Monday, 14 September 2009

Saint George - 12. The Turn

People get used to anything. With time, everything loses its lustre, as happened here. Despite the monster's best effort to keep the audience spellbound, after the umpteenth sheep, interest really started to wane. Concourse to the stands kept decreasing to the great displeasure of those who were pocketing fat rents and of the sellers of lemonade and sweets there as well. Together, they reflected on new gimmicks.
One day, their faction - for in the council they had formed their own faction - brought in the following proposition.
'Why,' thus asked their spokesman,
'why are we to offer a precious sheep every single week, an innocent creature that is providing us food, whereas inside our prisons we keep a number of creatures not as innocent whom we ourselves must feed, whose very misdoings we remunerate with free board and lodging.
Whatever prevents us from exchanging them for the sheep! Thus, we'll dispose of them in a honourable fashion. As in each case they'll spare us a sheep, we enable them to wholly or partly square their due.
What we propose is a simple act of justice. Thereafter, our town will be free again of crime, even as before, and their empty lodgings we can put to a different use.'
Upon the real motive - to raise the yield from stands to former levels and, if possible, even to increase it - no words were wasted. On giving it away, they expected to meet with strong, moral opposition. However, this proved a gross miscalculation.
By the magistrate who, as mentioned before, possessed a major share in the stands the plan was welcomed with approval and others as well, disguised their real motives. The welfare of the state was all they cared for, or so they said. In reality, their motive was lust after a spectacle even more sensational by far.
Thus, the proposition of the stand-owners' faction was passed with a large majority of votes. Only the junior councillor, seeing with dread which way his own two proposals were leading, still tried to raise his voice in disapproval but this time, nobody was inclined to hear him out. The proclamation of the council's decision caused a general rebound and the next Saturday no stand was left empty though fees had doubled.
To the slaughtering of sheep everybody was used from childhood but now, a man was at stake, a human being just like oneself, whose anxiety and pain were all but empathetic, which made the horrors all the more exciting and the excitement all the more lustful.
When the monster, on that very Saturday, encountered a tied man instead of its usual sheep, there wasn't the slightest trace of amazement in its bearing, nor of hesitation. Rather, it seemed to have anticipated this turn.
It put on quite a show, alternating bites with growls and grins and at times, by a coarse laugh at which it raised its head heavenward and widely distended its jaws.

English translation by Ronald Langereis © 2009
from the Dutch, "Sint Joris" by Belcampo, 1983

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