Chapter 9 – Lost In Translation
The morning after he acquired the key, Abraham was waiting for a visitor in
his prayer closet. He called it a closet but the dimensions were the size of an
average living room. It was the space where he conversed directly with God.
Heavy drapes barred the passage of sunlight through the room’s two tall windows.
Abraham liked cloaking the closet in shadow. It helped his concentration. There
was an oak stand between the windows which supported a heavy leather-bound
Bible. The wall to the right of the windows consisted of a series of built-in
cabinets with locked doors. They contained sacred documents that were intended
for his eyes only. A prie-dieu occupied the corner to the left of the windows.
In a rare concession to comfort, the kneeler was padded. On another wall hung
the portrait of an elderly man with a white beard. He bore a strong resemblance
to Abraham but the cut of his suit hadn’t been in fashion for at least fifty
years. His eyes stared down on the room. They were humorless and disapproving. A
plaque embedded in the bottom of the picture frame announced that he was Joshua
Metcalf—Diviner. Positioned directly below the picture was a small round table
and two hard-bottomed chairs.
Abraham was leafing through some pages of the Bible when he heard a gentle
knock on the door. He absently said, “Enter,” without looking up from the page
he was reading.
A man of about thirty came in. He was of medium height. Although his hair was
cropped short, it insisted on asserting its curliness. No amount of combing
could straighten it out completely. His eyes were dark brown behind horn-rimmed
glasses, his complexion sallow. He wore the usual white dress shirt, black tie
and black trousers but the clothes didn’t seem to fit him properly. They seemed
too big for his slight frame and rumpled even though they had been newly
pressed. His shoulders sagged.
“Good morning, Father,” he said tentatively. “You wanted to see me?”
Abraham turned toward his guest. “Yes, that’s right. Sit down, Daniel.” He
indicated one of the two chairs.
The visitor glanced up briefly at the portrait before he slid into his chair.
He sat forward anxiously, his hands grasping the seat.
Abraham remained standing near the windows. “Daniel, remind me again which of
my sons you are.”
The younger man didn’t seem to consider the question odd. “I am your
twentieth son, Father,” he answered readily.
“And which of my wives is your mother?”
“My mother is Deborah, your fifth wife,” Daniel looked down, “though she has
passed from this life.”
The older man’s expression was vague. “Hmmm, yes, I do seem to recall now.
She’s been departed, what is it, nearly two years? Never mind boy. She has gone
to wait for me in the next world. We will be reunited there. How many wives do
you have now?”
Daniel cleared his throat uncomfortably. “You have blessed me with three
Abraham looked pleased with himself. “That’s a good start though some of your
brothers at the same age have collected more.” He paused to consider. “Still
it’s a good start. And how many children?”
Daniel seemed to be fighting the urge to squirm in his chair. “Three so
“Three?” Abraham registered shock. “Are any of your wives barren?”
“N…no, I don’t think so, Father.” Daniel stared hard at the table.
Abraham took a pace or two forward. “And when did I give you your first
“When I was twenty,” Daniel mumbled.
“Ten years,” Abraham mused. “In ten years your wives have only produced three
children. That’s unheard of!”
Daniel shifted his position slightly. “I’m sorry, Fa—”
The old man cut him off. “We are charged with the obligation to be fruitful
and multiply—to extend His dominion over the earth. We must increase our
numbers. You cannot hope to claim a place of glory in His kingdom otherwise.
Surely, you don’t wish to bring shame on your family.”
Daniel shrunk back in his seat.
Abraham was standing above his son now. “Remember who is watching.” He
gestured toward the portrait. “Your grandfather is watching you even now from
heaven. God, himself, is watching you.” He paused for effect. “He is watching us
all. He sees the secret sins of our innermost hearts, Daniel. He sees all and he
will punish all!”
Daniel gulped and nodded. “Yes, sir. I understand. I will pray for more
“And instruct your wives to pray as well!” Abraham observed his son silently
for a few moments. He seemed satisfied that he had made his point. “Good, that’s
Metcalf walked to the wall cabinets. He took a brass key out of his pocket.
“I am told you are quite the scholar. You have distinguished yourself above your
brothers in the study of ancient languages.”
Daniel seemed to puff up a bit at the encouragement. “Yes, it is the subject
I love above all others. Translating the word of God.”
“That shows a proper spirit,” Metcalf nodded approvingly. “Come here, I have
something to show you.”
Daniel obediently walked over to join him.
Abraham unlocked one of the cabinets and withdrew the stone ruler. “What can
you make of this?” the old man inquired, handing the object to his son.
Daniel held it up to the meager light coming through the windows. He examined
the markings with great intensity. When he looked up again, his expression was
one of dismay. “The script isn’t Aramaic, or Hebrew, or Greek, or Latin. Not
even Egyptian judging by the pictograms.” Daniel now seemed a bit afraid of the
ruler. He held it out toward his father as if he thought it was contaminated.
“This is some heathen relic.”
Abraham made no move to take the object back. He stood with his arms folded
across his chest. “Yes I know, Daniel, but the Lord has charged me with the task
of finding out its secrets. And now I charge you with the task of translating
these strange markings into some language that a Christian can understand.”
The young man scrutinized the pictures and lines and loops again. “Do we know
where it comes from?” he asked tentatively.