“Emmett, Joey and the Beelz”
by Ralph Servush
1. Emmett’s Story
I don’t know much about quantum mechanics. I heard Joey talking about it once though, right before I was in another brawl at Muldoon’s Bar-n-Grill. You can never know where sub-atomic particles really are, is what Joey was saying. All you can figure out are the odds that they’re in some, um, “given range of locations.” And, since people are made up of these sub-atomic particles, then a guy’s reality is only, whaddyacall, “probabilistic.”
Well, like I was saying, I don’t know much about quantum mechanics, but when the steel toe of that fat biker’s jackboot kicked my jewels up into my throat, I felt like I was gonna puke out of my eye, and I knew Joey was wrong. There ain’t nothing probable about white hot pain. It’s simply a fact of life, and no poindexter’s theory makes it hurt any less.
But I had it coming to me, anyways. I mean, you try and make time with a biker chick and you’ve gotta expect some pain in your life, one way or another. You generally don’t expect to taste your nuts simply for complimenting a lady on her tattoo, but life is full of surprises. Besides, the fella apologized later. I think he realized he might’ve overreacted a little, and probably felt bad about it. He felt especially bad when I stuck the business end of my .38 deep into his nose and made him sing “Barnacle Bill the Sailor.” I joined in, too-me and Joey-and we all had a grand time.
After that, the fella with the high-caliber nasal passages, well him and me got to chatting, friendly like. Talked baseball, and then we started comparing our tattoos. Even Joey showed off his; that weird little thingy on his chest that he don’t even remember getting. It looks like a pregnant snake giving a blowjob to a yak. Joey likes to laugh at the one I got on my arm, up by my shoulder. It’s my name, misspelled by some drunken artiste. I don’t remember getting it either. But I kind of like that tat. It reminds me the stupid stuff I do when I get drunk.
So Joey comes by my place the next day and says, “Hey, Emmett,” he says, “get your fat ass out here. I have news.” Here he is, right on time, looking for his morning fix. But today he’s all excited, just like he used to get in the old days, like he’s got a tip for me that’ll keep him in smack for days, maybe weeks. “Calm yourself, Joseph,” I say, all businesslike. “What’s got you hopping, hoppy?”
“I have news about Beelz,” he says, getting real quiet.
When Joey said that, I just kept walking. I mean, here we are, standing on the corner of Avenue C and East 3rd, and this junkie says “Beelz” to me, just like that, just like nothing. What a bobo. Some day, I’m gonna scrape Joey off the bottom of my shoe and that’ll be that.
2. The Journal of Judah Loewe
“…The great Rabbi Bezalel has finally completed my training. That he should impart to me his knowledge of the mystical arts and secret alchemies of Cabbala, that he would teach me to decipher the sacred book, the Book of Splendor, the Sefer Yetzirah, the Zohar; well, it is a debt I can never repay.
“It is said by some that the Zohar reveals God’s secrets for the creation of life, but only to those trained to decipher it. Some say, too, that Bezalel wrote the sacred book himself, that he is really a being as old as the Talmud, existing throughout time as an eternal aspect of the mind of God. And yet others say nothing at all, as these things should not be spoken of.” — from the journal of Judah Loewe, Rabbi of Prague, 1582.
3. Joey’s Story
The big, sweaty lummox Emmett Kowalchuk used to be of value to me when he wore a badge. He was powerful, amoral, and unrelenting. He was also an alcoholic of megalithic proportions, with an unmasked streak of venality that made it necessary, in the end, that he be removed from his position as an agent of law enforcement.
I did have something to do with his downfall. I really don’t want to talk about that. Actually, I can’t because I’ve scorched the details from my mind, but let’s just say we all do things of which we are later ashamed. Like becoming associated with that dark creature Emmett calls “da Beelz.” And no, I will not discuss that now, either.
Once upon a time, I taught mathematics to the snotty scions of New England. I lived a quiet and solitary existence on an island of old money from whence I had already started to drift. Then I left the old world behind and sailed off on the deep dark waters of the urban sea. When the tide withdrew, I had washed up in Hell and had no way home. So I swam back out into the strong current, hoping to be pulled under. I was. I float now, from shadow dream to fevered nightmare and back again.
I still read quite a bit, though. Not my special book, of course. I have that one hidden away for a rainy day. No, now it’s mostly pornographic comic books featuring young Asian girls being raped by robots. My attention span doesn’t permit me much more. I recently tried re-reading Camus’ L’Etranger, but I found I couldn’t read French anymore. The words were just squiggly lines on the page, twisting and cavorting for no apparent reason, and I couldn’t seem to make them stop.
So, Camus, Beckett, Pollack, and Stravinsky-and the money, the family, the friends and the students-they’ve all been replaced by a syringe. And by Emmett, that lumbering fool Emmett, who seems like he’s always been right there next to me in the shadows. And now he keeps me fixed, as the need arises. God knows why. Guilt, maybe. Or maybe he thinks we’re friends. Maybe he thinks he’s doing me a favor. Or maybe he’s just trying to kill me.
4. Emmett’s Story, Continued…
“Emmett,” he says, all breathed out, “Beelz is back, and he’s looking for us!”
I headed over to Muldoon’s. The place is owned by this fellow heeb I know, and he has this slightly retarded fella, Jesus, who sleeps in the bar to look after things. Jesus pours me a shot of JD with a raw egg every morning and gives me a place to be for a while. In return, I provide some services for old Jew Muldoon. Debt retrieval services.
Joey won’t let up this morning, what with this Beelz crap, so I get him loaded, and he sits on Jesus’ cot and mumbles some shit about getting away from Beelz, then he goes off to La-La Land. Me, I have to stick it out with bourbon. I stare down at the egg in my Jack, and it is staring back at me like the yellow eye I popped out of somebody’s head once, down on Canal. What was that guy’s name? Eddie. Eddie Phlegner. Always had that runny, rheumy, yellow eye. Til I popped it out. That was back in my bad days. I was out of control, easy to piss off, and hard to buy back then. Lots of bourbon under the bridge and over the dam since then. A lot has changed. Ya see, I’m pretty easy to buy now.
The Beelz bought me once, I sorta remember. The price wasn’t that high and he paid it, and then he owned me. Still does, I guess. I’m not really sure anymore about the details. And if he’s looking for me, my life has just gotten nastier.
Hell, I been shot, stabbed, worked over with a tire iron, and run over by a Cadillac doing 80 through my living room, and I ain’t dead yet. But Beelz. Keee-riest.
Okay, stop your bellyaching, Emmett. Mama Kawalchuk didn’t raise no whiner. And at least shit-storms are exciting.
5. Emmett & Joey: A Conversation
“Up, Joseph. Up!” I hauled Joey up from Jesus’ cot and leaned him against the end of the bar. His body sagged and his head lolled, like a marionette with its strings cut.
He mumbled, “Emmett, Emmett, go away…come again some other day…”
“‘Beelz,’ Joey. You said ‘Beelz’ to me. Right out there on the street. I been thinking about that for a while. So now you have to pull yourself together and start talking, lest you want me to hafta beat it out of you, like the old days. Cuz if you’re getting nostalgic on me, hoppy, I’ll be glad to oblige.”
Joey blinked and it seemed like he was trying to focus. “Beelz…yes…but now I’m having such a lovely hallucination, so could you just-”
“Sorry, Joe. You been there and done that. Now I need to start making plans. For plans, I need the 411. You seem to know something, so now I need to know it too.” I grabbed his collar and pulled his face up to mine. “Otherwise, I’ll just put you down like the sick dog you are and high tail it to the hinterlands. Staten Island, maybe.”
I guess I hit a nerve because Joey perked right up. “Yes, right, Mr. Kawalchuk. Beelz would never find you in that landfill masquerading as a borough. In fact, with your stench you’ll fit right into that compost heap of a…uhhh!
“That, as you may remember, was my short left jab. If you want the hard right to the belly, just keep stalling.”
“Emmett. A napkin please.” A trail of snot ran down Joey’s face.
I swiped a pile of cocktail napkins from up on the bar and shoved them at him. “Here.”
“Thank you,” he mumbled as he wiped his nose.
“Don’t mention it.”
“Where were we?”
“Beelz,” I said, with the “z” rattling through my gritted teeth.
Joey took a breath. “Some of my, um, compatriots have seen a long black stretch limo creeping around the neighborhood. They saw it slow down, one time, to ask one of the boys a question. A door opened, the guy was pulled in, and the car sped off. At least that’s what I heard.”
“A junkie disappeared into the back of a black stretch limo?”
“And that’s it?”
“No, the license plate was, uh, BZL -777, from out of state.”
“And you think that was da Beelz?”
“Well, who else? Don’t you see? He’s finally tracking us down! He wants his payment, or whatever.”
I released my grip on Joey’s collar. “Bullshit, Joe.”
“Fine. I just thought you should know. So now you do. It’s nothing to me if you’re not going to do anything about-”
“I said bullshit, Joe. You’re just worried. You just want me to cover your ass. Just like always.”
“So I need a little reassurance. After all I’ve done for you?” Joey looked away and wiped his nose again.
“All you done for,” I could taste bile, so I stopped. “You know, sometimes I just wanna put a pillow over your face, pull out my piece, and put a nice, quiet hole right in the middle of that skeevy mug of yours.”
Joey went a bit limp. “Well…sometimes…sometimes I want that, too.”
“Yeah. Well. Anyway, I’ll check into the limo thing. It’s probably just some junkie behind in his payments, so some Columbians took him for a ride. But I’ll check it out, just to put your mind at ease. Okay?
“If it is Beelz, we’re going to have to move quickly and quietly. Otherwise he’s going to come and send us straight to hell.”
I stood up. “Hey, Joe, I’m Jewish. We don’t believe in hell. It would be, whaddyacall, redundant.”
Joey looked up, with his puppy dog eyes. “You know exactly what-”
“Just stay outta sight for a while. Don’t go to your usual alleys. Stay away from your flop and mine. We’ll both stay away from Muldoon’s, too.”
“You sound like you’re starting to take this seriously.”
“Well, better play it safe til we know.”
Joey started to shake a little. “If you go to Staten Island without me…I, I don’t know what I’ll…”
“Easy there, little man. I ain’t been run outta town yet. I’m too old, fat, and slow to run that far anyway.”
“Please, just…just don’t leave me here…alone.”
“Find a new hole,” I helped Joey to his feet. “When the coast is clear, I’ll come get you.”
Joey held onto the edge of the bar. “Give me your word.”
“Yeah, okay. For whatever that’s worth.”
“Thank you, Emmett.”
“Don’t sweat it, Joseph.”
6. Emmett, Alice & Donald R. Bellson, Esq.:
(Ring…ring…ring) “Mr. Kowalchuk’s office.”
“Mr. Kowalchuk, please.”
“Whom shall I say is calling?”
“Donald R. Bellson, attorney at law, calling on behalf of Dr. Bezalel.”
“I’m sorry but Mr. Kowalchuk is not currently available. Would you like to leave a message?”
“Thank you, miss. Please let him know that Dr. Bezalel has asked me to negotiate with Mr. Kowalchuk regarding the final terms of their arrangement.”
“Would you like to leave a number where you can be reached, Mr. Bellson?”
“No. I’ll get a hold of Mr. Kowalchuk at some other time. Thank you. Have a nice day.” (Click)
“Thanks Alice. That was perfect.” I stretched out under the covers.
“No sweat, Em.” Alice chewed her gum thoughtfully. “I didn’t know you could do that, that ‘call forwarding’ thing. So I’m going to get all your calls here now?”
“Just for a little while, til this blows over. And change the message on your answering machine, okay?”
“Sure. Okay. For ten bucks.”
“Ten?” I sat up so quick I hit my head on the shelf above the bed.
“You mean, on top of?”
“Yeah.” She popped her gum. “On top.”
“One week in advance, payable now.” She held out her hand.
“Yeah, yeah, okay.” I pulled my pants off the floor and checked through my pockets. I found a handful of sawbucks and tossed them at her. “Here.”
She grabbed the money and counted it with a slight smile. “Thanks, Emmie. Gee I’m sure sorry to hear you’ve got a lawyer after you. That sucks. Those guys are pit-bulls, you know.”
“Alice, you have no idea. I’m stuck between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Now come back to bed, sweet-cheeks. I’ve still got three minutes left on the meter.”
“Ooh, you sweet-talker…”
7. Emmett’s Story Continued…
Well, I just got saved a lot of old time detective work. Joey was right. The Beelz was back, and he was looking for us. With Bellson, yet. Crap. But I guess I shoulda seen that coming, because the Beelz always said that, when the end came he’d be there with Bellson.
I was probably being watched right now. Here, and at Muldoon’s, Joey’s hole, everywhere. Everywhere I usually go, I couldn’t go. Phones probably tapped, too. And Alice-my sweet whore, Alice-she’s probably maybe the one that tipped him. And then she took my seventy bucks just as an extra kick in the head. The only question now is whether I snap her neck like a twig before I finish her or after. Aw, why bother? She’s a good kid and, either way, I’m gonna have to haul ass.
And Joey. I should find Joey. Or maybe not: Maybe there’s no time to worry about that ferret anymore. Every man for himself, maybe. Damn, this tattoo is starting to itch like crazy.
8. Joey’s Story Continued…
“Hi, this is Alice Niedermeyer. You’ve reached the offices of Kowalchuk Investigations. Please leave a message at the tone… (giggle)…Have a nice day!” (Beep)
“Hello, Emmett? I know you’re there. Pickup. Pickup. Pickup. Pickup! This is no time to have a whore screening your calls, you fat, stupid kike bastard!
“Ok, ok. Emmett, please. Please pick up the phone. I’m sorry. I won’t call you fat anymore, I promise. Only please pick up the phone.” (Beeeeep. Click)
He’s gone. I bet he just took off, without a word or a how-do-you-do. I knew he would, promise or no promise. In the end I always knew I’d be alone, utterly and completely alone, waiting for Beelz to come and get me. And now it’s time and here I am, with only the damn rash on my damn tattoo for company.
I saw the black limo again. It may have seen me, too. I’m not sure. But I saw it. It’s real. Real as a heart attack. Not some opiatic fever dream, but really real.
You know something? Wisconsin is nice this time of year. In fact, it’s almost as nice as New Hampshire. In Wisconsin, they’ve got cheese and other dairy products, and cows as sweet as girls, and girls as big as cows; big, healthy, milk-fed, blonde Aryan girls. And lakes, deep and clear, surrounded by green fields. Madison. Madison, Wisconsin is a nice college town. Maybe I can get a job there again. But I can’t walk to Wisconsin. The ulcers on my feet wouldn’t get me past Hoboken. And that damn book is too damn heavy to carry that far. Maybe I could make it back to New Hampshire. I bet I still have relatives there, somewhere. But I’d never get past their security gates.
No. I have no choice. It’s either kill myself or. Wait a second. Wait, wait, wait. It’s really Kowalchuk that Beelz wants, isn’t it? I mean, technically, I was part of the deal, I think-I’m really kind of hazy on the details-but if I can set up Kowalchuk for him, maybe I can get out of this. After all, it’s every man for himself and, as Fassbinder noted, God against all.
9. Joey & Bellson: A Conversation
The grimy receiver of the pay phone felt cold and sticky in my hand. “Mr. Bellson?”
A smooth voice replied, drowning the static. “Yes?”
“This is Joey. Um, Joseph. Mr. Joseph Low.” I swallowed and leaned my head against the phone box. “I hear you’ve been looking for me. I mean, that is, Mr. Beelz has.”
“Mr.? Dr. Bezalel has given me instructions to close the deal, Mr. Loewe. So, why don’t you make it easier for everybody and come down to my office and we’ll-”
“I’ve got a new deal to make, Mr. Bellson.”
“Really? Well, I don’t think Dr. Bezalel would be at all-”
“I’ll give you Emmett Kowalchuk on a silver platter, without a fuss.”
“Yes, well, that’s nice, but I think we can handle-”
“And…and the book. I can get you the book.”
“The book? Really?”
“In exchange for a free pass.”
There was a pause on the other end of the line. “I see.”
I cleared my throat. “And carfare to Wisconsin.”
“Madison, Wisconsin. Yes.”
Static crackled during another pause. “Yes. I see.”
“Well, I’ll take your offer to the doctor. He might be interested. We’ll see, Mr. Loewe. I can’t make you any promises, you understand.”
With feigned dignity, I replied. “I understand, Mr. Bellson.”
“Give me your number and I’ll call you back tomorrow morning.”
“Well, I’m between phones right now. I’ll call you tomorrow. Around nine a.m.?”
“That’ll be fine, Judah. You have my number, apparently.”
“Yes, I do. And please stop calling me Judah. My name is (Click. Bzzzz)…Joe.”
10. Joey’s Story, Continued…
I shouldn’t have done it. Every inch of my mottled flesh screamed a warning to me, to avoid this obvious setup. But what choice did I have, really? Beelz would find me eventually and I’d be at the old man’s mercy. This way, I meet with him on my terms, and if I live long enough to make a deal, I might live long enough to regret it thereafter. To live with regret, after all, is still to live. Even in Wisconsin.
The next day, I ran some errands in the morning. Then Bellson sent the limo to the corner of C and East 5th at around three p.m. I got in and there was tinted glass all around, leaving me in darkness and blind as to who was driving. It might be that the car drove itself.
The car took me to the synagogue up on 5th Avenue, that really nice one, where the regulars pay extra to sit close to God on the High Holy Days. The one with the stained-glass windows by Chagall where, when the light streams through, the deep reds put you in mind of the blood of the innocents, spilled over and over throughout time, and the light blues recall the sky as seen by a sea of dead and empty eyes, staring lifelessly up from their mass graves.
I stumble out of the darkness of the car, into the bright light of the late afternoon. Despite the heat of the sun, an intense chill runs through my body. Bellson is waiting. He leads me in to a private room just inside the massive doors of the temple. There sits Bezalel, unchanged since I last saw him seven years ago. His long beard partly obscures his white, dapper seersucker suit, off the rack from another time and place. He wears the same black derby and smokes a cigar. His blue, blue eyes are still bright with some inner fire.
Bezalel begins: “Hello, Judah. Good to see you.”
“Hello, Doctor. Um, it’s Joseph, not Judah. Surely you must remember.”
“Indeed I do.”
“Um. Well, you look the same.” I notice with a chill that his eyes somehow match the blue stained glass.
“Yes. And you look different. Older. And something else.”
“Well, you were always scared, Judah. No, it’s something else, not just older. Worn away, perhaps.”
Bellson interjects, “The book, Mr. Loewe? You said you could deliver the book.”
Bezalel laughs. “Keep your shirt on, Bellson. Mr. Loewe is just settling in. You see, Judah? Lawyers. Feh!”
“No, I understand, Doctor. Mr. Bellson just wants to get down to business. I can respect that. It’s just that I need certain assurances.”
“Of course, of course. But first, a gesture of good faith, yes? You must assist us in neutralizing Emet. Then the location of the book and the logistics of your freedom can be discussed in detail.”
I am puzzled. “‘eh-MET?’ Oh, you mean ‘Emmett.’ Yeah. Well, he’s not so easy to, um, neutralize. He’s a big, mean, drunken, heavily armed, soulless killing machine. And I have no idea where he is. Maybe Staten Island, but-”
“Emet remains soulless, still? That’s so sad, Judah. Your sacrifice was for naught, it seems.”
“Sacrifice? What sacrifice? What was for naught?
“Your deal with me.”
“Well, I don’t really remember the, um, exact terms of the deal, so-”
“Of course not. Neither does Emet. That was part of the deal, too.”
“I’m not feeling well, Bezalel. You’ll have to explain.”
Bellson hands me a drink to steady me. I knock it back without thinking. It smells of flowers-I’m remembering lilacs, in a garden-and suddenly I’m spinning back into a funnel, spiraling down. I wake up on the floor, with Bellson sitting on top of me. He has a jeweled dagger in his hand and I can’t move. The drink has left me paralyzed.
Why’d they bother, I’m wondering, since I’m in no condition to resist anyway. Bellson rips open my shirt. He takes the knife and cuts the tattoo from my chest with a single thrust of the blade. I would scream if my throat could form words. Suddenly, a torrent of images floods my mind, as the world falls away and I circle back into memory.
11. Rabbi Loewe & the Golem of Prague
The following is excerpted from “Golem Stories” by Professor Josiah Lowenstein (Wisconsin University Press):
And it came to pass that Loewe, who was a good and decent man, heard the cries of his people, the Jews of Prague, who were decimated by hate, by deprivation, and by pogrom. And so he opened the sacred Zohar to find a way to save them. After many days and nights of study, he attempted the creation of a Golem, a soulless creature in the figure of a man, shaped from clay, and into its ear Loewe would whisper the unspoken name of God.
Loewe drew his charts, calculated his numbers, spoke his incantations, made his prayers, and with the elements of fire, water, wind and earth, fashioned a man out of the mud of the riverbank. No, not a man: a Golem. Onto its arm he carved the word “Emet” – “Truth” in the ancient tongue.
This would bind the creature to Loewe, giving him dominion over it. Seven times, the rabbi circled the Golem… “Shanti, shanti, dahat, dahat,” he said. And the Golem opened its eyes.
Silent and mighty, the Golem obeyed the Rabbi’s commands and defended the Jews of Prague. But lacking a soul, the Golem had no mercy, no compassion, no humanity. And in defending the Jews, it became a monstrous, unstoppable killer.
12. Emmett’s Story, Continued…
I lifted Bellson’s phone number off Alice’s Caller ID, and then I made sure to joke about it with Joey. 555-0777? Hardee har har. I knew Joey would try something, so I let him try. I staked out Muldoon’s and Joey showed up around ten that morning. I listened at the door as he talked Jesus into holding onto that big old book that Joey had squirreled away.
So, Joey said “Stay by the phone, Jesus. You might hear from me around three, four this afternoon. I might need you to bring the book. You understand?”
“Sure, Joey. I understand.”
“But, if you don’t hear from me by, say, six, well, then burn the damn thing. Okay?”
“Sure, Joey. I burn.”
“Good man. There will be a serious payday in this for you. Thanks.”
“But what I tell Emmett?”
“Nothing. You tell him nothing.”
“But Emmett is-”
“Nothing. You understand, Jesus?”
“Sure, Joey. I understand.”
After Joe left, I had a friendly little talk with Jesus. He was happy to turn the book over to me because, you see, I have a way with people. Then I put a tail back on Joey. He got loaded and nodded off. But around three that afternoon he hopped into that black limo and took off. Damn. There was a black limo. I tossed the book into the backseat of my broken-down ragtop Eldorado and followed, at a distance, to a Synagogue up on 5th Avenue.
I double-parked near the corner and watched in the rearview as Joey and Bellson went inside. I sat and waited a while, thumbing through Joey’s book. Fancy thingamajig, but it was all Babylonian to me. Meantime, I’m giving Joey a few more minutes to smoke out the Beelz, to get in good and deep, and then I guess I’ll go save his ungrateful ass.
What I should be doing is high-tailing it over the Verranzano Bridge, pushing this old Eldorado as hard as she’ll go. Past Staten Island, even, to Jersey, maybe. Maybe even further than that. Just leave, without Joe, without the stink of this life covering me like a skunk coat. Just leave and don’t look back. Not ever.
But no. Instead, I’m gonna go pull Joey’s chestnuts out of an open fire. He wouldn’t do it for me, probably. So, why? Well, maybe, maybe it’s just because I promised him I would. For whatever that’s worth. Because if your word don’t mean anything, well then, hell, what kind of man are you?
Alright, Joseph. Don’t get your knickers in a twist. Mama Kawalchuk’s baby boy is coming to get you.
13. Rabbi Loewe & the Golem, Continued…
…But lacking a soul, the Golem had no mercy, no compassion, no humanity. And in defending the Jews, it became a monstrous, unstoppable killer. So, Bezalel returned to Prague.
Bezalel spoke: “It must be stopped, Loewe.”
And Loewe replied, “Yes, Bezalel. I have lost control.”
“You never had it.”
“I see that now.”
“Remove the sacred word from its arm, and it shall return to dust.”
“But who will protect us then?”
“But Bezalel, I…I’ve lost faith. I do not believe God will protect us. We must take steps to protect ourselves.”
“But you said yourself the Golem is beyond your control.”
“Yes, but what if… what if it had a soul?”
“And how do you propose it gain this soul?”
“Master, you wrote the book. Surely, you could…”
“I wrote nothing, Loewe. I am merely a disciple like yourself.”
“Yes, Master. But isn’t there anything in the sacred texts that could help me?”
“Within its pages, my son, can be found the answers to all questions!”
Bezalel, his vanity excited by the challenge, opened the Zohar and poured over it in Loewe’s study throughout the night. Outside, the bodies of the righteous and un-righteous alike started stacking up like cordwood, and the city of Prague became like a funeral pyre, its teeming stench reaching up to the heavens. Finally, Bezalel emerged and said:
“The Golem is connected to you, Loewe. If I wipe clean your memory, its mind will become a blank slate. And onto that slate, life may yet write a story that leads it to a soul. What say you?”
Loewe replied, “But, but what of my life? What of my aged mother, and the Jews of Prague? And without my memories, how shall I guide the Golem, how shall I advise it?”
“This is your decision Judah, your sacrifice to make. I will tend to your congregation, and see to your mother’s well being. But you must take your Golem and go out into the world. You will teach it to speak, to live like a man. I will grant you false memories, ever changing, so you might both survive the ages with your purpose intact. You will remember nothing but your debt to me, which will always seem but seven years past, as seven is the sacred number and the center of all things.”
“But for how long, master?”
“A day will come, a day 420 years hence-seven times a lifespan of three score years-when I shall return and seek you out. If by that time the Golem has gained a soul, you shall be restored and live out your days in God’s peace, and the Golem will become the champion of our people. But if it remains what it is–a soulless creature, uncontrollable and unredeemed-then it shall be returned to the dust, and you shall join it.”
Loewe responded with silence. He walked to the window and stared out at the horrible spectacle of a world descending into chaos. His own silence deafened him.
Bezalel spoke once more: “So, what say you, Rabbi Loewe of Prague?”
And Loewe whispered: “I…I will do what I can. What I must.”
Bezalel then etched upon Loewe’s chest a sacred glyph, a symbol that would cast the spell and hide the truth from Loewe through the ages, until the day it was removed. Loewe next found himself standing next to a wheat field, beside his mute creation. They were heading down a Czechoslovakian road, unsure where they were going. After a while, Emet turned to Loewe and said…
14. Emmett’s Story, Continued…
“…Hey, Joey, wake the fuck up!”
“Emet, what are you…where are…what is…”
“You’re laying here in a pool of your own blood and you’re asking me questions? Where’s that prick, Bellson?”
So, then I hear him behind me.
“Golem! Release your maker. Rise and face me.”
I sneak Joey the book and tell him to hide it. He tries to tuck it under his coat but it’s too big, and I see the blood on Joey’s chest, like he’s been worked over with a straight edge.
Slowly, I turn. “Bellson,” I whisper in that really nasty way I have, “you did this?” Bellson points a pretty impressive knife at me, smiles and says, “Yes, Golem. And I’m not done yet.”
A movement out of the corner of my eye, and I see a figure step out of the shadows. Ah, the Beelz finally shows his mug. He says, “Wait a moment, Bellson. Lower the dagger. Let us welcome Emet home.”
And I say, “Well, just so you know, Beelzie, I think you’re gonna need a new shyster in a second,” and I pull my .38, wheel on Bellson and fire three times point blank into his chest before anyone can even blink. Then the Beelz starts chanting “shanti, shanti, dahat, dahat”, and I…
15. Joey’s Story, Continued…
The Golem suddenly freezes, its arm extended, its gun pointing in the air in an empty gesture of accusation. Bellson just smiles his deathless grin as the bloodless holes across his torso close up instantly. Bezalel then turns to face me as I stare up, helpless, from my prone position on the floor.
He speaks to me. “Now, Judah. Come. Return the book that you have stolen. It is time to finish this.”
16. Rabbi Loewe & the Golem, Concluded
For 420 years, Judah, now called Joseph, roamed the land with his hulking servant, now called Emmett. They farmed, they soldiered, they sold, traded, bartered, and built… they loved and they hated… they broke, they destroyed, they lied, stole, maimed and killed. And every seven years they would begin again, without memory of the last turn of the wheel but somehow changed with each incarnation. They walked through time, this man and his creature… like flying Dutchmen doomed to sail in search of something they knew not what.
One day, the road led them back to Bezalel, whom they now called “Beelz.” They knew him. Hadn’t they made some sort of deal with him only seven years ago? Before he could harm them, Joseph and Emmett succeeded in stealing from Beelz his prized possession: a book, overlarge, leather-bound and jewel-encrusted, with letters made from gold leaf, in ancient words that were undecipherable. They’d hold it as leverage against Beelz, should their paths ever cross again.
But, as the years and centuries passed, the book’s import slipped from their minds, as their minds slipped into madness and out again. They anesthetized themselves against their plight, and their degradation continued.
And then the final days came.
17. Joey’s Story, Continued…
I remember my name now. I rise and bring the sacred Zohar to Bezalel, and say, “I remember it all now, Master. So many years lost. Centuries burned away. My hopes, my prayers, my dreams…all unanswered. And for what? I’ve made nothing more of the Golem than I first did all those years ago in Prague. And I’ve made so much less of myself.”
Bezalel takes the book from me and opens it.
“No recriminations now, my dear Judah. It is time to make an end. We must remove the ‘Emet’ from the Golem’s arm, so that it may crumble back into the dust. But first the blade must be purified by fire, wind and water, so when it joins with the earth of the Golem, it is able to complete its task.”
Bezalel reads aloud from the book, reciting an incantation, and blue flames suddenly shoot from his blue, blue eyes and engulf the dagger in his hand in a fire that does not burn. He then reads another selection from the Zohar to Bellson, who opens his mouth and releases a mysterious gust of hot air that blows through the chamber. Bezalel holds the dagger out into the mystical wind and the blade starts to gleam.
“Now, for the water,” he says, putting his hand on my shoulder as he reads a third passage from the Book of Wonder. I start to feel woozy and drop to my knees. Suddenly, all the bile, all the sickness I’ve absorbed through 420 years of misspent life come flowing up out of me in a torrent of fetid liquid, shooting out like a black fountain. The dark fluids wretch out of me and onto the blade. I am cleansed, and the blade now glows with a bright white intensity. All is ready.
Bezalel speaks: “Take the blade, Judah. Cut the word from the flesh of the Golem.”
“It was yours in the making. It must be yours in the unmaking. Go Judah. Make an end.”
I turn to face my Golem. It is a creature I’ve known, through various incarnations, for a very long time. I made it with my own hands and with the best of intentions. In the end, it had even returned to save me, against all expectations. And now I’m going to destroy it. No, not “it”. Him. I’m going to destroy him. What kind of soul must I have, to do such a thing, I’m thinking. “I’m so sorry, Emet.’Emmett’ I mean. I’m sorry for everything,” I whisper, as I lift the knife to the arm of the frozen Golem. His eyes stare into me with something approaching, what? Forgiveness?
I cut through Emmett’s coat, ripping open the sleeve and the shirtsleeve beneath, exposing his tattooed flesh. I hesitate for a moment, then quickly slice the “Emet” from his arm. Blood pours forth. Blood? How can a Golem bleed?
18. Emmett, Joey & the Beelz
So Joey is standing there with that fancy knife slicing off a chunk of my fucking arm. I grab it away and toss him aside like a rag doll. Then, quick as a toe dancer on crank, I spin and throw and bury the blade up to its hilt in Bellson’s forehead. Bellson slumps to his knees with a surprised look on his face and he folds like a kangaroo straight in a game of Stud. He stares up at me from the cold stone floor, and that look on his face? Well, the memory of it is gonna give me the giggles for years, if I live for years.
So I turn to Beelz, who looks like he shit himself. I don’t remember ever seeing that bastard look scared before. I raise my .38, throw the old fella a cute wink, and let loose with the lead. But for the second time today, it does nothing. The Beelz doesn’t show a scratch on him. I stare down at my gun. “Damn. I gotta have this thing checked. It used to be pretty good at blowing the heads offa cock-suckers.”
Beelz starts his chanting again-“Shanti, shanti, dahat, dahat”-but this time it don’t do squat to me.
I look over at Joe, who’s still kinda freaked. “What now, hoppy?” I says.
Joey yelps, “The knife, Emmett. Get the knife!”
I yank the knife out of Bellson’s skull. But as soon as I do, he pops back up like a Weeble and starts clutching at me, trying to pull the knife away. So I hack off his arm, slicing clean through at the shoulder. And as I’m standing there holding his wing, the rest of Donald R. Bellson, Esquire, disintegrates into a pile of dust. Poof, just like that.
“Shanti, shanti,” goes the Beelz. I use what’s left of Bellson’s tattooed, still-solid arm to knock Beelz upside his head, and I grab him by the throat and squeeze his words until he gags on them. Then, I shove that fancy pig-sticker right into his chest, quick as a schoolboy’s squirt. But again, nothing. Shit! What do I gotta do to kill this old man?
“The book, Emmett! Destroy the book!” screams Joey. So I stick the knife right into the middle of the book, and then…
19. Joey’s Story, Concluded
A column of flame erupts from the wound in the sacred tome, knocking Emmett to the ground next to me, where I remain frozen. Bezalel, his eyes wide in disbelief, bursts into flame too, and his blue, blue fire joins with the red, red flames of the Zohar as the burning, smoking column shoots up through a sudden hole in the roof of the temple; up, up into the late afternoon sky.
And then, just as suddenly as the inferno roared to life, the flames are gone. The book drops to the floor, spent. Bezalel is no more. All that remains is the dimly lit chamber, with blue and red light streaming through stained glass windows, filtered through the smoke hanging in the deathly still air.
Emmett turns to me and says, “Where’d he go, Joe?”
“He has returned to the mind of God, my friend,” I reply.
We sit and stare into the smoke for a very long time.
20. Emmett’s Story, Concluded
So there I was at Muldoon’s, drinking a beer, eating some pickled eggs and watching the Mets lose another one from my usual table, when Alice brought me over a package we just got in at the office. Yeah, I was still using her place as my office. And she didn’t charge me for it anymore, so what the fuck, right? She’s a sweet kid.
Anyways, inside the package was a book with another postcard from Joey, this one with a picture of two smiling, big-titty Wisconsin milkmaids milking a cow. Now that Joey remembers that he’s a Jew, I hope he remembers to keep his meat away from those two meat-and-dairy queens.
So the postcard says:
Just letting you know my book is finally getting published. I’ve dedicated it to you, by the way. I know you won’t read it, but I’m sending it to you anyway.
With love, Joe
A free copy, huh? Yeah, okay, Joseph. Free is good. Besides, it’ll be nice to have a book around the office. It’ll impress the clientele, for whatever that’s worth. And I can always use it to kill those huge roaches living in Alice’s stove.
So, I flip open the book. It’s called Golem Stories by Josiah Lowenstein, and the dedication says:
“For Emmett —
with whom I walked a Mobius strip in time,
and from whom I learned
that even the most improbable life can define itself through its deeds.
So have a good life, my friend, or a bad one,
your choice. Like they say in New Hampshire,
‘Live free or die; death is not the worst of evils.’
It’s nice to hear from Joey every once in a while. Before he took off, he told me that when I kept my word to him by coming to save him even after he tried to sell me out, I proved that I did have a soul. Not too much sense, but a soul. So when he cut my tattoo off, I was freed and not fucked.
Well, I don’t know about all that. But, I guess if I was still some Golemmy-type thingamajig, I wouldn’t be sitting here at Muldoon’s with my very own girl, reading a postcard from my very own pal, and watching my very own Mets lose another one. You see, if I was really some kind of soulless monster, well, hell.
Then I’d be a Yankee fan.
Ralph Sevush began his professional writing career in 1983, with a movie review column (“The Savage Cinema”) for Worlds Of If…Magazine. While working for Cinema 5 Films, New Line Cinema and Sony Pictures, he wrote analyses of screenplays in development, reviews of plays and books for possible adaptation, and original treatments for proposed film, theater and television projects. He’s had over 25 articles published by The Dramatist Magazine; his play “Little One, Goodbye” has been given staged readings by the Tada! Theater, the Enchanted Players of NJ, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and the Innovative Stages Company; and he’s been a member of the BMI/Lehman Engel Musical Theater Librettists’ Workshop since 1999. As an attorney, he worked on Broadway productions of “BIG- the Musical”, “Fool Moon” and “God Said, `HA!'”, and is currently Executive Director of The Dramatists Guild of America.
Art Director: Bonnie Brunish