Edju 26

by RW Spryszak


And so the moon goes a blue ray from its face to my eyes. I am on the floor and Alice is whistling near the rug. This is what wakes me. But I am in line with the cold air, bundled to keep from freezing, waiting my turn at the little table. The little green table with the little orange man in a military cap asking the names. The names of all that stand before me in the snow. The victors are telling us these things and we do them because this is what we do. Three people ahead of me. To the first in line the man at the table checks a name on a list and says, candlemaker.

The man begins to cry and says but I am a banker and my skills are with numbers. I know nothing of wax and talons.

No talons are of birds, says the second man. And the first man says you see, I told you I know nothing about candles. But it doesn't matter. The man sitting at the table makes a tight, sinister smile with his purple lips in the cold. And he points to the side with a quick thumb. Candlemaker and shut up. Get out. And guards take the unwilling banker away. I do not know what is happening.

But then the second man, who corrected the first man about the parts of birds is crying. Then the man at the table asks his name and makes a mark. And he says you will paint checkerboard patterns on the sidewalks in front of every bakery. The second man is aghast at this. And this is my job, he asks. Yes, says the little sitting man. We will supply you with paints and brushes and buckets and knee pads and a new apartment. Now get out.

Checkerboard patterns in front of bakeries, he cries. I don't understand. Who decides what I do?

All at once a soldier in a black coat pounds the butt of his rifle against the second man's hip and tells him to be quiet.

Alright then, he picks his derby off the ground. I will paint checkerboards in front of bakeries.

Yes, the soldier sneers. And don't get any paint on the street.

The man in front of me steps up to the table and I am after him. They ask his name and he says it and the man at the table turns some pages and makes a mark. You are a Bible expert now.

But I know nothing of the Bible, he protests. The soldier leans toward him, threatening with his rifle.

You will learn, he tells him. You will talk about Beelzebub and Nabokhov and Lobotomi and Moab. Jezehute and Bingoshell. Zinbibblebub and the Mookiejew. Hardrock and Coco. Mizzi and Kotab. You will learn all the prophets going back to Silas and Markhab, Syphonite and Hraearia. And we will want you to be able to count the children of Yusef. Know his wives Abendinaga, Macondragula, Micha and Picha. Or whatever the hell the last one's called. You will become an expert in the begats. Percadovtan begat Shimmolet who begat Adorinea who begat Fistburn and so on. Anyway I'm not an expert. You are now an expert. Get out of here and read up on it.

And so it was my turn, one foot in front of the other and he asks my name.

Edju, I say.

He looks up for a moment and repeats it. The one children will taunt when you are feeble?

Yes. That is I, Edju.

The one who, as a child, your father took you to taverns?

It was true, I told him. My father's name was Anselm. When he would pick me up from my mother's house on Saturdays we would go to taverns. I would swirl on the bar stools eating hard boiled eggs. Then he would sit me down at a club fight and I would watch while he went off with his girlfriends upstairs. Once a boxer's eye grew a bloody welt for two rounds. At last his opponent pounded it square on and it popped and the blood went all over my shirt. The old men laughed behind their cigars and somebody tried to wash it off with whiskey. My father was proud of me that night. Yes that's me. It is I, Edju. A simple man with few possessions, I said. I hoped that would get me a good job.

You are the bellringer at  the church of Saint Bibiana.

Where is the church of Saint Bibiana? I have never heard of it.

She is the patron saint of hangover and headaches.

Yes, I say, and torture victims. And well I know it. I kissed a toe ring once said to belong to her found in the field after the wolves tore her apart.

Yes that's her, he said.

Yes, I told him. I know. But I have never heard of this church. Where is it?

Just then the soldier in black slammed the butt of his rifle into my gut. I doubled over onto the cobblestones under the blue moon in the cold. Get your things and report there tomorrow, the soldier screamed.

Get out of here, said the man at the table.

I picked my derby from off the ground and made my way back to my rooms to gather my things. One must do what we tell them for the good of the community. A man's life is nothing compared to the glory of the state. Maybe, I thought, Alice would admire the change of scenery if ever I found the place.