7

Clement and Elmo

Malchus was sleeping soundly when he was startled by someone shouting, "Good Morning" first in Hebrew, then in Latin. Malchus peered out from under his covers to see who it might be. Standing in the doorway were two young men about his age. One was tall and slender, and the other was short and stocky.

"Breakfast is ready," said the tall one.

"You go ahead, and Iíll join you in a moment."

As they walked on, Malchus thought he heard the shorter one blurt out, "Sleepy head," then snicker.

Malchus passed it off as "nonsense," as Rachel would say, then quickly got dressed for the day. He wondered if he might see Ruth or Rachel helping with the food, so he smoothed his hair back just in case. By the time he finished, he had to run to catch up with his neighbors as they were almost to the door of the kitchen.

"Wait up!" he yelled.

They stopped, turned around, and waited for him to catch up.

"Itís a good thing you hurried, or you might have missed breakfast," said the short one.

"Well, I got up a little late today, but Iíll be up earlier tomorrow."

"Come get in line," said the taller one, "By the way, what is your name."

"My name is Malchus. Which one of you is which?"

It was the taller one who responded first, "I am Clement, and this is Elmo."

Elmo, acting a little silly, stood on his toes and looked up at Clement with a funny grin on his face and with his hands behind his back. "Which one do you think it is," he said to Clement, "right or left?"

Clement motioned to Elmoís right arm then Elmo said, "Wrong and handed him a blue bowl with his left hand. Then he pulled out a red bowl with his right arm and held it in front of him.

"Where is your bowl, Malchus?" Elmo chided.

Malchus, feeling a little embarrassed that he had left his bowl in his room, started to answer but was interrupted by a familiar voice. It was Rachel. "Malchus, there are plenty of extra bowls here in the kitchen. Donít you worry. Iíll find you one. Elmo, hand me your bowl, so I can fill it."

As Elmo handed his bowl to Rachel, he had the look of a little boy caught getting a honey cake from the kitchen jar.

"Clement, donít you be shy too. Iíll fill your bowl if youíll hand it to me, please."

"Thank you," she said confidently as she filled it and handed it back to him.

Then Rachel nodded to Malchus and said, "Just one minute. Iíll be back." When she returned she was carrying a dark green bowl. She set the bowl down on the serving ledge then grasped the wooden spoon to fill Malchusí bowl from the large cooking container. As she picked up the filled bowl to hand to him, Malchus noticed how small yet strong her hands were. "Girls are marvelous creations," he thought to himself.

"Malchus, you are staring at your food." she scolded. "Clement and Elmo can tell you that it is only proper to look the server in the eye and say, ¬Ďthank you.í"

"Thank you, Rachel."

"Thatís better," Rachel affirmed as she nodded her head in approval then turned to go into the kitchen.

"Malchus," Clement directed, "you may join Elmo and me at our table in the tool shed. We built it ourselves."

The table was close to the ground so all three could easily sit on the mats stationed around it while they ate. Malchus was anxious to find out more about his two new friends and asked them how long they had been working on the compound.

Clement spoke first, "Elmo and I began working at Caiaphasís compound at the same time about a year ago. We work with the cattle and sheep and take care of the grounds."

"You do good work if the condition of the livestock is an indication."

"What about you? What will you be doing?" asked Clement.

"Caiaphas said he could use me for the yeoman job."

"Hey, Clement," Elmo exclaimed, "I think we have a smart one here."

"I never thought of myself as particularly smart, but I did always try to follow my parentís instructions. Now I suppose Iím glad because Iíll get to use all of those languages that required so much work. In any case Iíll have to learn much more as Caiaphas said I will be keeping the ledgers."

"Then you will be working some with Haman."

"Tell me about Haman."

"He is the priest who is in charge of the ledger which lists all the trading activity."

"Is Haman easy to get along with?"

Elmo injected, "I would say he is about as easy to get along with as a stubborn, old goat."

Then Clement spoke up, "Iíd say he is obnoxious."

"I hope Iíll be able to get along with him."

"Good luck," they both said together then looked at each other, and Elmo grinned.

"How do you two happen to be slaves of Caiaphas?" Malchus inquired, as he changed the subject.

Clement continued as spokesman, "I signed on a freighter out of Catania, Sicily. Athens was a port of call. Elmo, as I, was looking for adventure, so he too came onboard at Athens as an apprentice seaman."

"Did the freighter stop in Caesarea?"

Here Elmo decided to speak, "Yes, and after unloading freight, we decided our job was more about lifting and carrying than it was about sailing. Early one morning we left the ship to follow the caravans to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem the only work we could find was as indentured servants for Caiaphas."

"How do you like your work?"

"Better than the freighter - except for Haman. He is such a grouch. We stay out of sight when he comes around."

When the three young men had finished eating breakfast, they carried their bowls to the well by the stables to rinse them before putting the bowls on the table in their rooms. Malchus followed his two new friends to the stable where they began the morning clean up. As Malchus reached for some hay to hold for the calf that stood at the fence with beseeching eyes, he heard footsteps behind him.

"Are you Malchus, the new yeoman?" the guard asked.

"I am," replied Malchus.

"Then follow me to the main house. Haman is ready to meet with you."

Instead of entering into the large entryway in the front of the main house as he had with Ruth, they entered through a small entryway on the side of the house. They walked down a corridor, then came upon a wooden door with a hammered metal plate on it that read "Records." The guard knocked twice. When he saw the door begin to swing open, he stood erect and said, "Yeoman Malchus is here to see you, sir."

"Of course, guard. Youíre dismissed," answered the priest, sounding a little annoyed.

The guard, showing no emotion on his face, turned and left. As he did, the priest turned to walk toward one of the walls that was covered with pigeonhole shelving. The fringe on his robe seemed exceptionally long to Malchus, but he wasnít sure what it meant. Malchus wondered, "What have I gotten myself into with this priest?"

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