Finished

June 6, 2016

 

     The boy crept around the end of the table and glimpsed his father’s linen tunic. He inched forward, running his little hand along the smooth wood of the work table. He could hear the rhythmic brush of the plane smoothing his father’s project. The man was bent over the table intent on his work and unaware of his son.

     “Papa,” the boy ventured, “what are you making now?”

     The man looked down at his son and smiled. He straightened his back, pressing his large hands against the table then picked up a small piece of strangely shaped wood.

     “It’s a shuttle for the weaver, son,” he said. “Feel how rough it is.”

     The boy felt the wood. It scraped and pricked his finger. “Ow! Fix it, Papa.” The man chuckled and tousled the boy’s dark hair.

     “I will if you’ll stop interrupting me.” He picked up the plane and continued to smooth the wood in long, even strokes. Beads of sweat appeared on his temple and inched into his beard. Still he continued his rhythmic back and forth strokes shaving the roughness off the small piece of wood until he could glide his fingers across it.

     The man looked out beyond the village at the hills. The sun lingered just above the horizon. He grabbed the large handkerchief draped on his shoulder and wiped his brow. Then he spread it out over the shuttle.

     “Why do you hide it, Papa?” the boy asked.

     “Because it is not yet finished, my son. Come, your mother will have supper ready.”

     The boy walked beside his father, trying in vain to match his step, into the house.

 

 

     The young man held the bow drill steady over the piece of cedar. He had carefully wound the rope around the groove of the drill bit and set its point on the wood. Then he began moving the bow back and forth. The bit started to turn but then wobbled and fell over.

     “Your rope is too loose, son,” his father said. He took the instrument and wound the rope around the groove in the thick dowel and pulled the bow until it was taut. “Try it again. Slow and steady.”

     The youth took a deep breath and began again. As the metal point began drilling into the wood, tiny wood shavings curled into little piles. His hand gripped the bow tighter guiding the rope to move the dowel.

     “That’s right, son. Don’t rush it. Keep the pressure steady or the wood will resist you.”

     The boy tilted his head and widened his stance as he held his rhythm steady. He was aware of his father tinkering about the shop, but he kept his focus on the wood and the small hole that was finally beginning to appear. His shoulders ached and his hands began to cramp, but he could feel the wood giving way and the hole taking shape. Time seemed suspended as he worked. Finally, he picked up the wood and blew the shavings away. A small hole could be seen in the center of the wood. The boy sighed and looked up at his father. The man’s large hand passed over the hole and the corners of his mouth betrayed a slight smile. He nodded approval. Then he took the bow drill, placing the point into the wood, and began running the bow swiftly back and forth. Wood shavings flew into the air and floated on the sun beams shining on the sawdust floor.

     The boy watched the instrument as it bore into the wood. His father blew on the wood revealing a deep hole then pounded a small peg into it with his mallet.

     “Son, bring me the other piece,” he said, nodding to the yoke on the far wall. The boy lifted the piece and placed it on the work table. They had been working on the double yoke all week. They worked the rest of the afternoon fitting another V-shaped yoke onto the end of the wood. They pounded pegs and smoothed wood with the hand plane. “It must be smooth, son. I know they’re just donkeys, but they can’t do their work if the yoke has splinters digging into their hide. Let’s see how we’ve done now.”

     They lifted the yoke up, and his father started to place one end over his son’s neck. 

     “Come on. Get your head in there.”

     The boy stepped up and put his head into his end of the yoke. The wood was light and smooth. He turned his head from side to side. No splinters. His father placed his own head into the other end. The man bent down to match his son’s stature then began walking from the table, pulling his son along. Wherever his father went, the son had to follow and he could no longer turn his head to see anything. He pulled the other way and the father pulled against him. The two bent over the table and began to laugh.

     “Papa, I’m glad I’m not a donkey.”

     They lifted the yoke and placed it on the table. The man wiped his brow more out of custom than need then carefully folded his handkerchief and placed it to the side of the yoke, whispering a prayer. He looked at his son and smiled. “It is finished.”

 

 

     The man looked down at his finished work on the table and smiled. It was his life’s work, and he had followed his father’s instruction well. He knew his father would be proud. He wiped his brow with his handkerchief, saying his customary prayer while he carefully folded the piece of cloth. Placing it to the side, he smiled and said, “It is finished.” Then, he turned and walked out into the day.

      A few minutes later, two men ran up from outside. One man halted just outside the door and knelt to peer in, but the other, older man stumbled in and looked at the work on the table. He felt it with his gnarly, work-worn hands. He had never seen anything like it. Then he saw the handkerchief folded and placed to the side. What was it the carpenter used to say? Something about his father’s handkerchief. He couldn’t remember.

     The younger man now ventured in and looked around in equal disbelief. He saw his friend clutching the handkerchief, tears streaking his face.

     “Peter,” he almost whispered, “what does it mean?”

     The distraught man looked at him in anguish. “I don’t know, John.”

 

 

 

     [The two were running together; and the other disciple ran ahead faster than Peter and came to the tomb first; and stooping and looking in, he saw the linen wrappings lying there; but he did not go in. And so Simon Peter also came, following him, and entered the tomb; and he saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth which had been on His head, not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. So the other disciple who had first come to the tomb then also entered, and he saw and believed. For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that He must rise again from the dead. (John 20:4-10 NASB) ]

 

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