Saturday, December 26, 2009

Kafka and Me

by Regina Edelman

Summer 2009 the United States is in recession. My husband and I don’t have jobs. No company wants to employ us as if we’re infected and undeserving to continue living after our fifties. Money enough, we make our own world as we boldly head to the future. I believe my studies of man and nature will be helpful to the blind journey of humankind.

Wind rattles lanterns on the sun-roof and chops green water in the bay below. I pass delicate purple tulips trembling among blowing leaves and bikini girls sunbathing on long deck chairs and then sit under a maple facing west.

I have my books around my beach chair: Jung’s Synchronicity, Confessions of Saint Augustine, and Collected Stories of Franz Kafka.

I read a good part of Jung's Exposition and as I marked the page for tomorrow’s studying, I noticed a wasp carrying dry branchlets to an anchor embedded between bricks at the bottom of the wall. Why does it work so hard to do that? To secure its fertile eggs for the future?

I finished one more chapter of Saint Augustine. He confessed he stole pears as a kid, regretted sexual pleasures of his youth, and described how his stressed mother fond of wine wanted him to be a priest to satisfy her. There was nothing more glamorous than to have a son become a Catholic priest in the third century, and Augustine became an obstinate priest fond of wine too.

I picked up Kafka. The wasp brought another branchlet to knit inside the anchor. I waited for it to finish its labor and fly back to get more material for its home. The Stoker the story marked to study, I read:

As Karl Rossmann, a poor boy of sixteen who had been packed off to America by his parents because a servant girl had seduced him and got herself with child by him, stood on the liner slowly entering the harbor of New York, a sudden burst of sunshine seemed to illumine the Statue of Liberty, so that he saw it in a new light, although he had sighted it long before. The arm with the sword rose up as if newly stretched aloft, and round the figure blew the free winds of heaven.

A sword? No, the Statue of Liberty doesn’t raise a sword, but a torch, doesn’t it? To search the truth, I got up and looked to the statue in the bay. The sun illuminated a torch in her upraised right hand. The Staten Island Ferry’s foghorn lowed. Sluggish sailboats fled down the Hudson. There came the little wasp loaded with one more branchlet. Lanterns rattled. Happy girls turned their butts to the sun. Big white clouds slowly passed.

The wasps never went to Harvard to learn their precise navigation.

©2009 Regina Edelman

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Reply to Kleo

Dear Kleo,

Thank you so much for sharing your view and sympathy for my personal story.

I will tell you another story from a chapter of my experiences: A homeless child scratched the door of a car parked in front of the boardinghouse where I lived in São Paulo. The owner of the car arrived coinciding with the moment the boy practiced his crime. The boy ran. The owner of the car ran after him and caught the boy by his torn collar and then seized the boy's arm. The man dragged the boy to his car, his face and lips white with hate. The boy cried loud, his mouth opened and distressed. The boy could be ten, but the bad nutrition these children get on Sampa's streets made this boy look like seven years old. The owner madly shook the boy, and almost crying, screaming, asked the boy several times to see what he'd done to his valuable car, and then asked one of the people watchers to call the police. The police came and carried the little creature away. People said they'd kill the boy. Kill the boy? others asked. I know him; he wanders around, one said. I think he stole my mother's Swatch, another was sure. My feeble sister described a criminal like that boy who bumped her to the ground to steal her school bag from her back, another anonymous voice accused. Kill him! Kill him! they all agreed in whispers. I think the watchers talked in that tone afraid to expose their angry assassin instinct. A month later the boy errant showed up back in the area I lived. I have good memory. I'd never forget his dark face. I saw him at least twice before I learned he was executed with three shots, two in the heart and one in the center of his little head. Nobody cared to know the anonymous who killed the boy, and time brutally went on.

My past experiences however didn't make me disbelieve that somewhere there are still people like you, Kleo, who care for a triumphant better future for our children of this world.

Regina Edelman

[Editor's note: Regina wrote this in response to a comment about the Edelman-Eggers Letters, Parts 1-10, the first ten posts on this almost year old little blog.]

Friday, October 23, 2009

South Lake Tahoe, 1970

by Daryl Edelman

I was twelve. Burlinda, wise fourteen, said she liked my writing but didn't understand it. I remember her family's frowsy black bird walked on the kitchen counter and left peck marks on the soft butter bar there. She wrote on my FaceBook wall today, "Absolutley nobody calls my brother Squeaker anymore. Remind me of the past." She's still pretty.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Ahmadinejad at Battery Park Ritz-Carlton

by Daryl and Regina Edelman

Ironically, at this moment, New York City police are on the roof of the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust, protecting Iranian tyrant and holocaust denier, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is staying across the street at the luxurious Battery Park Ritz-Carlton where he is enjoying a sweet view of the Statue of Liberty!

While the U. S. economy is in a tailspin, American taxpayers are shelling out their hard-earned bread to pay for a three block radius of FBI and police security for the Iranian strongman, including ambulances, firetrucks, police cruisers, German Shepherds, and mobile command centers to guard the madman from American citizens walking their dogs in the imperious dictator’s Battery Park compound. Trucks of special food are delived for his banquets there.

It’s not only us Americans who are outraged about Ahmadinejad’s sickening polices and presence. This afternoon, about a hundred peaceful Iranian protesters marched against him up and down Battery Place across the street from the Ritz shouting, “Freedom and Democracy for Iran!” They carried, as one protester explained, “the old Iranian flag, our rightful flag, not Ahmadinejad’s flag of tyranny.” It was a protest that would not be allowed in Iran under the tyrant’s power. With all our flaws, America is still a place where you can have your say, and the police left the protesters their's, though we were not free to walk the sidewalks we walk every morning because of a foriegn tyrant.

© 2009 Daryl and Regina Edelman

Friday, August 21, 2009

LaValle at McNally

by Daryl Edelman

He's funny and thoughtful and opened his first free reading from his third book, Big Machine, by showing the first fifteen minutes of John Carpenter's 1982 The Thing, popcorn included, at McNally Jackson Booksellers in Little Italy last Tuesday.

The story shows the mythical origins of a religion among many, a sort of spiritual X-Men, LaValle told the respectable-sized crowd before reading excerpts from his latest book.

The hero, Ricky Rice, a bathroom janitor by trade, receives a mysterious letter, quits his job, and begins his Homeric journey on a Greyhound bus across America.

Mona Lisa smiled with LaValle's good humor.

Hypnotized by the beauty of human instinct that LaValle conjured, we were drawn into the mystic journey of self-awareness that took him seven years to write--Big Machine.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nobody to Denounce Papa in this House

by Regina Edelman

The old Municipal Civil Guard of São Paulo State was a corporation founded in 1906 to ostensibly patrol urban areas to protect citizens and their patrimonies. It was extinguished in 1964.

A door slammed. “Shut the fuck up, bitch!” a man half dressed in Municipal Guard uniform shouted. Broad back, arms strong as his long legs, Miguel Valente embroidered on the left breast pocket of his ultra-white shirt, his blue eyes drew taut with red little veins, his greased back hair the color of corn cob. A vapor of cheap aftershave exhaled off his enormous body. With one hand, he searched the pockets of his navy blue jacket with gold buttons. A suit and valise hung at his back by the forefinger of his other hand. Mouths slightly open, his daughter Inez and son Bruno watched him on the veranda.

“What are you mites looking at?” he asked fiercely, hands at his waist then, suit and valise slack at his side. Bashed by his angry volume, the two vanished inside the house. Satisfied his mites put their tails between their legs, he went ahead, jittery, his black shoes shining as much as the afternoon sun. His handcuffs clanked at his waist as he marched large strides toward his green ’57 Chevrolet parked in front of the three room home he was bitterly leaving. He opened the car door, slammed it, and shouted again, “I’m leaving you, bitch!” He turned the key in the ignition and the car roared, roared, roared, and finally took off coughing.

Deep sobbing came from inside the simple house. Sun rays intruded through a window and reddened the blue walls of the living room. The Great Dictator played on the mute TV. Diminished, huge Philomena sat sad on the edge of a sofa and held her discomforted head in her hands, fingering back her thin blond gray hair parted in the middle with a certain fury. Her small eyes like delicate rosary beads the color of the Mediterranean Sea were slick and red from tears rolling down her also inflamed cheeks. Her soft left arm was bruised from shoulder to elbow and both sorrowful eyes were in process of becoming plump and bruised too. A string of blood ran from her small lips down her shaking chin.

Inez and Bruno attended their hurt mother. Angry on her knees, seventeen year old Inez washed her mom’s face with a cotton cloth. Broad like her parents, her wide open marble green eyes betrayed no emotion. “You must let me go to Civil Guard quarters this time, mom, to report papa beat you because you ironed two shirts instead of three as he wanted. He can’t always beat you up like this. They’ll put him in jail,” she said.

“I know papa will find his way to kill you, mom, for denouncing him,” thirteen year old Bruno said shakily coming from the back room balancing a porcelain basin full of water with dancing ice cubes in his hands.

“I won’t denounce papa!” Philomena declared. She needed their father’s money every month because the trifle she made washing clothes for Palmeiras Soccer Team wouldn’t pay the bills and buy their food. “If papa goes to jail, who’ll pay the bills?” Philomena asked hopelessly.

Inez added some matters in her thoughts. “I have my first job as sales girl at Mappin Magazine Store. Little Bruno makes his wage packing food at the corner market. That and the money from your laundry business is enough for us to survive without papa’s income and violence. I’d give a fly’s shit if he rots in jail and drops dead in hell,” Inez said upset. “I’ll go with my fiancé to the precinct to report papa’s abuse and bring officers here to witness the bruises he left on your body, arms, and face, mama.”

Bruno shook his head in contempt and said, “Papa really terrorized me, but deep inside my heart I love him like I love delicious food. He shouldn’t be behind bars.”

“No, he shouldn’t!” Philomena agreed, grasping her dignity on Bruno’s words to get her mother strength back to protect her family by not sending her man to jail. “I can’t be the author of sending him to hell, or make him lose his job he’s proud of.”

Inez looked incredulous to her mother and brother. How dare they? He could not care less about her, about them. “Mom, the wino is angry. He beats us and fights wherever he goes. Nobody can talk or have any idea but him. Everyone’s afraid of him,” she declared, her eyes wild, immense, mysterious like all eyes of all beasts known on Earth.

“Nobody will denounce papa in this house!” was Philomena’s final verdict. “I’ll dry my tears and wait for him to come back for me when he feels like it. I hope he’ll come back like every other time.”

“I can’t understand this sick love. He has more women around town,” Inez said weakly.

“I don’t care. What my eyes can’t see my heart don’t feel so I don’t feel jealous.”

“Stubborn! Have some pride, mom! Have some pride! Have a woman’s pride!” Defeated and disgusted, Inez dropped the cloth she used to wipe her mother’s face in the basin and walked outside to wait for her fiancé.

Miguel Valente left to work a forty-eight hour shift that day, and on the evening he got off, he knocked on his concubine’s door on the other side of the city. Violet perfumed the air when the door was opened by a long haired brunette with Spaniard looks grinning seductively, chubby breasts squeezed in the V neck of her super tight pink blouse. Waist waste fat overflowed around her tight short skirt, but the lady was younger than poor Philomena, and she jumped on Miguel’s long neck, wrapping her legs around his knees, her humid large red lips open for a kiss. He bent forward to sustain her body.

“O baby! You missed papa, yes?” his voice such a sweet low baritone, he seemed madly in love to cause to any female on Earth to be jealous. Kisses crackled and red lipstick smeared their lips, but suddenly, Miguel’s irritation rang loud in his neurons’ ears. My body is not a crane! He strained not to pronounce these awful offensive words to the woman, and shook her weight off him, forcing her steady to the ground. Repelled by her lewd public act, he was sure to never be accused of that crime, and shooed her, “Go inside woman! Go!” After they closed the door on his concubine’s house as simple as his and Philomena’s, he tapped and grabbed her big butt then passionately kissed the woman’s huge breasts.

“Mom, I’m hungry,” a boy’s peevish voice called as the lovers attacked each other behind the door. Seduction dropped from Miguel’s mind, replaced again fully with irritation, and waves formed in his forehead with a risk parting the middle like a cockroach’s shell.

“Rodolpho come to say hello to dad!” the woman exclaimed, recomposing her skirt and blouse.

“How many times I said I’m not Rodolpho’s dad? I have a vasectomy. No, no more children for me. His dad is someone from your past I’m not kin with.” Miguel didn’t like the little man who always looked at him in defiance.

“Do you have to talk like this in front of the boy?” the woman reproached. “I meant for him to come greet his uncle.”

“I’m not his uncle either,” Miguel answered sarcastically.

“Why you offend my boy?” the woman said unhappily.

The boy watched them with vindictive disgust. “I’m hungry mom,” he said with resigned sadness

“Wait for mom. I’ll be with you in a minute. Go to the kitchen,” she said to her son and he patiently obeyed.

Bitter, Miguel said he’d go to bed, he needed a good sleep, and would see her later when god helped him wake up, hope reinvigorated.

“You see what you did? Now you upset Miguel! You’re nine, you can perfectly serve yourself. Food is on top of the stove. You’re sick with jealousy of your uncle with your mom, aren’t you? I need to be happy. Don’t you understand? No, you don’t understand!” the woman cried to her son after they went alone to the kitchen.

It was a severe lesson to the boy to realize he was rejected and hear his mother and that man talk about him like he was absent, like he was a big pile of shit. His hurt little ego directed his mind to a macabre desire to kill both of them and himself after.

“Shut your trap up or I’ll go back out to the same door I came in to get some moments of relaxation!” Miguel thundered.

The boy listened biting a leg of fried chicken, and peevishly said low for the old man to please do him that favor of leaving.

“What did he say?” Miguel asked angrily.

“Nothing, go sleep,” the woman said, fearing Miguel would have one of his five minutes of craziness in which nothing in this world would appease the man’s mind and he indeed would go away after his promising arrival. She needed some warmth and was sure he needed some they’d give to each other later.

Miguel, too tired, decided he’d take the provocation of that pintinho. He needed to sleep and stay where he was, and didn’t want to see that old loose bag Philomena for at least fifteen days.

The woman’s cheap nightgown was tight, laced, red, short, and see-through, her breasts stretching to rip the synthetic silk. She put on makeup waiting for Miguel to wake, but turned into a sleeper in sensual frustration. Her sleep restless, she dreamed of running naked on a promenade under dark trees. She couldn’t see right but shadows, and her heavy body couldn’t run, a creature after her. She woke and slept again so many times, and so many times dreamed of running under dark trees, and waking every hour or so, vainly dabbed her hair to fix it in place, and looked at the time shining at the bottom of her TV box. She anxiously exhaled her breath between her hands, peeled a mint drop, and shoved it to her mouth.

At four o’clock in the morning, Miguel dreamed his shiny shoes had power to carry him to the marble stairway of a courthouse tower sustained by gray pillars. Guards with chained lions stood hostile under the arc of the entrance. He sat at a defense table. IN ZEUS WE TRUST big letters spelled out above the judge. Men in black gowns and curly white wigs laughed scornfully at Miguel. Humbled, he waited. His proud cap, a detail of such immense dimension, lay on the table. Dizzy, he waited to be judged for a crime he didn’t know about. He was innocent! He felt melancholic when the men in wigs doubted his sanity. His insanity was a sort of key to his crime; he couldn’t tell exactly. He didn’t feel insane, and who was sane anyway? He had to defend himself on this question. The judge, a man with a long curved nose and a chin like a vagina judged him guilty and reckless in a too fast language Miguel had heard before but couldn’t decipher, and then intelligible words came clearly sentencing his death: ten strokes of a dagger in his heart. Jackals surrounded him, and assaulted his kingly body out of respect, extracting the gold buttons of his proud blue uniform with their teeth. Looking closely at the jackals, he saw they only had heads of jackals, their bodies human and female, opulent seductive bodies, and libidinous, they licked Miguel’s hairless chest. Miguel wanted to run way from his unjust condemnation; the women would help him, but with this thought the jackals immediately transformed into men, frightening big men.

Sweaty, thirsty, and with a hard on, Miguel woke free of his sentence. The pretty smile of his submissive woman was his first sight back to waking life, his partner there for him, and he sighed. He got up to piss and came back in bed. On the bedside table, a bottle of uncorked red wine and two half glasses of wine sat next to a candle quivering light on the pale walls. Marijuana smoke wafted toward the nose of the boy they assumed sleeping deeply on a mattress in the other room.

After a morning of satiated love, the woman took Rodolpho to stay at her mother’s house. She argued with her mom that the boy needed to stay with her for at least fifteen days. The old woman didn’t want the boy, and quarreled she head no strength to deal with kids anymore, and the boy once more listened to the turmoil of compassionless heads who god determined to be masters of his shit flesh on Earth.

If that boy grew to become one more slave with kids and a job in an factory, or a marginal, or a compassionate genius who might improve humanity’s ideas and organization somehow, I don’t know, because this story isn’t about the unloved child. This story is about Miguel who spent an idle vacation day with the woman who called her boss for a sick day to be in bed with him.

At five that evening, Miguel got up, showered, dressed in his Civil Guard uniform and declared with his valise in hand he was taking off.

“What do you mean, you’re taking off?” the woman asked, melting in love’s desperation.

“I meant what I said!” Miguel replied, already irritated with that stupid question, and annoyed added, “I need to go now if you want to see me ever again.”

She didn’t understand what he meant and tensed her forehead to ask incredulously, “All this passion I feel for you don’t mean anything to you? I have so much more to give” She prompted her breasts while talking and walking toward him in the middle of the room.

He smiled perversely and stepped back as he looked to her pair of tits in disdain. “Too much of the same food is abhorrent.”

“But you said you’d stay for fifteen days,” she cried.

“Hey! No! I didn’t! I said I’d give a lesson to Philomena and want to be away from home for fifteen days. I didn’t say I’d be under your skirt, I mean butt, fifteen days.”

“But I convinced mama to keep the boy at least fifteen days!” she shrieked then.

He armed his fists. “You bore me. I didn’t tell you to bring the boy anywhere, and he, hell, he annoys me; nobody dares tell me to leave from the place my flesh is present and breathing. The scoundrel took advantage I was too tired to have a-tête-à-tête. I hate that boy of yours and have had enough of your breasts and ass!” Miguel screamed.

“But Rodolpho won’t be home for fifteen days!” she screamed back, but Miguel stepped to the living room and the front door.

“No! Don’t go! I love you,” she cried and fell on his knees, grabbing the man’s legs to immobilize him to not walk out. She breathed wearily to hold her man with all her strength, but he twisted his body and angrily bit his tongue in a gesture to show he was the strongest. He stood the shameful crying woman by her vast hair, and beat her face with his palm. Degraded, she fell to the floor sobbing, saying she loved him, she loved him, but he slammed the door.

“Bitch from hell! You won’t see me alive ever! Demon! Demon, damn it!” His car hummed away.

Hot headed Miguel couldn’t settle in peace that evening. Maybe a bowl of old Philó’s chicken soup would restrain that sensation of a ball of fierce worms perforating his lower abdomen inside. Philó is what he called Philomena when he longed for her care and unconditional love she felt for his well being. Secretly encrusted in his soul, he suspected he was madly in love with his old darling Philó, for what else could be the reason he badly cared for a bowl of hot chicken soup with soft bits of carrots and seasoned with fresh cilantro, that soup a balm to his heart that pounded that night as as if mastering his end. In this load of thinking he recklessly rolled a cigar in his mouth as he slowly drove his old Chevrolet, puffing smoke hazing city lights, but Philomena needed a lesson, what lesson exactly, he didn’t know. Cars of anxious drivers fighting to be ahead in the evening honked nervously, so many exacerbated horns in the metropolis of heavy traffic.

“Hey! Who the hell think you think you are, Orléans-Braganza? Get the fuck out of my way with your old can, you old fart!” a driver behind Miguel’s car shouted, so slow Miguel drove down Avenida Angelica.

Wait a minute; a true man don’t treat old Miguel without dignity like that! His rage overwhelmed his pounding heart and the worms swirled furiously in his belly. Miguel focused his ill blue eyes in the mirror and spotted the driver’s head crowded by a thick beard and dark curly hair. Miguel pondered: that boy Rodolpho told me to leave his home and putana mama. He’s a baby chicken, no, no a lice, in fact! It’s why I let it go; now this one in my rear isn’t a pintinho, but an ape I say, and I’ll give this imbecile ape a lesson. Miguel braked his car abruptly before the crashing thunder of a car wreck followed by more impatient horns that rose in the confusion of the evening traffic. The guy in the rear realized the size of his problem when he sighted the giant Municipal Guard swinging handcuffs and a rubber baton, a gun on his waist, striding impatiently to his car. The conundrum took at least two hours to clean up.

Miguel then resumed his drive to the Bar do Alemão to play poker as intended before that idiot, idiot, messed with him. What kind of a driver ape doesn’t know a rear end wreck is always the fault of the driver ape in the rear? The fact that Miguel ape stopped to make that other idiot ape crash into his rear was a matter of no rational consideration to Miguel, and the tense episode extended the worms perforating his gut to perforate the bottom tip of his heart. His breathing couldn’t feed his soul.

In an emerald green dress, naked back and front, breasts dropping firm out of her collar, Negra Anita, Miguel’s favorite, greeted him at the door of the Bar do Alemão. He didn’t smash the palms of his hands on her butt while kissing her lips. No older then twenty-one, snow white teeth adorned her small delicate mouth drawn like a heart-shaped student leaf colored dark purple.

“You’re sick today, Doctor Miguel?” Negra Anita asked femininly slow and low when she could speak. She respected the man so dearly to the point to call him Doctor even though his uniform told her he wasn't a doctor but an ordinary bottom level civil guard of the city. “Maybe you need a warm bath,” Negra Anita offered submissively. She was a skinny woman with dark night-blue skin and long perfect legs to balance her curved hips.

“Not tonight Nega. I badly need water and wine. Stay on my side, yes? But no sex,” he said gravely in her ear.

“Yes, Doctor. Do you want me bring you to my home? I can care for you better there. Are you losing your personality, god’s creature?” Negra Anita asked delicately, keeping a tone of panic afar, her eyes melted by compassion, such small eyes in dark primitive waters, so deep in love with those colorful blue eyes of Miguel’s.

“Lost my personality? Who me? No, no, bring a jarro de vinho. That’ll cure everything, and say to all Miguel is on the second floor to drink and play poker tonight!”

All loved Miguel. “Saúde!” everyone cheered to a tintinnabulation of glasses. Ronda played on the jukebox. Miguel downed his first glass of wine in a gulp. Laughs filled the red lit room full of men, and sparkling young ladies in minuscule spandex dresses hung in bands around each man’s neck. Cigarettes, cigars, and marijuana smoke carried the sane atmosphere long away.

They sought happiness, satisfaction, and nirvana on Earth, but one man had his blue eyes fixed on Miguel’s hands enlaced on his Nega’s waist.

Miguel thought that confrontation seemed inevitable with that melancholic gentleman sitting far from the party in the farthest darkest corner of the room without any lady on his lap, around his neck, or at his table. A young version of Miguel by thirty years and as handsome, the melancholic fuck wore a white suit and didn’t stop staring at him and his Nega.

Depressed, the youth knew he meant nothing to Negra; she even told him she wouldn’t attend him nights Miguel showed up, and now he finally saw Miguel with his soft bodied woman of dark night-blue skin. He’d kill both with bare hands if courage was his virtue, but it wasn’t, which was why he agreed to be Negra’s second, third, fourth, or any number the beggar for her attention would be allowed at her convenience. Why he placed himself so low, why, he couldn‘t figure out. His woman, a tropical fruit juice delicious to suck had been taken from his hands and given to that old king he earnestly wished dead in a fulminatory heart attack, now god, please, now. But god didn’t attend him. Two hours went on. He drank his fourth Wild Turkey and ordered his fifth.

How many glasses of wine had Miguel? Five! All his inside worms quit and his heart palpitations disguised in sincere happiness jumbled with more anger for the intruder who didn’t take his narrow eyes from his skeleton, from his Negra. So now, clear for everyone to see, they eyed each other with clear hate. Ideas stormed lightening out of their magnetic brains indecipherably accusing each other until finally Miguel thundered for all to hear and clearly understand their force to communicate the same language “What the fuck you staring to my shell for? Huh?”

“Shell? Indeed, you’re ugly like oyster-shell! Ugly!

“Bernard! Bernard, shut the fuck up! Where’s Marina?” Nega Anita shouted to Bernard and called her colleague Marina embracing another man at another side of the table. “Marina! Can’t you please Bernard?”

“I don’t want to fuck that whore Marina! I want to fuck you whore Nega!” dizzy Bernard yelled while Miguel thought, he’s dead meat!

“What did you call my woman? Whore?”

“She didn’t tell you she sucks every other man’s dick anytime for ten bucks?” Bernard asked bravely, a courageous man, but didn’t know he was until then.

“Your bravery has cost you broken legs!” Miguel yelled.

Bernard trembled, and worse than trembling, sat and waited until his nose was punched and blood gushed all over his white suit.

Bernard became cowardly again and ran to the head of the stairway, the only exit. He stood there, blood gushing from his nose and once more provoked the beast, shouting bravely instead of leaving.

“You man! You! My nose is bleeding! I’d break your old bones if you weren’t in a police uniform. You beat me because you abuse your authority. Everyone is scared of you because you’re not man enough to come to Bar do Alemão not dressed like an officer carrying a gun, rubber baton, and handcuffs. I only carry my fists or I’d beat the crap of you!” the young man cried vexed and red.

“Bernard! Bernard! Go home! Go home!” Nega Anita yelled to his reason once more.

But the innocent younger devil punched his fists right and left, striking the air suggesting he’d fight Miguel if only the old man didn’t have his Civil Guard Uniform on.

In a jump, Miguel grabbed the fellow by the collar, dragged him to the middle of the saloon, and leaned him over the table. Glasses and bottles chimed out, and the crowd formed a circle around them while Miguel striped out of his uniform with one hand, his clothes and weapons in a mound behind him like unintelligible old belongings of savage aliens from a remote uncivilized space.

“Stupid Bernard! I told him to let Marina take care of him! God please don’t let Miguel kill Bernard!” Nega Anita prayed out loud.

“What is this a Romeo and Julieta love story between you and this scarecrow? How romantic!” Miguel mocked Bernard and Negra, then naked, beat the crap out of poor Bernard.

“Should I kill him?” Miguel asked the crowd that didn’t say yes or no but whistled to harass the violence. How ridiculous was outraged Miguel naked in striped boxers? He didn’t want to kill the boy, but left him blooded, bruised, and weeping on the floor, then dressed and hastily left the bar.

Miguel drove back to his Philó, and she was the happiest of Earth’s creatures when she saw her Miguel back. He did not say where he’d been for the past three days, and she didn’t ask. He showered, laid in bed, and asked if Philó would be so kind to cook him his favorite soup.

“Sure!” she rejoiced, and content, she cooked her famous chicken soup with bits of carrots and fresh cilantro for her lover. He said the smell was so good that he felt healthier already.

She arranged a tray with a portion of her magic soup in a white porcelain bowl, salty crackers, a glass of water, wine, ventured to pick a red carnation in her small garden, arranged the single flower in a skinny vase, and served her lord and beloved man, Miguel Valente. Satisfied, he turned and slept for eternity.

©2009 Regina Edelman
painting by Berndt Savig

Friday, June 26, 2009

Tarantulas in a Bed of Dry Leaves

by Regina Edelman

Gisela and her siblings came home escorted in a Boomville police car. Few people on the small town street saw the black and white Gol park in front of the Oliveira's house on the corner, and a body builder policeman like a flamenco dancer get out and patiently and politely push three kids from his car to their veranda. “The three Oliveira kids!” the few neighbors gossiped to each other and expected the worst of all crimes. The siblings went on downcast, but adventured to look up once in shame to the few curious gathered.

“My mom may not be home yet. I have the key. Would you like to come inside and wait for her?” the eldest, a boy of fifteen, said in agitated confidence as he unlocked the front door.

The officer said he wouldn’t wait for Audrey, and didn’t want to see them hanging at the cemetery again or he’d have to take them to detention. “I’m leaving a note for Audrey to come and talk to me at the precinct tomorrow at ten. She is always a pleasure to see,” he concluded and smiled, his dark green eyes indecipherable.

A responsible neighbor man came to see the order of the confusion but left disappointed when he learned the kids’ ludicrous crime was to be with a group of ten more like them loitering in the cemetery. He brought the news back and spoke his thoughts to the others. “How many of us never loitered in the cemetery once in a while in our lives?” They agreed, and a woman told them her story: “Once when I was twelve, I skipped class to be in the cemetery and I saw a body unburied after twenty years. I ran when I saw a dark skull with a few strings of hair and the skeleton rib bone cage dirty and dark of Earth. An image of cows’ ribs we eat came in my head. I wanted to throw up and never eat anything anymore, but when I got home, for my horror, mom cooked ribs for dinner, and I had to eat in fear she’d notice I missed class and was in the cemetery.”

“You said the officer left notification to Audrey to go to the precinct tomorrow? What for? It isn’t against the law to be in the cemetery,” another woman said and the tiny mob dispersed.

Audrey Oliveira, the mother, played harp in the Boomville Orchestra and was a music professor at the campus. Bo Oliveira, her husband, was also a musician, a dedicated trumpeter of high talent who passed most time on the road between Boomville and Rio de Janeiro on gigs. The old story of man, they generate kids and leave the woman to educate them. Bo wasn’t different.

Audrey’s amber eyes and Bo’s pale blues eyes diced their kids’ eyes green like algae from a turquoise ocean, and as huge, now their eyes seemed even bigger and more mysterious. When the officer left, the kids quivered a little bit sitting on the sofa like they would have stayed until their mother came back home had they not realized they were starving, and the oldest led his two siblings to move on, eat, have fun on the computer, whatever; they were free at home and there was nothing to hide from Mom or Dad. They were dedicated kids. The little brother, thirteen, played piano like a genius; the oldest was a dancer and waited badly for his eighteenth birthday to go abroad to fulfill his wish to dance. Gisela enjoyed reading and writing.

Audrey arrived at eight. First she went crazy saying she had class to give on campus tomorrow at ten but instead had to go the police station; then she asked what they did wrong. “I tell you, you have to be responsible for yourselves, don’t I? Why do I have to go to the police station because you loitered in the cemetery? Were you smoking marijuana or something like this with your friends?” she asked angrily though her words came smooth and in a low tone.

The kids said no and she went on thinking ill: Bo, won’t be home by tomorrow. Wait! What if I don’t go to the police?

Audrey and Bo had to work to pay for raising their three kids who were exclusively their decision to raise. Gisela felt lonely, uncomfortable, cold. Nobody ever asked her if she wanted to be in this confusion of life. She was fourteen and very offended to hear that she was lower priority than her mother’s class next day.

It’s possible that Audrey went crazy with her kids because she was confused at the time with the recent loss of her dearest father and she couldn’t get hold of her wholeness since. The loss of her father made her lose her mind to strange canals of superstition, and she took anti-depressants her psychiatrist prescribed to recover from her melancholic feelings about death. She just could not see she neglected her still alive kids, who were wasting for her attention and adoration; but the woman worked, worked all the time, and in her time off she worked to contact her father in another dimension of space time.

Next day Audrey ate very little at breakfast; coffee, a toast and cottage cheese fed her. She was a beautiful woman of thirty-nine with a firm body in spite of three kids, short, about five three, a hundred and twenty pounds, long hair she colored like honey and arranged in two parts in long curls behind her small ears. Her immense amber eyes were vivid still, but they carried a helpless expression. She was afraid she’d lose the faith to live. But Audrey was a queen and protected by forces we can’t see and understand. Deep inside she wanted to fix the agony she suffered with the death of her father. She wished to live but so far no remedy smoothed her crunched heart; but the solution for her to live long and sane as she wished was to fall from heaven soon.

After she showered, Audrey dressed in a silk dress that floated as she passed to and fro, a burgundy ribbon accenting the curve of her waist. Her breasts still firm and curved showed a little to the first button she left open. She smelled of anis and lemon, put mascara on her eyelashes, and brushed her cheeks and sensual large lips pink. Her skin was clear and delicate like nectarine. She rearranged her class agenda and went carrying her depression (which didn’t blur her beauty) to the police station to learn the behavior of her children. She knew her children didn’t commit any crime, and that she had dressed up elegantly for a purpose. What if she would talk with the muscled officer? Audrey had noticed the handsome policeman in town. Their eyes inevitably met when they crossed on the small town roads. She saw him a few times at Santo Antonio Auditorium where he’d normally take a seat in the first row to attentively hear the concert.

At the station, the muscled police officer came to talk to her. Cicero Albaz, he introduced himself, and they avoided looking directly at each other. His muscles wanted to jump through the fabric of his white shirt. He smiled uncomfortably shaking her delicate hand, and she smiled uncomfortably too. Maybe my love for her is too dirty; he feared not having a chance with such a queen.

The thirty seven year old officer’s nerves melted explaining that the cemetery needed to lock its doors for the night, but the kids didn’t come out. His eyes studied her desirable thin neck as he talked. “We answered a call to take kids out of the cemetery before they closed for the night. I brought your three kids home because I want the best for you. You know I can’t resist, you know?” he said and patted her hands in adoration.

Now it was clear to Audrey that the officer found his way to arrange a date with her. She felt his contact intoxicate her skin with the pure drug of love. She looked to his deep green green eyes that smiled ardently of passion, and she smiled timidly, and appreciating their chemistry she finally said, “Thank you for taking care of my kids. I’ll see you around.”

All the depression Audrey had felt lately disappeared. She drove her car to the road next to the ocean and sang with the radio. Protected for life, she is a queen.

Come if you need a warm breast to rest on, I promise soft kisses of love to lullaby your dream…

The next concert took place five days after the cemetery incident. A bouquet of yellow lilies was delivered to Audrey along with a note complimenting her talent signed Cicero Albaz. Before she read the card, she knew the flowers didn’t come from Bo because she didn’t believe Bo would send her lilies, or any flowers; besides he was out of town, back in thirty days, and he’d not trouble to send her flowers from Japan where he was at the time.

The last contact Cicero Albaz and Audrey had, they laid naked in each other arms in a small cabana on an abandoned road far from town. The cabana fit a bed of dried leaves where they lay, and a rectangular table on which candles, fruits, bottles of water, champagne, and a box of wipes scented of rose for their shower were arranged. They didn’t fear any beast could invade their inconsequent love and attack them. After she enjoyed the rigid body of her lover, she feared tarantulas, he feared tarantulas, and they took off.

With nothing more exciting than to think of her passion, the cure about her father’s departure from this Earth to another space came miraculously to an end. Ah, what love can do! But when soon she saw she didn’t really cure her agonies, she came to understand she was a sinful woman, she and the captain, for more than two years they risked their lives for some few hours a month, for the pleasure of their sexual discharge relieved.

Her oldest kid departed to Rio de Janeiro to be a dancer.

Her littlest kid, now sixteen, didn’t go to the cemetery anymore, and played piano better than ever.

But Gisela's favorite place to think was the cemetery. She was then eighteen, and she knew for sure nobody could arrest her for being in the cemetery. Birds sang everywhere. For hours alone she heard the tock of her walk to and fro among the tumbles while she took notes of her thoughts.

Birds sang everywhere…

At night you and I can’t hardly observe far few constellations of the moving cosmic bodies because man’s idea of illumination is too bright and obfuscates the sky from observation to what movie you and I should go to for peace and happiness I in despair procure to be with you.

At night Gisela would go to her computer and study her thoughts to fit in her song lyrics she worked on.

Birds sang everywhere…

After two years, remorse punished Audrey severely in her dreams: She turned in her white sheeted bed scented with fresh lemon. She’d rather be with tarantulas in the bed of dry leaves in the audacious hands of her lover. O my father, my father, come to me… You must have a different way to conduct life now! O my father is not happy with me! Audrey woke confused, scared of her dream so short but so full of meaning. She sniffed and sensed a spirit of death come to warn of a tragedy. Her nerves were in pieces. She needed a true friend to cry on their shoulder. She sat in bed, drank water, turned the TV on and off, and dialed the telephone to her friend in New York.

“Alo, Rê, it’s me Audrey.”

“What a good surprise! What’s up?” Rê and Audrey talked in Portuguese.

“Well, I don’t take anti-depressants no more and quit the psychiatrist, and I called, Rê, because you seem to dominate the sexuality dragon that lives inside each one, and not have that passion poison on a loose, so I called you to talk about my pains.”

“Hey! What’s wrong?”

Audrey cried and said everything seemed wrong in her in life.

“Calm down, Audrey. Controlling my sexuality isn’t an easy thing for me, or I believe easy for young or old. Reasonably, I meditate honestly on what I want for myself. I don’t want to be involved in conflict and lies with my man I love. He’s loyal to me, a rare thing. I know Bo is loyal to you too, Audrey, yet, I’m attracted to other men. My husband’s and my heads are not prepared to have strangers in our society after such horrible moments we both went through in this life. I handle my fantasies masturbating, my husband does the same, and yet I love my husband’s cock and he loves my smell.”

O god, Rê talked too much, seemed she could read Audrey had an affair through the telephone, and there were some seconds of silence.

“Alo, Alo, are you there?” Rê thought Audrey disconnected.

“Yes, yes I’m here. I think Bo’s loyal, but I have an unresolved issue with him these days,” Audrey said in a low tone, however exasperated. “You know I love Bo. I want the father of my children close to me though I confess I doubt his true fidelity. We go through long periods with no sex. I’d have no pleasure in life if Bo leaves me. I love him, but for six months…no, seven now…no, two years, I’ve been having an affair. I couldn’t hold my erotic thoughts to masturbation only. I had to feel his skin, feed my hungry skin. He’s a police-officer, my Captain. I melt remembering his body.” Audrey couldn’t get free of the prison of her sexual forces. “This is my shit I deal with for two years!” Then she cried weakly, adding, “I know you’ll simply advise me to finish the affair.”

“No I won’t advise that, Audrey. I don’t want you to finish the affair or quit Bo,” Rê said. “But, I’d like to see you don’t torture yourself divided between love and passion for more than one man.”

“I don’t think I can ever fix my agonies.”

“I think to fix is to face the truth of the pleasures and dangers of the situation you enjoy. Think, what will be a cure for your agony—to stay alone, or with Bo, or go after the Captain? If your choice is play cat and rat with Bo and the Captain, that isn’t a crime either, just don’t forget the simplest lesson on this Earth, prices are charged for the consequences of our acts. Check if you like living in agony or without agony.

Intelligently, Audrey said her firm position was with Bo. Her second option, the captain, was married too and with four kids. She couldn’t trust in his love for her, but to quit the manjar was what parted her soul in pieces.

“How’s Bo?”

“He’s fine in his endeavor to live, always back and forth from the road. He doesn’t care to know how I am. He doesn’t know of my escapes. I don’t even have to lie to him.”

“And the kids?”

“The kids are doing great. You know I raised them to be independent. I worry with Gisela; she’s four months pregnant and too skinny, but I took her to the doctor today and she said the baby is fine.”

“Does she want the baby?”

“No, but I won’t allow her to have an abortion.”

“Where’s the father of her baby?”

“Around, crying for Gisela's love. I tried to persuade her to marry him, but she wants to study literature and won’t marry her baby’s father.”

Rê didn’t say anything, but felt deeply sorry a baby was having a baby. The two friends talked about some more few banalities and then hung up the telephone.

Before Audrey slept she cooked in her head what they had just talked about. She needed to grow up, she was about to be a grandmother, and to grow up she needed to put an end to her affair, but she wanted to be with her lover once more to tell him all was over. She wanted to feel him a last time covering her body and then she’d say her goodbye.

This wish wasn’t possible for our queen however because in the morning the whole university in the cantina was talking about how Captain Cicero Albaz was found in pieces together with his mistress, the wife of Cornel Pimenta. It seemed dogs bit them to death in an abandoned cabana on a secondary road to Rio de Janeiro. It seemed everyone came to tell her this tragedy as an indication they knew he was her case. She wanted to throw up for the perversity of life, and became dizzy while people talked the news: They were naked, their bodies deformed by bites of strong dogs. The small town people suspected the Colonel sicced dogs from the police kennel on his wife and the officer because the Colonel’s wife had been the captain’s mistress for five years. Others say the wife of the delicious captain couldn’t take anymore jealousy sharing her piece with so many Jezebels, and she took her revenge. A small town is like that; everyone knows everything about everyone else.

Audrey politely dragged herself out of the cantina. She needed fresh air, and sat on a bench under the mango trees to meditate, it was difficult to breath, to understand how abrupt things are. The dead woman could be me, me. Her feeling wasn’t toward crying for the loss of her lover anymore, but toward crying for her self pity to learn what a slash life gave her. The bed of dried leaves served to accommodate the body of another woman, specifically the Colonel’s dumb blond wife with a meter of ass, and god knows who else he fucked. I hate him! And all the love she felt for the Captain vanished.

A few nights later, Bo came home with a month vacation. He tried once more looking to have sex with his wife. She accepted him back in silence, and they renewed their marriage vows.

Nobody ever came to Audrey looking for clues about the murder of Captain Albaz. She heard many in town could have easily done it, and she wished the Captain burn in hell.

©2009 Regina Edelman

Saturday, June 13, 2009

What Word is not Written by a Human Being?

by Daryl Edelman

It is to eschew reason to believe that any invisible man is giving dictation for everyone to follow. That idea may have been necessary in the past, but we all know the bare truth of life by now--so you must agree then that we must all move ahead to better ways from new free ideas based on the truth of observation, and not fear of unseen mysteries and voices, that it is time to stop fearing the bare truth of life that we are animals on a rock lost in space. We only eat life and need calcium to stand up in gravity like the moon. The more we explore to know, the less pain we feel, the less pain we inflict, the better we feel. For the love of the human race, you must know every word that we know of is written by a human being.

© 2009 Daryl Edelman

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Legendary Marvel Comics Reunion

by Regina Edelman

The Saturday of the Marvel Reunion arrived. I couldn’t argue the right words with Daryl to make him go to his half hour bicycle at the gym. My Daryl hates to exercise and I tell him he must at least four times a week. His doctor told him he has to exercise too, but my willful husband’s biology is programmed to not exercise at all, especially on a day he has such a matter ahead as The Marvel Reunion. In the morning, my words to encourage him to go to the gym weren’t enough and ended in a discussion in the afternoon. We decided not go anymore, the Reunion the cause of his anguish. Daryl cried he didn’t have a job to compete with his old colleagues.

Daryl you don’t have a paying job, but we have a job—our book to sell to the market. You know damn well our book’s worth. We’re looking for an agent. It was easier to write the book than have an agent to represent my work, but we know it isn’t impossible to have an agent, I said over and over for him to calm down and focus his energy on the importance of our work together while I massaged his feet. I gave Daryl a cup of chamomile. He calmed and got strength he needed to not give up going to the Marvel Reunion at seven. I chose a black shirt we bought at Banana Republic last year when we could afford to buy our last clothing, and chose jeans I gave him at the time I worked for Mr. Z, an agent of garments from Brazil, but, but, the pant legs are four inches way too long for the hero’s size. Patiently, I told him that it was nice if I turned the cuff.

The pants have a nice green wash, baby, I said. It will be very nice like this.

Excuse me, he said harshly like a hero baby. He didn’t want to look like an idiot. O heaven, how does he not know his power? I’m in front of a god, master of the universe, and he wonders what the society of Earth will think of his stupid pants; but the fashion, my Daryl, is you who make your own. You look too handsome. Let’s go, amore.

We left home on Battery Park at six-thirty. I was going to a meeting of master heroes who made America as wife of one of those heroes, and then I panicked. I never had any idea my whole life in Brazil that I would ever some day be in The Secret Marvel Reunion, but I was there last Saturday June 6 at Legends Bar on Thirty-Third Street between Broadway and Fifth Avenue.

We dismissed our cab, and Daryl took the address from his pocket, read the address, and sweat came out of his face. You know what…, he said reading tremulous the tiny paper.


There is no number six on this block, you’ll see.

What’re you saying, Daryl? They gave you the wrong address only for the pleasure of mocking you?

I don’t know, there's no number six. You’ll see.

But we must walk past a few more buildings at least until number ten to make sure your colleagues would do such a thing, Daryl, then I'll cry with you because who would do such a horrible thing to you? I asked. He accepted my suggestion and the Legends bar with a giant number 6 was the next building a few more steps ahead. I sighed, thank goodness the secret meeting of the masters of the universe was a reality!

Now, Daryl and I agreed that we didn’t want to be the first to hang there waiting, and we two scared to be the first hanging there passed the bar to disguise whatever…, but Tom DeFalco was hanging there first, standing next to the bar in a glad conversation with other fellows of the Marvel Universe from the seventies, and Daryl and I agreed that walking to the end of the block to Broadway and coming back was enough for our time disguise.

In the bar finally, Steve Buccellato, the organizer of the secret heroes meeting warmly greeted us, gave us our identification. I shook hands with Don Hudson, and after, we walked downstairs to the party.

To find out that the other heroes already at The Secret Marvel Reunion were sweaty too; what were those heroes guilty of? But those heroes had also aged and matured, and I who came from Brazil to be here at the sacred moment of The Marvel Reunion heard only sweet words to me and my Daryl, the same from us to them, words of good wishes, felt warm hugs. The masters have compassion. They love. They forgave themselves and others for the childishness of their young age. And the masters talked peaceful; strange they said how they feel to be there after so many years, but happy to see each other after so long, a beer in the hand. Cheers!

Regina, I should have apologized to Evan Skolnick. I was a jerk to him.

Daryl don’t worry. He will know you’re sorry for whatever bad you did to him last century.

Regina, I should have taken more pictures.

I know, amore...

Klaus Janson & me

with Rick Parker

Rob Tokar & me

with Rodney Ramos

Don Hudson & me--He's tall!


Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Jew and the African King

by Regina Edelman

“This is a cemetery of Spanish and Portuguese soldiers,” my husband told me about the ground framed below our third story window on Saint James Place in Chinatown. “Seven soldiers and a general who fought in the American Revolution are buried here, Portuguese Jews from Recife, Brazil who came to the new world hunting for easy gold as the Dutch did. New Amsterdam became famous because everyone thought that free gold littered the ground for the taking.”

“I kind of know what those early immigrants thought,” I said. “When I first saw New York it seemed bathed in gold; the sunlight seemed brighter, oranger here than in Brazil, but I know that the sun is what deludes and fabricates a mirage of fresh water and coconuts to a mind lost in the Sahara, and in truth, it isn’t easy to find water in the Sahara or gold in New York. I came from Brazil to get that idiotic dammed delusional gold, and for that I have to battle like our Jew fellows buried here did to be part of human history.”

Smiling, my husband listened to me and said, “When I lived in Berlin a girl friend said the same thing about how the sun seems to shine brighter here. In search of brighter sun, the Jewish soldiers ended dead here, their graves out our window. What I don’t understand is if they came from Recife, Brazil, why don’t people say that Brazilians are buried here?”

“I don’t think they were Brazilians, amore. They were European exploiters of new lands, and Brazil was a colony of Portugal at the time. They only passed through Recife. The only people in Brazil at that time were natives just cheated by a mysterious god to them, and they had no knowledge of the existence of the European Universe or North America. Those old natives were trapped in huge trouble with intruder warrior assaulter Europeans who came to procreate in their land to give power to a king of a Catholic empire, not Dutch, but Portuguese.”

“You always surprise me, amore, and teach me something new.”

I chuckled, smiling with the good words of my adorable husband and said, “It’s you who enlightens my mind so I can teach.”

We kissed goodbye, and he hefted my bicycle on his shoulder and carried it downstairs from our walk-up to the street so that I could ride through East River Park to and from work on 28th and Park. He locked my bicycle to a gatepost in front of the brave soldiers buried in the Jewish cemetery, and from the window, I blew him kisses as he headed uptown to work.

Later when I stepped outside to also go to work, I observed a young man no older than twenty perhaps standing in front of the cemetery gate. Dressed in an immaculate white shirt, well-tailored black pants with long strings hanging over his pockets, and a black velour-like yarmulke, the young religious Jew, braces shining on his small teeth, his eyes clear blue as the Manhattan sky that day, was reading about the deeds of his ancestors on the bronze plate attached to the fence.

Girls’ laughter caught my attention. Three young ladies jeweled in brilliants and gold, dressed in silk embroidered in gold vines, fancy in molds of African couture I’d seen in magazines, stood along the spiked iron fence. Beautiful and well treated, their cheeks were rosy and their lips carmine, their soft dark skin like fresh blueberries. A tall handsome man also dressed in gold embroidery took a little while to organize his ladies for a picture. I fantasized that he was a king from Africa who owns them. So romantic was the king to his princesses that I envied them while I took the chains from my bike. I didn’t understand their African tongue.

The African king snapped the picture of his sexy princesses hugging each other in front of the historical cemetery, and then he looked around, obviously wondering who could take their picture all together. His eyes landed on me already perched on my bicycle to go, then on the immaculate Jewish boy visiting his dead forefathers. The young Jew promptly offered to take their picture.

“How much is it?” the king-sized African man asked with a submissive smile, resigned to pay any price to be in a picture with his sexy princesses in Manhattan.

“Nothing,” the young Jew answered awkwardly, innocently startled, uncomfortable, perhaps guiltily, and not understanding.

“O, thank you, thank you so much!” the dark king exclaimed, grinning, honored, and handed his camera to the young Jew.

©2009 Regina Edelman

Sunday, April 26, 2009

The Visitors

by Regina Edelman

Mom came home from church after ten o’clock in the morning. Spiritually comforted, she sat on the edge of wounded grandma’s bed, and for some seconds pensively watched me feed the old lady bread soaked in warm milk when somebody knocked on our door.

“Mom, there’s someone at the door,” I said.

“Who’d knock on our door?” mom asked.

“I don’t know. You need to check to know.”

“Don’t start; I’m in peace with my Jesus.”

There were claps. “Is anybody home?” a husky woman’s voice shouted from outside.

Grandma’s neck struggled up alertly. Mom searched fidgety for a cigarette inside her bra.

“O, Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the factory sold this house,” she said. “We’ll live in the streets. Should I answer? If I don’t answer, she might go away. I’m not going to give up my house that easy.”

More claps. “O, Hello! Hello! Anyone home?”

Mom was stuck in the middle of the bedroom with a firm plan not to open the door, and so I went to answer the caller.

There stood a senior man, dark skin, bald, his remaining gray hair pulled back, a long gray moustache twisted at the edges, and mysterious blue eyes under a thick brow. He wasn’t tall or short, but skinny and his belly made his profile resemble a rattlesnake digesting a toad. He wore a brown suit and tie and carried a black briefcase in his left hand. A heavy gold ring adorned with a square stone on top like ice sparkling under the sun attracted me.

Beside him stood a short middle-aged woman with short thick black hair and lively gray eyes like the ones grandma had in the past. A wart on her chin grew two long gray hairs. Her body was the same as other widows I’ve met, sweet potato-like, and she dressed in a plain black dress printed with minuscule white flowers. On her neck sparkled a thick gold chain with a gold cross incrusted of emeralds and rubies. She grinned, her small teeth stuck inside her lips.

“Hi,” she said, calmly waving her hands. “We came to visit our sister,” she said, her Portuguese with an accent from Portugal.

Mom introduced herself as the daughter of their sister and said she was pleased to meet them in flesh for the first time. “And this is my daughter,” mom introduced me.

The woman seemed pleased to meet me, but the man averred to look at me. The wrinkle in the bridge of his nosed deepened, severe and prejudicial, however slightly he bowed.

The party settled in grandma’s room. He solemnly grieved for the invalid, and made the sign of the cross. I lingered there too at the edge of my bed next to hers.

“Sister,” the man said, “I thought often of you.”

“Me too!” the woman said. “I missed you so much, sister. I swear on the lives of my children, I’ve missed you.”

Why does she have to swear at all that she missed her sister? I instinctively felt sorry for the lives of her children, and I was right to feel that way because her statement will prove untrue ahead in this story.

Mom listened at the foot of the bed, not understanding the visitors’ purpose, but smiled pleased.

Grandma suddenly perked up. “Did mama die quick as she always said she would from her mysterious disease with no medicine in all heaven or hell to cure her?” she said suddenly sarcastic and sneered as she talked.

“No, no, no,” her brother nodded, clearly doubting her words, exchanging glances with the woman on his side.

“Our mama died two years ago. She was ninety-three,” the woman concluded conciliatory and in a calm voice.

“You know, I always knew she wasn’t sick at all. And papa, what was made of papa?” grandma asked as a little girl would for her dear dad after a day in school.

“Papa just died,” the brother said and sighed. “That’s why we came, because of his will.” As he talked, he put his briefcase on his lap, pushed the zipper, and opened it. The woman blushed and smiled to hide her shame, but her smile only made her uglier.

“O, I see, a business visit,” grandma said. “We’ll go through this business, don’t worry. I’m not going to die this minute. First let me learn what became of the ones I deeply loved.”

The couple looked startled to each other.

“Why didn’t you ever write to me?”

“Well, I moved back to Portugal. Papa sent me a letter calling me back to help him on the grape plantation. His business finally succeeded, and he bought back the house we were born in. He expanded and bought three more farms for grape plantations and started to produce his wine. Business was good afterwards. I administrated business for him, and was so busy with work that I had time for nothing else. That’s why I didn’t write or ever visit,” he excused himself.

“And now you find time to come?”

“Mom,” my mom said. “Aren’t you being a little harsh with your brother?” She patted her mother lightly on the feet.

“What’s your understanding of being harsh?” grandmother asked.

“Well, the noble couple came after such a long time from far to see you, mom. I think it’s kind of them,” my mother said with a neat smile to the couple.

“Thanks, ma’am,” the man finally addressed his attention to my mother, “but I understand my sister’s inquisitions.” He turned back to his sister in bed. “I was only able to come now because I’m quite retired. My three sons are in charge of the business. I work as a consultant when they need me.”

“And are you here as a consultant?” grandma asked.

The couple danced uncomfortably where they sat and exchanged glances of conspiracy, and then she took the conversation from there.

“No! No!” the woman said. “We came to see you too, my dear sister.”

“What about you, my dear sister, did you go back to Portugal as well?” the moribund sister asked, dragging out energy to speak.

“No, I live in São Paulo. I married, but I’ve been a widow for ten years. I have four kids, two boys, and two girls. They’re god’s blessing, my kids, all married and successful, thank god, and I have ten grandsons all together,” the sister gaily summarized her life, and then an uncomfortable silence fell on the room for a few moments.

My mother smiled like an Indio in the Amazon in front of a civilized white man for the first time. Sullen, I watched the strangers.

My great uncle grunted his patience over and put his white head inside the briefcase on his lap. Sun came through the narrow window to light the room. He took some minutes to put his papers together, and even had a palm sized pillow of ink to take fingerprints. “Just in case she doesn’t know how to sign anymore,” he mumbled. “I brought some papers for you to sign, sister” he said louder like a man in power well entitled to his business, and placed the papers on top of his black briefcase that served as his desk.

Mother’s eyes became curious when she heard that there were papers to sign, and she bit her bottom lip in expectation.

“What are the papers for?” grandma asked in a business manner like the strangers spoke since their arrival.

Long lost brother and sister exchanged more uncomfortable glances. He cleared his throat. “Our father didn’t forget you and left a small piece of land in Portugal for you in his will. Its small land, Arminda, very small, very small, indeed, small.”

Did he know that he emphasized the word small too much?

He sighed and went on. “I know you can’t go there to take possession of the land, and money is what you need, right?” he said, grunted, and sketched a smile to my mother.
“Right, right,” mom replied as he wished.

“These papers are authorization to give me the power to sell your small land there. I’ll send you the money as soon we can sell it.”

“Sign, mom. We need money so badly. Jesus sent him to save us,” my mother said in agitation.

“So that’s what was made of my beloved ones who forgot me,” grandma said, and her eyes died a bit more at the moment.

“We all love you, sister, very much so. We didn’t forget you for a single minute of our lives, but your husband was too violent. Mama forbad us to contact you because we knew he enslaved and beat you. She couldn’t stand his ignorance and your insistence to stay with him. We didn’t want her to cast us out too,” the woman said.

Mom knew that what the woman said was true, because grandpa was cruel, and mom grinned trusting her aunt and uncle.

“You guys punished me even more—because of my husband’s temper?”

“You’re going to sign the papers, right mom?” my mother cut short what to her were the old woman’s senseless emotions.

“Daughter,” grandma said to my mother, “try to see through your fantasies at once. I beg you!” grandma managed to clasp her hands to beg her daughter’s attention.

Mom blinked. I couldn’t tell if she listened, and grandma went on.

“I don’t have anything to lose, daughter. If you tell me not to sign these papers, I won’t. My weak mother’s heart tells me that you’re the one who’ll lose if I sign these papers. The beautiful blue eyes of the couple you see ahead of you aren’t smart and have no compassion the way they look like they have. This is my last chance to give you anything in life. Signing or not signing these documents is entirely your decision. Are you sure you want me to?” She put in check her daughter’s desire.

My mother looked up and asked heaven what she should do. Doubts shook her mind. The couple smiled to captivate their foolish thinker.

“If your option is to sign, the money will be in your hands in two to three weeks at the most,” the man said in a desperate tone.

“Nobody sells land in three weeks,” grandmother said.

“We have the buyer, sister,” he countered steadily.

“You can deal with the buyer directly, daughter, or keep the land if you wish. Make some effort,” grandma said.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea. The buyer will trick her and underpay her for the land,” the man said.

“You have to go by airplane to Portugal in order to deal with the buyer. Have you ever traveled by plane?” the woman asked.

Mom was a simple person and not courageous. She never got close to an airplane in her life, and without pondering, she decided in frights, “No! Airplane to Portugal? No! Sign the papers, mom.”

“O, sister, you were always the slyest of us,” my grandmother said. “You’re still the same, I see. You easily see the weakness of your prey.”

The woman stirred uncomfortably in the chair. Her soul was ashamed.

“Daughter, don’t you want to go through the papers to see what you’ll lose?” the moribund insisted.

“No, I believe my uncle and aunt are good people and have Jesus in their heart. They wouldn’t lie to me, would you?”

They shook their heads anxiously.

“See, I trust them. I don’t need to go through the papers. Sign the documents, mom.”

“Well, at least I’ll die knowing that I attended my only daughter’s last wish.”

A commotion followed to collect signatures and fingerprints from the moribund in bed.

"I'm going to need a notarized copy of your father’s obituary certificate,” the man said to my mom who nodded and went to another room to get the document in order to trust it to him.

“Don’t you worry,” he said, taking the paper carefully from her hands. “I’ll pay the expenses to notarize a copy and bring the original back to you tomorrow.”

“All set,” mother said and kissed her uncle’s hand on top of his brilliant ring. “Bless me, uncle.”

My grandmother, forgotten, sank weary in her bed. The two relatives stood up and prepared to leave.

“Sister, I’ll come back tomorrow to see you again,” the man said. My grandmother remained silent, and neither knew what to do.

“Mom,” my mother said, “they’re saying goodbye to you.”

My grandmother’s lips didn’t move.

“Well, I understand she needs to rest,” the woman said.

“God bless you,” he said finally, making a sign of the cross, and they folded their grins mischievously.

My mother, of course, was thrilled with the agreement, and expected a small fortune from Europe soon.

“Wooh hoo! I’m going to buy this house,” she planned, and sang parading back and forth in a good mood inside revolting clouds from her cigarette.

When my brother arrived from somewhere sometime in the middle of the afternoon, she rushed to tell him the good news.

“Son, we’ll be filthy rich!” she said, and explained everything that happened to him.

“Really? Will we have steak every day?” he asked.

“Of course we’ll have steak and bread and cheese and chicken and cake. Whatever you want to eat, my son.”

“Mom, can I have Coca-Cola every day too?” he asked.

“Of course, son.”

“Hurrah!” my brother shouted, licking his dry lips and opening wide his gluttonous eyes.

The moribund sunk quiet in her bed.

Next morning, a boy knocked at our door and delivered grandpa’s death certificate with a note, which my mother read aloud in a trembling voice.

Dear Sister,
I apologize for not going back there today as promised. Business made me fly immediately back to Lisbon

Thank you for your attention yesterday. God bless your sweet home.

Antonio Maria

PS: Minerva sends her regards with love and God’s blessing.

Grandmother died and mom never got a penny.

©2009 Regina Edelman

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Bicycle Basket Thief

Saturday around ten in the morning, two months after the September 11th tragedy, my husband and I stepped out onto Saint James Place to head for breakfast. I turned to check on my bicycle chained to a post in front of the old Jewish cemetary.

Another bicycle was parked next to mine on the sidewalk. A skinny shaved-head white man in black loose clothes bent busy over the handlebar of my bicycle, wire cutters in hand.

“Hey! This bicycle is mine!” I shouted. Daryl and I walked toward the suspicious man who turned red, but didn’t run from us.

“What're you doing?” I asked seriously.

“Nothing,” he said.

“You’re stealing my wife’s bicycle basket, ass wipe, that’s what you’re doing!”

“Are you stealing the basket of my bicycle?” I asked, squinting in disbelief.

“Look, I need a basket. I’ve been watching this abandoned bicycle since eight this morning. This is the third time I came to take the basket. The first time, I didn’t have any tools. The second time, I had the wrong tool, and all that time nobody came to claim they owned the bicycle,” he said with a Spanish accent.

“We're the owners. This isn’t an abandoned bicycle, and if you need a bicycle basket, buy one, asswipe,” my husband said.

“Yes, I paid only five dollars for this basket at K-Mart for pity’s sake,” I said, not understanding the absurdity of the theft.

“Hey, word to the wise! Keep your eyes on your belongings. This is New York City,” the burglar said sarcastically, perched on his bicycle next to mine, then made his splendid and furious getaway.

“Idiot! Loser! You failed three times to steal a bicycle basket,” Daryl yelled and unlocked my bicycle to carry it upstairs.

“Unbelievable, we engaged in conversation with the failed burglar of our bicycle basket!” I said. “I tell you, amore, his advice isn’t bad.”

“He's a low thief! Idiot!” Daryl said and carried my bicycle upstairs. "Look! The basket is still attached! He cut the wrong wires!"

©2009 Regina Edelman

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Anonymous Driver

by Regina Edelman

Once I watched a show on National Geographic about dolphin life. The narrator dramatically explained that the ocean is a dangerous place to be, but what about danger on land?

The weakest is the first to die, and that man ahead of me is the strongest, at least in muscles. He’d easily kill a woman to satisfy any sick passion he may have.

I scrutinized the size of my trouble. The killer was taller than me by four large palms. He concentrated on the wet ground and carried a small closed black umbrella. He could attack me with that. He put his head up! He saw me! He fucking grinned at me! Calm down. I couldn’t really tell if he saw me and cared for the easy prey I thought myself to be. Did he really grin at me or not? He quickly put his head down again, guarding his steps as he ploughed through the water next to the Delancey Street Bridge. Drops of rain fell again, and with them, doomed thoughts induced me to fear: he’ll see my breasts through my wet blouse, and that'll bring his devil out. Nobody was there to save me but the drivers on FDR Drive who wouldn’t see me, listen to me, or care for me, in such velocity they rushed. Maybe I could climb the road fence and escape that way; I had to be very quick if my fate was to escape my near future under the bridge.

Bad souls aren't the only kind of souls in the park after the rain. I was there in my innocence and my ignorance of nature’s creation, though my soul is connoisseur of how perverse the nature of ignorant humans can be, and I truly believed the man ahead me the most perverted I ever encountered. Sweat seeped up on my skin. To escape, the only way was to go ahead and confront the perverted monster no matter what. I may have to fight to save my skin. I watched the man walking, he and I getting closer and closer.

I’d escaped several times from men running after me, but never from a man ahead of me. I remember a bolt heaven sent to mock my smallness at eighteen.

I knew I was in a dangerous zone, so I walked home fast, turning my head every two seconds to make sure no one was following me, nobody…but then I saw a man coming after me ten blocks behind, walking faster than me, but he could just be a product of my imagination and turn off any street. To validate this hypothesis, I tested my luck and ran.

The man ran too and his strong legs stroked faster than mine. I panicked! I couldn’t be strong then, especially after a beer. My legs shook cowardly and I kept looking back to see how he outraced me, already four or three blocks behind. Only a miracle could save me and I had no idea what to do when that man would put his hand on my shoulder. My brain put all its strength to my heart to go ahead no matter what, total concentration if I wanted to escape from a man in the dark. My strength was no competition for that wild beast getting closer, two blocks, and closer, one, until I could hear the stroke of his legs and his anxious breathing. Only a miracle could save me from his murderous hands, and faith that a miracle could really happen kept me steady on. I ran. A silent car came from an alley. I didn’t shout for help. I thought no one would possibly care for a girl who ran dark streets from a man, a street famous for junkies after ten at night. My hunter may be a junkie. I wasn’t a junkie, I wasn’t. I wished the driver saw the lunatic chasing me. I wished whoever drove the car wasn't more trouble for me, and that the driver could see my true honest simplicity. I was just coming from meeting a friend for the pleasure of laughs and talk about boys. It’s true we betrayed her family’s orders, for her mother forbade our relationship. She lived next door to my house, but we met around town. To follow my friend’s rules, I had to hide from her mother and go the worst way back home to arrive a few moments latter than her to disguise from her mama that we were together. Believing myself a dirty girl, a man running after me as proof of how dirty, and not sure I was the strongest to live, I ran.

Hey! Hey! The anonymous driver shouted. My hunter halted immediately. Stop! The driver shouted again and pushed the back door of his blue automobile ajar, which I entered gladly and sat wearily.

A voice in the dark reached our ears: I swear to our lord god in heaven I just wanted to talk to her!

The anonymous driver glanced to inspect me terrified in the back seat. There’s no need to run after anyone just to talk! This girl is terrified! Anyone can clearly see that she doesn’t want talk to you! I’m going set the law after you right away! Stay where you are, scoundrel!

But my hunter’s legs pumped in the opposite direction and disappeared in the dark. Breathing, breathing, slowly my senses returned to life.


Rocks? It’s a brilliant idea! That’s it! I’ll throw rocks at the man ahead. My arms are strong. I planned, hoping to find rocks in easy reach on the accidental ground covered with water, but I didn’t quite like this miraculous idea. Did I plan to kill the man to defend my right to live? What a strange feeling.

O my goodness! He stopped under the bridge, waiting for me! Whoever ambushes doesn’t have good intentions. O, my goodness! He saw me and waited for me, but then walked from under the bridge with a lit cigarette between his fingers. Strangely, it seemed he couldn’t care less about my existence, and only a few inches before our fatal encounter, the man turned left and crossed above the cars on the FDR, smoking.

©2009 Regina Edelman

Sunday, March 1, 2009

We Only Eat Life

by Regina Edelman

Many living bodies will pass through the bodies of other creatures. That is to say, uninhabited houses will pass in pieces through inhabited houses, giving them something useful, and bringing with themselves their own harm. This is to say, man’s life is made up of things which are eaten, and they bring with them the part of the man which is dead.
–Leonardo da Vinci

I read to Daryl for him to approve my writing:

Yesterday I fasted and went to the doctor for a checkup. My doctor is Chinese, but grew up in São Paulo where I came from, and practices here in Chinatown where I live now. The Chinese markets here display tables full of food propped outside their storefronts onto the sidewalk, and even sell live turtles for soup. I think they’re for soup. I only have vague knowledge of how to cook a turtle, and I don’t even understand eating them in the first place. Once Daryl’s old roommate told me that he saw a party of diners in a Chinatown restaurant cooking a turtle in a pot over sterno in the center of the table. Alive, the poor beast tried to run away from death, which is certain we all know, but closer to that turtle. The poor thing tried to climb the hot walls of the pot, but how could the innocent run from the cowardice of her condemnation? The Chinese party pushed her back down to the bottom of the pot with its water close to boil. They laughed until the poor turtle died. Horrible! Cruel! But is it any different than the killing of cow, chicken, pig, fish, the poor sheep, or how many other lives in other places and times we don’t know of on Earth? It’s not a question of who eats what, no matter what hemisphere. The fact is that we only eat life. The only difference depends on whether we kill in sophisticated form, fast with no crying, or brutally like worms do. The sun, father of colors and lights showed clear and tinted the fruits in the Chinatown market: fresh vegetables covered in spines, green leaves that we know, that we don’t know, strange roots, ducks hung upside-down, chicken feet, testicles, and ribs of cow or pig, intestines hard to define if pig’s intestines or what are exposed for sale in the butchers’ and restaurant windows. Dried and salted strange little creatures like cockroaches are merchandise too in the exotic markets. A scenario in the pasture of man on my way to the doctor’s office on Canal Street filled with children yelling playing running, and old ladies who told fortunes. A shoe repairman squatted on a stool with his tools laid out on the sidewalk, busy with his customers waiting for their shoes. Clumps of men and women played dominos at tables in Columbus Park. Women fed the pigeons in spite of sign plates that read, Do Not Feed the Pigeons, on the park fence. If I was a pigeon, I’d like to raise my family in Manhattan, easy food here, for man, squirrel, rats, and cockroaches.

A fish at least two feet long jumped from a table. He twisted on the hard sidewalk, despairing without oxygen. With a spear, the fishmonger hooked the fish’s head and put him back on the sale table where he belonged now.

Daryl stopped reading and looked seriously at me. “This is beautiful, Gina,” he said. “What are you going to do with this?”

“I’m going to write a novel.”

“You can write a novel. We have a lot of work to do,” he said.

©2009 Regina Edelman