Tuesday, May 10, 2011

JONATHON STEPS INTO THE BREECH

The old rabbi said - Would you like to continue, my boy?.......And Jonathon went on. He quietly explained - I remembered the blind hatred of the Crusaders. I saw what they did. They almost burned me alive. If it wasn't for 'Papa,' I'd be dust. Oh, I survived the fire (he looks around). A prayer house much like this one. But my lungs were gone. I could hardly breathe. If Johannan hadn't pushed me under the stone 'bima' (Scriptural reading table) I would have endured the flames...like all the others. You know, death in a fire, oblivion, does not always come quick. The heart continues to beat for quite a while. I did not want those of this city to face that. Now you must understand that as a traveller, these events could have transpired without my knowledge. True, I may have heard of them after the fact. But a wealthy, young Castilian gentleman, an 'hidalgo' (gentry or noble) frequents loftier surroundings. I had letters of credit forwarded to ranking Bohemian bankers. My English 'familiars' were worth every 'pound.' But my mind was not a purely human mind. And I felt things. I heard things. So I wandered into the ghetto  and the rougher environs nearby. That's how I learned of the massacre yet to come. That's how I found you, rabbi, the Maharal, the revered Biblical scholar of Prague, the man who verged on sainthood. You did not know I was there. Sometimes I'd sublimate through the walls while you were studying or planning a Sabbath sermon. It was late. It was always late....(the rabbi nodded).....I'd fade into the shadows and listen. To your mind, I mean. A vampire can do those things. I saw the tears. I knew your pain. You would never have attemped that. You would never have resorted to such quasi-Kabbalistic conjuring. ...(the rabbi is truly pained).....But what choice did you have? So the tragically comic ramblings of an ignorant eavesdropper, the spell of an idiot based on half remembered gossip took hold of you. I saw you shape that thing. I saw you dig the clay and mix the dust. I saw you search for the proper vellum and write the blessed letters. And I knew it had to work. So when the clay remained clay. When the dust remained dust, I stepped forward . Do you remember what I said?................You said, 'Fear not. Your petition has been heard. I am here to keep you safe.' I asked who sent you and you said Michael the Archangel. And............And what, rabbi? - said Jonathon........Then I fainted dead away - mumbled the graybeard.

The important men of the ghetto heard the good news. They dressed their heavenly-vampiric-golem-champion in the garments of a Maccabean (2nd century b.c.e. Judaen warrior) captain, the short kilt, the sleeveless tunic, the silver breastplate, a rolled head scarf round his brow. Quite dashing, I must say. and we disembodied spirits see a lot. Someone ran to fetch an old tarnished iron sword. They gave it to their newly minted defender. To Jonathon, I mean. But he put it down and said - I fight with other tools. Then they asked God to bless him yet again. I presume Michael the Archangel's recommendation was not good enough. Each man hid his family the best he could, picked up whatever was at hand (clubs, sticks, knives and the like) and formed 'ranks' behind their miraculous leader.

First they heard the rumbling. Then they heard the singing and laughing and cat calls and curses. Company was coming. Their neighbors were here to kill them. What a fitting end to a day of prayer and celebration. But prayer meant little to men like these and to be fair, even the true priests and bishops up in The Cathedral, spirited away all religious valuables, including themselves. God would decide. Let Him judge the outcome. Well maybe, after a fashion, He did.

The ghetto was sealed in. Strong, gray rocks formed the walls. But the gate was weak and the guards were gone to take their own positions among the rabble. CRASH! The old beams trembled. BOOM! The bands began to snap and break., as iron shards of shrapnal  found their rest in human flesh. ROAR! The rotted wood fell dead. And those valiant 'knights' in the rear took care not to trample their brethren, as they streamed in through the breech.

Fortyeight cubits hence, the ghetto defenders stood. Ready to do what? They did not know. Though none would turn. And Jonathon? Well, lets just say that a vampire's heart can race with the best of them. And then there was silence. The enemy stopped, the better to study their prey. Some of them grinned. Others laughed. What an easy chore this would be. A piece of streudl.. Men slowly inched forward. Knives were drawn. Jaws were set. The 'divinely ordained' action would take place.

A heartbeat later, Jonathon had an epiphany. He remembered. A gutteral growl came up from his chest, as he raced toward them and SUBLIMATED into their midst. Now when a vampire transforms into that nebulous state, his 'particles of being' slice into living tissue  with a keenness like razors. And bloody pulp rained down into the dirt. Those yet untouched saw this. They pointed and pushed in a mad sramble, attempteing to fall   back. Some escaped. Many  did not. And the ghetto was left unmolested. Those in the marketplace whispered of what transpired. Men in the taverns drank in silence. But people in the narrow, winding streets of this  formerly defenseless quarter remembered and the legend of the Golem was born.

Funny, but when you think about it, Jonathon's original family name was ben Macabi, son of the Maccabees. The uniform was right. And if he had not been there, if this vampire had not stepped into the breech, the families that gave rise to Einstein and to Mahler and to Heine and yes, even to Wagner too,  would havve disappeared. Strange when you think about it like that...........

Yet what is the lesson in all of this? Look, you,ve been reading long enough. Go eat a cookie. Have a cold drink. We'll meet again (God willing) tomorrow..........

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