Once home, feeling the weight of a deed he could not remember, he asked the soldiers why they were mounted, why the fancy saddles, why was there blood on everything he touched? He heard the stones cry out. The black scarf.
He demanded Sarah replace the bedding, the drape, again and again, the plates. Awake many nights in a row, wildly gesturing, saying of the bedroom, the garden, the hills, “This is all illusion! Now I have clarity! Now I am really myself!” Adrift in the moonlight then collapsing to bed, asleep for days and then for weeks, eating nothing but broth, crying at small things that didn’t usually make him cry, saying, also with tears, that he loved her, that he was not a great man, pacing as if the whole project of the world were in his head like a problem to be solved.
When he took their first child and returned alone, Sarah wanted her child back but not her husband. Each time, again and again, she loved him less, then despised him, then hated.
With each child, she took the clothing, blankets and toys and buried them along with the knife, waiting for her husband to be himself again, for him to rise clear-eyed, to wash and ask pleasantly, “Where is Zachary?” or, “Where is Nathan?” or, “Where is Deborah, I haven’t seen her all day?”
“You’ve had a dream,” she’d learned to say. “We had no such child.”
But this time, on this day, in her old age, Isaac, whose skin smelled like honey, Isaac who would be her last, the soldiers mounted and waiting, the scarf taken from the drawer, she said to Abraham, “I accuse you!” and then, “I accuse us.” And she recited the name of each child he had slain. “You, Abraham of the Chaldees.”
He was packing his knapsack and stopped. Eyes wide with fury, he raised his arm against her but she stood firm, saying, “Return with Isaac or you will live alone forever.”
Fresken in Sant’ Anastasia, Szene: Hl. Georg und die Prinzessin, Detail, 1436-1438
Fresco transferred to canvas
Fresken in Sant’ Anastasia, Szene: Hl. Georg und die Prinzessin, Detail by Eloquence is in the public domain.