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Jocheved

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If Faith Shabazz's life were a lottery, then she's won the jackpot many times over. She has her husband Isaiah, her daughter Sarah Gail, her son Josiah, her six grandchildren, her career, her faith. Hundreds of blessings to count before she goes to sleep. She would gladly pay again for the lottery tickets she's purchased. But still, sometimes she thinks back and wonders at the cost. Sometimes she thinks back to the times when she wasn't sure yet if she would win or lose, and to the times when she was dead certain that she had lost.

Sometimes she remembers the night when, with no irony and little self-awareness, she styled herself Jocheved and her daughter Miriam and purchased a lottery ticket that would take twenty five years to pay off. All she knew was that it had to be done. Josiah could not stay in the Army's hands, for it was bad enough to have one Bradley in Leavenworth. And he couldn't stay in Faith's hands, because Allah was punishing her for her sins and he wasn't done yet. Seventeen years Isaiah served before his pardon, and when he came out Faith knew it was the hand of God, because she had her husband back and from the day she looked at the white man in her husband's coffin, she had never allowed herself to believe it was possible.

There was nobody in the railyard that night except the night watchman, Billy from her church. She didn't need to explain the situation to him. She just told him that she had business that needed doing and he turned the other way and pretended it was a normal night. The next night, Faith and Sarah had brought a pecan pie over to Billy's house. Billy's wife looked straight into Faith's eyes and Faith looked back. Faith had wondered if Jocheved and the Pharaoh's Daughter had ever shared a look like theirs, of universal womenhood.

Sarah had struggled to keep up with her mother, her gasping breaths sounding in Faith's ears alongside the rattle of the wagon wheels on gravel. They pressed on, careful and cautious but moving with purpose. Every two minutes Faith stopped to check around her. Nobody ever was. The wind blew fierce, whistling through the bare, stunted city trees that lined the sides of the tracks. For years, Faith couldn't feel an autumn wind without remembering that night clear through to her bones. At last they reached an unlocked car, bound for Boston, where Faith could tie down the basket. She hadn't known what would happen next, if the Army would somehow find Josiah or if he would be found by local authorities or even if nobody would find him. But the lottery ticket was her best shot, and she took it the same way Jocheved had. What else could she do?