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


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