18. Opt Out

18 Opt Out.docx Obadiah 1923 Words

“Priorities, Biah. You’ve never understood priorities.” Ahab pushed past him and stomped into the alley.

As the bodyguards followed the king, the guardi with the apple hidden in his robe fell behind and leaned toward the girl next to last in line. [Since these are NOT the final words of the preceding chapter, how with I fit them together?]

16. Opt Out[I’m thinking maybe use most of this AFTER we get back from Jericho. But how to maintain his ongoing reaction to the terrible scene behind the temple?ii]

864 BC

Obadiah held his breath. What was the bodyguard’s intent?

The child shrank toward the temple wall.

“Here.” The guard held out the apple.

The little girl’s chin trembled, but she lifted a scrawny arm and let the apple settle into her hand.

The guard’s face sagged. He jogged up to his mates, glanced back at Obadiah, then followed Ahab into the alley.

Obadiah let his breath expel. He turned his back on the three slavers and the temple boss, shuffled past the line of kidnapped children, and entered the alley. When he emerged, Ahab and his guards had crossed the plaza and were mounting the palace stairs. [Ahab – Go to Jericho!iii]

The young guardiv who placed the apple in the child’s hand glanced back at Obadiah and disappeared over the parapet onto the veranda. He had done more good with his apple than the king’s right-hand man with his job titles. [Obadiah?v]

With his head bowed, Obadiah approached his men and pulled himself onto the chariot. “I’ve wasted our day.” His voice was flat. He never should have followed Ahab to the facade. But then to teasevi his old friend into witnessing the delivery of his slaves? A fool’s errand.

Fish. Fresh fish rang in his head. He jerked his head up and glanced around the plaza. Wake up? No, thank you. He’d seen enough. Better to close his eyes and dream small. Inspect groves, clean stables, keep the books. And protect Yedidah and the kids.

Obadiah touched the driver’s wrist, and the chariot rolled slowly across the plaza.

The driver asked, “Was it bad behind the temple?”

“Two children died on the trail.”

His guardsvii riding close enough to hear shook their heads and whispered. One gave a tiny moan.

Obadiah moaned with him but shook his head. Slaves suffered in every land, yet he was not their liberator. He was a diligent worker, but kidnappings and murders were beyond his control.

At the threshing floor, the driver asked, “To Gera’s then?”

The question hung unanswered.

Had his father seen his killers? The Keslote quarry was far from the village. No one had heard a cry when the arrow struck.

In Akko, surely the wife and children had tried to protect their husband and father. Were they injured? Who would care for them?

The driver stopped the chariot just outside the gate, and Zak leaned over from his mount. “Where to, sir?”

“Yes. Sorry. To Gera’s. We’re late.”

At the base of the hill, the horses moved to the edge of the path and halted in their normal spot. The smoke of acacia wood and the aroma of roasting mutton drifted through the olive trees.

The driver folded the reins in his hand. “We weren’t consumed today because the Lord’s compassion never fails.”

Try telling that to the little girl with the bleeding ankle. Obadiah stepped down and scrubbed the back of a hand across his mouth.

As he lifted a basket of pomegranates from the chariot, Zak answered. “His mercies are new every morning.”

For some people, at least. Obadiah turned toward the house.

Zak and two guards followed him while the others unhitched the team from the chariot.

As he pushed through the third row of olive trees, a golden oriole screeched in alarm.viii Obadiah stopped and scanned high branches for a patch of bright yellow feathers, but the oriole remained hidden. His father’s mottled gray cloak blended perfectly with the leaves and branches of the pear trees, yet a Syrian arrow had found him. Like the oriole, had his father been singing? If Obadiah had been helping him prune, the assassin might have backed away from attacking two men.

If he was home in the valley instead of up here in the hills, he could protect Yedidah and the kids. He’d been working with Gera so many years that Gera’s family felt like his own, but his responsibility was with Yedidah.

Wetting his lips, Obadiah turned to the driver. It wasn’t too late. Forget the week of olive grove inspections. Drive through the night, yank Yedidah and the kids from beneath the feet of that murdering queen, and hide them with his mother in Keslote. Teach his bodyguards to prune pear trees, and never again leave the village.

He would help Yedidah understand reality. She thought the Lord had “bigger things” for him to do. She loved him, and he basked in her love. Yet this man of bigger things had stood by, powerless to keep the hammer from gouging the little girl’s foot.

No. There would be no setting Yedidah straight. She might weep, eyes bloated, all night about the hurting children, but in the morning she would grit her teeth, shake him by the shoulders, and whisper in his face, “I know the man I married. And the Lord’s got something for you to do.”ix

Do what, Lord? What could a stable-hand-turned-olive-inspectorx do in the face of such horrors? Nevertheless, he put the thought of home asidexi and pushed on through the trees to the courtyard. Resting a hand on the gate, he called his usual, “Hello, the house.”xii

Hodiah, Gera’s wife, appeared on the veranda. “Come in, boys. Gera and Liev gave up waiting for you hours ago, but they’ll be home in a moment. Supper’s ready.”xiii

With a grunt to Zak, Obadiah crossed the courtyard and mounted to the veranda.

Right behind him, Zak topped the ladder and pushed the basket of fruit into his hands.

Obadiah gripped the basket. Lord, please protect my wife and children. He readied a smile and edged the basket toward Hodiah. “Yedidah sent you something. She selected these one by one. Only the best. The farmer’s well still has a bit of water.”

Taking the basket on her arm, Hodiah ran her fingers over the heap of large red pomegranates and dug a thumbnail into the soft, thick skin. “Oh, Biah, the Lord guided your eyes the day you found your Yedidah. She sends the most wonderful gifts. You have to thank her for me.”

He forced a smile. “Of course.” And with the smile came warmth. Hodiah had changed the day. Her cheer made it seem as if some stranger in another world might have followed wicked men behind a temple and seen evils that made him puke in the grass.xiv But not Obadiah. And not his men. Life for them existed here within the sound of this good woman’s voice.

“Your rooms are ready.” She puckered her lips in a tiny poutxv to those out on the walkway and repeated her speech from last month. “You’re such nice boys. I wish I could put you each in a room of your own like Biah’s.”

Zak’s face lit up. “Thank you, ma’am. The rug is great, and your cooking’s terrific.”

From the far end of the veranda, a toddler squealed and bolted past a leg of lamb roasting on a spit. “Uncle Biah.”

“Up you go.” Obadiah slid his long fingers around the tiny rib cage and raised the boy to eye level.

“Higher, Uncle Biah. Higher.” The boy giggled and squealed.

Obadiah tossed and caught him, then pulled him to his chest. As the baby’s soft curls brushed his cheek, Obadiah inhaled their sweet smell.

“Again, Uncle Biah. Higher.”

A second tiny childxvi dashed past the dripping roast. “Unca Biah.” He crashed into Obadiah’s knees and wrapped them in his chubby arms.

Kneeling, Obadiah cradled each boy in an elbow, nuzzled their cheeks, and uttered his usual, “You’re getting so big.” He swallowed hard. [Sherru’s experiment– . If only he could lose himself in the smiles of these sweet babies.xvii “Toss me” was as much fun as usual. But at least playing with Liev’s sweet babies was better than chatting with Hodiah while he desperately tried not to mention the skeletons of two children by the road to Tadmor.

Two more guards came up the ladder. Then the driver. His “thank you, ma’am” meant the chariot was parked by the stable and the horses were bedded down in the stalls.

From the trees, Gera called, “Is Biah here?” [how to go from here to Jericho?xviii]


Mercies new every morning – Lamentations 3:22-23


i Maybe this should be changed to “soldier” since the word “bodyguards” is in the same sentence.

iiI’m thinking maybe use most of this AFTER we get back from Jericho. But how to maintain his ongoing reaction to the terrible scene behind the temple?

iiiAhab – Go to Jericho!

iv Maybe some of the “guards” could be exchanged for man/soldier/etc. – SD

v Is this referring to Obadiah? If so, it took me a bit to catch on.

vi cajole or manipulate? SS

vii To distinguish them from all the earlier guards SD

viii Weela-wee-ooo floated in from a high branch. Their alarm call is a screech like a jay, but the song is a beautiful fluting weela-wee-ooo or or-iii-ole, unmistakable once heard. Breeding pairs often sing in duets when females answer to the males’ song with a short skweeeeer.

ixBecca – This past page is good. Lots of emotion. But you could consider cutting just a bit of it so you’re not spending too much time at once in Obadiah’s head without other action or dialogue going on. Or, you could save some of it to disperse through dialogue later as he talks with someone else.

That’s a hard comment for me to even write, because I do love all of this. I just felt like it was borderline too much exposition at once.

xJohn – This confused me a little bit. Often during the story I get the clear impression that he sees himself as Ahab’s right hand man, with all the trappings of power that includes. Yet here he’s referring to himself as an olive grove inspector. I find it a bit inconsistent with his frequent access to the King.

xi May verge on telling. SS

xii Hello to the house?

xiii For example, Obadiah might have that thought about Gera’s family feeling like his own here if you want to spread it out more.

xiv I like this sentence, but I did have to read it twice to get the full picture of what you were saying. You might be able to simplify it.

xv Why would she pucker her lips into a pout here? At first read, this didn’t seem to fit with the warm smile from before—or, at least, it felt random. When I read on, I realized it was out of apology. Just wanted to let you know my thought process as I read, in case it’s helpful and you think the pout should be moved.

xvi Is it worth naming the children? Maybe not, if this is the only scene they are in. Just depends on how many appearances they actually make.

xvii Just experimenting. I’m thinking the rest is understood by now. SS

xviii[how to go from here to Jericho? If I put strong urges from Ahab to go, will that help?]


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