JOANNA, THE NOVEL

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Joanna

(The following is a sample only of the book)

A Novel

By GLEN DUECK

Dedicated to my wife, Pauline

Whose support and constant love

is the wind beneath my wings


Luke 8:1 Now it came to pass, afterward, that He went through every city and village, preaching and bringing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with Him, 2 and certain women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities--Mary called Magdalene, out of whom had come seven demons, 3 and Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, and Susanna, and many others who provided for Him from their substance.


Chapter One

The Party

Joanna cast a lustful eye at the two soldiers dressed in Roman crimson. On any other day, they would have been standing motionless, as sentries to the entry to Herod’s private quarters, but not today. Their responsibilities as soldiers now far from their minds, the two men swayed with the music of flutes and lyres, each with a woman by their side. Joanna took a second glance at one man with large, bulging biceps protruding from red sleeves decorated with several pennants and blue piping. She poked Mary in the side with her finger. "How do you like that one, Mary?"

Mary looked across the floor of dancers following Joanna's focus. "You mean the slim dancer?"

"No. Next to him… The one with the military cords – the blue trim."

"Oooh... Yes! Isn't he a wonderful sight! Almost too good-looking for a Roman!"

The light from several basin oil lamps flickered across the faces of men and women as they squealed with delight, augmented by the erotic music and the effects of too much wine. The flickering light intensified the mystic panorama of the night.

"Nobody throws a party like Herod, don't you think?" Joanna mused, and added, "I can't wait to get my arms around that soldier."

"Just make sure Chuza doesn't catch you!" Mary replied with a curled smirk on her face, "Husbands don't go much for flirting."

"Yes, but it's only true for their wives. Of course, husbands are the more chaste!" she mocked, quick to disregard any culpability in the matter.

"Isn't that so true!" Mary agreed.

"Seriously, Mary. I can't seem to find contentment in much these days. I hate Herod, sometimes Chuza, and most of the time, myself!"

"Lighten up a bit!" Mary tugged on Joanna's cloak, "Enjoy the moment. Eat, drink, and be merry!"

 "If only I could," Joanna said truthfully.

"I need your key for the guest house. I'd like to stay the night. And don't forget you're coming to Magdala next week."

Joanna handed her the key. "Yes, in seven days we go to your town. I'll be glad to get away from here for awhile."

The sound of many shoes clattering on the marble floor of the palace echoed throughout the high ceiling. Joanna shook her head to clear her ears from the deafening roar and stretched her head back to gaze up at the images of Jupiter and Zeus profiled against the gritty face of massive stone walls. Now letting her head drop, she took note of how the crowd had grown considerably over the last hour.  She thought, I've been here longer than I

realize, and smiled with satisfaction at the smell of wine mixed with royal dainties. The night was perfect for a party!

Joanna felt Mary’s quick touch on her arm as she got up.

"It's time to make my move - Watch me!" giggled Mary.

Mary swung her slender yet well formed figure up off the bench and moved between the swarms of people on the floor. She had barely made five steps when a scuffle broke out in the corner. A crowd gathered around two common soldiers as they fought. Joanna's eyes followed as the two combatants endeavored to punch each other in the face while the crowd cheered them on. The taller fighter was stronger than the other, but what the smaller lacked in size, he made up for with gritty determination. The tall one grabbed the other by the back of his hair, while the shorter man jerked side to side. Soon they scuttled in a circle, the tall man still trying to get a fist in. Even though the taller man had a vice grip on him, he could not connect with any punches. There was a thud as the short man used his foot to make a crushing blow to the ribs of the other. The crowd gasped. The taller lost his grip for a moment, and when he grabbed the front of the short man, his nose received a calculated jab of the short man’s fist. Several more punches ensued by both men. The crowd scrambled to get out of the way of flailing feet and arms. When they released their grip, both of them moved off to the side, glaring at each other.

"Just a fight," Joanna said out loud, "Good thing it wasn't a sword fight!"  and several nearby nodded their agreement. The fight ended, and Joanna sighed. The event was a simple hand-to-hand wrestling match, urged on by hundreds of chanting madmen, but harmless enough. A broken wrist or nose would likely be the extent of their injuries.


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