Friday, May 30, 2014

I land with a shriek, which is swallowed at once by the clap of thunder

The princess lets me down through the window, lowering me one knot after another. The bed of roses is far beneath my feet, and it looks unreal and a bit eerie from here, because of the strange shadows cast every which way by torches passing through the garden, and by sudden flashes of lightning. I am hanging on for dear life, swaying in the wind between heaven and hell. 
Meanwhile, from the chamber above me, a knock is heard.
The princess unties the ribbons left and right of the window to let the floral curtains fall shut. There is barely a slit between them, so I can no longer see her.
“What now?” she. asks, brazenly. To them she may sound as brave as ever—but I can hear the way her voice starts to falter.
“Move away from the door,” says the officer. “I have my orders.”
“Your orders?” she demands. “And what are they this time?”
And he reports, “The king said, David is sick? If so, I will take care of him.”
With a tone of relief, “Bless the Lord,” she mutters. 
“I don’t think you understand,” says the officer. “The king said, Bring David up to me in the bed, that I may slay him.”
She lets out an unexpected wail, and with that I hear a big burst. The door must have been broken, and I know it because a shard from her mirror shoots out through the slit between the curtains.
My hold on the robe is weakening by the second. I try to clutch at the knot overhead, to climb back and help her—but no, it is too late. I hear many more boots. Soldiers must be filing in already. By now they must be surrounding her.
“She is indecent,” says the officer. “Put some clothes on her.”
“Look,” says one of his soldiers. “Her sheets are soiled.”
“And there, there’s David!” says another. “Oh boy, he looks like the devil himself, smiling there in her bed.”
“Behold,” says the third. “It’s an icon, with a pillow of goat’s hair for its support.” 
In a blink they will figure where I am. So I let go of the knot, close my eyes and fly through the air like a bat out of hell, with a single thought in my mind: I can never come back here. 
I am empty handed. 
And another thing: when I was a child, my mother would sit close to my sister Zeruriah and tell her fairytales, lovely old fairytales about a prince risking his life, climbing all the way up the tower to rescue a maiden in distress—but not once did I hear about her saving him, nor did I hear about him coming down to run away from her.
This is no fairytale. I am no prince. 
Who knows how fast it will take Saul to strip me of my title, the Husband of a Princess, thus reducing me to someone far lower than low. A nobody. Who knows how fast it will take him to brand me a traitor. Alas, all is lost.
I land with a shriek, which is swallowed at once by the clap of thunder. 
And I go, and flee, and escape. 

Michal and David by Gustave Dore

Michal and David by Shagal

When Saul sends assassins to kill David, Michal helps him escape from her bedroom window. This story has fascinated artists throughout the ages. To illustrate the variety of viewpoints, here are the works of two of them. While Gustave Dore emphasizes drama, danger, and heroism, it is the possibility of love that Shagal chooses to focus on. His Michal stands there with open arms, while David floats out into a starry, moonlit sky. 

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"A tale of madmen and kings, youth and old age, prison cells and freedom's ring..."

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