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Monday, December 2, 2013

Golem 1. By John von Daler

                 After eating and drinking for three or four hours, our party giggled and bubbled with poetry, music, and shenanigans. The puppeteer had abruptly pulled out his alter-ego, a half-sized human figure dressed in the dark robe of a medieval bishop and brandishing in its only hand a wine glass, the foot of a chicken, and other startling forms of blasphemy. We yelled and howled and goaded the puppet; it never spoke, but in silent majesty conveyed to us the most impious audacities. No innuendo was left unexplored, no twinkling of an eye left concealed.

                We had been with the puppet many times. He always accompanied his master, an actor and a puppeteer, in our little traveling theater group. When we visited small villages in Denmark, we spent the nights in the homes of our audience. Lying with its head on the pillow, the puppet would wait for us to return from performing so the carousing could start. Once, some teenagers had placed him on a bed with two half-naked Barbie dolls, an ashtray, and some empty beer bottles, the puppet's face all smeared with lipstick like some drunken man-about-town.
                Tonight the usual frothing spirit got a little out of hand. The puppet, with great solemn eyes beneath the half-circle of lifelike hair, had tried to dance a stationary cancan and had kicked up its robes a little too high, its bishop face bobbing wickedly to a gig we were playing. Its owner had placed the puppet face-down on a chair and had lifted his own glass of wine. The puppet had gone as limp as a discarded washcloth. Someone shouted the ill-fated words, "Send the puppet around! Let's have a look at him!"
                The first commandment of all theaters has always been Thou shalt not have First-Hand Knowledge. The gods never intended for us to know what Marlene Dietrich looks like in her dressing room, nor how the ghost disappears in Hamlet, nor whether Salome's veils are transparent. We are meant to enjoy the illusion and not to ask impertinent questions. But tonight someone had crossed this line between our beliefs and disbeliefs and soon the puppet had been lifted from its resting place and was making the rounds of our table. I myself received it only briefly.
                Sitting next to me was the old man who told stories. He had been a member of the Danish underground during the German occupation and knew everything about unspoken rules. Behind the long, gray beard, the pudgy, slightly oriental face, the large nose and the countless warts and tufts of hair, he concealed a mind fully attuned to the strict guidelines that any storyteller must follow. 
                As I hurriedly passed on the puppet to him, the old man winced and shivered and flipped it on to his neighbor. The lifeless puppet fell into that man's lap and lay there for a moment in a shapeless heap. The old man looked up with those shining eyes that had seen too much and remembered it all.

                "Golem!" he exclaimed as the raucousness of the party melted away into silence. "Golem!" he shouted, parting the waves of revelry like some Moses at a new Red Sea.

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