Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #141, Batkol’s Tale, 2

Hagar; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Peasant Women - Michałowski, Nat. Museum Kraków, in the public domain.
Hagar; image colorized and modified by the author, obtained from Wikimedia Commons, Peasant Women - Michałowski, Nat. Museum Kraków, in the public domain.

In this episode, spy vs. spy.
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 2

Reina might be thinking she been saved, but Enrique sees her as a pestilent mouse —
‘If it can get in, rats will be next.’
Later that morning he confides in me,
“We have to put her on a ship away from here, immediately. If we hand her over to the court of the church, she’ll compromise you and we’re all done. If we send her back out into the street, the church will find her and we’re all done. If we take her in as an acolyte, she’ll run away when she’s sick of us and she’ll be caught, and we’re all done. She needs to be on a ship tonight.”

“True, that girl has a dangerous heart and a devil’s will, but she holds a grudge like Jezebel herself. So shipping her off like she’s ours to sell could flame her gut. And she’ll come back, for sure, with malice and venge.”
Such we ponders while Reina sleeps.

I mostly sleep at the convent these days, which causes no end of grumbling from Saadia, who sleeps at the map-making shop. Him with head and beard all shaved, he looks like a menacing ox to me.

Enrique goes to talk about Reina with him, to hear the stories he has to tell; what kind of girl this Reina might be; how smart or capricious, how reliable; how honest and if she be disciplined. I can only imagine what he’ll report.
So I be stunned when he come back and says,

“Maybe she can further our work.”
“Really?” says I. “What did Saadia say?”
“Turn it and turn it, which is what we did, and came to conclude: put a bit in a horse’s mouth and teach it to run with a man on its back. Then ride that horse. *There’s trouble ahead and trouble behind* and she’s one more trouble we’ve been assigned. But first and foremost, she must know as little as possible about this place. We’re scribes producing holy books for devout hidalgos around the land.”
*-* Grateful Dead, Casey Jones

Sea breeze fades, and the evening breeze off the central hills be coming down. Sipping a broth of turnip and beans and crunching on wafers and olive paste, as if I’m wondering out loud to myself,
“How long do you think you’ll shelter here to sit out the bishop’s fit of bile?”

“I doubt that fuck will let this pass. His be a vicious and vengeful heart. He used to brag about all his spies sittin’ in every converso house, and how he patiently stalks his prey til they sticks their heads into his noose. So if your askin’ when I’ll leave? Maybe, not til that piece of shit dies. I don’t know. What gold I hid back in my room, maybe it’s there, but prob’ly his dogs ransacked it out. Anyways, he’s got eyes on that room. I can’t go back, nor any of the girls I know can go. If I had the coin, I’d sail away someplace else, anyplace else. But I’m screwed, and here I be. I know it’s a lot, but can I squat here at least a few more days?”

“Worry not, Reina dear. Father Enrique is wondrous kind. As long as you respect our ways I don’t think he’ll turn you out.”
“That mean I gotta pray all day and suck his cock whenever he wants?”

“I’d say the main thing you’ll need to do is watch your thoughts and hold your tongue. Don’t imagine Father Enrique be like the churchman that preyed on you. But here our days are strictly fixed. We break our fast just after prime. Just before none*, fruit and bread. And just after compline** our supper, this.
* ninth hour prayers; ** night prayers

And while you’re here you’ll have to work. Our convent be a scriptorium, so gathering soot to make ink and boiling glue and mixing paste, are probably the things you’ll be asked to do. But here’s the thing: Father Enrique has no quarrel with the bishop and church. You’re free to leave any time, but when you go, our holy embrace will end and we’ll protect you no more.”

She sits there staring at her broth, her predicament now razor sharp. She might have slipped from the cat’s claws, but that cat were hungry, patient, and cruel. And meanwhile this be a tiny cage for a wild and aimless bird like her. I leave her thus in the fading light.

My slow steps belie my thoughts and the urgent report I must bring to Enrique. But it’s late when he returns, and he doesn’t want to talk that night.

Clatter and chatter in the commissary. Enrique beckons while the women eat.
“So what’s the news that couldn’t wait to bear the light of this new day?”
His gentle chiding lightens my mood.
“Our young asylum seeker reports on matters that concern her stay. First, she says she’ll gladly sail on any ship away from here. Second, the bishop revealed to her he has many spies, well placed in homes of Palma’s baptized Jews, confirming what you long have feared.”

“Ironic, no? The easy path, to ship that girl away from us might yet need to be deferred. She has knowledge we can use. Sit her down and subtly tease out details. Does she know specific homes where spies reside? Or specific spies that roach employs? Or how they penetrate our homes? Are they confessors, tradesmen, thieves? Deceivers we might yet deceive.”


In the next episode… a goat for Azazel?

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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