‘Get me out of here!’ cries the man in the shiny helmet, stamping his feet. ‘Don’t they know who I am?’
His skin is blotchy white like a goat’s. Around him, afraid to get too close, afraid to look him in the eye, members of his platoon whisper to each other. One steps forward.
‘My master, please permit me to talk,’ he begins. The commander stares at him, dust settling lazily on his robes in the evening light. ‘Did the man of God give you a challenge you could not complete? Did he require a task too difficult of you? Would you not have journeyed across the desert or eaten foul things or touched venomous snakes to be rid of your curse?’
Naaman turns to me. ‘What do you think? Is this pathetic muddy stream worthy of my status? Are my local rivers, great and majestic, with power to irrigate and bring life not far better? Is this so-called prophet mocking me?’
I am stumped. I thought I was supposed to be asking the questions.
‘What do you have to lose?’ the brave servant asks, and his master dismisses him, summoning me instead. I am not afraid of his skin condition, but I don’t want to feel the bruising of his wrath.
‘What have you heard about the prophet?’ I ask.
‘That he is a man of God,’ he replies, more quietly, ‘with power to heal and to do miracles. My wife in Damascus told me this: her maid is from this area. I miss my wife so much. And so I brought gifts from my master, the king of Aram, that I should be cured of this curse. We travelled far with gold, silver and clothes, and he insults me by not even showing his face.’
‘But you want to be healed, don’t you?’ I ask him. ‘Completely healed? Yes, the water is muddy, but you won’t be clean without it.’
Naaman looks to the river.
‘We have gods in our own country too, you know,’ he says. ‘If washing here doesn’t work I will look like a fool.’
‘And if it does?’
‘Ha! If this muddy river can clean me, I will load two mules with soil from here and take it back. Their God must truly be laughing at me!’
He turns to the river.
‘Who’s counting?’ he calls out. ‘Let’s get this done!’
Lucy Marfleet is a writer and educator who tries to tell the truth in imaginative ways. She has degrees in Theology and Biblical Studies and has worked in schools and prisons. Lucy lives with her husband and two children near Cambridge and blogs at www.lucymarfleet.com. Follow her on Twitter @lucymarfleet