I was seven
years old. What do you know when you're seven years old? All my life, or
so I thought, we'd been in the city of Alexandria, in the Street of the
Carpenters, with the other Galileans, and sooner or later we were going
Late afternoon. We were playing, my gang against his, and when he ran at me again, bully that he was, bigger than me, and catching me off balance, I felt the power go out of me as I shouted: "You'll never get where you're going."
He fell down white in the sandy earth, and they all crowded around him. The sun was hot and my chest was heaving as I looked at him. He was so limp.
In the snap of two fingers everyone drew back. It seemed the whole street went quiet except for the carpenters' hammers. I'd never heard such a quiet.
"He's dead!" Little Joseph said. And then they all took it up. "He's dead, he's dead, he's dead."
I knew it was true. He was a bundle of arms and legs in the beaten dust.
And I was empty. The power had taken everything with it, all gone.
His mother came out of the house, and her scream went up the walls into a howl. From everywhere the women came running.
My mother lifted me off my feet. She carried me down the street and through the courtyard and into the dark of our house. All my cousins crowded in with us, and James, my big brother, pulled the curtain shut. He turned his back on the light. He said:
"Jesus did it. He killed him." He was afraid.
"Don't you say such a thing!" said my mother. She clutched me so close to her, I could scarcely breathe.
Big Joseph woke up.
Now Big Joseph was my father, because he was married to my mother, but I'd never called him Father. I'd been taught to call him Joseph. I didn't know why.
He'd been asleep on the mat. We'd worked all day on a job in Philo's house, and he and the rest of the men had lain down in the heat of the afternoon to sleep. He climbed to his feet.
"What's that shouting outside?" he asked. "What's happened?"
He looked to James. James was his eldest son. James was the son of a wife who had died before Joseph married my mother.
James said it again.
"Jesus killed Eleazer. Jesus cursed him and he fell down dead."
Joseph stared at me, his face still blank from sleep. There was more and more shouting in the street. He rose to his feet, and ran his hands back through his thick curly hair.
My little cousins were slipping through the door one by one and crowding around us.
My mother was trembling. "He couldn't have done it," she said. "He wouldn't do such a thing."
"I saw it," said James. "I saw it when he made the sparrows out of clay on the Sabbath. The teacher told him he shouldn't do such things on the Sabbath. Jesus looked at the birds and they turned into real birds. They flew away. You saw it too. He killed Eleazer, Mother, I saw it."
My cousins made a ring of white faces in the shadows: Little Joses, Judas, and Little Symeon and Salome, watching anxiously, afraid of being sent out. Salome was my age, and my dearest and closest. Salome was like my sister.
Excerpted from Christ the Lord by Anne Rice Copyright © 2005 by Anne Rice. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
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