Sunday, May 28, 2017

You don’t want to wake the dead, do you?

On that note I tell myself, There is little time left.
I take the scrolls and layer them, with great care, at the bottom of a leather satchel, which I place in an empty clay pot that stands just past the sleeping guard, out in the courtyard. It has no decorations, and no identifying marks on it. What it does have is a heavy lid, which I tighten in place with some glue, so as to preserve the scrolls in a dry, cool condition. I hope no one heard it squeak.
Who knows if I will ever come back to Jerusalem, if I will have a chance to recover these scrolls—but maybe, sometime in the future, someone else will.  
I carry the pot to the house of my court historian, Gad the Seer. Inside, lying upon the bare table, shrouded in white, his body is ready for tomorrow’s funeral. 
The professional mourner hired for this occasion, an old woman with no teeth, stirs out of her sleep. She raises her head, which is utterly bald with the exception of a single stand of hair. In her confusion, she starts the obligatory wailing.
“Shush, lower your voice,” I tell her. “Save it for tomorrow, when they inter him.”
She rasps something, but it is hard to understand what comes out of that black mouth of hers, when she is not wailing.
“This,” I say, pointing, “is one thing that was dear to him.” 
Her voice rises again. “A pot?” she cries. 
“Hush,” say I. “You don’t want to wake the dead, do you?”
She waves her knuckled hand. “Wake him?” she screeches. “Ah, he’s stone cold!”
“Too bad,” say I. “He can’t appreciate the lovely rhythms of your voice, sometime sobbing, sometime slobbering over him.”
“You making fun of me?”
“Not at all! You’re the best at what you do.”
“Of course,” she says, relaxing into a toothless smile. “I’m a professional.”
And I say, “Even the king can’t project sound quite the way you do.”
And she says, “He should come to me! I can teach him a thing or two.”
“I bet you can,” say I. “Now do me a favor: make sure they place this thing next to Gad’s body, down in the crypt.”
With greed in her eyes, she says, “Why would he need it?” 
“Because,” say I, “in the afterlife—”
“Ah, there’s no such thing!”
“Well, no one ever came back to tell us that, did they?”
“If you have doubts,” she says tersely, “keep them to yourself.”
To which I say, “What I have is hopes—”
“Doubts, hopes, what’s the difference? I deal with what’s certain, such as death.” To prove her point she raises her hand, which is covered with ropy veins, and with a strange sort of glee she slaps Gad the Seer across his cheek, full force. “See?” she croaks. “He can’t even bat an eye! Ah, dead as a doornail!”
“I suggest you step away from the deceased—”
“You afraid I’ll hurt him? Ah! Nonsense!”
“He was a man of God, so you could use some respect—”
“What I can use is that pot! Give it to me! I’m not paid nearly enough for the effort I put in!”
“This clanky thing?” say I. “The lid won’t open, see? For you, it’s useless, which is why we must leave it for the dearly departed.”
She struggles to open it, in vain. 
Hoping that the lid will continue to hold tight under her bony fingers I tell her, “Why would you need anything that must be broken to pieces before you can reach inside?”
“Fine, into the crypt it’ll have to go,” she mutters. “Let Gad keep an eye on the clanky old thing!”
“How fitting,” I say, under my breath. “His entire life he was the keeper of history. Let him continue to guard it.”

This captures a moment of preparation for the king's hurried escape from the city of David. What worries him more than his own safety is the preservation of his legacy. He takes extraordinary measures to hide away the scrolls, upon which his story has been written. 

When listening to my narrator, Bob Sperry, as he breathed life into this scene, I could not help chuckling. The voice he gave her was inspired, of all things, by Monty Python!

★ Love historical fiction? Treat yourself to a gift 
Historical Fiction with a Modern Twist...

"At times startling, as times awe-inspiring, and at all times fine reading, this is a welcome addition to the growing library of one our more important writers" 
-Grady Harp, Hall of Fame Reviewer


  1. I love that old woman's voice! And of course King David.

    1. Me too, Anne-Louise!
      She croaks like a crow, doesn't she? And what a contrast to the king's voice!