SHORT STORY MONDAY
“And God made two great lights — the greater light to govern the day, and the lesser light to govern the night.” —Gen 1:16
The old man sat on the sand facing the sea, facing the setting sun, refreshed by the cool breeze sweeping away the heat of the day. White sand beach, the man in solitary silence watching; the brilliant crimson sun silently returning his gaze.
Had he lost track of the days? It would be tonight, would it not? The forty years had run their course. Soon he would be delivered from his burden, his secret knowledge. Release! He knew what it meant.
The sun fell toward the horizon faster now. Caribbean sunset. How strange it seemed, knowing he was seeing it for the last time. He’d often wondered what this day would feel like, his last day. Forty years ago it seemed that infinity had been extended before him. If anything, in those days time had been stretched unbearably. But with finality’s nearness the days have sped all too swift, like the sinking sun’s last moments as it plunges almost instantly to the horizon’s rim.
The preparations had been made. Now, all he could do was wait.
He saw a cluster of birds gathering near the water’s edge a small distance up the beach from him, but he saw no young stranger, like the young man he had once been. And he wondered if he had mixed up the days. This must certainly be the night.
He was not afraid of dying. He knew he would die swiftly. And he knew he had fulfilled his destiny. What point to go on living without a purpose? He had been born for this, and his death was part of it. He understood. It had been ordained, and he was not afraid of that for which he’d been predestined.
But he began to be concerned. Was this not the night? He’d made the preparations. Where was his successor?
Though his white hair was long and unkempt he had taken care to trim his beard the morning before. It amused him to do so and he smiled when he saw himself in the mirror, the first time he’d smiled in a long time, and he had not smiled since. His face returned quickly to its customary expressionlessness.
Seated in the sand he wore a white guayabara, a pair of loose-fitting, wheat colored shorts and the leather sandals he’d worn for nearly the whole of his life’s sojourn, sandals that only recently began to show signs of wear. His hands, woven together, rested upon his knees. The moment the sun struck the sea he loosed his right hand to feel for the handle of a silver dagger which remained sheathed at his side.
The old man knew; this was the night. But where was the one who was to come? Where is he who must appear? Summer solstice, hottest and longest of the hot, long days. This was the proscribed day, of transaction and transfiguration — his high holy day.
His name was Israel. For forty years he had been Israel. At one time his name was Bruce Lowenstein. But on this day forty years previous, he had received the Word and, with it, he had taken a new name.
“I see you’ve come,” the old man said to him then, when he was Bruce and that other old man was Israel.
“Yes,” said Bruce. “I have come.”
“We must make haste, for tomorrow holds the hour of my death and before that time you’ve much to learn,” said the old man. They were standing on a beach not unlike this beach. The old man was not smiling and Bruce knew he was speaking the truth. “You are ready?”
“I am,” Bruce said.
“Sit with me then. Isn’t it a beautiful sunset?”
Bruce said nothing and for a long time the two men sat side by side in the sand and watched the sun as it was swallowed up by the sea. Finally the old man put his hand on the younger man’s shoulder. “God has a plan. You are part of God’s plan. As I have been, so you shall be. It’s all part of God’s plan.” The old man stared ahead into the diminishing light as he spoke.
“Then he [Aaron] is to take the two goats and present them before the Lord at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. He is to cast lots for the two goats — one lot for the Lord and the other for the scapegoat. Aaron shall bring the goat whose lot falls to the Lord and sacrifice it for a sin offering. But the goat chosen by lot as the scapegoat shall be presented alive before the Lord to be used for making atonement by sending it into the desert as a scapegoat.” ~Leviticus 16:7-10
The following teachings were passed on to the young Bruce Lowenstein before the old man, Israel, baptized him with a new name and showed him, gave him, The Word.
TO BE CONTINUED?