Sunday, August 27, 2006

Saturdays - Sheyna Galyan

Editor's Note: The newest Storytellers post (and it's a fine, fine effort as well) is from an actual, published author. WOW!

We are honored to have a submission from Sheyna Galyan, an honest to G-d published author. You can learn more about her, and the publishing company she is affiliated with (Yaldah Publishing), at the Yaldah Publishing website linked here.

(And if you don't think I'm being extra nice to Sheyna because she is an actually published author - well then you don't know me very well at all):

I used to like Saturdays but not anymore. Saturdays were my days to sleep in, rent an old movie and watch it with my feet up on the couch, eating extra-buttered popcorn that left my fingers greasy and my mouth sated. On rare occasions, I’d get some crazy-assed notion that I should do something to fix up the apartment that I pay two bucks a square foot for the honor of calling home.

The last time I liked Saturdays was one of those project days that spilled over into Sunday. On Saturday I’d done all of my laundry, shampooed the living room/bedroom carpet, cleaned out my closet, and bought groceries. By Sunday I was incensed by Dances with Cockroaches playing nightly in the appliance-filled niche that passes for a kitchen and, suited up like a superhero from a bad comic book, I was damn well going to do something about it. I emptied two spray cans before the fumes were unbearable, congratulated myself on my hunter’s skills, and decided to reward myself with an Angus Steak Burger at the Burger King just down the street.

I never dine in at fast food places. The smell reminds me too much of part-time jobs I took to pay the bills back in college. I guess by that logic I shouldn’t use a telephone since it reminds me of the job I took to pay the bills now, doing phone-in tech support for a crappy company that makes crappy products and spending day after day listening to people call in with stupid questions. But I make a decent wage and I figured that by summer, I’d have enough saved up to quit and apply to the police academy, which is all I’ve ever wanted to do anyway.

I took my lunch to a small grassy park boasting an out-of-order fountain encircled by graffittied benches as if we were invited to sit and wait for the geyser to start working again. I chose a bench where Steven had professed his eternal love to Danya and Matt had been present. The burger was drier and the onions milder than I liked, but the melted cheese and extra large Coke helped.

I had escaped into a quiet, responsibility-free reverie when a man sat down next to me on the bench, invading my solitude and pissing me off.

“Sorry, this bench is taken,” I said, my voice sounding far more polite than I’d intended.

The man merely nodded, looking at the waterless fountain as if it were a thing of beauty. His khaki trousers, open-necked button down shirt, and brown leather flight jacket were clean and appropriate for the late spring day, so he probably wasn’t homeless. He had medium-length brown hair that looked windblown and a serious but youthful face. He didn’t look deranged or threatening so I figured maybe he just didn’t understand.

I tried again. “Hey, man, I’d like to sit here alone. Can you choose another bench?”

He looked at me with slate gray eyes and I felt my lunch harden in my stomach. “I’m here to talk to you, Jacob.”

“Right. Well, clearly you don’t know me, because if you did, you wouldn’t call me that. Now leave me alone.”

“I can’t do that.”

“Why the hell not?”

“I’m here to talk to you.” He paused, a hint of a smile on his face. “Coby.”

I dropped the rest of my sandwich into the paper bag at my feet, my appetite gone. “How do you know my name?”

He shrugged. “It’s my job.”

“What’s your job?”

Again the shrug. “That’s irrelevant.”

“Okay, I don’t know who put you up to this, but ha ha, you’ve had your fun and the joke’s over. You can go now.”

“It’s not a joke, Coby.”

Gray Eyes went back to watching the broken fountain and I tried to think of what to say. This was starting to freak me out a little. Finally I decided he wasn’t going to leave anytime soon and I might as well be willing to have a conversation.

“All right. You know my name. What’s yours? And don’t tell me it’s irrelevant. If we’re going to have a conversation, I’d like to know who I’m talking to.”

He didn’t bat an eye. “You can call me Mike.”

“Mike, huh? Is that your real name?”

Mike turned his cool eyes on me again. “No. But that’s what you may call me.”

Great. “Okay, you say you’re here to talk to me. So talk.”

For a moment he looked almost compassionate. “You’re angry and impatient. You’ve been hurt and you’ve turned away from everyone who can help. This has protected you in the past, but it will become an obstacle to pursuing your dreams.”

This was the last thing I wanted to hear. “Thanks for the free therapy, but I could have gotten that by watching Dr. Phil.”

Mike seemed unfazed as he gazed around the park. “In approximately ten minutes, a man will walk by here and need your help. You will respond in whatever way you see fit. As a result, you will be asked a question. In order that you may move closer to your dreams, and to having the life you were meant to have, please consider answering yes.”

“How can I say that I’ll answer yes if I don’t even know what the question is?” This was definitely freaking me out, and I wanted Mike – or whoever he was – to go away.

“Once you’ve heard the question, you’ll understand.” He stood up from the bench and looked at me. “Maybe we’ll talk again.”

I stood as well, unsure of the protocol in this situation. “Sure.” I hope not.

He began walking back toward the street, out of the park, and without thinking I called after him. “Hey Mike! Just for the record, I don’t believe in fate or angels or God or any of that… stuff.” I stopped myself just shy of using a less civil but more accurate adjective. He didn’t answer and disappeared on the crowded sidewalk.

Just to prove my aversion to fate, I picked up my BK bag and dumped it in the nearest trash can, then headed back to my apartment, sipping my mostly-flat Coke. If some guy was going to come through the park in ten minutes, someone else would have to be waiting at the bench to help him.

I was a block from my building and waiting to cross the street when a man stumbled in front of me and collapsed, his bearded face searching mine, pleading.

“Diabetic,” the man gasped, breathing heavily and visibly trembling. “Need… sugar… help…”

Without thinking, I knelt by the man, cradling his head in my arm, encouraging him to drink my soda. His lips grasped the straw weakly, barely able to suck any of the sugar water up the straw, so I ripped the top off and poured a bit into his mouth. I held him that way, giving him small amounts of liquid until his brown eyes cleared and his breathing became slow and steady.

He clutched my arm. “Help me stand, please.”

I helped him to his feet and now noticed that he wore a black knitted yarmulke on his head.

“Thank you,” he said, looking a bit embarrassed. He brushed himself off and loosened his tie. “I usually carry hard candy with me but I ran out. You may have saved my life. Thanks seem insignificant.”

I struggled to remember anything from Hebrew school, wishing for the first time that I’d treated it then as something more than merely an escape from the drunken tirade at home. “It’s a mitzvah,” was all I could think to say.

“That it is,” the man nodded, fumbling in the pockets of his sport coat until he found a small black zippered bag. He nodded toward the bag. “I’ll have to test my blood sugar, but you don’t need to watch. You’ve been subjected to more than enough of my illness.” He held his index finger up. “I know.” He dug around in his pockets again, pulling out a business card case. His long fingers extracted a card and he replaced the case. “I live not far from here. Please do me the honor of coming to my home for dinner Friday night. It’s the least I can do to repay you for your kindness.”

I hesitated. Friday nights were my time to hang out with the guys at Finnegan’s Pub. But what the hell; they wouldn’t miss me for one night and the guy was offering free food.

“Please?” the man asked. “It would mean a lot to me.”

I shrugged. “Okay. Yes.”

“Wonderful!” He smiled and handed me his card. “You know where this address is?”

I squinted at the tiny type. It was no more than half a dozen blocks in the other direction from my apartment. “Yes. I know it.”

“Good. Come to this address Friday at six o’clock. I’ll walk you to my home. My wife is a genius with food and I promise you a pleasant evening.”

“Okay.” I already had aberrant thoughts about showing up with a bag of hard candy. “Thank you…” I looked at the name on the card and swallowed the sudden lump that had formed in my throat, “…Rabbi Silver.”

“Nonsense,” the rabbi scoffed, waving his hand as if flicking something away. “Call me Dan. And you? What is your name?”

“Coby,” I said, thinking about my strange conversation in the park. “But you can call me Jacob.”

* * *

I guess it’s no surprise that Dan and I hit it off. He’s had me over quite a few times for Shabbat dinner and he’s right about his wife’s cooking skills. Apparently, it took a month for the guys at Finnegan’s to realize I wasn’t coming anymore, but I’ve got new friends now. Last week, Dan and I started studying together in my precious time off from the police academy, where I’m doing well. Both Mike and the cockroaches have been absent from my life, and for that I’m grateful. Most of the time.

But my Saturdays will never again be the same. If I don’t have to report to the academy, I’m at Dan’s synagogue or enjoying the afternoon with people from the congregation. I used to just like Saturdays. Now I revel in them.

Copyright © 2006 by Sheyna Galyan. All rights reserved.


Blogger Pattie said...

Nice story, Sheyna!

3:55 PM  
Blogger Elster said...

Yes, a very fine read. One thing about this project so far is that every story has managed to be very unique.

Oh and a thousand pardons for the whole name thing.

5:02 PM  
Blogger Scraps said...

Wow. I likes.


1:32 PM  
Blogger Sheyna Galyan said...

Thanks all! The story didn't go where I originally thought it would, but it went where it needed to go.

I find myself wondering what would happen if Mike showed up to talk to someone else. :-)

Elster - no worries on the name!

9:27 AM  
Blogger Robert and Rebecca said...

Hey Sheyna...I really enjoyed the story. The character development was surprisingly light, witty, and held my attention. I kept thinking I knew where the story was going, but was surprised by the introduction of a rabbi.

Well done and thanks for sharing it!

7:55 PM  
Blogger Robert and Rebecca said...

I liked the story. It was a light read with an outcome that made me reflect.

8:20 PM  
Blogger Sheyna Galyan said...

Thanks, Rebecca, Robert! Dan wasn't in my original vision of the story; he sort of came out of nowhere. That's always the fun of writing fiction!

And honest, I don't have a rabbi fixation! :-)

3:33 PM  
Blogger the sabra said...

ooh i liked this
and ya, writin fiction is always most fun for the author...

12:38 AM  

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