Wednesday 24 August 2011

Footprints: The Golem of Lefroy

Indefatigably continuing to cough up this series of reprints from my town's illustrious glossy quarterly magazine, Footprints (warning: link is a standing exemplar for ineffective design), and its regular offerings of Diet Cheeseburger Brown, next is a classic golem story.


The Golem of Lefroy

The downside of investigating local mysteries is that nobody believes you when you come across fantastic things. That’s why this time I decided to hire a photographer to help me document Innisfil’s little secrets, to prove once and for all that we live in a zone replete with strange activity. Unfortunately, due to a shortage of funds, the best I could get was Gary from Barrie.

"I borrowed my sister's camera," he told me.

"Does it have night-vision?"

"Well, it has a flash," he offered. "So...sort of, yeah."

I sighed. "I thought you said you were a professional."

"I'm a professional real estate agent," he said, nodding.

I sighed again. "Okay, whatever. Let's just do this thing. I have a deadline."

Gary and I drove out to the address I'd been given by Cantor Kaufman at the Am Shalom Synagogue. I pulled over at the side and killed the engine, but didn't get out. Gary is very tall and my butter-yellow sub-compact car isn't, so when he next spoke he was obliged to mumble through his knees, which were compressed up to his face. I'm pretty sure what he said was, "What are we waiting for?"

"He doesn't come out until dark."

"Who doesn't?"

"The golem."

Gary shifted awkwardly. "You mean that guy in Lord of the Rings?"

"No, Gary, not Gollum – a golem," I explained. "It's a creature made of clay, given a kind of shadow of life by ancient, secret Hebrew incantations. In legend, the creator would inscribe his instructions on parchment, roll it up, and stick it in the thing's mouth to programme it. More or less the Biblical Age's answer to a robot."

Between his knees I could see Gary furrow his brow. "What would they be programmed to do?"

"In the sixteenth century the Jews of Prague apparently built one to smite anti-Semites – you know, defending the ghetto and doing odd chores. Mostly heavy lifting." I flipped through my research notes, pointing out a 1847 woodcarving of a pudgy, packed-mud colossus dashing villagers to the ground with a stone club. "The thing is, if the golem isn't allowed to rest on the Sabbath, it goes berserk."

Gary swallowed heavily and then, in a hopeful voice, said, " want to interview some local expert or something? Is that why we're here?"

I shook my head. "Not exactly."

Gary seemed distressed. "I really need to get out of the car now, Mr. Brown," he told me. "I can't feel my feet, plus you're kind of freaking me out."

Once Gary from Barrie was extracted from my car using the snow-scraper as a pry, he stretched out his long legs and breathed into a paper bag to calm down while I set up the tripod and attached his sister's digital camera, coupled with the motion-sensor from my patio lights. The sun had already sunk behind the trees. The sky was purple, the western horizon still golden.

Gary walked over to the tripod. "You don't think there's one of those Jewish Frankensteins around here," he ventured. "I mean, where would it come from?"

"The cantor thinks it was raised by Rabbi Leibowitz; he passed away a number of years ago," I said. "I think that maybe somehow, some way, the golem became free even after his master died."

Gary blinked. "Free?"

I nodded. "He's been seen. By local kids, mostly. By people nobody believes." I pointed to a dilapidated house falling in on itself behind a nearby row of cedars. "That's the old Leibowitz place. Nobody should be living there." I turned back to face Gary. "But according to Innisfil, every year the property taxes get paid."

"By who?" he whispered.

I pointed out the open stretch of field beside the house. "Well," I said, "somebody – or something – is growing corn here." Gary gulped. The sky was darkening, the first stars shining out. I checked my watch. Suddenly Gary tensed, "What's that?"

I waved him quiet, cocking my head to listen: a snapping twig, a skittering pebble – and between them footfalls, slow and heavy. I shivered though I wasn't cold. I looked up and down the road but my eyes couldn't penetrate the gloom. The footsteps drew closer. As the stumping gait became louder we could also discern a quiet rustling sound – as if someone were chewing a wad of paper...or parchment. At that point Gary and I opted by mute agreement to crouch beside the car in the gutter, cowering by the tires.

And then – nothing.

After a moment we stood up. Gary scratched his head. "Where'd it go?" I ran a little distance up the road one way, and then the other. I ended up by the field, shaking my head in bewilderment. "Maybe he saw the car and got spooked," I said.

Gary nodded. "Yeah, or got spooked by that scarecrow."

I shook my head as I walked over to retrieve the camera. It reported having taken a picture, so I figured we must have tripped the motion sensor when diving behind the car to hide. "Well, that was a bust," I said with a sigh. I packed the tripod in the trunk while Gary folded himself painfully back into the tiny passenger seat. He yawned. I popped into gear and started to turn the car around.

"Hey, didn't you say there was a scarecrow in that field, Gary?" I asked, slowing.

He nodded. "So?"

I smiled grimly. "It's gone."

The field was empty. Whatever Gary had seen posing there, it had not been a scarecrow. With shaking hands I turned the camera over, and clicked on the preview screen. The screen lit up, and there he was: the Golem of Lefroy.

My breath caught in my throat. I looked around nervously and then locked the doors.

Gary leaned over to see, then frowned. "He looked skinnier in the movie," he observed. "I fell asleep before the end, though. Did he ever got his ring back from those midgets?"

I smacked my face with my palm and then dragged it slowly down. "Golem," I cried, "not flipping Gollum! This is reality. We were just within feet of an actual, living monster, Gary!"

"Oh, right," he agreed. "Still, it was a cool movie."

We drove home, the golem's image still burned in my mind. And here, Footprints readers, is that photograph, presented to you for your edification and education, and to serve as warning to those who might wander alone after dark this summer: steer clear of apparent scarecrows, and run fast from the sound of rustling paper -- the Golem of Lefroy is out and about, seeing to his midnight chores.


Mark said...

Fun story. It would be a treat to see short works like this in the back of our local community rags. Pretty sure that won't happen as long as we live in Dallas metroplex suburbia. Unless... hmmm... nah.

Anonymous said...

Ah, I never knew that golem was pronounced with a long o...

Sheik Yerbouti said...

What Mark said -- though technically I guess I live in Dallas metroplex urbia.

According to today's captcha, CBB is the "swaxest".