My mother shared the Krockmalnik Mansion with her sisters. They were triplets, born in Barr, Russia, the site of Europe’s first pogrom. Uba, Gaba and Yolly were so mean-spirited and unrelentingly obnoxious that the christian rabble wanted to kill them centuries in advance of their births. Maybe that’s just my contempt talking. It was their abrasiveness that caused me to start drinking and set me on the road to ruin. I stocked my bar with three brands of tequila, one representing each of them. My mother was the mescal with the worm.
The Krockmalnik Mansion had three turrets, which made the place seem as well-defended as a medieval castle, the sisters bristly sentries, scanning for affront and catastrophe, which was ubiquitous. I was the inheritor of their bitterness, tequila my life’s only sweetener, cigarettes my solace. Like all smoking drunks I was a danger to myself and others and, one night, stretched out on a mildewed divan, watching a double feature, Sunset Boulevard and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? I fell asleep with a Camel and made the old bitches’ home a conflagration. The triplets ran into the night in their nightgowns, flimsy satin straps over their aged shoulders, their eyes wild, voices frizzy.
I joined them in my briefs, tight leopard-skin Haynes that, beneath my protuberant belly, showed off my package to best advantage for the drunk bimbos I picked up in the Mafia bars near LAX. Now my mother hates me more than ever, infinite hate. I hate her in return. My aunts fill her ears with exhaustive reviews of my shortcomings, which are many, and my vices, just as numerous, and my crimes. At least I’ve quit drinking. AA meetings twice daily.
I don’t know where my mother and aunts are hiding, so I can’t deliver a heartfelt, tequila-free apology, and ask them for forgiveness.
Hector Cabrera is serving a long sentence in Canon City, Colorado for being a Cuban spy. His girlfriend learned Spanish to translate his poems, mushy with love and idealism. The book was a best seller in Cuba. Hector’s girlfriend was a massage therapist. She was pushing sixty but claimed to be forty, and carried it off because she looked good and was oversexed.
I wonder how many dicks have been in her while Hector has been rotting in the federal pen. I wish I had a counter that clicked every time she fucked a new dude, like a Geiger counter picking up the scent of radioactivity. I’d lay in bed in the middle of the night and hear: Click click click…
First and Last
Petra was bored with manual labor. I wasn’t made to be a kibbutznik, she said. Neo-Zionism gave way to seeking enlightenment in India, where she contracted a bad case of dysentery, lay suffering on the dirt floor of a hut for months, lost the ability to intervene in life on her own behalf, was a millimeter from death, when a moth fluttered its wings and the tide of her health turned. Her homecoming to the kibbutz found her much reduced in size and strength, her face gaunt, nearly unrecognizable, but the other volunteers did remember her bullying, back when she was physically powerful, how she would sneak up behind them, and put them into painful hammerlocks, make them beg for mercy.
Revenge is a dish best served cold, said Lena, a Ukranian. It was one of the few complete English sentences Lena could recite. She also knew how to order a pastrami sandwich. She was a small, thin raven-haired exile who, when she wasn’t working in the kibbutz kitchen, wore a ratty white fox collar that had belonged to her iconic mother and drenched herself with cheap perfume called Moonlight in Jerusalem she got at the market in a nearby Arab town real cheap because she let the merchant feel her up.
When I climbed through her barracks window at night to make love to her, I brought a wet washcloth with which to wipe it away. Otherwise I would gag. I like you as you are, I told her, with all your own odors, good Ukranian odors, but she didn’t understand what I was saying and only smiled extravagantly. She had teeth like a weasel, which shone in the dark, especially when in the throes of passion.
When she punched Petra in the belly and pushed her down onto the dirt and gravel, she felt that a Marxist/Biblical miracle had occurred. The first will be last, the last first.
The bus swayed. It was made of tin foil, like a madman’s hat. A gust of hot air blew across the aisle. Lice tumbled from Mt. Sinai as it shook in the wind and lightning. Mt. Sinai’s rumpled skin fell from its bones. Petra turned back to look for me. She still had the remnants of a black eye from a blow delivered by an Englishwoman, a vegetarian who ardently promoted peace and love, but had silently borne the spectacle of pre-dysentery Petra bullying her boyfriend David, making him cry. David was a skinny vegetarian who ate so many carrots that his skin had turned orange.
Petra shivered in her bones as resurgent dysentery nudged her towards death.
The girl sits in the upstairs window, holding a green balloon, green as grass, green as money. Earlier in the day, the girl’s father jumped out this same window and killed himself. No one believed he could kill himself by jumping out the second floor window of an English country cottage, but he was a ballet dancer in his youth and learned body positioning and control.
He was melancholy because his daughter’s balloon was green as grass, green as money, but he couldn’t afford to send her to private school, and believed that if she attended the village school she would become a dolt and marry a dolt who chewed like a cow and whose father was a pastor, but who had an impressive dick (he once chanced to see it) which caused his stupid daughter to lose herself in distasteful fantasies.
The roof line of the cottage is an inverted ‘L’ and he felt it accused him of being a Loser. Every inanimate and animate thing accused him thus, and he couldn’t take the truth, that he was a bad father and a bad husband, which is why his wife had died and left his daughter half an orphan.
The girl has her own delusions: that her father has not killed himself at all, but only pretended, and will come back and play chess with her again, and put shaving cream on her green balloon and shave it.
About the Author
Mitchell Grabois is a regular contributor to The Prague Revue and has been thrice nominated for the Pushcart Prize. His novel, "Two-Headed Dog", based on his work as a clinical psychologist in a state hospital, is available for 99 cents on Kindle and Nook, or as a print edition.