Michal plops into her seat and graces everyone with a splendid smile. Meanwhile, an army of servants advance towards us, carrying casks of wine, and baskets laden with buttery, freshly baked pastries. She points at a steaming hot pastry, filled with crushed nuts and brushed with egg gloss, and one of the servants drops it onto her plate. She selects her wine, and with a twirly splash he fills her cup.
Then he turns to me.
“Here,” he offers, raising the basket to my eyes, and tipping it so I may make my choice. “Won’t you have this one? It’s flaky.”
In reply, my stomach starts growling.
“And,” he says, in a lower tone, “so is the king.”
“What?” I cry.
Startled, the servant looks left and right. Then he takes a deep breath, and with fear in his eyes bends towards me again.
“Shush,” he breathes in my ear. “I may be hanged for telling you this: the king spoke to me, and to all the servants, that we should kill you.”
He gives me a look, “Beware.”
“Beware,” I think I hear another servant echo, as he passes behind my back.
At hearing this I lose my appetite in a big hurry, and despite a look of disapproval from Michal leap to my feet— but before I can begin to head for the nearest exit, the heavy iron doors at the far end creak open, which lets in a new sound, the sound of a ceremonial drumbeat.
Then, two guards holding flaming torches step in to announce, “Long live the king!”
And all the servants bow deep while they do their best to balance the baskets and casks.
“Long live the king!”
And his wife, his concubine, his sons, his daughters, and anyone connected to any one of them by ties of marriage—the entire Kish clan—they all rise up, chairs squealing against the floor and knocking against each other, and they clap their hands and call, “Long live the king,” because there, there he is, towering over the shoulders of his guards.
He is marching in with a heavy step, with his spear at his side, flashing in the air.
I raise my empty wine cup.
“Long live the king!”
Heading for the fireplace Saul unties his mantle. Its folds ebb and flow, rolling in and out of one another until they freeze. He wipes the sweat off his brow, and with a clouded look he scans the entire length of the table, giving a slight nod to each one of the guests—until, at long last, his dark eye falls on me.