“Goliath! Goliath!” Goliath sighed, stretched his over-large, muscled limbs, then rocked into a sitting position from where he’d been lying. There were benefits to being the largest man in the Philistine army. A foot and a half taller than the closest, he was something of a celebrity. He got his own tent where the other men had to share. He didn’t have to muster with the rank and file, and stare down other armies as they were doing right now. Women were eager to be with him, men wanted to befriend him. But as he ducked out of his tent and blinked in the morning sun to look for the person who had been hailing him, he also thought about the down side to being a military celebrity. Every time the Philistine army faced another, the call would go out to have a champion come forth and face Goliath in single battle. The big man despised his role. He had no taste for war, would rather have been at home on his parents farm. Being as big and agile as he was, however, meant that hadn’t been an option. He’d been recruited at a young age, already a head taller than all of his contemporaries, and pushed into the role of champion. His dreams were full of the memories of men, warriors who had fought him and perished. Some would run, and he would hack them down, in full view of both armies. Others would fight, terrified or mad or convinced of their own immortality. They all fell to his spear or his sword, to appear again when the sun was gone and the fighting was done. Today another face would be added to the ones waiting for him. He shook his head to get rid of the thought, and started to put on his armor as he addressed the messenger who had roused him. “Who is it this time?” “Israelites.” Goliath was quiet for a few moments as he buckled on his greaves. Israelites. He didn’t know where they were from, or why they were fighting today. He just knew his role was to go out and fight. He was reaching for his breastplate, when the messenger cleared his throat nervously. “What is it?” the giant man asked. “We had a message through along the supply lines early this morning. It’s, uh, it’s your home.” “What about it?” “It was attacked by bandits a month ago. They burned your family’s farm.” The man looked apprehensively at Goliath, who hadn’t stopped getting ready for the battle to come. “And my parents?” Goliath asked, his voice steady and in contrast to the hot, sickening feeling flooding through his gut. “They were killed, sir,” the poor messenger finished, looking terrified. “I see,” was all Goliath said. He put on his helmet, and buckled it under his chin. It hid the tears.
By the time he reached the front line, the tears had stopped, but the ache in his gut hadn’t. He strode up to the commander, spear in hand, and went through the motions as he did before every combat. “Who are they?” he asked, having forgotten the messenger’s earlier information. “Israelites.” “Right. Do they have a champion come forward yet?” The commander shook his head. “And they probably won’t when they see the size of you!” he joked, unaware of the turmoil in his champion’s breast. Goliath sighed, then went to the front lines. He stood there. Spear held nonchalantly, striking a pose of calculated indifference to the terrified army across from him. There was movement from the lines, and a tiny figure stepped out. No armor, no weapon that Goliath could see, so the big man took a pace forward, then another. The other man-- or boy, he seemed so young-- kept moving forward, so Goliath copied him, until he stood close enough to throw his spear. “Why do you come out here without armor?” he asked after the two had watched each other for a while. “I don’t need armor,” the boy replied. “Do you want to die?” Goliath asked. The boy shook his head. “No, but what choice do I have? They needed a champion, but everyone was afraid to face you. They’d heard that you were unbeatable, and they decided I was expendable. I’m a shepherd, not a soldier.” Goliath smiled. “A shepherd. That’s all I wanted to be when I was young,” he said half to himself. “Work with my father, tend the flocks.” The pain of the news he’d received shot through him, still raw, and he thought about how he’d never be able to walk the hills with his father again, or curl up with the flock at night and use the sheep as his pillow and blankets. He focused back on the boy in front of him. He could see the fear, the slight tremble in the boy’s legs. “You’re a shepherd. Do you have your sling?” Goliath asked. The boy didn’t say anything, only nodded. Goliath took off his helmet, and let it drop to the ground. “Use it,” he said. The boy fumbled for a stone in his pouch, a pouch like the one Goliath had used so long go. The first stone escaped through nervous fingers. The second found its way into the sling. Goliath closed his eyes as the boy began to swing the sling. He heard the whir of the stone as it passed close to his head, and instinctively opened his eyes again. The boy stood there, terrified now. “Again,” Goliath said. “Concentrate. Think or me as a lion, or a bear, after your flocks. Don’t miss.” He closed his eyes on the world, and the boy’s aim held true.