A Fictional Account
Of the Life of Paul
By Kurt Schuller
Copyright 2001 Kurt Schuller
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TARSUS 10 A.D.
ARE YOU DONE WITH THAT INFERNAL PRAYING “shouted the young Marcus? He stood with hands on hips, looking back at his friend kneeling down in prayer. Though he was only fourteen, the young Roman was already an impressive figure of a man. His smooth, tan complexion devoid of any imperfections, as if he was immune to the usual curses of puberty. He stood nearly six feet tall (when he wasn’t slumping), but at this point was all arms and legs. And while his body had been overachieving, he never knew when his prepubescent tenor would betray him.
“ I HAVE TOLD YOU A THOUSAND TIMES. THE GOD’S DON'T LISTEN TO US MERE MORTALS, THEY ARE TOO BUSY AMUSING THEMSELVES. SOLLY, ARE YOU LISTENING?” He squeaked impatiently.
Saul continued his prayers, glancing only momentarily in disgust at his impatient friend . Finishing his petitions to Jehovah, and with as much dignity and pomp as he could muster, he rose slowly to his feet, rubbing off the small pebbles that were pressed into the soft flesh of his knees.
He was, at this point, waiting to sprout. The two of them together made a rather odd sight as they played together in the streets of Tarsus. He stood 5 ft tall and still had the waiflike appearance of a preteen, reinforced by his coarse red hair, freckled face and irrepressible dimples. Even Saul had trouble believing he would soon be celebrating his 14th birthday.
“And I have told you Marc” he said in with as earnest and manly a tone as he could command, “There is only one God, and he hears every single word I pray to him.”
Marcus looked at him with a vacant stare. Whenever Saul would spout off about his God he usually just tuned out.
Seeing his blank expression Saul looked up in disgust “I don’t know why I even bother with you! If only you would come to the Temple with me”
“No... thank.... you....” He said each word slowly and deliberately for emphasis ” I‘d sooner kiss a leper. I have better things to do with my time, which reminds me. I have to take these parchments to Isaiah, the Publican.” His face took on a wicked knowing grin. “ And I hear that his daughter is a real beauty, a regular Cleopatra.”
Saul’s eyebrows formed tall arches “Oh really, and you think this gorgeous daughter of Judea would be interested in a loser like yourself?” Saul poked his friend in the chest with his extended forefinger “Take my word for it. You have as much chance of that happening as you have of hearing from one of your so-called Gods on Illympus, especially after she hears you speak.”
“That‘s Olympus Solly” shot Marcus sharply, his voice breaking. He put hands on hips and rolled his eyes impatiently “And since you insist on talking about our religious differences, please tell me how you can be so sure that your God answers prayers? I mean look at you. Did you pray to be that small? “
Saul did not answer him but instead focused on the parchments in Marcus’s hands. “You need to take those documents to Isaiah?” he asked. “Doesn't he live across from the trading square?”
Marcus gave Saul a puzzled look,” Of course, where else would a tax collector live?
Saul put his hand on his friend‘s shoulder, “You like this Publican‘s daughters don‘t you? Well I know a thing or two about Judean women“.
Saul stared silently at Marcus, who finally threw out his hands. “Well, what is it?
“I know how you can impress her.” Paul gestured with his finger and Marcus leaned even closer. “Really, do you have something to say or not?“
“Yes,” whispered Saul, looking intently into Marcus's eyes. “I know the kind of man she really likes.”
“And what kind of man is that?” asked Marcus sarcastically.
“The fast kind.” with that Saul grabbed the parchment from his friend's grasp and ran up the stone steps in front of them.
“Catch me if you can Marc.” Saul‘s voice trailed off as he put distance between himself and his friend. He reached the top of the stairs, but instead of going through the doorway he jumped up on an adjacent windowsill and grabbed the buildings top ledge. With a burst of effort, he pulled himself up onto the roof and raced in the direction of the trading square.
Marcus kicked at the ground raising a cloud of dust. “Not again. Come on Saul this is growing old and I am not going to play”
Saul was halfway across the roof when he heard Marcus’ refusal. He stopped and sighed, turning back to the building ledge.
“What.....are you afraid of losing again!” Then Saul remembered the papers clutched in his hand, and he waived them like a red flag at a charging bull. “ I guess I’ll just say hello to Cleo.”
Marcus saw crimson and charged. Seeing him spring into action Saul once again resumed his chase to the Trading square.
Marcus leaped onto the sill, and using his long, strong arms pulled himself effortlessly onto the roof. Saul was about to reach the far northwest edge of the roof. Ahead lay the city‘s boundary wall. There was about 7 feet of air between Saul and his immediate objective. Gathering all the speed he could muster, he tore toward the jumping point. Hearing Marcus scrambling behind him motivated him even more. His lungs pounded as he grabbed for every bit of oxygen he could absorb. He had practiced this jump for months in anticipation of this race, yet still the adrenaline coursed through him as if this was the very first time. Unconsciously, the fast-flying feet hit each stride until his left foot hit the predetermined jump spot. Uncoiling like a leopard, he put his entire small body, every sinew and synapse, into the leap. For a millisecond he felt as if he was actually flying! As if in slow motion he looked down, seeing the landscape below pass beneath him. Suddenly the floor of the boundary wall came up to meet his unsuspecting feet. He stumbled into a head over heels roll, but quickly righted himself.
He pumped his fist into the air in exhilaration at his success. But his celebration quickly faded, as he heard the sound of Marcus's feet land not far behind. The gap was clearly narrowing.
A determined Saul quickened his pace until it seemed that his legs might outrun his feet.
An unsuspecting guard was trying to make up for his previous night’s revelry. He belched and scratched his behind as his heavy eyes began to settle into sleep. It was then the speeding boy came racing around the corner. The guard, leaning against the staff of his spear, was just about to begin a snore, when Saul’s right foot took out the spears staff, sending the groggy guard spinning. Turning back to see which way his attacker had gone, he was once again spun wildly as Marcus whizzed past him. Spinning his less than stable frame, the guard’s feet came out from under him, and he landed flat on his bottom.
“Saul, his name is Saul” yelled Marcus. But the breath was wasted on the hung-over city guard, whose only interest now was getting back on his feet and catching up on his sleep
Saul's lungs, begging for air, were beginning to get testy. Up ahead he could see the wooden ladder that would take him down to the trading square.
“I am almost there,” he thought excitedly. As his hands grasped the rough-hewn wood of the ladder, he swung his small body over and into position to climb down the wall. But his hope began to fade as he saw exactly how close behind the stronger and taller Marcus really was..
He thought of some curse words that he would never say out loud and briefly wondered if he was sinning. “He’ll catch up to me for sure” he said to himself. His brain strained for an advantage, and then one appeared.
In the trading square, some fifty feet below, two rug merchants were displaying their finest Persian rug to an interested buyer. Holding each end, they stretched it out to display it to the prospective buyer.
“The rug..... the rug will break my fall“ He thought fearlessly.
Gauging the distance he needed to jump to reach the outstretched rug below him, he threw himself into the air. But to his complete and utter horror, just as he let go of the ladder, the rug dealers relaxed the tension on the Persian. His safety net now gone, he hurtled through space, his short, yet full life passing quickly before him. He closed his eyes, not wanting to witness his own death, when miraculously the buyer asked for another look, and the merchants pulled their rug tight again to display it. No one was more surprised than Saul when he hit the outstretched Persian. The force pulled the rug out of both their hands, but it broke Saul's fall, leaving him undamaged.
As he struggled to get untangled from the wad of carpeting, he saw Marcus practically at the bottom of the ladder. Slapping his hands in frustration on the rug, he struggled to his feet, racing down the alley ahead that lead to the Publicans house.
“He is close but it is too late “thought Saul. “All I have to do is get to the end of this alley, and the door is just across the street.” Saul had a habit of calling himself the winner prematurely. Smirking as he raced down the narrow alley, the smile left him just as quickly, when he saw what was in front of him. A detachment of Roman soldiers on horseback had gotten bogged down right in front of his destination. The street was thick with Centurions in the saddle. Glancing back quickly, he saw Marcus turn the corner and race toward him. He would catch up to him in just seconds unless he did something and did it soon.
A large box in front of him gave him an idea. He raced toward the box, and timing his leap just right, used it as a springboard to propel himself on the nearest Centurions horse‘s hindquarters. The first soldier looked at him in stunned silence, unable to get a word out before Saul had moved onto the next. They were so close together that the small boy was able to deftly walk from one to the other, until he reached the other side. As he jumped off the last remaining horse, he stumbled right into the Publican’s front door.
“The winner...again” he thought. Looking back he could see Marcus being frustrated at every turn, as he tried to make his way through the crowd. Saul turned back to the door, and pounded on the thick barrier with a triumphant victory beat.
The door slowly creaked open, and Saul felt his breath being sapped away from him. His mouth and eyes both wide open, he stared at, arguably, the most beautiful creature that he had ever seen in his short life. Dark brown eyes looked demurely through raven black bangs, which fell gracefully across her face. Her right index finger pausing briefly on full and moist lips, the small alabaster hand lifted the soft hair away from her almond-shaped eyes. Her brow furrowed in puzzlement, and she smiled and said.
“Yes, can I help you?“
“The voice! “thought Saul. It was sweet and soothing, like the sound of a hidden brook whose soft and gentle murmur invited you to find it.
Saul found himself at a loss for words....Ahhh, ummmm, ahhh His gaze was locked onto her face. He thought. “I’ve got to stop starring.” But it was hopeless. He felt . . . something? But what? His heart pounded in his chest and his ears tingled with warmth as the flow of blood increased throughout his small body. This strange, new sensation spread to his arms, hands and even his feet. It was as if he felt his soul for the first time.
The soul was often spoken of in temple, but Saul had never fully understood it until this very moment. His brain was so overloaded from her overwhelming beauty that he didn't even remember the papers that he clutched behind his back. As he struggled to remember why he was there, he felt a strong hand on his shoulder. Marcus gave Saul a gentle but firm shove to the side and snatched the forgotten papers out of his paralyzed hands.
“Marcus Lycos at your service.” He said with his best Roman dignity. Saul cursed under his breath because his voice did not break even once.
“I have brought these important papers for your father from the Roman Governor,” Marcus boomed, maintaining a perfect masculine tone.
Saul was struck by the way that Rachel looked at Marcus She fixed her brown eyes on the young Roman, looking as lost as Saul had felt a few moments earlier.
“I was here first! “ he thought. “ I‘m the one who one the race!” he was about to exclaim. Unfortunately “I‘m“ was all he got out of his mouth before Marcus's swift right hand clamped over his mouth, pinning him back against the cold stone wall next to the door.
Rachel looked at him oddly as he struggled to speak, but nothing intelligible got through Marcus’ hand. Marcus, for his part, acted as if Saul wasn’t even there, even as Saul pulled at his forearm in a vain attempt to get free.
“Will you please escort me to your Father?” said Marcus. Rachel quickly opened the door the rest of the way.
Marcus turned to Saul and shot him a sarcastic smile. “I’ll meet you later at the stables. By the way, congratulations! Looks like you beat me yet again “
With that Marcus squeezed Saul’s cheeks with his thumb and forefinger and then hurried through the large wooden door. Not wanting Marcus to get the last word Saul tried to follow him. Opening his mouth, he was preparing to call Marcus some really choice names that he had overheard from a drunken shepherd, but before he got a word out the door slammed shut, nearly hitting him in the face. Momentarily stunned Saul found himself starring at a small knothole in the door.
Saul mind was a beehive, he didn’t know what he was feeling. He just stood there for few seconds and tried to sort things out.
“Angry! “he thought “Yes, I have never been so angry!”
But surprisingly the anger quickly dissipated, replaced by...Longing.? Saul had only seen Rachel for a moment, but he was now longing to see her again. He felt strangely empty and alone. Saul was no longer mad at Marcus, because there was no room in his heart for anger, it was so filled with longing. His throat began to tighten and Saul felt the tears starting to swell his young eyes. This bothered him greatly.
“What has happened to me” he thought? “I’ve got to get myself back under control.”
Saul concentrated on building his anger to push the painful longing out of him. With a burst of rage he slammed his fist against the coarse cedar door, hoping the shock would help him pull himself together.
Owwwwww! he cried. He was a little too successful. Intense pain overwhelmed him as he grimaced in suffering. But at least he was now able to think more clearly.
Saul headed for home back through the alley, nursing his lacerated hand and feeling a twisted tumult of troubling and confusing emotions. He had glimpsed paradise, and wanted desperately to go back again.
Saul, who had so dearly loved competition, now had something truly worth competing for. But he was unfamiliar with the strategies of love. He had always prepared for races by choosing the time and place, by memorizing every twist and turn. How did he gain an advantage in the race for Rachel's heart?
A feeling of calm came over him as he set his resolve. “I can win her!” Saul told himself. “I must, I will! .”
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