Simon's Crossing


Enter the biblically historic world of Simon of Cyrene, where a world of grief, revenge, and Dennis Patrick Slattery and tender devotion awaits. There, families are torn apart, marauding soldiers enact their violent ways, and random events suddenly disrupt life. Along this journey there will be encounters with Pontius Pilate, Veronica, Mary, and the sons of Simon, Rufus and Alexander, as they seek to grasp the mystery of a compassionate Nazarene, serenely putting into practice ...
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Simon's Crossing: A novel

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Enter the biblically historic world of Simon of Cyrene, where a world of grief, revenge, and Dennis Patrick Slattery and tender devotion awaits. There, families are torn apart, marauding soldiers enact their violent ways, and random events suddenly disrupt life. Along this journey there will be encounters with Pontius Pilate, Veronica, Mary, and the sons of Simon, Rufus and Alexander, as they seek to grasp the mystery of a compassionate Nazarene, serenely putting into practice the kingdom of God.

Forced to carry the cross of Jesus, Simon of Cyrene, a little known biblical figure, reluctantly yields to his task. At the same time, Simon struggles with personal loss and a fiery desire for revenge. In Simon's story, the vulnerability of our own journeys is laid bare as we cross paths with a simple wooden cross and a redemptive twist of fate.

In Simon's Crossing, this ordinary man, from Cyrene, steps boldly out of the pages of the Bible. He senses that his own life depends on the Nazarene staggering just ahead of him. Persuaded by sacrificial love, we too discover what it is like to cross over into the imaginal power of a story well-told, where salvation lies close at hand. Simon's story compels us to carry on as well.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781450202473
  • Publisher: iUniverse, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 1/18/2010
  • Pages: 172
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.56 (d)

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Simon's Crossing

A novel
By Charles William Asher Dennis Patrick Slattery

iUniverse, Inc.

Copyright © 2010 Charles William Asher and Dennis Patrick Slattery
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-4502-0249-7

Chapter One

"I don't like it, Father," Alexander said, watching the four of them ride away from where we stood, now closer to each other, watching them disappear in the distance. I reached up slightly to put my arm on his broad shoulders to reassure him. I could count on Alexander. He understood. He knew what was going on. It was not surprising that Pricilla said he was so much like me, while Rufus was close to his mother; he had even been reluctant to have ever gone to Jerusalem and left her here in Cyrene.

"Neither do I, son," I replied, hoping what he and I had seen, and Rufus had hardly noticed, would slip away as some unfounded fear. Pricilla, I knew, would say nothing, and yet she knew-knew all too well-that the Romans could hardly be trusted.

In our house, we soon forgot the soldiers, as the day passed pleasantly, absorbing the bitterness of the morning encounter at our well. Surprised and pleased that our sons would come so far to travel with us for Passover, we talked with them at every chance. How was Jerusalem? What about Pilate? How big is Justin? And our other grandchildren? How is business, Rufus? What do you like making the most-pottery or furniture? Alexander, are you really trading that much by sea with Cyrene? Why do you think the Romans are watching you? Selling much in the market? At this rate of questioning, the few weeks they intended to spend with us would pass quickly, and we'd soon join the caravan for Jerusalem.

On this first night of their arrival, Pricilla prepared a special meal, interrupted by tousling the heads of both her sons and affectionately stroking my, according to her, ragged beard. Her touch made the difference to us. Kidding her, we dodged her random grasping for us. Her warmth bound us together once again. The soldiers' intimidating presence became lost in laughter, the swirl of wine, freshly baked bread spread with fresh goat cheese ...

I looked at her for a moment, forgetting she was my wife, mother of our children. I saw the woman I had long desired. That hadn't changed. Her dark, deeply set eyes still drew me into her mysteries. I couldn't help but notice again the slightly uplifted tilt of her firm, rounded breasts, the tips of which had so often hardened at my slightest touch. She saw my look. I knew she understood, and it was as though she'd caught me with her knowing look. Blushing, she looked away, likely knowing that our sons did not notice the fiery glances between us, which would find us deeply into each other before long.

Later that night, our sons asleep and the two of us in our own room, she asked, "Simon, why did you look at me that way?"

"What way?" I innocently asked as I drew her toward me.

"Simon, the boys. We can't be loud."

"We won't be," I said, willing to make even the most irrational case for us not being heard by our sons. "Quiet, I'll be quiet." I knew she often rode our passion on increasingly loud moans.

"Simon," she said again. "Why did you look at me that way today?"

"Because I still want you like I always have," I replied.

Really, I had no answer. Her question curled into my rough hands as I deliberately, slowly rubbed the fragrant oil over Pricilla's shapely body, pausing here and there as a thickness in my throat absorbed any possible words. Her head tilted back, exposing her neck to my gentle kisses, which seemed to stretch her body taut in its need to find release.

"Not so loud, Simon," she reminded me as I listened to the ebb and flow of her increasingly loud moaning, for she had slowly and deliberately parted for my eager entry.

Digging her fingers into my shoulders, she cried out my name, as though I were far away, and then we both fell into a moment that I thought could last forever. I didn't know how much time had passed, whether it had been a few seconds or years, nor did I care.

And then her soft voice: "Oh, our sons, Simon. Do you think they heard?" she asked.

"No. We were very quiet," I lied.

"Sure, Simon," she said. "Do you think I'm deaf?"

And we laughed together into the final moments of release into each other. Exhausted, our bodies thrown casually around and over each other, silence enfolded us. Floating in some timeless place, only gradually did we withdraw from the moment that summarized the passionate intimacies of our life together, moments that had previously thrust Alexander and Rufus toward life.

Then sleep pulled us down and away.

Chapter Two

They came just before dawn. There was no neighing of horses to warn me. I did not hear them enter our room and stand alongside us. I had no time to react. I flung my arm and body toward Pricilla to protect her and myself. Then came the blow to my head, and I was thrown back into the darkness of the night on the long scream of Pricilla crying out, "Simon, help! Simon, help me! Somebody help me!"

I do not know about the time that passed. I did not feel it go by, and I did not see the horrors of those moments. The time I knew began again with the splitting pain in the back of my head, pushing through my skull. I could hardly open my eyes. Tried and failed. Tried again. I tried to wake up. I saw the ray of sun coming through the window. I felt someone's arms around me. "Pricilla?" I asked. "Pricilla, is it you?" I pleaded. My head was being cradled. It wasn't Pricilla's arms. No, not at all. Not her arms. It was the arms of Rufus, holding me tightly to his heaving body as he sobbed uncontrollably.

"Rufus," I forced myself to say through my throbbing head. "Rufus. What happened? What's wrong?"

Suddenly, he shouted, "It's all wrong! It's all wrong!" Then I heard him blurt out the words that would last my lifetime. "Mother is dead. They took Alexander. I couldn't help them. I couldn't. I'm so sorry. I thought you were dead too. I couldn't do anything. They tied me up. Made me watch."

"Watch what?" I shouted at him in anger, sending a piercing pain through my head. I was unable to absorb what he had said to me. "Watch what, Rufus?"

"You know ... what they did to her."

"No, Rufus, I don't know. I want to know. You tell me."

"They took her. First Abenadar, then the others. They forced the one called Albus on her. A soldier had to be able to do it, and Abenadar said Albus had his chance to show he was a man. He told Albus he couldn't do it. Then it happened."


"Mother kept fighting back, fought each of them. She struggled the hardest against Albus. He kept doing it to her. Mother spit in his face. He licked her spit with his tongue. He then stuck his tongue in her mouth. She bit his tongue, tore a piece off, and spit it out. She fought back, screaming. The blood poured out of Albus's mouth. They laughed at Albus ... laughed at him."

"Go on, son. Tell me. I need to know," I said, my voice lowering as something collapsed inside.

"And then he suddenly cut her throat," Rufus said. "He killed her. He killed her! They made me watch him kill her." Rufus suddenly screamed and then broke into violent sobbing.

I reached over and grabbed his arm as Rufus went on. "I couldn't do anything. I was tied up, Father. I'm so sorry. There was no one to help. They took Alexander right away. Tied him up. Took him outside. It was just me. I couldn't do anything." Rufus continued to sob, burying his head in his hands.

I got to my knees. I pulled Rufus toward me. I couldn't take in what he had said. My whole body was stunned, as if I had been struck again. I tried to stand. I couldn't. My legs shook so badly that I had to sit back down on the floor. I looked at Rufus in disbelief.

My wife dead. Alexander taken away. My wife dead, my son ...

"Rufus," I blurted out. "I'm sorry. Sorry I yelled. I'm so sorry." And then I began to sob, my chest heaving with such grief that my whole body began to shake while Rufus grew quiet. I don't know how long he held me or I held him, but it was until silence took up residence between us.

Rufus covered his face in his hands and continued to sob, muttering how sorry he was, that he couldn't help, couldn't do anything, tears streaming down his young face. I gently pried his hands away.

"Rufus, look at me," I said. "Look at me." He slowly raised his head and looked at me. "It's not your fault, son," I said. "Not your fault. It will be okay, Rufus. Not now ... but it will." I could hardly believe what I was telling my son. "Do you understand?"

"I do. I do, Father," he replied with an equal lack of conviction.

After a long silence, I was the first to speak. "Rufus, was there anything else? Anything I need to know?"

"Nothing. I heard them talk when they took Alexander. Something about Pilate, about taking prisoners, a way to keep the crowds quiet. I don't know. I couldn't hear. They took Alexander, just took him away."

"I know, Rufus. I understand. No more for now. No more."

I closed my eyes. I fell into some place far away from what I had heard. I felt the cold stone floor press hard against my body, sending chills through me. My heart seemed to have fallen down into the stones. I couldn't get it back. I lay there as though waiting for Pricilla to come to me as she had in the past. I waited for the nightmare to pass. I waited for her to get up with me as she had done for so many years. I waited for her loving, soft yet firm hands to stroke my face, to part the hair on my head, stroke my beard, and say the nightmare was over. Where was she to shake me gently out of the night's terror? Where was the voice of my son Alexander? Her touch and his voice. Where had they gone?

Time passed as we wept continuously. We went to Pricilla, saw her lifeless, and could hardly look. I held her, and Rufus held me, and we were bloodied together. We covered her, covered the violence driven into her body, covered the agony on her face. We arranged her body the best we could, the way she would lie down naturally. I slept near her that night, tossing and turning, and thought she would speak to me again.

The next day, we carried her to the field behind the barn. We took turns digging, deeper, yet not too deep, not too far away. Our neighbor, his three sons, and his wife came and sat with us. His wife helped prepare her for burial. We gently placed her in her grave and gave her over to the earth.

Then everyone was gone. It was Rufus and myself. It had all happened so suddenly. Yet Rufus and I wept together, thinking of Pricilla off and on again, and then thinking of Alexander. Neither Rufus nor I spoke of the awfulness he had seen. Did it matter how she died? She was gone now, gone forever. Any illusion that I was exempt from harm or encased in some magical protective place, and that I was the one to choose my challenges in life, died with Pricilla. Suddenly, I was afraid, afraid for myself and for both my sons. But Alexander could still be alive. I knew it. Rufus knew it. He waited for me to say something. Waited for me to tell him.

"Rufus," I said. "You've got to go to Jerusalem. You have to go now. See what you can find out about prisoners being held. There's no time to waste."

Rufus looked shocked. "I can't leave you, Father. I can't go now. You need me here, with you, with Mother."

"Listen, Rufus," I replied firmly, "we've got to find Alexander. Your mother would want that. He may still be alive. Find a caravan to travel with. Go home to your family. Tell Alexander's family what happened."

"But what about you?"

"I need to stay here a few days. I need to look in Cyrene for Alexander. If I don't find him, I'll come to Jerusalem as soon as I can. I'll help you find him."

I told him, barely believing it myself, that I would be okay. Sure, it would take time, time for both of us. They would want us to go on. We had to go on. "Rufus, you need to go home to Yiska, to your own family," I said even more firmly. "We've got to find Alexander. And I've got unfinished matters now in Jerusalem."

"I don't understand," said Rufus.

"There's no more to say, my son. You must go, go now."

"I know, Father. I will," he said, suddenly embracing me and sobbing deeply once again. I felt his smooth face against the rough stubble of my beard, and I feared I might lose him as well.

Then my son Rufus turned away from me, and a few hours later, he had gathered a few of his things. He stood ready to leave.

"We'll find Alexander," he said. "I know we will, Father."

"Yes, Rufus. We will. Do what you can. I'll be there soon."

Then he was gone, walking slowly down the windy road that leads to our home-and away from it-the same road upon which the nightmare arrived, the soldiers riding into our lives, killing my wife and tearing Alexander out of our lives.

And when Rufus walked out of sight, my own body seemed to fold into some place in me where I had never lived. I fell to my knees. I cursed the God who would allow this to happen. This God was absent. The humans he created and could no longer control were loose upon the world with their hatred and evil. And this God was powerless.

I hated God's weakness in the face of the sudden and random destruction of our lives. What sense did it make? What sense had it ever made? A terrible loneliness swept over me as I called down the road for my wife and my lost son. I did not see how I would go on.

Within a few days of Rufus leaving for Jerusalem, and as I prepared to leave myself, my despair began to turn to rage. Slowly, as though I stood in the midst of a fire, my anger began to consume my waking hours and restless nights. I don't know how it quite began. Maybe it was when Rufus left. I wanted him to go to his family. I also didn't want him to go. I wanted him to stay with me. Maybe it was when the cold stones on the floor of our modest shelter took root in my heart when I first awakened to her death. And Alexander was gone. Maybe it was my lying to Rufus that I would be all right. At some moment, in a time I still cannot name, I picked up my knife.

Each day, I tightened my fist around the knife. I began to want to stab ... someone. No, I wanted to stab the soldier called Abenadar, the one with the deep scar across his bony left eyebrow. I wanted to stuff his scar into his eyes and blind him from ever imagining my wife again. I felt my hatred for the Roman soldiers. I hated their oppressive rule, even in Cyrene, their ugly temple to Apollo.

No, I might stab Pilate himself. I found myself thinking how I might get rid of this ruler, this inept governor who now ruled even the holy city of Jerusalem with an incompetent hand. Pilate's ruling hand resulted in these undisciplined idiots passing as soldiers, able to wander our countryside freely, doing what they liked, when they liked, and to whom they liked. Killers let loose on the land of our people.

Then I realized it wasn't Pilate, not even Abenadar. It was Albus. He had killed her. Sticking his tongue in my wife's mouth and then killing her. Yes, it was the one called Albus, the pale one. Speechless Albus. Tongue-torn Albus. I would find him, cut the rest of his tongue out first. Then I'd cut away the last breath of his lust.

No doubt I would die. What did I have to live for? It was as though God had taken from me what made my life worthwhile. Yes, there was Rufus. But he had his own family. He would be okay in time. He would be able to find Alexander in Jerusalem. He knew people, had connections. He would understand what I had done. I would not wait around for God's revenge, which supposedly belonged to him alone. I would startle this sleeping God. I'd wake God to the pain of losing my son and my wife. I would not pass over my pain until I had the revenge my wife deserved.

I would die in order to feel Pricilla's touch. I would die in order to hear my son Alexander's voice. How else would I ever find them again?

Excerpted from Simon's Crossing by Charles William Asher Dennis Patrick Slattery Copyright © 2010 by Charles William Asher and Dennis Patrick Slattery. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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