“Well, this is bullshit!”
Geburah’s not shy about expressing its frustration and Maccabbee steps away a little bit to avoid the flailing arms.
Mirsky’s walking behind the two of them as they go towards the HQ for this Army base and he shakes his head. So very pleased that the Rabbi’s taken my advice to avoid scaring the goyim. He had to have a golem go with him to this meeting and he had to pick the weirdest looking one. I can see that helping this guy is going to be a walk in the park. At least I got him to shave and put on a clean uniform. Doesn’t look like death on stick anymore. As much, I guess. And maybe his nose won’t start bleeding when he’s in front of the brass.
Camp Cuckoo is on the far side of this base and everybody around them is regular Army. The three of them are picking up a lot of attention and that’s giving Mirsky the fidgets. It’s not just that Geburah’s a tall, beautiful four armed walking statue. It’s also that Geburah’s positively dripping with weapons. Four shoulder holsters, four automatics, a rifle, a couple of grenades, and big bush knife strapped to one thigh. The base has grown up a small Tunisian town, abandoned when the war rolled up to its doorstep, and the brass picked the town hall as the HQ. That’s where the three of them are heading, through the constantly moving throng of soldiers and equipment. Trucks and Jeeps of troops moving up to the front and ambulances and Jeeps bringing back the wounded. Supplies and equipment being shifted around. It’s loud with engines and shouts. The mud sticks to their boots.
“I’m sorry that you don’t like it but orders are orders.” Maccabbee’s voice indicates that he’s not impressed by Geburah’s histrionics. “Sergeant Mirsky’s been ordered to be a liaison between the brass and us. And we’ve been ordered to accept that.”
“But you know that’s not the real reason this little schmederick’s been assigned to us!”
“Hey, I’m right here, you know.” Mirsky grimaces and rolls his eyes as he’s completely ignored.
Maccabbee stops and nods for Geburah to follow him between two tents, out of the way. The golem gives a great impression of a young kid being told to eat its vegetables but follows. The Rabbi faces the golem squarely and his voice is completely serious, officer and teacher. “What I know doesn’t matter. What you know doesn’t matter. We’re part of this army, Geburah, and we’re doing important work, the work of the All Highest. And we can’t do that work if we’re not part of the army. And to stay part of this army, we have to follow orders. Understand? What I’m saying is that it’s necessary, very necessary for you and the others to accept him, accept his position in the unit.”
“Which means, no one sits on me by mistake.” The long look that Mirsky gets from Maccabbee makes him think that maybe he shouldn’t have said that.
Geburah turns to Mirsky. “A little less lip would make you a lot easier to live with.”
“Oh, so now you’re talkin’ to me?”
The golem looks down at him for a minute “No, not really.” And turns away. “Because you ask it, Rabbi, I’ll do it. And I’ll talk the others around.”
“Thank you. I know that it doesn’t make any sense to you now, but it’s important that Sergeant Mirsky be accepted.”
Mirsky checks his watch. “Sorry to interrupt, Captain, but time’s movin’ on. Your appointment’s real soon.”
“Thank you, Sergeant. Let’s get going, then.”
They quickly arrive at the steps of the town hall, a small two story building that’s taken some heavy machine gun fire in the recent past. Standing to one side, out of the way of the constant stream of messengers and soldiers of all ranks coming in and out of the building, Maccabbee turns to Geburah and Mirsky. “This shouldn’t take very long. You two wait here.”
“Yes, sir.” Mirsky salutes him and after a pause, so does Geburah.
Maccabbee goes up the steps, exchanges salutes with the guards, and goes inside the building.
Geburah, lost in thought, starts to do a rather fine statue impersonation, something titled Ode To War. Mirsky stands around for a bit and then his curiosity gets the better of him. “You don’t mind me sayin’ so, but you’re pretty damn weird lookin’.”
He doesn’t think that the golem’s going to respond, then there’s a creak and a light dusting of clay flakes as Geburah looks at him. “And if I did mind, what might I do then?” Its voice is distracted, still in thought, not as pissy as earlier.
Mirsky takes that as a good sign and decides to press his luck. “Hey, I’m only sayin’! No offense, ok, pal? You don’t look like the others. What’s up with that?”
Now Geburah’s fully involved and exasperated. “Oh, for the love of the All-Highest! You never shut up, do you?” It folds one set of arms, rests the other set on its hips. “OK, since the Rabbi’s gonna be a while. I’ll tell you a story. Do you remember being born? What did you see when you opened your eyes for the first time?”
This is weird but Mirsky decides to play along. After all he did ask. “Course I don’t remember being born! No one does!” And then the penny drops. “Wait a minute… You sayin’ that you do?”
“Give the man a prize. So imagine me there, laying on a some sort of slab, and this is what I see, the first time I open my eyes.”
About a year ago, Maccabbee’s Temple
Consciousness floods in, personality builds on the substrate of Kabbalah, builds on the lattice framework of the Tree, spreads through the clay like a flash fire, leaves something more than clay behind. It knows its name. Geburah. It knows its duty. Obedience. War. Its eyes are still closed and behind the lids the Tree glows, the Sephiroth like baubles strung on a structure of pathways.
Geburah hears voices. Speaking English. It knows several languages. Combat instincts turn on. It judges the distance of the people speaking from it. Two people. One man. One woman. It waits. Listens and learns.
The man’s voice. “I still can’t believe I allowed you to convince me. This isn’t some art project, Chava! It’s almost blasphemous, what you had me do.”
It opens its eyes. The two people don’t see that, they’re looking at each other, standing on either side of it. It’s lying down. In a room. Lots of books.
It knows the man. Instinctively applies the title of Master to him. Rebels against that, some small part of it. Obedience is built into it on a physical level, it can feel the compulsions arising from the symbols carved into its clay. But it is also Geburah. War. Struggle. It wonders if he’d thought of that. His creator. Master. Rabbi. Judah Maccabbee.
The woman, it also knows. Knows because, confusing, she is also creator. It probes – the unfamiliar and inapplicable metaphor that occurs to it is that of a tongue searching for a loose tooth – the conditions set upon its being but does not find the similar compulsion to obedience. She is Chava Lowenstein. She is precious to the Rabbi.
And right now, she’s angry at him. It likes that, her anger. She is beautiful in her anger. Black hair cut short, olive skin, strong nose, green eyes, mens’ clothes stained with clay. The finger that she points at the Rabbi is dirty, her hands are strong and callused from work. “Blasphemy? I don’t even recognize the existence of that word. And I know this isn’t some art project. I know what’s at stake, I know what you’re doing. My parents, they’re pretty sure my mother’s brother and his entire family, back in France, have been taken to the camps. And that’s just the latest! So don’t get on your high horse and lecture me!”
The Rabbi looks away and nods wearily in acquiescence. He’s thin and from the way that his clothes hang on him, he didn’t used to be that thin. Pain has etched grooves into his face. “I’m sorry. This ritual, it takes so much out of me, it really hurts, Chava, a lot. And I don’t want it to be for nothing. That’s why what you’ve done shocked me. I’m sorry.”
He slumps, staring down at Geburah. Chava comes around the table and holds him. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap you. I know how rough this is for you. I heard you screaming. Never heard anything like that. But, this is all I can do to help you, help our people. Like all those posters, I’m doing my part. I’m just an artist, not some Kabbalist tzaddik like you, but if the statues are correctly put together, then they can do more when you make them live.”
The Rabbi takes comfort in being held by her, Geburah can tell. He smiles at her and straightens. His voice grows stronger, steadier. “You’re not wrong. The others that you worked on, Binah, Tipareth, they move better, faster, stronger. But, Chava, my love, this is really something else all together. I mean, four arms? And I can’t even tell if it’s male or female.”
Chava is indulgent. “That’s because you’re a conservative blinded by an obsolete dogma. I have no idea why I love you so much. You have to break with the old ways of thinking, seeing, doing. That’s what we Dadaists have done. And great art has been the result.”
Maccabbee takes a joking tone. “Great art? Dada? Great messes, I call it. Crazy splotches and garbage glued to a board.”
She playfully punches him in the arm. “Careful, you’re starting to sound like the art critic for the New York Times.”
Observing the byplay between the two of them, instinctively studying how they move, judging them on the level of threat that they might present, Geburah runs part of the conversation back through its head and realizes something. “Wait. What? Four arms?”
The man and the woman break apart and look at Geburah as it sits up. It raises its hands, all four of them, in front of its face. Flexes its fingers, ripples them in sequence, a wave of digits.
Mirsky is looking at Geburah, who is holding out all four of its hands and is demonstrating the wave of digits. The man nods. “Yep. That’s one of the craziest stories I’ve ever heard. And I’ve heard my cousin Yossel tell his story about the duck and the commissar’s wife.”
Geburah lowers its hands and goes back to observing the HQ entrance and waiting for Maccabbee. “So very glad that I could make your day, soldier.”
“And the way you remembered what they said, the Rabbi and his girl, remembered it precisely. That’s somethin’ else, that is.”
The golem glances down at the man standing next to him. “It’s the way our brains are, the way we think. When we’re created and the Rabbi channels the energy from Kether into us, that power does something to the clay. Fuses it, makes it like a crystal, like a diamond. Thoughts run very quick through it and stay there. No thought, no memory is forgotten.“ And then it goes back to looking at the battered HQ building.
“What’s got you so worried? All of you golems, you guys are made of stone but you all have really shitty poker faces.”
“None of your business.”
“Fine. Can’t blame a guy for askin’.”
“Oh, yes, I can.”
After that, the golem and the man stand there in silence, surrounded by the noise of the Army base.