31. Micaiah goes AWOL

Micaiah carried a message for the king in Samaria City, but he marched with a column headed for Fort Jezreel.

There seems to be a 2nd version of Mikey AWOL. So fix them.

25. Micaiah goes AWOL

8?? BC

Jezreel Valley, Israel

1 Kings 18:3-4

Micaiah scratched his temple. Assyrians. Dark red uniforms with a yellow-winged torch on the back. Smooth-cheeked kids mixed in with young men growing their first beards.

Pounding the dirt with their sandals.

But headed toward Fort Jezreel.

He slapped his sandals on the path to the beat of their strides, and when the sun had climbed above the treetops, he passed the cutoff to Jenin.

The Lord had said, “Take this message to Samaria City.”

Ditch these troops now or never.

A bright green parakeet squawked at him from a chestnut tree then sailed across his path.

Micaiah craned his neck. The nearest sentry stood many paces behind, and the path ahead curved around a cluster of boulders.

He passed the curve.

The boulders stood between him and the sentry.

Micaiah faded off the road and crouched among the bushes.

No one called the column to a halt or asked about a soldier out of uniform.

He let the rhythm of marching feet fall off toward the fort then pushed a branch aside and crept around the boulders to the steep valley wall.

Light pink clusters of lavender shoots sprinkled the wall among a covering of bougainvillea vines. He grabbed a vine, stabbed himself several times with the thorns, then found a smooth section and pulled himself one step up. He tested a rock with his foot then trusted it with his weight and reached for the limb of an oak. Keeping to the thickest shrubs and trees, he scrabbled up the side, stabbing his hands five times.

At the top, crawled through the pink blossoms of oleander bushed and into a bean field on the outskirts of Jenin.

As Micaiah stood panting in the beans, the sun bore down on him from above the trees. He loosened his scarf to cover his neck, settled his pack more comfortably on his shoulder, and stepped into the middle of the ridge road.

No chariots. No troops.

Three girls ten or eleven years old drove a gaggle of fifteen geese. One carried a baby slung from her hip. Her mother’s? Micaiah nodded and smiled as he passed. They peeked at him from under their headscarves once and said nothing. Discreet.

He passed four similar girls who drove twelve sheep. They also behaved prudently.

Seven women a little younger than his mother led donkeys piled high with melons, pears, yams, or chickens in bamboo baskets. Five children under the age of five walked with them. Although the women gave him longer glances than the girls did and smiled quickly, they offered no words of greeting. As did the little girls, the women and their children wore robes of mottled gray wool with matching headscarves.

Where were the men or the teenagers? Did the Jenin market only allow women or little girls?

Micaiah headed north. He pulled a pomegranate from his pack, bit a hole, and tore away the skin with his fingers. He broke out sections and let the juice stain his fingers red while he crunched the tiny tart seeds between his teeth. He puckered and chewed, chewed and puckered. When he finished the pomegranate, he stretched into a lilting stride and sang, “The meek shall inherit the earth and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace.”

Where the path entered a thick wood of oaks and acacias, he came up behind an old man leading a donkey hung with clusters of pots, shovels, and axes.

Micaiah shut down his song and sprang to their side. “The Lord be with you, sir.”

“The Lord be with you.” The man nodded. He wore a checkered gray and white turban wrapped high on his head.

“Market day is it?”

“Market day it is, son. In Dothan.”

Micaiah bent over the man’s donkey. For many months he had been cooped up in that cave, unable to rub against donkey, goat, or cow. As he inhaled the aroma of home, his eyes filled with tears. “She’s a beautiful beast.”

The old man squinted at him and lowered his head. “She’s that all right. Old Beor’s a beauty. Smart too.”

From the shade of the woods, a yellowhammer called zit-zit-zit.

Micaiah probed. “Does it seem like Assyrians are racing to take over the valley, sir?”

“Hmpf!” The man flicked at him with his hand. “They won that race, son. Not safe to move about down there.”

“Yes sir. Safe enough up here in the hills, though, eh?”

The man shook his head. “Don’t you go believing it, young man. They’ll soon be surrounding the king in his palace.”

The old man’s prophecy struck Micaiah at the high point of his stride. He had to get the Lord’s message to the king. And fast.

As they came out of the woods, the hill of Dothan appeared off to the right.

Micaiah waved toward path up to the city. “Here’s your market, sir. May the Lord give you a profitable day.”

“Good day to you, son. Want to survive in the new order, best be brushing up on your Aramaic.”

Brushing up on his Aramaic? Micaiah suppressed a laugh. “I’ll do that, sir.” He waved goodbye.

The old man and his donkey took the cut off and climbed the hill to Dothan.

Micaiah strode around the hill and on toward Samaria City.

Long after dark he found familiar paths on the city’s outskirts. Next to the little hut where Uncle Gera managed the olive groves, Micaiah sat on the bench and unlaced his sandals.

While he rubbed his aching feet, a breeze floated up the hill and touched his hair. An owl hooted. The bear and her cubs rose from Gilead and shimmered above his head. He padded over to the tiny spring that bubbled beside the hut and refilled his water skin then washed his feet.

Ah yes. The world outside the cave still lived.

After draping his robe and loin cloth on an olive tree, he dipped the tail of his tunic in the spring and scrubbed the dust of the road from his face. Then from his arms and chest. He climbed back into his tunic then slipped into his robe.

From his pack, Micaiah nibbled the one remaining flatbread, a handful of raisins, and two figs.

Last night he slept under a stone roof with the brush of bat wings. Tonight he lay on a bench among the songs of crickets and toads. To the stars, Micaiah sang soft and low, “I remember your name in the night, O Lord.” He stretched out on Gera’s bench, sipped from his water skin, and hummed the psalm.

“Thank you, Lord.”

In the morning, Uncle Gera would take him to the king.

If Assyrian troops had not already surrounded the palace.

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