“My Name is Absalom” Part Seven (and the End) by P.M. Gilmer

If you still haven’t read part six of this story, here is the link:

https://pmgilmer.com/2017/09/01/my-name-is-absalom-part-6-by-p-m-gilmer/

And now for the conclusion of “My Name is Absalom.”

 

I woke well before the sun on the morning of my planned dinner. I tried to eat some bread before I tended to my duties, but anticipation kept my stomach rolling. My plans were all falling into place though I did encounter one unforeseen problem: the early return of my mother. I had expected her to stay with her father for another month or so, but two days ago, I received word of her return. Fortunately, Tamar had stayed with our grandfather.

My mother heard (naturally) of the dinner I planned and of my invitation to my father (who had, predictably, declined). She knew me well enough to be suspicious of my show of generosity, but as I refused her commands to come visit her, she had no chance to question me. I’m not saying she would have disapproved of my plan, but she hated to be left out of anything, and I’m sure if I let her know what I was doing, she would demand a front row seat. Her drama I could live without. This was my revenge, and she would just have to hear of it second-hand.

I reminded my servants of their roles until satisfied each one was prepared to play their part. Under my directions, they had put up a tent the day before and were now bringing in a table, cushions, and whatever else should be necessary to make everything ready for this evening. All I needed to do now was continue to oversee the preparations and to wait. Waiting can be difficult, but when you know what you’ve been waiting for is truly about to happen, the waiting becomes a sort of deliciousness.

I tried to rest during the heat of the afternoon, but my excitement was too great for either my body or my mind to settle. I rechecked everything again–made sure my knives were sharpened to a keen edge, counted the skins of wine, and made sure (again) that my servants–Ramiah and Kedar–knew where each brother was to sit. Nothing would be left to chance.

Finally, the sun began to fall through the sky, leaving bright red and orange splashes in its wake. The first of my brothers arrived–Ithream and Adonijah, followed by Solomon and Shammua. I gave them all hearty greetings, making sure my servants seated them properly and served them some wine. In a matter of minutes, all my brothers and a few of our cousins had arrived with the exceptions of Amnon and Jonadab. Jonadab knew to wait until the others had time to arrive before he brought Amnon here. It would not do for them to be the first to arrive. No, let Amnon see his brothers already settled, so that he, too, could settle in and be comfortable.

I waited by the door, along with Kedar, trying to hide my increasing anxiety. What if Jonadab couldn’t convince Amnon to come? After all, Amnon knows me as well as anyone, and, truly, he would be a fool to trust me. I could only hope that imbecile, Jonadab, could convince him of my sincerity in wanting to heal the rift between us. The very thought made me gag. Jonadab would need to be pretty convincing in his deceit, but he was good at that.

Then–I saw them. Walking together, Jonadab seemed to be his usual animated self while Amnon walked silently beside him. My brothers behind me were in a boisterous mood, but I hardly heard them as I kept my eyes on my prize. Then I looked over at Kedar who was also watching the two coming towards us.

“Is it him?” he asked quietly.

“Yes,” I murmured. “You already know the loud-mouth next to him, but the other is Amnon.”

When they were close enough to make out their faces, Kedar raised an eyebrow and looked at me. “He is much like you–your brother.”

My face tightened, and I nodded. Yes, people often commented on that. Though we had different mothers, our eyes and facial features were quite similar, and many people could only tell us apart by our hair. My hair was often compared to a lion’s mane because of its thickness and rapid growth while Amnon kept his lighter colored hair cut short, almost shaven. Though I could see it was now much longer than usual, it still was nothing compared to mine.

I plastered a huge smile on my face as Jonadab and Amnon approached us. Amnon seemed to shrink back at the sight of me, but Jonadab kept a firm grip on his elbow and kept him moving forward.

“Brother!” I called out, then pulled Amnon to me in a tight hug. “It has been too long!”

“Amnon has missed being with his brothers, Absalom,” Jonadab said in a loud voice. “We are both grateful for this invitation.”

“Well, come on in. Ramiah will show you to your seats.” I turned to motion to Ramiah, but he was already at Amnon’s side, leading him and Jonadab to their seats.

I watched them–Jonadab strutting past my brothers and Amnon slinking behind him. My brothers had become quiet–only nodding to Jonadab who called out loud greetings–then looking gravely at Amnon who said nothing.

Once they were seated, one of my brothers called out for more wine and another asked, “When is the food going to be ready, Brother? We are starving here!”

As the laughter rang out, I ordered the servants to pour more wine (they had instructions not to water the wine unless asked) and assured my brothers the food would be ready soon. “Patience, my brothers. Good food must be cooked to perfection.” Before they could make more demands, I left the tent–ostensibly to check on the food, but actually to make sure Kedar and Ramiah were ready. They were, and it was finally time to put my plan into play.

From the back of the tent, I gave a nod to Jonadab, and he casually rose from his seat and left the tent just as two of my servants began bringing in baskets of bread and platters of roasted vegetables.

“Come on, Brother!” bellowed one of my brothers. “Where’s the meat?”

With the wine flowing freely, my brothers were getting louder–laughing and teasing one another. Since I wanted them drunk, this brought me some satisfaction (though I knew a fine line existed before they became belligerent and more demanding) until I noticed two exceptions: my two younger brothers, Solomon and Shammua. Both were quiet and seemed not to be drinking as much as the others. I frowned, wondering what could be wrong with that sanctimonious Solomon. I should go over to them and encourage them to drink more, but that would probably only arouse suspicions and, besides, it was far too late for that. Time for execution.

My servants were ready to bring in the roasted lamb, so I nodded for them to come on. My eyes met those of Kedar, and he nodded his readiness. The servants brought in the lamb and my brothers cheered, though one said something about ‘where was something for the others?’

As soon as my brothers began diving into the lamb, Kedar and Ramiah came in behind Amnon. They each grabbed him by an arm and pulled him up, then Kedar drove his knife into my oldest brother’s chest. Amnon looked up at me, and I smiled, watching the shock, then the light fade from his eyes. So great was my pleasure, I was barely aware of my other brothers as–in a flurry–they all jumped up as if the tent was on fire, almost trampling each other as they raced out of the tent.

Once they were gone, my servants and I began to act quickly. We made sure the oil lamps were all put out, then began gathering up the cushions, cups, etc.

“We should be away, my lord,” Kedar said to me, cleaning off his knife.

I nodded, looking around the tent with both pride and contentment. Jonadab would soon be telling my father how I had killed all his sons, and it wouldn’t be long before the great king sent men here. I would be going to my grandfather’s, along with Kedar and Ramiah. I had other servants assigned to take care of the food and take down the tent. Two others would attend to my brother’s body and wait for my father’s men to arrive.

“Very well,” I said. “Let us be off.” I took a last look at my brother’s face before my servants covered it. “Be at peace, Brother,” I said softly. “Your debt is now paid.”

Soli Deo gloria

 

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“My Name is Absalom” Part 6 by P. M. Gilmer

If you missed last week’s post, here is part five: https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/25/my-name-is-absalom-part-5-by-p-m-gilmer/

 

After many obstacles and hindrances, I was finally able to formulate and finalize my plans for revenge. A knife in the dark would probably be easiest, but not nearly as satisfying. No, my revenge must be public as well as complete. I not only wanted my brother to know of my hatred, but also my father. If he had done his duty as a father–if even after failing to protect Tamar, he had at least made sure Amnon was aptly punished–I could have forgiven him. Not that he seemed to want or need my forgiveness. He seemed to have pushed the whole incident from his mind, like an unpleasant taste or a childhood illness. Something that was difficult and heart-wrenching at the time, but was now in the past and best forgotten. But, I would not forget if for no other reason than this: Tamar would certainly not forget.

You may be wondering how Tamar was faring by this time. Since she still did not want to leave my home to go into the city of Jerusalem (even to visit the palace and see her sisters and other family members), I made plans for her to visit our grandfather, my mother’s father. As I said earlier, my mother’s father was king of the small country, Geshur, and Tamar could feel both comfortable and cared for there. I wanted my mother to accompany her (I needed both of them out of the city), and though at first she balked at this suggestion (why must she be so difficult?), she eventually consented. Not because of any concern for Tamar, but rather because of her own present difficulties at the palace. She never felt she received enough respect there, and since the incident with Tamar, things had only gotten worse. The other wives (with the exception of Amnon’s mother who pretended nothing had changed) tried to express sympathy to her, but she flared up at their offers of “pity.” Also, as my mother could not bring herself to express much compassion toward Tamar, this caused the other wives to go from sympathy to puzzlement to scorn. Anyway, once I had both my mother and Tamar conveniently out of the way, I began to finalize my plans.

My brothers and I all had our own pieces of land where we raised sheep, wheat, barley, and a few even had their own bee hives. With the weather turning warmer and the rains ceasing, the time to begin sheep-shearing was upon us. My brothers often shared chores with each other, so I decided to ask my brothers to come and help me with my sheep-shearing. To make manifest my generous and forgiving spirit, I would promise to first give them a big dinner and to even include Amnon and our father.

Since my brothers and I had not been on the friendliest of terms, I needed to find a way to ask them that would seem casual, yet deliberate; friendly and non-threatening. For some reason, my brothers didn’t totally trust me and a friendly gesture from me could possibly be construed as suspicious. It’s true I didn’t often invite them over for a meal, but again, sheep-shearing was a chore often shared, so, hopefully, they would just see it as my way of getting free labor. Or cheap labor. I would be providing a meal, after all.

Since I needed some help, I decided to make use of Jonadab and his eagerness to be of any assistance and to somehow make amends for his part in my sister’s tragedy. Not that I thought for a moment he truly wanted to make amends except as a way to get in my good graces, but having him at my side would lessen my brothers’ suspicions, and I also needed him to convince Amnon to come.

Obviously, after spending almost two years avoiding Amnon and having nothing good to say about him, it would be difficult for me to just saunter up to him and say, “Hey, Brother! Long time, no see. How about coming over to my place for dinner?” No, even Amnon wasn’t that gullible. But, as Jonadab so aptly put it, for whatever reason, Amnon did trust him, so if anyone could convince Amnon to come to a dinner with all his brothers at my invitation, it would have to be Jonadab.

I found several of my brothers at target practice one morning (thanks to Jonadab who ran to my house with the news). One of my younger brothers, Solomon, was showing off a bow he made during the rainy months, and, of course, I couldn’t resist issuing him a small challenge. The kid takes things too seriously, and I knew he would be eager to try and beat me. He is smart in some ways, but dumb in so many others. I mean, I’m a warrior and was pulling bows before he could even pull himself up. I don’t think a new bow, no matter how well he made it, is going to be much of a test for my superior skills. Still, a little competition between brothers keeps things interesting and could make my brothers believe I wanted to be part of the family again.

After spending a couple of hours with my brothers shooting arrows, (I was on one team and Solomon on the other), I decided to end the match and extended the dinner invitation to my brothers. As I had feared, they first expressed skepticism, but I pleaded with them, telling them I thought it would be good for us to get together and have some family time, blah, blah. Seriously? Family time? I suppose I’m lucky they didn’t laugh in my face, but I finally managed to convince them of my sincerity. I’m sure it helped when I added I would help them later with their own sheep.

Jonadab and I left together, Jonadab wanting to jabber the whole way while I preferred to rethink and go over every detail of my plan. But I had to make sure Jonadab knew his part and was ready to play it, so I let him talk, only half listening.

“Did you see Solomon’s face when you asked them all to dinner? And Adonijah’s? Especially when you said you planned to ask Amnon, too? They both looked like they had drunk some sour wine. Do you think they’ll really come? And are you really going to ask Uncle David to come?”

I smiled, reliving the moments of my brothers’ faces when I said I intended to ask Amnon to the dinner. “Oh, they’ll come all right. A free meal? A chance to see if me and Amnon will reconcile? You just better make sure you get Amnon to come. And, yes, I will ask my father, though I know he won’t come.”

My mind continued to race with the details of my plan. Inviting my father would be a bit tricky, and it was hard for me to decide if I wanted him to come or not. Since he would not come alone (having at least one guard, if not several), my plan’s chance of success would be greater without him. However, without him there, I would never have the satisfaction of seeing his face when he learned what I had done to his beloved eldest son.

We came to where we needed to part ways that Jonadab might make his way to Amnon’s house, and I would go on to my own home. I turned to face Jonadab, grabbing one of his shoulders.

“I will expect to hear from you tomorrow about how you fared with Amnon. No one, and I mean, no one had better suspect a thing.”

Jonadab nodded, his pain from my grip on his shoulder evident on his face, though he tried to mask it. “Don’t worry, Absalom. I know how to talk to Amnon, and I would never betray you.”

I smirked at that. Did he really think I trusted him? My little weasel of a cousin had his uses, but I was not such a fool as to trust someone who turned his affections as quickly as this one. A pity for Amnon that he trusted him, but that’s what happened when you committed such a heinous crime against someone in your own family. It left you with few friends.

“I will see you tomorrow,” I said, releasing his shoulder with a final push, then turned from him to walk home.

“My Name is Absalom” Part 5 by P. M. Gilmer

If you missed last week of this continuing story, here’s the link for part four:

https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/18/my-name-is-absalom-part-4-by-p-m-gilmer/

Unfortunately, my plans had to be delayed when another tragedy occurred in my family. It is not my intention to speak of this event now. I only mention it to partially explain why it took me almost two years to carry out my revenge.

Once things had settled, I felt free to pursue my plans again with, I admit, an even greater sense of urgency and desire. I began again to consider my need to befriend (or re-befriend) my cousin, Jonadab. As I said earlier, he avoided me when possible, so I knew well enough to take things slowly as I did not want to arouse his suspicion. Since I do not willingly seek to befriend people in the best of times, I knew this to be a great possibility–even for someone as eager to make friends as Jonadab.

So for several months, I would nod my head pleasantly towards him whenever our paths should cross. (I thought I looked pleasant anyway, though the way he always skittered away made me feel I should perhaps work a little harder on my “pleasant look.”) Eventually, I took to waving and calling out to him. He would respond with a quick nod, but he certainly made no effort to come any closer and start up a conversation.

Finally one day, I sent one of my servants to his house to ask him to meet me at an inn that evening where we could share a meal together. Alas, I couldn’t invite him to my own home as he probably wouldn’t come, and also because Tamar still refused to leave. Though she could easily stay out of sight (and did when I had other company), I did not want her to know of my plans. She would never understand, and I was afraid she might feel betrayed if she knew I was meeting Jonadab for any reason.

To be honest, I wasn’t sure if Jonadab would even show up. I sat at a table outside where I ordered a skin of wine and two cups. Halfway through drinking my first cup, Jonadab walked up behind me. Now, you might wonder why I would sit with my back to the road, and if Jonadab was thinking at all, he would have wondered at it too. But, I was giving Jonadab a chance to change his mind when he saw me, and I also wanted him to believe I trusted him. Of course, I didn’t trust him–not for a minute. And if he had any sense, he wouldn’t have trusted me. But, Jonadab wanted to please people too much. A dangerous attribute to have and, thankfully, not one I was ever cursed with.

“Absalom?”

I turned and gave him my biggest smile. “Cousin! It has been too long! Come, sit. Innkeeper! How is that rack of lamb coming?”

I pushed a stool towards Jonadab, then poured him some wine. I continued to chatter–asking him about his family, if he had been hunting lately, what did he think about the Ammonites and their refusal to pay Father tribute, etc.–while the food came and we continued to drink. Jonadab answered in monosyllables, eating hungrily, and drinking at least two cups to every one of mine.

By the time we finished our meal, night had fallen, the streets were deserted, and Jonadab had relaxed and even laughed at a few of my not-so-funny jokes. In the middle of one of his loud guffaws, I pulled out my knife, laid it on the table, and leaned over closer to him. “It is said that you were the mastermind behind my sister’s disgrace.”

He blanched, and I feared he might lose the meal I had just bought him all over the wooden table. Fortunately for him he didn’t as I would have been sorely tempted to make him eat his vomit if he had.

“No, Absalom,” he finally managed to get out. “That is, it is not what you think or what people are saying. I never expected Amnon to hurt Tamar. I knew he loved her. I thought he respected her! I did encourage him to speak with your father. I thought he would ask to marry her. I couldn’t believe it when he grabbed her like that, and then when he threw her out . . .”

He stopped, his eyes pleading, while I continued to look at him coolly. Inside, I felt anything but cool. It was all I could do not to grab him by his neck and choke those words out of him. Though I remained determined to get my revenge, I did not need the scene described to me. It would be enough to know who to blame.

“I know well enough the sins of Amnon; it is you I want to hear about now. Did you do anything to defend my sister and her honor? Or did you sit idly by? Or perhaps you were the one who threw her out and bolted the door?”

Even with only a flickering oil lamp on our table, I could see Jonadab’s face turn from a scarlet red to an ash gray. It amused me to see a face turn so many different shades. I hadn’t realized this was possible.

He reached for his wine cup, but it was empty as was our wine skin. “Sorry, Jonadab,” I said affably, though not sorry at all, of course. “But we seem to be out of wine. Why don’t you just answer my questions, and we can both go home?”

“It was his servants who threw her out and bolted the door, though Amnon commanded them to. I . . .”

“Did nothing. As I thought.” I picked up my knife and moved it back and forth so the flame would reflect in its blade, then lightly touched my thumb to the blade as if testing its sharpness, though Jonadab well knew I kept my knives and swords sharpened at all times. Then I slammed the blade into the table and leaned towards Jonadab, so close I could hear his rapid breathing and smell his fear-soaked sweat.

“You did nothing,” I whispered, “and I should kill you right now for that alone. However, . . .” I stopped and sat back, giving him time to catch his breath and consider.

Eyes wide, he said, “I’ll do whatever you want, Absalom. I can help you take your revenge on Amnon. He still trusts me. Truly, I’m one of the few people he still trusts.”

I smiled with no attempt to look pleasant now. “More fool him, it would seem. Very well, you shall have a chance to redeem yourself, but you must do everything I say.”

Jonadab nodded so eagerly, I was minded of a dog I had once seen groveling for his Hittite master.

I jerked my knife out of the table and leaned towards him again. “You’ll be hearing from me soon–and, in the meantime, don’t even think of going outside the walls of Jerusalem.” And I left him there, sitting in the darkness.

“My Name is Absalom” Part 4 by P.M. Gilmer

If you missed part three last week, here’s your chance to catch up: https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/11/my-name-is-absalom-part-3-by-p-m-gilmer/

It took almost two years for me to exact my revenge. Tamar continued to live with me and refused to go out in public. Though my father tried to enforce some type of peace between Amnon and myself, we avoided each other and never took part in family dinners together. I wondered sometimes at my father’s naivete. He seemed to think he could just tell me and Amnon to give each other the kiss of friendship as he did after we had quarreled as boys. That never worked then and would certainly not work now.

For at least six months, my father (and others, I’m sure) kept a close eye on me. Though I did not hide my anger, I let people think I was willing to let God exact revenge on my brother and had no intention of causing more trouble in Jerusalem. In this way, my father’s vigilance eventually relaxed, and I had time to begin carefully laying my plans.

The only person I’m sure I never fooled was my mother. Though she said no more about expecting Tamar to marry Amnon, she made little effort to see her daughter or expressed any concern for her. I felt she was an unnatural mother at times, but I kept my thoughts focused on Amnon and on how I could have my revenge in the most promising way.

Before I could get very far with my plans, I knew I needed to gain the trust of Jonadab– not only to learn of his possible complicity, but also to use him for my own advantage. To even establish contact with him, however, took me almost a year. Though still unsure of his part in the defiling of my sister, whenever he saw me–even from a distance–he cringed in fear and would not come near me, so I knew his guilt must be great. Surprisingly, it turned out to be Chileab who let me know exactly what Jonadab had done.

Chileab often came to my home for a meal, an event Tamar looked forward to as Chileab remained one of the few people with whom she felt at ease. I was grateful for his willingness to visit us on a regular basis as Tamar seemed to have few pleasures left in life. Though it had only been a few months since her ordeal, I still hoped she would heal in her mind and someday be once again the sister I adored and cherished. As I watched her this particular evening, laughing and talking to Chileab, that hope burned brighter than usual.

After our meal, the three of us went up and onto my roof to enjoy the cool evening while my servants cleaned up below. After an hour or so, Tamar said she was tired, gave both Chileab and myself a kiss, then went back down to her bedchamber. Chileab and I sat in silence for several minutes, nursing our cup of wine and watching the stars. I caught myself dozing off when Chileab spoke.

“She seems a little better tonight. How has she been faring?”

I sighed, thinking again of the care-free, laughing young girl Tamar had been a few short months ago. “She is calmer–seems to cry less often–but she still won’t go out at all, and that can’t be good for her. She did finally let Elisheba and Naarah visit her a couple of days ago. Hopefully, they will be able to coax her out of her shell a bit more.” Elisheba was Chileab’s sister and Naarah, Adonijah’s. They both were quite close to Tamar.

Chileab nodded. “Elisheba told me. She was glad Tamar finally agreed to let them visit, but was rather forlorn when she came home. She misses the ‘old Tamar,’ but I told her she must be patient.”

“It is hard to be patient. I just want to go and smash Amnon’s head in. What was he thinking anyway? Don’t you think if he had just asked Father if he could marry Tamar that Father would have agreed?”

Chileab said nothing for a few moments, then, “Maybe, but I think he was afraid Tamar would not accept him, but if Jonadab hadn’t . . .” He stopped, glanced over at me, then looked down.

As I said, I knew of Jonadab’s presence in Amnon’s house, and was eager to learn exactly why he was there. Chileab’s look of guilt confirmed to me that Jonadab had something to hide. Anyone but Chileab would be dying to tell me every detail they knew and even those they didn’t. But that was Chileab–noble through and through. Could be rather sickening, actually.

“What about Jonadab?” I asked slowly and in a low voice.

Chileab squirmed a bit, but he knew I would not let him leave until I heard what he knew. If Chileab knew, then so did others, and I would rather hear it from him than anyone else.

“It was his idea,” he finally answered, his voice low as well. “We all knew Amnon was moping around, whining about how beautiful Tamar is but how she only laughed at him and saw him as a ‘silly boy.’ Finally one evening, Jonadab told him he should stop moping and do something. I thought he was going to suggest–as you said–to go to Father and ask to marry Tamar. I was late for choir practice, so I left before he made his suggestion. It wasn’t until the next day that I heard Amnon played sick, and Father went to see him.”

He stopped again, obviously reluctant to continue, but I needed to know. I could no more ignore the part Jonadab played in this story than I could ignore my need for food. If I was to have revenge for Tamar’s honor, I must make sure of everyone involved.

As casually as I could, I said, “I know Father commanded Tamar to go and wait on Amnon. I have never understood that, and he refuses to discuss it with me. I’m sure he realizes how stupid it was, but that changes nothing. I can’t believe Father would be taken in by either Amnon or Jonadab. So, Amnon pretended he was sick? And, I suppose the only thing that would make him feel better would be Tamar coming to wait on him. Tamar already told me Jondab was there, so you are not telling me something totally new. She has wondered as well what part Jonadab had in this.”

I added the last because I knew Chileab would feel Tamar had a right to know the truth about Jonadab even if he wasn’t so sure I did. I can be sneaky that way.

Chileab looked up at me, and though there remained little light left from our flickering oil lamps, I could see he was studying me carefully. “Perhaps the less she knows, the better,” he said cautiously.

I shook my head, trying not to appear too eager or impatient. “Right now, she fears almost everyone. It would be better if she could just see this as something concocted by Jonadab and Amnon and that no one else was involved–including our father.” Even though I would still blame my father for his part, I saw no need for Tamar to carry that burden as well.

Chileab nodded slowly, taking in my words. “I agree our father behaved foolishly and irresponsibly, but I don’t believe he ever meant for any harm to come to Tamar. You must make her see that.”

I shrugged, still tamping down my impatience. I was beginning to see Jonadab’s part in this, but still wanted Chileab to confirm it. I would not want my revenge to be incomplete.

Chileab frowned, but said, “Very well. Yes, from what I’ve heard, the whole thing was Jonadab’s idea. He told Amnon he should pretend to be sick, then when our father came to see him, he should tell him that the only thing he wanted was for Tamar to come and wait on him. Now, whether Jonadab meant for things to go as far as they did, I cannot say. Of course, Jonadab is saying he did not mean for Amnon to do what he did. He just thought if Amnon had a chance to be alone with Tamar, he could then convince her of his love.”

I took a long swallow of my wine. I could almost believe that, but that hardly made Jonadab innocent. “Of course,” I said, my thoughts darker than ever. I would need to have words with Jonadab. Soon. Very soon.

“My Name is Absalom” Part 3 by P.M. Gilmer

This is part three of “My Name is Absalom”. If you haven’t read parts one and two, please go back and read my last two blogs:

https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/07/28/my-name-is-absalom-part-1/

https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/08/04/my-name-is-absalom-part-2-by-p-m-gilmer/

I arrived at the palace and headed straight for the dining hall. I didn’t see either of my parents–only a few of my younger siblings as well as a couple of my father’s other wives quietly lingering. No one seemed to be eating; a few looked up at me as I entered, but just as quickly looked back down again. It seemed they had heard something of what happened to Tamar. I walked over to Chileab’s mother, Abigail, the most level-headed of my father’s wives.

“Where is my mother?”

“She has retired for the evening. As has your father.” At first, she wouldn’t look at me, but I stood there until she did. Her eyes shone with tears of pity. “How is Tamar?” she asked quietly.

“How do you think?” I answered harshly. I had no grievance with Abigail, but I was in no mood for commiseration or possible platitudes. Abigail was as bad as her son in that she too often tried to see the good where none could possibly exist. I turned and left, not willing to answer questions or see sympathy from anyone else.

Pushing past servants, I made my way to my mother’s room. I knocked on the door, and her maid servant opened the door slightly to see who was there. When she recognized me, she turned and said, “It’s your son, Absalom, my lady.”

Without waiting for my mother’s response, I shoved the servant aside and went in. The room was dark with only one small oil lamp lit in one corner. My mother was reclining on her couch, and even in the darkness, I could see her eyes were puffy and red.

“My darling boy,” she said, reaching out her arms towards me.

I leaned down, kissed her, then found a stool to sit on. “What did you hear?” My mother was prone to histrionics, and I did not want to give her a chance to make this situation about her. I was undoubtedly too late for that.

She regarded me, her eyes glittering and calculating. “That your sister made a spectacle of herself in the streets of Jerusalem. That she went to Amnon’s house, threw herself at him, and is now refusing to marry him.”

I stared at her. “Are you mad? Tamar went to Amnon’s house at our father’s insistence where she was attacked. And you now think she should marry him?”

She sniffed. “Tamar has always been a little dramatic, don’t you think? Oh, yes, I’m sure I’ve spoiled her, but she is old enough to take responsibility for her own actions. And what would be so bad about being married to your brother? Better that than some foreign prince or an Israelite merchant. There have been several of those sniffing around her already, but now with her making her shame so public, it’s unlikely anyone else will have her.”

My stomach churned, and I had to swallow the bile threatening to choke me. “You would put the blame on Tamar? Your own daughter?” A suspicion grew in my mind. “Did you know Father told Tamar to wait on Amnon?”

My mother gave a small shrug, then yawned. “I was there when your Father spoke to Tamar, yes. She didn’t really want to go, but Amnon had asked for her, and your Father wanted to please him. Do you think I should have stopped her? Really, Absalom, Tamar cannot be babied forever. Now, I am tired and ready to retire. If you are so determined to put blame on someone, speak with your father. Though you should probably wait until the morning. Your father was quite distressed when he heard about Tamar’s street exhibition and asked not to be disturbed. He will not appreciate being bothered at this hour, especially as you didn’t even show up for a dinner at which you were expected.”

Not for the first time, my mother rendered me speechless. Should I have been surprised at her attitude? No, in all honesty–yet I was. I did not want to go home and tell Tamar what our mother had said, but I feared she would not be a bit surprised. Disappointed, yes, and hurt as well, but not surprised. She believed our mother to be jealous of her beauty, but I always scoffed at such a notion. Now, I was not so sure.

Frustrated, I got up and left my mother’s room and almost ran out of the palace. I was tempted to go and see my father in spite of my mother’s warning, but I knew if he refused to see me, I would not be able to control my temper any longer.

So, I fled down the dark streets of Jerusalem, running with no real purpose. I thought of going to Amnon’s house, but assumed he would be well guarded. I could try and find Jonadab, but doubted he would see me either. Somehow, though, I knew I would not let Amnon get away with hurting my sister. I consoled myself with the well-said proverb: revenge is a dish best served cold.

“My Name is Absalom” Part 2 by P.M. Gilmer

Here is part two of my continuing story. If you missed part one, please click on following link:

https://declaretonextgeneration.com/2017/07/28/my-name-is-absalom-part-1/

 

Now I come to the part of my story which is the most difficult for me to tell, but, unfortunately, it is the most important and explains how and why things changed so much between myself and my brothers.

I had spent the morning idling at my house, knowing I should make my way to the palace to see my mother. I was expected for dinner that evening, but I hadn’t spoken to her since we returned from battle several days ago now, and I knew my mother would be annoyed that I had made no effort to see her on my own. Before I could summon the energy to get ready to go, one of my servants entered my room, his eyes wide with fear.

“My lord! There is trouble outside! Your sister . . .”

When my servant first entered, I sighed, ready to rebuke him for troubling me about some minor disaster, but as soon as he uttered the words “your sister”–I sprang to my feet, pushed him out of the way, and ran out the door.

Just down the street from my house, I could see a small crowd gathered and could hear the wailing of a young woman–a young woman whose voice I recognized very well.

Not bothering to put on sandals or even an outer garment, I dashed down the street, kicking up dust, and upon reaching the crowd, pushed the first man out of my way. I gasped as I saw my sister standing in the middle of the street, wearing the new, colorful robe our father had recently given her. But, the robe was torn, and ashes covered her beautiful hair. Her maidservant was cowering next to Tamar as she wailed loudly, tears streaming down her face.

I cannot express the horror I felt upon seeing my sister in such a state. For a moment, I could not move. Then I looked up and over the crowd and realized where we were standing–right outside my brother, Amnon’s house. In front of his door, two servants stood guard, their eyes wide with consternation and dismay, but also a fierce determination. I turned back to Tamar and grabbed her by the arm.

“Tamar! Be quiet! You’re making a spectacle of yourself! What is wrong? Has that Amnon been with you?”

She would not stop wailing, so I gave her a little shake. “Tamar! Be quiet! Amnon is your brother, so don’t take this to heart. I’m sure he didn’t mean to hurt you–but no matter what has happened–we need to keep this in our family.”

I began to pull her by the arm to bring her home with me and when she resisted, I looked into her eyes. The reproachful look she gave me pierced my very soul, but I still needed to get her out of the street. The crowd around us remained silent, not daring to speak or call out while I was there, but I knew as soon as I left, the talk would spread far and wide about the trouble between the children of the king.

Once we reached my house, I turned her over to one of my women servants who, along with Tamar’s own handmaid (who had followed us silently through the street) took off Tamar’s torn robe and led her off to bathe and comfort her.

While the women took care of Tamar, I paced through my house wanting to go and confront Amnon, but I knew the crowd would still be there, waiting to see what I would do. Though my first thought after realizing what must have happened between Amnon and Tamar had been to force Amnon to marry my sister, my thoughts now grew darker, and I knew I only wanted to kill him. I tried to calm myself, knowing I should go and speak with my father first, but I was in no mood to see him. I did not know what my father would do, but I knew he would not countenance any type of severe punishment. Certainly not the death I was now envisioning in my mind.

In the end, I did nothing. Well, not right then anyway. I ordered a servant to bring me a skin of wine, and I took it and a cup up to my roof to drink. The sun was sinking into the horizon, and though the air quickly cooled, it did nothing to chill my blood.

I had drunk about half the skin when Tamar came up silently behind me and sat down on a bench next to me. We said nothing for several moments, just stared out at the darkening sky. Then, taking a deep breath, Tamar said in a shaky and low voice, “He said he would never marry me, and,” she stopped, trying to stifle a sob. “And he said he hated me.”

The rage I had been trying to tamp down flared up, and I hurled my cup out into the night. “He said that? He actually said that?”

Tamar nodded, her face down, sobs hiccupping out of her. “I tried to tell him to wait and ask Father to let us marry, but he wouldn’t listen. He just . . . just forced himself on me, then told me to get out. Said he hated even the sight of me and told his servant to throw me out and lock the door.”

Before I could respond, one of my servants came up to us, bowed to me, and said, “Sorry to interrupt, my lord, but your mother has sent a messenger wanting to know why you didn’t appear for dinner. I believe she is still waiting for you.”

I groaned but knew I should go. Obviously, I needed to talk to her anyway, but it would not be at a pleasant family meal. I stood up, then turned back to Tamar. “I need to go. She must not have heard about this yet, but she will soon enough. I will leave guards at the door, so you will be safe here. You will be fine?” I didn’t think she would actually be “fine”, but I had no choice but to leave. I needed to speak to both our mother and father, then decide how to take care of Amnon.

Tamar reached up and took my hand. “There is one more thing you should know,” she said, her voice so hoarse from her earlier screaming and crying I needed to strain to hear her. “Jonadab was there as well.”

My eyebrows raised and my gut clenched. “Jonadab? You mean?”

She shook her head. “No, not that he touched me, but he was there with us. He opened the door for me and brought me into Amnon. He . . .” Her voice broke again, and new suspicions crept into my mind.

“I don’t understand. Why were you there anyway?”

“Father sent me,” she said, her voice even lower.

I was so stunned, I sat back down. “Father sent you? What do you mean?”

“Father called me this morning. He had been to see Amnon because he was sick, and Amnon told Father he wanted me to come to him with food. So, I made some bread and brought it to him. When I got there, Jonadab was waiting for me. Like I said, he brought me into Amnon’s room and as soon as I went in, Amnon grabbed me. I tried to stop him . . .”

I pulled my sister to myself, hugging her tightly as she sobbed. “It’s not your fault,” I said fiercely. “Do not think that for a minute. And, you do not have to marry that fool, Amnon, either. You can stay here with me. I will take care of everything. Do you understand?”

She nodded, her head against my chest, and I wished I did not have to leave. But, my mother was not a patient woman. Besides, I now had another reason to go: I needed to confront my father.

My Name is Absalom: Part 1 by P.M. Gilmer

“My Name is Absalom”–A Story Told in Seven Parts

My sister, Tamar, is the most important person in my life. That may sound strange, but let me explain about my family life.

My father, a king, has a multitude of wives and, consequently, an even greater multitude of children. I am the third of six sons born very close together and all with different mothers. We were like a litter of puppies growing up together. We played, fought, and made a competition of everything—who could run the fastest, climb the highest, shoot an arrow the farthest, etc. You get the idea. We all wanted our father’s attention and so did his wives. Our mothers did what they could do to attract our father’s attention, but they also didn’t mind using us boys to enhance their own standings with the king.

I wasn’t going to mention this, since I in no way want this to be about my father (more than enough has been written about him), but I might as well get it out of the way. My father is King David of Israel. Yes, that King David. Killed a giant with a sling and a stone when he was just a “boy” (I hardly consider seventeen the age of a boy, but I suppose it makes a better story); chosen among all his brothers to be king by God Himself, wrote a few million songs, and continues to be a mighty warrior. Rah, rah, rah.

My mother was and remains the most beautiful of the six women. No, really. My brothers and I actually discussed this quite often. We compared our mothers in many ways because we knew our father did as well. Part of that competition thing, I suppose. Besides being a beauty, my mother is the princess of a small country. So small few have heard of it, but she never lets anyone forget she is the daughter of a king. She believes the other wives are “common” compared to her, and, of course, she is right. They all grew up as daughters of shepherds or winemakers or soldiers. Nothing unusual or shameful in any of those, but my mother never let me or anyone else forget her upbringing was of a higher quality.

Anyway, that’s not to say the other mothers are ugly. By no means. Our father may have had poor judgment in many areas, but he certainly has good taste in women. However, my mother stood well above the others in beauty, which was just as well as I’m afraid it is her only redeeming attribute. Her intelligence is average at best, her charm non-existent, and her personality might best be described as abrasive. She has never been the type of mother a child could run to when hurt and expect comfort. Rebukes or reprimands were her most often used forms of communication with her children.

Which brings me to my sister. Tamar is eight years younger than me so I remember the day of her birth very well. I had not been happy my mother was expecting another child (and in truth, neither was she). I had been quite content to be her only son and I did not want another brother to draw my father’s attention and affection. So, when Tamar was born, I was as delighted she was a girl as my mother was disappointed. Though she did grow to adore her daughter (as much as she was capable), at the time, my mother was despondent believing (wrongly as it turns out) that her husband would not be pleased with the birth of a daughter.

Though at first I was just pleased Tamar was a girl, it didn’t take long for her big brown eyes to capture my heart and to bring out in me fiercely protective feelings. And unlike with my brothers, competition never existed between us. If our father or mother showed her any type of favor, it did not stir up envy in my heart as it did with my brothers but rather delight and pride. In fact, I’m sure I took more pride in her than did our father, and I certainly did more to care for her welfare.

As Tamar began to grow into a young woman, others started to take note of her. At first, this only increased my pride in her, but I soon realized the attention of others was not always a good thing, and I would need to do more to protect her and keep her safe. I also expected my brothers to help keep an eye on Tamar, as I would do the same for their sisters. Though we might fight and compete–when it came to our sisters, we were united in our protection and loyalty to them. Or so I always thought.

Looking back now, I can remember when things began to change for us all, but I didn’t see it at the time. Three of my brothers, our cousin Jonadab, and myself decided to spend the evening celebrating our return from battle with the Philistines. We had been away from Jerusalem almost three weeks and were giddy with our victories.

Jonadab, the son of one of my father’s brothers, often spent time carousing with us. Of my three brothers: Adonijah is my younger brother by less than a year, and I was born between my two other brothers—Amnon and Chileab–who were as different from each other as night and day. Truth be told, Amnon and I were much closer to each other as we both enjoyed the women and playing pranks on the others. Chileab was a bit too serious for the rest of us, but he accompanied us that night. Probably to keep an eye on us more than anything. He was good about that, and though at times I found him annoying and pompous, he did keep me out of trouble more times than I deserved.

Anyway, it’s not so much what we did that night that’s important but rather something Amnon said as we were making our drunken way home. With the exception of Chileab, we were bragging about the women we had met, how much we had impressed them, and which ones we wanted to meet with later. I was walking beside Adonijah with the other three behind us. Chileab had been so quiet, I almost forgot he was with us until I heard him rebuke Amnon sharply.

“Hush, fool. Just because you’re drunk is no reason to say such things.”

I stopped, and Amnon ran into the back of me. I turned to look at him. “What were you saying, Amnon? Is Chileab jealous because that luscious dark-haired woman so obviously wanted to come home with you? Or is he still mad because you killed more Philistines than him?”

Amnon gave me a crooked grin, then put a finger to his lips. “Shhh! It’s supposed to be a secret!”

I laughed raucously, thinking I was right especially considering the grievous look Chileab was giving me.

Adonijah jabbed me in the ribs. “Hush! You’ll wake the neighbors, and they’ll complain about us to Father.” Then he looked at Amnon suspiciously. “What’s a secret?”

The five of us stood in the middle of a dirt road, darkened houses on either side of us. Above us, the moon shimmered as only a sliver in a multitude of stars in the surrounding darkness. The only sounds to be heard were croaking frogs, night insects, the occasional hoot of an owl, and the heavy breathing of my companions.

Still grinning, Amnon started to speak when Chileab stopped him. “It’s nothing. He’s just drunk, more than usual it would seem. We need to get home.” He took Amnon by the arm and started walking him past us.

Amnon turned to look at me, then winked. “He doesn’t want you to know who I really love.”

Everything still seemed funny to me, so I continued laughing and hollered after him. “Who, Brother? Who do you love?”

His reply came back to me, carrying loudly through the night air. “Tamar! I love Tamar, your beautiful sister!”

I cringe now to remember how I continued to laugh. Jonadab put an arm around my shoulders and laughed as well. “Your oldest brother has good taste, Absalom. Tamar is turning into a beautiful young woman.”

“That she is,” I agreed proudly. “The most beautiful woman in Jerusalem. No, in all of Israel!”

We all laughed together and somehow made our way back to our own homes. I immediately went to bed, fell asleep, and did not see my brothers or cousin for several days. In fact, the next time I saw Amnon and Jonadab, I made plans to kill them both.

 

 

Characters & Spoilers

As a writing exercise for myself, I have been writing a section of my manuscript through the eyes of the antagonist, Absalom, rather than the protagonist, Solomon.

This exercise has been beneficial for helping me better understand that character. But, another reason has come to me and that is to share this story on my blog. Why? Well, I hope to make my blog more interesting and also to find readers who also enjoy reading historical fiction.

One danger in this type of sharing is the presence of spoilers for a future book. However, in writing historical fiction, one has an advantage in that spoilers already exist if a reader has any knowledge at all of the time and events being written about. For example, if a reader picks up a book about Anne Boleyn, that reader will probably not be surprised to learn that she marries King Henry VIII or that she eventually loses her head. However, a good writer will be able to draw the reader into the story so well that even when reaching a foregone conclusion, the reader will gasp in horror at Anne’s fate. I have read many books when this was the case. Even though I knew a certain character was going to die and even how that would happen, the empathy I had developed for the character caused me distress and sorrow for that character.

So, in reading this short story about Absalom, there may be spoilers for any future book, but if you have already read 2 Samuel, there will be no big surprises. Rather than spoilers, this story should put the character of Absalom in a clearer light that readers might see him more as a real person rather than just a “Bible character.”

Starting tomorrow I will begin posting the story, “My Name is Absalom.”  This will be the first of seven parts, and I will continue posting for the next six Fridays. I hope you enjoy it.