Split decisions

d’Verse prosery

“I never thought I’d see you again, Meir. Bissel1 of a schlep2 from LA.”

“Tateh’s3 dying, Elisha.”

“So?”

“He asked me to come, Bruder4. He wants to see you.”

“Takeh5? Just like that? Gut6, I’ll get Charlotte and the kinder7I’m sure he wants to…”

“No, Elisha. Just you.”

“They’re his grandchildren, Meir. I’m not – ”

“They’re not Yidden8,9, Elisha.”

“Yes, and I’m dead. The mamzer10 said kaddish11 for me, Meir! Go home.”

“Bruder…”

“Get out of here. You’re wasting your time unless you’ve come for some fresh oysters12.”

“Elisha, biteh13!”

“Look around, Meir. What do you see? This is Tomales Bay!”

“He’s dying!”

“So? Anyone can do that. I did once already! You know, I used to cry every night, Meir, but my tears dried up years ago. No. I do not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”


The prompt

d’Verse prosery is flash fiction with a beginning, a middle and an end, in any genre of the author’s choice, no longer than 144 words. This very short piece of prose must include an assigned line from a poem, within the 144 word limit. Writers may change the punctuation of the assigned line, but they may not insert words within the quotation.

The assigned quotation was:

No, I do not weep at the world – I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife.

Zora Neale Hurston, from “How Does it Feel to be Colored Me” in World Tomorrow (1928)

Footnotes

  1. Bissel (Yiddish): A bit
  2. Schlep (Yiddish): A tedious or difficult journey
  3. Tateh (Yiddish): Daddy
  4. Bruder (Yiddish): Brother
  5. Takeh (Yiddish): Really
  6. Gut (Yiddish): Good; Okay
  7. Kinder (Yiddish): Children
  8. Yidden (Yiddish): Jews
  9. According to traditional religious law, one is born a Jew only if born from the womb of a Jewish woman
  10. Mamzer (Yiddish, Hebrew): Bastard
  11. Kaddish (Yiddish, Hebrew): Prayer for the dead
  12. Eating shellfish is forbidden according to traditional religious law; i.e., not kosher
  13. Biteh (Yiddish): Please

70 thoughts on “Split decisions”

  1. I can relate – kind of the story of my life… Since my father married a non-Jew thus I’m not Jewish. His twin sister (and my cousins) are. Of course there was no shunning and my Grandmother treated us all the same…..

  2. A Pastor I know, Jewish, now Christian, married a German woman. His father, a rabbi, called her a dog. Disowned his son. Later both his father, the rabbi and his mother became Christians. Now they are united again. They will always be Jewish, but now believe in Jesus.
    I love your prosery. Solemn, sad, real. Love is a many splintered thing.

  3. You have done a fine job with this challenge David. Although fictional. it feels like you have lived it..it’s honesty is so real..and sad.Many injustices of this kind in all religions, and yet we who are religious carry on and try to make sense out of it… but this is not really about that, it is about your skill to pull us in, wide-eyed and questioning.. and entertain us by fulfilling this challenge, so amazingly well!!

  4. A great story. Silly me, it took me a minute to figure out why the numbers. I knew what the words were so I was unclear why the notation. IMHO it is so sad when family sits Shiva for a living family member due to religious reasons.

      1. Hi ,David my German got me through most of it. Wasn’t it developed in Germany. I think you might offer another similar tale such as from the beginning,a little. It reads as the Prologue to a story.

  5. One of your best, Ben. You rocked the prompt, and the line was used flawlessly. Thanks for the Yiddish glossary. I’m Goy. I married a Jew. Her parents would not come to the wedding. The marriage was brief, the issue was never resolved

  6. a strange at-home-ness comes over me at the hearing/reading of the yiddish words, most of them are German/ic. Have I told you the story, David, how during my first trip to Israel in 1992, on a coach I came to sit nest to this woman in her early sixties who had arrived from Russia. She seemed to have a hard time and soon asked me, did I speak any Yiddish. Something (mostly the closeness to the southern German dialect in which I grew up), had me answer: A bissele. That was all the encouragement she needed.

      1. as for the post on Trump Loyalists today, I felt it was a bit of a risk to post as I had no way of checking the facts (not without derailing my own work/schedule. Your knowledge…? 🙂

  7. Excellent storytelling and dialogue, David. I liked having to work for it to get a full understanding. At first I thought he was a ghost, and I guess in a way he is to some of his family. Meir showing up after Elisha has gotten through the grief because Tateh had a last minute change of heart and only wants to see him and not his grandchildren is like cutting into a scar 😦 I hope this is purely fictional.

    1. purely fictional – no worries, Lisa. 🙂

      but the notion of a child being considered dead for leaving the religious fold exists – that’s not my idea. It happened in Fiddler on the Roof, for example.


      David

      1. Glad to hear it is fiction, David. I think these kinds of ghostings happen more than anyone knows in all faiths and/or belief systems.

  8. This is so sad, David, to be cut out of one’s family. I know it happens often though. I’m assuming Elisha married someone who wasn’t Jewish, since the children aren’t Jewish, but whatever the reason, it’s still very sad.

  9. Wow, David, this story is leaving me to want more. I can resonate with Elisha, family relationships can be so complex and complicated that it manifests our feelings for them (certain family) to diminish. I think, more than people would like to admit, this is common to be honest. So stirring and well written, it does make me wonder more of the background and why exactly Elisha feels this way, but I think it keeps the mystery in it. Also loved the back and forth, very realistic!

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