Stephen Berer
the Eternal Jew's biographer

The Eternal Jew’s Tale, #34, Fox’s Tail

Mariam the Fox, modified and colorized image from the public domain book, Eine Orientreise vom Jahre 1881, owned by the author.
Mariam the Fox, modified and colorized image from the public domain book, Eine Orientreise vom Jahre 1881, owned by the author.

In this episode our dear student Mariam has stepped into a night-tale of alternate personalities, such as one might read in 1001 Nights.

The Eternal Jew’s Tale
Eleventh Era, 1039CE, Part 5-Batkol’s tale, 2

“You! I want to see you upstairs!”
And he points, and Ophelia murmurs, “Yes, sire.”
“Not you!” he sneers. “That fresh one there,” And its clear he’s talkin’ of Mariam.

Wide-eyed in fear, she looks around, and an elderly dame takes her hand, and says to the king,
“This young one here is not one of us, is not of the harem, Most Honorest One.”
“Well, now she is!”
And sayin’ so, he spins and goes. Then the women grow quiet, all glancin’ around.

And there’s Mariam, a cloudburst of tears, and ranged around her with palm to cheek or mouth agape, or sittin’ hunched with head in hands, or bitin’ a lip like something Delacroix might paint in his day. Stormy moods and passions overflowing. This poor little schoolgirl will be ravished today. Just then the door flies opens once more, and the queen, Zenep comes rushin’ in.
“Ladies, you seen a student of mine? She’s missing now this hour or so.”
And then she seen the tearful girl.
“No need to fear. No anger here.”
So says, then she sees the passion play.
“Your Honorest One, there’s a problem here…”

Hearin’, she sighs and shakes her head.
“It’s the end of this girl and the end of the school. Just the move Badis was lookin for. Wait a moment!”
And she rushes out.

The faucets drip, split splat split splat and with every drop the tensions rise. Then here comes Batkol, wrinkled a-brow, and takes Mariam.
“Let’s go, you fox.”

Eleventh Era, Part 6-Batkol’s Tale, 3

She opens the door, and slips inside, quiet and cool as a draft of air. Her red hair, streaky with tan and brown, falls aslant one eye and cheek and over her shoulder, Berber wild, like a Gaulish witch, like Ishtar’s child.

Standin’ on his balcony peerin’ into the eastern hills unaware the girl has come, furious, talkin’ to himself, the king, his hands wavin’ in the air. She stands silent as an accusin’ wraith, her face pale, drained of feelings, washed in a paler shade of death.

Impatience, tendin’ now towards rage, he glances over his shoulder again, and behold, the girl, like coilin’ smoke that slid in the room beneath the door, enigmatic as an unformed thought.

“Where have you been? It’s not very far from the bath to here…”
Then he stops and stares at the girl. For a moment he sees a lynx, then a witch, like a shadow, flittery and fleet. And it’s gone, along with his angry tongue.
“Are you the girl I saw in the baths?”
is all he can say when the shock has passed.

In a barky and snarly high-pitched voice, like sounds he’s heard in forest and hunt, wild and stirrin’ up trouble, she says,
“Me is not girl but a fox, just as you are thinkin’ of me. Me as troubles. Let me go!”

So says, but nary a twitch of her lips and nary a glint or glare in her eye. Just a heavy breath and a stony frown.

Unbuttoning his embroidered vest and tryin’ to cover his confusion and fears, he tries to smile but mostly sneers and says,
“I myself have hunted many a fox, and in the end the fox’s fur warms my bed and the fox’s tail is in my hand.”

“Me sees it differ an you, ole king. Me say your tail is in me mow, an iffen bite you, who-ee hear your yowl an scream, an who-ee see your bloody bed, an not my blood? For as your know, the many-est dog is broken leg in foxy hunts, and many-est rider thrown from horse, and foxee she laugh as she run she free.

“So now as you are in me vort, you hears, but me am say no word, so listen close for you not woo an you not fall in me thistle bed, an tor your skin an tor your limb. You sees me here as fifteen year. A child. Your eyes deceivers you. Me fifteen year is true enough, but that be ole, a wrinkly dame in foxy live. Nor me tail for you to sees. You don’t want me…”

“Your voice may come from your growly gut, and you may act both rude and bold, but when I tear that dress from you we’ll see if you are wrinkly old and if your bottom has a tail!”
And sayin’, starts to cross the room.

Then such a grimace and such a screech as freezes the anger out of him, and shames his pride and stuns his will. Her face – she surely is a fox, grandam old and snarly and crouched to spring and bite his cheek.

“The light of day must never see me tail! But if you patient waits, you might yet stroke me velvet fur.”

Shocked, he backwards steps or trips, and falls or sits upon his couch, flustered and wanting breath, as if upon a frighted horse and him unbalanced, has dropped his reins and all he can think is to right himself. As she paces and prowls the room, in her barkin’ yippin’ talk, a tale is revealed of fox’s ways….


In the next episode our fox tells of her meeting with a lion of old.

About the Author
I am a writer, educator, artist, and artisan with an awe of The Eternal and an unbounded love of Judaism that shapes everything I think and do. 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: In the process of reconstructing lives, I also reconstruct English, in an effort to achieve heightened and multi-dimensional perspectives. I have recorded some brief thoughts about this philological journey in a series of essays entitled "Essential Notes on Linguistics." You can read these on my website or at Academia. My creative life also includes arts and crafts. For example, my older son and I are working on an illuminated Megillat Esther. Finally, and in many ways most importantly, I currently live with my bashert just outside Washington, DC, and have two remarkable sons, the three of whom light my life.
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