The black cat walked by the patio again today. He won’t stop and engage no matter how hard I try to talk to him. Some cats are haughty and this one clearly isn’t deaf. Some say it is feral, but it’s too well groomed for that. More likely it has spent too much time with people. The sort of arrogance it shows has only one source and, though we hate to admit it, we know that source all too well.
As King, newly appointed, he mulled over what to do for his first official act. The predecessor King was known to be much a recluse, one who tolerated people as a necessity of a Kingdom, and he would say, a good source of revenue to the King. That one didn’t last long, never imagined the people could rise up and overthrow a monarch. He would be more benevolent, but he did need to make a strong initial statement. It came to him – and he issued a decree banning all mirrors and shiny surfaces in public, and he knew it was a good idea when everyone else grew ever older, and he, he knew, never aged a day.
On our first visit to Prague it was almost hard to imagine that this bridge was built to ferry people and traffic across the River. Now it is jammed with tourists and those for whom tourists are a ubiquitous market, and anyone needing to expeditiously cross the cranky water that every now and again must indulge the bridge, or use the less interesting bridges adjacent. There is a veneer of age about this ancient the statuary darkened by time and weather replaced when the waters get truly petulant and carry off statues they deem an affront. Motion on the bridge is slow and can tend toward gridlock, to the joy of those selling art and tchotchkes, and tchotchke arts that won’t be truly regretted by the buyer until it is hung on the wall next to the waterglobe miniatures of St. Matthias church and the parliament buildings Budapest.
One of these days soon the sun will again get angry, will blow off steam and all manner of signals will get the message loud if not clearly. The sun can get away with it and we accept it, if not willingly but begrudgingly. When we blow off such steam cities melt, and the angry one is condemned for crimes against humanity or avoiding greater loss. In the final analysis, however, it is probably better to simply be a star where fits of pique are expected and tolerated.
The night closes in chasing the sun, dragging heavily laden clouds that stare down, watching warily for us to step outside without glancing skyward. Clouds of night are particularly jealous, most often ignored if not completely forgotten, unsure which would be worse, ultimately indifferent. As we begin the walk to the car the clouds open, a torrential reminder that Mother Nature will not be easily ignored.
The snail oozes slowly across the gravel floor of the aquarium. He would have you believe his slow progression is normal, for snails have cultivated people to this view for millennia, the easier to go ignored through life. He is comfortable with my staring, turns his back to me and meanders away hoping I will grow weary of his glacial pace. I finally nod and turn away, allowing him to return to his breakfast and say to him, “I’m sure the doctor enjoys your algae cleaning almost as much as you enjoy your vegetarian buffet.” Turning back to him moments later he is scurrying up the wall of the tank thinking he is unseen, headed for his morning nap under the warm light of the long fluorescent sun that is carefully anchored overhead.
The introductions were relaxed but complete as befits three people in a small room, she the linchpin knowing each of the others, utter strangers to each other, save in her stories. The men stared at each other gently ensuring the other saw only a smile for the better part of two minutes, basking in the silence that introductions demand. “I am really surprised,” the older man said, “it is truly odd, but you look at absolutely, exactly like what I imagined the adopted son of Isadore Myers would look like not more than 30 seconds ago.” “It is truly odd,” the younger man replied, “you look nothing at all like the man I met in this room not a second more than a minute ago, and why, pray tell, is that woman over there smiling?
We kept them together to protect them, he said, though we did make the men wear the red And yellow badge. You must understand, this was for their good. We didn’t want them corrupted by our Catholicism, so we had to ensure we would not mingle with and debase them. There were our bankers, without them the King would’ve made tax demands on us and a kingdom cannot long survive on the broken backs and empty pockets of its people. And anyway, they knew they need not comply, after all what’s a pound of silver fine to a Jew.
Some, mostly of us, said we were the chosen people, as if wandering the desert for 40 years was the grand prize, okay of Sodom got the runners-up gift. I didn’t buy it then, don’t now, even after I sold my membership as the price of final freedom. No, we were, still are, the people of the candle and oil lamp, the latter far too sooty these days, playing hell with our smoke detectors. Two every Friday, and Hanukkah is good for forty-four, and on the anniversary of a death, just one, but that to burn a full 24 hours. So while our butchers fatten their thumbs for the scales, and our bakers tell their wives they won’t be home for dinner on Thursday nights, busy braiding dough, it is our candle makers who have chosen us as their kind of people.