As we join the story, Jonah has earned free passage onto a ship to Tarshish by means of winning a camel race; instead of taking his winnings and purchasing a ticket to Nineveh, he instead takes the free trip, upon which the voice of God leaves him.
The first three days on the way to Tarshish were beautiful. The sun played in a sky ornamented with the most delicate of cirrus clouds, and the water was a fortune in blues, purples, and greens, shot with gold where the light tumbled into it. Zabah lounged on the starboard deck, in a chair which he had specially constructed to recline and fold back up, sipped olive wine, and composed chiastic poetry to his favorite harlot back in Midian. The Amalekite who had come in third sat in his cabin sulking because he had lost to a crazy Israelite. Jonah paced the deck, distracted, usually in the way of the ship’s crew. Fortunately Zabah, with the very best of intentions, had inquired about a bit as to whether the Israelite camel champion might not be a bit insane, and so word was had around the ship that he was crazy.
When Jonah had said to get off, it appeared that the voice had taken him at his word, and stayed behind in Joppa. €œI’m sorry, € he growled into the silence. €œLook, as soon as I get to Tarshish, I swear, I won’t even race, I’ll turn right back around, I’ll swim to Nineveh if I have to. € His head stayed quiet.
€œI don’t know, € Zabah told the sailors. €œI’ve heard some strange things about the interior of Judaea. But still, he’s a phenomenal camel racer. €
€œI know, I didn’t even win that race, you won that race, I’m sorry! €
€œYou’re no better than Abiezer, € a voice in his head told him, but it was only his own mind. He didn’t know how he knew the difference. His own thoughts were oranger, somehow. The other thoughts came in darker, and blue.
€œThere may be something in the water there, € Zabah had said. €œBut he’s a good-looking kid. €
€œDamn nutty Israelites, € the Amalekite said.
€œI’ll go to Nineveh right now, just give me a way! € Jonah shouted to the ceiling of his cabin on the night of the third day, and promptly fell asleep.
The storm came up from nowhere. Zabah was nearly thrown off his chair by the wind and the Amalekite spilled ink on the angry epistle he was writing to the camel-racing commission. The ship rose high on a sudden swell of water. The rain came slamming down on deck like wheat dumped from a sack. Sailors swarmed and bounded from all corners to tie down the sails and bail water off the side. Zabah, in a hurried retreat below deck, chair in hand, heard them crying every man to his god, and went to find Jonah.
€œHey Jonah, € he said. €œSleepy boy. Jonah! €
Jonah woke with a start. €œWhat? I won’t go to Tarshish! €
Zabah took his shoulder and shook him a little. €œIs it your god you’re always talking to? €
€œYou talk all the time, to no one. Are you talking to your god? €
Jonah shook his head. €œGod doesn’t talk back, € he said sadly. €œI didn’t go to Nineveh. €
Zabah took a step back. €œYour god is angry with you? €
€œMy God has left me, € Jonah said. €œOr I left him. €
€œWell, I think he’s back, € Zabah said.
Jonah took in the violent tossing of the room for the first time. €œThere’s a storm? €
€œYou might say that. €
A sailor burst into the room. €œYou! € He launched an accusing finger at Jonah. €œWho are you? €
€œJonah son of Amittai, € Jonah said. €œI am a camel racer. € He shook his head. €œNo, I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Hebrew God, who made the earth and the sea. €
€œYou’re fleeing the god that made the earth and sea, € Zabah pointed out.
€œYou’re fleeing your God? You’re bringing us to destruction! € the sailor shouted. €œWe cast lots, and it fell on you! Come on deck, both of you. € He wrapped a burly hand around Jonah’s wrist, lest he try to resist.
€œHow could the lot fall on me if I wasn’t there to draw one? €
The sailor shrugged. €œThat Amalekite camel racer stood in for you. €
€œConvenient, € Jonah muttered.
€œMy will may be done even through an unreliable man of Amalek, € the voice said.
Arwen Taylor’s €œThe Faith of the Ocean € appears in its entirely as part of Plain and Precious Parts of the Fob Bible (http://b10mediaworx.com/peculiarpages/fobbible/pppfobbible.htm#faith) or as part of the complete Fob Bible (http://b10mediaworx.com/b10mwx/peculiar-pages/the-fob-bible/).