In the graveyard of broken white stones just outside Jerusalem, Thomas would drink wine when he could steal enough. He would pass out as the silhouette of jagged rocks and crosses became a blur. He lived in the place where fools were put to death. From his nest he had seen many criminals beaten bloody, and pinned to the cross like limp and lifeless laundry. Billy would say two thousand years later, “A fruit for the crows to pluck, a strange and bitter crop.”
A small group gathered under a clear sky to execute, morn and gawk at the three men being crucified. For him, the event had lost its entertainment value as an attraction to make public examples of sin. He watched the executions but from the less gruesome vantage point on the backside of Calvary. Here you didn’t have to see the faces of the dying men wrenching in pain, their eyes filled with regret and fear. Instead, the sinner’s pleas were sucked into every crevice, their panicked cries for mercy penetrated into the walled gates, unanswered.
It was near dusk, and the purple stain of darkness enveloped the city. Thomas turned away from the dying men for there was something much more interesting occurring this day below him on the hill. Behind a labyrinth of broken stones was the disgusting stench of drunks, homeless wanderers and thieves. The crumbled stonewalls and piles of rubble supported stick huts and makeshift shelters. When girls were driven from family or village for real or imagined sins, often they would wind up here living like animals; perhaps worse than animals, for animals do not live with the knowledge of their own disgrace.
He saw her head pop-up and disappear above a block of stone, pop up again and disappear. He watched her grimace in ecstasy, her white teeth showing behind a flushed and rosy face. Grabbing the wall, gripping and raking her tiny hand around the course stone pillar. In anticipation he hoped to see her thrusting up and down on a man. In frenzied excitement, he scurried toward her, hoping her robe would fall open so he could see her young full breasts. He quickly hopped on top of several stones and was eager to fully see her making love.
She was not making love. She was alone in her crude and dirty nest. Squatting down in the dark, heaving her body to and fro, he thought she was insane or terribly constipated which made him laugh. She screamed, gasping for breath. He stopped laughing and fell silent.
He saw the sweat beaded on her forehead as the tears ran down her cheeks. She gritted her teeth then cried out, loosened her fists and her mouth relaxed. Still breathing spasmodically, she rested against the rock, clinging for several minutes. Bracing herself between broken pillars, she moved aside a bloodstained robe and he saw the reason for her ecstasy, pain and anguish. She had just given birth. On the ground at her feet lay a screaming, strong, wet child, a boy. The sounds of death and life echoed each other, surrounding him. Like an invisible shroud, the wind encircled the woman, blowing her skirts and lifted the child’s cry out of the hovel. The eeriness of the moment made him shudder. He felt deep sorrow for the women and the child for they were destined to forever be outcasts. He did not know which was sadder the death on the crosses at the top of the hill or the birth in disgrace at the bottom. Large raindrops fell; the sky was torn and moaned as a deluge washed the blood from the child’s body.