The idea of coming in contact with blood clearly terrified Joshua, as it would any Jewish boy. "Give them James, Abba, he is your first son."
Joseph shot a glance my way, to see if I had reacted. I had, but it was because I was considering my own status as a first son, hoping that my father wasn't thinking along the same lines. "James is a second son. The priests don't want second sons. It will have to be you:'
Joshua looked at me before he answered, then back at his father. Then he smiled. "But Abba, if you should die, who will take care of Mother if I am at the Temple?"
"Someone will look after her," I said. "I'm sure of it."
"I will not die for a long time." Joseph tugged at his gray beard. "My beard goes white, but there's a lot of life in me yet."
"Don't be so sure, Abba," Joshua said.
Joseph dropped the bowl he was working on and stared into his hands. "Run along and play, you two," he said, his voice little more than a whisper.
Joshua stood and walked away. I wanted to throw my arms around the old man, for I had never seen a grown man afraid before and it frightened me too. "Can I help?" I said, pointing to the half-finished bowl that lay in Joseph's lap.
"You go with Joshua. He needs a friend to teach him to be human. Then I can teach him to be a man."
Copyright Christopher Moore 2002. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the publisher, Harper Collins
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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