A Gate Called Beautiful
A Gate Called Beautiful
C laudia's voice rang out from sunken cheeks. "Alms, for the poor! Alms, for the poor!" she cried. She wished one of the people on the road would notice her and toss a coin her way. She was hungry.
She pushed her dark, unkempt hair behind her small shoulders under her tan head covering. Her face was smudged with dirt. Her eyes were large and dark.
She sat about ten feet from a dirt road, against a large boulder on the way into Capernaum. She was holding a cup in her hand and watched as people passed by. It was hot that day, a good day to beg. People were on their way to the synagogue for afternoon prayer. She'd go there later and enter in the back section of the building.
She listened to the clomping of camel's heavy feet hitting the soft path leading caravans of traders. There were sounds of sheep bleating loudly as they were led to the synagogue for sacrifice. Wagons kicked up dust, while animals plodded along at the sound of shouts and slashes of whips. Claudia took a swipe at the grit on her face. A cart with a cage full of chickens clucked noisily and bumped along a rock-filled section of the path.
And every now and then, there was the faintest jingle of coins dropping into clay cups around her.
When people passed by, she didn't expect them to look at her, but wished they would. Sometimes, she ached to witness a smile or hear a soft-spoken word cast her way.
When she received no response, she smiled wider at the people on the trail, despite the hot, muggy day. She touched the twisted foot that made her unclean and smoothed out the folds in her wrinkled tunic. Her brow lifted. Why would they see her, when the two who brought her into this world didn't?
Her parents had tossed her out at birth onto the streets to be taken up by other cripples. She had one possession at the time...a Roman name, which meant lame.
She shrugged off these thoughts, looking back at the street. It stabbed at her heart to think about a mother who could put her own babe in the hands of strangers.
Others walked by, their eyes turned away from the sides of the roads where the beggars sat. Some acted as if they were unaware of her presence.
Claudia knew it was unrealistic to expect anything less after having been on the streets for so many years. She was close to sixteen by now, or at least it's what she had been told.
She decided her concentration was better off spent on begging for the day, money in her cup, or a cast-off tunic from a family whose children had outgrown it. Each day she dreamed of a good shelter for the night and safety from other outcasts who were looking for someone they might rob. Nothing more.
"Alms for the poor!" she cried again. "Alms for the poor!"
She smiled again wider.
She felt hot. It was muggy.
The road in town was dusty. It had been weeks since it rained, which was unusual for Capernaum with the lake often producing clouds. Claudia figured it would rain soon, having overheard talk of it. She originally came to Capernaum because she learned of the richness of the land and town and was amazed when she first saw the fertile plain of Genessaret, with its crops producing plentiful walnuts, figs, grapes and olives. Being a trade town, people came from all over to barter for goods to take home and sell to make profits.
Looking further down the path, Claudia spotted a tall, stern-faced Roman soldier walking briskly toward her on his way into the town. His upper body was wrapped in red cloth, and the rest of him was covered in full, silver armor.
She shivered and scrunched up smaller as he strode toward her, backing away from the street. The Romans ruled Jerusalem and the surrounding areas with an iron fist, giving little autonomy to the Jewish people other than recognizing King Herod as a figurehead. Some of their ways were ruthless and cruel.