Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #140, Batkol’s Tale, 1

Reina and the bishop; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Angel Appearing To Old Man - Ferdinand Bol -lot.122, in the public domain.
Reina and the bishop; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Angel Appearing To Old Man - Ferdinand Bol -lot.122, in the public domain.

In this episode we begin a 5-part tale of intrigue.
Warning: there is foul language in this episode.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Nineteenth Era, Part 3, ~1432 C.E., Palma
Batkol’s Tale, part 1

It happened one time…
As I was making my way thru the pre-dawn streets to the nunnery, dressed as a nun in habit and hood, rosary in hand and reciting the Sh’ma; that time when the city is quietest, and the watchmen be groggy and dogs doze, that out of the shadow, like a snake strike; something grabs my shoulder and neck and in a desperate whisper hisses in my ear,
“Save me sister. They’re comin’ for me. Save me. I ain’t got a hole to hide.”
A woman it were and she wouldn’t let go.

Half choking me, half hanging on, we stumble and stagger til I finally fall and break away and start to run, that other clinging to my habit’s hood. That’s when I turn and wallop her. Down she goes with a piteous moan,
“Sister save me. I’ve no wheres to go…”
“Quiet, fool!” I hiss at her. “Follow me and keep your mouth shut!”

Down a crooked alley, dank and foul, til we reach a door like all the rest along this passage. Slip inside. Bolt it. Now down a narrow way to another door. Inside a nun is waiting. She bolts it most carefully.
“Now what be this you brung on us?”
“Get Father Enrique immediately. We’ve got a serious situation here.”
I push the girl into an empty cell.
“Sit you down!”
And I slam the door.

By the time Enrique finally comes, prime* been sung and over awhile. He calmly saunters down the hall, smiling, a curious look on his face.
“Is there a problem here, Nicole?**”
* sunrise prayers; ** that’s me, Batkol

“There’s a girl in there who says the priests be coming for her. I don’t know why. Be it the church pursuing her, or be she an agent for the church? I don’t trust her. How’d she know my route to here? How’d she know I wouldn’t report her to a judge myself?”
“Put on street clothes and come right back. Let’s see if she recognizes you then.”

When I’m back he opens her cell door. All dark. What kind of beast lurks? Shuffle, gurgle, hack and cough; wild eyes a-gleam in the gloom, shifting shapes glimpsed and gone.
“I won’t hurt you. Please come out.”
He waits, prepared for anything.
“I won’t hurt you. Don’t be afraid. You are safe in this house of the Lor.”

His voice is soft, soothing, serene, and he gently continues coaxing her. Then from the dark,
“I’m better now. Just let me go. I’m trouble no more.”
“It’s up to you. No trouble here.”
A shape appears inside the dusk, becoming a woman, or is it a girl, in gauzy robes that hardly hide her torso. Her face is hid behind veils. Skittish and looking all around like a wild pony.
“Where’s the door?”
“Right here.”
Enrique opens it, but she stands, trembling, and doesn’t run.

Suddenly she blurts out, “That you, Batkol?”
Shock and fear freeze my veins. The Holy Office has found me out.
“Look. It’s me. Reina Shirin.”

“I know this girl,” I say to Enrique. “She lived with us in Genoa, a month or so until we bought passage for her to Aragon…”
She runs up and hugs me, laughing, tears. Feels like she’ll squeeze the life out of me.

Enrique inquires with a tilt of his head,
“How do you know each other, child?”
and I can’t tell from his words and tone, if he’s suspicious or just curious. But Reina unwinds her tight-wrapped fears, and pours out a torrent of memories.

“Batkol saved me once before… Well, Lilah saved me and Batkol come and took me back to Genoa… I hate that place… that’s where the priest been fuckin’ on me, that filthy swine… Anyways, in Genoa her old man wouldn’t lay offa me with his waggin’ finger and nasty looks, like, nothin’ I done been ever right, with his God-this and Jewish-that… Hey, now, look at you, a nun. You left that fuck and took vows, or what the fuck you doin’ here?”
She stops herself and squints at me, like it just dawned on her where we be, and things don’t fit together right. I just smile.

“It’s alright, dear.”
And the flood in her gushes on.
“I guess I were a holy bitch. But finally your old man had enough and shipped me out and rid of me. Never been on a boat before, but I loved the wind and smell of the sea, and some gorgeous sailor, all help and smiles and says he’ll make sure I’m well fed and pertected from all these horny men. Like he weren’t one. But anyways, come to Palma we gone ashore.

‘I gots a place for you to stay.’
And you know, he’s dickin’ me all day long, and then one day he be gone and the door been locked and I’m on the street, and what’s a girl like me to do? Back to the trade. This place be full of sailors and priests lookin’ for squish, and I know what to do and soon got a name, and the bishop here takes a likin’ to me, til he been seen leavin’ my room, and the next day one of his mastiffs come up and beatin’ me, as you can see, but I break a chair over his head and leave him lyin’, gurglin’, groanin’. Two nights hidin’ an hardly no sleep, and that’s when I stumbles on you, Batkol, thinkin’ a nun will have mercy on me, a woman like her in a man-broke world.”

With that, Enrique couldn’t hold back,
“I doubt a nun would see it that way, having made choices very different that yours.”

And that plugged Reina’s broken dam. Once again that suspicious look, anger and fear and bitter blows glinting out of her swollen eyes.


In the next episode, danged if you do, and danged if you don’t.

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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