A New Jersey Yankee in King Solomon's Court
A New Jersey Yankee in King Solomon's Court.
Journal entry: Thursday, December 22 2006
"Hang up the phone!" I demanded in a whisper.
With her hand cupped over the speaker, Jessi argued, "No way, Liv. Every girl on campus wants to go out with this guy, and you won't talk to him?"
"Just tell him I can't. He knows why. I'll tell you everything after you get rid of him."
Jessi reluctantly told him what I wanted, and then clicked off her cell phone. "Okay, Liv. You happy now? Are you crazy, girlfriend? Max is so hot. What's going on?"
"I'm pregnant, that's what's going on… and it's his!" I blurted, while searching the shelf over my bed for a box of Kleenex.
Jessi had been my best friend and confidant ever since we became room-mates at Princeton two years ago. Now, preparing to spend the weekend with her boyfriend, she zipped her travel bag shut and turned to me in shocked disbelief. "What? I didn't even know you went out with him. Why didn't you tell-"
"I wasn't sure until yesterday. I'm six weeks. I didn't tell you because of how it all went down."
"All went down?"
"It was a date rape."
Jessi gasped, her deep blue eyes grew wide. "I can't believe...I mean he could have any girl he wanted in a New York minute. I don't understand, Liv."
"Neither do I, but it seems he has some really kinky hang-ups, and it wasn't long before I found myself struggling to end the date and get out of his car."
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't tell anyone. The whole situation is weird, Jessi. I mean, he still thinks he's done nothing wrong."
"When I tried to stop him that night, he didn't become violent, but he's very strong and had this very strange look in his eyes. I was afraid. At some point I let him have his way out of fear."
"Does he know you're pregnant?"
"No, and he's not going to until I figure out this whole thing."
"What's to figure out? He raped you!"
"It's just not that simple for me. Although I'll probably never talk to Max again, I can't just wash out the life inside of me. I have to think about this."
That's how the conversation went last Friday before Jessi left for Manhattan. I was glad she had gone, not because she did anything wrong, I just needed space to sort things out. Little did I know that this past weekend would be the most extraordinary weekend of my life.
After Jessi left, I straightened up our tiny room, and at seven ordered Chinese before settling down with a paperback copy of The DaVinci Code. I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.
Halfway through chapter two, my concentration wrenched its way from Dan Brown's story, and I began to think about my own. I put the book down, lit a scented candle and turned out the light. Turning the dial on my radio to a favorite classical station, Mozart chamber music filled the room. Slipping on my cozy pink sweats-pajamas, I propped my back against the wall with a pillow, and pulled my legs up onto the bed.
Closing my eyes, I thought, 'Now, what am I going to do? Just one year before graduation and now this! What are Mom and Dad going to think?' Then it dawned on me there was an easy way out. A small hiccup and then everything would be back to normal, my career would continue and my stable life intact. Then another part of me cringed at the thought.
The smiling image of my father appeared in my thoughts. He was always so encouraging, practical and wise, I knew he'd support me in almost any decision. It was my mother who would become unhinged at the news. She raised me with strong Catholic values; values that followed the Pope's theology all the way down to 'life begins at conception'. That's why I was so confused. I love my parents deeply, and think both are 'right' in their own way, even though they have different world-views.
When the Mozart chamber music ended, the announcer introduced the next piece for our listening pleasure. It was Handel's 'Gideon' - one of my favorites. I plugged in the headset, placed the pads over my ears, and leaned back, ready for the ride.
As the music filled my head, passages from the Bible about Gideon flooded my memory. My mother repeated the story of 'the fleece' every time I doubted her word on an important matter. The story goes that Gideon got word from God to attack the Midianites, but he wasn't positive he could lead his men to victory, being so severely outnumbered. So Gideon asked God to prove His word by laying a woolen fleece on the floor next to his bed. If, when he awoke, the fleece was wet with dew, and the surrounding floor was dry, it was confirmation that he would defeat the Midianites. God went along with this test, and in the morning Gideon squeezed a bowlful of water from the fleece, seeing the surrounding floor dry. Gideon coaxed God to repeat the test the next night, but only this time the floor should be wet and the fleece remain dry. Again, when he awoke it was as he asked.
As Handel's Gideon rose to a crescendo in stereo, I pleaded with God to get me through this dilemma with my self-esteem and joy for life still in place. Then, for some reason, like Gideon, I asked for a 'fleece' of my own, to prove God did not want me to wash away this baby from my life. Even while reasoning I had every right to abort the child, because of the rape, some force deep within would not let me have peace with that outcome.
With tears steaming down my cheeks, I promised God I'd keep the child and raise him or her as my mother raised me, if He would give me a 'fleece' before morning. Something definitive, to prove that He cared for what happened in my life, that like Gideon, God singled me out to show me the way.
The moment my prayer ended, I stood to turn off the stereo and became lightheaded and dizzy. Falling back onto the bed, I passed out.
When I woke, something was very strange.
Lying there, staring into a pitch black canopy, it felt like a dream, but that idea vanished the moment I sat up and realized my body was glowing like a dim incandescent bulb. Lifting my hands before me, they glowed a white light along with my legs and even the sweats. Giving myself the proverbial 'pinch', I felt pain, and knew for certain this was not a dream.
The only sound was a howling wind growing louder by the second. For some reason I was not afraid and looked down at the ground. It too was aglow with a soft golden light, and the floor appeared as translucent glass.
Standing up, I looked to the horizon and saw nothing except the golden floor spread out in every direction, and the black starless sky everywhere else.
Suddenly a frontal wind struck and became so strong it pushed me backward until my feet lifted off the golden glass. In seconds, I was moving at a phenomenal speed, the floor racing under my illuminated feet.
Still, for some reason, I remained in a state of peace, assuming this strange world I'd woken into was somehow my fleece from God.
All at once a lavender fog engulfed me, as I slowed down, feeling my feet, then buttocks slide along a cold smooth surface. When I came to a stop, the fog dissipated and before me appeared an immense room so beautiful it took my breath away.
As the fog began to clear, the floor appeared as highly polished marble, inlaid with geometric designs. Tall columns, one after the other, surrounded the room, rising some forty-feet to an ornate, gold ceiling. Two beautifully entablatured, massive pillars rested on a marble porch some fifty feet directly in front of me. Between the six-foot-wide pillars was a majestic chair having a redwood frame, with black, silk-like, padded material on the seat and backrest. The armrests were gold, as well as the last four inches of the thickly carved legs.
I saw no one until a wind wisped away the low-lying fog that remained around the huge pillars. There were at least fifty people lying face-down on the floor in front of the porch, with their arms stretched over their heads, pointed directly at me. The sight was overwhelming. There were soldiers in uniform, and women dressed in colorful, luxurious woven garb. A tall man stood out, wearing a purple robe and thin golden crown upon his head, directly in front of the huge, ornate chair.
When I put my hand to my mouth in astonishment, it was glowing much brighter than before. Looking down at the rest of my body, it shone with the same intensity.
Then, while the man in purple rose to his knees, gazing at me, he stretched out his arms and spoke in a strange language. As he spoke, I heard a voice in my mind speaking his thoughts in ancient English.
"Oh, Lord of heaven and earth, have mercy on us, for we are thy humble servants."
Realizing all the people lying prostrate thought I was God or something, I objected, "No! Please stand up. I'm like you. I'm human, like you. Please stand to your feet. Please, everyone, stand to your feet!"
The man wearing the crown slowly rose to his feet, and the others seemed to follow his lead. He squinted, rubbing his eyes at the radiant light. Walking closer, several soldiers followed just behind, with hands on their swords.
Stopping at about six-feet from me, his face relaxed, hinting a smile. "Thou speakest in a strange tongue, and yet my mind doth know the meaning. If thou be not a god or angel, who art thou?"
He was a magnificent man, nearly six-feet, about fifty-years-old, with black and gray, wavy hair under a plain golden crown about two-inches wide. His beard had a white streak, off center right, that fell perfectly into several golden chains resting on his wide purple robe. His facial features were chiseled, with a few distinguished wrinkles at his brow, and his large, dark brown eyes glittered with intelligence and insight.
"I'll be happy to tell you who I am, but please, first tell me, where am I?"
With the man's arms elegantly spread out before him, he looked about saying, "This is the judgment hall of the King of Israel, and I am Solomon, Israel's King."
Realizing God had answered my prayer, and sent me back in time to converse with the wisest man whoever lived, I quickly devised a strategy that might prove effective in solving my dilemma.
"My name is Liv. I am from the future. God, in His manifold wisdom, has brought me back in time that I may speak with you regarding problems that will ultimately plague the world three thousand years from now."
"But thy glory and exceeding beauty shine as the noonday sun. Howbeit that thou art not from the dwelling place of God?"
Not knowing how to answer, I knew he should be addressed appropriately. "I don't know how or why God has chosen to present me this way, my lord. I only know that I am here because God has answered my prayer."
Solomon turned and motioned for everyone, including the soldiers, to leave the great hall. When two of the soldiers refused to leave his side, he asked, "Knoweth not that this apparition is of God? Canst thou not discern humility, and love for God in her speech? Behold her eyes. What seest thou, guile or compassion? Go now, and order my servants to prepare a feast, for today your King shall be given a vision of Israel many generations forthwith."
As the soldiers bowed, walking backward toward the others leaving the hall, Solomon extended his hand and motioned that I should take a seat on his throne. I smiled and walked toward the marble steps. He returned the smile, and after climbing the four steps, he sat down on the floor with his back propped up against the colossal pillar on the right.
I stood staring at the beautiful golden armrests of the chair, reluctant to sit in a place of such honor and responsibility.
Extending his hand, and nodding his head, Solomon motioned for me to sit.
Once I was seated, I kept on looking straight into his eyes.
"Wilst thou not tell me now how Israel will fare in future generations?"
In an effort to avoid the use of dates, I spoke as a prophet might have in those days.
"Israel will be divided, even during your reign, and then your people will be scattered for two millennia. Then, as if by a miracle, they will gather together again and take rightful possession of their land. They will secure their borders with a mighty army and attempt to live peacefully with surrounding countries, but will be thwarted with every effort."
A sadness inflicted Solomon's eyes and voice. "So many centuries... scattered?"
"Yes, my lord, I'm sorry to say." I thought, 'Thank God I left out the holocaust.'
"And the world? How does the world appear so many centuries hence?"
"Two hundred years before I was born a great increase in knowledge came upon man. They invented machines for everything. Machines like chariots, able to move much faster then any horse. They even invented flying machines that carry people, able to fly across great oceans, at speeds one hundred times swifter than a lion. Men created wondrous potions that cured many illnesses and diseases. They constructed buildings so tall they touched the clouds. They even invented a craft that carried them to the moon and back."
Solomon held his hand on his chest, wearing a curious smile. "Such wonders to come. Is not man truly made in God's image? Is there anything man cannot achieve?"
"Yes, there is something man cannot achieve, oh great King."
King Solomon cocked his head and raised his eyebrows, inquisitive as to what I would answer.
"The country in which I was born did not exsist in your day. We are a young country, but within a mere two-hundred-fifty-years from our founding, we've become the richest, most powerful country the world has ever seen. In spite of our incredible wealth, power and generosity, we are a nation divided."
"A nation divided cannot rise to such eminence. How can this be?"
"We were not always divided. When our country was new we fought together for our independence. Many died in our struggle for freedom. But lately, our political and religious diversity split the culture into many factions, which brings me to a major issue we've struggled with for several generations now."
"I discern in thy tone, this issue has its teeth in thee... to the bone."
"Your renown precedes you, King Solomon. It's true, this issue is foremost in my mind, and weighs heavy on my heart. Your insight and wisdom on this matter is why God has sent me here."
When Solomon raised his hand, a male servant came out with a tray of unleavened bread, surrounded by various dried fruits and nuts. After the servant left, and Solomon helped himself to a few nuts, I took two dried figs from the tray. After eating one, I put the other in my pocket for later proof this was not just a vision.
Scooping a handful of nuts from the tray, Solomon stepped off the porch and casually moved to the other pillar. "So then, if this matter is a Godsend, the Lord our God must think I shall learn something as well. Tell me then, Liv, and I shall judge the matter."
"In the distant future, in my country, both men and women alike are considered equal, with equal say in law-making. They have made a law that gives a woman the right to choose whether she will keep a child conceived in her womb, or have it removed and thrown away by skillful physicians."
"Are not children a blessing in the future?"
"Yes, my lord, they are," I answered in a soft voice, the impact of those words slowly dawning on me. "But shrewd philosophers have imbedded contradictions into our culture that have deceived both men and women alike on the matter."
It was at this point I realized by answering Solomon's questions, I found my true heart on the matter, and decided right then to keep my child.
The King walked up the steps and sat down at my feet. "Canst thou show an example of this deception?"
"There are many, but one comes to mind that really irks me. When the child first forms in the womb, physicians call it a fetus. Not a 'baby' or a 'life', but a fetus, like it's only a 'thing' at that point. If the woman with child doesn't want to keep it, both she and her physician say they shall remove the 'fetus'. But if that same woman desires to keep the child, the 'fetus' is now announced to friends and family as a 'baby', a LIVING baby."
"Ah, a mask for each mood," said Solomon, "These people do not seek truth, rather create a selfish justification to appease their conscience. They openly and willingly deceive themselves. Have they only two masks to wear?"
After hearing Solomon address only a small portion of the issue at hand, I knew I need not go further, since my mind was made up. However, I couldn't resist the temptation to ask one final question.
"You're right again, my lord. People wear many masks, I'm sure even in your day. But if I may, how would you judge this situation if you were King of my country?"
"I once judged two women claiming they were the mother of the same infant-"
"Your wisdom on that judgment has amazed the world throughout history, even to this day."
"So, thou art aware of my final judgment?"
Solomon walked to the back of the judgment hall, stroking the white streak in his beard. When he returned, he placed a foot on the first marble step in front of me and said, "My judgment to cut the child in two, giving half to each mother, was indeed harsh. But had I not handed down that judgment, human nature would not have revealed the real mother. My judgment regarding thy question is no less harsh."
I stood and walked to the massive pillar, sitting down on the porch steps. "Still, my lord, may I hear it?"
King Solomon sat on his throne and turned toward me with a lowered brow. "If I were King in thy country, I would not permit physicians to take the child from the mother's womb, for any reason. But I would make a decree that when the woman gave birth, and the child liveth six months, there would be a public meeting. The woman and child, accompanied by all of her family, and all of the family of the father, would meet. At that time the mother alone would choose either life or death to the child. If the mother chose life, all would celebrate the living child, and have a feast. If the mother chose death, she would have the King's permission by decree, to strangle her child, as both families looked on. This is my judgment."
I was astonished at his wisdom. What mother would, or could do such a thing to her own flesh, with all family members looking on? To say nothing of the bond she would've established over the six months.
Suddenly a lavender fog seeped into the judgment hall, and as the image of Solomon became engulfed, I said, "Your name will live forever, my lord. My undying thanks to you."
As the King's voice faded away, I heard him say, "Blessed be the fruit of thy womb."
A strong wind whipped into the room, creating a vortex that threw me from the porch steps into a spin on the marble floor. With my eyes shut tight, the howling wind spun me faster and faster until suddenly it was calm, and I came to a stop. When I opened my eyes, I was lying in my dorm room as dizzy as I'd become just before passing out.
As the room stopped spinning, I reached in my pants pocket and pulled out the fig.
The very next day I went to a novelty shop and had the fig embedded into a thick block of clear Polymer. It would sit in my child's room when he or she was born. Inscribed on the block would be the words. 'Liv's Fleece.'
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