Genesis 38: Goatus Interruptus (Season 1, Episode 20)
What happens Jude marries his son off to a ‘witch’? A demon-goat runs wild, a widow is inherited, and a new method of birth control is born.
|Jay Willem||Oct 10, 2019|| 2|
This is the latest episode in a serialised narrative. If jumping into things mid-way doesn’t bother you, ignore this and keep reading. If you like to start from the beginning, check out the archive here.
If you are a creationist, evangelist, fundamentalist, or biblical literalist, this will probably offend you.
If you have any sense of propriety, this will probably offend you.
If you have the capacity to be offended, this will probably do the trick.
If you're okay with that, then read on.
If you want to read on just so you can tell me how terrible I am and that I should never write another word ever again, feel free.
Who knows? It might actually work.
After selling his brother into slavery, Jude uses the money earned from selling said brother to settle down and start a family. He moves to the town of Adullam, marries the daughter of a Canaanite named Shua, and has three sons in rapid succession: Er, Onan and Shelah.
The only person not given a name in the above paragraph is – surprise, surprise – the only woman. Instead of her being referred to as Jude’s wife or Shua’s daughter, how about we give her a name?
I’m thinking Alma – you’ll see why in a second (but only if you’re familiar with Brokeback Mountain).
As the years pass, Jude gets to know his neighbour, a lifelong bachelor named Hirah (Harry, for short). After a hard day’s work, they sit out on the back porch – drinking, playing cards. Harry babysits the kids, Alma makes a little extra bread for him when she gets a chance.
It’s a very sweet, neighbourly relationship, and Jude and Harry become the best of friends. Pretty soon, however, it turns into something a little more than that, and they begin going on regular ‘weekend fishing trips’ to disguise the affair.
When Er comes of age, Jude sets about finding him a wife and lands on Tamar (Tammy, for short), the most beautiful woman in the town. Now, Tammy’s not short on suitors by any means – she’s got guys lining up around the block waiting to propose to her.
She asks Jude, straight-up, “Why should I marry your kid? Why not Elijah, the handsome rich guy whose dad owns half the town? Why not Josiah, the brooding artist? Why not Delilah, the baker’s daughter who I always had kind of a crush on?”
At first, Jude doesn’t know what to say. His first-born son isn’t particularly handsome, or rich, or brooding. He isn’t much of anything, really. What can he say to make her choose his average-ass kid over the rest?
Then it hits him.
“Well,” Jude begins. “As you may or may not know, my dad is Israel. Like, the Israel. The guy who killed his own brother and burned Shechem to the ground? The guy who has a direct line to God? Father of the nation of the same name? Any of this ringing any bells?”
Tammy raises an eyebrow, intrigued. She’s heard of him. “Go on.”
Jude leans forward, resting his elbows on his knees, projecting confidence, like he’s a car salesman or a Silicon Valley tech bro pitching an investor. “When he dies, I’ll be taking over his role as patriarch. Er will then take it over from me when I die. So if you do decide to marry him, you won’t just be getting a first-rate husband, you’ll also be getting involved in a very promising start-up nation at the ground floor. Now, I can’t promise you handsome or rich or brooding, but I can promise reasonably-attractive, fertile, moderate standard of living, and...hmm, what else was there? Oh, yeah – everlasting glory as the matriarch of Israel.”
Tammy takes a moment to consider it, but Jude can already see the lust for power burning in her eyes. She doesn’t even stop to question whether Jude was telling her the truth when he said he was going to inherit the patriarchy from his dad.
In truth, he’s the fourth-oldest, meaning fourth in line to get the job. Reuben, Sim and Levi would all have to die (or at least prove themselves unworthy) for him to become patriarch.
But Tammy doesn’t know that.
And what Tammy doesn’t know won’t hurt... well, Jude.
Jude knows it. He knows it all too well. And he’s working on it. He’s been working on it.
He’s pushed Reuben to the fringes of the family by making him seem like a monstrous coward. He’s watched idly as Levi sinks deeper and deeper into alcoholism, and as Sim retreats deeper and deeper into himself.
As they wither, Jude (much like a vampire) grows stronger. Slowly, he’s emerging as the best option for Izzy to give his blessing to.
But first, he’s got to consolidate his own family. Start getting some grandkids on the scoreboard. Start creating the appearance of a patriarch so that when the time comes, the transition will be smooth.
The wedding takes place a few days later (again, Jude’s in kind of a hurry here). The happy couple share their first kiss as man and wife, the crowd applauds, and Jude wipes a manly tear from his eye.
Let’s freeze-frame here.
You’re probably thinking – Jude’s kind of a dick, right? So why is all this good stuff happening to him? He’s got a lovely family, a boyfriend on the side. His son’s getting married.
Yet, at the same time, he’s cheating on his wife and actively plotting to ruin his family so that he can seize power.
So why is everything coming up Milhouse in Jude-town?
Well...if, by this point in the story, you’re still thinking that good things happen to good people and bad things happen to bad people, you’re reading the wrong book.
We’re in the post-Game of Thrones era now.
Come to think of it, this is kind of Game of Thrones before Game of Thrones was Game of Thrones.
No good guys, no morality. Just a bunch of people trying to claw their way to the top of the pile, in a world where an actual god not only exists, but interacts with them on a semi-regular basis.
One more thing...
Jude will prove to be a fairly important figure going forward – not so much because of what he does during his life, but because of his name and his legacy. In fact, his shadow kind of looms over the entire rest of the Old Testament.
You could describe it as the most foreshadowy foreshadowing in all of literature. Not sure why you’d want to, but you could.
Without giving too much away as to what happens in the rest of the Bible (do spoilers apply to something that’s 2500 years old?), I want you to consider for a moment the word ‘Jew’.
Where does it come from? Why do we use it?
How did it come to apply to a people we’re referring to here (in the latter half of Genesis) as Hebrews or Israelites?
Hint: it has something to do with Judah. End hint.
Where were we?
So Jude’s living the life, right?
He’s got his family, his boyfriend, his son just got married. Everything’s going great.
Then, all of a sudden...
Bang, bang, bang.
There’s a knock at the door.
Jude opens it.
God’s standing there. He looks pissed.
“What’s up?” Jude says.
“Is there anything you wanna tell me?”
God shrugs, but in a sarcastic way. “I’m just asking. Is there anything you wanna tell me?”
Jude thinks about it. The big guy seems to know something – something he wants Jude to admit to. For the life of him, Jude can’t figure it out. Is it the affair with Harry? Is it him pretending to be next in line for the patriarchy?
Jude shakes his head. “Not at this very second. But if I think of anything, I’ll be sure to let you know.”
“Is that really the answer you wanna go with?”
“Fine. Have it your way.”
Later that day, Tammy has just finished cooking a delicious lentil stew. She calls out to Er to tell him dinner’s ready, but receives no answer. She calls again. Still nothing.
Suspecting that he’s outside milking the goats or something, she exits through the back door and instantly stops dead in her tracks.
Her eyes go wide.
Her blood runs cold.
After going to retrieve Jude, Tammy – crying, devastated – shows him out to the goat pen. Jude has a similar reaction.
“Jesus Christ!” he says, horrified, covering his mouth and nose.
There, in the goat pen, is (funnily enough) a goat. This isn’t one of those cute, little goats you’d see at a petting zoo – this is a big, old, scary-looking goat. Think Black Philip from The Witch and we’re probably on the same page.
But it’s not the goat that grabs their attention.
It’s (somewhat less-funnily) the man impaled on the goat’s horns that grabs their attention.
Flies are buzzing around Er’s limp body as the goat chews hay like nothing’s going on. It’s looking at Jude and Tammy like, “What the fuck are these guys staring at? They know I’m self-conscious about eating. Why can’t they just let me enjoy my hay?”
With every slight movement of its head, Er’s body jiggles, and when the goat goes in for another mouthful, that’s when the hands and feet really start flopping around.
Unable to take it anymore, Tammy runs back inside, crying, leaving Jude to stare at his first-born, newly-married, soon-to-start-producing-grandchildren son. His limbs wiggle as the homicidal goat chews and stares back at Jude, blank-faced.
Swallowing his grief, Jude climbs into the pen and proceeds (with no small amount of difficulty) to dislodge Er from the goat’s horns.
The goat, quite naturally, isn’t a fan of being manhandled. Every time Jude approaches, it employs a frenzied combination of rearing, bucking and running away – all the while with the corpse draped over its head like a brim hat.
Jude, wiping away tears and trying not to get gored himself, ends up slipping over in the mud until he’s covered in the stuff from head to toe.
Things go on like this for a while.
Viewed from afar, it’s just a lot of grunting and cursing and splatting in the mud. A lot of Jude saying, “Come here, you fuck...” and “Goddamn it...”
After one failed lunge – in which the goat moves quickly out of the way and Jude goes sliding on the ground – the animal does one of those double rear-leg kicks, its hooves connecting with Jude’s chest and sending him flying backwards into the fence.
Horribly winded, and with possibly a few broken ribs, Jude writhes in agony, gasping for breath.
Overcome with rage, he picks himself up, tearing off his tunic so he’s just wearing a loincloth. With a savage war-cry, he charges at the goat, Tarzan-style. He grabs it by the horns and wrestles with it, managing to grab hold of his son’s arm and pulling with all his might.
It just so happens that at that moment, the goat pulls backwards...
Now, I should have mentioned that the horns have penetrated Er’s lower abdomen, so as the two opposing forces pull his body in different directions, that (structurally speaking) is the weakest point.
You can probably tell where I’m going with this...
Er’s body rips in half.
The top half comes down on top of Jude, the bottom half just kind of drops off into the mud.
Jude lies there, breathing heavily, staring at the sky.
He’s half-naked, covered in mud and blood and the upper section of his son’s corpse.
For a moment, he doesn’t care about any of that. He’s just glad that it’s over. He won.
Jude clasps his son’s hand above his head like he’s the referee in a boxing match, then closes his eyes, exhausted.
At Er’s funeral, a priest says a few words over the body just outside the rock-cut tomb where it’s going to be buried.
Jude comes up to his second-oldest, Onan, putting an arm around his shoulder. He’s still pretty banged up, looking like Rocky after going a few rounds with Clubber Lang – lip split, left eye swollen shut.
“Listen, kid, I want you to do something for me...”
Because of the damage sustained to his jaw in the fight, he’s slurring his words and, for some reason, talking with a thick Philadelphia accent.
“What is it, dad?” Onan says, sniffing, wiping his eyes.
“See your brother’s widow over there...” Jude points to Tammy, sobbing over Er’s linen-wrapped body.
“I want you to take his place as Tammy’s husband.”
Onan looks at his dad like he’s insane. “What?”
“Look, you’re the oldest now. And we don’t have time to fuck around finding you a new wife. You gotta continue the family line. Besides, she’s right there, and who’s gonna look after her without your brother here?”
“But, dad, I don’t want...”
“I don’t give a fuck what you want!” says Jude, keeping his voice low (out of respect). “You’re marrying your brother’s widow and that’s that.”
So Onan does as he’s told.
He marries Tammy immediately after Er’s funeral, and I mean immediately – the wake literally doubles as a reception. The caterer’s pissed, obviously. She only gets paid for one event.
That night, Onan and Tammy lay together as man and wife, and as very recent siblings-in-law. It’s forced and awkward – a lot of tears and conflicted feelings. Just an unpleasant experience all round.
I should probably explain a little bit about levirate marriage...
See, in some cultures throughout history, it was customary for the brother of a deceased man to marry the dead man’s wife (ie. his sister-in-law). This generally happened in societies where marriages to anyone outside the group was frowned upon, if not forbidden entirely.
It was meant to ensure that (in a male-dominated society) the woman was protected and provided for, but also that the patriarchal family line was continued.
In the context of this particular culture, it meant that Onan would have to have children with his brother’s widow – he would have to raise those children, teach them, provide for them – but they wouldn’t count as his children.
They would count as Er’s.
This was kind of a sticking point with Onan. He didn’t mind banging his brother’s hot widow, but doing all the work of parenting without getting any credit didn’t really seem worth it to him.
Also, if he had a son, that kid would inherit the patriarchy from Jude, rather than Onan (who, as second-born, was currently first-in-line to do so).
This being the case, Onan devised a clever strategy.
Every time he was approaching orgasm, he’d pull out and blow his load on the floor. You’re probably familiar with this particular birth-control technique. You may have even used it before.
To medical professionals, it’s known as coitus interruptus. To normal people, the pull-out method.
And while it’s common knowledge today, just remember that everything had to be invented at one point. Cain invented murder, Abel invented being murdered, and Onan invented a somewhat-successful method of birth control.
Call it crude or ineffective all you want, but for the majority of human history (before condoms, IUDs and spermicidal lube were invented), it was pretty much all people had to guard against the ravages of parenthood – without, y’know, taking a vow of celibacy or just straight-up rubbing one out.
Which reminds me...
Onan’s name might sound a little familiar to some of you – and that’s because it’s come to be synonymous with masturbation. ‘Onanism’ is another word for jacking off. It’s probably only used by the same people who use coitus interruptus to describe the pull-out method, but there it is nonetheless.
The only reason I bring it up is because Onan isn’t known for masturbating – he’s known for pulling out.
It’s close to the truth – truth adjacent, you might say – but just different enough that it makes you wonder why the term doesn’t really apply to the situation it gets its name from.
Now that I think about it, an etymological discussion about self-pleasure probably isn’t one of the main reasons you’re reading this.
Let’s just move on, shall we?
So Onan and Tammy continue to (pretend to) procreate. Tammy warns him that Jude’s going to be angry when he finds out, but Onan says he won’t find out – how could he? He’ll just think that Tammy’s barren and blame her.
Funny how it’s never the guys who are infertile.
Needless to say, Tammy’s not on board with this. The only reason she’s getting involved with this family in the first place is because it’ll put her in a position of power down the road.
No kids = no power.
That’s just how the Old Testament rolls, baby.
After a week or so, Tammy realises this marriage is not going to get her what she wants, and she decides to go rat Onan out to his dad. As she’s leaving the house, however, she notices Onan isn’t there...
She calls out to him, but receives no answer.
She calls again. Still nothing.
On a hunch, she walks out the back to check if he’s milking the goats and sees Onan impaled on the goat’s horns in the exact same way her previous husband was.
The goat stares at her blankly, munching on a mouthful of hay.
Instead of crying or screaming, Tammy just kind of sighs in frustration.
“Goddamn it...” she says, and goes back inside.
At Onan’s funeral later that day (same rock-cut tomb – these guys liked to double up), Tammy isn’t shedding a single tear. She’s been through this before and wasn’t exactly a huge fan of Onan before he died. If she had a wristwatch, she’d be checking it.
Jude approaches his sole-remaining heir, Shelah (Shelly, for short). He’s still covered in mud after wrestling his second child from the demon-goat’s horns.
“Listen, kid...” Jude places a hand on the boy’s shoulder, splattering mud all over his relatively-clean tunic. “We gotta get away from this woman – like, now.”
Shelly looks up at him with a furrowed brow, not understanding.
“She’s a witch, Shelly,” Jude says, sounding paranoid. “She killed both your brothers and she’ll kill you too, if she gets the chance.”
“I thought the goat killed...”
“She made the goat do it! Look, I don’t know why, but she’s got it in for our family. We gotta get the fuck out of here before she sinks her claws into you.”
Now, Shelly’s starting to get scared. He’s only like six years old at this point, but the assumption is that he’ll do as Onan did and ‘inherit’ his brother’s widow. His kids will count as Onan’s kids, who’ll count as Er’s kids – et cetera, et cetera.
But Jude’s not worried about that at the moment.
His only concern is preserving the last chance he has at being a grandfather, getting his son out of Dodge before he gets himself gored to death.
So that’s exactly what he does.
That night, while everyone else is asleep, Jude gathers Alma and Shelly, and prepares to leave. They load up the wagon with Harry’s help. Jude’s tying it all down when Shelly (in the driver’s seat) whispers, “Dad...”
There’s a panicked urgency in his voice, and Jude looks up to see the goat – yes, that goat – standing in the middle of the street, watching them.
Jude’s eyes go wide. The son of a bitch has come to finish the job.
Before he can finish his sentence, the goat charges. Jude, acting on pure instinct, dives out of the way. The goat thunders forward, burying it’s long, sharp horns into...
She’s exiting the house with the last of their belongings when she’s gored by the demon-goat. She drops everything, folding over the goat’s head, so that when it turns around to face Jude, it looks like it’s wearing her for a hat.
“Mom!” Shelly screams.
Equally horrified and devastated, Jude leaps into the driver’s seat of the wagon and whips the reins.
“Quick, get in!” he says, to the fear-frozen Harry.
Jude’s boyfriend/neighbour jumps on board as the donkeys spring into action, pulling them off down the street at a run.
The goat gives chase, galloping after them with the body of Jude’s wife and Shelly’s mother flopping around on its head like a puppet with its strings cut.
“It’s gaining on us!” Shelly says, terrified.
“Go faster, Jude!” Harry says. “Faster!”
“I’m going as fast as I can!”
The goat comes parallel with them, staring up at them with its beady eyes, limbs bouncing around.
Jude can’t look away. “Oh my God...”
It goes to side-swipe the wheel, but Jude yanks hard on the reins, pulling the wagon away from it.
Weighed down by the body, the goat begins to slow. Pretty soon, it stops entirely and just stands there in the middle of the moonlit street, watching them get further and further away.
After leaving Adullam, Jude heads up to the town of Timnah, planning to stay there until his son is old enough to start putting some goddamn grandkids on the scoreboard.
Why Timnah, you might ask?
A few of Jude’s servants are currently tending his flock there. He figures he’ll join them and, through manual labour, alcohol and a now-open relationship with Harry, try to take his mind off the Final Destination-style deaths of 60% of his family.
On the way, however, they come across a sex worker at the entrance to Enaim. Her face is hidden by a veil, but her figure is shown off by a curve-hugging dress. She waves to the travellers in a suggestive manner.
Suddenly, Jude has an even better idea. He thinks about it for a hundred yards or so, then pulls over.
Harry frowns, then looks back, seeing the woman approaching. “What are you doing?”
“I’m going to have sex with this prostitute,” Jude says, getting down from the wagon.
“Sex worker,” Shelly corrects him.
Jude and Harry both look at the kid for clarification.
“You’re supposed to call them sex workers,” the six year old says, matter-of-factly.
Turning back to his widower boyfriend, Harry snaps, “Are you fucking kidding me, Jude? I’ve been patient for twenty years while you stayed with Alma. Now she’s gone and you just move on to the next woman?”
“Yeah, she is gone,” Jude says, getting heated. “She’s dead. This is my grieving process.”
Harry rolls his eyes. “Oh, come on...”
“I just don’t get how having sex with this random prostitute...” Shelly opens his mouth to correct the older gentleman, but Harry quickly realises and does so himself. “...sorry, sex worker...will help you grieve.”
“Because...” Jude says. “I need to erase the memory of Alma from my brain. The only way I can do that is by having sex with another woman, one who means nothing to me.”
“Why can’t having sex with me do that?”
“Because you’re a man. It doesn’t feel the same with you as it did with her. I need something similar enough to her that it tapes over those memories, so I can have a fresh start with you.”
He puts a hand on Harry’s and gives him a reassuring smile.
Harry only stares at him, not reassured in the slightest.
“Really? Because from where I’m standing, it kind of sounds like you just want to take advantage of not being married anymore, and now you’re trying to rationalise it to yourself.”
Offended, Jude snatches his hand away. “Think what you want. I’m doing this for us.”
Harry lets out a sigh, knowing he can’t win this argument. “Look, if you feel you need to do this...”
“I do. I really do. One more time and then I’m strictly non-hetero. Promise.”
Harry doesn’t like it one bit – Jude sounds like a compulsive gambler saying, “One more roll of the dice, and then I’m out” – but he relents.
Jude smiles. “Good. Now, mind the kid.”
With that, he walks off back the way they came. Shelly turns around to watch his dad meet the veiled sex worker and start talking with her. After a brief, inaudible discussion, he leads her off into the privacy of some trees.
Shelly shakes his head, having expected as much from his dad, but perhaps having hoped for more – especially since his mother was only pretty recently gored to death.
Harry doesn’t turn around. “You know your dad’s a bastard, right?”
Shelly turns back around so they’re both facing front in the motionless wagon. “Yeah, I know. You can’t be surprised though, given how you two started.”
The kid’s got him there.
Harry sighs. “I guess not.” Then, looking at Shelly, he smiles, impressed by the six-year-old’s powers of perception. “You’re a smart kid, you know that?”
“Yeah, I know.”
Harry detects a certain smugness he doesn’t care for. His eyes narrow. “You know, you’re kind of a bastard as well.”
Shelly shrugs. “Yeah, I know.”
Harry realises he isn’t going to win this argument. He spits off to the side, settling into a bitter silence.
After Jude’s roadside tryst, he slinks back to the wagon with a sheepish half-smile, and they continue on to Timnah without a word.
Now that the thrill of sex with a random stranger has subsided, Jude has only the consequences to deal with – the guilt, the shame, the post-orgasm sleepiness (which is dangerous when you’re the one at the reins, but what’s he going to do? Ask Harry to drive? Nuh-uh. Not likely).
Once they reunite with the servants and sit down to dinner, Jude comes up to Harry, holding a baby goat in his arms. He takes the man aside and goes, “Hey, listen...this little guy needs some help.”
Despite being pissed at Jude, Harry can’t help but smile at the cute, little animal. He strokes its furry face, talking in that high-pitched baby voice that people use with dogs. “Of course. Anything for this little muffin. What’s he need?”
“That’s great,” Jude says, also employing the baby voice. “He needs someone to take him to Enaim. Doesn’t he? Doesn’t he?”
Harry frowns, then realises what Jude means.
“No,” he says, and walks away.
Jude chases after him. “Come on, Harry... It meant nothing, alright. I don’t know her name. I didn’t even see her face.”
“You knew how angry it would make me and you did it anyway.”
“I was grieving...”
But even Jude knows it’s a weak excuse.
“A favour?” says Harry, chuckling at his own gullibility. “A favour? I was wondering how you planned to get yourself out of the doghouse, and you think asking me for a favour is the way to do it?”
Shelly scoffs as they walk past, eavesdropping on their fight.
“Please...” he says, through a mouthful of food. “Dad is just fine in the doghouse. He’s got rooms in that thing. Dining halls, servants’ quarters. He could stay there for a year and never sleep in the same bed.”
“Quiet, Shelly!” Jude says, then continues on after Harry. “Listen...these guys have been slacking off without me here cracking the whip. They’ve been drinking, banging each other. Banging the sheep. The flock’s been taking care of itself – and not well. A bunch of them got eaten by wolves, another bunch just kind of wandered off. Seriously, it sounds like it’s just been one, big orgy here without me. I gotta stay and keep everyone in line.”
“I find it hard to imagine you’ll be the stabilising force.” Harry wheels around on him, shaking his head. “What is this?” he says, gesturing to the goat. “Payment for your dirty, little, roadside quickie?”
“I didn’t have my wallet on me,” Jude says, like it’s no big deal. “If you don’t take this to her, I don’t get my collateral back.”
“Signet, cord and staff. Pretty basic.”
Sidebar: A signet is one of those things imprinted with a symbol that people used to press into hot wax to seal a letter. They wore it around their neck on a cord. The staff is just a staff.
The way Jude’s describing it, it’s like that specific group of objects are common collateral when dealing with a sex worker and you don’t have any actual money on you.
Harry just stares at him.
Jude goes, “Look, I promise this is the last thing. I’ve gotten Alma out of my system, I just need to pay my debt and then I’m all yours.”
Harry’s thinking to himself, “Christ, is this guy even worth it?”, but he’s invested twenty years in the relationship now and he’s no spring chicken anymore. Sure, he probably should have hitched his wagon to a better donkey years ago, but it’s too late for that now. He has to make it work with Jude.
To better understand the psychology behind this decision, Google ‘sunk cost fallacy’.
Harry goes to say something, but thinks better of it. He feels his anger slowly dissipate and give way to a kind of resigned weariness. He looks at the goat.
“Goddamn it,” he says. “You know goats are my kryptonite.”
Jude smiles. His plan worked perfectly.
The next day, Harry climbs into the wagon and backtracks to Enaim, but he can’t see the sex worker anywhere.
He goes into the town and asks around, but they all think he’s a pervert looking to trade goats for sex, and they tell him – in a variety of colorful ways – to fuck off. There aren’t any sex workers here.
Even more angry now for having wasted his time, Harry literally snaps.
Vein bulging in his forehead, he turns to look at the goat. It had been sitting beside him in the driver’s seat, but now it jumps into the back to hide under some blankets, frightened of him.
By the time he returns to Timnah, it’s after dark. Jude gets up from his place by the fire, and goes over to meet Harry with a smile and a wineskin. He’s about to start thanking him when he sees the stony expression on Harry’s face.
As he comes into the firelight, Jude sees the goat still in Harry’s hands, and he frowns, confused. Harry walks up to him and snatches the wineskin with one hand, passing him the goat with the other.
“She wasn’t there,” Harry says, then goes to warm himself by the fire and get drunk.
It takes Jude a minute to notice that the goat isn’t moving.
It isn’t sleeping, either.
As he turns it over, the goat’s head flops down, neck broken.
“Jesus...” Jude says, horrified.
He turns back to see Harry sipping his wine, staring into the coals with dead eyes.
Jude gets the message loud and clear – “Do not fuck with me. I have limits, and if you push me far enough, I won’t be held accountable for my actions.”
He butchers the goat himself, then serves up a nice, juicy shank to his suddenly-terrifying boyfriend, watching in silence while he eats it.
Three months later, Harry returns to Timnah after a brief visit home to see some family. Things have settled down between he and Jude now, to the point where he almost doesn’t want to tell him his former daughter-in-law, Tammy (aka the witch) is pregnant.
He knows it’ll just stir up another hornet’s nest, and things have been going so well lately.
On the other hand, he also knows that Jude will find out eventually – better it come from him now than from someone else later. Better that than Jude finding out Harry knew and kept his mouth shut.
So, he tells him.
Predictably, Jude loses his shit.
He storms back to Adullam, dragging Harry and Shelly along with him. They arrive a little after sunset. Jude marches up to Tammy’s house, calling out like a psycho-stalker ex-boyfriend.
“Tammy!” he says. “Get out here!”
Harry and Shelly are kind of over it at this point – they’ve listened to him rant the entire way back, they’ve tried to calm him down. Nothing’s worked. They smile and wave apologetically at the gathering crowd, but only half-heartedly. They’re pretty much tapped-out.
Like the inactive parents of a crying child in a restaurant, it’s more of a, “Oh, is this bothering you? Because it’s only a fraction of what we have to deal with,” kind of vibe.
“Tammy!” Jude calls again. More people gather.
His former daughter-in-law emerges, an imperious smile on her face, her belly just starting to show beneath her robes.
“Can I help you?” she says, as if everything’s cool.
“Yeah,” Jude says, “you can help me. I’d like to know who’s baby that is. ‘Cause if it wasn’t put there by either of my sons before they died, then you’ve got some goddamn explaining to do!”
Excited murmurs in the crowd. This is going to be good.
“She’s an adulterer!” shouts an old woman.
“Burn her!” shouts one of the men (literally holding a pitchfork).
“Stone her!” shouts another (this guy with a torch).
“Jesus, people, chill...” Tammy says. “I’m not an adulterer.”
Jude’s like, “So it is my grandchild?”
Tammy shakes her head. “Well, no...”
“Then you did cheat on my sons,” Jude says. “Right after you bewitched that goat into killing them!”
“She’s a witch!” the same old woman says.
“Christ, I’m not a witch. Easy with the mob rule, grandma.”
The old woman squints, trying to recognise the alleged witch/adulterer in the dim light. “Is that you, Tammy?”
Tammy ignores her, turning back to Jude. “Look, your sons died of natural causes. I had nothing to do with it.”
“Natural causes?” says Jude, incredulous. “Is that what you’d call it?”
“What else would I call it? They got gored to death by a goat. It’s a fucking absurd tragedy, but that’s all it is.”
“Yeah? Well, I’d call it witchcraft. You sent them down to that pen. You set the goddamn demon-goat loose when you knew we were leaving.”
“Why would I do that? They were my husbands and my mother-in-law.”
“Because you knew that by coming into this family, you’d one day be matriarch of all Israel. You got a taste of power and you wanted more of it. All of it. You thought that if you could impregnate yourself with my grandchild, then kill the father, you’d be the one to rule over Israel. Admit it!”
“That’s ridiculous,” says Tammy. “I just wanted to raise a family and be happy. Is that such a crime?”
“You already admitted to cheating on my sons. Why should I believe you now?”
“Okay... A: they were already dead. You can’t cheat on someone if they’re already dead. B: you guys bailed. What was I supposed to do? Let my ovaries wither up like prunes? C: the only other son of yours I could have married is too young. By the time his balls drop, I’ll be too old to have kids.”
Jude is rendered temporarily speechless by her logic, and the crowd has started whispering variations of “Mm, that’s a good point” to each other.
“Wait there,” Tammy says.
She ducks back inside and re-emerges a moment later, holding a familiar-looking staff.
“I asked the father of my child to give me this...” She throws the staff down at his feet. “And these...” She tosses what appears to be a necklace into the dirt beside it.
But Jude knows what it really is.
The signet, the cord and the motherfucking staff.
With a victorious smile on her face, Tammy goes, “Are you saying those don’t belong to you?”
At this, the crowd loses it like the audience at a rap battle, one guy even going, “Oh, shit!”
Jude can’t believe it. His own goddamn collateral coming back to bite him in the ass.
Behind him, it slowly dawns on Harry that he’s about to be sidelined to the role of mistress again. He shakes his head. “Goddamn it, Jude...”
When everyone calms down, Shelly says, “That still doesn’t prove she’s not a witch.”
It takes a moment for everyone else to realise the kid’s onto something.
One woman goes, “Hey, he’s right!”
Suddenly, the sheeple in the crowd grow angry again, swayed by the words of a six-year-old.
Tammy rolls her eyes. “Well, how the fuck am I supposed to prove that?”
Another guy goes, “Tie her up in a sack and throw her in the river. If she lives, she’s a witch.”
“And if I die, I’m...not a witch? That makes zero fucking sense.”
The guy thinks about it for a second, then goes, “Oh, yeah. Good point.”
For the first and only time in history, the mob listens to reason and calms down. Slowly, they begin to disperse.
Jude continues to stare at the objects in the dirt.
Shelly’s like, “She could still be a witch.”
“Shut up, you little twerp,” Tammy says. Then, to Jude, “You didn’t come here to accuse me of being a witch. You ran away because you thought I was a witch. You came back to find out who my baby daddy is. Now you know.”
To his dad, Shelly goes, “She didn’t deny it.”
But Jude just shakes his head. “It doesn’t matter if she’s a witch or not. That’s my kid in there. And until you’re old enough to...”
At that moment, the demon-goat gallops out of nowhere, ramming right into Shelley’s back!
The horns burst out through his six-year-old chest like something out of Alien, spraying blood everywhere...
Up in heaven, God and Raph are sitting on a couple of deck-chairs out in his backyard. They’ve zoomed in on the God’s Eye tablet so all they can see is the area just outside Tammy’s house where all of this is taking place.
We get the idea that this is kind of like watching TV for them.
Raph’s just taken a hit from his bong when he sees Shelly get gored and immediately starts coughing his lungs out.
“Jesus!” Raph says, still coughing. “That was a fucking...kid!”
Enraged, God snatches the bong from him and starts re-packing the bowl. “What do I have to do? I kill his wife, his kids, I trick him into impregnating his step-daughter by telling her where he went and what to do...”
“Yeah, I know what happened. I’ve been here the whole time.”
God ignores him. “All I want is for him to admit what he did. I know that Joey’s still alive and in Egypt. Bastards sold him into slavery for Christ’s sake.”
“Again, you don’t need to give me a recap. I already have all of this information. I’ve been right here beside you literally the entire time, watching this whole thing play out. My wife kicked me out of the house, so I’ve been staying with you on your couch.”
God stares at him, flatly. “Now who’s delivering unnecessary exposition?”
Raph raises his eyebrows as if to say, “Exactly. Kind of annoying, isn’t it?”
God lets out a sigh. “I just want his conscience to get the better of him. Is that too much to ask?”
“Honestly...it might be. How about instead of these elaborate schemes and 4D chess moves, you just go confront him about it? Tell him you know what he fucking did, and you’re not gonna stand for it.”
The big guy thinks about it while he takes a hit from the bong.
Raph grabs a beer out of the cooler. “Although, come to think of it... Why are you going so hard on Jude? What about Izzy?”
God frowns, confused. He blows a couple of pretty awesome smoke rings. “What about him? I know he’s done a lot of evil shit, but he thinks his son got torn apart by wolves. You saw the guy – he was crushed.”
Now it’s Raph’s turn to throw a confused frown right back at the big guy. “Wait, but...” Slowly, it dawns on him. Raph’s stomach drops as he realises something. He laughs nervously as he tries to figure out how to broach the subject. “So, listen... You know how we were just talking about unnecessary exposition and how annoying it is?”
“Well, I have some exposition that I thought was unnecessary, when really, I just forgot to tell you. You were inside taking a shit when it happened...”
He gives a sheepish, ‘please forgive me’ kind of smile.
God’s face hardens. Very slowly, he says, “What did you forget to tell me?”
Raph swallows. “Well, uh... You know how you were saying that Izzy was devastated when they told him his son was dead, but really they just sold him into slavery?”
“Well, you know how...”
“Jesus Christ! Enough with the “You know how?” shit. Spit it out!”
Raph cowers. “It was all an act. Izzy knew the whole time. He’s the one who planned it.”
He winces, awaiting God’s response.
But instead of erupting in anger, the big guy just kind of deflates. He’s not surprised, or stunned, or shocked, or any other adjective starting with ‘s’ that means more-or-less the same thing. Of course Izzy knew the whole time. Of course he fucking planned it.
The big guy starts packing another bowl.
Raph watches him, waiting. “What are you gonna do?”
God stops, his lips just above the mouthpiece, lighter just above the bowl. “I’m gonna bring their whole fucking world crashing down around them.”
He takes the hit...
...but it goes down the wrong way and he ends up coughing and spluttering like a first-time smoker.
So much for being a badass.
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