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Pillar of Salt
By Toni Davis
Monday, November 08, 2004
Rated "PG" by the Author.
Summary: This is a revised version of what I initially started for Sarah "Tzeitel" Keshet. It's now a vignette about Tzeitel being caught in the horrors of 9-11 and how she views the lingering effects as she wanders in Gehinnom. It's a little different than before but I'm still stuck as to how to continue. Hopefully, someone will have some ideas.
FYI: This used to be under the title EVERYTHING CHANGES.
It was cold that morning, this day in September. I felt this ache in my hands that wasn’t there before; it reminded me of the day me and my Gania almost got frostbite during a spur of the moment ski trip to St. Moritz when we were young. It was almost like a warning, telling me that bad things were coming and this time I’d be swept up in the evil, unable to free myself from the spider’s web of events that would snare me and claim my life.
I’d gotten up early to make my way from Gania’s and my tiny apartment in the Lower East Side to go to the 2nd Avenue Deli. It was not as crowded as the Carnegie Deli on 7th, where all the goyim go to pretend like they’re Jewish for a day. Marty, the grandson of the original owner of 2nd Ave, called the day before to tell me his wife, Avital, would make challah the way I like it, with honey and roast lamb to go with it. I could almost taste it; so sweet and soft, it always felt like it was melting in your mouth. It was always worth the trip.
For some reason, it was harder getting started that day than usual. I didn’t have enough energy to deal with the ebb and flow of the city’s fast moving crowds; my ankles still felt weak and fragile after all these years (courtesy of a mamser camp commander who had broken almost all of the bones for his sick amusement). So I decided to walk around the outer rim of NYU to watch the throngs of students, faculty, artists and street musicians performing, talking, enjoying life. Fall was usually my favorite time, when the air smelled of the fallen leaves and wood smoke that I remember from my University days in Mainz. I used to think of Fall and Spring as seasons of possibilities, both good and bad; the change is what I used to love the most. I know my lovely wife enjoyed them so much. Wife. It felt so good to finally be able to say that word, to have the opportunity to do in this country what we could not do in our own so long ago. Didn’t matter that we couldn’t do it in New York. We were fortunate that our kind neighbors, two Columbia University kids from down the hall, offered to take use to Vermont so that we could enjoy this privilege. It seemed that winds of change were cleaning house, making way for new life, new love. This should have made me happy and, for a while, it did. On this day, for some reason, the possibilities of change no longer excited me. I feared it more and more as I walked down Houston, my gnarled hands thrust deep into the pockets of my wool sweater to warm them. A shadow passed over me and I looked up to see the sky fill with grey snow. I opened my mouth to catch an errant flake, concerned that maybe winter has come early and that is what had been chilling my old bones as of late. A little heavy flake settled on my tongue; it tasted of brimstone, ugly and salty.
In the blink of an eye, my world became a hell from which I could not escape. A deluge of passersby shoved their way past me, crying, screaming and bleeding. I caught glimpses of torn clothing, missing limbs and bleeding bodies through the whirlwind of frenzied activity as I fought to get out of their way. A bilious wall of dust barreled down the street like a tidal wave, absorbing people and machinery in its wake. I managed to stumble into an empty doorway just barely ahead of the rolling storm as it passed; its deafening thunder rang in my ears. My limbs started to shake like they’ve shaken only once before; the scar on my arm burned like the day I was branded though I no longer wore the pink triangle that was tacked onto my chest by a heavy-handed guard. The numbers looked more menacing, blacker the more I stared at them. My knees buckled and I could no longer move my feet. My aged body slid along the brick wall of the doorway and crumpled to the ground. I heard someone wailing loudly, frantically “No more! Not again!” Clamping a gnarled hand over my face, I realized that the voice was my own. I began to weep in earnest, paralyzed and ashamed of my uncontrollable fear. I thought that part of my life to be over, that hell I survived for so many months finally buried along with my father, mother, and countless other Jews. In another country, with another name, my demons were resurrected.
I felt someone grab my arm and lift me gently from the pool of ash and blood (whose blood it was, I could not say) that formed around me. Gaping in horror, I saw half an arm mere inches away from me with the wedding band on one finger gleaming dully in the gloom that had settled across the sky.
“Komm mit mir, Bubele,” the stranger, a muscular light-skinned black man with studded earrings in both ears, said in a quiet voice, quieter than I could’ve imagined from such a large person. “It’s time for you to go home.”
“Nisht geferlech.” I muttered bitterly. “Azoy geht dos when madmen still think the way to rule the world is with violence and hatred. Lomir geyn,” I grumbled. “What? You think I’m too old to move my own two feet without help?” He looked at me with an amused glint in his light blue eyes; his face was oddly untouched by the ash and blood raining from the sky. I felt somewhat ashamed at my rudeness. He was only trying to help, after all. “A sheynem dank,” I whispered.
As I looked, I saw nothing but balagan and mishegas; chaos and confusion for blocks. I was horrified by the carnage; the man beside me wore an expression of deep sadness.
“Why is it that you’re not dirty?" I gasped. "Look, even your hair is clean! What are you an angel or something?” His eyes glazed over for a moment then he gave a noncommittal shrug. “Something like that.”
“Was ist ihr Name?” I asked him when he picked me up in his arms as if I weighed no more than paper.
A brief smile crossed his face, his gleaming teeth in sharp contrast to his dark skin. “My mother named me Tobias, but I am often called Tovi so…if you wish, you can use that one.”
“My name is Sarah but you can call me Tzeitel if you like.” I murmured; my eyes were growing heavy with weariness and my strength had been sapped by fright.
“Well then, Tzeitel, relax,” he gathered me to his chest in a firm grip. “You'll be safe now.”
Had I the presence of mind at the time, I’d have been worried about the numbness that spread through my body. I so desperately wanted to be back in my bed with my gelibte, my lovely Gania, to have her hold me so that I could forget all of the madness of this day. It never occurred to me that I’d never see her again, never touch her face or kiss the beautiful blue eyes of the woman that looked at me with love for almost sixty years.
TO BE CONTINUED
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|Reviewed by Nickolaus Pacione
|This one got me hooked and you should keep going with this one. This one has the taboo about being dark about that day in there somwhere; if you want to play around with it -- try to see how dark you want to get with this one, the delivery is there. This story is one that will be a masterpeice if it isn't one already.|
|Reviewed by Dana Matthews
|So, you are still writing... and doing it very well I might add.
As far as continuing, the first thought that came into my head
when I finished was, well, what happened to her next? Where did Tovi take her and how did she find out what was happening? Or did she? Was he the one who explained to her what was transpiring or
did she learn of it later?
I'm not sure if that helps... but you had me hooked. My curiosities were piqued as to the natural order of what happened to her next; her next memories if you will.
T C Toni -- D a n a