bad boy blues



1)       ADOLPH MEISTERMANN (Carl Reiner Writers’ Contest Entry)

2)       THE END OF THE HOUR (excerpt from Adolph Meistermann)

Chapter F

        Now, once every week, Adolph was as happy as a clam at high tide.  He held tightly to every pearlescent moment in the dim hallway at the top of the stairs outside of Miss Brundage’s apartment when Shifra’s piano lesson ended and before his began.

        Adolph’s inspiration of romantic genius was to contrive each week a different little gift to hand to Shifra in order to hold her a minute longer within arm’s reach.  It became an intimate expectation.  It started when he offered Shifra the bright pink cream cheese candy cookie which Sarah had made for him as a reward for his musical adherence.  Adolph had been at a loss for something new to say to Shifra and so he had caressed nervously the shirt pocket over his heart wherein there was a pink cookie and a blue cookie.

        Adolph’s fingers did the thinking and he said, “I brought you a cookie,” and he withdrew the pink cream cheese candy cookie with a heart pattern sketched into it and he held it out to Shifra.  Their fingers touched.

        Shifra crinkled her eyes and gave Adolph a delighted smile, “Oh, Adolph.  Thank you.  How sweet.”

        Adolph said, “My mother makes them.  The pink ones are mint.  I have a blue one.  Blue ones are banana flavored,” and he grinned and shrugged, “Don’t ask me why.”

        Shifra was pleased to inform him, “The Hawaiian banana is called the blue banana because when it isn’t ripe yet it has a silvery blue color.”

        Adolph’s affection for Shifra boiled above the flame of her intellect.  Shifra was a year older than Adolph but in his mind she seemed much wiser, certainly wiser than himself, a beauty unto itself that he would admire and fear at the same time.  In their passing conversations Shifra would sometimes mention a novel that she was reading and recommend it to Adolph and then Adolph would try to find it in the library and skim passages to discuss.

        During one encounter Shifra had commented in passing that she really must read something by Albert Camus, the French novelist who had won the 1957 Nobel Prize for Literature.  Adolph then searched and found a charming miniature hardcover edition of The Stranger and he presented it to Shifra at the top of those stairs one day.

        Shifra indeed was charmed, saying, “Oh, Adolph, you didn’t.  You shouldn’t have.  I love it.  It will fit in my purse.  It is perfect, thank you.”

        The next week as she exited Miss Brundage’s apartment Shifra lifted the book out of her purse and she was excited to tell Adolph about her favorite line from the book, reciting, “I laid my heart open to the gentle indifference of the universe”.

        Adolph smiled but he was confused, asking, “But do you think that God is indifferent?  He loves us.”

        Shifra suddenly challenged him, asking, “Did he tell you so Himself?”

        Adolph thought of the example of how God must have ordained their love but he was suddenly fearful of telling her how he felt.  Could not she already know how he felt?  Was not she refraining shyly from confessing a love for him?

        Shifra broke his thoughts, saying dryly, “God spoke to my mother through cancer.”

        At that moment Adolph heard Shifra’s boyfriend Herman yelling up the stairwell, close, saying, “Shifra?  Hey!  What are you doing?  Let’s go!”

        Shifra glanced wide-eyed at Adolph and quickly hollered down, “I’m coming,” but her hand was shaking suddenly as she tried to push the book into her purse and then she dropped it, shouting quickly, “I dropped something out of my purse.”

        Adolph had reflexively tried to catch the book, fumbled it, said, “Shit!” and then he bent down to pick up the fallen little volume.

        On the stairway landing below, Herman appeared and looked up, asking, “Are you talking to someone?” and then he saw Adolph standing back up erect and sheepishly waving the rescued book at him and Herman fumed loudly, “Mother-fuck!” and he bounded up the stairs.

        Shifra held out her hand, saying, “Herman.  Stop.  Adolph is just helping me.  Adolph has the piano lesson after mine.”

        Herman stopped a few steps below and roared, “He does?!  You never told me that!”

        Shifra tried to feign indifference, shrugging, “Why would I?”

        Meanwhile, Adolph stood his ground quaking but knowing that his only chance was to play complete innocence, saying, “Hey, Herman.  What’s up?” but his voice quavered.

        Herman was athletic and quick, leaping onto the stair landing and throwing his fist into Adolph’s cheek, saying, “My fucking fist is ‘what’s up’, asshole!”

        Adolph’s head spun sideways but Adolph was shocked to find himself still standing, thinking that Herman must have “pulled” his punch, maybe for Shifra’s sake.

        Herman looked quizzically at Adolph and then he snatched the little volume of The Stranger from Adolph’s fingers, bellowing to Shifra, “What the fuck?  So, this asshole’s the one who’s been giving you all those fucking little crap trinkets, isn’t he!?  Not Miss Brundage!  Liar!”

        Shifra coiled and then hissed at Hermann, “So what?  He’s just a friend, oh, you know what I mean, another student!  So what?”

        Herman trembled in anger, saying, “So what?  So what?  I’ll show you ‘so what’,” and he sheared the little volume of The Stranger into two handfuls, and then he threw the disintegrating book down the stairwell.

        Shifra gasped, “Oh!  Fuck you, Herman!  Just fuck you!” and she trampled down the stairwell.

        Herman turned to Adolph and shook his fist in Adolph’s face and then he turned and raced down the stairs chasing Shifra.

        Miss Brundage opened her door, asking into the hallway, “Just what is all the commotion out here?  Oh, Adolph, hello.  What is happening?  Oh, my goodness, what happened to your cheek?  You’re all red!”

        Miss Brundage cupped Adolph’s face in her two hands, saying, “Oh, dear, dear.  What has happened to you, my dear boy?”

        Adolph couldn’t turn away free of Miss Brundage’s embracing hands as he muttered, “I slipped on the last step, that’s all.  I lost my balance.  I fell.  I’m OK.  Really.”

        Miss Brundage stood on her toes and kissed his cheek lightly, “Dear boy, come inside and sit down.  We don’t have to begin right away.  Have some tea and listen to a recording I just bought.”

        Adolph muttered, “Recording?”

        Miss Brundage served Adolph some very sweet tea and bade him sit upon her small settee that faced the record playing console.  She put on the Van Cliburn recording of the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No. 1, giddily, the way Adolph’s sister Judith would play an Elvis record and then Miss Brundage sat down beside Adolph and closed her eyes, gasping and sighing at the brilliant passages.

        Miss Brundage leaned against Adolph and whispered, “You could be playing like that if you had started lessons at three-years old the way Van Cliburn did.”

        Adolph set down his tea and shrugged.  He was daydreaming about revenge.

Chapter G

        Herman was the sour note that Shifra insisted upon playing over and over again.  Why?  Girls thought Herman was good-looking, “I suppose,” thought Adolph, and Herman was an athletic type, “Big deal,” thought Adolph.

        Herman had a reputation as a “bad boy”.

        Adolph could not fathom Shifra’s choice.  Adolph actually had spoken of Herman to Shifra upon previous occasions.  Adolph was always loathe to remind her of Herman during their moments together but Adolph was beset by frustration like a horse gnawed by horse-flies.

        Shifra had replied to Adolph once in a gushing soliloquy.

        “Herman usually gives a bad impression to people; I’m not sure why.  Partly because he’s very careful about whom he lets inside himself.  He really loves people, Adolph, but because he is so sensitive he appears the opposite – an ‘I don’t care’ attitude, but it’s merely a defense mechanism.  Anyway, you have this bad opinion of Herman – like he’s all for himself or something.  If you only knew how unselfish, generous, and considerate Herman really is, but I can’t convince you.  Adolph, you think he’s taking me for a ride.  You can’t be convinced of Herman’s sincerity.  You think I’m naturally trusting and that I believe what I want to and I’m being taken.

        It really hurts me, Adolph, to have such a beautiful and meaningful thing as my relationship degraded so, and especially by you.  Oh, Adolph, you are immature in some ways, and you can’t conceive of or understand love.  I mean true love, the love of one’s life and being not just a fascination.  Nobody can I suppose, until they experience it, and then they probably can’t explain it or understand it.

        Adolph, it’s like you believing in God – it’s illogical, but to you it is more real and truthful, and beautiful than anything else.

        I don’t profess to know what love is; I haven’t even experienced it, but I’ve been in contact with it and I know that in it lies the dignity of Man – the meaning, the purpose, for those who find it.

        But what of those who don’t?

        I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me there are half-realities and semi-truths as I experience life only on a mundane level – not very much or very fully.  You can’t imagine the joy of making one who loves you happy – to be blessed with the ability to make the world beautiful for one to whom you owe so much and for whom you have such tender emotions.

        But it’s equally as difficult to conceive of the utter frustration and despair of not being able to return that love – to merely sustain that love with a temporary happiness lacking security and the satisfying knowledge that eternally you are loved.

        There is the responsibility of love.  Being loved means being accepted despite faults and shortcomings.  But they do exist and they hurt the one who loves with an exceptional cruelty.  It means having the power of influencing one to extremes; the power of granting happiness and contentment or condemning one to misery, frustration, or unhappiness.

        I seem to have an uncanny talent for twisting even the good to bad – to make the most beautiful thing in my life a grotesque ugliness.

        I’m sorry.  I guess it shows I’m depressed and slightly upset.  I’m like that frequently.

        I shouldn’t bother you with it, but I usually can’t hide my emotions when I should and I can’t express them when I want to and should.

        I really seem to manage to botch everything up and hurt me and everyone who wastes their time on knowing and caring about me at all.

        I’ve got quite a few hang-ups, Adolph, you’d be surprised.  Now you’ll probably ask me like what.

        I don’t know if I can explain because I either don’t know or don’t understand.

        I’m sorry Adolph.”

        Adolph had thought to himself, “Shifra, you read too much.”

Chapter H

        When Adolph emerged from this troubled daydreaming Miss Brundage was saying, “I do have a surprise for you, Adolph.  I am presenting a recital of my pupils, and I hope you will want to perform.”

        Adolph asked, “To perform?”

        Miss Brundage assured him, “Yes.  Oh, it will just be a gathering of parents and some old acquaintances of mine.  It will be like a traditional chamber recital from long ago.  You are one of my more promising pupils.  Please say you will attend.”

        Adolph asked, “Will Shifra be performing?”

        Miss Brundage sat back, “Shifra?  Why, yes.  Why?”

        Adolph quickly explained as nonchalantly as he could, “I heard her play at a concert.  I was wondering if we could learn a duet, you know, together?”

        Miss Brundage was cautiously supportive because the idea was irresistible as a performance for her recital but she had a vague queasiness, a feeling of losing control, and she said, “Interesting, Adolph.  I will have to think about it.  I’m not sure if there is time to learn a duet properly before the recital but it is an interesting idea.  You are a very clever pupil, Adolph,” and she hugged his shoulders.

        The next week when Shifra emerged from Miss Brundage’s apartment Adolph was prepared to hand to Shifra a special gift: a leaf of sheet music, a duet for flute and piano that he had written, painstakingly dedicated to Shifra.  It was Adolph’s first composition.  It had come to him, magically it seemed, as he sat at the piano in his house, plinking keys absent-mindedly and pining for Shifra.  Adolph thanked God a hundred times.

        Shifra received the scroll of sheet music from Adolph in the hallway, saying, “Oh, Adolph,” but it sounded like pity to Adolph, confusing him.  With a pained smile Shifra rolled her eyes over the hand-written notes and her eyes glistened with the friction.  She told him, “Miss Brundage told me about your duet idea.  I think it would be interesting, I mean, wonderful,” and then she hesitated, and Adolph had a sinking feeling as Shifra took a deep breath and said finally, “I have wonderful news, Adolph.  Herman and I are engaged.”

        Adolph felt like Herman had finally landed a fatal blow.  He said, staggered, “Engaged?  How, how will you live?  Does Herman even have a job?”

        Shifra stood stiffly erect and said proudly, “Herman is enlisting in the Army.”

        Adolph filled the ensuing silence by repeating, “Army?”

        Shifra began to chatter, “Yes, and we’ll have a house on the base, and our groceries will be cheap, and we will have medical benefits, and I’ll get to travel, and…”

        Adolph interrupted, saying, “Yeah.  That really is fucking wonderful,” as he brushed past Shifra and then opened Miss Brundage’s door without knocking.

        Miss Brundage was near the piano and she looked over, surprised, “Adolph?”

        Adolph said bluntly and cruelly, “I’m quitting!”

 To be continued…

This is a section of my entry for Carl Reiner’s Writers’ Contest; to read Carl Reiner’s Chapter 1 go to:   []


Follow This Link To My SITE

But, the most ancient scrolls are kept on: THE TABLE OF MALCONTENTS


woman at piano, drawing

Previously: Adolph Meistermann


        Old Miss Brundage lived alone in the neighborhood and sustained herself by giving piano lessons to children.  She had been a concert pianist in her youth, touring to grand receptions, mingling with artists, being conveyed through upper society.  She never married and never wanted the music to stop.  She became a piano teacher when finally she could no longer strive for that evanescent promise which in youth her dreams had made to her.  The music did not stop but it did diminish, sotto voce.  Teaching young children now did provide money, but she was unfulfilled even in teaching because no child yet had lasted for long, certainly not to become her protégé, her legacy.  Miss Brundage spoke with Brahm Meistermann and was so very pleased to learn that a bright, promising young man wanted to be her pupil.  Brahm Meistermann had nodded at the word “protégé”, thinking that it meant “student”.  Miss Brundage was so pleased with the opportunity that she offered to lend to the Meistermann household her other piano for young Adolph to practice upon.

         Brahm felt that he had gotten a good price for his son’s lessons even if it weren’t to last.

         Adolph was early for his first hour-long piano lesson.  He climbed the narrow and dim stairway, the walls of which were gowned in decades-old wallpaper, gilded with floral scroll patterns, and now faded and fusty.  He halted in the hallway outside the door to Miss Brundage’s apartment.  Adolph could hear hesitant and uneven piano playing.

        Finally Adolph heard the voice of Miss Brundage say, “Well, not bad for a first sight reading, my dear, but always, always try to play as slowly as it takes to express the most difficult portions correctly.  Tempo, my dear, tempo is so very important.  Consistent tempo.  Better slowly and even in tempo than fast, slow, fast, slow like, like an inch worm.”

        He heard the laughter of a young girl.  He heard Miss Brundage say, “Next week, my dear, I will see – and hear – you then.  Make this new piece your own, make it your own.”

        The door opened and out into the hallway stepped Shifra who was startled to find Adolph standing there, “Oh!”

        Adolph was surprised to encounter Shifra, “Shifra?” and in the small hallway they found themselves embarrassingly intimate.  Shifra’s young girl sweat and perfume filled the narrow volume between them, dispelling the fusty odor of the dim enclosure.

        Adolph stammered, “I did not know, didn’t know you took piano, too.  Flute and piano?  Wow.”

        Shifra shrugged, “Grandma Sasha says that a lady of social standing should know how to play piano, the way she did back in Russia.  What are you doing here?”

        Adolph said quickly, “I’m taking piano lessons, too.”

        Shifra said, “Oh.  I thought you were here to collect old fabrics from Miss Brundage for your parents’ shop.”

        Adolph deflated defensively, “Well, I’m not.”

        Shifra laughed, saying, “I’m only teasing.”

        Adolph then rejoined, “I was thinking about taking down some of this wallpaper, however.”

        Shifra leaned forward, grinned, and touched his arm and she whispered, “Isn’t it awful?” and Adolph drank the scent of her breath.

        Shifra bid Adolph good-bye and Adolph watched her descend the narrow and dim stairway and as she turned at the next floor Shifra cast her incandescent smile up at Adolph.  The expression “to carry a torch” occurred to Adolph and he thought that now he knew what it meant.

        Adolph then turned and knocked upon Miss Brundage’s door with renewed conviction.  Miss Brundage opened the door and welcomed him inside.

        Adolph said shyly, “Miss Brundage, I’m Adolph.”

        Miss Brundage said, “Right on time.  Nothing is more important than time.  The right time, all the time.  Please, have a seat over there on the piano bench and we will begin immediately.”

        Miss Brundage wore a full flowered dress with lace trim.  Her apartment had intensely the same fusty aroma as the hallway.  There was clutter everywhere, sheet music, books, tea cups, and upon the mantle convened stern busts of what Adolph thought must be famous musicians.

        Miss Brundage confirmed Adolph’s unspoken observation, saying, “That’s Ludwig van Beethoven, Felix Mendelssohn, Robert Schumann.  They were composers from a time called Romantic, a hundred years ago, a time when intuition and emotion were prized over rationalism.”

        Adolph could only say, “I like the sound of that,” and Miss Brundage was pleased.

        Miss Brundage gestured to the long piano bench and said, “Please, Master Meistermann, do have a seat and we can begin.”

        Adolph sat down and then slid over as he realized that Miss Brundage was going to sit beside him at the piano.

        Miss Brundage commenced by saying, “We must first limber up the hand and fingers.  Let me see your hand,” and Adolph obediently raised his right hand like a paw.  Miss Brundage gently took his hand and turned it over palm upward.  Her hands were cold to Adolph.

        Miss Brundage observed, tipping his hand side to side, “You have nice large hands, Adolph.  Warm hands.  You will have a magnificent reach.”

        Adolph looked shyly at Miss Brundage’s hands, her fingers lightly and delicately balancing his hand.  They were beautiful hands in their own right but Adolph’s attention was drawn from their suppleness to their translucent champagne hue and then to the umbrage of spots and then to their fine parchment wrinkles.  Miss Brundage was a young girl encased in amber.

        Miss Brundage then dictated, “We start by limbering the individual fingers.  Here is one method which I like,” and she held his index finger extended and laid it flat upon the keyboard and held his four fingers suspended below and pulled downward in a gentle bouncing manner, stretching the ligaments and tissue between Adolph’s index and second finger.

        Adolph said, “That feels good.”

        Miss Brundage said, “Do you know that each finger has a name?” and she stretched each finger in turn as she recited their names, like a nursery rhyme, “From the thumb they are called, Pollux, Index, Medius, Anularus, and Minimus.”

        Adolph could only say, “That feels good.”

        Then Miss Brundage took his right hand and held it in both hands and brought it up to her lips, saying, and he felt her moist breath upon his knuckles, “This is a good hand,” and then she laid her cheek against the back of his hand.  To Adolph her skin was soft and oily smooth and he was suddenly embarrassed.  Miss Brundage had closed her eyes for several breaths.

        Suddenly, Miss Brundage regained her sterner composure and released Adolph’s hand to his lap, saying, “Do you know what a ‘key’ is, Adolph?  The key of a piece of music is the first and last note of a scale which gives a feeling of arrival and rest.  Other notes create relative degrees of tension, resolved when the tonic returns.  Are you following me?  Each note is the beginnings of a different key but subsequent notes all bear the same relationship in every key.  There were composers who thought that each key produced its own feeling or ‘color’.  The series of notes that make up each key is called the ‘scale’ because it climbs up and down.  That is where we begin.”

        Miss Brundage demonstrated the scales of each black and white key.  Adolph was mesmerized by the sound and the sight of her scurrying fingers lightly dancing, pirouetting up and down the keyboard.  Miss Brundage swayed and appeared to caress the piano back and forth, back and forth.  When she played a descending scale she would sway against Adolph and press against his right side, and then she would sway away playing an ascending scale, over and over again.

        At the end of the hour, Adolph could feel the tension but not the release.




Excerpt from Adolph Meistermann…

This is a section of my entry for Carl Reiner’s Writers’ Contest; to read Carl Reiner’s Chapter 1 go to:   []


Follow This Link To My SITE

But, the most ancient scrolls are kept on: THE TABLE OF MALCONTENTS


old man mask - red


Chapter A

        Adolph Meistermann had not always been a monster.

        Adolph’s father, Brahm, had escaped from Germany in 1944 and had arrived in the Fort Ontario Emergency Refugee Shelter in Oswego, New York, the first and only refugee center established in the United States during World War II.  Brahm was eighteen.  He had come to the camp with his half-sister, Sarah.  They could not go home again.  They had nothing.  Brahm and Sarah clung to each other.  When they were finally released two years later into the strange land of Oswego, New York, Brahm married Sarah.

        The next year Brahm named his first born son Adolph “noble wolf” because he had admired the fearless eyes of the black wolves that he had hunted as a boy in the forest surrounding his village.  Brahm’s wife Sara feared that the name could not erase the stigma of Adolph Hitler.  Sarah was thereafter determined to lavish her love and attention upon Adolph.

        Adolph was followed by his brother, Reuben, and his sister, Judith.

        Brahm Meistermann collected old clothing and rags from the neighborhoods.  Sarah would clean the clothing and rags and cut, sew, and stitch clever, colorful “new” quilts, totes, mittens, aprons, pillows, cushions, scarves, rugs, dresses, placemats, napkins, seasonal décor, and her favorite, fabric roses.  Adolph then sold these artful items back to the neighborhoods from a cart.  Brahm and Sarah soon enough had money to rent a shop and to hire helpers who followed Sarah’s designs.  Brahm named the shop Sarah Sews.

        As we all know, that was the beginnings of the famous department store chain Sarah’s Shop.  It was a blessing to Brahm and Sarah’s family, but something happened to Adolph one day at that first shop.

        A woman in the neighborhood told the police that one of the Meistermann boys had stolen a fine old coat and had not scavenged it.  It had been Reuben’s doing, in an effort to draw praise from his mother who was so protective of Adolph.  When Reuben and Sarah heard the policeman talking to their mother in the store, Reuben got Sarah, who also was famished for her mother’s praise, to hide the fine old coat in Adolph’s drop-off pile in the back of the store.  When Adolph arrived at the store he was taken to jail by the policeman, Officer Cohen, who really only wanted to scare him.  Adolph realized what must have happened but he said nothing out of a guilt for “stealing” what he knew was his excessive share of Sarah’s love.

        Brahm thanked Police Officer Cohen and quickly got his son released from the jail and he tried to ease his own disappointment by joking, “Adolph, don’t cry, it was truly a fine old coat!  Someday you will make a good buyer for the store,” but Adolph was crying at his betrayal by his own brother and sister.

Chapter B

        Adolph was mocked at school because of his first name, so synonymous with evil and madness, and because of his surname, so German and Jewish.  Adolph had no real friends at school but in the neighborhood he became allied with a troubled boy named Joshua Foust who actually was a thief.

        Adolph lamented to Joshua, “My family wants to believe that I am a thief.”

        Joshua commiserated, “Well, ‘Dolph, you don’t want to disappoint your family do you?”

        Adolph replied angrily, “Fuck, no,” and he plunged his finger into a nascent tear, saying again, “Fuck, no.

        Joshua gestured magnanimously toward the skyline of the City of Oswego and he said, “Well, then, ‘Dolph, this will all be yours.  Let me take you to the Promised Land.”

        Adolph thus started his proselyte crime spree under the tutelage of his “rabbi” (teacher), young Joshua.  For Adolph’s first test he was sent to a department store where he furtively peeled the price labels off of several record albums and affixed price labels from cheap goods.  The drowsy, distracted checker that was employed at the department store was too old to be alerted at the “bargain prices” of the record albums.

        “Rabbi” Joshua possessed a virtual oral scroll of illegal activities which clever “student” Adolph perceived was compiled by clipping the “not” from “thou shalt not”.

        Meat was expensive, especially meat that was kashér, (kosher, “fit”, conforming to the regulations of kashrut, the Jewish dietary laws of selection and ritual slaughter).  Joshua was inspired to steal meat.  He had selected the Ashkenazi Meat Market.  Adolph listened.

        Joshua rationalized, “Who is going to miss a piece of meat?”

        Adolph punched Joshua’s arm and joked, “You’re a piece of meat.”

        Joshua continued, “It will be easy.  Are you with me?”

        Adolph asked hesitantly, “Won’t someone see us behind the counter?”

        Joshua scoffed, “We’ll do it after the market closes.”

        Adolph clarified for himself, asking, “We are going to break and enter?”

        Joshua shooed away Adolph’s concern with his hand, replying, “I’ve tried the back door.  It will be a cinch.”

        The lock on the back door was all but an honor system, placed in the faith of the neighborhood’s village mentality.  Inside the dark shop Joshua used a flashlight to examine the cold cabinets.  Adolph nervously turned his head like a chicken as he held the sack into which Joshua was dropping cuts of meat.

        Suddenly a light came on in an adjacent office and a voice boomed in bravado, “Who is there?”

        Adolph dropped down to the floor and crawled behind a counter.  Joshua grabbed a mallet and squeezed into a corner.  The massive silhouette of the butcher filled one side of the room.  In the hand of the butcher the large knife shimmered even in the dimness.

        The butcher inched into the room, growling nervously, “I can smell your cigarette breath, you motherfucker,” and as he came beside Joshua he looked down and discerned the sack of spilled meats and as he started to turn his head Joshua struck him with the butcher’s mallet.  It was a sickening crunch and the butcher shuddered and tottered but he did not fall.  He was able to grab Joshua’s coat and Joshua struck him again in violent fear.  The butcher went to his knees like a bull stabbed by a matador but he pulled Joshua off balance and they toppled together crashing.

        Adolph cringed in terror at the primeval animal growling and the thrashing and the vile cursing.  Adolph jumped up at last.  He then instantly witnessed the butcher drawing the enormous knife in a single cut across the throat of Joshua, severing both carotid arteries, both jugular veins, both vagus nerves, the trachea and the esophagus.

        Adolph shrieked, “No!!”

        Joshua collapsed forward and bled out profusely over the now unconscious butcher and onto the floor.

        Adolph fled past the grisly mass, whining in horror.  He still retained a presence of mind to use his shirt sleeve to close back door of the Ashkenazi Meat Market.

        The next morning it was Police Officer Cohen who carried out the limp husk of Joshua to his weeping wailing parents.  Police Officer Cohen also carried out something on his conscience.

        When Police Officer Cohen had seen that the Ashkenazi Meat Market had not opened early as it always did he entered through that same back door and came upon the crime scene.  In the ghastly gore of the gruesome killing Police Officer Cohen had still noticed a single partial footprint in blood and the subsequent bloody smudges leading to the back door.  Police Officer Cohen also had noted days earlier with some misgivings the alliance of Adolph and Joshua.  Police Officer Cohen was given to a vision of what had happened.  So then Police Officer Cohen stepped on top of the partial blood footprint and then he stepped on top of each fugitive smudge that lead out the back door as if he himself had stepped into the blood unknowingly.  He thereby sacrificed himself under a scathing warning by his superiors about competence and care at a crime scene.

        Police Officer Cohen trusted that Adolph had been punished justly enough already.

Chapter C

        Adolph worked now with a chastened dedication to help his father and mother at their shop.  Adolph as the eldest was heir apparent to the business but he now seemed to bear his destiny, in all manner and attitude, with an urgency somewhat mysterious to his parents.  Brahm and Sarah wondered delicately what had inspired their son to such earnest behavior.

        Brahm whispered, “He is a noble boy, growing up fast.”

        Sarah whispered, “I never believed that he was a thief.”

        Brahm confessed, “All boys steal.”

        Police Officer Cohen would pass by the shop window and glance inside, sometimes catching Adolph’s eye and perceiving that prayer for mercy as if he were Adolph’s conscience.

        However, it was Adolph who would be the next victim of thievery in the form of a girl who would steal his eye, his ear, his heart and then his hopes.

        Shifra Cohen was Police Officer Cohen’s daughter.  She was an only child, doted upon by her father.  Shifra’s mother, Ruth, had died of cancer.  Police Officer Bruce Cohen relied upon his own aged mother, Sasha, to keep an eye on Shifra when she was not at school, during his changing shifts of duty.

        Adolph was introduced to Shifra at the Music in the Park event, hosted by the Oswego Community and Human Services Department, the Kiwanis Club, and the Oswego Police.

        Adolph was with his family when Police Officer Bruce Cohen, in uniform, passed by with his daughter, Shifra.

        Brahm called to Officer Cohen, “Bruce, Bruce.  Hello, hello.”

        Officer Cohen nodded to the Meistermann family and halted to shake Brahm’s hand.

        Brahm said, “Thank you, Bruce.  All of us look forward to this evening every year.  And who is this?  Your daughter?  Of course, your daughter.  Hello.”

        Officer Cohen proudly announced, “This lovely young lady,” and Shifra muttered in embarrassment, “Dad-dy,” and Officer Cohen continued amid chuckles from Brahm and Sarah, “This very lovely young lady is Shifra.  She will be playing flute tonight in the band.”

        Shifra corrected him, saying, “Orchestra, Daddy.”

        Officer Cohen rolled his eyes and deferred, “Orchestra.  Excuse me.  The Oswego Middle School Orchestra.”

        Shifra then said brightly, “Hello.”

        Brahm and Sarah said a gracious hello.  Adolph said, “Hel-lo,” a little too loudly and so his brother Rueben and his sister Judith said behind him, “Hoo-Hah,” to tease him.

        Officer Cohen narrowed his eyes and grinned wryly, saying to Brahm, “We really should be going.  Nice to see you all here.”

        Poor Adolph.  That one bright “Hello” had become his very own Music in the Park.  He knew that what he felt now just had to be destiny.  Why else would God make him feel that way?

        After the concert Adolph broke away from his family and forced his way through the crowd around the orchestra members.  He did not see Officer Cohen.  Adolph elbowed his way to the forefront of the people congratulating the wind section.

        Adolph said loudly, “That was really great,” even though he could not have told Shifra what music the orchestra had played.  However, Adolph had been watching Shifra play, intently admiring her seriousness and charmed by her pureness of sound as he strained to isolate her aurally.

        Shifra answered modestly, “Oh, no, I made a couple mistakes.”

        Adolph fervently disagreed, saying, “No, no.  It sounded perfect to me.  You’re perfect,” slurring subtly the “you were perfect” of his ears into the “you are perfect” of his heart.

        Suddenly another boy was asking him loudly and belligerently, “Oh, yeah?  What was the name of the music they were playing?”

        Adolph froze and looked at the boy and pretended to be amused.

        Shifra said to the boy, “Oh, Herman.  Herman, I’m glad that you’re here.  How did you like the music?”

        Herman made a gargoyle face and mocked Adolph, “Oh, my darling, it sounded so perfect I forgot who you are.”

        Shifra frowned, embarrassed for Adolph, and said, “Herman.”

        Herman then pretended to punch his own face and said, “Oh, that’s right!  Now I remember!  You’re my girlfriend!” and he glared at Adolph.

        Adolph shrugged defensively and said, “I was just …”

        Herman interrupted, “Leaving.”

        Shifra said again, trying to rein in Herman, “Please, Herman.  He was just…”

        Herman said with finality, “I know exactly what he was just trying to do.”

        Adolph raised his hand briefly in surrender and farewell but as he turned away he saw Shifra raise her fingers quickly in return.

        The commotion of those lovely fingers made Adolph’s sizzling cowardice evaporate into steamy euphoria.



To be continued…




This is a section of my entry for Carl Reiner’s Writers’ Contest; to read Carl Reiner’s Chapter 1 go to:   []



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 mood swings 1 - crop1



Am I in earth, in heaven, or in hell?

Sleeping or waking? Mad or well-advised?

Known unto these, and to myself disguised!

I’ll say as they say and persevere so,

And in this mist at all adventures go

–         (The Comedy of Errors, Act II, Scene 2)

        I was nine years old.  That morning I had chased my younger brother around the house to kick his ass.  He had taken down a bunch of my model planes and he had been playing with them on his bed!  Those World War Two airplanes practically gave me a boner because they were so curvy and sensuous to caress, unlike those modern airplanes that look like medical devices.  I kept my model airplanes jealously high on my shelves.  I don’t know how my retarded little brother could have reached them but he could have knocked down the whole shelf.  Rrrr!

I almost caught up to my brother running down the hallway but he pulled the hallway door behind himself and I ran into it.  Luckily I turned my shoulder and I only bounced back onto my ass, shrieking curses.  I could have broken my collar bone!  My mother loomed over me and it was now all my fault. Rrrr!

I hollered to the ceiling above, “Why do I have to share a room with that little retard!?”

Mom then sent me out of the house to school.  I always walked the mile to Emerson Elementary through three different neighborhoods and over the bridge across the flood control channel.  I usually ended up walking behind other kids and I played my little game: I would match my stride to a kid yards ahead and pretty soon I had a disembodied sensation like I was that kid.  Pretty cool.

I was in Miss Williams’ class.  My dad had told my mom after he and I had gone to “Open School Night” that I had a crush on Miss Williams.  Thanks Dad.  Rrrr!

Anyway, the morning was OK until Folk Singing.  I was making other kids laugh by singing silly lyrics that I made up, big deal, until Miss Williams scolded me in front of everybody.  Rrrr!

I went out at Lunch Recess and I was determined not to use my lunch money in the cafeteria.  They were serving canned spinach today.  Uch!  I thought instead about the choice of comics I would select from on the way home, using my “lunch money” to buy one.

I committed as I walked toward the swings and the sandlot, “Definitely The Fantastic Four.”

At the sand lot I was looking for “antlion” pits.  The tiny antlion larva is a ferocious-appearing little creature with an enormous pair of sickle-like jaws with several sharp, hollow projections.  The antlion digs into the sand and makes a little cone and hides under the sand at the bottom.  When an ant falls down the steep cone the antlion grabs and eats the ant.  If the ant tries to climb out the antlion throws sand up on him until the ant tumbles back down into those jaws.  Cool.  Several of us boys had collections of antlions.  Yeah.

There were two girls on the swing set.  There were several groups of boys and groups of girls there at the sand lot as usual, ages from Fourth Grade, like me, down through First Grade.  Annoying.

And then at last I paid attention to the girl on the swing nearest me.  I got suddenly that squooshy wavy feeling like just before a wet dream.  She had long curly blonde hair that moved like a golden flame on her head as she rode back and forth across the sky.

I got that disembodied feeling like when I was matching another kid’s walking stride.  I walked up to her.  I think she saw me out of the corner of her eye but she looked annoyed for some reason.

I said nonchalantly, “Hey, I’m Terrence,” and my face suddenly felt sunburned, “Are you new here?”

I thought she said “Hmm,” but it could have been the swing creaking.  She concentrated looking straight ahead.  Back and forth.  Back and forth.  Her bare legs thrust past her skirt into the sky.  Her hair billowed.  I swallowed suddenly wanting a glass of water.  I noticed then the brown-haired girl on the swing next to her.

The brown-haired girl on the swing next to her kept her head turned looking toward me so that she began to swing crooked and wobbly.  She was obviously snooping our conversation.  Rrrr!

I found myself in uncharted sand dunes, speaking to the blond girl again, “Do you come here a lot?  Uh, I mean, I come to this sand lot all the time.  I catch antlions, y’know.  They’re pretty cool.  Did you ever see one?”

I thought I heard her say curtly, “No,” during her next pass.

I began to feel like an ant in the jaws of an antlion, being sucked down into the sand.  A couple younger girls playing nearby began shrieking and laughing.

I lashed out, “Hey, dork-ettes, we’re trying to hear each other here!  Grow up!”

A pair of synchronized tongues came out and danced for me, saying, “You’re the dork,” “playing in the sand,” “waiting for the girls’ swing,” “Do you love her?” and they shrieked and laughed even louder, “Do you lo-o-o-ove her?” and they both made writhing kissy-faces at each other.  Rrrr!

The group of younger boys was turning toward the girls’ laughter and looking at me.  Now my friends Greg, Marquis, and Warren were approaching.  I turned back toward the swing set and she was gone.  I saw her walking away with the brown-haired girl toward the Fifth and Sixth Graders’ playground, merging into the milling crowd.  Rrrr!

Greg asked, “Any antlions?”

Marquis asked, “What was so funny?”

Warren said, “You should be careful looking for antlions around the swings.  You could get your head kicked in!”

Greg said to Warren, “You would know.  I guess that explains your freak face.”

Warren stuck his chin at Greg and retorted, “Are you talking to the mirror again, Greg?”

I said, “Guys, guys.  Did you see that girl on the swing a minute ago?  Do any of you know her?”

Marquis answered, “Yeah, I think her name is Lois.  She’s a Fifth Grader, man.  What do you care?”

I focused on Marquis, “How do you know her name?”

Marquis answered suspiciously, “She’s been hangin’ with my sister.  I hear them talking.  She’s new this year.  She and her sister Jane both hang.”

I looked down and said, “We were having a good conversation until those dork girls over there interrupted us.”

Greg asked, “A ‘good conversation’?  And you don’t even know her name?  Does she even know your name?” and he laughed.

Rrrr!  I said, “We were just coming to that.”

Warren looked perplexed, and he asked, “Who cares?  It’s a girl.”

Greg put his arm around Warren’s shoulders and advised him, saying, “Well, son, Lois is like a bird and our friend Terrence is like a bee with a big dripping stinger, see?”

Warren pushed Greg’s arm off and asked me, “What can you do with a girl, anyway?  I’m sure she hates antlions!”


  broken heart 1

The next day at school when it was Morning Recess I ran ahead of anyone else to the sand lot.  I had a daring plan.  It was Valentine’s Day.  I stood under the swing set and I hopped around on my left foot while dragging my right foot through the sand.  I drew a big heart.  Then I drew and smoothed with my hand cupped like a spade, writing “Lois and Terrence”.  Guts, man.  As long as my friends didn’t see me.  Or anyone else.  Especially those two dorky little girls.  I don’t know how I grew the grapes but I just thought about Lois as I ran away diagonally from all the approaching kids.  Like a saboteur.  Yeah.

I could hardly wait for Lunch Recess.  I couldn’t concentrate during History and I didn’t make any jokes during Folk Singing.  Miss Williams asked me to wait behind when everyone else was clattering out to Lunch Recess.  Rrrr!

She asked me, “Do you feel alright, Terrence?”

I answered impatiently, “Yes, Miss Williams.  Can I go to Lunch now?  I’m supposed to meet my friends.”

I felt like I was cheating on her.

She gave me what I thought was a suspicious smile and said, “Of course, Terrence.  Nice talking with you.”

Nah, she couldn’t know, no way!

I didn’t run but I galloped like Popeye to the sand lot.  Lois wasn’t there!

Her brown-haired friend was there and when she saw me coming she putted a glance over to the Fifth and Sixth Graders borderline and there I saw Lois who then quickly looked down and pretended to look at her shoes.

The brown-haired girl spoke awkwardly to me, saying, “Hi, Terrence?”

I answered, “Hello?  Who are you?”

The brown-haired girl looked confused and answered me, saying, “I’m Lois?”

I stammered, “You’re not Lois.”

She answered, “I’m not Lois?  I am Lois!”

I still wouldn’t agree, insisting, “You are Lois’s friend from yesterday.”

The brown-haired girl said, and I thought I saw her lip tremble as she pointed over to Lois, “I’m Lois.  That is my sister, Jane.”

I cringe now when I imagine what my expression must have been.  I said, “Ooooh.”

That moment became my eternal definition of an “awkward moment”.  I looked over at the “real” Jane who no longer pretended to be fascinated with her shoes and who now squinted, looking puzzled.

Then the Lois formerly known as “Jane” said to me in earnest, “I like antlions.  I have a collection.”

Lois and I thereafter became a lot more than friends.  For a lifetime.

Until she was killed in a car crash last weekend.



Until she was killed in a car crash last weekend.



Lois, where are you?  You’ll be happy to know that I’ve decided to change that sad ending to my story.  Yeah, the one about us.  No, it is not every husband’s dream, c’mon.

Hey, bug, swing up here.  I’m in the bedroom.  RrrrRRrrrrrr.




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System Greeting

Faun Meadows you have [eleven] unheard messages.

Message One

        Faun, it’s your mother.  Are you avoiding me?  Please call me back as soon as you get this, OK?  Love you.

Message Two

        Yo’, Faun.  It’s me.  Remember?  [laughs]  I put the ‘penis’ in ‘happiness’?  Remember?  Hey, I’m back for awhile, so if you’re ‘open’  [laughs]  let me know.  But don’t make me wait ‘too long’, y’know?  [laughs]

Message Three

        This message is for Faun Meadows.  This is The Loan Ranger dot com.  Your first ‘Fast Loan’ payment is overdue and will result in legal action unless you come current immediately.  Call me back at 1.LOANRANGER.  If you have already made this payment please disregard this message.  Have a Hi-Ho Day.

Message Four

        Faun, this is Daddy.  Your mother called.  Why are you avoiding her?  Don’t make this harder than it is.  Just because we’re getting divorced doesn’t mean that we don’t love you.  This has nothing to do with you, dear.  Call your mother, OK?  Never, never believe that we don’t love you.

Message Five

        Faun, this is Jocelyn at The Santa Ana Botanic Gardens.  Where are you?  Like, if you don’t call in today you’ll lose your job.  Come on, call me, OK?  Like, nobody really thinks you were growing that Marijuana.  Just that cunt Martina.  Call me, OK?

Message Six

        Yo’, Faun.  It’s me.  I’m at the Life Of Pie coffee shop.  Call me.  You know how I like ‘pie’  [laughs]

Message Seven

        This message is for Faun Meadows.  Please call Dr. Embarazada’s clinic.

Message Eight

        Yo’, Faun.  I can’t hold on waiting here forever.  Don’t you want to ‘come’, too?  [laughs]

Message Nine

        Faun, this is Mommy.  That boy just called here for you.  Where are you?  I thought you were with him.  Talk to me dear, please, you are making me worry.  I love you, call me.  Please.  Call me.  Come home.  Call me.

Message Ten

        Yo’, Faun.  What’s up?  Where are you?  Eveybody’s freakin’ out.  What did you have to tell me?  Hey, we can work it out, whatever it is!  Just call me, babe, call me!

Message Eleven

        Baby!  Faun!  Talk to Mommy!  Daddy called and said that Officer Vergüenza found your car at the cliffs!  Baby, where are you?  Call Mommy.  We’re sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  Call me, my baby!  Call me, please call me…  [clatter]  [sobbing]


        Hi-eee, this is Faun.  I can’t believe I’m not answering your call but leave a message and I’ll make it up to you, OK?  Bye-eee.

Message Twelve

        [silence]  I just called to hear your voice.  [click]


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        I am Nate Natsuki, and I doubt very much that I was created in the image of God, but the kisses of Tora’s mouth turned my saliva into wine.  That was my blessing for obedience.

        Then I saw her in her panties and my nosebleed started gushing.  I had to take out my blue contact lenses.  Accidentally, I smeared blood into my bleached hair.  That freaked her out.

        She and I had crashed together into a hello at ANIKONDA, the big Anime (Japanese animated productions) convention in Orange County.  I had been drifting around, recording observations and taking notes on my cell phone for my critic’s blog, ANIMASH.  I walked right into her from behind.  We fell down together doggie-style.  Her simple silky dress was pushed up and her bare legs were so firm and soft when – accidentally! – I fumbled trying to stand up.

        I don’t know why I said this but when I groped her waist helping her up I mumbled, “The nail that sticks up gets hammered down.”  I meant it as a complement to her.  I tell you; even from behind she really shaped my eyes.

        I picked up the sign that she had been holding and it said “HUG ME PLEASE”.  I must have been grinning.  I handed the sign to her and for the first time I looked into her eyes.  One eye was scolding and skeptical, the other eye was objective and calculating.

        She said, “Violence and the misuse of sex.”

        I stammered, “What, what?”

        She answered disdainfully, “You’re American-Japanese, right?”

        Don’t ask me why I introduced myself in reply, “I am Nate Natsuki.”

        She continued, “Blonde and blue-eyed, of course.  Japanese kids want to be blonde and blue-eyed and White.  White kids want to be Black.  Wiggers.”

        It must have sounded like two separate conversations as I continued, “I’m sorry I, sorry I wasn’t watching where I was going.  I was writing notes for my blog.”  She was not impressed.

        She continued, “I, on the other hand, am Japanese-American.  My name is Tora.  That means tiger.  Tora is usually used in a boy’s name in Japan.  I don’t suppose you speak any Japanese, do you, What-Was-Your-Name-Again?”

        I stood in that sweet hurricane and answered, “Nate, Nate Natsuki, and I speak a little Japanese, I am not a complete gaijin (outsider).”

        Tora curled those lips at me and asked her armor piercing question, “Oh, really?”

        It was only then that I noticed that Tora was with two other girls also holding signs, “GOOD-BYE, COME HERE” and “WHY DOES EVERYBODY HATE YOU?”  I nodded hello, but they just shook their heads and looked to Tora.  Obviously Tora was their Alpha-Bitch.

        I kept on talking, though, you betcha.  Here was a girl I had “met” and been “introduced to” and I wasn’t going to let go, pathetic as it was, and I said to all three girls, “Let me make it up to you ladies.  I’m staying at the Double Tree, room 5320, if you would like to meet for drinks?  Here, let me write that down,” and I grabbed a business card out of my pocket and wrote on the back, looking up repeatedly, as I boldly went where no Nate Natsuki had gone before and handed the card to Tora, saying, “I’m buying.”

        Tora looked at the proffered invitation, looked to her two companions who giggled and shook their heads, then she turned back to me and said, “Have lots of chocolate.”

        I hoped they weren’t yanking me as the three of them walked away holding their signs aloft, wading into the coiling currents of the ANIKONDA crowds.

        Then it was late, back in my hotel room on the top floor.  I looked at the champagne bottles chilling in several hotel ice buckets.  The hotel maid had been sympathetic but shook her head in pity as I tipped her.  Was I really delusional?  I looked at myself in the mirror over the desk.  I turned my head and squinted at the basket of expensive chocolates reflecting behind me.  If the girls didn’t show up I was going to be one giant drunken zit.

        I parted the long draperies and I stepped out onto the balcony.  The lights of Orange County danced with the stars in the warm night but from my trance I was beginning to wake up to a familiar nerdy self.  I held up my right hand and looked at my palm in bittersweet jest, asking, “Hey, bay-bee, what ere yooo doing later tonight?”

        Then my eye caught her far below in the parking lot.  I marveled at how her mannerisms in miniature were already keyed into my brain.  I shouted down at her, “Hey, Tora!  Tora!  Tora!  I’ll come down!”

        The elevator took forever and, of course, seemed to stop at every floor.  At the ground floor I didn’t run, but I practically glided on strides out into the parking lot.

        She was alone.  She said matter-of-factly, “My friends had a date with each other,” and I thought she was gauging my reaction.  I was genuinely pleased because Tora was interested enough to come alone.  I’m sure she could have bought her own champagne and chocolates.

        She helped herself to some chocolates while I opened a bottle of champagne.  I was jabbering something about, “Alcohol makes me sleepy except for champagne.”

        I handed her a flute of champagne and I said lamely, “To Anime.”

        Tora sipped and asked me, “So what is your little blog going to say about ANIKONDA?

        I began to effervesce on a testosterone high, saying, “Tora, you inspired me.  I’m going to admit that most American kids like what ‘pop culture’ tells them to like: glorification of crime, violence, greed, and amorality.  Gangsters are role models for boys and Sluts are role models for girls.  But Anime has a different message for young people: You can learn who you are, you can realize your abilities, you can find happiness in your place in the world by serving others.”

        Tora set down her champagne.  She took my champagne glass and set it down also.  Then she took both my hands and placed them on her breasts.  She pushed down on my wrists like a ninja, whispering, “Do what I say,” and I toppled forward into her kiss.

             I felt a surge of heat in my face and I felt like a tea kettle starting to whistle.  That’s when I felt the first trickle as my nose started to bleed.  My nose always bleeds when I’m too hot, goddam it.  I inhaled long and deep through my nose, snorting as I sucked and slurped her tongue.  She moaned and I had to inhale long and deep again.  It was actually sexy with all the other wet smacking sounds.

             I pulled one shoe off by standing on the heel with the other foot and then vice versa.  Vice.  Versa.  I snorted in residual geekiness.

        Tora then suddenly stepped back and let her simple silky dress fall away and she popped her bra off.  There she stood in her panties and shoes and she squirmed in that primeval semaphore code that made me shudder.

        And then there fell the axe of cruel fate: I became the head of John the Baptist, gushing blood from my nose, my sinuses pushing blood into my eyes and under my contact lenses.  I cupped my face and tried to pop out my contact lenses.  At some point I smeared blood into my bleached hair.

        Tora.  Freaked.  Out.

        She pulled on her dress, snatched her bra and fled from the hotel room, saying, “Ew.  Ew.  Ew.”  No, no, no!  “Tora, Tora, Tora!” I cried pursuing her down the hallway.  She ran past the elevator and headed down the stairs.  I pounded after her, our foot falls drumming down the stairwell.  I was trying not to break my neck as I pinched my nose.

        She ran to her car.  I ran barefoot across the filthy, jagged, asphalt of the hotel parking lot.  She pulled her car door open and leapt into the driver’s seat.  Her window was still down when I caught up to her, crying, “Wait!”

        She turned her head and looked up at me in confusion.  I bent down and grabbed her shoulders and leaned inside and I kissed her hard.  She sniffed and moaned and she kissed me back.

        She went limp in my arms and as we kissed and kissed she licked the blood from my lips.



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