Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lilith in the Hills of Pittsburgh

Thus begins my latest story, soon to be making the rounds looking for a publisher...

Lilith in the Hills of Pittsburgh

My father's old age consort, whom we all assumed was merely a stupid little woman who brought, perhaps, a few vestiges of sexual gratification to him after his wife of 61 years died, as it turns out, murdered him! Possessed by some re-ascendent shade of Lilith, she turned secretly wicked. Her breath, which stank by day, grew sulfurous in her miserable evenings, and her afternoon jabberings became babbled invocations at night. She poisoned him late one night. As he staggered from his bed in the first blush of dawn, a stroke according to the hospital alchemists, and as he stood there gaping at the foot of the bed, she sat up and laughed, watching and waiting. “Let us not hurry, Rutie dear. We will call the ambulance in due time, once enough vessels have burst in his brain.” Lilith possessed her, making her as wicked at night as she was (and still is) dull by day.

Ah, but I move ahead too fast.

Of course, we all know that Lilith is nonsense, but the study of nonsense is scholarship,* so let me present my scholarship to you.

The age of gullible citizens who will believe any folktale and bubba meisa** is long over. We live in an age of reason. If anything, we have progressed into shapes of disbelief that will no doubt make us appear as misshapen and absurd to future generations as our forebears do to us, who lived in hapless thrall.

“I howled last night at Maher and Stewart,” reports my teenage son. Yes, howled, as perhaps another generation howled at the moon and swore they saw the wandering Jew, that deathless fellow, walk the lath and stucco lanes of their hamlet. We are, as I have already mentioned, misshapen with cynicism.

Therefore it is with no small difficulty that I will try to convince you that spirits, dybbeks, and jinns can, and do, take possession of us and drag us about, even as was believed in the days of our vulnerable pre-Enlightenment credulity. Asmodeus roams the night skies behind our pre-frontal rationalities, naked and muttering to himself, while Woton plots ceaselessly to reestablish his fiefdom in the human soul. And we, possessed of such vast and high-minded reason, are certain their efforts are futile. Indeed, the most reasoning and enlightened of us laugh at the very thought of the existence of such phantoms. Thus may you understand the difficulty of my task.

* Recalling Saul Lieberman’s alleged introduction to Gershom Sholem’s lectures on Kabbalah
** Yiddish, and fairly literally: “old wive’s tale”