She eyeballs him. He eyeballs her. Will either of them confess?
‘What’s happening?’ The stranger repeats his question.
He sighs, but she’s the one who opens her mouth.
‘We were having a private discussion.’ She puts emphasis on the word private. Hopefully he’ll take the hint. The newcomer smiles.
Oh for goodness sake.
‘Can’t you guess?’ Mary says. ‘Have you missed the news?’
‘Look,’ says the husband. ‘If you must know we’re having a bit of domestic. I want to leave town and she doesn’t.’
‘Tricky,’ says the stranger.
‘You’re telling me,’ says Mary.
‘Not as tricky as for me,’ says her husband, and they swap stares again.
‘So what’s this about the news?’ the newcomer asks.
They stare him now.
‘Seriously? You have no idea?’ the husband says. ‘You been asleep for three days?’
‘Don’t be rude,’ says Mary.
‘I’m just saying…’
The stranger laughs. ‘Try me,’ he says, ‘what did I miss?’
So they tell him, and his eyes grow wide.
‘Wow,’ he says, when they pause to draw breath.
‘Yes, wow! And that’s why we need to stay.’
‘No! That’s why we need to go!’
More marital stares.
‘No, I was just thinking of another surprising thing,’ says the stranger.
‘How daft you two are.’
Their jaws drop, but for moment any sound escapes them.
‘Do you not get it?’ he asks, and then he doesn’t wait for a reply, but fills them in on the most extraordinary story, going back centuries and finishing right there, with the three of them on that road. They walk as he talks, then stop as the night turns silent.
The husband and wife exchange stunned glances.
‘This is our stop,’ Cleopas says, wagging a thumb towards a cluster of houses.
‘Fine, I’m going further. Been nice talking.’
And the stranger walks on.
They watch him go, then Mary mouths, ‘Who is that?’
‘Let’s find out,’ says Cleopas.
The newcomer stops and looks back. ‘What did you say?’ he asks.
‘Come and stay with us, it’s late, there are bandits round her, finish your journey tomorrow.’
And so the three retire for the night. Mary puts food on the table. Cleopas pours drinks. They sit, talk some more, then the stranger takes a small loaf of bread, lifts it and thanks God for it. Their jaws drop once again. They can’t figure why they didn’t spot it before. Jesus smiles at them.
[Based on Luke 24 v 13]