Prompt: For Hire
Genre: Biblical Fiction
The gentle lapping of the waves against the worn, wooden boat was the only sound that filled the silence of their reflection. The two men sat opposite each other, their counter weight steadying the boat in perfect symmetry. They were both young, with strong builds, having pulled their fishing nets in equal weight over many years. Each day they dipped them in the dark, opaque water with hope of ensnaring continued sustenance. As their muscles had grown stronger, their nets seemed to grow lighter. This day, they were poised for problem solving.
"Well, we've got to do something." the conclusion came with certainty despite their futile attempts to come up with a solution.
"Post a want ad?" the other mocked in exasperation, pulling his arms overhead to stretch his back, disengaging from his thoughtful posture.
"Maybe. What would it say?" the first man bit the line for an entertaining joke they could kick back and forth between them. There was nothing else biting this day, anyway.
"For Hire: A Savior." He lowered his hands with his calloused fingers together and thumbs outstretched at a ninety-degree angle as if framing the sign in the air between them.
"Poorly compensated in gratitude and reverence." the other picked up a rusted hook and began twisting the clear nylon string around the eye to fiddle with the knot while they improvised.
"Must not value fame, riches, fortune, or popularity...we've already had plenty of those." He rolled his eyes, picturing the many failed kings who had come before in his mind.
"Willing to lead the masses. Heal the sick. Feed the poor. Embrace the violent, the mourning, the afflicted." He rattled off delightfully the absurd description.
"Turn men's hearts." the one man jabbed a stiff hand into the other's chest, laughing.
"Indeed. And be fearless!" He curled his arm and wound his hand into a hardened fist. "It takes great courage to be a leader of this variety." Now they conjured freely, without restraint.
"And to be merciful on this pitiful lot." He shook his head and turned his lips downward to exaggerate his pity.
"They are pitiful, to be sure, with their wretched self deception and destructive ways." They were philosophizing now and they spoke confidently over the fish that must have been sleeping below. Pulling their nets periodically in vain before hoisting them out again.
"Attacking one another, antagonizing relentlessly all day long."
"Poisoning themselves with food and drink and chemical and lust. Who could deal in these volatile tarots?"
"But there is some good in them, no?"
"None! They stand ready to destroy everything in the name of pride, foolishness."
"It would take someone skilled enough to rewire the very heart, the very origin. Pour out the multitudes of pain and restore it completely with something even bigger than itself."
"For whom?" the saturated rope fell heavy across the glassy surface of the sea, sinking deeply as its imprint was devoured by panicked waves, eager to restore the order in their rhythms.
"For all, of course, or for none. Someone who tilts the world so that all fall equally from however high they think they've climbed." With bellowed laughter, he grasped the two edges of the boat and rocked it one solid time to emphasis his point.
"And yet, someone who knows each and every individual member. By being made to be equal, not lumping them all into one group, but still having the capacity to intimately know them - each need, each endeavor, listened, heard, and answered.”
"Giving them reason, then, a place of purpose between the fish below and the stars above. Connecting all these things into a meaningful order." He slid his fingers across the water and drew dripping circles loosely with his fingertips along the splintered planks of wood.
"What man do you know that would fit this description?"
"Who would even apply?"
Their creative steam was snuffed out as the reality of the words settled down around them. The temporary flight of their humor that had lifted them for a moment now fading as a candle having burned out the last of its wick, surrendering its charade to the darkness.
They were each back into their own minds with worry and grief. They retreated there as if from daydream to prison cell. The illusory quality of their imagination extinguished. They thought of their families, their wives, their children, and the world they shared.
One man thought of his ailing mother with an affliction of the mind that stole from her memories, like a thief that returned each night to add to his collection. The other thought of his brother in a far away land, suited up and trained for a fight he didn’t understand. They both shifted under the weight of the growing pressure for what the future held, particularly in circumstances that led them out into a sea that seemed to have been drained of fish.
Each could appreciate in the other an extension of reprieve from the difficult truth – that no one could solve this problem, least of all two comedic fishermen barely able to survive. While the kings went on in excessiveness, it would be them that would perish.
The boat, indifferent, continued to rock and sway, the gentle waves foaming white as they turned upward against the hull, the sea quite busy about this business of pulling to and fro, but for what purpose, they were not sure.
Their silence was broken by a voice, about one hundred yards away along the edge of the shore. His hand was raised in beckoning and his words carried strong across the winds that swept dutifully across the sea, "Have you caught any fish today?"
Annoyed by the question, which should have been made obvious by the emptiness of their boat, both men shook their head in polite reply. "None." One punctuated with hope to conclude the conversation with the onlooker.
"Lower your nets again." the command came from the shore with authority and a promise.