Saturday, April 3, 2010

Zinovy at the Cross

Today, it seemed appropriate to post an excerpt from my novel, "Something About The Joy." Zinovy is reading from the little red book his colleagues have been studying in the evenings as they rest from their travels. The book has become a dangerous distraction, slowing their progress toward their destination. Zinovy decides to see what all the fuss is about:

Zinovy didn't know where his reading left off and the vision began. He saw the man hanging on a rough wooden cross, the man who had been called God's 'Passover Lamb' at the beginning of the book. The 'Lamb' was hanging by his wrists.

He was fastened to the cross by large metal spikes that had been driven through the arms just at the base of the hands, where they would hook on the bones, preventing the flesh from ripping further and the body from falling.A small wooden platform about sixty inches above the base of the upright beam supported the feet, which were crossed at the ankle and secured with one large metal spike that had been driven through them both.

The man was nearly naked. Zinovy could see the skeleton of the ribs standing out from the quivering flesh. The joints connecting the limbs were enlarged and grotesquely twisted, the bones pulled out of their sockets by the weight of the body as the cross had been dropped into its seating in the hard ground. The head was bowed over the chest. A crown of twigs circled the brow. Large thorns protruded from the wreath, the ones on the inside pushing into the scalp.

But the most mesmerizing sight to Zinovy was the blood. Bright red and dripping, it was everywhere. It percolated around the spikes in the wrists and the feet, dropping below to form dark pools on the ground beneath the cross. It trickled from jagged punctures on chest and abdomen where lashes from a cat-o-nine-tails had left the marks of a recent beating. It seeped from the head wounds, coming from behind the thorns, running down the face in rivulets, dropping from the chin onto the heaving chest below.

The man was innocent. According to the book, he had miraculously healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind and brought dead people back to life. He had scolded the religious leaders, and spoken gently to the poor and the weak. He had told his followers that the Creator loved them, and that love was the most important thing.

And now he was dying, almost gone, nailed to a cross by men who stood below mocking him, gambling to see who would win the robe they had taken from his body before they had impaled it.

Zinovy closed his eyes, shutting out the sight, but the blood remained. It seeped into his memory and mingled with the blood on the path he had stumbled over after his mother's death. It mingled with the innocent blood of the baby chicks he had loved as a child, and with the blood of the dead lions they had found on the trail.

He opened his eyes once more and, for the first time, he looked into the face of the man on the cross. Into those other eyes. Anguished, yet piercing, they returned his look. Sheer agony was reflected in every drop of blood and sweat that dripped from his chin.

But it was something else that horrified Zinovy. In that brief instant he recognized the face. It was the face of the stranger, a face streaked with tears at Zinovy's grief over the memory of his mother, a face distorted in anguish at the memory of the girls Zinovy had taken. A face, now he remembered, a face from long ago, that had looked on him in love over his mother's shoulder as she explained to him the meaning of his name.

Now that face was distorted, not from the pain of the torn flesh of his hands and his feet, or the rough wood against the lacerated back. Zinovy knew the look of physical pain on a human face and this was not it. And not from fear either. Zinovy knew that look as well. The eyes were filled, instead, with a grief that went clear to the man's soul. Something like horror, a deep revulsion, drew ragged lines around the mouth.

A heartbroken resignation, a resolute determination, and a deep, deep loneliness pierced straight as a sword into Zinovy's own soul, because he had seen that look before.

He had caused that look.

Zinovy's heart melted. It ran onto the ground before him, mingled with the blood from the cross, and was lost in the dark pools of the dying man's sorrow.

"Zinovy" is a Russian name that means, "Walking with God."


Janet Sketchley said...


Marleen said...

"yes, very powerful and very thought provoking in stimulating our daily walk with God."