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    Walt Shakes

    Walter Ude (@Walt_Shakes) is an award-winning Nigerian writer, poet and veteran blogger. He is a lover of the written word. the faint whiff of nature, the flashing vista of movies, the warmth of companionship and the happy sound of laughter. He blogs at mymindsnaps.wordpress.com.

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THE HEART OF A KING (Part 1)

He sat on an outcropping of rock under the gnarled branches of a small olive tree, gazing at the Judean hillside. He chewed slowly and methodically on an olive, its bitterness somewhat soothing, and the pit rolling around his mouth. Beads of sweat lined his forehead and rivulets ran down his back and yet he paid no heed. His senses were on alert: something was wrong. He held a small lamb in his arms – Shula, he called her, one of his favorites. She squirmed a bit in his arms, aware of the change in the atmosphere, her senses alert.

The sheep seemed to sense his trepidation as well, all of them moving in closer bit by bit. He scanned the hillside once again, his storm-cloud grey eyes missing nothing, his hand tightening on his shepherd’s staff and his other hand reaching into his large tunic pocket to feel for his sling and stones. Then it happened.

A huge roar reverberated in the not so distant horizon, shaking the very foundations of the ground, scattering the sheep in a million directions: a desert lion. He felt an electric-like charge go up his spine: not fear, but anticipation for the battle ahead. Yes, he may be a lowly shepherd boy, but the blood of Abraham ran through his veins and he would rather die in battle than run away like a coward. He sprung up from his nesting place, placing his feet apart and getting into combat stance. Then he saw it. It bounded over the hillside, a blur of caramel and beige, its jaws wide open and ready to devour. It quickly swooped in on the herd and picked one of the lambs in its mouth.

“Yahweh…God of Israel…come to my aid,” he whispered as he inhaled in readiness for a fight.

He whooped and ran toward the lion, the roar of battle filling his throat and echoing in the countryside. The lion stopped in its tracks and turned its feline amber eyes toward him. The lamb in its mouth bleated weakly, already wounded by the lion’s fangs. He felt for a stone in his pocket, fit it neatly in the sling and flung it toward the lion, hitting it squarely on the nose. It dropped the lamb, startled at first and then enraged. It turned and leaped toward him, its mouth open and fangs bared. He made a quick pivot on his feet and hit the lion on its head with his staff, disorienting it as it skidded past him. Then he quickly turned around and faced it. It jumped at him, and again he spun, this time landing on its back and swiftly securing the staff under its jaw, across its throat and windpipe. Once he had the staff secure, he pulled with all his might. The lion twisted and turned, thrashing about in panic as he choked it. It threw itself on its back trying to get him off and he felt his back and head hitting against the hard earth. Shards of pain sliced up his back and head but he gritted his teeth and held on, pulling with added strength, trying his best not to let go.

After what seemed like an eternity, the lion shook with a spasm, made several choking noises and finally lay still. He held on for a few minutes and then let go. He rolled it off him and stood up. It looked toward the endless expanse of sky with still, glassy eyes; its tongue lolling out of its mouth. It was dead. He raised his eyes to the heavens and smiled.

“Thou art indeed a worthy cover in battle…praise be to you, Yahweh,” he said, breathing deeply. Then he whistled to call his flock and slowly, they came together. The lamb the lion had grabbed was still struggling to get off the ground, obviously injured. He clucked his tongue: he would have to administer some care to that one. He looked once again at the lion’s carcass: its thick fur would make a fine cuff for a winter cloak for his father. The man who could barely look at him.

He felt something moist and sticky running down his brow and upon touching it, discovered that he had wounded himself and was bleeding. He tore off a piece of cloth from his tunic and used some water from his flask to wash the wound and then bind it. His body hurt from the battering he got but he supposed it would all end up in bruises and nothing serious. He shrugged and looked around for a stone with a sharp edge: he would have to skin the carcass and take the fur to the tanner for treatment. He sighed, rubbed his shoulders and got to work.

* * *

Dusk had fallen when he finally trudged home, weariness soaking his very bones and marrow and his stomach growling in hunger. He had already washed most of the day’s dirt off him outside in the large clay pot but he required more washing; that he could do after partaking of a well deserved meal. He could hear voices in the inner room as he walked, his brothers no doubt. Well…half brothers as some of them never failed to remind him.

He was the product of a relationship between his father and a concubine – not quite legitimate enough to be fully accepted, yet not ‘illegitimate’ enough to be spurned. His mother had been young, beautiful and impetuous when she met his father, who at the time was married. In order to place some stamp of propriety about their relationship, she was brought into the house to live as concubine and not labeled an adulteress…but that hadn’t really helped matters. His father’s wife had understandably disliked his mother and had been relieved when she died in childbirth. His six brothers alternated between tolerating his presence, being casually dismissive and in some cases, being out rightly scornful and hateful of him. He had grown up that way and was used to it. His father was no weakling, but he was easily swayed by his sons, especially the first two, Eliab and Abinadab. Oft times he would catch his father looking at him with something akin to longing and dismay. It was almost as if he wanted to be closer to him and yet for some unfathomable reason, could not.

As he approached the area where his brothers ate, he could hear loud raucous laughter and speech. He stilled himself, knowing what would come next. There was an audible hush as soon as he entered the room, conversation dying down as every eye turned to stare at him. He walked toward the centre where the food was and saw that almost all of it was gone: typical. None of his brothers cared enough to consider him and his hunger. He sat down and closed his eyes.

“Something smells like sheep here,” taunted Eliab, the eldest.

There were titters around.

“Eliab, let the boy be…” said Shimea, the third-born and by far one of the most sympathetic to his plight.

“Hush…why should I have any concern for the son of our father’s indiscretion?” Eliab retorted.

He bristled at the description cast upon him and his mother but kept his eyes downcast, not out of fear or humility but anger. He was by far the strongest of all seven boys, having spent most of his life fighting the elements, not to mention wild animals. His loose linen tunic hid a well built body and corded muscles and his eyes glinted with fire. His jaw clenched and he grit his teeth.

“Abigail!” Shimea called out, summoning their youngest sister who came in bearing a small tray of food no doubt kept for him at Shimea’s behest. He looked up at Shimea, his eyes filled with gratitude and received an almost imperceptible nod in return.

The rest of the brothers – Abinadab, Nethanel, Raddai and Ozem – sat silent, not daring to speak against Eliab. Most of them were indifferent to him, not caring one way or another. He thanked Abigail quietly as she placed the platter before him and she smiled in response before turning away to leave.

“So brother…” Raddai spoke, “you seem unusually tired today…what happened? Did you chase after lost sheep again?” It would seem an ordinary enough question but when spoken by Raddai, it came out more as an insult.

“No…I killed a lion,” he answered.

There was silence all around until Abinadab chuckled in derision. “Lion eh? You expect us to believe that? Last time it was a bear…”

“Whose fur I brought home…” he said quietly as he chewed carefully. Again that silence.

Eliab interjected, “You could have gotten that fur anywhere…”

“Yes I could have…just like you could have gotten that scar on your lip from a girl throwing a well aimed punch and not from a fall from an olive tree…” he said quietly, his voice even.

There were stifled chuckles around the table as everyone knew that was a sore spot for Eliab. He had a scar on his lip he claimed he got from a fall from a tree when they all knew it came from one of the village girls when he was eight years old. Eliab bristled and kept silent.

He finished eating his food and got up on his feet heading toward the back section of the house to have a proper bath and then a well deserved night’s rest.

“I bid you all good night and may Yahweh cause His Light to shine upon you” he said to his brothers as he turned to go.

“Sleep well…David,” Shimea said in response.

* * *

There was silence as David walked away until he was out of sight. Eliab then turned furious eyes at Shimea who gazed at him evenly. Abigail came in to clear the platters.

“Shimea, how dare you…”

“How dare I what, brother? How dare I ask our sister to keep food for David, our brother? Does he not deserve at least that much after a hard day’s work?” Shimea asked calmly.

“What is so tasking in being a shepherd?” Eliab spat.

“The mere fact that he hasn’t lost a sheep to wild animals and wandering in the last two years ought to be a testament to his skill. You were far less successful when father put you in charge of the flocks for less than a fortnight.”

Abigail chuckled and Eliab turned his wrathful gaze on her. “And you? How dare you laugh amidst men?”

“Men, brother dear? Oh do forgive me, Eliab, for it is just recently that you have gotten a beard and so…” Abigail said, an impish smile on her face. She had a rather unbridled tongue, one that their father had warned her might earn her a beating from her husband…should anyone ever choose to marry such a harridan, he added. She must learn to conduct herself with decorum and marry well as her sister, Zeruiah had done, her father would always tell her.  She swung her thick auburn braid over her shoulder, platters balancing precariously on both hands as she continued to speak. “What irks you so about David, Eliab? He is the lastborn son and as such no threat to you or your inheritance.”

“I refuse to place him on the same level as myself,” Eliab retorted.

“Neither do I,” added Abinadab. “After all, he is not fully legitimate…”

“The twelve tribes of Israel were fathered by one man, Jacob…and some of those sons came from concubines…” Shimea said quietly.

“You all have no loyalty to…” Eliab said.

“To whom, dear brother?” Shimea asked. “Is it to our departed mother, she of noble brow and carriage? There was none as she…but she is gone now. The circumstances of David’s birth are not his fault and as long as our father, Jesse, has accepted him and called him his own then who are we to say otherwise?”

“Besides,” chuckled Abigail, “it is rather nice to be the sister to one of the most handsome youths in the area. All the village maidens are secretly hoping to catch David’s eye.” She started to walk out.

“Woman, you speak too quickly for your own good… shameless baggage….” Eliab said ominously.

Abigail just laughed as she exited the room. “Oh Eliab, dear brother…please do not rage so. One might mistake your antagonism as jealousy against your own brother…”

Eliab began to get up threateningly as Abigail scampered away, her giggles echoing in the hall as she fled. The other brothers spoke to him to calm him down.

“One day…that girl…I will…”

“You will do nothing to her Eliab. You may be the firstborn but remember that she is a girl, the apple of our father’s eye regardless of her stubbornness…” Nethanel said languidly, looking through lidded eyes. He was by far the quietest among all the brothers, preferring to sit back and watch events unfold rather than take part in them.

Eliab hissed in frustration as one by one the brothers got up to go to their quarters to sleep. Their father preferred to leave them to their devices in the evening, knowing that there would be inevitable tension, tension he would rather avoid.

Written by Sifa Asani GowoniStock_000003439123XSmall1

Stay tuned next Sunday for more episodes of The Heart Of A King 🙂

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Leave a comment

29 Comments

  1. Michael

     /  October 20, 2013

    Nice! Bravah!!! Very well written with a healthy sprinkling of humor.

    I’ll like to point out a mistake, though. As a Jew, David wouldn’t have touched the lion’s carcass as its viewed as unclean, or he himself would have become unclean for 9 days.

    Reply
  2. Francine Rivers? Good telling. Got me riveted

    Reply
  3. Oh my! Thanks so much for pointing that out- I really, really suck at research. I shall make the changes asap. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Excellency

     /  October 20, 2013

    Oh my God, oh my God, this work is as awesome as the life of King David! Respects Sifa, the Spirit of Yaweh grant you deeper insights and greater grace! Such beautiful work, this is! Encore!

    Reply
  5. abikoye

     /  October 20, 2013

    This is wonderful.
    It would take a lecture from my grandmother for me to read the Scripture, but effortlessly I read this, wanting to read more.

    Reply
  6. darlington

     /  October 20, 2013

    really really nice piece, here.
    made me actually wonder if it was the same kinda tale i read during my earlier years
    i look forward to more episodes!

    Reply
  7. Beautiful!

    Reply
  8. kachi

     /  October 21, 2013

    Beautiful piece Sifa, looking forward to more. I concur with Mike. Then secondly Sifa, David didnt have a well cut and built body, he was smallish in size(petit) that was one of the differences between him and Saul that Isreal noted. #Read Chronicles

    Reply
    • Oh really? Hmmm, I didnt know that. Goodness, I will have to do some more in depth research, eh? Looks like I will have one or two things to change. Thanks!

      Reply
    • Tнє theologians at work. Can we wait until David meets Saul? Perhaps Saul is a towering hunk of a man, enough to dwarf tнє well-built David

      Reply
  9. drnal

     /  October 21, 2013

    Sifa, Sifa, Sifa. Thank you for this beautiful piece, God bless you. Your work speaks for itself. Your narrative is beautiful and your imagination is something else! Thank you again. Keep doing a good work, God bless you.

    Reply
  10. mana

     /  October 21, 2013

    For minutes, I was like ‘ma mehn Walter is at it again’, but at d end I saw Sifa, I was like ‘wow, ohk Sifa is at it again’.. Dis piece is indeed one of a kind, d creativity, concept n style is ‘feet sweeping’ kudos 2 U̶̲̥̅̊ Sifa, U̶̲̥̅̊’re guuuud, just like my oga Walt..

    Reply
  11. okechukwu elosiuba

     /  October 21, 2013

    love this

    Reply
  12. Adeline Kasper

     /  October 21, 2013

    Wow!! Sifa at it again!
    U ar 1 gud writer. Kip it up dear!

    Reply
  13. i am enthralled…i like spinning tales off bible stories too…but this…this is on another level. poignant, fluid and vivid…
    i am waiting eagerly for more

    Reply
  14. mesi

     /  November 3, 2013

    Beautiful story, Sifa.
    I disagree with one of the comments tho. David was not smallish. Nah,not at all. Saul was the tallest man in Israel then. Head and shoulders above all. That doesn’t mean that David was smallish. He was indeed well built with a warrior’s body.

    Reply
  15. *sigh…I’m speechless. You should help rewrite the book of 1st and 2nd Samuel. Lol. This is great! Wonderful narrative, I could imagine it all. Humour too. You depicted the human nature well. Rage, jealousy, mischief, rivalry, love and all. I love you guys. 🙂

    Reply
  16. This is very insightful, descriptive and illustrative. The story came alive as though I have never read it before

    Reply

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