The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
Philip of Trier
By Philip Kaveny (Copyright 2015)
As Philip gazed out at the audience from his precarious perch on the wobbly three-legged stool his world vibrated and then froze as he looked back in at himself from the outside as if he were a spectator in the audience of his own life. Philip thought to my life is merde. Then his world lost its center and he was not certain where he was. Just as quickly his world snapped brilliantly back into focus and his ears popped, and it felt as if someone had rammed a fistful of mothballs up his nose Philip’s eyes teared so badly he could barely see his “patrons” faces in the guildhall tavern.
But then his head cleared and he thought, fuck them I can’t stand their filthy hands and faces. Finally, Philip, like, Lucifer, fathomed, the depths he had fallen into. Then Philip remembered as he felt the stench of Bishops fetid breath blowing down the nape of his neck it was as real as if it was still in his nostrils, even two weeks after it happened. Then he felt the needles of pain as his sweat ran into the welts on his back from the Bishop’s ivory cane. Expulsion from cathedral school was the price Philip paid for his “spiritual pride” as Rolland, Prince Bishop of Trier referred Philip’s unwillingness to assume the position that every one of the Bishop’s scribes submitted to.
Philip was haunted by a memory of the Bishop’s last words as his men cast Philip out of the palace into the darkness. “You could have been my best, my brightest scribe, then my translator, then my chamberlain. If I raise my little finger my men will kill you, but I let you live to suffer what you lost as you wander the earth till you die. Until you repent your pride, and appear as a penitent before God and myself you may not receive the sacraments, in the name of God and our Holy Mother the church I excommunicate you.”
Then Philip’s mind was back in the present in the great hall of the Guildhall Tavern in the city of Trier Germany in on November 11, in the year of our Lord 3312.
Philip briefly focused his eyes on the floor of the Guildhall Tavern. The floor was only shoveled out only four times a year and it was an easy job since most of the scraps from its great oak dining tables, half a foot thick, and pitted with hundreds of years of use never made it to the floor. They never made the floor because of slumbering Wolfhounds. These dogs were desperately bred over the last Millennium and three centuries to protect humans from nature’s wrath, and the creatures that bore it to them. The Wolfhounds slept very lightly indeed.
As Philip watched from his three legged perch, someone let a rib bone roll off his wooden trencher. In an instant, the hounds exploded from sleep into teethed whirlwinds as they leapt wolf like from under the rough-hewn oaken dining tables. In his heart, Philip feared at that the hounds would turn wild and abrogate the compact they had forged with humans hundreds of centuries before. They did not the compact held because the hounds loved humans since the first orphaned wolf cubs were drawn to the warmth of an upper Paleolithic fire and exchanged part of their savage heart for the warmth of the human flame. More simply put perhaps, the Wolfhound’s ancestors succumbed to the pleasure of being scratched behind the ears by the rough callused hands of Cro-Magnon toolmakers, and the love was reciprocal now for twenty thousand years. Their love for humanity even against their own natural world was a great mystery, more real perhaps than of The Trinity.
The Wolfhounds were hard working dogs that, and, even after twenty thousand years, they still held up their end of the bargain. Their job was to make it safe for a traveler to walk out across the tavern yard to the piss trough or the outhouse. That is with some certainty of that they would not be torn shreds by a roving wild pack of canines that broke the compact and interbred with wolves and, chosen human prey, after the Black Visitation thirteen centuries before.
These Wolfhounds were huge. If they chose to stand upright on their hind legs, they could put paws on top of a tall man’s shoulders and lick his face, whether he liked it or not. They were so quick and powerful; a single Wolfhound could kill a pair of wolves or a pack of wild dogs alone. They bore no resemblance Philip’s late aunts’ Greyhounds, or the Bishop’s full sized Poodles. The Wolfhounds were a third larger than full-grown wolves and made growling choking noises as they and snapped the scraps out of the air before they hit the floor. Mostly they did guard duty, staying very close to human kind. Yet, for all their savage power and devotion they still liked to have their ears scratched, and they would play fetch until your arm hurt from throwing the stick to them. They were also known to let a two year old girl tie knots in their ears while they guarded her family’s life, limb, and property.
Just as quickly as the Wolfhounds sprung forth, they collapsed back into an edgy primal sleep to dream ancient dreams of better times. Better times when they nipped the heels of woolly mammoths and held their ground against the saber tooth tiger. Better times when they contested squatters rights with five meter tall cave bears, which incidentally were making a comeback much to everyone’s dismay, along with the Lion of Judah which now ranged as far as North and Central Europe and had grown a heavy winter coat. Strangely, these Wolfhounds had taken a little pug dog into their company. He was a little pug male named Leroy who formally served as lap dog for one of Philip’s former patrons for who served briefly as court troubadour. Somehow, Leroy escaped and now ran with the Wolfhounds. It seems that Leroy did not like being dressed up in little sweaters and wrapped in really cute pink buttons and bows. At first, the Wolfhounds held Leroy up to ridicule, but Leroy put an end to all this by catching King the Alpha male Wolfhound in an unguarded moment, and hanging by his teeth from King’s scrotum which quickly earned him Kings respect. Though behavioral physiology had come under papal scrutiny and was banned as a black art, nevertheless Leroy had a small dog’s mastery of operant conditioning without having read Pavlov or B.F Skinner.
Meanwhile, Phillip’s eyes fought to focus through the acrid smoke from the black cast-iron lamps that hung from the 9-meter oak beamed cathedral ceiling. The lamps burned whale oil (too rancid to eat). Whales made a remarkable recovery, since the black visitation only affected primates. Every year a quarter of the men who went to hunt them in their small ships never returned, yet their oil was so precious that men continued risk death to bring it back, if there ever was a second Renaissance it would be in a world lit only by fire from whale oil. Philip’s eyes were so filled with tears from the burning stench of whale oil that he could barely see his “Patrons” faces. He was just as glad really. He made, perhaps, a fatal mistake. He regretted that he has given the guildhall master his last silver farthing for a chance to entertain these men who appalled him in every way.
In his own eyes, he had no choice. But what else could Philip do? It was all that was open to him. He was a failed scholar. Nothing in the world was worse than that, well, perhaps being a leper with syphilis, but at least then people gave you alms and did not ask you stupid questions, and, best of all the left you alone. Philip was failed by his own willfulness, and ruined for any honest work, but perhaps he was ruined before he started, because Philip had an attitude. He was too proud to beg, and too stupid to steal. Somehow, he thought of the peasant’s phrase he had heard once while at a fair in Cologne with his sainted departed aunts. Philip “was about as useless as teats on a bull.”
Philip was an alien and knew it. His audience took an instinctive dislike to everything about him. They were like nothing he had ever seen in his very sheltered life. Philip was used to being everybody’s darling, everybody’s golden child, and Philip was used to being treated like a little prince, by his aunts, before they died mysteriously, some said while under suspicion of witchcraft. They died and before they could be go before the inquisition. Technically his aunts, Marie and Cleopha, did not lose their estate because the charges were not proven. However, since Philip was not in his majority so therefore Bishop Roland was his guardian as well as the executor of the will.
Then Philip heard a cruel sounding voice from the audience cry out loudly,
“They say our troubadour boy here is from the nobility. “
Another voice added,
“They say he calls himself Philip of Trier. “
The last voice chimed in almost like a grotesque parody of the chorus in a Greek play.
“ I don’t know for sure what he calls himself or if he is from the nobility, but yes well he’s shagged himself royally if he thinks he can amuse us.”
Philip had never met men like this before this he had no understanding of honest work. He had to feel superior to those who did. All his life he was told, by his aunt Marie and Cleopha that he was a gentleman, and a gentleman does not earn his bread with his hands or by the sweat of his brow.
Now he was to entertain these men who would have none of him, because they were honest working master craftsmen, journeymen, and apprentices these men were not the daughters of courtly nobles who swooned over his rhyme schemes, and loved to play with his pentameters. These men would not or giggle at each other hiding their faces as Philip fixed his sad steel blue eyes on theirs. Philip of Trier would not be slipping a furtive hand inside their imported silk laced bodices after their stern faced fathers left the room (to wretch) because they could not stand one more moment of Philip’s fain charm, or the courtly ways that came so easily to him. As a matter of fact this was an audience of these same fathers who always suspected the likes of Philip.
Philip was clever, perhaps too clever by half again, and it was all catching up and closing in on him. Philip thought of those better days now as he looked out at the audience and saw not a spark of recognition or human warmth in the sea of faces which stretched back 45 meters to the back of the taverns great hall. All he saw a sea of was men, men, and men. These were big ugly sweaty bad smelling men with thick arms and strong knurled hands. Hands with strong smooth leather like quarter inch thick callous, but split half way down like the dried mud of riverbed the Mosel river in August. Their hands seemed almost a living contradiction. Though they looked like knotted and twisted roots, strong enough to rip a pewter plate in half if anyone in the house could have afforded one. Yet, their hands could make objects of stupefying beauty. These hands made things, which spoke mutely of a beauty which, seemed beyond their maker’s conception of the world. It was as if God spoke through their hands.
Philip of Trier knew not these men yet; he had lived all his life among the things they made. Their fathers and grandfathers built his aunts’ fine chateau, and maintained his family’s estates, over a generation. The stone cutters could make stone so thin and veined that it looked like fine parchment as the sunlight shown through it. The sun illuminated it with pinkish hues, with the faintest red tinge almost as if there was blood and veins inside the marble, and perhaps even a beating living heart. The master painters could paint the stigmata of Christ that brought a tear even to the cold eyes of the torturer. The master masons could make a buttressed wall so tall it seemed to brush God’s face, yet so strong it could hold off a siege in wartime.
The men who Philip spoke to and tried to amuse, were, not the faint hearts of court and fable or great deed with noble heart and intent, but men of the, minute, hour and day; men who would leave nothing of themselves except what touched their hands. These were men who farted loudly, and slapped their thighs afterward, and then strained to do it again. Sometimes they belched unison as if they were a chorus of louts. These were men who did not joust or fence, but sometimes twisted arms between blazing candles and only stopped when on lookers wretched against the smell of burning flesh, and doused the flames with flagons of foaming beer. These lonely Men had worked all day hard at their trade. These lonely men missed their wives and daughter, but, they were not always sure why. They were on the road away from their families. They were in a bad mood because they could not bring their wenches into the guildhall and a little ashamed because they thought it.
They loved the Punch and Judy puppets, and dog and pony shows. They liked part falls, and they liked it when someone dressed as a nun slipped on a banana peel, even though nobody had seen a banana in these parts since the world ended almost twelve centuries before. It was told that the Old World ended right after the Black Visitation who promised to proceed but did not disburse the Second Coming.
They were all men because it was a guildhall for masters of a trade in transit. They missed their wives and daughters, (forget their worthless sons who chose the University over honest work.) These sons hoped for a profession that would put callous’ on their genteel posteriors rather than those of their fathers strong ethical hands. That made the guild masters hate Philip of Trier most of all. He reminded them of their sons. Philip wished he were back in the bishop’s study cataloging the hopeless mess of scrolls, and codex in the terrible hodgepodge they tried to call a library. But Philip new he had crossed the rubicon when he was cast out of his old life and that he could never go home again.
Philip thought at least this is better than some places The Publican makes them go outside to use the outhouse and piss trough, and almost all of them can read the signs that lead them outside to them. Just at that moment the crowd fell silent with a rush, which almost took his breath away, all noise in the room seemed to hush, as the patrons just looked at him, waiting for him to say something.
Philip started his story in a shrill nervous voice more like a horse girl than a young man did. The house ignored him, they barely looked up from their steins of beer and, trenchers of dried bread filled with mutton stew that was too rotten to eat with without the spices brought from the from past the edge of the world.
As Philip started his tale, he knew he had made a bad choice of material, yet he was drawn by everything about himself to tell this story. Philip knew many others that might pass that night but he chose “Words of a Soldier”. He chose it to throw it in their faces. It was partly an old story that went back thirteen hundred years before the Black Visitation or at least some of it did.
He started to recite his story,
“My name is Alphonse” I have no soul,”
Almost as if in a dream,
“She came to me as if driven by the wind. She came to me last night in my monk’s cell. Clara rent asunder in a single night of passion the fabric of score & ten years of scholarship. She made the scholars dance of realism around nominalism jest, by what she asked.
“She begged to kill again. She begged me do again the work I stopped when they found me bleeding and half dead on their steps and gave me sanctuary a score & ten years ago I used to kill men for treasure, now she bade me kill what can’t be killed.
“I thought of the brave young men who I knew who had tried before to do her bidding. Men, whose empty eye sockets, begged the noonday sun for mercy through shattered helms, for none dare bury them.
Then my heart turned bitter as I grasped that she paid them as she paid them the night before. I spoke to her like ice, and asked
“Who are you to send men into eternal blackness, what sort of
Royal slut are you?”
She did not answer but she cut me. I felt something hot, biting, and searing, and sharper than any razor against my cheek, and then I saw tiny drops of my blood against my white linen shirt. Then the my drops of
Blood mixed with the salt ocean of her tears.
“I blinked and she was gone; now I was alone with no place to go. Who was I, who am I, was I a scholar, am I killer, the world has changed so much, my feet and legs take over, they remember what my mind does not.”