by Michael Díaz Feito
Table of Contents|
Chapters: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6,
7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14
Chapter 5: Barcelona
Horses ambled past the Jewish barber’s shop. Four palfreys and a squat Asturcón pony. Excrement slipped from their muscular rumps, which shined in the strong sunlight.
Fèlix, his face lathered with lard, pointed through the shop’s window at the horses’ black-tuniced, white-crossed riders. He said to Frater Luís, “Knights Hospitaller. Last year, in Tyre, I deposited silver with them, close to a hundred marcs. We’ll need to withdraw it here.”
“Why ride a pony?” Luís said. “As a knight, I mean.”
A group of dirty children, skipping, gathered around the mounted Hospitallers outside the shop. They stroked the knights’ horses and begged for alms. The knights offered only the sign of the cross, a few spoken blessings, and dismissed them. The children were not discouraged.
“Good,” Luís said. “I’m so glad when you don’t respond, Dompnus Fèlix.”
“Monk,” the barber said, “can I trim your tonsure next?”
Frater Luís avoided the turbaned barber’s eyes and the yellow badge sewn to his sleeve, which shook as he stropped the razor. When the razor scraped Fèlix’s cheek, he thought, The vanity of richly spoiled monk-nobility. A destitute body cannot be further debased by the infidel’s simple touch. And besides, Jocef was a good infidel barber, because he once helped broker a deal with the nesi’im, who purchased some fibers of Christ’s beard as a gift for the House of Barcelona.
“Forgive him, Jocef,” Fèlix said. “He doesn’t speak Catalan.”
One of the urchins, a girl with big eyes, stooped in the street. She whistled frenetically, calling her friends’ attention. Then she scooped up horse dung with both hands and flung it at the Hospitallers. The other children followed her lead. Making faces and laughing, they pelted the knights with excrement. The knights feebly chided them, as if too saddened by the abuse, and rode away toward the waterfront.
Fèlix flushed with anger. His hands shook and balled into fists. He rose from the barber’s chair, pulled on his white coif, and rushed into the street, shouting, “Disgusting vermin! How can mothers keep cooking up such trash in their wombs? You’re all worth less than what you throw.”
“Vell boig i lleig, boig i lleig,” the big-eyed girl sang.
Frater Luís now stood beside Fèlix. He laughed at the girl. He patted Fèlix’s shoulder with a soft hand to calm him.
“You have a bad temper,” Luís said.
Fèlix shrugged off Luís’s hand. He now shouted at passersby, who were staring without surprise, accustomed to urban outbursts.
“Stop making these children!” he said.
The barber Jocef appeared at the entrance to his shop. He requested payment. Fèlix pitched a denier at him. He spat at Jocef’s feet.
Copyright © 2017 by Michael Díaz Feito