º To: MNR, Jerusalem. º Attn: Petrus Andronicus. º Subject: Possibility of second Nazareth feature. º Summary: Includes suggestions of the supernatural. Do not wish to become sensationalist. Currently exploring veracity according to protocol. Primary project on schedule, interviews as per attached brief.
Complete chapter below, in Stories, Letter 02
Mother will be thrilled to hear that Nazareth is now on the route of the Donkey Express, while Father probably raises his eyebrows at the concept. Parcels and parchments travelling rapidly? ‘We get through, come rain, come sleet, come snow.’? They haven’t tried our summers yet.
Let me guess: Mother is sweeping and sorting ready for the festivals. My first forays into research were up in that top room. We wove such fantastic stories around the old clothes and tools and furniture. Got ourselves marvellously dusty, then off to Aunt Anna to get in her way as well.
Even Cousin Saul enjoyed getting dirty in those days. When did he become so serious? Ten years younger than I am, and thirty years older at the same time. Remember when he was determined to make his cap float right across the tar there by the rope chandler? How can he have lost that?
In case you hadn’t noticed, I never let study get in the way of having fun. I suppose that’s why Father keeps on at me about ‘getting a real job’.
You may complain sometimes – no, make that you do complain sometimes – about unfair male privileges. Do you realise you are fortunate? No one expects you to continue the family norms. The younger generation dutifully following those who went before him. That is for the sons, especially the oldest, as in yrs faithfully.
I wish Father would at least agree that being a writer is respectable. He refuses to give credence to this idea of news being spread across countries in writing. He is fixed in his persuasion that the only way is by oral transmission.
But just look around. It’s working. And I’m right where I want to be, in the middle of it all.
Well, maybe not literally where I want to be – who would choose this little town over a big city? But you just watch, one day I will be writing the stories of what is happening in Rome, and I will be writing from Rome itself.
This may just be a simple assignment in the country, but if I get this right it opens up to more significant projects. My brilliant stories will dazzle the high-ups, I’ll make ephahs of money, and then I can sit down to write my poetic Vision of Humanity. When I’m in a place like this I remind myself that two of Virgil’s major collections were based on rural life.
I know, I know. I am just your brother, not a great literary figure – yet. But Virgil is dead, and someone has to replace him! MNR is a ladder I’m climbing, and I will get to the top, like Petrus Andronicus. I have diligently done my due time, with the late nights, the sabbath shifts, and fillers filed from obscure places with dubious living conditions and meals made from who knows what.
Yes, I heard you: places like Nazareth. At least here the roof doesn’t leak, and the food is good.
The innkeeper seems to be related to most of the village, and his wife knows the gossip about everyone. She is also doing her major clean out tomorrow, and I have been told that I must make myself scarce. There is to be a communal midday meal with a neighbour, so you can reassure Mother I won’t starve.
I miss you both.
Give my greetings to Father.
Love from big brother Benjamin.
This is only my fourth day here, but I really think this must be the perfect example of a town where nothing happens.
For the first couple of days I got to know my way around the streets, visited in the marketplace, and met people. You cannot help but meet people. This is a village, and everybody knows when a stranger comes to town.
News 101, in case you didn’t know, tells you that it is more important to listen than to talk. I listened. I heard an argument over who owns a piece of land, an ongoing discussion as to whether the cosmos is static or expanding, and three declarations of how news-on-parchment is a passing thing that will never become popular.
That was what my father said when I told him I wanted to work with MRN. If I wanted parchments, he said, I should visit the library, enjoy what my city has – the Athens of the Eastern Mediterranean, he called it. All the learning anyone could want right here on our doorstep.
But I do not want the doorstep. I want travel. I want to be where everything is happening. I want Rome.
And he wants me to make tents.
He should rather concentrate on cousin Saul who seems to have a talent in that direction. That is, if he can get Saul away from his books. Admittedly he is a good student, the elders are as close to gushing over him as elders can get, but he is such a nitpicker. One day he will find an argument that he can’t win with his jots and tittles.
Look at how he was not happy with those radical views of yours about tempering the law with mercy. Someone, somewhere, has the unanswerable waiting for him. Despite my undeniable talent with words, though, I am pretty sure it is not going to be me on the other side of the debate. Maybe you are destined to marry Sara to be the one who finally has the last word with Saul. Oh happy future!
I was down in the square last night, listening to the evening talk. It gets a little more heated there than the passing conversation in the streets. The young men impatient with the regime, pushing for change, trying to be heard. The old men speaking of Jehovah God with a conviction of ‘all in His time.’
And of course there are always the few who are ready to take things into their own hands and fight. Nothing like Masada, where I was interning for Pete A. last month, though. There’s a hotbed waiting for revolution if ever I saw one.
But still it is that same yearning for the days of glory, the victories of David, that far off kingdom . . . How many times have I heard that? They are all looking for this mystical king who will make them a great nation again. Rome is all around them, in every aspect of their lives. Can they not see that there is no other empire?
Ah well, it makes for nice controversial discussions. I like those.
I am going to bed, so I leave you to polish up your debating skills.
TO: MNR, Jerusalem
Attn: Petrus Andronicus
FROM: Benjamin J Levi
Subject: Focus Feature – Rural Village
Possibility of second Nazareth feature. Includes suggestions of the supernatural. Do not wish to become sensationalist. Currently exploring veracity according to protocol. Primary project on schedule, interviews as per attached brief.
Benjamin J Levi
Need your advice. Not for me, for a story I am looking at. No deadline pressure so I will fill you in next post.
Sara has all the news.
Love as always
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