Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #116, A Contract

Plague; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Woman Surprised By Death-MET-DP815839, in the public domain.
Plague; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Woman Surprised By Death-MET-DP815839, in the public domain.
In this episode the prototype of a rock and roll tour.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Seventeenth Era, Part 5, ~1347, around Europe
Tales of the End Days

Returning to my life in Tuscany…
I tried to flee from the pressing Death *when his lightning raged and his body stank*, but he followed me like a hungry wolf, waitin’ to sink his teeth in my neck.
*-* Sympathy for the Devil, Rolling Stones
Wildly, madly, we fled Florence; crossed the Alps and down to Marseille. And there to greet me, an extravagance: in every market, theater troupes staggerin’ and shakin’ in the dance of death. And there, at a little round table, that Fiend, sippin’ a cup of hemlock tea.
“I’ve been waitin’ for you,”
he says, all smiles, like my best friend brimmin’ with marvelous news.
“I’ve got a proposition. Sit!”
And raisin’ his hand, he signals the boy,
“Another tea, for my thirsty friend.”
“My agents have scheduled a European tour for me — concerts, light shows, dance — in every big city and all the resorts from here across southern France into Spain, then back thru France to the German states, and across the Channel thru the British Isles, then frost-sparkled Scandinavia, and windin’ it up with a giant blast thru Eastern Europe and into Rus. I’m hiring you as my manager.”
I guess my stare gives my thoughts away. He shrugs, all sensitive and sincere.
“Hell, you want to shut down the tour? You can do it whenever you like. Just beat me at a game that I call ‘life.’ You probably know it; it’s something like chess. Now, look at these folk all sufferin’, and quick to blame you Jews as the cause. You better do something to put things right. Whattaya say? Join the tour! Oh, I guess I should mention one caveat… If you decide you’re not on-board, it’s buboes for you an Butkol right now, and I’ll finish your Jewish ways, as well.”
“Did I hear you right? You’re askin’ me to promote your plague, while we play a game that only you know, which, if I win, the plague you carry will finally end, and while I’m losin’, Europe’s seed will wither and rot, and I’ll be blamed? And if I say ‘no’ to this generous deal, me and Butkol will die right here, and the Jewish spirit and the Voice of the Lor that fills it with life, will also die? And still the plague and you will go on, no matter if I agree or refuse? Is that the offer you’re layin’ on me?”
“You’re such a bright fellow, Saadia Mishan, but rather dour and cynical. I know quite well you love the road, and you’ll soar with the chance to tour with me! The music’s gonna be fabulous, with performances that are world class. But there’s rules and details I need to explain before we can start to battle wits, and you can redeem these bags of bones, with their rotten minds and rottin’ flesh.”
Just then a troupe of dancers pass, with whimperin’ pipe and wailful song. And accompanied with their stagger and lurch and ghastly costumes, blood and pus drippin’ from buboes swollen and black, or merely skeletons, jigglin’ bones mockin’ the living to entertain Death.
Death, he smiles and touches my arm,
“Look at that one. Well painted, no? And I love that skull with its silly grin. And that young child sure knows how to dance…”
And on like that like some dilettante, like he directed and prompted and gave advice to design their outfits, and play their pipes, and choreograph their hideous dance.
“Now, pay attention. Here’s the rules. Look at these humans, feeble and broke, and bound in coils of falsehood and fear, pursuin’ violence and gloryin’ in hate, with the wild abandon of a maddened horse. He’s your chessboard; his passions and beliefs are the pieces you move to checkmate me, by changin’ this beast to an angelic spirit. It’s all in your hands. All I can do is tell you how the pieces cascade, and if you’ve put my plague in check, or harmed yourself with your own bad play.”
says I.
“So that’s the game. I’m ready to play. Here’s my first move: people can’t feel hate no more!”
He looks at me, disgusted or bored, shakin’ his head, his mouth in a sneer, like I just stepped in a wet cow pie.
“Checkmate for you. And you see that church full of pitiful, prayin’ folk?”
I look to the church. At first just a few, and then a lot, and then a crush of terrified people, pushin’ and shovin’, and many tramplin’ over the weak fleein’ the church, and as they stampede, purple buboes bulge from their necks, their armpits, and crotches, and burst out pus. Before they can even reach the square they fall in twisted agonies and die and wither before my eyes. A hundred people or maybe more.
Death turns on me and says,
“Bad move.”
I furiously shout,
“False! Unfair! You cheated me! What’s wrong with that move?”
Again that look comes to his face. Do I like to step in shit like that? Now, I can’t imagine this demonous geist has a dram of sensitivity in him, and yet he sighs and quietly says,
“Listen. Hatred is not one thing, separate, distinct, a thing in itself. Hatred is pride and power and fear; it’s a sense of self and fear of not-self; it’s a father’s protection, a mother’s love, a high priest’s blessing, a king’s law. Hatred is as vital as any love. If you tear out hate, all the roots that are coiled in hate, all the roots that hate has coiled into our souls will be torn out in a tangled mess. Not a single part of the human mind will be left intact and untraumatized. Better to tear out a person’s heart — a moment of horror but quickly dead.
“Lad, you need to give this more thought, go more slowly, take more care. Better your steps be simple and small. Every time you move a piece, it’s like you’re moving a foundation stone. Other pieces will lose support or lose constraint: terrors and wars, stupor, madness, suicide.”
And then I seen my first move were fittin’ more for Genghis Khan — burn out a city and kill everyone; art and culture and life all destroyed; and call it a marvelous victory when it were mere barbarity.
In the next episode our hero begins to learn some lessons in behavioral engineering.
About the Author
I am a writer, educator, artist, and artisan. My poetry is devoted to composing long narrative poems that explore the clash between the real and the ideal, in the lives of historical figures and people I have known. Some of the titles of my books are: The Song uv Elmallahz Kumming A Pilgimmage tu Jerusalem The Pardaes Dokkumen The Atternen Juez Talen You can listen to podcasts of my Eternal Jew posts on my personal blog, Textures and Shadows, which can be found on my website, or directly, at: I live just outside Washington, DC with my bashert, and we have two remarkable sons. Those three light my life.
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