What the 5:00 p.m. Worker Did while the Others Labored

helpContinued from here.

James tripled-checked his alarm clock to make sure it was set so he could be the first to arrive in the marketplace in the morning. He was unable to sleep because of his sister’s persistent coughing. He did everything he could to help her breathe and finally fell asleep at 3:00 a.m. next to his sister. He mother awoke at 3:30 a.m. and saw her children sleeping peacefully together. She decided her son needed his rest and turned off the alarm clock.

James awoke to sunlight flooding the room as terror swept over him. “No! No! No!” he screamed as he saw how pale his sister looked as she coughed and slept. She wouldn’t survive another night without the antibiotics, but how could he afford them now?

He ran to the marketplace, but the place for the day laborers was empty. He heard that the landowner had needed more workers and had come at 9:00 a.m. looking for more, but James had just missed the bus. James held back tears and pushed back the panic, determined to figure out some way to earn a denarius by evening. He went store to store and door to door, begging for any type of job – no matter how small – and did several short, unpleasant odd jobs for half what they were worth, from unclogging toilets to scooping manure out of a barn. Around 11:30 a.m., he returned to the day laborers’ spot at the marketplace and saw others milling about, hoping for a half-day job.

A man rolled up his hotdog stand, and the day laborers formed a line to purchase lunch. James had not eaten in two days and was tempted to use the little money he had earned to buy himself a modest lunch. But what if that would have been the exact amount needed to pay for the antibiotics by the end of the day? To avoid the temptation, he left the marketplace to look for more work and never saw or heard the landowner’s bus drive up looking for more workers at noon.

By 2:30 p.m., James had earned a little more cash, but it was far from enough, and he was growing desperate. He returned to the marketplace, hoping for even a few hours’ work, and sat among others waiting for the same thing. A drug dealer sat beside him and offered to sell him drugs to ease his pain. James declined, telling him he didn’t need drugs – he needed money for antibiotics for his dying sister. The drug dealer offered to sell him enough drugs to put his sister out of her misery so she wouldn’t have to suffer. In return, he wanted no money but rather to use James as a prostitute. James stormed off and again looked for more work. He never saw or heard the landowner’s bus drive up looking for more workers at 3:00 p.m.

To be continued…

[Graphic: Cartoon of Grace sinking in quicksand and yelling, “Help!” Courtesy Bitmoji.]