The thought filled Tobias with fresh energy, and he lengthened his stride. “Home!” he called over his shoulder to Sarah on her donkey. Her two maids rode beside her, followed by a wagon of goods trailed by herders and drovers with sheep, goats, oxen, and cows.
Tobias laughed at the sight. He had left home a boy on an errand with one companion; he returned a man with a wife and an entire caravan. What would his parents say? As he looked again toward Nineveh, his smile faded. What indeed would his parents say? They had no idea he was returning. He could hardly show up at their gate unannounced and expect them to host the whole entourage with no notice.
Raphael cleared his throat. “Are you thinking what I’m thinking? We should let your father know you’re returning.”
“We’ll send a runner with a message,” said Tobias.
“Better yet, you and I can run ahead,” said Raphael. “Do you still have the fish gall?”
Tobias glanced sidelong at Raphael, who after all these weeks still seemed in many ways a stranger. The man obviously had unusual powers and insight, but this fish business was weird. “Fish gall,” Tobias muttered, digging into his waist pouch. “I still have it.”
“Keep it in hand.” Raphael shot him a challenging grin and sprinted ahead.
Tobias broke into a trot, careful not to squeeze the packet, which to his dismay, he could now smell quite well. Fortunately when they reached Nineveh’s massive walls, the odor mingled with scents of the city. He and Raphael shouldered through crowds swarming through the main gateway, a grand tunnel that echoed with shouts and calls and clattering carts.
By the time they reached the street where Tobit’s house stood, the matter of the gall had retreated to the back of Tobias’s mind. But as he headed for his father’s gate, Raphael tugged him aside and spoke in a low, serious voice. “Remember how I instructed you to get rid of the demon?”
Tobias nodded. “With the fish heart and liver.”
“That night you were afraid enough to try anything,” said Raphael. “This time you are not afraid.”
“Should I be?”
“I’m talking about trust. You trusted me last time because you were afraid. This time you must simply trust.” Raphael nodded at the packet of gall. “Open it and smear it on your hands.”
Tobias hesitated, but Raphael’s eyes searched his. Trust. Tobias swallowed his protest and untied the smelly packet. A bitter taste swelled in his throat.
Raphael nodded his approval. “As soon as you see your father, rub the gall on his eyes. It will sting.”
Tobias eyed Raphael warily as he smeared the fish gall on his fingers. Then he approached his father’s gate, humiliated. Over the past few weeks he had been bathed, perfumed, and robed in silks. Now he was to present himself to his father, smelling like a fisherman returning from a year at sea. He shot Raphael a glance of disgust.
“Trust me,” said Raphael.
- to be continued -
© 2012 Karyn Henley. All rights reserved. Based on The Book of Tobit, circa 200 BCE. Illustration Tobias and the Angel by follower of Andea del Verrocchio, c. 1470-5 courtesy Dover Books, Angels.