The letters of our thoughts are the ideas present in our mind before they come to realization . . . Thoughts that are, yet not felt . . . The words of the subconscious . . . of the soul . . .


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Prelude to Return

This event is a semi-autobiographical part of my currently defunct fictional novel . . .

Perhaps I get around to working on it again at some point. Enjoy.


It was the spring of my sixteenth year -Junior varsity, drivers’ licenses, and parties. I stood at the cross road in life, straddling the gap between adolescence and maturity, and like all my peers forging ahead on virgin grounds. To truly grasp the uniquely American dream: Life (1.6 children, 2 dogs, and a gerbil), Liberty (The freedom to be different like everyone else) and the pursuit of happiness (Don't even ask). Then I made a phone call that would change it all.

''Is Seth there?''

Then at last a reply, but in an oddly muffled voice, as if his mother wasn't speaking directly into the phone.

''What should I tell him?''
"Well, I just wanted to know . . .''
''Seth, do you want to tell him yourself?''

Her voice still sounded distant; perhaps she wasn't speaking to me at all.
A sound came from the other end as the phone was passed. Sounds. Sounds of the receiver bumping against fabric, sounds of heavy breathing. Silence. Then several gasps and sobs.

Some thing was wrong.

''Hello? Seth?''
Still more noises as the phone was passed again. What was going on?
''Should I tell him?" again his mother was speaking with her mouth away from the receiver.
"Yes . . .''

At last a clear voice . . .
''Jacob, Seth can't speak to you now . . . . His father just passed away.''

More sobs from the other end.


The next day, in a sudden act of compassion, I decided to visit Seth instead of going directly home after school. Fifteen minutes on the bus and I was on his block, a large tree lined street with old Spanish style buildings evenly spaced and matching in color. His home blended so well with the others that I missed it my first time going down the block. The sunlight bounced off the large white walls and small yellow butterflies danced merrily from large red and pink roses.

It all seemed so picturesque, so happy. The large knocker on his oak front door groaned as I picked it up and fell with the dull thud of metal striking wood; it was met by the even emptier face of Seth’s mother as she opened the front door.

“Come in,” she said weakly.

The room was shrouded in darkness and large yellow sheets draped from the walls, walls once covered with shinning mirrors. In the center of the room sat my friend Seth and his younger brother Dave on low stools.
Seth looked up, a forced smile cracking his somber face,
“It’s nice to see you . . .”
“It’s nice to see you as well . . .” I returned.

I spent the rest of the day at his house; we spoke about sports, reminisced over favorite books, anything to get us away from the gloomy room and its yellow sheets. As the day waned new guests arrived, Orthodox Jews coming for the evening prayers. The Rabbi entered, his long frock-coat, black hat and red face framed with a thick peppered beard, seemed to take him right out of the shtetl. I expected the fiddler to jump off the roof and dance in at any moment behind him. His lips moved in what most have been some ancient prayer, his hands adjusted a black silk cord that he was wrapping around his waist.

His cell-phone rang,

“Hello . . . Yah, I hear you . . . Listen, e-mail me the list and I’ll get back to you . . . What? I know it’s important, but I need to daven now –Zei Gezunt

-So much for coming out of the shtetl.

The prayers began.
At some point during the confusion of amen’s and other biblical babble a prayer book was shoved in my hands. As I looked blindly at the thick black letters floating on the sea of yellowed pages, I became aware of how silent the room became. I realized that I too was now floating amongst a sea of black bobbing bodies in the yellow sheets of the room. My stomach turned with an audible groan, breaking the silence of the prayers. An uncomfortable feeling grew in me, as my Jewish illiteracy came to a blaring forefront. In vain I tried to compensate by sway my body to the ancient rhythm of the prayers, a rhythm that all but I seemed to hear. At last my own supplications poured forth to the ancient G-d above.

“I’m sorry,” I prayed, “I’m sorry that I can no longer make out the letters of Your tongue. When I leave here, I promise that I’ll learn again.”

The prayers ended, the doorbell rang, and dinner was delivered. I’m not sure when exactly, but at some point between the bagels and cream cheese and the pita with falafel I seemed to forget my promise, leaving it behind with yellow sheets in the room. The One to whom I made my promise, however, remembered.

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autone said...

I'm interested in reading the next chapter and then seeing you at your book signing tour at Barnes & Noble!


Mottel said...

I'm glad you liked it. Perhaps posting it here will inspire me to do more.

Crème de la Krim said...

I agree -- keep writing! Let me know when you post the next installment.

Mottel said...

Bli Neder I will.
Thank you for the kind words.

ash said...

its good and its needed. keep it up.