Art and story by Debbonnaire Kovacs, 5-25-16
Based on Luke 7:1-10
I can only remember the beginning. I remember starting to feel sick, and drinking extra water, and trying to hold it off. I remember the headache that made me finally realize there was going to be no holding it off. I was really sick.
But I’m a slave. I can’t just say, “Sorry, can’t work today!” So I tried to keep going.
It was the master himself who made me go to bed. I was helping him get into uniform, and when I lifted the breastplate it suddenly seemed to weigh far more than usual. I remember wavering, and turning my head to try to figure out where the rushing water was. I distinctly heard a loud sound of rushing water…
I’m told I fainted. Embarrassing! Like a nervous maid!
I woke up in a bed that wasn’t my own. For a minute I was disoriented. Then I realized I was on a couch in the master’s room, and tried to get up. There were other slaves there, and they tried to hold me down. I couldn’t fight them off. Then the master came in, and sternly ordered me to desist.
“But master, this is your room!” I protested, and the words felt like glass in my hot throat.
He bent over me and put his hand on my forehead. I could feel the calluses and the strength. I could feel the coolness. I stared up at him, though his face wavered before my eyes, as if I were looking underwater at him. “Do you think I can afford to lose you?” he asked. “Stay there and rest.”
I knew an order when I heard one. And I am a slave. I stopped fighting.
But I couldn’t understand anything. I knew he cared about me. Sometimes he almost treats me like a son, rather than a possession. I care about him, too. He’s the best master I’ve ever had. But for him to put me in his own room, and touch my fevered forehead with his own hand! It was amazing…
The memories turn weird at that point. Sometimes I think I was aware of voices, and hands, cool cloths on my face and noxious liquids poured down my throat. I remember disjointed, dreadful nightmares. Then…there is a blank. A blackness. Nothing.
Then I woke. It was the strangest feeling. My head no longer banged like a war drum. My throat felt normal. I lifted a hand, expecting it to be weak and pale, but it felt like any normal morning. I sat up and looked around. The house slave sitting nearby gasped, and several more came into the room.
“What are you doing? Lie down!”
“I feel fine,” I said, and my voice was normal. My strength was my own. I stood. Everyone was staring at me as if I were a ghost. “What?” I asked. What was the matter with everyone?
No one seemed to be able to form a sentence.
“I’m hungry,” I said. “Is there any food?”
They just gaped.
I pulled on a robe and walked out of the room. The others fell back before me as if I were Caesar himself. I heard a clatter outside the courtyard and recognized the sound of my master’s chariot. Then his swift footsteps. He came through the gate and stopped, staring at me like the others.
No. Not like the others. He didn’t seem shocked, he seemed…I couldn’t define the feelings I sensed emanating from him, but suddenly he rushed toward me and grabbed my arms. “Are you all right? You’re all right! I knew it!”
It was joy. There were tears standing in his eyes, and I knew I was staring like the rest of the slaves. My master whirled to the others. “When? How long?”
“Just a few minutes, master. He just…woke up. We couldn’t keep him down.”
My master laughed suddenly and pounded my back. “Of course not! He’s well! I told you he would be well. I’ve been to see the Galilean.”
Slowly, then with gathering excitement, the others gathered around the two of us, some of them reaching out to touch me as if to be sure I was real.
“What happened, sir?”
His face glowed. “You were dying. There was nothing more we could do.” (I gulped.) “I went to find the Healer. Well, actually, I sent Linus first. He came back and said the Healer was coming. Well, I knew he shouldn’t come here. I went out to meet him. I explained that I know about authority. I tell one of you to do something, and you do it, no questions asked.”
We nodded, avoiding each other’s eyes. I felt like laughing.
“I told him I, too, am under orders, and do what I’m told. He could just command the illness to leave, right where he was.”
My mouth came open, but I didn’t speak. Command the illness?
My master seemed to grow an inch taller before my eyes. “He said…he looked around at the others there, and he said, ‘I have not found such faith even in Israel!’ He said that about me—a pagan Roman! Then he smiled at me, and I stood there for a minute, feeling…well.” The master cleared his throat and didn’t finish his sentence. “I about-faced and rushed home, and here you are. Completely healed!” He gripped my arms again.
I gazed into his eyes, and felt as if I, too, were an inch taller.
I want to go and meet this Healer.
Debbonnaire Kovacs is a speaker and the author of 25 books and well over 600 articles and stories for adults and children. She lives and works on a smallholding in central Kentucky. You can learn more about her and her work at her website.