Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: RASH (04/12/18)
- TITLE: Helper
By Sarah Fehr
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Where was Mirium? They met every week at the same time, in the same place. She was never late! Most of the banished unclean would have given a full day’s food in exchange for a visit from loved ones.
Suddenly, Shoshanna caught a glimpse of movement behind a pile of rocks, a few yards away.
“Miri, is that you? I brought you something!” she called excitedly.
“Yes, it’s me. Bless you, Shoshanna, it is so good to see someone from the outside.” Mirium sounded as though she were about to cry.
“Well, of course, you know you can expect me every week,” Shoshanna chided. “Come out a little more, I can’t see you,” she coaxed.
Mirium inched out from behind the rock, face heavily veiled.
“How have you been Miri? Take off your veil so I can see you better! Are your housemates still snoring terribly?” She grinned. “And have you gotten up the nerve to talk to Shimon?” She giggled.
“Oh Shoshi,” Mirium wailed as she pulled her veil aside. “It’s spreading! Oh Shoshi, I hate it, I hate it! They told me I would have more time before it spread to my face. They told me! And now I look like this,” she bitterly tossed her veil into the dust and faced Shoshanna.
Shoshanna felt a stab of fear. They all knew this day was coming. It was inevitable. But while Mirium’s clothing had hid the skin discoloration, they had somehow been able to push aside reality.
Leprosy. That hideous, disfiguring, skin-rotting disease that everyone feared.
“Let me see, Mirium,” Shoshanna began to crawl closer. “It must not be too bad yet, I can hardly see it from here.”
“No! Stop!” The cry was so shrill and desperate that Shoshanna froze. Mirium was replacing her veil and backing away.
“Don’t come any nearer! We can’t meet any more.”
“But Miri, wait! I brought you some bread!” She tossed the bundle into the space between them, the chasm that divided their lives.
“I will get it when you leave. Go.” Shoshanna could still hear the tears in Mirium’s voice.
She stood and took a step backwards.
“I’ll go, but I’m not giving up! I beseech Jehovah every day for you!” Her voice choked in a sob as she turned and ran back to the dusty road, her heart laden with despair. The image of Mirium’s disfigurement rose up in her mind, refusing to be erased.
“No, God, please! Please make her better! I don’t know how, but please!” Shoshanna’s heart broke again as she remembered it all.
Mirium finding the spot. Showing her parents. Going to the priest. The pronouncement of banishment. The mourners at the wake held as if Miri were already dead, as she was, at least to them.
She thought she had overcome it. No, not the gargantuan obstacle of the disease itself, but she had found a way to meet with Mirium regularly, although from a distance. They had established a sort of normal. Mirium would tell her about the other lepers and the daily life around the camp. Shoshanna would bring bits of food and update her on life in the “real” world. But somehow their delicate sense of normalcy had been rocked by the appearance of the milky blotches on Mirium’s face.
Shoshanna went about her day robotically, completing her tasks by rote. She even produced a smile or two for her parents, for she knew she could never reveal the truth of her meetings with Mirium.
That night, she lay in the darkness, praying and weeping silently. What could she do? What could anyone do? She was completely helpless.
The next morning Shoshanna rose early, in the grayness of the predawn. She smiled at the stillness and gently ladled some water into her basin. She splashed her face in the cool water. She rubbed her hands together and stopped. And rubbed them together again. And again. The small spot of roughness. Dear God, no. It couldn’t be. Not her too! She sank to the floor, sick with shock. No, maybe it wasn’t really what she thought.
Then one thought penetrated her panic: If it was what she thought, she would be able to hug Mirium again.
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