His feet hurt.
It had been a long day and a long evening too.
Philip touched the doorframe briefly, sighed, and bent to untie his sandals.
“Father! You’re back at last!”
Miraim’s head appeared in the inner doorway, then disappeared before she returned carrying a large vase of water.
“Here,” she said. “Wash.”
Philip smiled at his busy daughter, so like her mother and a welcome reminder of home, of their real life.
“And how was your supper after we women left you to your gossiping?” She asked, hands on hips.
Philip carefully dried his toes, one by one, on the rag she had brought him.
“Odd,” he said, at last.
“You know my master is often cryptic,” he began. Miriam bent her head quickly so that he would not see her expression and Philip laughed out loud.
“You are a good girl, Miriam, but you do not hide your feelings well! Still, my lord seemed … strange tonight.”
“Sorry, Father. How ‘strange’?”
Philip sat, weaving the drying rag around first one hand then the other, considering his answer.
“Sometimes, I think, he is being deliberately difficult. Like, tonight. You know he is always going on about ‘the father’: “In my father’s house”, “doing my father’s work”? We all know he’s not talking about poor old Joseph. So I asked him, right at the table, if he will show us this father. “
Philip put down the rag at looked at his daughter.
“And he gave me that look. You know the one a lamb gives you when you’re sharpening the knife? I hate it when he does the look.”
“He said nothing?”
“Oh he did. He gave me the ‘look’ and then he said, ‘If you have seen me, you have seen the father.’ See? Cryptic. Which leaves me no better off in terms of knowledge and looking like a fool in front of my brothers. They, of course, all sit around nodding as if they have understood perfectly well.”
“Simon Peter?” Miriam guessed.
“Oh, Simon Peter!” Philip waved the cup at his daughter. “He always understands – except we all know perfectly well that he doesn’t. Didn’t stop him going on and on tonight about how devoted he is to the master. I think the wine went to his head, because he must have said it three or four times. And then he and James and John get invited to go to the garden and pray with him while questioning-old-Philip goes…here!”
Philip scowled around at the bare rented room that held nothing of value to him. Except of course that it did: his most treasured possession, who was now looking at him with tears in her beautiful eyes. Philip wished he still had on his sandals so that he could kick himself and make it really hurt. Always, he told himself, always the wrong thing is lurking in your mouth, waiting for the perfectly wrong moment to leap out and shame you again.
With an effort, he brightened his face and his tone and continued.
“…Here! With my lovely daughter, the light of my life, and so why am I complaining?”
He reached over and pinched her cheek. Anointed by a forgiving smile, Philip sat back again and felt his heart swell with pride. At least he had done some things right in his life, he thought.
“The lord wasn’t very angry with you, was he?” Miriam asked.
“Oh no. Anyway, he was thinking of other things, I think. Still, it was odd…”
Miriam, to prove she had forgiven her father, teased him,
“You said that, old man. Did you forget?”
He gave her a mock-stern frown then continued.
“More odd. At one point he started talking about eating flesh and drinking blood.”
“No!” Miriam gasped, her mouth frozen on the last sound it had made.
“He did.” Philip said. “I thought maybe he’d been out in the desert too long, but his eyes…they were not the eyes of a madman.”
He shook his head and added softly,
“This time it was like he had something really important to share and he actually wanted us to understand it, only the words – the world – couldn’t hold what he was trying to say.”
From the window the night-sounds of the waning festival slipped into the silence between father and daughter.
Philip stood and drained his cup.
“Thank you, my good and beautiful daughter, for looking after an old man. This visit to the city has lasted too long. I hope that soon something will change and that we may leave this place.”
Miriam stood too.
“Amen!” She prayed, as she began tidying and preparing for sleep.
A clattering at the door made her shriek and drop the cup she had taken fromPhilip. He eyes sought out her father’s and she saw fear there, too. The hammering at the door continued.
“Philip!” A voice cried from the night outside. “Philip! Are you in there? Open up! Let me in! Something has happened. A terrible thing has happened!”