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“Oh, in God’s name, WHY would you say that?”

“Please father, don’t speak this way.”

“Lord above, haven’t we problems enough already?”

He shifted uncomfortably.

At the scalding. At the blasphemy. At the call to account.

At the weary knowledge no response would be good enough.

Roman repression was one thing. The watch for constant catch-outs another.

But his father…

The man would try the patience of a saint.

“Don’t we pay e-bloody-nough already?”

“That wasn’t what was at issue.”

“Heaven’s clouds listen to him! Pray tell then, WHAT was? What’s the issue?”

He exhaled a short breath. As much time as he could ever spare to gather himself.

Pressed on.

“The issue was taxes.”

“PRE-cisely! And you could have said not to pay ’em!”

“No father, I couldn’t.”

“Could too!”

No matter how far you spread your influence, how good an orator you are, or whatever other horizons you’ve expanded… You never win an argument with family.

“They weren’t asking me so I could permit everyone not to pay them; I haven’t that authority! If I’d said not to pay taxes; they’d’ve had me hauled away in no time!”

“Well, I just think you could have tried is all. At least tried to fight the system. We can’t keep you in loaves and fish forever while you swan around enlightening folk. ‘Render unto Caesar’ indeed. Not seen you earning much to be rendering have we? Your poor mother Mary’ll be on the game like that Magdalene woman if this carries on, you hear?”

“Yes father.”

“Good. Gods be praised. She was a virgin when she had you, y’know.”

Jesus nodded.

“Won’t see her dignity defiled so late in the day, when it needn’t come to that. What is it you’re supposed to do for your keep, anyway?”

“I’m a carpenter, father, you know that.”

“Well, you would say so wouldn’t you?”

His father seemed pretty impressed with himself.

“Do you see? You see what I did there?”

“Yes father.”

“Well in any case, I’ve not seen much carpentering from you in a long while.”

His father did have a point now. But he was answering a higher calling.

“You need to get back on it, or else find some other means to support yourself. Is there nothing you can do to bring a bit of coin in while you’re preachering?”

He thought for a while.

“There is. But I’m not comfortable with the ethics of it.”

“Ethics, he says now. Sweet suffering Sabbaths, can’t you just get it done?”

“Perhaps. But I’d sooner not use my talents for commercial gain.”

“Oh lord above, what would you have us do?”

“Okay. Fetch me some water, father.”

He passed his hands over the jug.

“Now taste this; it might solve our problems.”

His father raised it to his lips and sipped.

“I can change the water to wine.”

His face was doused with a cloud of sputtered vintage.

“WINE, you call this? More like bloody vinegar.”

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Ian lives in Blackburn, UK and is a maths teacher by day. He recently began an MA in Creative Writing in Manchester and is working on a novel. Despite cultivating a love of flash fiction, he has been assured by many students that he can go on at length.

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