Some More from Sepharad

I just found out that I will go back to work in July, having received my phone call yesterday afternoon. It is odd to realize that at one time some weeks ago I had vowed not to continue once the old operation was complete. On the other (stronger) hand, as I havenʼt made good use of being my own master these past couple of weeks, thatʼs good news. I guess.

What I really need is to kick myself into gear. I havenʼt written anything but these blog posts in a while — except some dribs and drabs on the Sepharad story, activity which inspired me, having nothing to say for today and having pretty well wasted all of yesterday in not writing or even reading, although I did get out and do one last (currently unpaid) bit of Census work, that evidently came too late once I called my boss about it. I visited Andrew School to say farewell to some of my favorite people, as longtime principal Bill Hamilton retires (I came too late to catch him; utilizing pent-up vacation time, he was already gone) along with lovely and congenial, caring and hardworking superintendentʼs secretary Mary Ann Merfeld (whom I did get to speak with two days before her final work day).

As everything at the school changes over the course of the next year, even personnel are in transition. Mr. Hamilton and Mary Ann were joined as 2010 retirees by kindergarten teacher Connie Weirup and my former neighbor, science instructor Vicki Manders. The school will be a quite different place without them, although I am sure the new faculty and staff will be excellent (my own successor, by the way, moving on to Des Moines, has also been replaced, I noticed in the last board minutes). Yes. Everything changes.

At least my trip out of town, thanks to the school visit, wasnʼt entirely in vain.

And since thatʼs about all I have to talk about (well, I did poison myself and, I hope, more dramatically and thoroughly these digusting long black bugs that have invaded/infested everywhere around the house; all I had to use was probably decade-old bug spray in an only partially operative pump cannister sprayer — aha, more shopping ahead), hereʼs a just a little more, from the beginning of the second chapter, of my Sepharad story, still tentatively entitled “Mistakes by Moonlight.” Chapter One, in its not-revised form (I did say I have been working on the tale) is here.

starting Chapter Two from the Sepharad story

II

Nachmanides — not Judah

Two days earlier, Judah’s most profound calculations were no more esoteric than Søren’s — the lack of wealth in his possession as opposed to the imminent need for cash to pay toward rent and his tabs at various establishments — including Ottocar’s Golden Bull — not to mention Duke Alessandro’s new tax on magicians. In the low quarter where he dwelled among thieves and whores, all his impending debts were payable on pain of death. If he wanted to avoid a premature demise, he needed to acquire some coins immediately. Decidedly not above taking what he needed in dire straits, Judah currently knew of no one not equally mired in poverty to rob, and he had always felt it wrong to reft the poor. The city was well supplied with wealthy aristocrats, but Judah dared not risk burgling estates or palaces as well guarded as theirs, not without assistance. And he had practiced alchemy enough to know the futility of making his own gold, or tempting others to pay him to make gold for them.

“Mad” Judah, they called him — him having been illuminated and in communion with God on his arrival — they also having heard of him by rumor and legend. The crazy Kabbalist, shunned by all true Jews for his insane belief that God spoke directly to him, rejected for his investigations into Islam and his correspondence with certain Christians as outcast as himself. God had mastered him here, overfilling his soul with light and enthusiasm so that he raved, lunatic, in his divine joy. But God had left him, as before, alone and confused in the dark stinks of back alleys, wandering dazed and unfed among thieves and whores.

Having come to himself, discovering he had been robbed, even beaten while out of his senses, he stole for himself some clothes and some fruit. Then he attempted to get work or payment for his knowledge, offering himself to the majordomo at the ducal palace for his skills in medicine, literature, politics and combat. And he’d found a place — a kind of military librarian — for almost two months, well fed and lushly housed, dwelling amidst parchments and paper — his true love — until rumors began to spread again, and the lord heard scandals of Mad Judah’s history. Then out into streets again, afraid God’s overwhelming presence would rise up, descend on his soul again.

He had come north seeking both advantage and knowledge — as he had years before gone out through this region, across Frankish lands and German duchies to distant Prague and back through Italy and the Romance territories, returning home terribly changed, touched by God — as he had once journeyed across the Inland Sea to the Holy Land and Egypt and across north Africa, visiting Tunis, Marrakech, Fez and Iblis before crossing back to Moorish Sepharad to be outcast by his own people for his dubious views and darksome deeds. Seeking knowledge. Wisdom.

Little if any of that commodity to be found here. He had tried to discuss Talmud with the local rabbis, but his reputation had fared more widely than himself, and they had shunned him — reprobate, outcast, seeker after forbidden secrets. No true Kabbalist would even greet him in the streets. From a people, a religion, which treasured, which exemplified community came this lonely, tormented and isolated soul, Judah, the Mad Kabbalist. His own people apparently hated him. Christians were worse: a hardening of soul was evolving, a distrust, even hatred, for those not saved by the crucified miracle man, their so-called messiah — mirroring perfectly the Almohad frenzy of faith in the south. Even the esoteric community doubted him, and he them, sensing florid thinness, shallow ease in their bombastic theories and wellworn mysteries, sneering skepticism of in insights other than their own.

Only one figure tempted him, solitary and aloof herself, thaumaturge, born Muslim, dubiously Christian, clearly fallen from either grace. But fallen into what? She seemed to have found some secrets unavailable to the rest, for pure power like nocturnal lightning played about her isolate tower. And she lived well — consulted by the wealthy and the noble, feared by the common multitude, respected by lawless scoundrels who scavenged all others from their dens in the Blue Quarter, where Judah kept his own now-threatened quarters. But she remained beyond his ken, too, aloof and unapproachable: Larissa the Sorceress.

She intrigued Judah. Fruitlessly. He wondered about her, as he eked out a sad income tutoring a few children until further rumors of his dark reputation worried stodgy, upright parents so he lost that living, child by child. Finally he was spending the small stack of coins he had saved to pay his way homeward once again.

©2010 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

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