Saturday, May 31, 2008

A Dash of Aryan

Richard Karpowitz winced as his phone rang. He was sure it was his mother, calling to ensure he would join her and dad in the synagogue for Shavuot. He loved his mother, but he really wasn’t comfortable with religion. Richard wasn’t a atheist, but thought that maybe the day could be spent on making a little more money than reading from the Torah. But try telling that to his granddad who had survived the holocaust. Even though he was 95 and frail, he held on to the Jewish traditions like a beaver to his log, unable to let go, and sinking into them more and more.
Ric, as he liked to call himself was the X generation. He was born in America, loved the culture here and was sure that whatever happened he would be ok, after all he was in the country with a first amendment to free speech. He had somehow worked his way through his masters in Yale Grad and was now working as a founding partner in a Startup in Portland. Life was good. He did do his part to the community by driving a Prius, sending a 100$ to the food harvest fund and running a 5mile marathon for breast cancer(mainly because he was trying to please a girl from his yoga class). He never did understand his parents nature to talk about the good old times in Poland. What could be better than America in 2008 he wondered.

Ric had to meet an venture capitalist in Idaho . He never had visited the state and never wanted to till his 18th year. That was when he met Alan Hunter, his roommate and pal for life. Alan was from Idaho, but you could never guess it from all the crazy situations he had managed to get them in and out of. They had bunked innumerable classes together to get into so many run ins with campus security that Jack Chapman, the dean had their parents number on his speed dial. But the funny thing was Ric had never met Al’s parents. Al had always managed to soothe Jack by just talking to him .That was Al’s magic, his gift of the gab. He seemed to convince teachers that upgrading their grades from a D to a B- was in the students benefits, sorority girls that dating either him or Ric was a good social cause and the best one of all, convincing Jack Chapman to actually give them their degree, inspite of lacking 95% attendance. But what shocked Ric the most was that Alan decided to go back to Idaho to manage his fathers business, then take up his choice of a job in the advertising market.Ric hadn’t seen him in 5 years, but they stayed in touch through mails and an occasional phonecall.
After a successful meeting, Ric decided to call Al when his gaze wandered to the date. It was Al’s birthday today .He put Al’s number into his I-phone and it took approximately 5 seconds to return his address. He wanted to surprise Al and maybe finally he would meet his parents. After driving for about 2 hours, Ric finally arrived into a small town.He couldn’t believe that Al had settled down here. It looked like it didn’t have a Starbucks or even a multiplex. Shaking his head, he wondered if this would be a good time to ask his old pal to join him in the business. He slowly drove his car into a pathway which seemed to go up a hill. A couple of cars followed his, no wonder for Al’s party. He wished he had brought a better gift; he had picked up a shirt from a local mall. Now, he prayed that Al was the same size that he was 5 years back.

As Ric stepped from his car, he looked around to see people in different attires. Must be a costume party , he thought. Funny, though most of men seemed to be dressed in the shorts and the ladies in Heidi dresses. As he rang moved through the throng, into an open doorway, trying to catch a glimpse of Al, he stopped in his tracks. There were a dozen men in Nazi regalia. Though it was probably a costume party, Ric thought it was in very bad taste. His grandfathers’ stories of the death camps and shooting squads sprang on him like never before. Trying to spot Al’s golden head through the crowd, all Ric could think about was getting out of there as quick as possible. Snatches of conversation kept hitting him. ‘Superior’, ‘Pure blooded’, ‘Segregation’ and ‘Aryan nation’. As his brain tried to assimilate what was going on, he saw Al on a podium smiling, and wearing another Nazi uniform. As he internally retched, old senior lady stopped him and smiled. “Are you here for the first time” she asked. As he dumbly nodded, she said “its nice to have new blood. We need young people to stop the Jews and Colored folk from contaminating our pure Aryan blood. I am sure your blood oath will not be wasted today”. As she was talking Ric, couldn’t believe the filth that was permeating in the minds around him. He was shocked and appalled, that such violence and hate still resided in this decade. He thought the villains in the world were long bearded men hiding in caves in Afghanistan, but how could you fight little old ladies. As the buzzing around him grew louder, he suddenly felt Al’s eyes on him. He knew he would be dead in less than 5 minutes. Al had only to let this group know he was a Jew. If an old lady hated Jews so much, how much would that ugly bald guy in the corner with a swastika on his arm hate him?

As Al moved towards him, he stayed rooted not able to move. He somehow had an inkling of his grandfathers fear but greater courage at that moment. Remembering words from the Torah to give him strength, he stared Al in the eyes, almost defying him. Al face didn’t change to much , He smiled a bit and shook Ric’s hand . “Happy Birthday”, was the only thing that Ric managed to say,while he dumped the shirt in Al's hand .Al turned to the old lady and said “Grom, this is my old roommate -Richard Braun”. As Ric , blinked he knew Al was protecting him again, as he did all those times in school. As the same introduction flew between the other members Al simply mentioned that Ric’s grandpa was in Poland in WWII. Al let everyone think that Ric was the grandson of a Nazi soldier. As the pats and smiles came his way, all Ric wanted to do was throw up. Al, making conversations on the way quietly led him back to his car.
Ric jumped in and scanned Al’s face , his mind was still trying to understand the monster behind the friends face. Al looked at him and shrugged. “We all have to live with legacies” he said. “Yours in surviving the holocaust and mine is being the cause. Do you know Ric, I was named after my great grand uncle ,but changed my name.But I couldn’t change my family. So I live with them and bear this craziness, to contain them in this little neck of the woods. If this is unleashed, then we will be staring at another killing zone”. As Al closed the car door and started moving away, Ric asked what was you uncle called ? Al just turned back and said “ Adolf Hitler”

As Ric drove away, he said a little prayer and picked up the phone to ring his mother. He would be there for Shavuot and every occasion after that.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


It was an awfully cold February night. She shivered, flicked away the snowflake perched on the tip of her eyelash. As she waited in the snowfall for the bus that was always late, she caught her reflection in the water below her feet. Straggly brown hair, sunken blue eyes and a vacant stare was all she could see. Was that thereflection of the prom queen of 1998 she wondered.10 years and one failed marriage later all she had was 15 dollars in her purse and more veins on her leg then she could count.

She was 18 once, pretty and her only care in the world was what color her prom dress would be. With her curls and blue eyes, she was everyone’s darling. Especially her granddad’s . She was his “Jamie”. He was sure she would shoot to fame. “Success is just a stone throw away for you Jamie”, he would constantly say. She grew up believing that. She knew that once she was old enough to drive out of her small town, she would be lapped up by Hollywood. The day after her graduation ceremony she had caught a gray line out of Redville, Colorado She landed in Los Angeles full of dreams ,which started diminishing the minute she saw the first blond with body like Rachel Hunter’s waitressing at MacDonald’s. As she started making the rounds of the agencies, she always got the same answer. She was a natural beauty but there wasn’t much place in the current industry for that. Nowadays , she had to be a size zero with lips of Angelina Jolie to even attend most of the calls. She was so alone in this new world, where every one of her previous beauty marks was a flaw. Her hair was “Too curly”, Her eyes too big and her size 6 a little too fat. She made the first mistake when she allowed Jack , an agent tell her she was perfect. A year in Hollywood should have taught her that no one was considered perfect. When he took her life savings, he took her last hope of becoming the next Debra Winger.

She married a guy who promised her a part in his next movie. The only part he forgot to mention was that he probably was not going to make one for another 20 years . He was arraigned the day after their honeymoon for bank fraud. She started waitressing the day, she left the courtroom. The last 9 years she had gone from Hooters to Ric’s Diner on the corner of 22nd and 5th. Who would have thought the girl voted most likely to succeed, would be praying for a head waitressing job, so she could pay off her four thousand dollar credit card payment. She had incurred that paying for the bails bondsman , when her heel of a husband jumped bail and ran to Mexico. She knew she could never return home, to a place where she was once popular and beautiful.

But now she was waiting for the bus. Grandpa had passed away . There wasn’t much left . Just an old patch of land where his cabin stood. She was sure with the recession going on, she wouldn’t get more than 500 dollars for it. At least that would pay for this trip. As she watched the landscape change from the silver steel twining structures to the light yellows and browns of the corn fields, she wept a little. She straightened up as she walked to the little cabin. The funeral had taken place the week before, she had wanted to be there but her 15 year old supervisor refused to let her have some time off. As she sniffed and look at the mountain behind the cabin, a sense of calm settled over her. She could still hear her grandpa humming a Dean Martin tune, cooking the tuna casserole for dinner., That’s the only thing he knew how to make after grandma died.

She walked outside in her bare feet, feeling the cold pebbles and stones between her feet. Suddenly it started snowing. Flakes glinting in the cabin lights looked like crystals . She closed her eyes ,and it was the night of her prom again. She was again the prom queen , and the flakes transformed into the neon tube lights on the dance floor. As she swirled, listening to her granddad sing in her head, she tripped on a stone and fell flat into the snow. As laughter bubbled inside her , she look at the rock she tripped on. She took it in her hand and was about to throw it… “for you grandpa ,because you always said success was just a stone’s throw away”… as she swung her hand back, the stone glinted. She took it rubbed it and it shone. She felt like keeping it,maybe it was just granite but she wanted to check it out.

The next morning, Jamie took that stone to Mr.Horowitz , the town jeweler. To the jewelers and her mind blowing surprise , it was a beautiful 3.2 Carat diamond hidden in the stone. Grandpa had filled in a ditch in the front yard with the stones, which he had purchased of sailor of Ghana ship for five dollars on a trip to Sacramento. Jamie sold that stone and paid her bills. As she sat in the cabin looking at the snowflakes glinting off her twenty million dollar stones, she smiled., her grandpa had been right after all. “Success was a stones throw away”

Monday, May 19, 2008

A pebble in his pocket

Shaw started the morning badly. He was late for office, his wife who was 2 minutes from divorcing him, burnt his breakfast and his 28 year old car’s carburetor was starting to smoke.But today was an important day, he was supposed to meet his new boss. Maybe the promotion that was evading him the last 5 years would finally come his way. As he put on his best white shirt and snazzy red tie, he did what the self help book told him to do. Look into the mirror and say loudly “You are the best , better than all the rest”. He wondered if the self help guru was part of Tina Turner’s fan club ,as that mantra sure reminded him of her bestselling song. Quickly pulling himself back into the present, he stuffed his burnt toast into his laptop bag and called a quick bye to his wife. There was no response, which he had expected. Rushing out through the door he nearly tumbled over his two year daughter Samantha. Unfortunately for her, she had inherited his looks, scraggly brown hair and brown eyes, not the brunette and blue of her mothers, but she looked like an angel to him .

As Sam put out her arms to him in a gesture of pick up and kiss, Shaw knew it would make him late, but who could resist that smile. She pecked him on his cheek and whispered in his ear. “Daddy ,a fairy gave me her treasure, and I want you to keep it”. Saying that she slipped a muddy blue stone into his white shirt pocket. Shaw’s perfect white shirt now had a stain the size of the quarter staring out at the world to see. Knowing that he would never have time to change and leave , he shrugged, kissed his daughter and ran towards his car.

Entering the bank where he worked he tried to quietly slip into the conference room where the meet and greet session for his new manager was in going on. He had tried to hide his stain by wearing an old blazer he found at the back of his car, but the 110 F heat of California summer didn’t help, and now he had sweat patches in places that he never dreamed could sweat It was his turn to meet the manager, the sweat patches grew and so did his anxiety. On stammering out a welcome , all he got back was a quizzical glance down his outfit and a off handed thanks. As they all trouped out to sit at their respective desks, Shaw was certain that the bad morning had officially turned into a bad rest of the year. In the afternoon, the bank was quiet. Old Mrs. Guezzner was there depositing her pension, being half deaf and almost totally blind, she required a lot of help. Shaw helped her, as he felt that he might be in the same position one day. As he was quietly counting the quarters and pennies she wanted to deposit, there was a sudden blast. Looking up he saw Gladys the cashier with her hands in the air, Rory the security guard, lying in a pool of blood on the floor and four armed men with black masks on.

The afternoon sure beat the morning in how bad his life was getting. As he lowered to the floor, one of the armed men asked him about his manager. As he looked around searching for the new face, all he could see was a foot of his manager cowering in the corner. Suddenly the quietness of terror was broken by the siren of the police surrounding the area. Gladys for all her 'blondes are dumb' act, had actually pulled the security function alerting the police. It was then that all hell broke loose at the bank. The terrorist started shooting around, warning the police not to come near. Mrs. Guezzner, who thought that they had been rescued, started walking toward the door. Shaw knew he had to pull her down and without thinking just got up and reached out to her. All he felt then was a blow to his chest that put him a few inches off the ground and into the marble pillars, which old banker Stanton had built in 1941.Darkness then came over him and the last thing he remembered was he had just forty five thousand dollars in his 401(K) , and that wouldn’t be enough for his daughter to go to college.

As the squat team burst into the room, surrounding the masked men , the emergency service immediately rushed to Rory and Shaw’s aid. They had to take Mrs.Guezzner with them as she refused to leave Shaw’s side. Gladys was screaming that Shaw was shot right in the heart. They tried to turn him to his side, they noticed a bruise on his head , but no blood on his shirt. As they tried to make sense of what had happened and revive him, an attendant noticed the tear in his shirt. They then smiled, well this was one lucky man they said, he wouldn’t die, the bullet hadn’t hit him, it was lodged in the pebble in his pocket.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Lil Pink Dress

Amelia or Lia as her friends called her put on the her little pink frock in the morning. Doing up her pigtails, she smiled brightly. Today was going to be fun at school. It was a national holiday and her friend Nana was to help her with homework. She didn’t mind that she had worn the same frock every school function. It was her favorite , and the fluffy pink frill could turn up stiff around her ,and she felt like a tulip in the first days of spring. Mom and Dad didn’t buy her a lot of clothes , but when they did it was just perfect. Nana’s parents were always giving her a new dress for every event. But Lia didn’t mind, as she had her favorite tulip dress on.

As she entered her class eagerly awaiting Nana, she looked around and smiled at her teacher. She wanted to be the one closest to the mike when they sang their class song, but she knew , Nana and her being the tallest, would never get close enough.But with her friend close to her she didn't mind being in last row. As she quietly hummed it in her head, trying not to forget a word, she bumped into Nana. Nana was looking pretty in her little red dress. “It is new” she whispered, “My daddy got it from abroad" .Abroad was a term used by them, every time Nana’s father went out of town for work. As Lia marveled at Nana’s new dress, Nana’s looked at her disparagingly. It was then that the teacher asked them to come together on stage to sing. As the girls started coming together in a line Nana turned to Lia and said “You are wearing your dirty pink dress again , don’t your parent buy you anything new?”

Lia’s beautiful world suddenly had a crack in it. She stepped back, turned around and ran to an empty classroom. She missed the function, the balloons and the smiles. As she came back to the group Nana simply walked away from Lia in little pretty red dress. They never spoke again, there was nothing much to say.

Twenty years later, Lia a successful architect now walked into her parents garage, trying to put down the hundredth pile of books her mother packed away. Her gaze suddenly stopped on a suitcase. Opening it up, in the rummage she found her mothers forgotten dresses, her fathers outdated trousers and the most precious of all her little pink dress. As she clutched it hard in her hands, tears poured from her eyes. Nana’s remarks had been those of a child, but the effect had carried Lia to adulthood. She had worked harder after that day at school, then college and finally at work, so that no one child or adult would ever whisper those words to her again. That comment had changed her life from something beautiful to the hard reality of the world. She didn’t know if she was thankful or filled with regret about that day, but one thing she was sure, she still loved her little pink dress. Wiping away her tears, she picked up h her little pink dress as she was sure, her daughter would make a lovely tulip.

My foray into Fiction

I have always wanted to write fiction, blogging seems to be a best way to do it. I know Im not the next JK Rowling, but I can certainly Try