Historical setting: A dark age on the Shore of Gaul
A waft of sea breeze doesn’t even ease the stench. Is it the swine, the rotting turnips or the children themselves? Four tiny faces, maybe the oldest no older than ten, and the youngest a toddler, all with round shinning eyes, all starring into me with these large, still, pools of blue jasper, peering from starving faces.
My instruction is the order of the evening and we all go to the fresh water creek cascading toward the sea off the rocks nearby. Cold with the memory of ice is this water; I stand in the middle of the creek taking one child at a time, scrubbing each boy and his clothing also, free of stench and soil. I’m sure they will thank me for it, once we all stop our shivers. I think they will forgive my need to clean them all in the icy water when they find I also bring them a hot broth of kelpweed.
I find that these children have been clever salvaging the ironware and remaining supplies from the burned out cottages, so here they have well-maintained fires: one for cooking, one for warding off predators and one for keeping the coals to secure the next fires — with all the grates and hooks and iron kettles of a household. Their shelter is branches covering over a dug-out hole against an inside corner of the garden wall lined with a thick layer of dried oak leaves for bedding. Any mother squirrel would be proud.
“I am called Lazarus, what are your names?”
The second to the oldest speaks for them all, “I’m Pudding, and my big brother is Pumpkin, and this little one is Piggy, and the baby is Precious but he doesn’t speak in words.”
I repeat their names with a questioning voice noticed by Pumpkin.
“Those were just our baby names. We have real names now I think. Mother said God would give us our names at baptism, but the pirates came here first. After that God gave us our real names anyway.”
As we sit around the fire now, warm and fed I ask for the story.
“Tell me about the time when God came and told you your names.”