It was the big fisherman, looking as gruff as ever. He held out his massive hand and it cupped a wedge of bread and some fish. I took it. It wasn’t the way I’d cook fish but it was all right.
‘Make the most of it,’ he growled, ‘there won’t be plenty more where that came from.’
‘No. Not if we’re supposed to feed this shambles.’ He waved a hand towards the crowd, showering crumbs as he did so. He moved on, reaching into a basket and pulling out another fistful. I watched him for a while then another voice brought me back to reality. Or rather, this unreal reality I was currently experiencing.
Another handful of bread and fish came my way. It was the young guy. John. He smiled.
‘Oh no, it’s okay,’ I said. ‘I already had some from the big guy, and I know you’re short.’
‘What d’you mean?’
‘I know you haven’t got enough for everyone.’
He threw back his head and laughed, a roaring, face-reddening laugh.
‘You’re joking. We’ll never run out. Look.’
He showed me his basket, it was full to the brim.
‘Started off with a child’s supply of lunch, ended up with this banquet,’ he said. ‘And you know the best bit?’ He indicated the crowd, and managed to do it without showering crumbs. ‘This lot would never normally get to eat together. Not allowed to, see. Rich and poor, priests and prostitutes, sinners and saints. They’re segregated. They don’t allow it normally. But he’s pulled a fast one, suddenly turned it into a picnic. Brought everyone together. Anyone’s welcome. Here. You can have thirds as well if you hang around long enough.’
He shoved his food at me and I could do nothing else but take it.
I heard a grunt and a sigh and I swear the ground shook a little as the big fisherman dropped beside me. He smelt of fish and sweat, he was that close I got it immediately. He was staring at his open hands. There was more fish and bread in there.
‘Look,’ I said, ‘it’s really generous of you guys but I can’t eat anymore…’
‘How does he do it?’ he said. ‘How’s he make it happen? How? How?’
He raised his gaze from his hands and stared at me. His eyes were bloodshot and dark-ringed. He was not having the best of days.
‘You should eat some of it, you look hungry,’ I said, clutching at straws.
‘I’ve no appetite,’ he said, ‘I work all hours of the night for this stuff.’
He held up a fish tail, it wilted quickly in his fingers.
‘He just makes it happen, just like that.’ He looked off into the distance. ‘It’s the wedding all over again.’
‘Cana?’ I said, as a bell rang in my head.
He nodded and looked back at me. ‘You were there too then? I don’t recognise you, but no matter. You heard? Six jars of water into wine. Like that.’ He snapped those colossal fingers of his and the fish tail flew from his hand and landed on the arm of a boy a couple of feet away. I reached over and brushed it off, the boy stared at me and scowled.
‘And you know what?’ the big guy went on, ‘he hardly drank any of it himself. Made it for everyone else. And, made it so the groom wouldn’t look a total jerk. D’you think he’s the deal?’
‘Yea. The Messiah. The one. You see, he isn’t the way I was told. He doesn’t hatch plans or give rousing speeches or curry favour with the right sort of people. iIf you were going to plot a revolution you’d do all that wouldn’t you? He just does things like this. Make fish and bread. You know, when he met me he gave me a massive catch of fish. Free. Any other rabbi would have kept it for himself. But not him. He says it’s so we don’t have to worry about fishing for a while, so we can do some learning.’