The Power of Prayer

My husband has COPD. I have no idea what the letters stand for. I just know that he has shortness of breath, wheezing, weakness, and coughing. He has two medicines that he breathes in by use of a nebulizer. When the pharmacist told me $1200, I almost fainted. After insurance kicked in, the price was only $348, which was a dagger to my heart. I came to terms with it because my husband has to have it. He even agreed to going to an indoor pool at a local state college. That made me happy because he was finally taking some of the responsibility for his health.

I’ve always believed that there is a G-d. I cannot describe G-d. I do believe that G-d is an invisible energy that exists. I feel it when I light Shabbat candles. I feel it when I say the Shma with my husband at night. I feel it when I paint, when I teach, and when I write. I feel it when I see the moon and the stars. I feel it when I read Torah.

Aside from praying in temple, I never prayed by myself. Alone. Recently I started studying the weekly parsha with a very small group of lovely people and the Chabad rabbi. I used to consider myself somewhere between a Reform Jew and a nothing Jew. Studying Torah has given me a new lease on life. I am amazed that such an ancient text applies to today. It challenges my intellect. In fact, instead of watching television at night (which I generally find to be an insult to my intelligence) I’ve been reading to my husband. We have read two books about Chabad, more specifically the Rebbe. I have learned so much about Chassidism and the Rebbe. I deeply regret that I never met him.

When this COPD problem sent me deep into the valley of depression, I began to seriously pray. To ask G-d for help. Today, when I went to pick up my husband’s medicine, there was no cost. I had to ask how that could be. The technician said that Medicare picked up the tab.

Thank you G-d.

Emma Leah

It is somewhat a surprise for us. Yes, we went through all the tests and the procedures. Only to be disappointed every month. It was very painful, emotionally and physically. Not to mention financially. But we really want a baby. Not someone else’s baby. Ours. Benjamin’s and mine.

We have been married for eleven years. At first, I took the Pill because the time was not right to have a baby. On our tenth anniversary, Benjamin turns to me and says,”Enough already. Let’s have a baby. No excuses. I make good money. You love teaching. Let’s at least do it the old fashioned way and maybe we’ll get lucky on the first try.”

It was exciting. For someone who had never been particularly adventurous before, it seemed that Benjamin spent all day long thinking of things that would result in a baby.

After five months, I hint to Benjamin that maybe we need a vacation from trying. He isn’t on-board with that, but being the gentle soul that he is he decides that instead of trying every night, we can try three or four nights a week.

Unfortunately, I’m still not pregnant

. We start talking about adopting.

“There are so many children who need parents. Maybe that’s what G-D wants us to do, to adopt” I say.

“We’re not supposed to question G-d. Maybe if you have a baby, you’ll have a miscarriage. Or maybe the baby will come out looking like your sister. Then we’ll sure know we should have adopted. Worse case scenario it will be born with a disability,.” Ben says.

“And if our child…”

Benjamin sighs deeply. “Whatever .” My heart had already dropped. Now Ben was stomping on it.

Our home is not a happy place. Why is G-D testing us? Don’t we do all the 613? What have we done to deserve this?

My mother, in her infinite wisdom, says,” If you stop trying so much, you’ll get pregnant.”

My father says,” Leave them alone. As soon as they relax about it, she’ll get pregnant

My father is right. Ben and I decide to focus on other things. We stop talking about a nursery. We stop buying baby things. We stop wandering into the baby department at Dillard’s. We go back to buying concert tickets.

The first month I miss my period, I don’t even mention it to Ben. I decide it must be a fluke. The second month, I start having morning sickness all day long. I don’t have to buy a pregnancy test. I know I am pregnant. Ben is over the moon.

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Emma Leah is born at 5:05 a.m. How do I know? My eyes are rivetted on the clock. My parents and Ben’s parents and some friends are here. When Emma’s head crowns, the fans are clapping, whistling, Mazel Toving, and crying. Emma is beautiful. When the nurse hands Emma to me, I blubber.

Everyone is in love with Emma. All Emma has to do is fall asleep while I’m feeding her and Ben says,” She’s perfect!” My parents make comments like, “Emma is the smartest baby ever. Even smarter than you were when you were her age.” I am not offended. I am distracted by the voice in the back of my head that is saying, “What if …?”

Emma is a month old. It seems like she doesn’t actually see me. When I pick her up, it’s like picking up a sack of flour. When I put her on a blanket on the floor, instead of doing a swimming motion, she lays there like a lump. I can’t help but wonder if something is wrong. Ben tells me I’m overreacting. I say, “I hope so.”

I cry. A lot. My mother tells me it’s post-partum depression. She says I’ll feel better in a couple of months. She suggests I see someone. Like a shrink. “At least if you see a shrink, she can prescribe something to help you relax. You’re making me nervous. And I never get nervous.”

Yeah right mom.

I make an appointment with Dr. Levine, a member of my parents’ temple. Her interior designer must have referred to “How to Decorate Doctors’ Offices to Make the Patients Feel Comfortable.” The walls in Dr. Levine’s office are all painted a shade between gray and white. The white carpet underneath the glass cocktail table is probably from the doctor’s last trip to Greece. The couches facing each other on either side of the cocktail table are a blue leather bordering on gray. All the paintings are done in subdued hues. Very New Age music envelops the room like a cloud.

Dr. Levine is a petite, dark-haired woman in her late forties. Her make-up is perfect. Her nails are perfect. And, she smells perfect.

As I walk into the room, Dr. Levine stretches her hand out to me to shake it. Her hand is soft and warm. “Hello, Dr. Levine,” I say.

“Please call me Ellen. Everyone does. So, sweetie, what’s going on?”

“I had a baby. I don’t think this is post partum depression. I am worried about her. My mother says I have post partum depression. But that’s not it. There’s something wrong with her. “

“Have you discussed this with your pediatrician?”

“He pooh-poohs me. He’s old and not in touch. “

“I have a friend who’s a pediatrician. She’ll help you. You’ll like her. But I will give you a script for a mild tranquilizer. Just to take the edge off. I have a feeling you’re going to need it.”

Dr. Levine’s friend, Dr. Coan, is wonderful. She assures me that babies develop at different rates, but I worry. Emma is not babbling by four months. I am frustrated. She’s not smiling by five months. No laughter by six months. . One thing she does well is eat. My mother assures me that this is a good sign. I pray it is.

Ben tries to engage Emma in a game of Peek-a-Boo. She stares into space. My father points to the stuffed bear he brought for her. Emma is oblivious. When I run the vacuum cleaner, Emma squishes up her face and lets out a painful wail. She hates the sounds of the garbage trucks, the phone ringing, and dogs barking. She never makes eye contact. When she seems to be upset and I start to pick her up, she is unresponsive. The fact that Emma doesn’t say momma or dada is a dagger to my heart. Even Ben is beginning to suspect something is wrong.

I cry a lot. There is something wrong. Terribly wrong. It’s time for Ben and me to take our heads out of the sand. I don’t want to misdiagnose Emma. I fear she is on the Autism Spectrum.

By two years old, Emma’s language skills have not developed. When asked a question, she always answers with the same word which she repeats the s over and over again. When I arrange a play date for her, Emma acts as if the other child is not there and plays by herself. Ben and I are worried.

Dr. Coan sighs deeply as she watches Emma. I tell her that I am having trouble potty training. Emma has become more and more aggressive, hitting Ben and me. She has not developed any vocabulary. The meltdowns are becoming more and more frequent and brutal. I have seen her picking at her skin and hitting her head against the wall. J am in pain. I can’t talk to my mother about this. She says stupid things like, “Emma is just a baby. How can you think that there’s anything wrong with her? If there is anything wrong, she’ll outgrow it. Remember you used to suck your thumb and I was so worried that you would grow up sucking your thumb? And my mother told me you would outgrow it. And you did. ” I answered my mother by crying big crocodile tears.

Dr. Coan says,” Let’s keep a journal. Write down the good things Emma does and the inappropriate behaviors. Make sure you write the dates so that we can have some baseline data to help us make the correct diagnosis. Ellen wants to know if you need a refill on the meds she gave you.”

“Yes I do.”

“No problem. I’ll write it for you.”

When I feel as though my whole life is falling apart, I make an appointment with Dr. Coan. I drop the journal off at her office the day before.

Dr. Coan is very quiet when Ben and I walk in. Just one look at her face, triggers tears. Ben puts his arm around me.

“It’s not the end of the world. Emma is healthy. She’s just not your average child. I am going to find a support group for you. That will help you to know you’re not alone. I’m also going to give you reading material to help you.” I don’t know if I’m crying tears of relief or frustration.

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It’s been five years since Dr. Coan has identified Emma as a high functioning autistic ten year old. It has been tough and frustrating, but it has been rewarding. At least Emma knows I’m Mama and Ben is Dada.

The Decline of Henry Easterling

For a Monday night, the auction house is packed full.   Most of the people have pedigrees longer than their arms.  Many of them inherited their wealth.  My husband, Henry Easterling, inherited a fortune.  He privately owns oil companies, airlines, and cruise lines.  He has an extensive art collection that makes him the envy of other collectors.  Most recently he hired bright young men and women to develop companies exploring the possibilities of A.I.  Henry and I are listed among the wealthiest couples in the world.  Sheiks in Dubai are the only ones wealthier than we.

Who’s that over there in the yellow leather suit?  Oh, it’s Bitsy Rothchild with her fake red hair tumbling down her back.  And that last face lift and all the botox in the world isn’t going to make her look a day less than sixty.  Being anorexia doesn’t help either.  And who told her it’s okay for her to wear sleeveless tops?  God knows her veins pop out of her skinny, toothpick arms like crazy.  I guess I’ll wave at her.  I hope she doesn’t come over to talk to me.  She’s usually dull as mud.  She loves to gossip, which I abhor.  She’s turned around and is walking away from me.  Good riddance to bad rubbish.

Oh hell the Grahams are here!  I’m sure they’re going to come over to us.   Of course they’re going to tell us about the cruise they recently took.  I swear they’re on ships more than they’re on land.

Georgia Graham is a Georgia peach.  Went to the University of Georgia.  Pledged a sorority.  Probably POT.  Cute little cheerleader with her bottle blond hair flopping around in a pony tail.  Cameramen seemed to catch her a couple of times during  football games to show her on the big screen.    Majored in snagging a husband.  George was just a good ol’ boy.   Fresh off the farm.   Probably a virgin when he met Georgia.  Not a jock but a scholar. Tall, slim, prone to wearing tweed jackets with leather elbows.  Early balding.  Wire-rimmed glasses.  Nothing striking.  Just a nice guy.   Graduated top of his class.  Became an investment banker when some of us didn’t have a dime to buy a pack of bubble gum. 

 Georgia, she’s another one who has spent enough money on plastic surgery and botox to save all the starving children in India or wherever they’re starving these days.   I hate those commercials of those hungry and sad faced children who we could save by donating just one dollar a day for a year.  I’d rather donate to my local no-kill animal shelter.  At least that way I know I know the money is going for food for those babies.  Don’t get me started on people who get pets and decide they don’t want the responsibility of a dog or a cat.  Then they drop Poopsie off at a shelter.  I’d like to drop them off at a shelter and let them sit in kennels.  I’ll bet no one would adopt them.

George starts in about how spectacular the cruise was.    Henry catches me rolling my eyes. The auctioneer bangs his gavel to start the auction.  Thank God.

 Henry and I have been married for six years.  He is almost twenty years my senior. I imagine that at forty Henry was quite a catch.   Tall, good-looking, Harvard grad.  Used to race yachts with his friends.  Lived on the North Shore of Long Island in one of the few homes that impress the unimpressionable.   His first wife, Lilly, was stunning.  Tall, blond, always wore real pearls.   She tragically died in a freak car accident  

Seven years ago, Henry and I met through mutual friends at my opening at the Hinds Gallery.  I am a visual artist, having pieces in museums and private collections worldwide.   The night Henry and I met I realized that Henry is a narcissist.  He couldn’t stop talking about himself long enough to ask me questions.  To be honest, I’m not attracted to Henry.  He is old, but I his money keeps me warm at night. 

We had a classical courtship.  Dinners at the best restaurants in Manhattan.   Weekend trips via private jet to Aspen or St. Lucia.  F lowers that filling my apartment.  the candy, and, let’s not forget, the jewelry.  Frequently small boxes would appear at the dinner table from Tiffany’s.  All I could think about was returning the gifts for cash.  I was by no means An Unstarving Artist.

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Henry and I got married in a great big wedding at Tavern on the Green in Central Park in the spring.  It was quite an event.  Everyone who was anyone was there.  Everyone from the art world and Fortune 500.  A judge friend of Henry’s conducted the ceremony.  I looked stunning in a design by Julia Grove, an up-and-coming new young designer.  It was all lace and crystals.  Henry insisted that the train be as long as Princess Diana’s and since he was paying, what did I care how long it was?

Henry’s children attended with their respective spouses and children.  They hated me from the minute Henry introduced me to them.  They thought I was trying to take their mother’s place.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  I really couldn’t have cared less what they thought of me.  It’s what Henry thinks of me that counts.

 The musicians played late into the night. The champagne flowed.  Everyone was dancing.   Lady Gaga and Tony made an appearance and sang an old standard, something Henry requested.  He never would tell me the cost of the “Grandest Wedding of the Year” as the article in the New York Times read.

The wedding night could have been called The Titanic 2. It was right out of an old Marx Brothers’ movie.   By the time I came out of the bathroom, in a glorious designer gown, Henry was flat on his back and out cold.  Except for his incessant snoring.  I kept repeating to myself,” You’ll never go hungry again.  You’ll never go hungry again.  You’ll never go hungry again.” And I clicked my silver shoes together.  

Henry pictures himself as the grandest art collector in the world.  We live on the top floor of the Pitch Tower.   We have a private elevator that goes directly to our floor.   The white carpets, the white leather lounges and other specially designed white furniture surrounded by walls prominently displaying Henry’s paintings

Lately, Henry has been having slight difficulties.  I am probably the only one who notices it.  For example, on several occasions he has forgotten the name of his beloved standard schnauzer, Pixie.  He has had that dog longer than he has known me. She was a gift from his daughter when her mother passed away.  Not that the dog would take the place of her mother, but at least it would give Henry something to focus on other than his grief.  Henry walks Pixie three times a day. 

Another problem Henry has is remembering when he has business meetings.  I realize that this is a sign of normal aging, but it seems to bemore and more frequent.   He relies on his secretary, Josh, to keep him on time.  Thank God for Josh.  He knows what Henry needs before Henry says anything. 

Henry is very impulsive.  For example, when Henry saw an advertisement in the Times for the newest Mercedes-Benz, he dialed the dealership and ordered one.  We have a garage full of antique and recently purchased vehiclesI can’t remember the last time we actually drove in one.

So, here we are sitting in the auction.  Henry has his paddle with the number twenty-two on it.  He mumbles to me,” Imagine that!  It’s my lucky day!  Don’t you remember?  We met on March 22.”

I let out a breath of air.  “Of course, I remember.  How could I forget?  Which pieces are you interested in?” I ask.

“I don’t know.   There’s a printer whose work I’ve always admired.  We have several of her pieces in Tuscany.  See if any of her work is listed.”

As soon as the first paintingis announced, Henry jumps to his feet, furiously waving his plaque,  blurting out, I want it!”  As the price increases, Henry continues this ridiculous behavior.  People are staring.  Others are giggling.   I am embarrassed.   He impulsively buys an obnoxious number of paintings.  I suppose they’ll go to the ranch in Colorado.   Or the island in the Caribbean   Or the house in Tuscany.  Or the winery in the wine country.

Josh, Henry’s secretary, called me today.  He asked if he could me meet in my studio.  He said it was urgent.  I said,”Of course!”

Josh arrived.  Usually he smiles.  This was not one of those days.  He sits down in a chair facing my desk.  I say,” Cut to the chase.  I’ve got a feeling I’m not going to like this.”  He pulls out an envelope from his briefcase.  It is addressed to Henry.  It is from the auction house.  Slowly, I pull the folded notice out.  Henry owes forty-nine million dollars.  I am speechless.  I look at Josh.  “He doesn’t have that kind of money laying around.”  Josh said. 

“Does he know about this?”

“I didn’t say anything to him.  I don’t think he would understand .” Josh replied.

“I think you’re right.  Go ahead and use Henry’s stamp.  We’ll figure it out later.”

Henry is not well.  I caught him staring into space on many occasions.  When I ask him what he is looking at, his answer is always the same.  “Nothing.  Really nothing.” 

We speak less and less to each other.  I am of the impression that Henry is no longer of this world.  When I hear him talking to Lily (his dead wife) I know  he is in trouble. 

I make an appointment with Dr. Jim Bellows, Henry’s General Practitioner.  Henry has been seeing him for years.  I want to let Dr. Bellows know my concerns about Henry.  When I am finished with my litany of strange behaviors, all Bellows can say is,” I should have warned you.  Altzheimer’s runs in Henry’s family.  There isn’t much we can do for him.  Just keep him comfortable and doing the things he likes to do until he can’t do them any more.  Then we’ll come up with a plan.”   I left the appointment feeling worse than when I arrived.

I receive a text message from Josh.  I need to contact him immediately.  I can’t imagine what Henry has done now.  I ask Josh to meet me at my studio so that whatever will be said will be confidential. 

It is worse than I could have imagined.  Without my knowledge, Henry took out loans close to sixty million dollars using his art collection as collateral.  I was speechless

“What do you suggest I do?”

“You have real estate.  Which property do you think Henry wouldn’t miss?”

“Probably the ranch.  It will be the easiest to sell.  Can you help me sell it at a good price?”

“I’ll give a real estate friend a call and see what he says.”

“ Great.  I’m going to have to keep a tighter leash on Henry or who knows what will happen next?  Thanks Josh.  For your help.”

Henry is more and more forgetful.  The other day he was still in bed at 10:00 a.m.  Told me he thought it was Sunday and he didn’t need to go to work.  The next thing I knew, Henry was dressed in overalls.  Said he was going to mow the back forty.  I called Josh and told him come to the apartment as soon as he could. to take Henry to the office as soon as possible.  I didn’t know if I was going to cry or laugh. 

Things got worse.  Of course.  The next day, after dinner, Henry decided to take Pixie for a walk.   Henry and Pixie left the house close to 7:00 p.m. It’s 9:00.   I start having an anxiety attack.  I show the cops a photo of Henry and they leave.  An hour later, in walks Henry and Pixie.   “Where in the hell have you been?”  I ask. 

“Oh, just everywhere.”

“Did you go to the park with Pixie?”

“I guess so.”

“Were you mugged?”

“I let her off her leash.  I realized I had to run after her.   I ran for miles.  Finally, I sat down on a bench.  I thought my heart was going to shatter into a million little pieces.  I called Pixie’s name.  She came running right up to me.  I put her leash on.   Then I couldn’t remember how to get home.  I sat and wondered.  A police officer asked me if I was okay.  I told him I needed to go home.  He asked me for our address.  I told him and he walked Pixie and me out of the park.

I deeply sigh”  I’m glad you’re home. “

“So am I. “

Believe it or not, things got worse.  When I mentioned the name of an art dealer someone had given him, Henry looked as if he had no idea about whom I was speaking.  “You know who I’m talking about.  Randy Smith gave you the guy’s card.  At the last auction we went to.”

“I remember standing there and talking to Randy.  But that’s about it.”

I don’t know if I should tell him about the art dealer.  He’ll spend money we just don’t have. 

Henry’s daughter, Lila, calls.  Lila isn’t  particularly warm and fuzzyl.  She has always had money, which she thinks makes her entitled to anything she wants.  I once asked her what was the most she ever spent on a purse.  She said $3,000.  I thought about how many homecooked meals that three thousand dollars would have covered.  Her three children,  Lenny, Lois, and Levy, are so  spoiled that there is nothing I can ever get for them.  They have everything they could possibly want.  All of them are named after their schlemiel father, Lex.  He’s never once said anything nice to me.  In fact, I don’t remember him saying anything to me at all, nice or nasty.

 Lex tried to talk Henry into funding a start-up.  Something to do with a ball cleaning machine. Said it would be great for all the golfers on Henry’s Christmas List.   Henry did not invest.  Since then Lex hasn’t had any use for Henry or me.

 Lila acts as if I don’t exist.  When I answer the phone, she asks to speak to Henry.  Not Dad.  Just Henry.  Personally, the only thing she cares about is her father’s money, not her father.

I am worried about Henry.  I fear the unknown.  The only thing I know for certain is that Henry’s illness is going to get worse. 

“““““““““““““““““““

A year has passed.  I had to move Henry to a hospital in Boca.  I bought a cute cottage close to the hospital.  Henry’s children whined about it.  Said the hospital was too far from New York to visit  

I dread the day when he doesn’t recognize me. 

Advice to Parents

Being a parent is the hardest job possible.  I have never been one.  I was a teacher for forty years.  Somehow that entitles me to having words of encouragement for parents.  So here it goes.

  1.  You are human.  Humans make mistakes.  And that’s okay.  Don’t look at mistakes as the end of the earth.  Look at them as opportunities to have a do over and do it better.  Maybe even hit the jackpot and get it right.  And what if you don’t, you get more do-overs.
  2.   Your kids are human.  They will make mistakes.  And not on purpose.  But just because they’re learning to deal with life.
  3.   Life is hard.  There are no certainties in life.  Life is not fair.  Life is not easy.  Tell your kids this.
  4.   Speak to your kids.  Let them know when you’re in pain, physical and emotional.
  5.   When you make a mistake, tell your kid you’re sorry.  Being honest goes a long way.
  6.   Model for your children what you want them to do.  If you smoke, your child will think it’s okay to smoke.  If you want your kid to read, you read.
  7.   Kids need boundaries.  Kids want boundaries.  Let them know just how far they can go.  And they will test those boundaries.  Stay patient.  It’s part of their growth.  If they aren’t testing boundaries, they won’t grow up.
  8.   Make kids really work for material things they want.  Material things make kids into monsters.  Especially when the material things are handed to them for nothing.  Let them value material things when they are earned.
  9.   Say no sparingly.
  10.   Pick your battles wisely.
  11.   Praise your child but don’t suffocate your child with praise.  Let it be honest.
  12.   Encourage your child to try new things.  If your child is fearful ask her what can be the worst result (that they’ll fail) and is failure the worst thing in the world?  It’s okay.
  13.   Don’t obsess over the past.  Look to the future.  You get more chances to hit the nail on the head.  And if you miss, you get more chances.
  14.   Don’t tell your kid you love him or her a million times a day.  It loses its effectiveness.  It’s like eating too many sugary sweets.  Show your love.  That’s two less letters than shower.
  15.   Give yourself permission to cry.  I had a doctor to tell me it’s okay to cry.  I add if you cry 24/7 do yourself a favor and get some mental health help.  You’re depressed!
  16.   Everyone feels down once in a while.  Everyone.
  17.   Reward yourself.  You deserve it.  Life isn’t easy.  Nobody said it is and if they do they’re lying to you and to themselves.
  18.   Take time to be alone.  Plan time for yourself.
  19.   It’s very, very hard to be a parent.  NOBODY has ever come out of it without any scars.
  20.   Actions speak louder than words.

Love at Second Sight

Love At Second Sight

The year is 1995. My family and I live in a suburban area in Canada.   The Jewish community where we live is not very large. There is only one synagogue in town. Lots of churches.

My best friend is Diane Goldstein. She has been my best friend since kindergarten. We’ve been in the same class every year. There is a total of twenty-seven Jewish kids in school. We all go to John F. Kennedy High with the rest of the kids in the area.

There are a couple of cute Jewish boys in the senior class. David and Michael are at the top of that list. They are on the soccer, the ski, and the baseball teams. They’re not the brainy types. All the girls want to go to the senior prom with them. There are some cute gentile boys, too. And there are a couple of really smart Jewish boys who aren’t in the cute category. One of them is named Leo. He’s weird. At recess he sits on a bench and knits. Can you believe it? All the other boys are tossing around a football or kicking a soccer ball, and Leo is sitting there knitting. Told Diane and me that his oldest brother’s wife is having a baby so he’s knitting a baby blanket. The jocks avoid him like the plague.

Leo is a couple of inches taller than I. He is skinny and wears these old-fashioned wire-rimmed glasses that were in style in the sixties. He doesn’t listen to the music the rest of us listen to. He likes jazz. Says it makes him feel calm and like he’s on a beach somewhere warm. Oh, okay.

Leo’s mother, Betty, is best friends with my mother. They talk on the phone every day. And at Friday night services they sit next to each other, flanked by their husbands. My sister usually sits next to our dad and I sit at the end. Next to Betty’s husband is Josh, the oldest unmarried son and then Leo. Leo is really into the service. He can read Hebrew fluently. I can, too, but not as well as Leo. When we sing, I hear him loud and clear. There’s almost nothing wrong about Leo except that he’s a super nerd and a little weird. Well, maybe a lot.

The prom is coming up soon. I don’t have a boyfriend. Not because I’m ugly or anything like that. I just don’t.  And I don’t care about going to the prom. Of course, my mother is dying for me to go. She never went to hers so I guess that’s why she wants me to go to mine.   She told me that Betty and she have discussed it and they think I should ask Leo if he wants to go with me. I want to ask her if she is out of her mind but I won’t be able to stand the fallout from the disrespect.

Diane hasn’t been asked either. We’ll probably have a sleep over, watch a movie, eat pizza, and talk about college. We’re going to the University of Toronto to be teachers. YAYYYYY!!!!

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College is so different from high school. There is a lot of work that needs to be done. To let you in on a little secret, I never studied for tests in high school. The last time I actually studied was in fourth grade for spelling tests. This is a whole different ball game. The professors don’t accept excuses for being late with assignments. If you’re sick you’d better do the work or tough luck. I have been burning the midnight oil. Sometimes it’s three o’clock before I turn in. Not fun.

My social life is almost non-existent. Wait, did I say almost? It is non-existent. I don’t want to pledge a sorority. I don’t need a clique to have friends. Diane doesn’t pledge either. Says she’s undecided about pledging next year. Just wants to get her feet wet now.

We are taking English, Math, History, Biology, and Art Appreciation. I don’t know any of the students in my classes.   Besides Diane and me I don’t think there are many Jewish kids here. When we eat in the cafeteria I’m pretty sure they’re not serving kosher meals. I’ve been eating a lot of fruits and vegetables.

Once in a while I see Leo. I think, as my mother would say, he’s filling out. He’s losing that gawky look he used to have. And he got new glasses. I wish he would get another hat. He’s been wearing that beanie since third grade and it’s time to ditch it. The scarf also. Leo and I are distant friends. Like he waves at me from a distance and I nod at him and hope nobody sees me. My mother says he’s getting great grades. My grades are just okay. Who knew you had to “apply” yourself in college? Nobody ever told me that!

There’s a guy in my English class who’s kind of cute. He’s an inch taller than I. He has blue eyes and carries a guitar with him. His name is Chris. I always see him with a skinny girl who has long blond hair down her back and wears a diamond encrusted cross. Her name is Willow. What Jewish parents would name their kid Willow? Besides her name, the cross is a dead giveaway. And when she looks at Chris, you can tell she melts away. I’d like to melt away.

I had to go to the bookstore today. There was a guy working the register. I couldn’t believe it when he started chatting me up. Asked me my name and if I had Professor Dean for English since I was buying a book for her class. And we just stood there talking up a storm. His name is Dan. Asked me if I wanted to grab a beer down at McSorley’s, the college hangout after he gets off work, at 9:00 or so. I told him I would see him there.

““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““`

“Diane, I have a date tonight.”

“Really?”

“Yeah with a guy named Dan.”

“You mean the guy in the bookstore?”

“Yeah. I’m meeting him at McSorley’s. at 9 o’clock.”

“He’s cute, from what I can tell.”

I took a shower. Shaved my legs. Put on clean jeans, black top. Knee high boots. Put on a little lip rouge. My curly dark hair was its usual unruliness. Black eyeliner rimmed my eyes. I was ready to go.

“Sarah, do you want me to go with you? You know, for moral support. I could sit at the bar, just to keep an eye on you.”

“Diane, get real. I know that I haven’t had a lot of dates before but I sure as hell don’t want you there. I’ll be fine. Don’t worry.”

“ Sure. Whatever. I’ll see you when you get back.”

“Okay.”

“““““““““““““““““““

I’m at the bar before 9 o’clock. It is crowded and smoky. I recognize kids from my classes as I walk around the bar looking for Dan. I go up to the bar and order a Corona with a twist of lime. I sit at the bar staring at the cold, slender bottle.

Now it’s 9:15. No Dan. 9:30. Still no Dan. Two beers and fifteen more minutes and I realize he isn’t coming. Finished my drink. Put on my coat, hat, gloves, and step out into the cold.

I have spent most of my life walking around in snow. But this time it feels different. Like the wind is slapping me in the face and calling me a fool under its breath.

I’m not sad. More like mad and disappointed. Lost all my excitement filled with anticipation.

“So what happened to your date?” Diane asked.

“It was a no-show. Oh well. Yeah I know. You win some. You lose some. And some are rained out. This was just a no-show.”

We decide that this is a particularly good night to share that bottle of red blend we’ve been saving. It’s a whole lot better than beer.

“““““““““““““““““““““““““““““

It’s the day after I was stood up. Usually I hate confrontations. I don’t want this guy to think he got away with anything. So here I am standing in front of the bookstore. I can see Dan at the register. I stroll in like nothing happened. Which is exactly what happened. Nothing. I walk up to the register and stand there. Finally, he picks up his head and says,”Oh, hi.”

“So what happened?”

“I just couldn’t make it.”

“That’s it? You couldn’t make it?”

“I guess.”

After a long pause. I say, ”Whatever.” I turn and walk out. Quickly. I don’t want him to see the tears in my eyes. I’m not good at anger. When Diane gets angry, she points her finger right at her victim’s chest and gives it to them good. I’m just a coward.

Diane tries to cheer me up. She invites me to go with some of the girls she knows and her to a club downtown. I tell her I have too much work to do.

The next weekend Diane says, “Hey. Let’s go down to the Christmas Parade.” I just roll my eyes and turn back to the book I’m reading.

The following Friday, Diane says,” I need to get a dress for my sister’s wedding. Please go with me.” I think about it a second and shake my head in assent. A huge smile breaks out on Diane’s face. “Well, let’s go!”

We catch a city bus. “What color do you have in mind?” I ask her.

“Oh you know Rachel. She’s already told me pink, long sleeves, and no cleavage.”

I start to laugh. It was the cleavage that got me.

We look at a thousand dresses. After three hours, I turn to Diane and say,”Just wear your bathrobe. It’s pink. It has long sleeves and if you tie it, no cleavage.”

Just then, the woman helping us, brings another gown. Diane takes one look at it and says, “That’s it! Perfect! Thank you so much!” She takes it, pays for it, and says, “C’mon. We’ve been here long enough.”

“Aren’t you going to try it on?”

“It’ll have to fit. I can’t do this anymore. Let’s get something to eat.”

We end up at Friday’s. As we go in, two guys at the bar watch us walk by. The dark haired one jostles the other by poking him with his elbow. They wait until we’re tucked into a booth. They descend upon us like eagles on prey. “How’s it going girls?” The darkhaired guy sits down next to me. The blonde guy sits next to Diane. “I’m Shep and he’s Denny. And you’re …”

“I’m Diane and she’s Sarah.” We exchange looks that mean okay let’s see where this goes.

“You girls go to the university?” Shep asks.

“We failed juggling and clowning so circus school asked us to leave,” I reply.

Diane and I keep straight faces. The boys give each other looks like they’re wondering if we’re telling the truth. We can’t stand it and burst out laughing. The boys start laughing with us.

After a pitcher of beer and beef burgers for the boys and bean burgers for Diane and me, Shep says, ”We’re on our way to a party. You girls wanna come?”

I still haven’t gotten over the Dan incident but Diane is jumping up and down like a puppy. “C’mon Sarah. It’s gonna be fun.”

“Well, ok.”

The party is in full swing by the time we got there. The boys seem harmless. Shep asks me if I want something to drink. I squeak out a “Yes.” When he returns, he holds out a plastic cup to me. I sip it. It must have cherry syrup in it. It’s yummy!

““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““““

The next thing I know is that I’m lying on a bed with most of my clothes in a pile on the floor. The last thing I remember is Shep handing me a cup. What happened between then and now is a void. And where is everyone? Where’s Diane? I hear music coming from downstairs. I put my clothes back on and slowly walk down the steps.  I find Diane in the kitchen. I say her name and she asks me where I’ve been. I tell her we need to go back to the dorm. Reluctantly, she agrees.

When we make it back to our dorm, I start taking my clothes off. Diane gasps. She tells me I have bruises all over my body, which I didn’t have before. I have no idea how they got there.

When I get into my bed, I feel something wet between my legs. Blood is pouring down. I start to cry. Diane grabs her phone and calls 911. I am numb.

The EMR responds quickly. I lose consciousness in the ambulance.

I open my eyes. I am in a hospital bed attached to a bunch of machines. I look down and see that I have packing between my legs. Diane looks at me. Her eyes are red and puffy. She looks exhausted. And pale. She holds my hand and starts crying uncontrollably.

“What happened?”

“The doctor thinks you were raped. He asked me if someone gave you a drink tonight. I told him I didn’t know.”

“All I can remember is one of those guys handing me a drink and waking up half naked on a bed.”

“Does he think we should report it to the police?”

“We can but we don’t know the names of the boy.”

I start to cry. I am sore all over. And I am in pain. “Diane, did the doctor tell you what he had to do to stop the bleeding?”

“He said he did a d&c so that at least you won’t be pregnant. He said you need a lot of rest and antibiotics.”

“Did you call my parents?”

“I had to before the doctor could treat you.”

“Well?”

“How did they sound?”

“They weren’t happy campers. Hopped into their car and are probably halfway here.”

“He must have drugged me.”

“I think so. I am so sorry that I convinced you to go to that stupid party.”

“Don’t be sorry. You didn’t hold a gun to my head.”

““““““““““““““““`

To say my parents weren’t happy campers is the understatement of the century. They were angry as hell! They called the Dean of the University and said they were going to press charges.

Diane and I had no idea if the guys go to the university. We don’t know their last names. We don’t know where they live. We don’t know what their cars look like. We don’t even know where the party was.

I can’t stop crying. Diane is trying to help me by answering my parents’ questions. She chokes. I think she feels very guilty. My mother breaks down. I stop crying. Finally I say, ”I’m okay. The doctor said I was okay. It could be a lot worse. Please. I’m okay.”

My mother’s last words are, “Don’t go anywhere with strangers. Do you hear me, young lady?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

She turns to Diane. “Do you understand, young lady?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

After my father gives us words of wisdom, they leave. Diane and I sigh in unison.

“I think it went as well as it could.” Diane says.

“You’re right! I was afraid they were going to tell me I had to go home.”

Before Diane could say anything, I fell asleep in a drug induced haze.

It took me a couple of days to process what had happened. I am still crying. Diane is here with me. We go to classes. I am distracted by the work. My parents call every night to check on me. My sister sends me a “Hang-in There” card. Betty sends me flowers. I speak to a counselor which helps.

One afternoon while I’m reading, there’s a knock on the door. I call out,” I’m coming.” I open it slowly. Leo is standing there. He’s holding a soup pot. It smells wonderful!

I invite him in. He puts the pot on the stove. “I didn’t know if you wanted bagels and lox, or latkes so I made matzah ball soup,” he said. “I know it cures everything.” His kindness grabs my heart. My eyes mist over.

Leo and I talk for the next four hours. We talk about things that happened in elementary school, high school, and Hebrew school. “Do you remember how much trouble you had remembering the difference between k and ch? “ Leo asks.

“Do you remember how angry Rabbi Shemtov got whenever you asked a question and he couldn’t answer you?” I ask.

“Do you remember how your father used to tell your mother to stop talking during Friday night services and your mother would warn your father. “Don’t go there, Morty!”

We laugh and talk until Leo says he has to go to his dorm and do some work. I tell him I have to do some, too. I walk him to the door and say, “Thank you Leo so much for the soup and the laughter. Please come back.”

He replies, “I will.”

He returns the next day. And the next. And every day after that.

We’ve been married for ten years now.

 

 

 

 

The Baseball Game

It was an unusually hot summer. It was 1959. We lived on an ordinary street in a middle class neighborhood where all the houses kind of looked alike, except for the numbers on their mailboxes. Small brick houses. Mostly mortgaged by the Veterans’ Bank. None of us had money. But the one thing that Jack Carter, Tom Brady, Sam Miller, Teddy Smith, and Sol Lewin, (that’s me), had in common was a love of baseball. We had all passed the fifth grade and were looking forward to a summer of playing baseball, just as we had done every summer since the third grade.

The sun was already blazing hot at 9:00 in the morning. My seven year old brother, David, and I were sitting on the steps that lead to our screened in porch. “You goin’ to play baseball today?” David asked.

“I guess so,” I replied, ”when the guys come by.” He asked me if he could come with me. “Sure,” I said,” when we hit ‘em over the fence you can go get ‘em.”

“Okie dokie!” David said. He jumped up and ran into the house. I sat there, staring down the street hoping to see one of my friends. It was hot and there was sweat dripping down from my hair underneath my Yankees’ ball cap. David came out of the house, slamming the door behind him. He had two bottles of Orange Crush, one in each hand. “Momma said we could have them?” I asked.

“She didn’t say,” he said. “I didn’t ask.” I laughed with the soda pouring out of my nose.

On the next street over was St. Agatha’s Catholic Church. It faced K Street. Behind it was the best sandlot where we played ball. The church was big with stained glass windows. The priest, Father Frederico, was from Italy and could hardly speak English. There was Bingo at Agatha’s every Tuesday and Thursday nights. Dad called the letters. David and I liked to go with him.

Dad liked to see the Birmingham Barons play baseball at Rickwood Field. The Birmingham Barons was a Double A Team for the Detroit Tigers. Dad took David and me to the games. I think he liked having his boys with him, doing the father/son thing. One night as we were leaving a game that the Barons won, Dad reached over David and handed me a Birmingham Barons ball and gave David a baseball cap. He said,” Just so you boys will remember tonight.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Hey. “

‘Hey yourself,” I said to Teddy. Not much bigger than a corn cob. Teddy always had a smile on his face. His chopped-off red hair was hardly covered by his Alabama cap. “You guys up for a ball game?” “Sure,” David and I responded together.

“I got a bat,” Teddy said. Just then Jack, Sam, and Tom came walking up. “You guys ready?”

“Let’s go.”

As we were walking toward the field, the other guys and some guys I didn’t know came along. I talked to David as we walked along. “David, remember you ain’t gonna play. You’re going to collect the balls when they go over the fence.”

“What fence you talking about?” David asked.

With a deep sigh I answered like he was just plain stupid,” The fence that goes behind the field. Everything that goes over it is a run and we need someone to pick up the balls.”

“So I’m just a ball boy, is that it? That stinks!”

“No, Dufus. It’s the first step in getting in good with the boys. Then they’ll let you play.” David walked away hanging his head down. I felt sorry for him, but that’s the way it was.

There was a bit of grass surrounding the home plate. My team included Moose Miller and believe you me he was a moose. He must have been left back a grade or two ‘cause he was a lot bigger than the rest of us. Moose liked to pitch. He hated to run. His legs were short compared to the rest of his body. He had a big head and real strong arms. He could hit a ball a mile long. Of course, it took him more than three minutes to run around the bases. It was closer to five. We always came up with some lame excuse to have a pinch runner for him. Like he was having stomach cramps or he had sprained his big toe. The guys on the other team never believed us but they let it go.

Moose met us behind home plate. He’d brought his baseball with him. Jerry McMullen met me out where the line in the dirt had been drawn behind the plate. I said,” I see you got all your boys here.” “Yeah and we’re plannin’ on beating the crap out of you guys.”

“Not likely. Evens or odds?” I asked.

“Odds,” he replied. “Two out of three. Once, twice, three, shoot! ” I stuck out two fingers. So did Jerry. That was one for me. I thought, “We are going to whip your butts!” Again, “Once, twice, three, shoot.” I stuck out two fingers again, but Jerry only stuck out one. That was his. Last shoot out was going to decide which team would have last licks and which team would be up first. Once, twice, three, shoot! We both stuck out one finger.

“We’ll take last licks,” I told him and motioned for my guys to come out onto the field. David was hanging around looking like he had lost his best friend. “David,” I shouted, “Go so that you’ll be ready when a ball comes atcha.” He shrugged and started walking toward the fence.

I played second base. I could throw as far as anyone else. I also had great peripheral vision . I was known to put a man out even before he had thought of running. I was great at scooping balls up faster than you could say, “Jackie Robinson. “

Moose was our pitcher. He was one hell of a pitcher! Fast as lightning! He could make the ball dip at just the right moment and more often than not, the batter would swing at it. When that happened everyone knew it was a strike. We didn’t have an ump. We hardly had enough guys for two teams. Most of the time we all agreed on whether the pitch was a strike or a ball. Most of the time.

“Let’s go Moose!” I shouted. The rest of the guys took up the chant. Moose’s first pitch was a fast one. Reilly missed and spun around. “I wasn’t ready!”

“Stop your belly achin,” Carter, the first baseman yelled.

Moose looked down at the ball in his mitt. He knocked some dirt off his shoes, wound up and gave it all he had. I swear we all could hear it whizzing pver the plate. Reilly missed again. Carterr shouted,”I guess you wasn’t ready that time either.” Reilly gave him a go-to-hell look. The third pitch was low, but Reilly tried for it anyway, and missed. One out. We all grinned at each other.

The next guy up was Jackson White. He walked up to the base, took a few swings and stepped away from the plate. Carter hollered, ”Let’s go Jackson! We don’t got all day, ya know!”
White stepped up to the plate. Moose let go of a slow pitch. I was thinking it wasn’t going to go over the plate. White held on to both ends of the bat and bunted it towards third base. Teddy ran in from third, picked it up and threw it to Carter just in time. Two out.

I thought I heard David. Sure enough he was sitting on the grass. “I’m bored!” he whined.

“Get up David! You’ll never be asked to play.” He said something. I couldn’t hear him. Probably was a good thing.

Standing at the home plate was Slugger. This guy had muscles on top of muscles. I don’t think he ever went to school. Must have spent all of his time at Joe’s Gym over on Main. He was a beast. He didn’t just have one bat in his hands but two. Slugger was known for hitting runs. “Get up David!” I shouted. “This guy is a powerhouse! Get ready!”

Moose stared at Slugger and shook his head. He was probably trying to decide what to throw. Slugger slung a bat behind him. He posed with one bat on his shoulder. He hollered ,”Are you gonna pitch or what?”

Moose replied,” Keep your pants on.” He reared back and let go one of the fastest pitches I’d ever seen fly. Slugger stepped in but didn’t break the plane. It was a ball. He took a step back out of the batter’s box. Moose shook his arms as if to loosen them up.

The next pitch was exactly like the first. Slugger just shook his head. I started wondering if Moose was just going to walk Slugger. He’d be easier to get out that way. Otherwise Slugger would probably hit it over David’s dumbass head. And they would have a run. Maybe Moose wasn’t as dumb as he looked.

Sure enough. Slugger walked. But not before he yelled at Moose,”I’m gonna kill you!” Moose cupped his ear like he didn’t hear him.

The next guy up was Russell. He wasn’t much of an athlete. He always won the award for reading the most books over the summer. Poor Russell usually struck out. Today was no different. Moose struck him out one, two, three.

Two away. One more to go. Stanley Smith came up to bat. I kind of liked Stan. He sat next to me in school and kind of moved his hand away from his answers when he saw me struggling. And that was often. Moose stepped off the plate and pitched perfectly. Stan stepped in and the crack of the bat echoed through the field. Everything was in slow motion. David just stood there behind the fence turning in place as he watched the ball sail over his head. It landed in the street and then it was gone.

Gone. Down the drain. The city had drains built out of cement on the sides of the road. I guess the street crew had cleaned the drains. The ball was gone.

Both teams came together.  “Maybe it’s under a car,” “Or a dog picked it up and took it home?” “Or David picked it up and it’s in his pocket.”

I said very loudly,” It went down the drain!!!”

Carter asked ”Do any of you guys have a ball at home?” I thought about the baseball my dad had given me. I really loved that ball. I don’t know. It meant a lot to me. I would cry my eyes out if I lost it.

The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that I should leave the it right there on top of my dresser.

Suddenly, David piped up,”Solly’s got a ball. It’s on his dresser.”

I spun around and growled, “Shut up David!”

Moose asked, “Solly, you gotta a ball? Go get it.”

Boy was I trapped! I stood there like a statue. What if it went down the drain? What if someone hit it and it went through one of the church windows? What if someone hit it somewhere and we couldn’t find it? Dad would find out and I’d have to listen to the I’m-so-disappointed-in-you-son speech which I hated.

“Yeah Sol. Go get the ball. We got a game to finish,” Carter pointed out.

I sighed hard. “Okay. But we gotta be careful with iit”

“Just go get it.”

The score was 1-0 with two outs. The ball was heavy in my hand. Reluctantly, I handed it over to Moose. I felt like I was in a movie. Everything was moving in slow motion. I took my place on second.

Roger was up at bat. He was an okay player. We never knew what he was going to do. Usually he struck out. Sure enough. Moose sent the ball flying over the plate. The first ball went foul. He missed the second one. Roger shouted, ”Get ready boys! This is going to be a humdinger!”

Humdinger my butt. He hit the ball straight up in the air. Moose put out his glove and caught it. Three out.

Sides retired.

Carter was up. FrogFace was pitching. He was a pretty good pitcher. Not consistent but good. He did this thing where he stood and looked around like the pros did when bases were loaded. But no one was on base now. “Comon, pitch the damn ball!” Carter yelled.

Frogface slowly pitched the ball. It barely made it across the plate. Carter didn’t even bother swinging at it. He stepped away from the plate and took a few practice swings.

I didn’t know what Frogface was doing. Suddenly, he wound up and let it rip. Carter swung at it. It flew like a bird over to third. Jack, the thirdbase man was staring at the giggly girls who appeared out of nowhere. He had to run, pick up the ball and throw it over to the first baseman, DeMaggio Smith. Meanwhile, Carter got on base.

Teddy was up next. He took a few practice swings. Sweat was pouring down Frogface’s face. He peered over to see where Carter was. Carter still had his foot on first base. Slowly, Frogface turned toward Teddy. Carter real sneaky-like started to steal. Frogface pitched. Teddy hit the ball to third . Carter ran to second. Men on first and second.

Tom’s turn to bat. Looking at Tom you wouldn’t think the boy could hit, but the boy can hit! The earth trembles when Tom comes up to bat. He took a few practice swings using two bats. Frogface looked down at his mitt. He wound up and let the ball go. It sailed right over the plate. Tom stepped in. The bat broke in two as the ball floated through the air like a bird. Over the fence. Over David’s upturned face. Into the street and down the drain.

My heart stopped beating. My eyes closed in disbelief. My beloved ball was no longer. My father was going to kill me.

Everyone came running. “What are you going to do?” “You got another ball?” “How you goin’ get it?”

I knew there was a flat edged shovel in the garage. I would’ve told David to go get it, but I wasn’t sure he’d know what I was talking about.

~~~~~~~
When I got back with the shovel, most of the guys on the other team had left. That was fine. The game was over. I said,”Carter, Moose come here. I’m going to use the shovel to pry the lid up. Okay?” After I pried the lid. Carter and Moose placed it next to the hole.

All of us peered in. There, in a very shallow puddle was my priceless ball. Moose said, ”Ya see it?”

“So Sol what are you gonna do now? You can’t jump down. It’s gotta be twenty feet,” said Carter.

“Shhh. I’m thinking,”   To tell you the truth, I didn’t have the foggiest idea. I just knew I had to get the ball back.

David walked over. “Oooooo you’re in trouble. Dad is going to kill you.”

‘SHUT UP DAVID!”

Then a light went off in my brain. Get a rope.   Tie it around one of the guys. Lower him down and pull him up, ball and all.   “Hey any of you guys got a rope at home?”

Teddy said he thought there was one in his garage. “What are you standing there for? Go get it,” I said.

When Teddy returned, I said, ”Teddy, I need a huge favor. What I want to do is tie you up with the rope, lower you down into the hole, and, as soon as you pick up the ball, we’ll pull you up. I know it sounds scary but between Moose, Carter, and me there’s a ton of man power to let you down and bring you back up. I know this will work. I would use David, but I’m sure he weighs more than you.”

Teddy took a step back and paused. I could tell he was thinking about it. Suddenly, he said,   ”Sure. I trust you. Nothing will happen to me.”

“I hope not,”     I thought.

Carter and Moose were shaking their heads in agreement. We tied Teddy up. Moose was our back man. We knew he had enough strength to do the deed by himself. Carter was next. I was closest to the hole.

Teddy crawled close to the hole. He said” We got this.” As he lowered himself down, we held on tightly and let out the rope slowly. David stood over the hole giving us feedback on where Teddy was. Finally we heard, “Got it!!!”

There was a unified big breath of relief. I shouted down to Teddy ”Great! Get ready! We’re bringing you up!”

Pulling Teddy up was just as easy as letting him down. Moose, Carter, and I worked as a team. Moose chanted,”Heave ho!” like we was pirates pulling up a chest of treasure. Teddy reached the top and crawled on his belly to get out of the manhole. He held onto the baseball like it was a brick of gold. Once we got him untied, he handed the ball to me. “That wasn’t too bad ‘cept for the snake!”

Moose said, ”What snake you talkin’ ‘bout?” He said it real loud like he was scared of snakes.

Teddy smiled, ”Just pullin’ your leg.”

I thanked Teddy. “I owe you a big one!” Just then here comes a skinny woman looking like she was mad at the world. Teddy’s mother. She walked up to Teddy and shouted, “I told you not to leave the house, that you had chores to do and you couldn’t play baseball until you did ‘em.” Then she spied the rope. “Is that our rope? What are you doing with that rope? And why is that man cover off that hole?”

“Well ma,” Teddy started. “It’s a long story.”

“You’ll have plenty of time to tell it on the way home.” She turned around and started walking in the direction of their house. Teddy gathered up the rope that Carter had wound up and looked us and shrugged. “I think I’m in for it now! See ya boys! That is if she doesn’t ground me for the rest of my life!” And he scurried after her.

“Good luck!” Carter bellowed. He whispered softly,”You’re gonna need it!”

“I guess that’s it for today,” I said. “See ya tomorrow! Come on David. Let’s go to the house. I’m thirsty!”

“You gonna tell Mom ‘bout what happened?” David asked.

“No and don’t you say a word!” I answered.

This was Bingo night at St. Agatha’s. When Dad got home, he asked David and me if we wanted to go.

“YES!!” we said. We were sitting in front of the t.v. wishing we could have a dog as smart and as pretty as Lassie. That dog was great! We had been wanting a dog since David could walk. We’d beg and beg and beg. The answer was always the same, NO!

Supper was over. It was 6:00. Dad said,”Get your plates in the sink and let’s go!” I don’t think David and I ever moved so quickly.

The crowd at St. Agatha’s started arriving before six. I could never understand how much they could smoke by the time we got there.   As Dad went up to platform on the stage, David and I sat down at the front table.

Some time into the evening, there was a hush in the crowd as a skinny woman rushed up to Dad’s table to talk to him. “Sol, isn’t that Teddy’s mother?” I couldn’t believe my eyes. She was shouting and pointing at me. Oh boy! I was in trouble! She went on and on. And Dad was nodding and nodding. But not smiling. I reared back in my chair. My stomach felt like it was tied up in knots.   “You are gonna get it! I bet you won’t be playing baseball any more this summer!”

“Shut up David. You don’t know nothin’.”

Finally, Teddy’s mother calmed down and walked out. I stared at Dad, but he wasn’t giving anything up. David kept asking me,   ”What do you think is going to happen?”

“I don’t know. What do I look like? A fortune teller?” Those were the same questions I was asking myself.

Finally, Dad called, ”Last card.” People started picking their things up and pushing their chairs back. I was glad we were going home, but I couldn’t imagine what Dad was going to say to me.

We walked home in silence. When we got home, Dad said, ”David go on up to your room. I want to have a few words with your brother.”

“But Dad,” whined David.

“Go. Now.” Dad turned around in the kitchen chair.

“I’m sorry, Dad. I didn’t mean to do anything bad.” Tears were filling my eyes.

“I know you didn’t mean to do anything bad. Maybe it was just a lapse in good judgement. And Teddy wasn’t hurt. Just don’t do anything like that again. Okay?”

That was it. It was all over. I made a silent promise that I would use better judgement from then on. “Okay,” I said. “And I’m gonna put that baseball into my closet.”

Dad smiled.

Abe Said to God

God:  Abraham!

Abe: You got me God!

God:  Take your son, your only one, the one you love, up the mountain, and offer him as a burnt offering.

Abe:  Really?  You want me to kill my son?

God:  I said offer him as a burnt offering.

Abe:  Don’t I do enough for you?

God:  that’s not the point.

Abe:  Is this payback for challenging you on slaughtering all the people in Sodom and Gemorrah, including the innocent ones?

God:  You know better than that.  Look, I just want you to sacrifice him.

Abe:  I’m an old man.  Why ask this of me?  I’ve done everything you’ve ever asked of me.

God:  Just do it.

Abe:  Do you have any shares of Nike?

God:  (laughs) No my son.

Abe:  Don’t my son me.  Jesus Christ-

God:  He has nothing to do with this.  Just do as I ask.

Abe:  Hey.  Wait a minute.  Is this a test?  Are you trying to find out if I’m aboveboard?

God:  Is that what you think?

Abe:  What do you think?

God:  Is this a way to distract me?

Abe:  Do you think it is?

God:  Just sacrifice him.

Abe:  Whatever.  Okay.  I hope you’re bluffing me.

Abraham says to his son:  Issac, do me a favor and get up on that pile of wood.  I have to kill you.

Issac:  Dude, you’re kidding me.  Right?

Abe:  I wish I were.

Abraham takes the firepistol and lights the wood.

God:  STOP!!!  You were right!  It was a test!  Get him out of therer!

Abe:  Go Issac.

Issac:  You don’t have to tell me twice!

God:  Friends?

Abe:  Friends.