The Fiction of Philip Kaveny
Read Part I Here
Great Uncle Philip sighed, and then told Melanie in detail the tale of Joshua the Unlikely with the desperate hope that the secret of their salvation might be embodied in the account. As he spoke, Melanie’s mind was filled with images as if she was taken to another time and place – images that were both unknown to her, yet as familiar as her own heartbeat.
“Joshua the Unlikely tried to walk out of the hall carrying the great sword Ffaldschaddar resting thirstily in her scabbard, jonesing for dragon’s blood. However, he could not get the straps that should’ve held her to his back properly fastened. Instead, it was almost as if he half-carried, half-dragged her like she was a garden implement rather than a mighty sword. To the astonishment of those laughing at Joshua, the beautiful Princess Leya stood up and strode over to him.
Joshua had loved Leya ever since he first caught sight of her as she filled her jug with water at the well, but since she was royalty and he was not, he had relegated himself to watching her in secret for years, hoping she might one day take notice of him. He watched her every day as she drew her ceramic water jug from the well with her beautifully long, strong, yet delicate arms. Once Joshua the Unlikely had caught a glimpse of her beautiful ivory breast and pert nipple as she stretched forward to pull on the rope and pulley to raise the ceramic jar from the well. It made him feel both elated, yet at the same time he felt a bit like a crab scuttling along the ocean floor, thinking that somehow he had violated her beauty with his eyes and deserved to be torn to shreds by weasels. Still, every day that followed both Joshua and Leya came to the well at the same time, but never spoke to each other. And Joshua’s heart ached with the hope that someday all her celestial beauty would be for his eyes only, though he knew in his heart he had as much chance with their as a crab scuttling across the ocean floor might have with the sacred dolphin.
Leya was from one of the greatest families in the city, yet she was not too proud get her own family’s water, which she carried on her shoulder in a fine stone jar. When the rainfall was not enough to fill her family’s great barrels, she would make as many as six trips a day to provide the water for her frequent baths. This which earned her the nickname Bathsheba from her mean little eight year old brother Isaac, who decided to play a dirty trick on his beautiful seventeen-year-old sister the next time she ordered him to fetch and then dump a pail of fresh rinse water into the make shower system that she had devised to wash her hair, while she was nude but safely behind the screen to keep her modestly out of his eyesight. Isaac was a clever little demon, and had devised a plan involving his six little friends: John, Paul, James, Philip, Peter, and Thomas. After receiving instructions, they waited quietly near the bathhouse until the next time Isaac was on rinse water duty, which was a short time since Leya always seemed to be washing her hair, called out for her little brother the water boy Isaac.
Being a quick study of the Bible, Isaac chose to add a plague a frogs to sister Leya’s ice cold rinse water. The consequences were instantaneous, innocent, and not at all what Isaac expected. Instead of desperately trying to cover herself with pretentious false modesty, she simply swept up all the six little boys (who covered their eyes the instant they saw her in a desperate attempt to assuage her wrath) and washed out all their mouths with the same pumice stone soap she used to wear down the calluses on her feet. Nothing was ever said about it again, and secretly of all boys felt they had gotten their shekels’ worth. As far as her father was concerned it was a no harm, no foul situation; Leya was still as innocent as the apocryphal Susanna:
Joshua the Unlikely, on the other hand came from a family of scribes and actuaries who would ensure shipments would be paid for and losses made good if trade was disrupted and caravan routes were closed. Only once did Leya speak to him and instead of answering her, he muttered something in some kind of infernal incoherent gibberish, later hitting himself forcefully on the forehead his for his own inarticulation. He wanted to tell her that there was a dark and dangerous part of his job, where he had to make certain that losses were real, bills were genuine, and once….Oh forget it! What does she care about any of that? She is a princess and I am a Dweeb. (Which in the original Hebrew translates to Dweeb.)
Despite his inability to communicate with her, Leya’s suitors took notice of Joshua the Unlikely, bullying him and playing practical jokes at his expense. Once they placed it a purse of gold coins on the ground with a thin almost invisible cord attached to it, and when Joshua the Unlikely bent over to pick it up one of the bullies kicked him very hard in the butt, and then asked him if he was going to do anything about it. But Leya got wind of their harassment and confronted their ring leader with a simple truism:
“It takes more than a strong back and broad shoulders to make a man.”
But this day was different. Leya stopped Joshua the Unlikely as he thumped and stumbled his way out of the hall. All eyes in the hall were turned upon her, including those of her myriad suitors, all of whom had been so willing to ridicule Joshua the Unlikely but lacked the mettle to pick up the great sword Ffaldschaddar in her beautiful scabbard. As she slowly, deliberately addressed each of the straps on the scabbard, wrapping them around his chest and shoulders, she noticed his body betrayed hard work contrary to his rather soft appearance. He was muscled, like a Boulder. This was because when he was not performing actuarial work for his family, checking out claims of allegedly disappeared camels or some other such drivel, he was in charge of the great dock where the ships of the desert were loaded and unloaded. Dirty, back-breaking work was his true trade, and made him smell as if his favorite male cologne scent was camel dung.
After she had done all that she could for the straps Leya walked Joshua the Unlikely to the door of the great hall. It was only the power of and privilege of Leya’s family which allowed her to do what she did next. Any ordinary woman would have been stoned to death in the marketplace, but not Leya. For a short time, she held Joshua and Unlikely tight in her arms; to him it seemed an eternity, especially with the whole world watching. And then she kissed him deep and hard on the mouth before placing his hand on her breast[i] and saying, “As you go out on the icy sea, take with you some of the warmth of me.” I know you go from whence there is no return.”
Then Joshua the Unlikely spoke the first words anyone could ever remember him saying in public. “I will return,” he proclaimed. “I will walk across the floor of hell and breathe its sulfur; then I will drive this horrible thing back to hell from whence it came.”
Where the hell did those boastful words come from? Joshua the Unlikely thought. I don’t talk like that. I have never touched a beautiful woman’s breast in my life; what in God’s name is happening to me. And most of all what in hell made me pick it up that sword? I don’t know anything about swordplay; I can barely tell the difference between the pummel and the blade.
What Joshua the Unlikely did not know was that Ffaldschaddar, forged by Irish Dwarves on a tuned chorus of multiple anvils, had the power to bestow on her master the gift of eloquence as a tool for standing in the face of evil. For four generations Ffaldschaddar sat motionless on the mantle, only being removed from that spot to be polished and oiled once each season. But even that wasn’t necessary, as the Irish dwarves who forged her added just enough chromium oxide to her own ore to make her permanently stainless. And yes, in fact she did sometimes glow with that terrible cold pale blue light, which functions as a kind of Dragon repellent.
After four generations of near motionlessness and an ever-growing bloodlust for her master’s executioner, Ffaldschaddar finally had a student. She knew that she had to teach him who seemed UN-teachable. Yet there was something about Joshua the Unlikely which made him unique among all the students of the world. He accepted the fact that he knew nothing, and that placed in infinitely ahead of almost every other student who thought they knew everything. And in Joshua’s case it was clearly a case of the necessity of learning; learning to live or he and all he loved would die brutally.
But Mara the Beast from the East, the Princess of Worms, had her own tools and deceptions and amusements, even to the point that somehow she knew what the great German writer Goethe had said after his conversation with her in another dimension.
“Ich bin nicht zu Hause, wenn Leichen mein Haus suchen; Ich fühle mich darüber , wie eine Katze mit einer Maus tut.”
“I am not at home when corpses seek my house; I feel about it as a cat does with a mouse.”
Mara the Beast from the East had taken notice of Joshua the Unlikely; he had disturbed the Aether the moment Ffaldschaddar was strapped on his shoulder. As far as Mara the Beast from the East, the Princess of Worms was concerned, Joshua the Unlikely was about to become her new chew toy. Her only concern was Ffaldschaddar, her sister in some strange way, having fallen from that same terrible dying star. During entry into our atmosphere, Mara the Beast from the East should have burned up or exploded at a height of 40,000 feet, nearly 8 miles in the air. But they did not, as she was not a carbon-based life form. Rather, she was silicone-based (the same stuff that is common as sand on the beach) and her body was tempered far stronger than steel during that fiery landing.
No one knew the speed of dragon flight, since no one had seen a dragon for generations yet it was said by someone before he was burned as a heretic the dragons can fly faster than the earth moves around the sun. Everyone at the heretic Galileo’s trial wondered why anyone would be so stupid as write a book which claimed that the earth actually moved around something; they all knew the earth was the center of the universe. Anyone who wasn’t anthropocentric couldn’t be right, could they?
Yet all who were there at what was to be the heretic Galileo’s burning at the stake as the faggots where about to burst into flesh eating flames. An instant after the executioner ignited them a great hot huge Deluge seemed to fall from the sky, turning the kindling wood into a soaking mass that was impossible to ignite. Galileo the heretic was pardoned in an official Church position was that it was an act of God’s mercy. Suddenly the heretic Galileo decided to reconsider his theories, removing himself from public life so he could live quietly up in the mountains.
Yet late at night he sometimes heard near the windows his monastic cell something that sounded like the steady beat of giant wings, along with some strange language seemingly spoken by two voices in the form of a raucous discordant stage whisper.
End of Part II
[i] If anyone wonders where I got this image it comes from the issue of life magazine which photographically documented the Nazi invasion of Poland on September 1, 1939. The scene is heart wrenching he is beautiful and blonde and young she is as beautiful herself as he reaches out of the train to kiss her and touched her one last time. I’ve always wondered what happened to that officer. The escape to Great Britain the join the resistance more likely he was killed in a Kaytn massacre along with 15,000 other Polish officers. And what happened to her that is the hell of war. It forces its darkness and to my literary text and I will keep the artistic gesture to my feeble ability. I credit Brandon Hovey with introducing the idea of a footnote in a fictional text, I think it’s useful to connect the real and imagined world