All pandemonium broke loose, as the archbishop and his entourage were on their knees looking for the prelate's dentures and people all around were shouting and jeering, jumping into the fountain and attacking the nude statues. Professor Hubnoth was in a frantic state and desperately tried to keep the mob from ruining his art work, when a loud car horn honked. He looked up and saw Elia ben Oso-Pardo clearing a path for a huge yellow vehicle with the headlights on making its way slowly through the narrow street towards the roundabout and its offensive statues. The car horn sounded as if a mysterious sea monster had suddenly surfaced and threatened to eat us whole. In fact it was a big earth-moving machine with a huge shovel.
'No!' cried professor Hubnoth. 'Don't!' He kicked off his high heel shoes and pulled his sparkly sequin sleeveless dress up to his knees and ran with surprising speed for such a heavy set man towards the interim mayor and the yellow vehicle that he was guiding towar...
A crowd had gathered to witness the unveiling of professor Hubnoth's roundabout that for several weeks had been covered by a large piece of canvas. Everyone was there and nobody tried to hide. A band was playing while the people waited for the ceremony to begin. There had been some delay because the truck with a lifting crane could not find the village. The sun had already set when at last I could direct the driver to a parking spot behind the synagogue.
Professor Hubnoth, dressed for this momentous occasion in a sparkly seguin strapless dress, stepped onto the edge of the roundabout and welcomed the people of the village and his distinguished guests, among them the archbishop and his entourage, the rabbi, the members of the band and plenty of reporters and photographers from the local and national press. He was positively beaming.
'I will not keep you any longer, dear friends. Let us remove the cloth that covers this wonderful monument that I have dedicated to the brotherhood of men,...
Elia ben Oso-Pardo looked like a big brown angry bear, hungry for power. With all the elegance that the professor could muster in his ivory colored evening gown he invited his unexpected guest at the table and told the angelic butler to bring out another plate of food for the interim mayor. We all looked at him expectantly and watched him eat and drink. Moshe Cohen started a monologue on the Romantic Poets that nobody listened to. We all waited for Elia to speak. At last he pushed his plate away and leaned back in his chair, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.
“I'm the mayor of Virgen de la Epifanía,” he announced. We all nodded. “I come in peace,” he growled. In the silence that followed Moshe Cohen remarked with a smile: “Well, that's a relief, for a minute I thought you had come to tear the place down.”
“I will tear your roundabout down, that's for sure. Apart from that you have nothing to fear.” Now it was Elia's turn to smile. Nobody said anything. Elia continued by prai...
Professor Hubnoth had called an emergency meeting that Moshe Cohen – an avid reader of English Romantic poetry - would later refer to as The Immortal Dinner, as it reminded him of that illustrious meeting on 28th December 1817 in Lisson Grove at the house of the famous painter Haydon who had invited his poet friends Wordsworth, Keats and Lamb for dinner. None of the present day guests could claim any literary fame, but there was male bonding induced by lots of alcohol, just like two hundred years ago, and likewise there was an unexpected guest towards the end of the evening.
An angelic butler, ordered by the professor from a questionable website, served drinks and food, wearing nothing but a bow tie and an apron. The professor himself was wearing a beautiful ivory colored evening gown and some serious jewelery around his neck, on his fingers and in his ears. You could say he was slightly overdressed as the rest of us – apart from the monk and the butler - were all in jeans and s...
The monk and I stood near the roundabout, whose statues were still hidden from inquisitive eyes by a large cloth, and we looked on in amazement at all the activity in the other half of our village. People were coming back. Houses were cleaned, roof tops repaired, walls and doors got a new coat of paint. Only a few weeks ago this part of Virgen de la Epifanía – as the village was now officially called - was dark and dead at night and all of a sudden it was rapidly springing back to life. The metamorphosis was mind blowing. The baker was back and fired his ovens. A butcher next door had a sticker on his shop window saying 'Kosher' in Hebrew characters. A hand written sign next to the sticker advertised the fact that the finest and tastiest Serrano hams in all of Andalusia could be purchased here. I saw them hanging from hooks in the ceiling, an indication of the broad minded view the butcher had on the Jewish religious dietary laws of kashrut. Children were kicking a ball around in the y...
“I hear you are worried about the finances,” professor Hubnoth said to Erik as he handed him his drink. I had arranged this late night meeting so that the professor could allay Erik's fears of an imminent financial collapse of the resort whose ridiculous name, by the way, was still a subject of lively and buoyant discussion among us.
“Yes, I'm worried and I do not wish to be called 'darling' by any of you.” Erik accepted his gin and tonic. “Thanks.”
“I fully understand, sweetheart. Nobody will call you 'darling' anymore. But in all seriousness, I come from a wealthy family who for generations have been making money in international trade. Grain, corn, cacao, coffee, you name it, we trade it. Well, not anymore. My older brother Charles, who, after an unfortunate mishap involving a car, a motorbike and too much alcohol, has been getting around in a wheelchair for the last forty years, is now managing the family capital and assets. He moves money around, buys, sells, that sort o...
In the meantime Erik was getting more and more depressed. I often watched him at the end of the day dancing with the invisible ghost of Isabelle when he brought her to her lover Lorenzo's grave and later, after sunset, when he danced her back to La Casa Embrujada.
Strolling down the street one day I met Moshe Cohen, the monk.
“Look how beautiful it all has become,” he said pointing at the restored houses, the modern streetlights, the gardens. “And we are attracting visitors who come to feast their eyes on the miracle we have accomplished here.”
“Well, it is only half the village. The rest is still in shambles.”
“I know, but people are coming back! We seem to have restored their faith in this old village.”
He was correct. At first we were surprised to see some of the owners come back to their tumbled down houses, but then we realized they were coming back to a place that had all the infrastructure repaired: electricity was working properly again, the water supply was reinstated, we had...
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 femal...
The unlikely couple, professor Hubnoth and Elia ben Oso-Pardo, crossed the street, arm in arm and I followed them past Eregast's fully renovated and refurbished restaurant where I noticed Shmuel's angry face behind a window, and we got to a row of four houses. Professor Hubnoth opened the door and entered the first house.
“Welcome to my new home,” he said and Elia ben Oso-Pardo couldn't believe his eyes as the professor took us from the hall and kitchen to the neighboring house where the entire ground floor was turned into a big dining room. A large double door opened unto the living room, the third house, and from there a narrow corridor brought us to the fourth where professor Hubnoth and his friend Moshe Cohen had their sleeping quarters.
“You've done very well for yourself,” Elia commented, looking around appreciatively
“Let's have a drink outside, on the terrace,” was Hubnoth's reply.
We sat down and admired the beautiful garden full of young trees and a lawn surrounded by rose bu...
During the last couple of weeks the building and renovations continued at a steady pace. The roundabout was almost ready and behind tall fences an artist was placing the sculptures in the fountain. In the meantime professor Hubnoth and I welcomed Elia ben Oso-Pardo, a surveyor for the municipal cadaster who had come to help us determine where exactly in the graveyard the dividing line ran between the Christian and Jewish plots.
Elia ben Oso-Pardo was a big man with a wild beard, a full head of flaming red hair and an enormous belly hanging over his belt. He wore leather pants, and a leather jacket and on his nose an over sized pair of glasses that together with his beard and long hair did not reveal much of his face. But he had a great smile, I noticed, when he shook hands with the professor.
“How do you do?”, he said and quite succinctly did not comment on the totally inappropriate flimsy yellow and white summer dress professor Marcel Hubnoth was wearing that day.