Silenced by the Lamb

The full moon shone high above the Galilean countryside like a pearl newly washed, rescued from the mud after some rabbi threw it into a pig pen to make a point.

Bathed in the moonlight was a campfire, around which said rabbi and his disciples lounged, digesting their evening snack of “smores” (a Jewish locust-and-marshmallow treat named after its inventor, a guy named Smordecai). The men were telling stories…

“… and when the shepherd peered into the dark cave,” said Peter, his face a canvas of eerie shadows cast by the flames, “there it was, staring back at him… the cute little goat that had wandered away a few minutes earlier! There was much rejoicing. The end!”

“What?!” cried James. “That wasn’t scary at all! You call that a ghost story?”

“I said I had a goat story.”

Judas snorted. “It wasn’t even a good goat story. Shepherd loses goat, looks for goat, ten minutes later finds goat. Wow.”

“Perhaps the tale’s symbolism is being overlooked,” remarked John. “The shepherd could be God, and the goat a lost soul. God seeks the lost soul and rejoices when they are reunited. Maybe that’s what Peter was getting at.”

“I doubt it,” said Thomas.

“So, anyone else got a tale?” asked Philip. “The bar has not been set high tonight.”

“I’ve got one!” blurted Andrew. “It’s sooo good it may be the greatest story ever told!”

“I like the sound of that,” said Jesus. “Go ahead.”

Andrew leaned in toward the fire. “It’s called ‘The Phantom Fisherman’!”

“Alliterative title,” nodded John.

“What’s alliterative mean?” asked Thomas.

John poked the fire with a stick. “It means the use of the same consonant or vowel sound at the beginning of each word.”

“Oh,” said Andrew, looking at John with narrowed eyes. “Like ‘interrupting ignoramus’?”

Jesus raised a hand. “Okay, boys. Let’s hear the story.”

“On a dark, foggy night,” Andrew began, “two fishermen are out in their boat, seeking a good spot to drop the nets. ‘We’ve never tried that little cove hidden around the point’, says one. ‘Let’s go there.’”

“That’s the first thing Andrew’s ever said that contains a point!” chuckled Matthew.

“Hey! Can I tell my story?... So the fishermen row to the cove and let the nets down…”

“Like Peter let us down with that stupid goat story,” said James.

Peter jumps in. “I’ve got other stories! I’ve been plotting one about a galaxy far, far away, where there are these heroes called Jedi Knights, and an evil empire that—“

“Sounds lame,” said Judas. Everyone agreed.

“So ANYWAY,” continued Andrew, “just moments after the fishermen cast their nets into the water, they beheld a ghastly sight that made them scream in terror…”

“Thomas bathing by the shore?” said Philip. Everybody laughed except Thomas.

“Okay, settle down, wise guys,” Jesus urged. “Let’s be kind to one another. Blessed are the peacemakers, right? Go on, Andrew.”

Andrew sighed. “All right then… so… the two fishermen were horrified to see a hideous ghost rise from the watery depths and suspend itself in the air just inches from their petrified faces. ‘Who dares drop their nets here?’ bellowed the phantom. ‘This is MY fishing place! Many years ago, when a mortal like yourselves, I contested this very location with a fellow fisherman. I jumped from my boat to his and attacked him. We both died in the fight, but because I was the aggressor, I was cursed with forever living a ghostly half-life at this spot I so selfishly desired! No one may fish here!’”

“Ooooooo, a ghost that talks people to death! Very scary!” said Matthew.

Andrew ignored him. “’Be gone!’ roared the phantom. ‘And never return!’ The panic-stricken fishermen fled in their boat as fast as they could. For the rest of their lives they stayed on land, warning others to stay away from the mysterious cove, and haunted by the vision of… the Phantom Fisherman!!”

“I can’t believe I’m going to say this…” said James.

Andrew smiled. “My story scared you?”

“No, I liked the goat story better. I can’t believe it.”

“Wouldn’t it be more of a curse on the ghost if he was powerless to obstruct the fishermen?” pondered John. “Instead, he gets to scare everyone away and keep his spot.”

“Yeah! He should be forced to watch them fish! The punishment should fit the crime!” agreed Philip. “What kind of two-bit supernatural force came up with that curse?”

“All right, guys, time for shut-eye,” Jesus said. “We’ve got another big day tomorrow.”

“But, Lord!” giggled Matthew, “We’re too frightened to sleep! We’re haunted by visions of the Phantom Fisherman!” He doubled over in laughter.

“Knock it off, jerk!” shouted Andrew.

James piped in. “And thanks to Peter, I’m terrified of a goat so cute it’s SCAAARY!”

Peter made a move toward James, shaking his fist. “Come here, you little—“

Suddenly all the disciples were struck mute. None of them could speak a word. Not a sound.

“Ahhh, nice and quiet,” Jesus said. “Maybe whatever two-bit supernatural force just cursed you hecklers and yappers with muteness will lift it in the morning. Punishment fits the crime, don’t you think?” He wrapped himself in a blanket and lay down by the fire. “G’night, boys.”

Cuyler Black