Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #127, Things Fall Apart, 1

Juan and Gabriel de Vallseca: two portraits by Velazquez (Franciso Ochoa and Carlos de Austria), merged and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain.
Juan and Gabriel de Vallseca: two portraits by Velazquez (Franciso Ochoa and Carlos de Austria), merged and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, in the public domain.
In this episode, things seen and unseen.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Eighteenth Era, Part 4, ~1425 C.E., Genoa

Daniyel’s shop and studio are like a house of wonders to me. All them tools and globes and maps, which I mentioned some lines back, now I begun to ‘preciate. His maps are more than lines of coast. Here be distance, direction, and scale markin’ the routes by land and sea between each place in the whole world; coastal features and shapes of land; safe waters and dangerous shoals; waters where monsters are known to rove; reefs and islands, movable and fixed; pirate hideouts and hostile capes; anchorages and deep ports; wind direction and compass points; rhumb lines that radiate from key places to mark your way and to measure distance; a fixed grid; and mountains, rivers, cities and bays; flags of nations and city-states to note the borders of friend and foe; and even some portraits of famous men like Marco Polo and Aberham.
Then one day as we’re porin’ thru books and rough hewn maps and traveler accounts, to compile our knowledge and find new facts, into our studio with nary a knock some stranger strides, like he owns the place. Daniyel almost falls from his bench. With a joyous shout (or were it a plea),
“Hiam! Uh… Juan. Blessed a God. What brings you down to this backwater port? And be this your toddler, Gabriel, become a man since I seen him last?”
For a spell the two friends reminisce and report on news and sorrows befell, while I’m ignored at my drawin’ board. So I turn my attentions back to the log some sailor scratched like a little child, lackin’ grammar and all misspellt. And yet my ear be turned to them two reportin’ on how Castile been gorgin’ on hate, with defamers and riots and synagogues burned. And do I hear aright? This one sittin’ here and speakin’ Hebrew and blessin’ the Lor, been baptized and took on a Christian name?
I thought, for sure, they been Christian born. Sidelocks shorn, a well-trimmed beard, skin-tight hose and velvet shirts, and dandy cloaks as big as tents, striped in a many colored brocade. Shameless pimps of fashion and pomp. Such would bring kharem* down on a Jew.
* expulsion from the community
I sits here, eyes on these scrappy maps, but my mind in a blustery thunderstorm:
‘Bootlickin’ Jews to king and church, fawning and groveling for status and gold, lackin’ the grit of Joshua’s men — to stand firm in the hail of stones — and lackin’ the vision to see beyond the golden hallways where kings strut, and see them a-squat in their stinkin’ latrines, their spirits rank from their rotten deeds. Jews they ain’t, nor ever been, pursuin’ their jezebels and their baals, and forgettin’ the Lor, as well foretold.’
And suchlike condemnations roll across my stormy inner fields.
Finally, with a scowl twistin’ my face, I push away from my bench and leave, his liltin’ voice too much to bear.
I storm thru the door and Batkol sees immediately the mood I’m in.
“Must have been troubles in the studio. Was it drunken sailors or government men?”
With nary some back-fill I dive right in…
“What kind of Jew would abandon God, or question his faith and our holy ways? Jezebel chasers. Men of no worth…”
And on like that til the fire burns out.
And there’s Batkol, grimace or frown, and her eyes glassy, brimmin’ with tears. I figure she’s just as angry as me, til she says,
“It’s not so easy to know the right path and the truth of it all.”
And she shakes her head and there’s tears on her cheeks. And I want to shout,
‘What crap is that? The truth is plain, and it’s straight ahead.’
But her own sorrows, whatever they be, slice my anger with sympathy. I’m about to ask what’s ailin’ her, when she ups and takes herself out the door.
“I need to be alone a spell.”
And she don’t come home til long after dark.
In the next episode… “*ain’t it just like the night to play tricks when you’re tryin’ to be so quiet…*”
*-* our master, Bob
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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