Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Poor David

This is an excerpt from a novel that I gave up writing years ago. It is set in the time of King David. There has just been a sheep-shearing followed by a feast at which my shy young heroine, Abishag of Shunem, was listening to the harpist from Judah sing some famous songs. She is a shepherdess, and Shumi is the head shepherd of the flock; he was elsewhere during the feast.

The next day Abishag went in search of Shumi and found him trimming goats' horns in one of the folds. Leaning over the fence was the old harpist.

"Ya, Abishag," said Shumi. "This man is Gur, the harpist."

"I bless you by Yahweh," said Abishag politely.

Gur nodded and eyed Abishag appreciatively. They all stood silent for a moment. Then Abishag blurted, "I heard you last night."

"Did you indeed?" said Gur. "I'm sorry I didn't see you there."

"Song of Deborah again?" asked Shumi.

"Oh dear, yes. Can't avoid playing it in these parts. They still love Deborah and Barak up here. Pity there's no song about Gid'on — him that folks here call Yarub-Baal. Wouldn't they love that in Shunem!"

"That they would," said Shumi, still filing a horn.

"I had quite a success with a new one, though — all about Shaul and Gilboa. The tears were falling like shekels, not a dry eye."

"Is it true, what you said," Abishag said shyly, "about the King composing it?"

"Well, as to that," said the harpist, "who knows? He does make up songs, or used to, you know, odes and hymns and things. He was himself a harpist, they say, long ago, when he came to Shaul's court."

"I thought he was a shepherd," said Shumi. "Isn't that how the story goes?"

Gur laughed. "There are so many stories about David, who can tell which one is true? Like all that talk around the fire last night about him killing Shaul's family. Down in Judah they say Yawab is to blame and that David's hands are clean."

"Still," said Shumi, "you must admit that Yawab is David's man. If Yawab got rid of the house of Shaul, he did it either with or without David's orders. If with, then David is the true murderer. If without, then David can't control his men and is a weak king. Either way, David looks bad."

"But if a son of Shaul's house survived, David might not be king. Wouldn't that be a greater loss?" asked Gur. Shumi shrugged his shoulders.

"Poor David," said Abishag. The men burst out laughing and Abishag reddened. "I just meant," she stammered, "that nothing that he did or could do would put things right. How awful for him."

"That's what it means to have power, my dear," said Gur. "To have many choices, most of them hard. Even the right choices usually end up making an enemy of somebody."

"'Poor David,'" laughed Shumi. "You sounded so sad."

3 comments:

Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...

Ed,

I do a bit of fiction now and then and I know good writing when I see it. This is great! You should publish this novel. Give us more!!

Best
Joe

EMC said...

Thanks, Doc, maybe I will. Glad to hear you're feeling better.

Derek the ├ćnglican said...

This is really great. Please do give us more!