben Elizers were close friends with Jehoshaphat and his family. On hearing rumors of their plight the next day, Joab traveled the few miles quicker than he ever had before on foot. (He had loaned their donkey to friends two days before.) He hoped and prayed the family would be alright…
Chena first became aware that she was moving, then of a bright light, a scratchy beard, and a dirt road. She felt arms encircling her. Then she fully awoke. The child began to struggle, screaming, scratching, trying to bite.
“Chena,” a soft, but firm voice spoke, and a hand tried to caress her head, “Shh, shh; you’ll be all right child. I’m taking you home.” He looked down at her with tears glistening on his dark brown beard; his quaky voice tried to assure her, “Can you walk child?”
Chena licked her lips, eyes still quite big as she nodded. Ben Elizer let her feet grace the dry soil little by little. Her legs were unsteady at first, but soon blood flowed. Chena’s eyes were scared and empty, dark portals to the turmoil in her mind. She kept thinking about everything that had happened. Her mother, Levi, and Malachi were gone. Daddy was dead; and the image of Jehoshaphat’s violated form wouldn’t leave her mind. Tears came; the tiny diamonds gliding down her muddy cheeks in spaced out intervals. She held onto Joab’s legs like she was a house built upon vapor,.. and scared to fall.
After just a bit Chena’s feet started dragging, then she was stumbling. The child just wanted to sleep. Sleep and never wake up… Joab perceived the need and chose to carry her a while, caressing Chena’s fragile back as he walked. Her small hands clutched his wide back, resting her head on his firm shoulder. Chena bit the inside of her cheeks till they bled, eyes hurting from lack of blinking. The image of her daddy still kept encroaching, creeping, and crawling back away from the recesses of her plagued mind.
They soon came to Bethlehem. The town was a bustle with people working, selling, cooking, and just wandering around. It smelled of manure, and shop owners haggled over prices, each voice getting louder and louder as they competed for customers and volume.
Chena looked about. She stared at everyone as a spectator. She wasn’t dancing around the stalls, her mother trying to keep up with the happy young girl, Levi on her hip. Chena who would always spin around, and make any wizened face smile.
They rounded a corner and walked several more yards until they came to a sign that read, ‘Place to Unharness’. Joab entered his home with Chena now walking close beside him. Rachel came to the door seconds after the squeaking hinges announced their entry.
The woman was homely, with thick, brown, curly hair, in a single braid down her back. Her figure was fine, and her stomach only showed a little plumpness. Rachel stumbled over her words, confused, as she saw the little girl, “Joab? Chena?” She leaned in close to her husband, and after kissing Joab’s cheek asked something in a whisper. After a few sentences Rachel made a slight gesture to the girl frozen in the entryway.
Joab’s brows lowered, cheeks puffing out, and his sandaled foot tapped an angry beat, “What did you want me to do Rachel?” His voice cracked like a whip. Rachel straightened, noticing Joab’s red eyes for the first time, “There is nothing left of her home. Jehoshaphat and his youngest are dead, the other boy and Jadon are missing. What did you wish me to do? Leave her there to die?”
Rachel stood straighter, a frown pinching her usually light-hearted expression. She shook her head, bottom lip beginning to tremble, “I’m sorry Joab.” She placed a hand to the man’s shoulder, trying to give him a hug he pushed away. She retreated, whispering soft words, “Jehosaphat was a good friend to you.”
Joab swallowed hard, “The best,” Rachel tilted her head, then gently as a whisper wiped a large tear on her husband’s leathered face.
The mother then looked to the orphan who had been staring up at them with wide eyes. And with a nigh unto invisible sigh, she knelt in front of Chena, “Hello sweetie?” Rachel tried to smile at the child, but Chena’s face didn’t change. Joab’s wife bit her lip and looked up to her short husband, “Has she said anything?”
Joab shook his head, and Rachel looked back to the child, cocking her head, “Let’s go get you cleaned up.” Rachel rose, knees popping, and she stuck out a hand. Chena obeyed, placing her soft palm into Rachel’s calloused one. “After you are clean, and out of that dirty under-dress, Ruben should be back inside from the animals.”
Chena nodded, jaw set, and eyes dark portals.
When Rachel gave Chena a wet rag to clean herself with, the child didn’t know what to do. Rachel had to take charge, putting Chena in a barrel, and scrubbing all the grim, and blood off her.
After Chena was dried, one of Rachel’s large dresses was slid over the girl’s head. After this, Rachel bid Chena onto the pallet she shared every night with Joab. “Try to get some sleep, while I go fetch Ruben.” Chena nodded to let Rachel know that she had heard. The child felt hot, and dry inside.
Rachel smiled, her eyes open in their sorrow, yet hopeful as she stared down to the little girl.
Sleep didn’t come to Chena. She lay staring up to the ceiling.
After several minutes the curtain separating the master’s pallet from the rest of the home fluttered. Chena sniffled but didn’t move.
“Chena?” A boy’s voice spoke as hesitantly as a mouse calling to a feline.
Chena swallowed hard, and sniffled again.
Ruben had always been Malachi’s best friend. He was funny, and usually kind to Chena. But the girl didn’t want the regular story or jest. She wanted her mother and brother, wanted to know what had happened to them. She wanted to feel her daddy’s strong arms wrapped about her, his beard to tickle her face, or for his voice to assure her things would be all right in the end.
“Can I please come in Chena?”
She wanted to call for him to enter, but she couldn’t will her mouth to open. Then Rachel’s voice reached her ears, and the drape peeled outward. “Go on in Ruben…She won’t bite you.”
The boy swallowed hard then stepped through, as if not quite sure his mother had told the truth. The wind from Rachel letting the sheet fall shut ruffled the boy’s walnut colored hair, blocking his exit. Ruben sighed, and then waved at Chena from beside the veil. His thin lips twitched in the corner, and he wiped his eyes. Ruben’s lashes were wet.
She rose up from the mat like the moon from the horizon. Eyes wide, yet hidden.
“Hello Chena,” Ruben said just above a whisper, “My, my mother told me what happened. And, and even though it won’t help, help what happened… I, I mean.” The young boy swallowed hard, and looked to the ground. No doubt thinking of Malachi; they had been near to brothers. “I’m, I’m sorry.”
Chena’s eyes sparkled a little, as she bounded off the pad and ran to Ruben. Her skinny, six-year-old arms wrapping about the bigger boy. Her tears started to flow again as she pushed her head deep into his upper stomach. She smelled him, and the scent of dust and earth filled her nostrils. So much like Malachi… Ruben probably hurt like her. He had lost her brother too had he not?
They squeezed each other’s torso so tight that they might have burst like old wine skins with new wine. Chena didn’t care. The only other person she trusted in the world right then, was Malachi’s best friend. Ruben ben Joab. She welcomed every bit of closeness he offered.
Ruben guided Chena back over to his parent’s mattress, and after a second of panic, let Chena put her head in his lap. Then he began to rub her lower back. Ruben could feel her lungs’ steady release, and fill as she breathed. She almost dropped to sleep. Almost, for she could feel Ruben’s fingers fiddling with her long, soft hair.
They stayed quiet for about thirty minutes when he asked, “Would, would you tell me what happened?” Her body tensed before the question was over, “You don’t have to.” He rushed on, “Don’t tell me anything if you don’t want to. But, I’m, I, I…want to know.” Then he waited. Time fell into eternity before small tears began to run down Chena’s cheeks and onto Ruben’s knees.
Then she began talking. It all came out in blubbers, and sounded like the gibberish of a two year old.
When at the end, she had tears and snot running down her young face, “The soldiers didn’t see me Ruben. Eloha kept me, me safe for some reason?”
“Are you claiming a miracle Chena?”
Chena’s dark eyebrows crunched, and she tilted her head up at Ruben.
“For I believe that’s what it was. You were saved indeed Chena. You were saved alive! Hidden in the cleft of the rock as Elias.”
After a few more minutes Ruben left Chena, saying she needed time to rest. The little girl waited a bit, wanting him to return. Then she gave up, and followed him out the flap.
The next morning…
Rachel smiled at Ruben, as the boy shuffled into the kitchen, bumping into the low table as he sat down for his breakfast. “Good morning Ruben, did you have a good night’s rest?”
“I, I hope Chena will be alright.” Ruben yawned as he spoke, then used his tanned right hand to rub his baggy eyes. Then his brows furrowed when he looked down into his bowl. It was mush; just a bunch of soggy left-over’s splattered into the same pot. Yuck! He had to force his tongue from sticking out in disgust.
“I’m glad you’re being so kind to her.” Rachel went on, leaning closer to Ruben, looking from him, to his food.
It’s mush. He wanted to scoot from the table, or drop it on the dusty floor when his mother wasn’t looking. But his mind had a bigger problem, Malachi. His brother was likely dead. And what of their oath to always love and protect each other’s family?
Ruben’s brow set, “Can Chena stay here mama?” The boy’s hard brows lifted with his caramel eyes as they searched Rachel’s face.
At his mother’s unchanging expression Ruben rocked back and forth on his bum.
Rachel paused, and lowered her brows. She stared at her son as if he was crazy, and Ruben blushed. “I think you should talk to your father about her staying. I’m sure if she works hard here. Doing chores, helping me with the cooking, cleaning, and picking up after the guests…” Rachel’s eyes began to glitter as she tried to look skeptical. “She would also need to help you with the animals in the stable. If she and your father agree… I think she can stay.”
“Thank you Mama!” Ruben jumped up, lunged forward, lips pecking her cheek, before bouncing back, “Love ya!” then he was out the back door like a shot to ask his father. Effectively leaving his mother, and (more important) the mush behind.
Rachel chuckled, her chin lifting, and eyes shining as she shook her head, staring after her beautiful boy. Rachel had already known that Chena would be staying with them. Joab and Rachel had decided so last night. Chena would likely stay until the time of her nuptials to Ruben.
They had been promised by their fathers for two years. The children just didn’t know it yet.
Rachel’s forehead wrinkled as her mind ran through scenarios. Chena’s parents had been outcasts from their family a few cities north. The couple had moved to Bethlehem to get away. The ben Elizers didn’t even know how to contact them about the deaths. But what if the unknown relatives somehow found the child and took her back?
Rachel grabbed a rag, sighing to herself. Then she began to chew her cheek as she started to clean the family’s low table.
Even though Rachel would never have wished for such circumstances, and her heart ached for the girl and her mother. Her chest swelled as she realized she had a daughter.
Love is the wisdom of the fool and the folly of the wise.June 21, 2020 at 8:25 am #115204
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