This story is by Eric Harline and was part of our 2018 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
People roiled around him. They were all staring. His extra cubits stressed his lack of native features and people scowled, made faces of fear at him. He had learned to not acknowledge them a while ago. This time was different. There was anger wound in with the fear.
“You mean you’re not a Philistine.” The captain looked up into the eyes of the living mountain.
“No,” Goliath said back. The people roiled louder at this. His face twisted with frustration, “I mean to say that I am native to this land, as you are.”
The captain crossed his arms, trying to hold back a smirk. “But you are not a Philistine,” he spoke loudly to make sure the crowd could hear him. This saying fed their fervor.
“I am a Philistine,” Goliath said louder still. His shoulders tensed. He looked down on the throng. “I was born in Gath, as any of you may claim.”
“Ah, but we are in Ekron,” the captain retorted. The words were measured, and he did not look at Goliath as he said them. “We can’t be sure what you say is true. Anyway, you don’t wear the face of a Philistine. Your nose is too,” he waved his hand absently, “eh, foreign. On top of that, I’ve never seen a Philistine man of your size, Canaanite or Hebrew.”
Goliath stared hard into the face of the captain. “Sir,” he said shortly, “I am part of this people.”
The captain looked straight into Goliath’s eyes. “That does not mean you will fight for this people.” The multitude became quiet. “Your family is not from these valleys and your face betrays your filthy roots.” The giant’s face dissolved from frustration to shock. The captain stood and walked to Goliath. “I see you for what you are, and you will separate yourself from us.” The man looked straight up into his face. He was so small, but he would not be denied.
Goliath’s brow knit with helpless frustration. He could break this man as he could have broken all the ones before him. But he did not. He stepped back, turned away, and walked through the crowd. They yelled as he pushed past. None dared touch the mountain as it moved forward.
* * *
He sat on the ground against a building with his arms crossed over his knees. People passed by him. They still viewed him with fear, but pity had nearly replaced the contempt. Goliath’s head rested on his arms. A small rock connected with his forehead. He blinked. It was small, it did not hurt, except for the shame.
“C’mon, Lai,” presumably this came from his assailant. “Why so glum?” He hit Goliath on the arm and dropped next to him.
“What do you want, Mitinti,” Goliath said. He did not move.
“Nothing,” Mitinti replied. He did not speak more.
Goliath looked down at the rock Mitinti had thrown. He stared at it for a while. It was a small rock. He picked it up and held it in his open hand. It seemed a pebble in the pocket of his palm. He rolled it around his hand and exhaled. His hand closed around the rock and his knuckles rubbed against where it hit his forehead.
“What’re you doing with that?” Mitinti asked.
“Nothing,” Goliath replied sharply.
“Look, Lai,” Mitinti said after a moment, “your family isn’t gonna come back if you only sit here waiting for them.”
Goliath breathed out. “I don’t want them to come back.” He put his head down.
“Well,” Mitinti’s face caught with slight surprise. “I guess sitting here is the right choice then.” They sat quietly. Mitinti watched people pass by, following them with only his eyes. Goliath kept his head down. “People really don’t like you, eh?” Goliath said nothing. “I think I’ve seen at least three people spit at you.” Mitinti looked up at his friend. “You just let them, huh?”
The mountain’s head lifted. Anger tinted his brow. “Tee,” he said, “you know I am clearly bigger than you.”
“Clearly,” Mitinti repeated.
“Why do prick me like this?” He looked at the small man beside him through the side of his eyes.
“I don’t know really,” Mitinti looked back at him. “Perhaps to make myself feel better. You may have size on me,” he looked forward, “but you wouldn’t do anything about it.” His eyes lost focus and he fell silent again.
Goliath looked at him with antipathy. His eyes lost focus as well and his head shifted forward to the blur of the street before him. His breathing became heavy. He closed his eyes and stood up. Mitinti’s eyes caught the sight of a mountain growing taller. He looked up but couldn’t see the face of the man beyond the mass of shoulders.
“What are you off to?” Mitinti asked. The giant began walking forward. “Well?” He said a bit louder. Goliath didn’t stop. “You’ll never get over this if you don’t learn how to talk about it, Lai,” Mitinti called after him. “Off he goes. I don’t think he even knows where.” He looked around. He was used to speaking to himself.
* * *
“Have you separated yourself from your people so quickly, captain?”
The captain stood amid the roiling people. “You’re questioning my loyalty, being a foreigner?” he replied with ice in his voice. The giant’s brow creased. The captain would not be so easily beaten.
“I would never think to sell my brethren for money,” Goliath scowled at the man. He put his hand on the shoulder of a Hebrew. The man shuddered underneath his grip. “This man says you sold him the positions of armies with warriors that you were tasked to lead.” The throng roiled loudly at this saying.
The captain shook his head. “The man is an Hebrew. He is lying to you.” He turned to walk away, “If you wish to accuse, you must do better than a lying Jew.”
“The Hebrew is already condemned. Lying will not save him.” Goliath’s face did not shift.
The captain stormed toward the mountain of a man. “You have no basis to fault me, foreigner. This man even less so.”
“The giant speaks the truth,” the Hebrew man spoke. “The only liar here is you.”
The captain smacked him. “You may not speak here, Jew!” The man fell to the ground. Silence overtook the people. They waited tensely as the captain kicked the Hebrew’s side. “What pretense makes you to believe that either of you have any claim against my allegiances to the Philistines!”
Goliath’s eyes opened a bit more at this. “What pretense allows you to dance around the accusation like a scared child.” The captain looked up at the giant. He put his large hand on the captain’s chest and pushed him away. He fell backward but got back to his feet quickly. The crowd tensed harder but waited still.
“You do not touch me!” The captain pointed at the giant. He was yelling now. “I am a captain of the great Philistine host! Deposing me will not redeem you in the eyes of these people!”
“A captain who has sold his people!” Goliath yelled back. He held up a scroll. “This shows the positions of our warriors and their movements. The most in depth details concern your warriors, captain!” Men from the crowd looked on the scroll.
“The giant speaks the truth,” one said. “The captain has forsaken his people.”
“Listen to this! Just listen for a moment!” the captain said, still loud. “These men would deceive you to remove me from my place! Is not this a greater deception, seeing that it comes from a foreigner and a Hebrew?” He looked at those gathered around. “What may we gain from a lying Jew?” They showed no deference to this saying.
“Before the living God, I would never lie,” the Hebrew spoke from the ground. “Even to a Gentile wretched as you.”
Goliath picked the Hebrew up by his arm and placed him on his feet. “What the Hebrew says is faithful.” The mountain raised his other large arm. “Does anyone here find reason to doubt?” The people began to roil.
“The Jew speaks truth!”
“The captain has sold us for money!”
“Goliath is a Philistine!”
The people surged forward to grab the captain. Goliath held on to the Jew. The giant would kill the spy with his own hand. They only cried for the blood of the disloyal.
As the people removed from the place, Goliath stopped before of a young boy. He looked up, higher than the other people. “You’re really tall, huh?” he spoke. The mountain’s face scowled, but with surprise more than anger. The boy walked up to Goliath and grabbed his hand. He began walking with the people. Goliath’s scowl faded, and he stepped forward with the boy.