Death Transfigured


The small clay die rolled in the dust. Three of them. One of them almost lost in the long, decaying grass. Simon watched the die intently; he would resell this fraying cloak for a few more denarii than the stingy pickings he could pull from old, crooked Zachariah.

One clay cube landed on seven, the other on three, the last on two. “Twelve,” Zachariah said, with a laugh, “You only get five pence, instead of seven.”

“You cheapskate!” Elias burst out, “How can you live with yourself!”

Unfazed, Zachariah gazed steadily at him, “No one will cry any tears for a drunken thief.”

“Why, you!” Elias rose up, as if to grab the dull dagger always hidden in the inside of his right boot (he was left handed), but Timothy restrained him, grabbing his shoulder, “Cut the drama, Elias. This is business, not theater.”

No one got up. Zachariah stared defiantly around the circle, at the edge of a morphing, undulating crowd, ever-moving, ever-changing, people picking their way up the mountain, through the shrubbery, the sleeping rocks, the sharp blades of prickly desert plants, the loud calls, the gasps of onlookers, the jeers of uniformed guards, their silver helmets flashing in the afternoon sun – that was quickly being arrested by an oncoming gloom, black clouds of the incoming rain, the still air, the dry day. A few last rays. A sudden wind blows from the east to the west. Simon sighed, “I’m never going to get my money.” Two robbers and a charismatic preacher hung on the three crosses.

end of an age

See also: “The Robe,” a 1953 film.

Related: A Falsifiable Life