Marlin Goldburg, a forty-year-old Jewish realtor living in the United States, is killed in a terrible traffic accident. Later that day, in Sarsarif, Iraq, Abdul-Halim is blessed with the birth of his first son, whom he names, Badr. What can the two events have in common? As the years go by, Badr is taught at home, hate for the rich American Jews that finance Israel’s existence in Arab lands. His father and uncles teach him to hate all infidels, especially the American infidels who have now invaded his country and hometown. But, as the lessons in hate began, so did Badr’s dreams of pale white hands, always held together, as if in prayer. The praying, pale white hands, obviously those of an infidel, seem to be in direct contrast to his family’s teachings. So, whose hands are they, and what are they trying to tell Badr, who has now grown up to be “Lone Wolf”, the most deadly of Iraqi insurgents? Is Marlin Goldburg speaking to Badr from the grave? But how, and why?
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Sitting down across from her at the kitchen table, he asked, “Has it been twenty minutes already?”
“More like half an hour,” she replied.
“Huh–I’d have never guessed. It seems like you were just out there with me.”
“I was, a half hour ago,” she said, smiling and shaking her head. “You always lose track of time when you’re in the garden. You know that.”
“Yeah, but this time it wasn’t just that. Something happened to me out there–twice. Like my mind wandered off to someplace else.”
“And you know that happens to you too, when you’re in that garden of yours.”
“Yeah, but his time I saw what wasn’t there, I mean…”
Marlin paused, thinking how best to explain what had happened.
“And,” Annie said, when he didn’t continue. “What did you see?”
“It’s not just what I saw, but also what I didn’t see.”
“Is this some sort of riddle?”
“No, while I was digging, I saw my hands change to those of someone very tan, wearing long, buttoned down khaki sleeves. The hands were digging, just like mine were, but in very dry, sandy soil.”
“Have you checked your sugar this morning?”
“Yes, it’s fine. The second time this happened, when my hands returned to normal, I guess you’d say, there was a jonquil bulb placed in the bottom of the hole. Annie, I hadn’t even opened the bag yet.”
“Then how’d the bulb get there?”
“Well, the bag was open when I looked around to it, but I didn’t open it, or at least I don’t remember opening it.”
“Well you must have. You were the only one out there, dear. Maybe…”
“Maybe,” Marlin said, cutting Annie off, “maybe I have a brain tumor.”
Annie stared blankly at Marlin’s bombshell self-diagnosis, and then replied, “Now that’s a leap. Maybe you’d better check your sugar again.”
“My sugar’s fine, dammit,” he barked out. “So, how else do you explain me seeing what I saw, and then not remembering my having planted that bulb?”
“Check your sugar, Marlin, and then eat your breakfast before it gets cold.”
Annie could play this off, as if it were just his sugar, but Marlin had been there before, and this was not just a case of his sugar being too high, or too low. He knew what that felt like, and this wasn’t that. But, to prove his point, while Annie went on eating, he got out his tester and did as she had suggested.
“Ha, see,” he blurted out, as the reading was displayed, “one hundred two. That’s as normal as normal gets.”
“And that proves what?” Annie asked. “That you have a brain tumor? I don’t think so.”
“No, it just proves that it’s not my sugar, but it could still be a brain tumor.”
Anne just gave him a cold stare, rose from the table with her dirty dishes, and walked to the sink. Then, she looked over her shoulder and said, “Finish your breakfast. I don’t intend to stand here doing dishes all morning. I’ve got better things to do.”
Marlin picked up his fork and resumed his meal, but he had no more than stabbed his first piece of waffle, when the tan hands appeared again, breaking bread over a tin plate. Gone was the chinaware he had been eating from, and gone was the flatware he had been using. The tabletop was no longer light yellow Formica with red binkies, but rough, unfinished wood. As he watched the hands tear away a piece of the obviously homemade bread, he noticed again the khaki sleeves, this time rolled up to mid-forearm. The vision lingered, and as one of the tan hands brought a piece of bread to his lips, he could actually taste its somewhat salty flavor.
He shook his head violently, trying to break the images before him, and succeeded, only to look up at the face of his very worried wife, staring straight at him from across the table.
“Are you all right?” she asked, as she came into focus. “Marlin?”
“Yeah, yeah I’m back–okay, I think.”
“You were just sitting there, staring at your plate, and you wouldn’t answer me.”
“For how long?”
“Jeez, for about five minutes, I guess. You scared me.”
“Not as much as it’s scaring me. What’s wrong with me? I saw those hands again, and I wasn’t here…”
“You weren’t here?” Anne asked.
“No, not here. I was at someone else’s table, eating bread from a tin plate.”
“You saw that?”
“Yes, it was like I was actually there, wherever there is.”
“Well, I sure couldn’t get through to you. Maybe you should go see Doctor Frazier, just for a checkup maybe. Maybe it’s some sort of virus, or something–something going around maybe.”