26. A Thrill of Hope [Stevei]
The Plaza, Samaria City, Israel
Obadiah turned toward the city gate. “Gera!”
A boy followed Gera.
The noonday sun showed the lad puckering as if he whistled a tune. The chatter of the plaza buried any sound, yet the young fellow bounced to a beatii as he passed the geese and the chickens.
A thrill of hope stirred Obadiah’s heart. Did you send this boy, Lord?
The boy’s pace surged on a pulse. The phrase, “and my salvation” floated up from him to the terrace.
Gera placed a callused hand on the small of the boy’s back and guided him up the stairs. “The Lord sends you Mikayhu with a message, my king.”
A message from the Lord? Maybe Yedidah had rescued this child from the Asherah thugs. She never introduced bubblers to Obadiah. “If you don’t know who they are, the queen can’t drag their names out of you.” Would the lad have enough sense not to mention the caves?
Mikayhu faced Ahab with his mouth closed, rising and falling on the balls of his feet while the music flowed through him, and the breeze danced in his hair.iii He stood as tall as Gera, a head shorter than Ahab. He sang under his breath, “Whom shall I fear? Whom shall I fear?”
Gera cocked his head at Obadiah. “The boy gets his love of music from my cousin.”
Mikayhu bowed to Ahab, flashed an infectious smile, and sang, “The Loooord is my light and my sal-VA-tion.”
Ahab slapped his knee. “Gibbethon, Biah. Under the sycamore. We must have sung this a hundred times. And you made those high notes ring.”
The boy bobbed his head. “Don’t you just love those words, King!”
Obadiah groaned. Gera could at least have taught him the proper form of royal address. Yet, Obadiah’s skin tingled. Something about the boy gentled Ahab.
“Sing it with me.” Mikayhu hooked an arm in Gera’s then in Ahab’s.
A royal bodyguard frowned.
Gera jerked the boy back. “Sorry, my king.”
But Ahab took Mikayhu’s arm and then Gera’s. “The child means no harm. Wha’d you have in mind, son?”
Mikayhu’s heels rose and fell. “Well, see, Uncle Gera sings bass. Will you help me on the lead, King? Maybe your friends will blend in.”
“Yes, lad. When old Biah was a boy, he could hit those high notes.” Ahab turned the little threesome toward the other two on the terrace. “Join us, please.”
Hiel cringed. “You sing tenor, Obadiah?”
“Used to.” Obadiah took Gera’s arm.
Hiel hooked one long arm through Ahab’s and the other through Obadiah’s.
“A quintet. Even better.” The boy grinned big.
He cued them with, “The Loooord.”
At the first note of “The Lord is…,” Ahab joined Mika on the lead and Hiel on the bass. Gera closed his eyes and chimed in at “my light and my salvation.” Obadiah hit a few high notes with “the Lord is the strength of my life,” and all four finished strong with, “of whom shall I be afraid?”
Everyone in the northwest corner of the plaza stared, including three dogs and a donkey. Spectators grinned and crowded the base of the stairs, but scowling bodyguards backed them away.
Obadiah clapped twice. Softly. Harmony on the old psalm about the Lord came naturally to Ahab, like featuring the Lord when naming his sons—Held-by-the-Lord and The-Lord-Is-Exalted. Yet Ahab allowed Moloch agents to burn babies and Asherah thugs to run brothels.
Ahab slapped Mikayhu on the back. “Asaph would be proud.”
The boy winced. “All we need is brass cymbals. Now, King, about the Lord’s message—”
Ahab pointed to a table on the terrace. “Look, Gera, it was nice of you to stop by. Please be my guests.” A servant arranged grapes, slices of apple and pomegranate, plus three kinds of cheese. A second table held red wine, spring water, and fresh flatbread.
Obadiah exchanged glances with Hiel. Ahab was stalling, trying to distract the Lord’s messenger.
Mikayhu bent over the cheeses and inhaled long. “The smell of home, King.” He straightened. “The Lord wants you to know something.”
“Relax, son. Any friend of Gera’s—please.” Ahab gave a broad smile and swept his arm toward the food. Yet in the next moment, he wiped his hands on his robe.
Obadiah took a step back. Ahab was sweating. When the Goatskin Kid spouted “neither dew nor rain,” the sky had closed. Was Ahab afraid of the Lord’s next judgment?
With one bound, Mikayhu landed in Ahab’s face. “You see, the Lord says—”
“No, no. Grove business can wait.” Ahab silenced him with a raised hand.
“Ha! Oh my. No, no, King. The Lord’s not talking about groves.” [relevant?]
Obadiah sucked in a quick breath and slid over next to Ahab’s shoulder. “Maybe we should hear what the Lord has to say.”
“Not now, Biah.”
Mikayhu fell back a step but said, “Look, King, that vast army of Syrians spread out below us?” [Has this back and forth gone on too long?]iv
Ahab draped an arm over the boy’s shoulders. “Listen, Mika. Chariots and a field full of troops do not constitute a vast army. They’ve got us in a bit of a bind, but Biah and I’ve seen worse.”
“Thank you, King. My big brothers call me Mika.” He looked up with a slight smile. “It feels kinda nice, but I’m not letting you get away. The Lord says. ‘I will deliver this army into your hand today. And you shall know that I am the Lord.’ See, the Lord wants you to know Who He is.”
“Yeah, right, kid. Look, you sing real nice. And your uncle does a great job with my trees. But at the moment… I’m not saying I’m worried, but—”
Mikayhu nudged Ahab in the ribs. “You sing nice too, King. And I get that you’re not worried. You’re wondering who should lead the counterattack, and that’s what the Lord sent me to show you.” [HOOKvi]
The story – 1 Kings 20:13
The Lord is my light – Psalm 27
Asaph – 1 Chronicles 15:19, Nehemiah 7:44, Ezra 2:41
Ahaziah, “Held by the Lord” – 1 Kings 22:40
Jehoram/Joram, “The Lord is exalted” – 2 Kings 8:16
i It doesn’t flow yet. But Mika’s force has to be credible and felt at some point to break the tension. Whether he can do it by himself or whether he need’s O’s or someone else’s help is your call, but that tension needs to build till it’s palpable and then resolve credibly.
Questions from this reader:
* Is Mika “gifted”? He seems to be. At points he sounds almost autistic or something. You seem to be showing that his gift is from the Lord but that it’s in total control of his personality. He’s “special”? His odd behavior makes that case or else I’m reading him wrong.
But the dramatic confrontation with Ahab wanders. I think you’re trying to achieve an effect similar to Puck in “Midsummer’s Nite…” aren’t you (“What fools these mortals be!”)? He’s been gifted with insight mere kings and generals can’t see. Now, how to tell them what he’s been sent to tell them? Mika will struggle to stay focused in the world of normal adults if I’m reading him right. But they will also not have the patience for him, given the gravity of the moment.
* I think there’s more you can do to put Ahab in a bind here. The clash you’re painting is there, but not clear yet. If you can bring it out more sharply, Ahab’s “aha” moment, when it comes, will be all the greater.
* Given the chasm between Ahab and Mika as it develops, someone is going to need to be a strong bridge. This is where O, when he steps in, takes more of a risk than he would otherwise b/c he’s already sensed the importance of Mika’s message. He understand it source much better than Ahab and is the one of the two of them ready to hear out the Lord’s messenger. It may take some forceful arm twisting on his part to get Ahab to come around. There is a lot of power and tension left to be mined from this scene.
ii sounds very similar to how his curls “bobbed to a beat” – SD
iii I really like this description. SD
ivvast army – is this back and forth going on too long?
vINSERT THIS SOMEWHRE? I’ve got a message for you, king. But I’m not gonna hold it all day. This message is from the Lord, but you’ve got to listen up or I’m not wasting the Lord’s breath with it.
vii[Sun?] – we started this chapter at noon, so it’s about 2 pm now.