Daisy Mae Rabinovitz
June 16, 1958: Chicago, Illinois
Licking the sugar off his fingers, “So, Lippy,” – the scruffy looking young man that had directed Mitchell to Tony Esposito his first day here – “you want to or not?” Earl
Both bare-chested young men sat in the shade of a tall parapet on the partially finished upper deck.
Still haunted by the dream he’d had the night before, finished with the sweet-roll, sipping coffee, his knees drawn to his chest, his eyes closed, Mitchell’s back and head rested upon the parapet.
He’d been working in a big, fancy house doing carpentry. And because a dream is a dream, he’d also installed some wall to wall carpets.
The woman was a haughty, pretty blonde, someone he did not recognize. Her husband there also, seemed a nice guy and somewhat familiar. Leaning over a table, the three of them were going over some papers when a friend of the woman’s came in. She was tall and thin, had shoulder-length black hair and wore a yellow slack suit. When she turned he saw it was Marsha and his heart dropped because she acted as though she didn’t know him.
After all, he was only a shlepper now and why would Marsha know a shlepper?
Afraid to approach, he pretended not to know her also, as all the while what he desperately wanted to do was to take Marsha into his arms and say, ‘Don’t you know me, Marcie? I love you! How could you just stop loving me? How could you forget who I am? I love you!’ But instead pretended ambivalence.
“Come on, Mitch, how long you gonna wait till you go out again? She’s a nice, cute, almost eighteen year old girl, and she’s Jewish, yet!”
“I know!” Opening his eyes, Mitchell looked at him. “You’ve told me, and I’ve told you I don’t know if I’m ready to go out with another girl yet... Especially a ‘nice’, almost, eighteen year old Jewish girl.”
“You’re ‘not ready yet’, huh? What’s it now, two months?”
Thinking, Today’s what...? The sixteenth. She left in April, on the twenty-third. Yeah,” he said, “almost two months.”
“Yeah! Well, if you want to sit on your ass and wait till your wife decides to come back, if she decides to come back, then I guess that’s your problem.”
“Yeah,” said sadly, “guess it is.” Brightening, “And I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”
The last of the first ‘Pepsi’ of the day gurgling down his throat, “Urrrppp!” Belching loudly. “What’s that, schmucko?”
“ ‘Schmucko’, huh?” As always, tickled when a non-Jew uses Yiddish words. “What I don’t understand, Earl, is how come they’re letting their daughter go out with a ‘goy’?”
“They’re, uh, a different kind of Jewish, Mitch. Mister Rabinovitz said they’re... I think he said they’re ‘Reformed’ or ‘Reform Jews’; something like that.”
“ ‘Reform or Reformed Jews’? Never heard of ‘em.”
“Well, I guess with what they went through, during the war and all, some things just don’t seem to matter to them as they did before. Like maybe they still do with most other Jewish people, but with the Rabinovitzs, now they just kind’a take people at face value and if a guy’s a good guy and he don’t go ‘round throwing ‘Jesus Christ’ in their faces, and if he don’t do any really bad stuff...”
“Like smoke ‘reefer’ or rape their daughter?”
Smiling, “Yeah, kind’a. And if the guy’s sure to bring their daughter home on time, it don’t seem to matter too much to them. And so far the Rabinovitzs and me are getting along just fine.”
“Yeah, and it doesn’t hurt if that guy’s going to be a lawyer... Even if he’s a ‘goy’ lawyer, eh?”
“Yeah! That’s if the guy ever gets through school!” Earl laughed. “I ever tell you how Connie’s sister ever got her name?”
“ ‘How your girlfriend’s sister got her name’? Yeah, sure, putz; that’s all I want now, is to sit here and hear how your girlfriend’s sister got her name. Sounds almost as interesting as watching your beard grow.”
“No, this is really funny!”
“Okay, go ahead.” Standing, Mitchell leaned against the parapet.
“The Rabinovitzs lived in Germany when Hitler came to power...”
“Hitler? This is supposed to be ‘funny’?”
“Yeah! Well not the ‘Hitler’ part, but the part about Connie’s sister’s name is. Anyway, when Hitler came to power, I guess about 1933, the Rabinovitzs didn’t think it would be all that bad in Germany, but then in a couple’a years it got real bad, you know, for Jews, so they packed up and because his shoe manufacturing company had a factory in Naples...”
“ ‘Naples’? Like Italy?”
Pulling himself to his feet, “Yeah, schmucko, ‘Italy’!” Going about four yards to the left, facing the inside corner of the parapet, unzipping his fly, talking to Mitchell over his shoulder, Earl urinated against the wall. “They were there just a little while when Connie was born. Because they were living in Italy and getting refuge then ‘things’ weren’t too bad then, and they wanted to give her an Italian name, so they choose...”
“Constance? That’s an Italian name?”
“Yeah, I guess.” Turning, zipping his fly, walking back, Earl leaned against the wall. “About a year later Mussolini stole their business, to make boots for the army. And because they were German Jews, the three of ‘em were put into a kind’a prison and it was only a matter of time till they’d be sent to back to Germany to a concentration camp.
“Really?” Becoming interested.
“Yeah! But fortunately for them, Mister Rabinovitz had lots of rich ‘goy’ friends in Naples and they were able to bribe some ‘high-up’ who got them out of prison. But because they’d bribed their way out of prison, the Rabinovitzs couldn’t stay in Italy so they decided to make a try for America. But even though Naples is on the Mediterranean, they couldn’t just hop a ship to America, so they had to go another way. It gets kind of confusing to me now and I’m not too sure about the timing. So, going the safest way they could go, somehow the Rabinovitzs ended up in China.”
“China! How’d they get to China?”
“Beats the shit out’a me, Mitch. But the only way they could get here was to go through China, and, boy, did they ever have a rough time! Connie tells me her father had to have his appendix removed and the doctor only had liquor to put him to sleep with.”
“Yeah, and after taking near two years to get from Italy to America, by that time Mrs. Rabinovitz was pregnant again, and just before the war began, on the ship, on the way here she had another daughter. And because it took so long and they worked so hard to get to America, they wanted to give their baby a real American name...”
“We’re getting to the funny part now?”
“Yeah. They wanted a real American name but couldn’t think of one. But then Mrs. Rabinovitz remembered the name of a girl they’d seen in... You read the funnies, Mitch?”
“Huh?” Thrown a second by the out of context question. “You mean like ‘funnies’ in the newspaper?”
“Okay you guys!” Standing below, hands cupped to his mouth, “Break’s over!” Tony Esposito yelled. “Off your asses!”
“Yeah!” Earl said. “In particular, the funnies in the ‘News’.”
Taking the debris of their morning break with them, they began down the makeshift stairway.
“Yeah, I read the funnies in the Daily News. So what?”
Dropping his trash in a can, “You read L’il Abner?”
“Sure!” Mitchell said, dropping his also. “Don’t everybody?”
“Yeah, but you have no idea how many people do read L‘il Abner!”
Before Earl went back to shlepping conduit and Mitchell 2 X 4’s, Earl said, “Did you know L’il Abner’s translated in dozens of languages and printed in hundreds of newspapers, and before the war one of those languages was German, and on the ship here, when their baby was born, Mrs. Rabinovitz remembered, and the most... The only true American name they could think of was... You know what L’il Abner’s girlfriend’s name is?”
“Yeah sure!” It dawned on him. “Oh, no! Don’t tell me!”
“Yeah!” Earl laughed. “That’s it!”
“Jesus! You want to fix me up with ‘Daisy Mae Rabinovitz’?”