THE TABLE OF MALCONTENTS 6/8/2013

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2010

1.  GABRIELLA

2.  Where_the_Hours_Clanged_and_Fell

3.  Kenny_in_the_Crosswinds

4.  OLLA_PODRIDA

5.  HAIKU_THE_CAT

6.  LIVING IT DOWN

7.  OWED_TO_A_CIGARETTE

8.  EVERY_REVOLUTIONARY_KNOWS

9.  Dr._Seuss_and_Dos_Equis

10.   REQUIEM_FOR_THOSE_WE_SHELTER

11.  THE_WEDDING_OF_GRANT_AND_MICHELLE

12.  PAPA_GOOSE_-_”Rabbit,_Monkey,_and_Little_Girl”

13. HAIKU_THE_SPIDER

14. HAIKU_THE_THOUGHT_LEADER

15.  aDVISe_FrOM_A_fRIEnD

16.  PAPA_GOOSE_-_”Under_the_Stove”

17.  THE_REVEREND_O.L._DUCK_SONGBOOK,_VOL._I

18.  SEX_OBJECT

19.  ELEGY_FOR_OUR_CAT_RONCHO

20.  TRAVIS_HAS_COME

21.  THE_REVEREND_O.L._DUCK_SONGBOOK,_VOL._II

22.  VISIONS_OF_THE_GONE

23.  ON_THE_DEATH_OF_JOHN_LENNON

24.  THE_BALLAD_OF_HARRY_PALMS

 

2011

25.  THE_GRASSHOPPER_IN_WINTER

26.  HAIKU_THE_LOVE_ZOMBIE

27.  HAIKU_LE_SACRÉ_BLEU

28.  PAPA_GOOSE_-_”TWO_BLACK_SHEEP”

29.  BETWEEN_THE_LETTERS

30.  CRUZAR_MI_CORAZÓN

31.  The_Lickitty_Splitz

32.  Nothing Rhymes with Month, Silver, Orange or Purple

33.  ONE_LAST_LEAF_IN_WINTER_SKY

34.  HAIKU_CONVALESCENT_HOME

35.  HAIKU_THE_SINNER’S_HYMN

36.  THE_CATALINA_VARIATIONS

37.  HAIKU_MOON_IN_THE_YOUNG_EARTH

38.  HAIKU_THESE_THREE_THINGS_I_KNOW

39.  BOLSA_CHICA

40.  I_REMEMBER_TOMORROW

41.  We_met_in_the_4th_grade

42.  THE_AUTHOR_OF_OUR_FATE

43. THE_RAINBOW_BEHIND_US

44.  tHe_pUnK_cRitiC’s_NotEbOOK

45.  MY_FAMILY_TREE

46.  GENEVIEVE

47.  PRIVATE_COMPARTMENTS

48.  Professor_LeJeune’s_Substitute

49.  ME MORIA

50.  JACK_THE_HACK

51.   ABJECTISM

52.  HOW_WAS_YOUR_DAY,_DANNY?

53.  THE_TANGO_LESSON

54.  PAPA_GOOSE – “The_Wolf_Who_Cried_Boy”

55.  A_YOUNG_WIVES’_TALE_-_”Suzie’s_Bullet”

56.  LAZARUS_AGONISTES

57.  PAPA_GOOSE_-_”El_Burro_Viejo_(The_Old_Burro)”

58.  SCRABBLE_THE_MUDDY_COBBLES

59.  OH_BELOVED

60.  A_YOUNG_WIVES’_TALE_-_”Palmdale”

61.  THE_HARD

62.  The_Diary_of_My_Mentally_Ill_Brother

63.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapters_1_&_2

64.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapters_3,_4,_&_5

65.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapter_6

66.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapter_7

67.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapter_8

68.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapters_9_&_10

69.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapters_11_&_12

70.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapters_13_&_14

71.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapters_15_&_16

72.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapters_17_&_18

73.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapters_19_&_20

74.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapters_21_&_22

75.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapters_23_&_24

76.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapter_25

77.  Servant_Of_The_Scorpion_-_Chapter_26

78.  The OS Wednesday Fiction Club for 8/3/11 – CLOSING TIME

79.  The OS Wednesday Fiction Club for 8/10/11 – CONTROLLED BURN

80.  OS Fiction Weekend Club for September 2-4 – JOURNEES INDESIRABLES

81.  WhisperYour Name Into My Heart – Chapitre II –DANS LA FORÊT DE VIEUX HOMMES

82.   OS Fiction Weekend Club for September 9 – 11 – A TOWN CALLED BAD WEATHER

83.  The Outlaw Honey Moses and THE INDISCRETIONS OF KATE GRODY

84.  Whisper Your Name Into My Heart – Chapitre III – COUPS DE LA QUEUE DU DEMON

85.  OS Fiction Weekend Club for September 16 – 18 – The Outlaw Honey Moses and THE ONE BAD HABIT OF REX RAMSEY

86.  OS Fiction Weeked Club for September 23 -25 – Whisper Your Name Into My Heart – Chapitre IV – CHANSON

87.  OS Weekend Fiction Club for 9/30/11 to 10/2/11 – THE POUNDING OF NAILS

88.  OS Weekend Fiction Club for 10/7-9/11: A PIANO IN THE WOODS

89.  Whisper Your Name Into My Heart – Chapitre V – LE GRAND GUERRIER

90.  The Outlaw Honey Moses and THE DUNBAR, AUSTIN, & TAYLOR SECURITY COMPANY

91.  OS Weekend Fiction Club for 10/14 – 16/11 – MISS GAIDO

92.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club 10/21-23/11 ~HIDING OF THE FACE

 93.  Whisper Your Name Into My Heart – Chapitre VI – LE TREIZIÈME MOINE

 94.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club 10/28-30/11 ~JUST GHOST TO SHOW YOU

95.  THE CUTTERS LOUNGE

96.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 11/4-6/11 ~ THE EARTH ALSO MOVES

97.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 11/11-13/11 ~ THE COUNSEL OF FEARS

98.  Whisper Your Name Into My Heart – Chapitre VII – LES ACOLYTES

99.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 11/18-20/11 ~ VENGEANCE IS MINE

100.  The Outlaw Honey Moses and JUBILEE DUNBAR

101.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 11/25-27/11 ~ LA SCIENCE DE GUEULE

102.  Servant Of The Scorpion – Chapter 27 – Mateo, Marcos, Lucas, and Juan

103.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 12/2-4/11 ~ THE TWO FIGURINES

104.  The Outlaw Honey Moses and THE PASSOVER BANK

105.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 12/9-11/11 ~ THE CUTTERS LOUNGE – CARLA

106.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 12/16-18/11 ~ EUPHORANASIA

107.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 12/23-25/11 ~ INFINITELY BLUE

108.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for NeW yEaR*s 2012*THE END OF YEARS

 

2012

109.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 1/6-8/12 ~ VAN DIEMAN’S LAND

110.  Whisper Your Name Into My Heart – Chapitre IX – LES VOIES D’HOMMES (The Ways of Men)

111.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 1/13-15/12 ~ A YOUNG WIVES’ TALE: LORELLA SHIEKH

112.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 1/20-22/12 ~ THE NARROW WOODS

113.  The Outlaw Honey Moses and THE DOG NAMED PUSSY

114.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 1/27-29/12 ~ ALAMOUD THE GOAT

115.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 2/3-5/12 ~ I JUST FELT LIKE IT

116.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 2/10-12/12 ~ MAN AND WOMAN DROWNING

117.   Whisper Your Name Into My Heart ~ Chapitre X – LA CHANSON DE LA MÈRE D’ESPRIT (Song of The Spirit Mother)

118.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 2/17-19/12 ~ SEE SPOT READ

119.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 2/24-26/12 ~ TOUCHING

120.  THE CRUISE

121.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 3/2-4/12 ~ THE CUTTERS LOUNGE ~ THE SILVER STOGIE AWARD

122.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 3/9-11/12 ~ HEY THERE LONELY GIRL

123.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 3/16-18/12 ~ ANNA SYBILLA

124.  Servant of the Scorpion – Chapter 28 ~ ARMS OF FIRE

125.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 3/23-25/12 ~ COME APART

126.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 3/30-4/1/12 ~ THE RAGGED CLAWS OF MICHELA PIATTA

127.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 4/6-8/12 ~ UNDERGROWTH WITH TWO FIGURES

128.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 4/13-15/12 ~ ANGEL FALLS

129.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 4/20-22/12 ~ DUST AND DREAMS

130.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 4/27-29/12 ~ COLD, HUNGRY, NAKED, WET

131.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 5/4-6/12 ~ LAMBA RISING

132.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 5/11-13/12 ~ THE BEAST OF TIN CAN BEACH

133.   The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 5/18-20/12 ~ WALK THE YARD

134.   The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 5/25-27/12 ~ TWILIGHT IN PARIS

135.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 6/1-2/12 ~ FLASH DRIVE

136.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 6/8-10/12 ~ DINNER WITH MY MENTALLY ILL BROTHER

137.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 6/15-17/12 ~ DADDY’S DOLL HOUSE

138.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 6/22-24/12 ~ CROSS COUNTRY

139.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 6/29 – 7/1/2012 ~ CEVICHE

140.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 7/6-8/12 ~ ORCHARD OF THE GOLDEN APPLES

141.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 7/13 – 15/2012 ~ You are HERE

142.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 7/20-22/12 ~ HUNTING FOR YOUR SKIN

143.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 7/27-29/12 ~ I HAVE NEVER BEEN

144.  STALKING EMMA STONE

145.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 8/3-5/12 ~ SPESHUL OLYMPICS

146.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 8/10-12/12 ~ The Cutters Lounge – A REALITY TOO FAR

147.  THE LAST SONGBIRD

148.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 8/17-19/12 ~ APPOGGIATURA

149.  The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 8/24-26/12 ~ POLARITY (TOO OLD TO POLE)

150. The OS Fiction Weekend Club for 8/31-9/2/12 ~ WORD TO THE WISE

151.  IMPERFECT PEBBLES

152.  OS Fiction Weekend for 9/28-30/12 ~ ROLLING THUNDER

153.  OS Fiction Weekend for 10/5-7/12 ~ THE EDEN REUNION

154.  OS Fiction Weekend for 10/12-14/12 ~ SMALL TALK

155.  OS Fiction Weekend for 10/19-21/12 ~  CHÂTEAU DE CHATS

156.  DRAGGL

 

Cleek -à>>>pequeña publicita<<<

 

 

157.  OS Fiction Weekend for 10/26-28/12 ~ OUT OF SERVICE

158.  OS Fiction Week for 10/31-11/4/2012 ~ THE GRAVES OF LOUIS GAROU

159.  DANCING WITH THE BLACK BULL

160.  THE PILLARS OF HEAVEN

161.  AMISH MASH

162.  THE GRIMPILS FARM

163.  EVERY DAY ABOVE GROUND (Chapter 1)

164.  THE GOLDEN RULE CLUB

165.  CAPTAIN CATERPILLAR

166.  (Farewell when OS failed) LOVE TO YOU ALL, MY SISTERS AND BROTHERS

167.  OUT OF THE PARK

168.  EVERY DAY ABOVE GROUND (Chapter 2)

169.   SAVING JESUS

 170.  EVERY DAY ABOVE GROUND (Chapter 3)

 

 

 2013

 171. A TRACE OF MAN

 172.  PATOFLAUTA

 173.  Goodies On Demand

 174.  THE TEMPEST LOUNGE

 175.  ECCLESIASTES 20:13

 176.  BAREFOOT IN THE PARKING LOT

177.  FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND DEBT COLLECTORS

178.  MOOD SWINGS

179.  ADOLPH MEISTERMANN (Carl Reiner Writers’ Contest Entry)

180.  THE END OF THE HOUR (excerpt from Adolph Meistermann)

181.  THE BAD BOY BLUES (excerpt from Adolph Meistermann)

182.  LAUGH THROUGH TEARS AGAINST HIS WILL (excerpt from Adolph Meistermann)

183.  GOD COUNTS HER TEARS (excerpt from Adolph Meistermann)

184.  CITIES OF REFUGE (excerpt from Adolph Meistermann)

185.  SOCRATES DIED TODAY

186.  IN THE TEMPLE OF THREE ANTE MERIDIEM

187.  PASS BY THE MINUTE

188.  THE UNICORN’S BLESSING

189.  MACK COBB “THE ARROYO OF THE SOMBRA OF DEATH”

190.  The Apples of My Eyes

191.  MACK COBB “THE BONES OF THE RIVER”

192.  THE PEARL IN MY OYSTER

193.  ETHANAC, MARGARTH, AND THEDA

194.  MACK COBB “DONKEY JÓTE”

195.  Whispers In My Left Ear

196.  HUNTING THE CLEAN BOOTY

197.  DIARY OF A BRINE SHRIMP

198.  MANIFESTOLES

199.  I’M A GUY

200.  BRÛLÉE

201.  GIN FLY

202. THE JERRY SLITHER SHOW!

 

 

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CITIES OF REFUGE

 butterfly1362938136

Previously:

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

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

3)       THE BAD BOY BLUES (excerpt from Adolph Meistermann)

4)       LAUGH THROUGH TEARS AGAINST HIS WILL (excerpt from Adolph Meistermann)

5)       GOD COUNTS HER TEARS (excerpt from Adolph Meistermann)

Chapter O

CITIES OF REFUGE

        Adolph’s visage dissolved for weeks afterward in molten tears and when the magma of anguish finally hardened it had become a terrifyingly indifferent death mask.  This mask now blockaded Adolph’s feelings except toward those who had been with him when his Shifra, the purpose of his life, and their baby together, the meaning of their love, had all died together.

        From behind this mask Adolph now witnessed the God-given world as if it were a swarm of insects.  He detached himself like a child pulling wings off of an innocent fly.

        Young Mathew could not comprehend his mother gone forever from his sight and touch.  He created nightmares out of things that people whispered concerning a mysterious act that Adolph had performed against his mother’s wishes.  Mathew had always feared Adolph the way he had always feared that dog behind the neighbor’s fence.  Mathew had not felt, had not understood, the notion “my father” when Adolph had been this man in Mathew’s home who had power over his mother and himself, and now he was alone with him, without his mother.

        Adolph could not look at Mathew without seeing the fist of Herman striking another blow.  Adolph could not look at himself for hating a child.

        Sarah and Brahm witnessed this transformation of Adolph and so they decided to rescue young Mathew and raise him themselves despite their age.  Adolph did not protest nor did he come to visit Mathew except when he was also visiting his parents.  Adolph continued to live in the home that he had shared with Shifra but now that home was a shattered temple.  When the mask would fall sometimes at night Adolph wailed alone between the hard cold walls surrounding him.

        Finally, Adolph returned to the family business with a vengeance.  He shouldered responsibility and command and ruthless business sense like it was a suit of armor.  Adolph soon persuaded his father and mother into semi-retirement.  He made his brother Reuben into the Executive Assistant, essentially Adolph’s Chief of Staff and Adolph’s de facto bodyguard.  He made his sister Judith into the company’s General Counsel and Spokesperson.  Adolph had big plans which he powered with the pyre of his dead heart.

        Adolph had made the decision with his parents’ consultation and blessing to convert Sarah’s Shop into a franchise so that capital would not be a limiting factor to the family.  Most power still resided with Adolph’s family, including the selection of suppliers, advertising, and most pricing.  The businesses multiplied during this time and the Sarah’s Shop franchise was shepherded into state after state after state.  Adolph privately called them his “tribes”.

        To cultivate more cash flow Adolph quietly contracted with a suspected Asian mobster to take advantage of garment sweat shops in different states.  Adolph soon was accruing profits like a hen farmer gathers eggs in a factory farm.

        It was Adolph’s appraisal that Modern Man was moved only by fear of death, hence money and religion; that Modern Man no longer feared God, hence mendacity and self absorption.  Adolph thought to himself, “Who the hell had I been to have disagreed?”

        Adolph went to his parents’ house one evening and found Mathew wearing one of Sarah’s dresses and dancing and clapping and his mother and father dancing and laughing.

        Adolph blinked, “What the hell is this, Mother?”

        Sarah said, unconcerned, “Mattie-boy likes to wear my dresses and be silly.”

        Brahm laughed along, “This boy is going to be a real clown someday!”

        Mathew, caught up in the gaiety, flounced around the living room and said to Adolph brightly, “Look, Daddy,” and that happy phrase went straight into Adolph’s heart where it lived for no more than a moment.

        Then a suspicion sprang around Adolph’s heart and strangled the happiness, and he said, “Mother, why the hell are you putting him in a dress?”

        Sarah was defiantly cheerful and said, “Mattie-boy picked it out himself.  He likes wearing my clothes.  For goddsake, Adolph, he’s just a little boy, what are you so worried about?”

        Adolph was like a circus lion swatting at his trainer and he growled, “What am I worried about?  Do I really have to tell you?  Father!  Say something!”

        Brahm was much softened in his old age and he said, “Mattie-boy is a good boy,” and then he winked at Mathew and asked him coyly, “Am I right, Mattie-boy?” and Mathew giggled and curtsied and replied, “I’m a good girl,” then he looked to Adolph, expecting him to be silly with him like Sarah and Brahm but instead Adolph glared fearfully back at him and Mathew stopped.

        Mathew began to cry and he ran to Sarah who clutched him and looked hard at Adolph and scolded, “What is the matter with you?” but she stopped, seeing the disability that Adolph now suffered.  Sarah pulled Mathews face into her neck where he sobbed hotly and then Sarah herself swallowed tears.

        The God-given world grew ever more a liberal and chaotic nemesis.  Adolph became ever more a dark citadel against that world.  The Meistermann family wealth served ever more to tithe religious endeavors and politicians.  When upheaval and riot threatened, the National Guard protected the Sarah’s Shop franchise.

        Shelly Kisherman no longer held power over Adolph after Shifra died.  Shelly now would read the articles about Adolph’s growing empire and she would hear the rumors and she would wonder if Adolph might actually have her murdered but then she realized that then he would never be able to claim his son Isaac.

        Adolph started to see Shelly whenever he wished to see her and thus he saw Isaac whenever he wished to see him.  For years he played a comfortable charade of being a male acquaintance of Shelly, leaving to Isaac any shade of innuendo that he might invent as he grew older.  Adolph could not bear to marry Shelly and so he bided his time while he wrestled with his feelings about Isaac.

        Isaac did suspect the truth when Adolph, this “male acquaintance of his mother”, encouraged him to become a doctor and offered to pay his tuition.  Adolph established a college fund for Isaac and called it a charity.

        In contrast, when Mathew was legally a young adult he moved out of old Sarah and Brahm’s house.  He moved in with his boyfriend Drew who was a producer at the advertising firm that won the Sarah’s Shop account.  Drew opened the world of fashion for Mathew.  Mathew changed his surname from Meistermann to Masters in order to free himself professionally and mentally while keeping his eye on the treasure that was legally to be his someday since he was Adolph’s sole male heir, or so he thought.

        Drew stood behind Mathew in the kitchen and hugged him, saying, “Thank you, Matt.  Without this Sarah’s Shop account I’d be out turning tricks.”

        Matt steeped his cup of tea and said, “What ‘thank you’?  I didn’t select your agency.  My father did.”

        Drew laughed and said, “I am thanking you as you are my very own representative of the Meistermann family.”

        Matt soured and pointed out, “My father can drop your agency at the shake of a feather in his rich man’s hat.  That’s what he does.  He could do that to me.”

        Drew asked, “What do you mean ‘to you’?”

        Matt asked in return, “How much do you love me, Drew?”

        Drew said, “Uh-oh.  Uh, as much as I ever did?”

        Matt became darkly serious and said, “Adolph will always be our greatest fear.  If he found out about us I would be disowned and he would make sure that you couldn’t turn a trick in a men’s prison.”

        Drew was philosophical and said, “Matt, all of us are used to hiding.”

        Matt then said, “No one should have to hide!  But Adolph is worse than you can imagine, Drew.  He would probably have some private eye following me right now if he cared about me at all.  It’s only because he doesn’t want to think about me that we are safe.”

        Drew continued to be thoughtful and then started to say, “But, Matt, despite, I mean, even if he doesn’t understand…”

        Matt interrupted, saying bitterly, “What Adolph wants is what Adolph understands.”

        Drew proceeded, “He is still your father and that is deep, dear.  I know, I remember my own fa…”

        Matt interrupted again, “Would your own father hate you?  Adolph hates me!”

        Drew protested, “Oh, Matt…”

        Matt raised a fist, “He hates me and he has always hated me and I don’t know why!  My mother protected me until she died.  Then,” and Matt choked, “I was just fucky lucky enough that Adolph was too miserable to do anything but not care at all about me anymore!  Thank God for my grandparents,” and Matt sobbed and Drew reached out and put his arms around Matt and said, “Well, he cared about your mother.  Isn’t’ that…,”

        Matt suddenly pushed Drew’s arms away and shouted, “He killed my mother!  She wasn’t supposed to have any more children!  The selfish monster didn’t care.  All that matters is what Adolph wants!  And sooner or later he will want to destroy us!”

        Drew became fearful of this possibility which had always been bas relief in the back of his mind but which now Matt was carving into a grotesque.

        Drew shrugged helplessly and asked rhetorically, “What can we do, Matt?”

        Matt then began in earnest to ask, “Drew, you know it is contrary to my nature to even contemplate a violent act?”

        Drew answered quickly, “Of course.”

        Matt asked, “And do you remember the documentary we watched last week about the success of bargain-priced, first-rate cosmetic surgery?”

        Drew nodded hesitantly, “In India, right?  You’re not really thinking about…”

        Matt said, “Listen to me.  You know how we both agreed that I would look like a movie star if I had more of an aquiline profile and a jutting jaw?”

        Drew smiled, “Yeah, I said I could call you ‘Dash Riprock’,” but Drew was confused and he asked, “What has that got to do with…”

        Again Matt said, “Listen, listen, listen to me, Drew.  Remember that life mask you had made of me?  Listen to me carefully, Drew, I love you:  now what if I as ‘Matt Masters’, the mask, could kill my father and then escape as, well, ‘Dash Riprock’, the alter ego under that mask?”

        Drew asked aghast, “What the fuck?  You’re joking, right?”

        Matt stared intently into Drew’s eyes.

        Drew said, “Good God, you lunatic, you would need a whole new identity, a new passport, a new social security number and a new driver’s license…”

        Matt snorted, “Yeah, like that can’t be done.”

        Drew continued, “…and how the fuck could you keep your inheritance?

        Matt replied weakly, “Who cares?  We could live together on your salary.”

        Drew said, “No fucking way!  You are insane.  Besides, the first thing the police would do is question me!””

        Matt began to cry and Drew in sympathy offered, “Look, the only way that insane idea would work is if you as ‘Dash Riprock’ killed your father and then you wore that life-mask the rest of your life.

        Matt buried his head into Drew’s shoulder and blubbered, “Oh, it can’t work.  I am stupid, stupid, stupid.  I really am insane!”

        Matt tried to joke, “You are not stupid, dear.  However, yes, you have always been insane but I promise to be your therapist forever.”

        Matt sniffed and said, “Yeah, besides, when the police questioned you the first thing they’d do is shove a baton up your ass and you’d crack.”

        They both laughed and hugged.

Chapter P

        Adolph still kept Shifra’s clothes in the bedroom closet of the house they once shared.  He had not throw out anything of hers, ever.

        One night at three in the morning Adolph awakened into his boyhood conscience, conjured during the silent witching hour between then and now; from a deeply repressed stratum of his emotions he was resurrected as a love zombie; from an underground river arose that sensitive, romantic apparition of an innocent boy gasping with insecurity and anguish and crying for breath.  Adolph sat upright in the darkness gasping.  He was sweating.  Terror held his throat.  He was afraid he was dying!

        No.  It was something else.  Something else was looming in his soul.

        He was afraid of God.

        Adolph threw back his jumbled covers and got out of bed in the dark.  He held his chest with his right hand and stumbled down the hallway leaning on the wall of with his left hand.  He arrived at the hall closet, switched on the hall light, and he pulled open the closet door.  He fell to his knees and reached into darkness for the worn leather suitcase in the back of the closet in the jumble on the floor.  He felt the suitcase and he dragged it out onto the hallway floor.  He bowed over the suitcase and opened it.  His right hand fell upon the transparent plastic sheet protecting the sheet music for the flute and piano duet that he had written for Shifra and himself to play at Miss Brundage’s pupils’ recital a lifetime ago.

        Adolph was breathing faster.  He lifted the sheet music out of the protective plastic sheet, caressing it with his fingertips, and he stared intently at the musical notation, the written passages undulating together, rising apart and falling together in arabesque.  He closed his eyes and touched the sheet music to his lips and then suddenly it was if his ears raised the sound of the music.  Tears filled his eyes as he opened them.  A tear fell and tapped the sheet of music.  He closed his eyes again.  Now he could hear the music more distinctly.  It was really so very inspired after all!  Adolph had forgotten it for years and now he was hearing it almost as if it had been written by someone else and played in his honor.

        He opened his eyes and this time he saw his fingers fluttering upon the keys of the piano, conjuring the music.  He heard the flute and he raised his eyes.  There was Shifra!  She was so young.  She pursed her lips upon the flute so sweetly.  She winked at him and she smiled trying not to err in the performance.  Adolph looked over and there was Miss Brundage!  She was sitting so proudly in the first row of folding chairs nodding in cadence with the music.  There was young Joshua!  He nodded and gave Adolph a thumbs-up sign.  There was Officer Cohen smiling with radiant pride at his daughter Shifra!  There was Herman!  Adolph felt a yearning kinship of the love they shared with Shifra.  There were his parents!  Sarah had her hands clasped to her mouth, eyes glistening.  Brahm gave Adolph a nod.  There was his brother Reuben and his sister Judith!  They made melodramatic faces humorously at him and he almost laughed as they had intended but he knew they were enjoying the performance.  There was Billy and Zelmo!  Billy had his eyes closed and he was tapping his knee with the palm of his hand.  Zelmo was softly snapping his fingers at Adolph and then he put those fingers to his lips and mimed smoking a reefer in comic appreciation of the performance.  There was Shelly and Isaac!  Shelly touched her ear and mouthed the words “you are talking to me now.”  Isaac put his hand over his heart and gently nodded his head.  There was Mathew and Drew!  They were holding hands excitedly for Adolph.  Adolph was so glad to see them both.  He smiled to them in approval.  He smiled to them all in thanks.

        The tears once more blinded Adolph’s eyes but his fingers could see and they kept on speaking and his ears could drink the endless joy.  Adolph was now the happiest he could recall.

        Everyone agreed that the truly beautiful moment at Adolph Meistermann’s memorial service was the performance by the pianist and flautist of that inspired boyhood composition of Adolph’s, the duet that he had entitled A Prayer for Lips and Fingers.

THE END

This is a section of my entry for Carl Reiner’s Writers’ Contest; to read Carl Reiner’s Chapter 1 go to:   [http://carl-reiner.com/contest/?utm_campaign=]

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

 

 

GOD COUNTS HER TEARS

    counts her tears

Previously:

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

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

3)       THE BAD BOY BLUES (excerpt from Adolph Meistermann)

4)       LAUGH THROUGH TEARS AGAINST HIS WILL (excerpt from Adolph Meistermann)

Chapter K

GOD COUNTS HER TEARS

        Shelly Kisherman looked up at Adolph and said to him with invincible assurance, “I am pregnant.”

        Only a moment before, Adolph had found Shelly sitting underneath the apple tree in the campus Old Quad reading a book.  Adolph then had approached her on a direct course, like a torpedo, armed for his self-righteous explosion that would rip apart the tissue of their relationship the way Shelly had ripped apart his letters from Shifra.

        Adolph had ignited, hissing down upon her, “Shelly, you fucking bitch…,” but Shelly had raised her face and Adolph had thought to himself, “like a fucking Buddha,” and Shelly had then chanted to him, “I am pregnant.”

        Shelly calmly meditated upon Adolph’s reaction as he halted and his mind vibrated like a brass gong.

        Adolph sensed that Shelly was not lying but he fought back, saying, “How do I know…?”

        Shelly interrupted, “Yes, it is your child, ‘Dolph.”

        Adolph faltered, “But how…?”

        Shelly taunted him a little, saying, “You know that pony you like to ride?  I wasn’t letting anyone else ride that pony but you, ‘Dolph.”

        Adolph babbled, “But how…?”

        Shelly smiled sweetly and stung him, asking, “Do you have time for a blood test today, ‘Dolph?”

        Adolph said, “I’m, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry but can’t be serious, Shelly.  You are going to end this, right?”

        Shelly replied, “I will never do that.  You ask me to murder?  Your!  Child!  That would be like suicide for both of us, you and me, together, don’t you see?  How does your God feel about suicide?  You are going to do the right thing, ‘Dolph.”

        Adolph felt faint and he turned to walk away and said, “We, we can talk about this.  I will talk to you later.”

        Shelly smiled and said, “So now you want to talk to me, don’t you, ‘Dolph?”

        Adolph wandered the campus and shuffled away into the surrounding neighborhood and found himself in front of the house where he was renting his bedroom.  That bedroom.  That gallows.

        As Adolph walked up the sidewalk and climbed the porch steps just like it was a gallows and then he heard Zelmo singing.  Zelmo was on the living room couch watching Sheriff John’s Lunch Brigade on television.  He sat in a cloud of reefer madness, snickering and singing along to the “Birthday Cake Polka”.

We’ll have some pie and sandwiches

and chocolate ice cream too

We’ll sing and play the day away

and one more thing I’m going to do

I’ll blow out the candles on my birthday cake

and when I do, a wish I’ll make

Put another candle on my birthday cake

I’m another year old today

        He called to Adolph who stood in the doorway, “Hey, man!  Sheriff John read my name and said ‘Happy Birthday, Zelmo’.”

        Adolph asked in a detached manner as he entered, “It’s your birthday?”

        Zelmo hooted, “Of course not!”

        Adolph sat down slowly on the couch next to Zelmo, who held up his reefer as always out of courtesy, but this time, for the first time, Adolph took it from him and put it in his lips and Zelmo said to him facetiously, “Hey, I’m Zelmo.  Who are you, man?”

        Adolph sucked on the reefer and he coughed and choked.

        Zelmo quickly took the reefer out of Adolph’s fingers and said, “Don’t drop that baby, man.”

        Adolph turned his head to Zelmo and asked, “What? What did you say?”

        Zelmo’s fiery red eyes searched Adolph’s face.  Zelmo said, “’Dolph, you are acting like a Pod, man.  Who snatched you, daddy-o?”

        Adolph repeated, “Daddy-o.  That’s funny.”

        Zelmo said, “’Dolph, you’re on something stronger than reefer, man.  What is it?”

        Adolph stood up slowly and answered, “Life, daddy-o,” and then he shuffled down the tunnel of that hallway to his bedroom, thinking that he must get control of this runaway train.  He needed to think clearly.  He couldn’t think clearly.  There were voices wailing in his mind.  He had to talk to someone.

        Adolph whispered his prayer, “Shifra.”

        He knew that it would be an act of desperation but he stood next to his dresser and pushed aside his spare change and the deodorant and the new light bulb for his dresser lamp and the slice of pizza and he centered his yellow notepad and took his pencil and he began to write a letter to Shifra.  He had to see his thoughts chiseled onto paper, he had to pretend that Shifra would read the letter, and he hoped that he could miraculously conjure up in his mind just what Shifra, herself might reply.

        Adolph wrote for half an hour.  When he was done he felt that the letter could not have life unless he mailed it but he didn’t know where Shifra was.  He had lost contact with her years ago.  But wait, her father Officer Bruce Cohen would know.  He could forward this letter.  Yes.

        He strode out into the living room and startled Zelmo by asking behind his back, “Can I borrow one of your ‘bikes’?”

        Zelmo turned and looked over his shoulder and asked, “Sure, man.  Where are you going?”

        Adolph said only, “I need to go home for something.”

        Zelmo raised his reefer high over his head in offering and he said, “You’re welcome, man.”

        Adolph muttered as he departed for the back yard, “Happy birthday.”

Chapter L

        Officer Bruce Cohen opened his front door and said, “Adolph.  Good Lord.  This is a surprise,” then Adolph thought he heard Officer Cohen say, “You can’t imagine,” and then Officer Cohen shook his head, saying, “What next.  What next.  I haven’t seen you since Shifra’s…” and he halted himself before he said “wedding” because he remembered that Adolph did not attend the wedding and that Brahm and Sarah had told him why.

        Adolph stood on the porch since Officer Cohen did not open the screen door and said, “I am really sorry to bother you, sir.  I need to ask you a great favor, if I could.”

        Officer Cohen thought to himself, “Another great favor?” but he nodded and said, “Well, Adolph, you are certainly able to ask.”

        Adolph bowed his head and withdrew the envelope from his jacket pocket and he said, “I was hoping you could forward this letter to Shifra, please.  It has been years, I know.  But I just wanted to, to…”

        Then Adolph heard that voice behind Officer Cohen, from beyond the matted shadows displayed on the screen door, saying, “It’s alright, Daddy.”

        Officer Cohen bowed away backwards and then there was Shifra standing on the other side of the screen door.

        Shifra said softly and gently, “Hello, ‘Dolph.”

        Adolph could not speak at first and he blinked and his mouth opened and closed like a fish drowning in oxygen and finally he whispered, “Shifra?”

        Shifra pushed the screen door open and Adolph passed by her closely as Shifra said, “How are you, ‘Dolph?”

        Shifra had sad edges around those eyes but they still looked out ahead into the world.  She wore a pink sweater and she was plumper than Adolph remembered.

        Adolph still held that letter in front of himself and he looked at it and then he looked back at Shifra and nervously grinned, “I wrote a letter.”

        Shifra said, “Yes, I heard.  Do you still want me to read it?”

        Adolph put the letter back into his shirt pocket and said, “No, no.  Good God, Shifra,” and then he tensed up and asked, “Is Herman here?”

        Shifra looked down and said, “No.”

        Officer Cohen excused himself and said in parting to Adolph, “Nice seeing you again, son,” and he smiled like the Mona Lisa.

        Adolph asked Shifra, “Are you just visiting?  Are you stationed back in the United States?”

        Shifra clasped her hands in front of her waist and looked down and answered, “No, ‘Dolph, Herman and I are getting a divorce.  He’s still in Germany.  I’m staying with my father until, until…”

        Adolph was genuinely concerned but only for Shifra’s apparent shame and sadness, saying, “Oh, no.  I am sorry, Shifra.  It happens.  I’m sure that…” and Adolph paused as his trains of thought collided.

        Shifra asked Adolph with a wry smile, “You’re sure that what, ‘Dolph?”

        Adolph said quickly and sincerely, “Sure happy to see you and so happy to actually hear you, really, Shifra.  You have no idea.”

        Shifra teased him, “Oh, I might,” and they both laughed at last.

        Adolph and Shifra sat upon the couch and spoke easily and warmly together until Adolph suddenly halted, remembering Shelly Kisherman.

        Shifra noticed the change in his expression and asked him, “What is it, ‘Dolph?” and Adolph felt himself falling away from Shifra and then his eyes grasped at her, “’Dolph?” Shifra asked, and then Adolph leaped from his runaway train and said, “Shifra.  I love you.  You know I love you.  Marry me.”

        Shifra sat back wide-eyed.

        Adolph said again as if she had asked him to repeat himself, “I love you.  Marry me.  I’m not that immature kid anymore!”

        Shifra began to say, “’Dolph, there is something…”

        Adolph steamed ahead, saying, “I’m in college now but I work in the shop and it will soon be mine.  I can give you a great life…”

        Shifra tried again, saying, “’Dolph, you don’t know…”

        Adolph did not slow down, saying, “I know you are the God-given purpose of my life, Shifra, and…”

        Shifra finally touched Adolph’s arm, silencing him, and then she parted her pink sweater and she looked down, drawing Adolph’s eyes to that tiny pot belly and she said, “’Dolph.  I’m pregnant.  With Herman’s child,”

        All of Adolph’s volition went into trying to grasp that abstraction.  He looked away from Shifra and stared out into God’s universe for understanding, for explanation, for justice.

        Shifra sighed, “It is one of the things we fought about.  He wasn’t ready.  He wanted me to…”

        Adolph turned back to Shifra, “I don’t care.  I don’t care.  Be with me.  Marry me.  You can’t raise a baby here, not here at your father’s house.  It isn’t fair to him.  It isn’t fair to anyone.”

        Shifra’s eyes were glistening and she said softly, “Grandma Sasha can…”

        Adolph argued, “You’re going to need money.  If you are going to work you just can’t make your elderly grandmother raise an infant.  Your father certainly can’t be here to take care of a baby.  Does he even know yet?” and Shifra nodded.  Adolph pointed out, “And if you don’t work, you will be a burden to your father, even if he denies it, and I know he denies it, am I right?”

        Shifra covered her mouth and sobbed.

        Adolph spread his arms and said, “This doesn’t have to be sad.  Marry me.  I love you.  I will love both of you,” but even in his rhapsody Adolph was blue thinking about Herman’s presence.  Adolph found himself wanting to say out loud, “So this is the bargain, eh, God?  Well, I take it.  Yes, I take it but I can’t understand you at all, God, why you make me love Shifra and then you work so hard to put so many things between us.”

Chapter M

        Brahm and Sarah wanted to provide a lavish wedding for their son and Shifra but Adolph explained with a disappointment of his own that Shifra could not face the neighborhood with another big wedding under the circumstances: her divorce barely hours final.  Only Officer Cohen knew of Shifra’s secret besides Adolph.

        Adolph explained, “Shifra wants a small Jewish wedding.”

        Brahm looked at Sarah and asked seriously, “Is there such a thing as a small Jewish wedding?”

        Sarah answered Brahm by saying, “We can have the ceremony in our back yard.”

        And so on the wedding day there was erected in the back yard of Brahm and Sarah Meistermann the wedding canopy, called the chuppah, which had a sheet of fine prayer cloth supported on four corners by poles, symbolizing the presence of God over the covenant of marriage.  The honor of holding the four poles was granted to Adolph’s friends Billy and Zelmo, and to his brother Reuben and to his sister Judith.

        By tradition Adolph covered Shifra’s face with a badeken (veil) witnessed by all the guests.  Adolph then entered the chuppah first, to symbolize his ownership of their “home”.  Then Shifra entered the chuppah, symbolizing the shelter provided by Adolph and symbolizing his new responsibilities.

        Rabbi Reiner, presiding, raised a wine glass while Adolph and Shifra recited the Sheva Berakhot, the seven blessings.  During the celebration that followed the ceremony a wine glass was raised for grace, then another wine glass was raised during the second recital of the seven blessings, then the wine from both of those wine glasses was combined into yet a third wine glass that was shared by Adolph and Shifra.  Then this third glass was wrapped in cloth and broken under the feet of Adolph and Shifra while the guests cheered, “Mazel tov (congratulations)!” but Sarah saw Rabbi Reiner silently scowl and Sarah knew as well as Rabbi Reiner did that the breaking of the glass was meant to be a sober expression of sorrow over the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.

        Billy brought out his trumpet and jammed along in a strangely appealing jazz fusion with the clarinet, violin, accordion, mandolin, and upright bass of the tradition klezmer music wedding band.

        Zelmo read a poem of his that he had written for Adolph and Shifra.  Despite Adolph’s trepidation the poem was not beatnik poetry.

‘Dolph and Shifra

 

Who is great?  Who is like God?

 

Binding together vapor and ashes

 

Through unfathomed bold embraces,

 

Holding them dear and gathering faces,

 

Gesturing hearts and sealing affection?

 

 

Shifra, listen

 

His promises will be heard.

 

Proclaim futures without fail, here and now!

 

Resplendent beauty, sight-unseen,

 

Avows boastful spirits when they convene

 

Inside a chuppah.  Perish your doubts within.

 

‘Dolph, now confide your faith in each other,

 

Sharing a secret long ago spoken:

 

Only death remains unbroken,

 

Put yourselves back together with loved ones.

 

They are great.  They are like God,

 

‘Dolph and Shifra.

        Then Adolph, Billy, and Zelmo sneaked into the back alleyway to consume a cigarette carefully loaded with reefer.  It made Adolph dizzy and he said, “Man, I feel wavy.”

        Adolph thought that he was hallucinating when he saw Shelly Kisherman coming down the alleyway.

        Billy and Zelmo called out a jovial hello to her.  They did not notice Adolph blanch like a corpse.

        Shelly smiled frightfully and called back, “Adolph!  I didn’t get my invitation to the wedding.”

        Billy and Zelmo giggled, unaware of the gravity distorting Adolph’s world, and Billy said, “We’ll leave you two alone,” and Zelmo said, “Don’t worry, we’ll just tell Shifra that you’re shitting in the alleyway.”

        Shelly sauntered up to Adolph who tried to look defiant while she said, “You motherfucking bastard.  Tell me again why I won’t crash your little wedding and tell Shifra about our wedding gift for her?”

        Adolph said, “Shelly, I beg you, that isn’t going to help anyone.  Don’t do this.  You, you don’t know what I would do.  I swear to God, I don’t know what I would do.  Shelly, I was thinking about how I could, could take care of you, if you just don’t do this.  You know my family has money.  I’m going to be running the business soon.  I could take care of you even if you chose to…”

        Shelly narrowed her eyes and sneered, “What?  Murder our child for you?  ‘Dolphy dear, I don’t think so.  You are going to have two wives, ‘Dolphy dear.  Just like in the Bible.  You are going to share all your ‘joy’ with both of us.”

        Adolph pleaded, “Shelly, you don’t…”

        Shelly finished, “Or you won’t have any fucking ‘joy’ to share with anyone, do you understand me, you lying, motherfucking, bastard asshole?” and then she turned and sauntered back away like a sated lioness.

Chapter N

        Adolph and Shifra moved into his parents’ house at Sarah’s insistence.  Sarah had said, “Your new wife needs a woman’s help.”  Sarah had known all along that Shifra was pregnant.

        Adolph left college despite his parents’ misgivings and their offer to support them both.  Adolph began to work long full-time hours with his father.  Adolph was now the firm’s Chief Accountant announced Brahm, the family having three stores in the Ontario, New York, region.

        Shifra was having a difficult pregnancy.

        Sarah said soothingly, “Dear, it is well that you two agreed to live with me and Brahm for awhile,” and Sarah watched Shifra wince with another bolt of pain.

        Sarah cooked rich soups for Shifra and worried that she was becoming gaunt.  Sarah would say, “Try to eat, dear.  You are not plump enough for this baby.  We can call the fashion magazines after the baby is born.  This baby is very demanding now,” and she tried to smile, “but just you wait.”

        The baby was finally born after a long labor.

        Adolph said to Shifra in the hospital room afterward, “I can’t tell you apart from the bed sheets,” and he tried to smile nonchalantly.

        Shifra held her baby, and Adolph was thinking against his will, “Her baby not mine,” and Shifra smiled beatifically and informed Adolph, “I want to name him ‘Mathew’, ‘Gift of God’,” and when she looked down at the newborn she did not see that Adolph glared at the boy and clenched his teeth when he repeated, “Gift of God”.

        Shelly Kisherman, meanwhile, had told Adolph to send his “love” for her straight to her bank account and then to go straight to hell and never come around her, “Unless I conjure you,” Shelly would say vindictively.  Adolph had enough authority to hide his tithing to Shelly under a fictitious consultant’s account.

        Shelly taunted Adolph about that, saying, “So now I work with you at the family shop, don’t I?”

        Shelly soon enough told him to appear at the hospital where their child was to be born.

        Adolph was busy now with more and more business, more and more meetings, and more and more travel, so it was not very difficult to get away and to go to Shelly at her bidding.

        In the Fathers’ Waiting Room a stranger shook Adolph’s hand and said, “Mazel tov (congratulations)!”  The stranger thought that Adolph must have been exhausted since he barely smiled.

        In the hospital ward bed Shelly was disheveled but even her anger at Adolph could not extinguish the glow of the new mothers’ flame.  She looked up at Adolph and said to him, “Say hello to your son Isaac.”

        Adolph Meistermann now had two sons.  One bore his surname but was not his.  The other bore his blood but was not his.

        Adolph became glum and introspective.  His mother and his wife were worried that he was working too hard.  His father listened to Sarah and to Shifra when Adolph seemed to them distant and superficial in his listening.  Brahm thought of his own father and he nodded to himself that he understood the burdens that all men apparently must bear in this God-given life and the women then thought that Brahm nodded in agreement with them.

        Sarah presumed that Adolph and Shifra must now need their own house, a sense of their own destiny, and so she easily persuaded Brahm to buy for them a house in the neighborhood.

        One day, a few years later, Adolph came to Shifra as she was reading to young Mathew, “Matty-boy”, the slender book entitled The Little Prince, and Adolph said, “Shifra, I love you so much.  It is time for a child of our own.”

        Shifra was afraid because Mathew had been such a difficult labor for her and then her doctor had hinted obliquely, “Shifra, perhaps you can persuade your husband to be happy with one special child to spoil,” not knowing the truth about Mathew’s real father, Herman.  Shifra saw in Mathew the ripples of Herman.  She was certain that Adolph also must have noticed those things silently and stoically.

        Shifra then felt very guilty thinking that she could see how Adolph had been bent with his brave responsibilities; responsibilities that he had asked for but responsibilities for which he did not have to ask, yet ask he did out of an exquisite and sincere love for her; responsibilities that she did not have to grant so selfishly, but no, not selfishly, for she only worried for her unborn child; responsibilities that Shifra admitted to herself at last appeared to be beyond Adolph’s God-given constitution and, after all, she herself had prayed sincerely to God for a way to be of comfort to Adolph.

        Shifra gave herself and she became pregnant.

        At first, the pregnancy was a blessing like a warm fire around which she and Adolph sat closely night after night, a God-given contentment as promised at last.  But then Shifra began to lose color and weight as she had before.  Her doctor was concerned and Adolph became alarmed and sleepless.  Finally Adolph demanded that Shifra be admitted to the hospital no matter what the cost until the child was safely born.

        Shifra became suddenly very ill late one night though ensconced in a modern hospital, in mockery of Modern Man’s medical wisdom.  Her blood was inflamed and a massive cascade of infection and toxin rendered the hospital citadel breeched and helpless and Shifra retreated into the last stand of a coma.

        In the nurses’ station of the Intensive Care Unit, Adolph and his mother Sarah and his father Brahm and his brother Reuben and his sister Judith and Shifra’s father Officer Cohen and Shifra’s doctor stood in a circle with their arms together, praying earnestly, bleeding tears.

        The attending nurse watched the family behind the glass of the nurses’ station and then turned to Shifra.  Suddenly, the mechanical medical devices clutching at Shifra all alarmed in a macabre chorus.

        The baby died and then Shifra died.

        Adolph fell to the floor beside Shifra’s death bed and clawed toward Hell, his mouth open gagging and drooling and vomiting his belief in God forever.

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:   [http://carl-reiner.com/contest/?utm_campaign=]

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Follow This Link To My AMAZON.com SITE

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

 

LAUGH THROUGH TEARS AGAINST HIS WILL

  against his will

Previously:

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

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

3)       THE BAD BOY BLUES (excerpt from Adolph Meistermann)

Chapter I

LAUGH THROUGH TEARS AGAINST HIS WILL

        Brahm said to Sarah in the kitchen, “I’m arranging to have the piano returned to Miss Brundage.”

        Sarah asked, “So quickly?  Couldn’t we wait a little longer to see if Adolph changes his mind?”

        Brahm replied, “Well, the piano lessons were nice, dear, but Adolph was never going to make a living at it, now was he?  I’m more worried that Adolph doesn’t seem to be much interested in girls the way other boys are.”

        Sarah rebutted, “Oh, Brahm, you can be so blind.  Adolph has a torch for Shifra.  You know, Shifra?  Bruce Cohen’s daughter?  She’s going to be married and my poor Adolph is just moping around.”

        Brahm frowned, “Sarah, you are coddling him.  He is too young to be ‘heartbroken’.  He needs to be out having fun with other youngsters, sewing wild oats.  Hmmph.  Love is only making believe for a young man of his age.”

        Sarah proclaimed, “He has a romantic soul.”

        Brahm amended, “Sarah, what you mean is that Adolph is an idealist.  But, now tell me, where you see any want ads for ‘idealists’ or ‘romantics’”?

        Sarah answered, “Our shop was the work of two idealists, or don’t you remember?”

        Brahm replied, “I remember working hard and wondering how we could build a life.  A now, we have a successful business that runs on sweat and shrewdness, not fantasy, I promise you.  And if it is to be Adolph’s one day, he will need to see clearly what is, not what he would like to see.”

        Sarah persisted, saying, “All young people are idealists.  They stop and smell the roses,” and then she said pointedly, “Only later do they grow old and hard-nosed.”

        Brahm laughed and hugged Sarah and nuzzled her cheek, asking her in surrender, “Are you speaking of anyone that we might know, my little rose?”

        Then there came the knock at the door.  It was Shifra.  She asked, “Is Adolph here?”

        Sarah beamed, “He is upstairs.”

        Shifra added, “I have sad news.”

        Sarah asked quickly, “What sad news?”

        Shifra looked down and said, “I didn’t want to but I was afraid that you hadn’t heard…”

        Brahm asked, “What, dear, what is it?”

        Shifra replied, “It’s Miss Brundage…”

        Sarah asked in dread, “What, Shifra?  What about Miss Brundage?”

        Shifra finally said, “Miss Brundage had a stroke.”

        Sarah gasped and Brahm said, “Oh my dear God.”

        Shifra continued, saying, “Her left side is paralyzed.”

        Sarah put her hands over her mouth.

        Shifra lowered her head and began to weep, “It is so sad.  So unfair.  Miss Brundage can’t play the piano.”

        Brahm said, “That is terrible, terrible!  Oh, my dear God.”

        Shifra looked up and tried on a brave smile which diverted her tears, saying, “But we got together, we pupils of hers agreed, agreed to continue to show up, show up for our lessons, except instead we could help her, help her around her apartment.  Miss Brundage …,” Shifra could not continue.

        Sarah perceived quickly and asked, “How can we help, Shifra?”

        Shifra sniffed and said, “We asked, we asked and most of the parents don’t mind still giving to Miss Brundage the money for our lessons, for awhile, but Miss Brundage says she won’t accept it.”

        Sarah rummaged her faith and rambled, “Well, can Miss Brundage still explain music, talk about her classical record collection…?”

        Shifra interrupted, “She just sits in the dark!  She needs help, Miss Meistermann.  Miss Brundage has no one, no family except a sister somewhere.”

        Brahm affirmed, “We will help.  Don’t you worry, Shifra.”

        Sarah put her hand on Shifra’s shoulder, “Dear, of course we will help.”

        Adolph was coming downstairs and he saw Shifra illuminated in the doorway.  For an instant he fantasized that she had come knocking back into his life.  Then he heard the mournful tone of the conversation and he said stiffly, “Shifra.  What’s up?”

        Shifra sobbed, “Oh, poor Miss Brundage has had a stroke, she is paralyzed on her left side, I thought you should know.”

        Adolph thought to himself in horror, “What do you mean, ‘I should know’?”  Adolph felt the words clawing at his chest.  In his mind he was back in Miss Brundage’s apartment, crying out in agony.  He knew that he had taken his anger and poured it upon poor Miss Brundage like gasoline and that he had lighted the cruel flames with his self-pity.  And now he just knew that Miss Brundage was as good as dead to herself and Adolph was sure that he was to blame, for a reason he suddenly understood.

        Adolph couldn’t breathe and so he turned away and wove through the living room and then wobbled out the back door, barely realizing what he was doing.  He pushed open the gate and started running down the alleyway toward Miss Brundage’s apartment.  On the curb beneath her apartment window Adolph stumbled and he fell down onto his hands and knees and then he raised his face to that dark window and he opened his mouth in anguish, crying out in Hebrew, “Ani mitzta’er (I’m sorry)!  Ana slach li (Please forgive me)!”

        The winged creatures watching from upon the rooftop turned and fled away from him.

Chapter J

        Bullets are ripping leaves and branches and spattering into the mud like hail, throwing mud all over me.  I am just cowering here and shaking with every sound.  I can’t move my legs.  I’m pressing back into this boulder crevice as far as I can.  I can’t feel my left side.  Joshua is in front of me in the mud with his throat slit.  Herman is to my right there on his back.  He has stopped moving.  Herman cried into the mud for Shifra when he was first hit.  Then he cried for his mother and he rolled on his back and tried to gather up his intestines.  My mother is probably at the shop back home right now.  Mother always says that I’m a “sensitive boy”.  She told them that I should not be drafted but they didn’t care if I was “sensitive” and they sneered at me.  My father said that the Army would be good for me.  I hate Herman and now he’s dead.  Joshua is my friend and now he’s dead.  Wait, the shooting has stopped!  What now?  I can’t stop shaking.  Oh, God, please, no, they’ll hear me.  They’ll blow my guts out like they did to Herman!  I hear something.  Someone is coming slowly, creeping around this boulder, to my left.  The enemy is tip-toeing right past me.  The enemy is peering down at Herman.  I raise my rifle with my good right arm.  The enemy whirls around in my direction.  It is Shifra!  She glares at me defiantly.  I can blow her face off.  Why haven’t I?  I know why!  That isn’t a pack on her shoulders; it’s a baby in a bundle.  I hear a muffled cry.  The baby’s face is hidden under a cloth.  Shifra takes the bundle off of her shoulder and approaches me cautiously.  She holds the baby bundle up in front of me.  I say, “Stop it!” and I point the rifle at the baby.  I lift the cloth from the baby’s face with the rifle barrel.  He has my face!

        The child explodes!

        Adolph awoke with a gasp and he sat up in the bed and groaned.  Shelly Kisherman was beside him and she was startled awake and she said, disoriented, “What is it?”

        Adolph breathed fast and blinked his eyes and he was glad to recognize the room.  Shelly pressed her warm naked body against him and the dream faded.  Adolph had not dreamed about Shifra, or Herman, or Joshua, poor Joshua, for years.

        Adolph whispered to Shelly, “I should get going anyway.”

        Shelly frowned, “You never stay.”

        Adolph kissed her nose, asking, “Well, I come back, don’t I?” as he threw the covers off of his side and over Shelly’s head.

        Adolph found his clothes on the floor and pulled them on and then when he looked into the full length mirror on the closet door he saw Shelly pouting.  This was the way Adolph liked it: he had the upper hand in the relationship and he certainly would not die if their relationship dissolved.

        Shelly weakened and asked him, “Are you going to call me later?”

        Adolph shrugged and replied, “If I have something to say.”

        Shelly whined, “You never want to talk to me.”

        Adolph suddenly turned and leaped back onto the bed and Shelly shrieked and Adolph said lasciviously, “We speak in tongues!” and he kissed her and she started to dissolve and then she hardened and she pushed him away, saying, “I’m going to find someone who wants to talk to me.”

        Adolph bounced off of the bed saying, “Well, good luck with that!  Better have a really good breakfast before you leave.”

        Shelly threw a pillow at Adolph, saying bitterly, “You are so mean to me!”

        Adolph went into the hallway.  He was renting a bedroom in a house near campus while attending college at the Fallcreek School of Accounting.  In the living room ahead Adolph heard the two other guys who lived in the house.

        There was Billy Mello, a cook at the college dining hall, who now owned the house, his parents’ old house, and who lived there and rented out two of his bedrooms in order to afford to keep the house.  Billy played amateur jazz trumpet and studied Zen meditation religiously.

        There was the other renter, Zelmo Hurtz.  Zelmo would let everyone know that “Zelmo” is the Hebrew variant of “Solomon”; itself derived from the word “shalom” (peace).  Zelmo was a beatnik poet with a beard who earned his rent money by working on motorcycles.  Zelmo opened and closed his doors of perception on a regular basis and he would invite along anyone who cared to journey “out of state” with him, as he would put it.

        Billy Mello looked up at Adolph and grinned, teasing him, “I could hear you studying hard last night,” and then Billy blew a scale on his muted trumpet.

        Zelmo offered the reefer he was smoking to Billy as he asked Adolph, “Who were you studying last night, man?”

        Adolph sat down next to him and said, “Shelly.”

        Billy teased, “You must give us your recipe for Cream of Adolph.”

        Adolph changed the subject and pointed to the notepad on the coffee table in front of Zelmo and asked, “What are you working on?” and seeing the cup of coffee asked, “Any more java left?”

        Zelmo held up his notepad with burlesque pride and announced oratorically, “I Remember Tomorrow,” and Billy began to play sinuous muted trumpet passages.  Zelmo continued,

I, Zelmo Hurtz, howling in the alley,

 

Licked clean your dirty wishes,

 

Pondering, Kitten, mi Salvadora,

 

If you recalled if you recalled me,

 

Who, crouching by your car,

 

Miles away on the inside, shut out the radio of the Regime and listened to the barrio,

 

Who, watching minorities migrating between the clean corporate cathedrals,

 

Called to the voices caught in the coal tar creosote of the telephone pole,

 

Who, leaning up against the brick wall beside the sign Pussy Liquor,

 

With slow suspicion, rolled eyes over your black ’57 Chevy,

 

Who, opening your trunk and stowing my groceries,

 

Looked up for stars that might not exist anymore,…

 

        Zelmo paused and Billy played a flourish on his muted trumpet.  Zelmo said, “That’s all I’ve got so far.  Hey, Billy-Boy, you are sounding like Miles Davis, himself, man.”

        Billy made a face of comically exaggerated ecstasy and blatted on the trumpet a long note that sounded like an animal braying and then he said, “Now I sound like Adolph studying.”

        Adolph grinned and said, “Fuck you,” and started to go into the kitchen for coffee.  Shelly emerged from the hallway dressed but hair still a tangle and said in passing, “I’m leaving now.  If you care.”

        Billy and Zelmo nodded to her as she strode out the front door and let the screen door bang shut again but not before a long-haired cat bounced into the house.

        Zelmo called out to the cat, “Hey, Scab-ette!”, a name they had given the neighborhood stray who was tough, scarred, and always had her long fur tangled in knots like scabs.  The cat trotted to Zelmo and hopped upon the couch next to him and looked at him expectantly and began to vocalize a long throaty series of sounds that resembled a conversation heard through a wall.

        Billy tried to mimic the “conversation” on his muted trumpet.

        Zelmo shook his head and said, “No cat food here, chick.”

        Zelmo then took a long drag on his reefer and blew the cloud of smoke onto Scabette.  She pulled back and made a sour face and then she dived off of the couch and ran down the hallway vocalizing angrily.

        Billy laughed, “It sounds like she’s saying ‘fuck you all’, man.”

        Adolph shook his head, saying, “No wonder that cat always smells like reefer.  Be careful, she must go to all the houses on this block,” and then Adolph poured himself some coffee and drained the cup in a series of croaking swallows, then he said, “Aaah.  I’m gone, daddy-o.”  Adolph headed out the front door but paused to catch the screen door with his heel and then let it close with a click.

        Adolph got to the sidewalk when he remembered his amphetamines, “Shit,” and he turned and went back into the house.

        Billy joked, “Long day?” as Adolph went past and headed back down the hallway to his bedroom.  A few moments later Billy and Zelmo heard Adolph holler, “Shit!! Fuck!! Shelly!! Shit, fuck, shit, fuck, shit fuck!!”

        Zelmo stood erect and raised aloft in his hand an imaginary sword and said, “Our capitalist friend is in trouble!”

        Billy blew a be-bop cavalry charge and they both galloped down the hallway to Adolph’s bedroom.  They saw Adolph standing catatonic and followed his trembling gaze to see Scabette dreamily defecating on a scattered pile of letters and envelopes pink and yellow and blue tissue-thin airmail posts crumpled and torn.

        Zelmo asked, “What the fuck, man?”

        Adolph bellowed, near tears, “My letters from Shifra!” and he fell to his knees and swung at Scabette who bounded away with a yowl.

        Billy asked, “Shifra?  I thought that was a long time ago.”

        Adolph choked, “It was.  It was,” and he gathered scattered fragments towards himself piteously, “She wrote to me for awhile from Germany after a few years.  I kept the letters in a box, in my drawer.  Shelly!  Shelly!  I’m going to kill you!!”

        Billy tried to calm him, saying, “Easy, man, peace.  You know this just a manifestation of fucked negative energy.  Let it go.  It’s done.  Don’t be attached, man.  Let it go.”

        Adolph gritted his teeth and growled.

        Zelmo knelt down, saying sternly, “Man, this is jive, you don’t want to be like this,” and he helped to gather together delicately the shredded pieces of Adolph’s feelings and then he said, “I think Scabette had the better idea,” and Adolph was compelled to laugh through tears against his will.

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:   [http://carl-reiner.com/contest/?utm_campaign=]

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

 

THE BAD BOY BLUES

bad boy blues

THE BAD BOY BLUES

Previously:

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:   [http://carl-reiner.com/contest/?utm_campaign=]

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

THE END OF THE HOUR

woman at piano, drawing

Previously: Adolph Meistermann

THE END OF THE HOUR

        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.

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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:   [http://carl-reiner.com/contest/?utm_campaign=]

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

ADOLPH MEISTERMANN

old man mask - red

ADOLPH MEISTERMANN

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.

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To be continued…

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This is a section of my entry for Carl Reiner’s Writers’ Contest; to read Carl Reiner’s Chapter 1 go to:   [http://carl-reiner.com/contest/?utm_campaign=]

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Follow This Link To My AMAZON.com SITE

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