Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Death at Golgotha-3rd part

Novel published in Serbian as “Smrt na Golgoti”, Prosveta 1965, © Borislav Pekic, English translation © by Lovett F. Edwards

for the 4th part HERE

He was very thin, emaciated and ill. He hoped slyly that he wouldn’t hang long like some of those bumpkins who took their time dying, three days and nights, bleating like billy goats on the skinners’ hooks, so that it looked as if they had been badly treated and not killed. J.Bosch-DreamThey won’t break my ankles, he thought, glancing sarcastically at the bear of a Philistine stretched out on his cross, as if he was at the Sefalique plane, wrapped in a sheepskin, listening to the chewing of the masters bulls.

He is strong, tough as Moses’ rock and the rod would strike a long time on his chest before all the water of his dog’s life poured out. That one, I swear, will have time to get used to his own death, while you, wretch, will fulfill the prophecy, not to prove this or that howling prophet right, but because you’ll give up the ghost before there’s need to break your shin bones.

There were three of them on the crosses that Friday. In spite of the murmur of the guards and the rare remarks of the onlookers who chewed noisily their snack, they were very alone, each on his own cross as if in his own cradle.

Perhaps there is only one death, Father of my fathers, but when it attacks me, then it’s mine alone; it’s not Zachary’s, who hangs on my right, nor the Bear’s who is huge (since the Philistine was massive, and so there was a lot to dye on him) who hangs on my left.

Finally, you ass, you son of an ass, you’ve got something which is yours alone and which you mustn’t share with the customs officials, or to set a tithe aside for the most gracious Caesar. Anyway, what would a tithe of your death look like tossed into the sacrificial bowl of Jehovah’s Temple, the first fruits of your dying given as an offering?

What would a tithe of your death look like in the imperial treasury, and how would the imperial treasurer test its purity and weight? How would the customs official bite your death, taste with his teeth the tenth of your catastrophe, when you pay him your tax or toll?

How would it be if you supported your family by your death? And Temna, could she dress herself in my expensive dying?

That idea cheered him a little, and he would have liked to share it with his neighbors, but decided against it out of malice.

And God is again nowhere!

And nowhere!

And nowhere!

Your God has run away!

It sounded like a Galilean marriage song, he thought.

“I am thirsty,” he said.

The centurion with the reddish fuzz on his jaws stuck a sponge on the tip of his spear, dipped it in vinegar and offered it to the condemned. He sucked at it avidly, and then spat in disgust the yellow fluid on the Roman’s rusty snout.

For a time he enjoyed the curses of the soldier, who didn’t dare to touch him. The soldier didn’t dare to touch him, since it was strictly forbidden to interfere with a death sentence. Justice for the culprit had to be executed without anybody’s help. The centurion withdrew angrily into Zachary’s shade.

To hell, oh to hell, hell with that whining Zachary, his annoying neighbor on the right, who without pause was pestering him with a stupid plea which he didn’t understand:

“Remember me, O Lord, when thou comest into thy kingdom!”

What could that mean?

“You idiot!” screamed the condemned from the middle cross.

“He’s calling Elias,” a woman from the bushes with competence explained.
But he hadn’t called anyone except his lying God, who deserted him at the crucial moment, and even him he called softly, with sweet words, as if luring a bird into a trap suspended under the burning sly. Who needs that obnoxious prophet Elias? He was in no mood for company at this moment.

It’s four o’clock and God isn’t here. No sign of him. Nowhere and very likely he won’t be. God’s in no hurry, nothing is hurting him, he hasn’t got four iron nails driven through his hands and feet, he hasn’t a wooden wedge under his balls, no crown of thorns digging into his forehead, no live coals of flaming sun burning his eye pupils, no bloody spit boiling under his tongue.

On Sunday you were supposed to go to the wedding of Rufus’s friend. It isn’t likely that you’ll go. On Sunday, if all goes well, you’ll be dead. Anointed with cheap oil and wrapped in stone. The stone will be cool at least. No more roasting in this brutal sun.

You wouldn’t be boiling at daylight in a caldron. You’ll be resting on your bier with your wounds covered. The professional mourners, led by pipes and double flutes, will sing and extol your virtues and achievements (no mention of those that brought you to the cross high above Zion), and Temna, ripping her garments, will wail “Hey, Ahib!” and “Hey, Adon!”

But Rufus will go to the wedding. That beast doesn’t give a damn about his father. Pity, he thought, that all of us didn’t give a damn about our fathers, earthly or heavenly. Heavenly especially. Adoni, he cursed, can’t you see how your Chosen One has led me by the nose? And see how from a carver of wood he’s turned into a carver of men?

Zachary was moaning about boredom, so the Bear who yawned more and more, proposed to talk to make the time pass more quickly and to forget that they are dying in the most horrific pain.

“What are you thinking, Son of God?” he asked making grimaces.

“I’m not the Son of God,” he replied absentminded.

for the 4th part HERE

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