Saturday, December 20, 2008

Day 30: Star, revised

Note: Here is the revised version of the shepherd story. I cut out at least 25% of the words, and changed the ending. I also moved from a first person narrative to a third person narrative. What do you think? Let me know!

There are days in the hillsides outside of Bethlehem where the clouds seem to hover just under the sky. The light takes on a golden hue, and everything, from the pebbles on the road to the birds soaring in the air, are distinct and beautiful.

It was on such an afternoon that Joseph wrapped his dinner in a cloth: salty goat cheese, a dried fig, and some good, flat bread. Holding it in one hand along with a small jug of cool water and taking his staff, which was light but strong, in the other hand, he set off for the hills.

Walking happily through the bustling, busy streets of Bethlehem, Joseph nodded at strangers. All these people had come to be taxed by the Romans, and the usually quiet homes bustled with movement. It was hard to find a place to step.

He saw men selling and buying. He saw women laughing in the market stalls, and children darting between people and animals. Pagan Roman soldiers struggled to walk in their armor in the crowds. The hated tax collectors sat at their tables, with their scrolls. The throngs parted hastily for a man passing with leprosy, calling out, "Unclean." A beggar with twisted legs leaned against a wall with his eyes closed, asleep. Joseph saw these people as he walked toward the city gates.

Then out into the clean, fresh air where the breeze reached him, and swung his cloaks about his legs as he walked. The bright, new grain swayed in the wind. His heart felt light as he rose up into the rocky hills above the city where he would find his family's flocks and tend them for the night.

All the sheep were known to Joseph. When they heard his voice, they came. It was lambing season, and so there were wobbling new lambs scampering amongst the rocks. The shepherds would spend much of their time counting to make sure that none of them had strayed because each of them were precious. They were Joseph's livelihood, but they were also under his care, for he was their shepherd.

Joseph joined his friends on the hill and they talked as they watched their sheep graze. They talked of the Romans, taxes, the Passover soon to come, their children, and their scripture. They talked of the promised Messiah, who would save them from the Romans, and they wondered what it would be like to be free.

As the sun drifted below the horizon in a blaze of light, the shepherds gathered their sheep and lit fires of sweet wood. Sitting down, they opened their bundles and ate. After supper, some of the shepherds lay down to rest. The night was deep and warm, and the stars glittered in the sky.

Tired but content, Joseph stood among his flock, and rested his cheek against his cool staff. He could see the lights of the town below, which didn't look so crowded and dirty from a distance. Slowly, the lights in the windows went out. All was quiet on the hill except for the occasional soft bleating of a sheep. He drifted slowly off to sleep, and he dreamed.

In his dream, the dark night began to grow lighter, as if the sun were rising. He could hear a soft, sweet lullaby. In his dream, the stars themselves were singing. Slowly, Joseph began to realize he wasn't dreaming.

Opening his eyes, he saw that he was surrounded by light and music. The entire hill was wrapped in it, and it seemed to move among them. Lifting his face to the warm night, he saw a man, beckoning to them to come and see. The man told them that their Savior had come at last to make them free. Could it be true?

Closing his eyes once again, Joseph wondered if he was still asleep. But the words of them music seemed to embrace him, "On earth--peace. Good will toward all men." The very rocks of the hills and grasses at his feet seemed to drink in the message of the song and respond and plead with him to believe.

As he opened his eyes once again, he saw that the light and the music were fading, shimmering, and slipping away. He was left in the rich, deep silence that followed. Everything in the hills was the same as before, except for a new star that had appeared in the sky. The shepherds picked up their staffs. Some turned back to their fire. Some turned back to their sheep. But some, including Joseph, took up their staffs and they moved down the hill, picking up speed, running to see. Running to know for themselves. While below them, the city slept.


Cristina said...

Becca - I think this is quite a bit better than the previous version :-) Loved reading it. Thank you for humoring me.


Bryce said...

Good revision. I enjoyed reading it again, and with new details. :)