As a short forty-something, I don’t make a habit of climbing trees, but today’s an exception. Rumour suggests a celeb’s coming. I’m up here to see him, and I don’t care what anyone else thinks.
All my life, I’ve so wanted to be tall, not bullied. My grandmother telling me that all the men in my family line had been short was no consolation. I longed to be one of the gang. ‘Go away shorty,’ [that’s the benign version] was their endless mantra. Still, I was a maths whizz. Helping others with homework, for payment, almost made it tolerable. Sitting at home knowing your contemporaries are out partying is no teenager’s idea of fun. So, in my early twenties, when I heard about the tax collector opening in Jericho, I was off. I revelled in the chance of a new start. The Romans overlooked a little ‘teeming and lading’ here and there, skimming cash, and of course, overcharging as long as their tax portion was handed over. I was rich in no time.
Much as I hated being left out at school, being ostracised as an adult, even a rich adult, is so hurtful. I feel for the kids; they don’t understand. The graffiti is gross, obscene at times. Do you know I have the most white-washed villa in Jericho? Excluded from their dinner parties, our children barred from Jericho’s good schools, and all of us sneered at in the markets are all standard behaviours by the synagogue faithful. God’s special people, bah. They’ve undermined Miriam, pushed her to the edge twice now.
Anyway, the city has been abuzz all morning. Cafe owners were rushing to put out more tables, dusting off old sunshades, while stall-holders in the Souk were rearranging displays, digging out old stock, and hiking prices. And I’m the rogue? Hypocrites and tax dodgers, every last one of them. The Pharisees have been huddled in an emergency council. This celebrity Galilean is causing a real stir. There are reporters everywhere seeking an original angle. Seems he does all types of miracles, heals people without permission, and eats with the riff-raff; imagine that now. No wonder the synagogue elders are panicking. Sounds my sort of chap, frankly.
Ah, here’s a crowd coming now. Pushing and shoving, elbowing each other, jostling for a better view. Like starstruck kids desperate for autographs. Ah, now this is interesting. That one in the middle must be him. Talking as he goes, calm as you like. He has complete control. Gosh, he’s stopped, right underneath. I don’t believe it, I’ve got a front-row view, imagine little me, a front-row seat. Ironic. What’s that? ‘Afternoon tea, did you say, with me? Seriously? Well, yes, of course, I’ll be right down.’ Would you just look at the shock on their darling faces?