Listen to Justine read this story - Get the RealAudio Player here if you need it.

The Threading

Why her fingers should bleed today she did not understand. For thirty years, since she was a child, she had sewn in this shop, so the fingers were callused, the fingers were thimbled and so, now never bled.

But today, attaching the jewels to the fur, they had bled and the foreman had seen a drop of blood and shouted in rage at her.

Jewels on fur - for Herod's wife. Somewhere a craftsman had set the stones in silver and all the seamstress needed now to do was draw thread through needle, and the needle through the fur into the filigree. Some night soon, then, Herodias would pull the cape over one shoulder, pretending she was still young; some night soon Herodias would put on a smile to last her through the night.

So many threads drawn into the needle of that night.

Herod's face - full of lust again as Salome danced. But this much he knew, the child was a taboo he would not break, so instead he promised her up to half his kingdom.

Herodias' face was full of envy - for the child's dance echoed hers those years ago when Herod had chosen her to be his wife; her face was full of greed - for a younger woman's baubles seemed to outshine her own real jewels. Her face was full of hate - for somewhere, deep beneath the party, a man sat in the dark in chains, for he rejected all that she called good.

The jeweler who had set the stones, sat at his table in his small house dreaming of how he would place more jewels in silver the next day, not knowing the head of John the Baptizer was placed on its own silver setting in a bloodied filigree.

The seamstress coughed herself to sleep, not knowing other blood had dripped on the same jeweled fur. Herodias had laughed and then, shouted oaths all at one time as one guest left the table - to vomit in the garden.

Salome felt a chill and her mother gave her the cape to cover that young lithe body still glistening with sweat, for the dance had left her tired and drained.

Through the quiet streets a friend hurried to tell You that John had now been killed. You wept.

Matthew walked with You to the shore, from there You rowed alone into the center of the sea.

You wept alone. Not just for John, but for the seamstress, the craftsman, all the scorned rushed servants who had fed the rich that night in all the palaces of Herods.

You wept for the one who slaughtered the cattle and the fowl; the ones who had stood long hours by the fires to season and to stir; the ones who carved and cooked and carried wine and fruit to the stupored rich already planning the next party in the next place.

You wept for the ones who washed the food to the litanies of oaths and blows; for the ones who washed the dishes standing ankle deep in dirty pools; the ones who washed the tables after the rich had feasted, picking at the garbage and gulping left-over wines.

You wept for the ones with veiled eyes, hired to clothe and perfume the rich, flattery dripping with the oiled fragrances, loathing hidden behind the compliments, for some who serve the rich are not much different than the one for whom they wait.

You wept for the vendors of carpets, tapestries, embroideries, who had bowed low, foreheads touching the polished floors, while eight and nine year olds begged to tie the rugs' knots, so they would not need to beg beside the city's gates.

You wept for the musicians drowning out the conversations and their own fears, with the rhythm of their instruments and drinking.

You wept for all the ones in all of the Jerusalems, rushing in some feverish dance to forget the aging, the decaying, the corruption of the flesh . the feverish buying of new baubles to wear in new places - trying to mask old fears.

You wept too, for the guards ordered to take John's life, because a king desired his brother's wife - and took her.

The coughing, the dreaming, the flattery, the retching and the wrenching grief were all threaded that night in that Jerusalem.

Back to Stories Menu
Back to Main Menu