|Publisher:||Open Road Integrated Media LLC|
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The Terrorist's Holiday
By Andrew Neiderman
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2015 Andrew Neiderman
All rights reserved.
Abe Rothberg folded the newspaper and put it down on his desk. He shook his head and stood up to walk over to the window that looked out over Sixth Avenue, clasping his hands behind his back. It is getting to be too much, he thought, too much. He had turned forty-three just last week, but he felt much older and very tired. He saw it in his mirrored reflection—the graying temples and thinning hair, the deeper creases in his brow, the drooping of his eyelids, the paleness in his cheeks and lips. At times he even caught himself slouching when he stood talking to people. It depressed him because he let it happen. His life was shrinking inside him.
On the other hand, Lillian grew softer and more beautiful every day. She was radiant and alive. Her energy made him feel insecure. She never seemed to stop. She was into everything she could possibly get into—an officer in Hadassah, president of their chapter of B'nai B'rith, a leading fund-raiser for the United Jewish Appeal, active in the PTO. The list went on and on.
Here he was, the president and owner of one of the biggest wholesale paper goods outfits in the city, and she seemed busier and more important than he did. It was unnerving at times to be so overshadowed by his wife.
Of course, it was difficult to attach a great importance and significance to paper goods in light of her battles for justice, education, and a free and secure Israel. At parties and dinners, the conversation rarely turned to his work. What could he say—toilet paper had gone up in quality?
Even his sixteen- and fourteen-year-old daughters, Denise and Lori, looked at him as if he were an oddball in the house sometimes. He was the provider of dresses, cars, cosmetics, stereos, televisions—a machine to make possible the consumption of consumer goods. They loved him in an offhanded sort of way, he was sure, but did they really respect and understand him? What's more, did they care?
He was worrying about them the way he would worry about a finished paper goods product. Increasingly, he had come to consider his children as products. They were, after all, created and molded at home. Denise, especially concerned him. She took more and more for granted each day. He hated to use the word spoiled, and Lillian never seemed to know what he was talking about when he talked about Denise's attitudes. She had no respect for money, never yet having had to earn a penny, and she used the credit cards as if they were tickets admitting her to a world of dreams. It struck him that a good many people in America had that attitude about credit cards. They had long since lost their original purpose, or perhaps, the originators knew right from the start just what a temptation they had turned loose on the population. No, his daughter was a big problem. She had become a Jewish American Princess, and he was afraid there was little he could do about it now.
The ringing of the phone snapped him out of his depression. It was Lillian, bubbling over the wires as usual.
"It's a coup, a real coup. Everyone's been trying to put something like this together for years. I told you. All it takes is real effort."
"Slow down. What are you talking about?"
"What I described at breakfast." Her voice dropped like a deflated balloon. "Weren't you listening?"
"You mean that business on Passover?" He had picked up key words. Over the years he had learned how to converse with Lillian; how to nod at the right times and go "uh-huh" at the pauses in her diatribes.
"Of course. You did make the reservations, Abe. I left that up to you."
"Yes," he said lying, "I did."
"Well, the fund-raiser will be held at the New Prospect. We've got Chaim Eban for the third night. That's when we'll have the rally. We did it," she said, her voiced filled with special excitement.
Chaim Eban was the Israeli general whose military strategy was held to be chiefly responsible for keeping the Syrians from retaking control of the Golan Heights during the '73 war. Now he was moving into the political arena as one of the leading advocates of a hard line with the Arabs.
"This is a hundred percent?"
"Practically. His exact words were 'Barring any unforeseen circumstances.'"
"Whaddaya mean, oh?"
"Tell me a day when Israel doesn't experience unforeseen circumstances."
"Thanks for your optimism," she said. "Be a little more cheery at supper, will you, Abe? Denise, especially, is looking forward to this family holiday."
"Family? She said that?"
"The Marx boy will be there too, I assume."
"A matchmaker at thirty-nine, Lillian?"
"My mother taught me well."
"Damn right," he said. "Okay, I'll see you later. My intercom is buzzing." He hung up. He hated using deceptions like that, but Lillian could tie him up with her projects for hours. He pressed the intercom and waited for Mrs. Green to pick up.
"Yes, Mr. Rothberg?"
"Call the New Prospect and make reservations for me and my family for Passover, Mrs. Green. Tell them the same accommodations for the same length of time."
He hung up the receiver and opened the paper again. He had circled the headline: "Eighteen-Year-Old Boy Murdered on Wallace Avenue."
Daniel Goldstein. He read the name again. Poor Hymie and Sylvia. He was surprised Lillian didn't know yet. When she found out, she would call him and bawl him out for not telling her. She knew he read the paper thoroughly every morning in the office. But he couldn't do it; he never could do it. There was something about being the bearer of tragedy, something that made him feel closer to it, almost a part of it. It was easier to sit back and let others tell the horrible news—easier to just react with everyone else.
The article had mentioned a JDL meeting too. Abe had just recently had a pretty heated discussion with Hymie about that. Sylvia sided with him, not Hymie.
"I wouldn't want my boy to toss bombs and indiscriminately kill people, no," Hymie said, "but we must begin to go on the offensive. It's the only message anti-Semites understand. Act like sheep and they'll act like wolves."
"So you encourage your son?"
"I don't encourage him. He's got a mind of his own. I don't discourage him, either."
"I tell him it's no good," Sylvia said. "I tell him there are other ways, more peaceful ways."
"They do no good."
"Who says they do no good? What have you won so far with your wolves, Mr. Samson?"
"You're not realistic," Hymie said.
"I am realistic," she snapped. "Abe's right. The actions are stupid. They're insignificant in the light of what's happening, and they only bring negative feelings and comments. They feed the anti-Semites, give them something to point to and talk about."
"So we should go hide in a synagogue somewhere?"
"I didn't say that."
"Neither did I," Abe said.
He relived the entire conversation. Daniel Goldstein. He could have had a son nearly Daniel's age. Perhaps he would have been out there too, meeting secretly in synagogue basements or back rooms, planning revenge for the massacre at the Olympics. Is it better to have daughters?
He thought about Denise—how she had blossomed into a beautiful young lady, taking on Lillian's good features—small and dainty curves, gentle blue eyes, rich and thick dark brown hair. She knew she was attractive, and she took advantage of it. He had fallen in love with his own daughter the way a father falls in love with images of his wife and images of himself. She was a bright girl, despite the problems he saw developing in her character. Her grades in school were always in the A range, and Lillian had already picked out Skidmore, mainly because the Solomons had sent their daughter there.
"I want her to mix with best. Touch only good things. Realize what she can become."
"The wife of a rich businessman, like Bernard Marx, who will inherit his father's position with a chain of department stores, maybe?"
"Why not? There's something bad about that prospect?"
People were prospects to Lillian—prospective donors for her charities, prospective speakers for her meetings, prospective workers for her causes, and prospective husbands for her daughters. To her everything existed for its potential. Maybe nothing's wrong with that, he thought. The phone rang.
"Abe, Bill Marcus. You heard about the Goldstein boy?"
"I read it in the paper."
"It's not just a mugging you know."
"All this is a result of that damnable resolution in the U.N."
"I don't know."
"Now, more than ever before, we've got to get behind Tel Aviv. We have no one but ourselves, just the way it was before the Second World War."
"Maybe so," he said. He hated arguing with Bill Marcus. The man was so dramatic and often twisted words. It was better to speak in short, impotent sentences.
"This affair in the Catskills is beginning to take on a lot more significance. I'm glad our wives are deeply involved. You heard about Chaim Eban?"
"I'm working on Stanley Plotnik. He never leaves that practice of his for more than a week."
"Doctors are always in demand."
"Bullshit. He can't stand the thought of losing the money. But between Toby and your wife and me, I think we've got Beverly convinced she should work harder on him too. He could give a few thousand just like that. You'll try too if you see him soon?"
"Yes, I will."
"Good. When will you sit shiva with the Goldsteins?"
"Tomorrow," he said.
"There's no easy time to say Kaddish for an eighteen-year-old."
"I realize that."
"OK," Marcus said but paused for a long moment. "We'll talk then."
When he hung up the phone, Abe sat back and thought again. He didn't mind going up to the Catskills for Passover. They had been doing it for years and years now, ever since his mother passed away and his father went into the home; but he liked to think of it as a vacation, as a time to relax. Didn't he earn it, work hard enough to deserve it?
Sometimes, when the weather was good up there, he could get in a little golf. The New Prospect was a dream resort. He wanted to lower himself into the recreations like someone easing himself into a warm bath. The card games, the indoor pool, the nightclub, and the good meals were all designed to make you relax and forget the hard, cold, real world. Now, his wife and many of his friends were going to make it a time of intense Zionistic activities. All the guests, upwards of twenty-five hundred, would feel an obligation to be serious and talk politics. How could he think about gin rummy when the Arabs were planning on attacking a kibbutz full of children?
Unlike many of the people he knew, being a Jew had never been a burden to him. Most of them carried the weight of great suffering in their faces and in their talk. He had always been well protected and pleasantly unaware of the havoc that rattled outside the walls of his fine home, his fine education, and his fine possessions. He was a practicing member of a reformed synagogue, but he didn't consider himself a religious person. He knew that some of his Conservative and Orthodox friends called the Reform Synagogue religion with convenience, and he tended to agree with them. But that didn't matter. None of it did.
As he sat there thinking, it seemed to him that nothing in his life worked him up—not his Jewishness, not his business, not even his family. I really need this vacation, he thought. I need a renewal, a reincarnation, a revival. The hell with it all. I'm going to have a good time. He was so determined about it that he deliberately left for lunch a half hour early just to be extravagant with his leisure time.CHAPTER 2
Yusuf was having the dream again. People were kneeling before him and pleading for their lives. They were all ages and sizes, and they were all naked. The mass of them was very similar to those pictures of the Nazi concentration camps. Now he was walking among them. They were still on their knees. Most were afraid to look up at him. Some did, and some tried to reach out to have him touch them with mercy. He was smiling. A Jewess, perhaps in her late teens, offered her body to him. She had her hands under her breasts and lifted them as an offering. He swung out and whipped her across the tops, near the nipples. She screeched in pain and cowered back. There was a group on their stomachs. He stood on the buttocks of an old male and surveyed the people. Suddenly he was naked too, and he had a terrible erection. It began to swell and pulsate. The people began to laugh. He was shouting at them, and they were laughing harder and harder. His neck strained with the effort to shut them up, his veins visible just below the skin. They wouldn't stop. It was horrible. He woke with a start.
As usual he was sweating, and he did have an erection. It frightened him and he sat up quickly. There was barely enough light in the room to make out the outlines of chairs and a dresser. He had the window covered with a dark shade. He rubbed his cheeks vigorously to take the numbness out of his face and then swung his feet out over the side of the bed. He thought for a moment. The picture of the hawk and the sword was a dark blur on the mirror, but it comforted him nevertheless.
He stood up to go to the bathroom. He had to walk through the living room, which served as a bedroom for Nessim and Clea. They had a pullout couch. There was a little more light out there and it was easy to find his way across the room without bumping into a table or dresser, but he still had to walk close to their bed. Clea was turned away, facing the windows, also shaded; Nessim was on his back. Clea's long black hair traveled over Nessim's right arm. Yusuf hesitated a moment. Her naked back was exposed, the cover drawn up over her breasts and angled down across the small of her back.
He had seen Clea naked before, and although it excited him, he always felt guilty. She was his brother's woman. They had met her in Athens. She was stuck there en route to France because her mother had suffered a stroke. Her mother was from France, but her father had been a Palestinian. He was killed in the shelling, and Clea and her mother had decided to leave the endless bloodbath known as "the Middle Eastern Situation."
Nessim and Yusuf were part of the organization's force to be stationed in America. As far as Hezbollah was concerned, there were two battlegrounds on which to wage the war against Israel and the Zionist imperialists—the Middle East and America. Without America, there would be no strong Israel with which to contend. Therefore, to defeat Israel on the home ground, she first had to be defeated in the States. The government and the people of America had to be influenced and persuaded. Privately, the leadership was happy with some of the results that the oil embargo had created, but they were unhappy with the tempo of change. Also, they were aware of the strong and effective Jewish organization in America. Ways had to be found to get at them and weaken them. For that purpose, units were to be sent to the States. Nessim and Yusuf were on the first leg of their journey when they met up with Clea.
Nessim had fallen in love with her almost immediately and she saw strength and hope in him. He was nearly eleven years older than she was, and seemed beyond defeat, drawing up pictures of a new world for her. But she had been reluctant to leave the West Bank. As terrible as the situation had become, it was still her home, and France was a far-off uncertainty. Nessim radiated optimism, the positive belief of a man who had full faith in his cause. Caught in a world of turmoil with everything she knew disintegrating around her, Clea was eager to become involved with someone as dynamic and promising as Nessim.
Excerpted from The Terrorist's Holiday by Andrew Neiderman. Copyright © 2015 Andrew Neiderman. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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