Monday, October 16, 2006

Hemingway's Bride - Lana

Ed's Note: Round II of Storytellers stars off with something completely different. It's fictional poetry from Lana. Lana doesn't have a blog of her own or I would link to it, but she will be checking here so leave some love. There is even a follow up to this, or so I am told. if we behave, maaybe she'll let us have it.

On a side note, Lana is my very first unsolicited contributor - something I have been shooting for since I started this project. And THAT is why she gets to lead off Round II:

I met him that long-ago day in Alsace. Handsome
face, much to my taste, he swaggered up to me,
cigar in place, projecting an aura of masculine
grace, boasting a case of beer and a powder keg;

preparing for war, front lines, he said.
He was hit in the leg. But that was better than dead.
Beside the hospital bed, I patted his back
as he retched and he bled, incoherently begged,

that when he was all better, we would move on
together, together as one, and of course
I said yes, why I would feel truly blessed to be your wife,
your lover, dutiful mother of the children we’ll have.

And so it was done. We married in France, my heart
set on romance, he turned off the light, took off
his pants, I said, it’s okay Hem, you’re not fully well.
He said, go to hell, and left in a huff.

Next morning he cried, apologized for
the stuff he had said, last night in bed, it was just
words, words, just nerves, nerves, but enough was enough.
Never opened up again after that, said talking of feelings

was feminine crap. He preferred to chat about bullfights,
boxing and gore. What a bore. He went out to parties
discussing the war. Drinking martinis he damned Mussolini
with Sherwood and Pound, then he’d quiet down

and go to his favorite café in the square,
and write about war as if he was still there, heroic
and bloody all over again, drowning in gin,
and cognac and wine. He was out all the time,

with Gertrude Stein, imposing and stoic, I thought they were
brothers. Gerty taught Hem and the others to write,
but they couldn’t write like you, or fight like you,
F. Scott Fitzgerald had nothing on you. He made sure I knew

that Fitz was a sniveling, brown-nosing Jew. And a faggot,
too. Homophobic nut. When he heard that Gatsby was topping
the charts, he coughed up a gut, stayed in bed for a month.
I lived life as normal, he called me a slut,
so I went to Fitzgerald and took him to bed. I’ll never forget
the precise hue of red that Hem turned when I said
that Fitz did it better than he ever did. Priceless!
Livid, he came after me with his fists,

ticklish, I laughed. Breathing fire, incensed, he swung
and he missed. I collapsed into fits
at his stark impotence, and when he hauled me
out of the house by my hair, threw me on my ass,

I bounced and I laughed. Then I left France,
and never looked back. Till thirty years later came news
of his death, I had to return to see what was left
of the man who had hated that feminine crap,

who claimed he was brimming with life
and with vigor. I wasn’t surprised one bit when I heard,
that he was the one who pulled on the trigger
that blasted the bullet deep into his brain.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Eliyahu's Secret - Jameel

Ed's Note: Moshiach is on the way! How else can we possibly explain Jameel actually submitting his story for Storytellers? All joking aside (actually, I'm not even joking), below is Jameel's story - or should I say Part I of it. Shockingly enough, he's gone the whole unfinished story route like many other of our fine (lazy ) contributors. He's also got his Dan Brown Da Vinci Code hat on. We here at Storytellers approve.

This post concludes Round 1 of Storytellers. We will be starting Round 2 in a week or so. Of course, I have only 2 volunteers so far (and, shock of shocks, one of them is Scraps) because everything here has been just pulling teeth from you (lazy) people. Please, anyone interested in submitting a work of fiction - JUST DO IT. Don't be shy. Seriously. Just write it. It's even *gasp* fun.

Ok, enough ranting. Enjoy the show:

There wasn't a single kid in Jerusaelm's Mea-Shearim neighborhood who didn't know the legend.

It was a rite of passage.

At the age of 9 or 10, you found out. Late at night, in the darkness of your room, your older brother or sister used their most adult, most serious-sounding voice possible, to pass on the story of the underground secret…that lay deep beneath the Jerusalem shtetl of Mea Shearim.

Mea-Shearim's location wasn't a coincidence -- the students of the Vilna Gaon who founded the neighborhood in 1897 understood the significance of where they were building. They too knew the story which reverberated throughout the walls of the old city of Jerusalem. Even though the legend was almost common knowledge among the tightly-knit Jewish community -- it was kept to themselves and they never discussed with outsiders. Even the old-time Christians and Arabs living in the old city, who thought they knew what their Jewish neighbors discussed deep in the dark of night...had no clue.

It was a baking hot, Jerusalem summer afternoon, and Eliyahu wiped the sweat off his forehead as he walked to the local makolet to buy groceries for his family. With 13 brothers and sisters, it seemed that someone was always paying a visit to the small family-run grocery to buy the household basics; bread, flour, eggs, sugar, oil, diapers, and Materna infant formula. More often than not, Eliyahu was the one chosen for the job. Still, it was better than taking out the garbage, cleaning up the house…or changing diapers…and walking to the makolet was always a better option than household chores in his cramped apartment.

Yet even in the summertime's sharav; the late afternoon's hot sun rays bouncing off the yellowed limestone walls of Mea Shearim did little to curb Eliyahu's enthusiasm and jittery excitement in his walk. He was almost skipping…for late last night, his older brother had told him…the legend.

Could it really be true, he wondered. Could such a fantastic story of historic proportions really exist underneath the cobblestones and shtetl of his neighborhood? He shook his head as if to clear his mind; it couldn't possibly be real. It must be "just a story"…for if it were really true, the implications were staggering.

As he entered the local grocery, Zundel the eldertly makolet owner greeted Eliyahu with his customary, "Shulem Aliechem" -- and right away noticed the gleam in his young friend's eyes.

"Ah…was someone up late last night, perhaps reviewing his summertime studies?", Zundel playfully asked.

Quickly trying to put on a solemn face, Eliyahu carefully replied, "No, everything's fine…I didn't go to bed that late at all…" But before he could control himself, he blurted out what was preoccupying him, "Zundel, the legend can't possibly be real…of what's underneath Mea Shearim…can it, can it?"

As Eliyahu continued with a string of questions, they faded away from Zundel's ears, as he was transported back in time, back through the decades to when he had first heard the story. He was only a youngster of 8 when the legend was told to him…on the 3rd night of sukkot in 1953. He would never forget the date…how could he? He was so enthralled by the legend that he too, needed to find out more. He wondered if every youngster in Mea Shearim harbored the same feelings when they found out… "They must" he decided…you couldn't hear the story and remain apathetic. The mystery…the very possibility of the legend as a reality, ignited the imagination of his soul…

"Zundel, Zundel, do you hear ANYHING I'm saying to you?" Eliyahu's words brought Zundel out of his daydream.

"Eliyahu, my young friend", Zundel replied, "Not only am I convinced the story is true, but I have a feeling that very soon, maybe even in the coming weeks, events will be put into place that will show the world that the legend is true."

If hearing the story last night thrilled Eliyahu; Zundel's dramatic pronouncement positively gave him goosebumps!

Knowing that his mother was waiting for him, Eliyahu gathered up the groceries as Zundel wrote down the amount of the purchases on the family's index card. In this makolet, no one paid cash for groceries on the spot; everything was on credit, and Zundel would get paid at the end of the month or the following one.

Quickly walking past the posters plastered on the walls of his neighborhood, Eliyahu ignored the pashkevilim and their messages of gloom and doom for those who relied on certain rabbis and not the pashkevil-approved ones. He even ignored Elka, the fair-haired girl who was walking on the other side of the street. While relationships of any sort between boys and girls was unthinkable in his neighborhood, he had run into Elka a few times lately when dropping off envelopes from his father to Elka's father. Their fathers both raised money for the same yeshiva…and he and Elka had shyly exchanged a few words over the summer. Had they lived in a different neighborhood in Jerusalem, their friendship may have bloomed, but not now, not here, and definitely not today. Eliyahu had much more important things on his mind.

Pretending to be overly helpful, so as not to get scolded for being late, Eliyahu quickly and quietly unpacked the groceries, and then went off to his bedroom room to ponder his next steps. Though everyone he knew believed the legend in their heart of hearts, no one actually knew where the entrance was; almost every kid in Mea Shearim had tried to find the secret entrance at some point in time over the past hundred years…so why should he be any different? Yet even with his doubts, something stirred inside him that gave him hope that he would be the one to prove the legend…

The evening sun majestically cast its final rays on the walls of the old city. A refreshing breeze from the east, from the mountains of Jordan started to cool the city. Lying on the top bunk bed in his room, Eliyahu drifted off to sleep as his thoughts of exciting secrets beneath his home merged with dreams of the approaching Jewish redemption. Would he hear the majestic shofar blasts that heralded the coming of the Mashiach?

Not the shofar sounds of wailing and sadness which bring one's heart to return to G-d during Rosh HaShana…this shofar sound would be completely different. The baritone, deep and powerful shofar calls would resonate around the globe, announcing to the world that the Jewish world would finally have a leader…to unify them, leading them in defending themselves from their many enemies, and to answer crucial questions that fracture and radicalize the Jewish world today.

It was already dark out, when the noise came.

Author's note: Unsure which story line to continue with, I decided to tentatively end the story here… I could just make this the end of part one if there's enough interest, and continue again in a future installment. The choice is yours!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Not Quite Perfect - Bellany

Ed's Note: Our tenth (and probably second to last submission of the "first round" of submissions) comes from New York Yankee lover Bellany. And despite of this affiliation with the Yanks we are putting up her story anyway. It's a tale of greed, lust, power and ....ok I'm lying, just read it and see for yourselves.

We are waiting for just one more submission (JAMEEL!!!!) and then we will start taking submissions for round two. Scraps and I have already committed - anyone else?:

Once upon a time there was a blond haired, blue eyed girl. Many might even call her spoiled, but they knew little, if anything, of what really went on behind the walls of the castle she called home. She lived with her parents and younger siblings in suburbia. They were a normal upper middle class American family. Every winter they would even go on vacation to exotic locations. Everything looked picture perfect.

But appearances can be deceiving.

It was another family outing. She and her siblings were once again being posed for an endless session of pictures. The girls were all in matching dresses with headbands that had a cute little bow. The youngest boy, the baby, was in his little young man outfit. Her Dad was standing next to her Mom with the video camera while her Mom kept making funny faces to try to get them to look at the camera and smile. But then there were the moments when she got frustrated when there was always someone who was not cooperating. People would walk by and most of them stopped to watch, for it was always a whole production. Most of them would stay and watch for a minute or two and say, "Oh how cute". After all they looked like the picture perfect family. They even have the pictures to prove it. Albums and albums full of them.

But the reality of her life was very different from what it appeared to be. Her whole life she was always told what to do. Everything was manipulated. Every aspect was controlled by her parents. They had to consent to every detail. There were so many rules. She could not even decide what to wear in public because only they could form the appearance. Her life was not her own. She grew up to constant criticism with some love thrown in for affect. When her parents were not yelling at her they were yelling at each other. Her parents were always fighting about something. Their voices would resonate throughout the house. There was no escaping it. She had no where to run and no white horse to escape on. There was rarely peace.

It was only when the family was out in public that they would act like loving parents. She almost resented that because she knew it was fake, that it was an all an act, that they were just putting on a show. Although there were times when she wanted their love so badly and wanted her parents to love each other that she started to believe it. And then her world would come crashing down again. Vacations sometimes turned into disasters with the family packed into one hotel room for the week. The fact that it was a four star hotel meant nothing to her. When they walked around on the beautiful grounds she would often walk some distance away and watch from afar. If she sat in a secluded group of palm trees she could try to snatch a few moments of silence to just enjoy life. In an attempt to escape reality she pretended she was not part of the family and dream of a time when her life would be her own. She waited for the day when she would no longer be so alone. She longed for the day when she would no longer have to have most of her conversation in her head.

Then there were those times when they were out in public when the masks dropped. But that only happened when they knew there was no one around to hear that they cared about, no one who could spread the truth back home. So they would go right back to their routine. They would fight and snap at each other and her siblings when people's backs were turned. She hated the embarrassment they made her feel and she hated the looks people gave her out of the corner of their prying eyes. She felt like the adult as her parents acted like children. Parents were not supposed to throw tantrums and act like selfish children, but no one ever told her parents that and she never dared try to impart that lesson.

She was supposed to be the treasured princess, but it never turned out quite that way.
Everyone always saying to her, "Oh they waited a long time for you I hope you are making it worth the wait. You guys are everything they've always wanted". So she just smiled on cue and nodded. They certainly fooled everyone else. Yet at home they never acted like these were the moments for which they waited fifteen years. Hhmmm, then of course there was the story her parents always repeated about how she had been such a hard baby, as if she could knowingly control her actions, and if she had been born to anyone but them she would have been thrown out. Wow how generous. That just makes everything all better. If anything the generation gap only made things much worse. Communication was impossible. Sitting down to talk out problems was impossible because they were irreproachable. Yet everything they always did was for her own good even if she did not know it. Never mind what she wanted. She was not old enough to know what she needed. They had the wisdom that only comes with age. They had all the answers that mattered.

As the oldest she had no one to look up to, no one to talk to, no one to turn to for help. Behind the walls of the castle she was all alone in her misery. To try and protect herself from further damage she began to build a protective wall. It was a defensive measure, a last ditch effort to try and preserve what was left of her shattered self-esteem. Because when she did lash out and fight back the criticism just got worse and lasted longer. If she really said what she thought then the gloves came off and the hitting began. So there were times she just stood there and took the criticism. But it got to her. It hurt. The pain keeps building up inside with no where to go. It is a big burden to carry. Even when she answered back and defended herself, there was only a small release. Everything was her fault, her responsibility. She had to be perfect. She had to set the example. Not her parents, but her. She knew the situation was not about to change anytime soon and there was nowhere to go. Running away was never far from her mind, but she had nowhere to go so she never really went through with it.

By that point she had already learned a lot of the hard lessons in life. Too many to count. She already knew that money was not happiness. She knew what she did not want in life, but she did not really know who she was. She did not yet know her plans, her goals, her passions. All she knew is that she had to get out from under their control. So she continued to dream about the future, finding true love, being independent, and making her own choices.

One day she got up and said, "I have to fight for what I want because no one is going to do it for me." The fight for her independence was underway. And this was one fight she planned to win.