Remember that woman? The one they yanked out into the square wrapped in a blanket?”
“How could I forget? The stone I held that morning: jagged, heavy, perfect for the job.” I looked down at my hands, empty save for grains of sand adhered to my fingers. I wiped them on my robe, but grit clung to the skin. “But you know, when that guy died after all, well . . .”
Caius looked at me and shrugged. “If something seems too good to be true . . .”
That woman—barely a girl, really—had walked away. I had put my rock down after ’most everyone else did. That Jesus had a way of speaking so people listened. Fooled us all. But now his followers couldn’t let it go. They insist Messiah came, that we crucified him, that he rose from the dead. Only a fool could believe it. Someone should protect the fools.
“You know, I didn’t have a rock that day.” Caius tossed a pebble toward the damp, black dirt where Stephen had knelt. His people had already taken the body. “By the time I made it to the square most folks had dropped their rocks. But you still had one. Why didn’t you throw it?”
I thought a minute. Something about having sinned too? And some relief, like I didn’t bear responsibility for her sins. “I don’t remember quite. It didn’t seem right, I guess.”
“He must have made some speech, huh?” Caius always turned out for a stoning—maybe his way of atoning for a Roman name.
“Did we do the right thing here?” I sat down on a boulder and Caius joined me.
“You know we did.” He opened the wineskin and took a sip before passing it to me. “These people call a dead man God. Maybe we sin sometimes, but Stephen blasphemed.”
I nodded. The crowd had dispersed a while ago, leaving silence in place of taunts and thuds and cheers. I took our bread and broke it and handed half to him.
Cover photo by Nick Nice.