Perfect Family Tales And Other Trivia

The art of the short-story writer is that of the cartoonist. It is the magical craft of creating entire worlds with a few simple strokes of a pen. Tales told by an idiot? Maybe! But my tales are also a mix of reality and fantasy; truth and lies; some based on my own family; others, not. Readers must guess which characters are real; who are inventions - and who are an amalgam of both. Please draw the boundaries for yourself.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

‘Between Two Stones And A Hard Place’

Lol Brenner stopped her hands trembling by hugging her coffee mug.

Rolling.Stones.The.Jewish.Press“You bastard, Harv. When you prodded me awake we were at Mike’s Place in Tel Aviv with Mick Jagger and Bill Wyman.”

“We were doing what, where?”, demanded her husband. “I’ll have to monitor your dreams more closely, young lady. I can’t be seen hobnobbing with riff raff. Anyway, I’ve caught you out first go. Wyman hasn’t been with the Stones since the early nineties and …”

“Don’t be a spoilsport, Harv. You’re so goddamn literal. Anyway, about the time you poked me, they were sitting  behind us quiet as mice while Roberta Flack agonized her way through Killing Me Softly.

“‘Great piece’, murmured Jagger impressed, as she bowed and left the stage. I was just about to turn round for a schmooze when – with classic timing -you woke me and ruined everything.”Roberta.Flack

“Huh, sorry! The Stones, Israel, Killing Me Softly. Now it’s beginning to make sense,” said Harvey.

“When we arrived home last night after the  Independence Day barbecue, you were weak and weepy from far too much Merlot. Then you crashed out. I’d spent half the evening making excuses for your grumpy behaviour, reminding everyone  how you lost your brother here during the Yom Kippur War and  had that huge row with your folks.”

Harvey’s  outburst shook Lol, shamed,  into action and she got up to clear away the breakfast things.

“Yep! You’re spot on,” she said over her shoulder, as she stood at the sink. “I’ve been drinking far too much  red wine with meals. No. Any time, really.

“It helps to blur the edges. Events from forty years ago keep drifting in and out of my waking thoughts and the pain, well …

“Anyway as I hit the sack, somehow I remembered the rumour about The Rolling Stones visiting Israel for a 50th anniversary concert. Then, of course, there was ’73.”

“Yes, my sweet,  1973 was a very big year indeed,” said Harvey, not daring to touch Lorraine,  who hated physical contact when she was worked up.

“Strange,” she murmured, “how a torrent of bad things which seemed to happen together and so quickly, had  been waiting to sweep me away for years. 

“When we started dating after Alicia Sherman’s 21st birthday do, where Flack’s track was played over and over, I was dead moony and couldn’t get the sound of her voice out of my head.”

“Then your dad did his level best to kick you back to reality!”

“Too right! Simon was working as a war volunteer on Kibbutz Beit Shaul in the Golan when he died. He and his mates from all over the show had been warned about what could happen when the fighting got tough.Israel.Airforce.Fighters

“But all of them loved the adventure as much as they admired Israel. They were thrilled when they met Israeli soldiers of their own age who treated them like heroes simply for having flown in to help pick fruit and milk cows while they were at the front.”

“But my main memory is your hysterical call that  Wednesday evening. Something about Simon lying mangled under a tractor and your parents hating you much more than they loved him.

“’It’s not fair!’,” you screeched down the line. ‘I’m here helping Mum make dinner after a day at work so I’m shot at point-blank range for not understanding what’s happened to my brother, third hand.’”

“Correct. As Simon was  not on  active combat, for an instant I couldn’t figure out how he’d  died. Had the kibbutz been bombed, I asked.

“’No, you little twerp!’, roared my father. ‘Drag yourself out of your self-involved fog and listen to me!

“’Your brother’s died in a freak farming accident; nothing to do with the war. He was trapped under the back wheel of a tractor which he didn’t know had been left in gear. He was crushed to death. Understand?Kibbutz.Tractor

“’War or no war, we’ve got to get to Israel. The embassy says that Simon will be buried at a cemetery which belongs to the kibbutz. This is an honour as usually, the plots are kept strictly for members.’

“So the fag-end of the war and Simon’s funeral became my initiation here. No tourist odyssey for me. Instead, it was my first step on the road to becoming a properly developed adult.”

“Yeah, that’s why you made another lunatic   phone call,” said Harvey. “One from Israel in those days was still a novelty. I was absolutely convinced I was going to lose you.

“Then you said, ‘my parents and I are being reasonably civil to each other. But that’s all. I can’t stand their company any longer. My mother’s been even worse than Dad since we arrived here, complaining that Israeli customs aren’t like those at home.

“’’Jews don’t put flowers on graves back in England,’’ you told me she said, within earshot of the kibbutz secretary and rabbi who both spoke good English and had done so much to help. Nahalal.Cemetery‘’It’s a pagan custom. It’s  also wrong for women to attend a funeral and when people place  pebbles on a grave top they’re  just plain superstitious.’

“’I’m trapped, Harv,’” is how you put it. “’I’ve got to get out. I need to move on – maybe by staying here, at Kibbutz Beit Shaul – if they’ll have me’.

“Then you knocked me sideways – you hussy! ‘Please,’ you added suddenly, ‘don’t mock me. And for God’s sake, don’t  call me a slut. I want  you to come out here to join me. Bring your guitar and your favourite records. We’ll sort everything else out later.

“‘I love you very much, Harvey’, you said. ‘I want us to get married – have loads of kids. Our children will love us because we understand how it feels to be young; desperate to stay alive in the old-new State of Israel. At the moment, darling, I’m sure everything will last forever’.”

Natalie Wood

(Copyright, Natalie Irene Wood – 18 April 2013)

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