In Capernaum

Matthew 17: 24-27

They’ve come to this town and they’re crashing with some friends of Andrew’s and they’re beat, I mean, wiped out, right? They’ve been on the road for four days, it’s been hot and dry and the dust’s so thick they start to look like the wild men of the desert even to each other, like they should be eating bugs and honey, and it’s nice to sit in the cool of a building for a night and make small talk and maybe drink a little wine and not have to move for a while.

Just as the party’s getting going this guy comes and plays chopsticks on the door. Peter goes and opens it. “Yeah?” he says.

“Hey,” says the guy. “I’m from the government. You guys are the preachers?”

“I guess so,” says Peter.

“You wanna do your thing in this town, you gotta pay the tax.”

Peter sags against the door frame and feels every scorching mile in his feet. “Can we do this tomorrow? We just got in, we’re beat.”

The guy hesitates, then nods. “I’ll be back first thing in the morning, though. You guys better be ready.”

“Yeah, yeah,” says Peter, and goes back inside.

“Who was that?” says the boss.

“One of Matt’s old buddies. There’s some sort of fee for talkin’ to folks in the square, apparently.”

The boss laughs. “You think they do this to their own people?” Peter makes a rude noise. “Yeah, me neither. But, hey, rules is rules. Look, James, you and Peter go down to the lake first thing in the morning and catch a fish. There’s gonna be enough money in that fish for all of us. You hear me?”

“Yeah, yeah,” says James. “Christ.”