Epstein’s dim hairline receded into a plague of baldness, a drooling beard too. He stepped behind the pulpit, fronted with a wet cross, and spoke.
“At the ringing of the first bell you must rise at once! Be washed, dressed and making your bed. Then report here to the lecture room for prayer. This is not a free house. You are expected to learn the Messianic passages, the Acts and Epistles, and Our Lord’s Miracles and Parables.”
His dreary voice rattled with condescension and over-stressed ees and yeas, feigned ‘brothers’. Ignacz’s eyes rolled, peering to the window, dreaming of climbing inside the dying light. He rubbed his little black moustache.
“You! The stocky one with ideas, pay attention! We believe in discipline here.”
Ignacz barely contained his rage.
Epstein continued. “You may take an hour’s walk in the afternoons. Visits to Jews or anyone are forbidden. Tea is at six, prayer at nine. No one must leave after this time.”
A prison! A prison!
Ignacz kept his head low. Away from the thick vinegary sweat of old men who cried in the night. He passed the screams in Epstein’s office. A man emerged, his palm bleeding from the whip of a cane. Another afternoon, a young boy dragged by his sideburns to a fall down the front steps. His hourly respite was hatred for Bristol’s stubborn hills and miles of nothingness between any places. Within a week, he left Epstein’s Old Testament wrath for making eyes with a girl on a carriage back to the capital. Then: nodding off, wobbling, lazy eyes on her breasts.
And London’s city spirit was alive. The week now begun it made deals and contacts, new journeys and tunes by flute. When she would not give him a bed he took a room and absconded with the balance owing.
He tried other Wanderer’s homes. On the second refusal, (despite the sustenance city-life gave), he returned to Lypshytz.
“Things did not work out unfortunately.”
“Reverend Epstein can be…difficult. I am sorry for that. As luck has it, we can offer you shelter for a few weeks.”
“That is most sufficient. I think…I will not stay long.”
“Please,” said Lyphshytz, “I saw great promise in you.”
“I do not want to be a worry.”
“I hope you will continue with your studies.”
“Yes, yes, they are uppermost in my mind.”
“I’ll put you in room seven.”
“A holy number, praise The Father!”
Lypshytz chuckled. “Yes, praise The Father!”
Image attribution: So Sad About Us, Flickr
Ignacz The Watch Thief is serialised five days a week. To donate go to patreon.com/andyluke and access four advance chapters, commentaries or bonus art.