Alfredo Ramses the schoolteacher was murdered at midday in the village church shortly after the morning sermon.
There were no shortage of suspects. We need look no further than Pedrozo the priest who looked on with rigid pleasure on his stony features as he saw justice done to the arrogant as the schoolteacher collapsed to the floor never to move again.
In a village of illiterate farmers who still didn’t quite understand why the occasional hopeful crop of coins they planted in the fertile soil never sprouted into money trees, the priest and the schoolteacher as men of God and Knowledge were the only authorities they had and when the two illustrious figures had clashed in furious, public debates a crowd always gathered, following the fierce arguments with keen attention and not understanding a word of what was said.
The priest had once been the only authorities in the village, having arrived as a young man and declared that he’d been sent on a divine mission to save the farmers’ souls and the first step was to for everyone to abandon their fields to construct a glorious church where the priest would live, negotiating with the angels to ensure that at least some of the prayers of the lowly farmers might be heard, even if not necessarily answered, and the priest would spend hours in the high church tower soliciting, reasoning and negotiating with the glorious seraphim and cherubim, resplendent with their powerful wings of pure white feathers and shiny halos, who descended from heaven, lured by the candles burning, the clouds of incense and the all-female choir composed of all the most beautiful wives and daughters of the villagers, their pure and virtuous voices an irresistible invitation to the messengers from heaven which only he, Pedrozo, could see, for to open one’s eyes to the miracle of angels required the vision of one who had committed to memory every word of the bible with such care and dedication that he, in fact, no longer needed to carry even one copy with him, each verse and word of the holy book closer to him than this own thoughts as his mind simply flowed with he perfect revelation of scripture that explained the very origins of the world itself in the Farm of Eden where Adam and Evelyn tended an orchard of apple trees in a climate too hot for clothing, and their only companion was a wise old snake who became Evelyn’s best friend, a touching scene that he often re-enacted late at night in the church tower with his treasured choir.
The priest never forgot the dark hour when the teacher walked into the church one Sunday and while the rest of the farmers listened to the sermon with wide eyes and ears, the new arrival shocked the congregation by beginning to laugh, his chuckles falling like the first raindrops of a storm that would rage between him and the priest for as long as they would know each other.
Utter nonsense! The teacher declared after the sermon to a crown of amazed farmers. I can see you’re in dire need to rescuing from the fancy and superstition of this charlatan! The Farm of Eden is nothing but a fairytale, my friends. If you want the truth then you must turn to a man of learning and science who can explain the world according to the latest research and academic discussions from the facts and the facts alone! Only from the fountain of knowledge may we learn the answers to the great mysteries of life such as why, as many of you must have lain awake all night wondering, why is the sky blue? Research shows it is because we are living inside the eyeball of a blue-eyed giant and our days are nights are separated by the blink of hs eye.
He insisted that he had been sent on a vital mission to drag them out of the darkness of ignorance to the light of reason and the first step was for everyone to abandon their fields to construct a glorious school where the teacher would live and educate the young ladies of the village – science had, after all, shown that with a few shining exceptions, Nature had given strength to men but intelligence to women.
The priest therefore had more than enough reason to wish the teacher dead and what’s more, he had opportunity. For every Sunday when the farmers brought in the flasks of wine and piles of sandwiches the priest declared necessary for the sustenance of the angels, the teacher would often waltz in and help himself to a glass of the sacrament and convey his contempt for the entire proceedings by a loud burp that echoed up and down through the lofty church hall.
Did then the priest then slyly secrete a few drops of deadly poison, squeezed out of a snake, into a a goblet of wine destined for the teacher’s throat, ensuring that he would fall flat on his face before he took more than a few steps?
No. The priest was, at least in this case, innocent.
As we cast our eyes around the church our gaze falls upon the Old Maid, old at the age of 25, old already as she has condemned herself to live and die alone, to live and die if not in love then in hate, in hate of the Teacher at whom she didn’t even glance though her head rose far above the rest of those gathered, her eyes cast down upon her knitting and not missing even a single stitch as the teacher’s lifeless body hit the ground.
Her hatred of the teacher was knitted tightly around the rotten fruit of her heart though it had once been a fresh bloom of adoration when the Teacher had first arrived in the village at last providing an alternative to the Priest (who had taken a holy vow never to marry for more than a night) and she dreamed of being lifted up high on the shoulders of the Teacher’s wisdom and knowledge, carried high above her humble origins and ignorant people, and to this end she enrolled in the Teacher’s school and absorbed every word he said as though it were the air she breathed and oxygen but a poor substitute for his Teaching, and her hunger for his every word as he stood majestically t the front of the classroom caused her to drawl slightly, and anxious to be the first to answer his questions she made herself tall in her seat, raising her neck high above the others and her hand to the ceiling until she began to stretch and distend so that she bumped her head on doorways and trailed her fingers on the floor as she walked, her eyes swollen to twice their previous size as she strained not to miss a sillable or gesture made, even now as he began to look less and less in the direction of this creature whose attention and adoration had once been a source of flattery but who now served only to arouse his disgust and contempt, a monstrosity to be shunned and ignored as he instead applied his attention to the far more appealing innocence of the other girls whose sweet, naive faces were a delight to behold.
And so the Old Maid, her love fermenting to hate as she found herself ignored and excluded by the Teacher who experienced overwhelming nausea even at the sight of her deformed shadow, her heart rotting away inside her, as her love degraded into hate, did her she begin to plot for revenge in the darkness, sharpening her knitting needles by candlelight that she might send one of them so pointed that it might pass right through the Teacher’s throat, denying him the opportunity to utter another word again, wise and learned or not?
No, she might have liked to but with the Teacher dead she would have had no one left to hate and what else did she live for?
Rather than go around the church one by one we might ask ourselves who had a motive, who hated the Teacher enough to kill him? But that question would be like pointing at trees in the middle of a forest fore the teacher was hated, loathed, dreaded and begrudged by…everyone.
Until the Teacher had arrived the people had not known they were simple when others were sophisticated, had not known they were stupid when others were smart, had not known they were living in a dark valley of ignorance and superstition which only the Teacher as a beacon of learning and education could illuminate with his generous gifts of instruction and advice.
At first they were in awe of his wit and explanations, he who knew so much more than they did, he who knew why the distant seas were said to be salty (a heartbroken angel sat at the bottom of them crying her eyes out for eternity having fallen disasterously in love with a caterpillar that calloussly turned into a horrid little butterfly), he who knew whey the birds flew south in the winter (they each had an invisible string attached to their feet and were pulled back at the end of each year to their master, a great magician who needed the insects they gathered for this magic potions), yet they struggled to comprehend how learning could fill not only their daughters’ heads but also their bellies and, lowly as they had been, had they not always been rather good at making babies without outside assistance?
Trouble yourselves not with matters beyond your understanding, the Teacher admonished them, give me only your daughters and I shall prove how 1+1=3, to which the farmers had no answer, as they had not to all the advice the Teacher gave them as when he honoured their homes at dinnertime to show them the correct way to chew and swallow their food, being sure to always use each tooth equally and to always wash the meal down with the best wine in the house.
He sometimes even deigned to explain to them how to sleep correctly in their beds and they would spend the night on the floorboards observing how an educated man snored.
Thus they came to secretly dread the sound of the Teacher’s step on the hearth of their homes and flinched when his voice floated in their direction to correct or judge whatever activity they might be engaged in, for the entire world was a school for the right teacher, they learned, and he was sworn to shine a light into the most impenetrable darkness, whether it was how to serve melon and tea to a surprise guest in the shade or even how to make love to their wives when the Teacher would walk into their bedrooms and cry: ‘No, no, move your hand onto her left breast…now kiss her neck – no, not like that! Dear me, where did you learn to fuck? Move aside and let me show you..’
Had the farmers known that, united, the slow-burning colas of their hatred would have ignited into a roaring blaze to reduce the Teacher to a pile of erudite ashes, they might have taken action long before that fateful Sunday when he lost his life in the aisle of the church, but as it was they each remained in their private islands of hatred, too humble to voice their anger, too impotent to rise up and strike down the tyrant but you can be sure that when the Teacher stepped into the middle of the church hundreds of murderous eyes followed his every step, praying that his heart would implode, his lungs might collapse, his blood might burst out of his eyes and drown him through his nose and mouth, and if looks could kill…well, can they?
The murder of the Teacher cannot be laid at the feed of the Priest, the Old Maid or any of the farmers gathered there.
So Who Dunnit?
Only the single greatest killer in the history of the world who has squeezed the life out of men, women and children beyond counting, the one who does not hesitate to snuff out lives like candles in a glass of water, to pluck us from this mortal coil with all the grace of flies killed in summer, the one whose record makes a saint of serial killers, who turns genocides into tea parties, the one who has taken the lives of every colour and creed, one who has slain not hundreds or thousands or millions but billions and will kill billions more, without mercy, hesitation or doubt, just as he killed the teacher on the steps of the aisle, whodunnit? None other than God Himsel-