Shmuel Eregast was quickly brought back to life through the firm and manly action of professor Hubnoth who threw the contents of the ice bucket in the old man's face.
“What happened?” Eregast sputtered, wiping the water from his brow and beard.
After we picked him off from the floor and put him on a chair, we gave him a bottle of beer. When he saw Elia ben Oso-Pardo he seemed to remember why he was here.
“Hello, uncle Shmuel,” Elia said, a little hesitantly, “it's good to see you.”
Shmuel snorted and almost choked on his beer. “The feeling is not mutual,” he croaked. He swallowed with some difficulty and then, slightly raising his voice, continued: “Look around and tell me what you see.” He made a big gesture with his arm indicating the lush lawn, the pool, the people on the terrace, the village, the neighborhood, maybe all of Andalusia. “There is a landscape being raped, the whole village has undergone a metamorphosis so it has become unrecognizable. There are men dressing up as females, there are Jews dressed as monks, and then there is... you...” The last word Shmuel Eregast spat out with vigor and hate.
“I am sorry you see it that way, uncle,” was Elia's timid response.
“And why for goodness sake do we need a roundabout? And why is it being built behind tall fences, so nobody can see. What devious aberration, what abomination has this transvestite, this professor, in store for us?”
Nobody said anything, we did not know what to say, so we drank our beer. After a short while I said to Elia: “You were in the middle of a story.”
“Yes!” Everybody sighed with relief. “Let's hear what happened in 1389.”
Elia put his beer on the table and folded his hands. “Well, as I explained, the boy Izik found himself in the middle of the night in the church. He wasn't supposed to be there, of course, not just because of the lateness of the hour, but also as a Jew he was not allowed to set foot on Christian hallowed ground. After his eyes had become accustomed to the dark he discovered statues on consoles high above him and dark paintings on the walls. The boy wandered around and admired the pillars that supported the roof. Just as he was about to turn back he heard a sound, as if a wind was blowing. He looked up and saw a figure in a luminous cape coming down. The dark corner lit up and the figure hovered above the ground. It was a woman with a sweet, smiling face. She beckoned him to come closer and the boy made one step forward.”
We were all listening intently to Elia's story, when Shmuel interrupted his nephew, banging his fist on the table.
“You are making this up! This never happened!”
Professor Hubnoth put a hand on Shmuel's knee. “Let him finish, Shmuel, it's a good story, true or not.” Eregast impatiently swiped away the professor's hand as if it were an unclean animal. Elia continued.
“So in the immense darkness of the church there is in a remote corner a woman hovering in a cloud of light. She bent forward and with a soft, hardly audible voice, introduced herself as The Virgin. Brought up in a Jewish household the boy had no idea who the virgin was. 'I am Izik,' he said. La Virgen nodded. 'I want you to build me an altar here, Izik. An altar for Maria.' The boy was much impressed and promised to build her an altar.” Elia looked at us expectantly and when nobody said anything he grabbed his beer from the table and drank.
“Well,” he said, “a year later the altar was placed in that corner and the name of the village was changed from the Jewish Rincón Rambam to the Christian La Virgen de la Epifanía.”
“And the entire family of Ben Dov – now known as Oso-Pardo – and some other families converted to Christianity,” blurted Shmuel Eregast. “The village changed, it was the end of an era, we brought unhappiness upon our tribe. And again today, history repeats itself. Look around you. Shame on you all!”