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The Clash of Civilizations
From The Lamentations of Julius Marantz (a novel)
by Marc Estrin
Author's Links

The story concerns a physicist who invents an anti-gravity device which is used by a secret coalition (Pentagon, World Council of Churches, Sierra Club) to create a religious hoax. People are flying off the planet in what appears to be The Rapture. Julius, aghast at what his invention has permitted, decides to spill the beans, and thus becomes a target for his own invention. He goes back to Coney Island, the land of his youth, to await his inevitable fate, hanging in the skeleton of the parachute jump. But on the way, he encounters this little scene.

Change for the F at Jay St./Borough Hall.
     Against a stair wall, on the southbound platform, The Stygian Wings Theater Association was all set up to perform: two poles in cement blocks, with a cross-pole tied between them, the funky frame supporting a canvas flip-chart, on which was painted

The Kantistoria pf St. Julius The Hospitable
by G. Flowbear

Under a charming rendering of the Grateful Dead dancing bears, skull-angels bore the following sub-epigraph:
     "Two things fill the mind with ever-increasing wonder and awe: the starry sky above, and the moral law within."
          --Immanuel Kant
     The entire Stygian company consisted of one red-haired puppeteer, with cymbal and horn attached to a bass drum, the player wielding a soft mallet as baton, pointer, and musical weapon. Spying Julius coming down the stairs from A-train level to F, he announced in stentorian voice:
     "At last, at last, Ladies and Gentlemen, at last we can start."
     He beckoned Julius around to the front of the gathering crowd, pointing out the correspondence between the title of the show and what might be Julius's name. Suspicious, but intrigued, he cautiously obeyed. Mr. Stygian waited for the southbound local to pull out and dissolve into remembered sound. And then...
     "Ladies and Gentlemen, a feeble, the Legend of St. Julius the Hospitable. Are you ready?"
     General assent.
     He flipped the cover canvas over behind the cross-pole, and revealed nine squares, 2'X2', three across and three down. painted in primary colors on a field of fluorescent green. As he recited his text, he pointed with mallet to the paintings and their points.

"Der var engang en lille Barn, saa fin og saa nydelig, and his name was Julius. CLASH.

"His mother and father lived in a land by the edge of the sea. and by dint of their prayers, TOOT TOOT a son was born to them.

"And at his birth, an angel came to his mother in a moonbeam CLASH and whispered, 'Rejoice, oh Mom. Your son shall be a saint.'
     "'Feh,' she said, 'Ve don't got saints.' she said. 'All right,' said the Angel, a 'tzaddik, then.' BOOM
And to his father, the angel whispered, 'His foot shall be the mark of hidden glory.'

"Therefore they named him for a king, and had kingly dreams for him. To make him brave, his father took him flying. SIREN WHISTLE.

"At tournaments he always won the prize; - his little subjects -- hamsters, mice, a mother's gut, and ondts -- were not as pleased as he. Their writhings THUMP THUMP THUMP made his heart thump.

CLASH "His faithful Yenta barked at him, "Accursed boy, scientium, so vain and self-important, one day, you shall scarab your parents. ARF ARF!"

"'No, no,' said Julius -- and sent them off to their deaths. TAPS. Razor blades? An accident?

"Aghast, repentant, taking up the cross, globetrotting, gracehoping, he climbed and climbed until he fell. BOOM.

"He fell into the chutzpian bargain, the vibrationally satanic, into the arms of those who would embrace it." BOOM BOOM BOOM BADABABOOM. Stygian kept up his drumming through the approach and unloading of the uptown local across the tracks. He flipped the chart to the second set of nine.

CLASH "People died because of Julius. What would it take to learn? FINGER DRUMMING AROUND THE HEAD.

"Repentant yet again, afraid for others, he fled from men and lived on roots and berries in a squalid hut. LOUD CHEWING ON CARROT PULLED FROM POCKET.

"For years he lived alone, never seeing another person, until one midwinter evening he returned home to find a man sitting on his stool, wrapped in a tattered tallis, his face a mask, his eyes redder than coals. TICKS ON CYMBAL. Coming closer with his lantern, Julius saw a hideous leper. CLASH. His face and arms were covered by splotches of scaly pustules. No nose had he, but just a hole, and his breath was thick and nauseous. "Oi, I am hungry," said the Leper. Julius gave him what he had -- some crusts of black bread. BOOM.

"'I am so toisty.' He stretched out his arm, and with one gulp downed the cup of water he was offered. BOOM.

"'I am kalt. I am oysgehorevet.' His ulcers began to ooze. 'Dein bett,' the Leper murmured, and Julius helped him onto the mattress, and covered him with rags he used for blankets.

"'It is like ice in mine bones,' he said. 'Come close to mir.' And Julius lay down on the covers beside him.

"'No. Unter. Come unter, and varm me,' the Leper said. 'Undress, and gif me the varmth of dein korper." CYMBAL TREMELO. Julius took off his clothing, and lay down under the covers. He felt the leprous skin touching his thigh, colder than a serpent and rough as a file. Infectious." The downtown F approached in gradual crescendo.

"'Come closer and varm me more. More than dein hends. Varm me with dein gantzer korper.' And Julian stretched himself mouth to mouth, breast to breast."
     Disgusted, attracted, wanting to stay, but needing to go, Julius backed toward the slowing train.
     "Watch the doors, watch the doors," the loudspeakers crackled. Stygian watched Julius enter the car. He watched the doors close. He watched Julius watch him through the window. The train pulled slowly away, and the puppeteer addressed it more and more softly as it shrunk away down the Cimmerian track.

"The Leper embraced him. SOFT CLASH. His eyes became clear as the stars, his hair grew became like solar rays. Julius breathed in the rose-fragrance of his breath, enraptured in some superhuman joy.      CYMBAL TREMELO AND CRESCENDO. His lover grew until his head and feet touched the walls of the hut. The roof flew off, the firmament opened CLASH! -- and Julian ascended toward the blue, face to face with One who bore him away."
     He bowed and elicted ambivalent applause. As the crowd dispersed, hoping to avoid his passed top hat, he called after them:
     "Jesus Christ may be a great lord, but he will not keep company with others. He is proud and needs to rule the earth. Be careful before you honor him."
     He boarded the uptown express.


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