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Chapter 5: Come and Get Me

April 4, 2013


It’s funny how you can become a different person because of things that don’t have anything to do with you. The day after the first time I had the Number the Stars dream, I was carrying my saxophone in to school, having just eaten a cinnamon-Neufchatel cruller at the High Point Café with Mom. I remember two years ago when I was carrying the same sax on the same strip of grass, when some eighth-graders were starting to circle around a few little kids. I remember marching right into that situation and looking up at the bullies and asking the biggest one, “Are you their older brother?” and when he told me no, I said, “Then move aside and let me take these kids to class.” I took one of the kids by the hand and wrapped my sax case around the other, and walked them both up to the school door and took them right in to Ms. Durkin. Aba told me that I lived up to my name. “Ezra” means “help,” remember?

This time, it was one of my closest friends who was getting bullied, and I was almost as big as the bullies. The bullies were making fun of Jacob, and I was trying to ignore them. But they weren’t being ignored very easily.

“So Ezra, don’t you think that your friend here’s a punk?” That was one of the twins in eight grade, Braden.

I didn’t answer.

The other one, Branden, continued. “What’s wrong, Ezra? You must not think much of dweeb-nerd here and his violin seeing as how you can’t say anything. Come on tough guy, don’t you think your friend is a dweeb?”

“And his parents. I saw them kissing. Jacob has two mommies!” Branden leered.

I whispered to Jacob to run, and I marched forward, head down, through their pushing and shoving and got myself inside. I was humiliated.

No. I humiliated myself.

I spent the whole day pounding the walls at Henry Elementary. Why? Why? Where did I go? When did I get replaced by this squishy, spineless alien that I morphed into? I liked myself so much better two years ago. I debated with myself whether I should tell Aba when he picked us up for the weekend.

Aba got us early this Friday. He said he had a treat for us. We drove off to Roxborough.

Ruchama started. “Are we going to the Y?”

Nothing from Aba.

“Are we going to get some new fish?” Ru continued.

“Are we going to Toys-R-Us?” I offered.

“OK, kids, chill. ”Whenever Aba uses kid language, his Israeli accent comes back. “It’s no secret if I tell you.”

We pulled in to a farmer’s market and garden center. What!!? What kind of a surprise is this? Booooo-ring.

“Come on, guys, we’re crossing the street. Hands.”

“Aba, why did we park here, if we’re not getting flowers?” I asked. My hopes rose from my shoelaces all the way to my kneecaps.

“Because the fish store is across the street, motek!”

“You’re the best!” I said.

“Fishies! Can I name them?” Ru added.

“Hey, Ru, don’t you want to pick them first?” Aba responded, tossing his hands up in a “don’t shoot” gesture.

We got two giant fantailed mollies. I called mine “Precious,” because he was really fat, and Ruchama called hers “Lionflame,” because she was yellow and orange, tipped with grey like smoke.

Aba told Ru that she had come up with a great name for a fish. They bumped fists, Obama-style. I was a little jealous.

This Friday night, we did our weekly Sabbath ritual, and we watched some episodes of Ru’s gymnastics teen drama, Make It or Break It. Ruchama watched while doing handstands and while walking on the arms of the chairs. Who needs chairs when you can use the armrests for balance beams? It was 8:45, according to the computer, when Aba told my sister that she could watch one more episode, but then she was going to bed. At about 9:30 Aba carried through on his warning.

“Ok, Ru-Ru, it’s time. Let’s go up.”

“Just one more.”

“No, you said that after the last episode. Come on up.”

“Will Ezra come up with me?”

“No, Ru, Ezra is older than you are, and he only has to shut it off at ten. So he’ll be up by the time you go to sleep.”

I heard this, but I wasn’t so willing to comply. I didn’t want to see the angry red holes again. At about eleven, Aba moved to unplug the modem. He didn’t threaten, he didn’t shout. Even when he was doing something I hated, he was always so gentle. I hit the escape key and closed the laptop.

“OK Aba back press and back rub?”

“Always, Ezra.”

When I was really little, Aba started doing acupressure on me. I can still feel his energy when he holds his hand over my butt without touching it. I hope he’ll always want to even out my chakras, as the Hindus call your energy centers,  and do acupressure wherever I hold my tension. I can feel his headaches, too, so I give him acupressure right back.

As usual, I didn’t hear him finish singing “Simple Song.” I was asleep.

It could have been a minute, or it could have been an hour, when the angry red holes opened. They were starting to glow in the background of my thoughts when Annemarie, the girl from Number the Stars, entered the foreground from Stage Right. I found myself in a meadow, surrounded by a bazillion bright yellow buttercups, with the forest from the Nazi scene in the background.  The red holes lurked behind the trees.

The girl talked to me! What did she say – I couldn’t make it out. Did that mean that she saw me? I thought I was invisible when I saw her in other dream. So I just had to answer back. A weird dialogue followed;

Me: “Do you remember when we came across the Nazi in the forest?

Girl: “I have to pretend to be a little, carefree girl. La-la.”

Me: “ Did you think that the Nazi was going to find the documents?”

Girl: “If the Nazis think I’m slow they will leave us alone, don’t you think?

Me: “They did in the forest, on the way to the boat.”

Girl: “What plans do you have for after the war?”

Me: “What war?”

Girl: “You have to challenge it sometimes – all I had to do was show that Nazi that I wasn’t afraid of him and he and his stinking dog went and had a nice day somewhere.”

Me: “That doesn’t make any sense. Do you really see me?”

Girl: “Yes, you’re there now. I just heard your thoughts before.”

Up to this point, if you understood the dialogue, you’re smarter than a fifth grader. My music teacher (and Aba) had a word for what this sounded like: “counterpoint.” Now comes what Aba calls the “stretto.” The voices overlap.

Me: “When before? I just saw you and asked you about the Nazi.”

Girl: “I heard your thoughts before I could see you. You were talking about red holes.”

Me:  “Is that what you were talking about when you said that about ‘challenging it?’

Girl: “Right. That’s what I did with that Nazi.”

Me: “Hey, I was there, too!”

Girl: “Since when?”

Me: “Since I threw that rock into the brush to distract Bowser. But leave the Nazi. What about challenging it?”

The girl dissolved. At this point, I noticed the red holes, looking like a set of demonic eyes, like Darth Maul from Star Wars. Yes, I was gripped with terror. In fact, my first impulse was to WAKE UP!!! But the girl had talked about “challenging it,” and I could not solve the riddle before the eyes started approaching. So I dug in.

Now I was watching the watcher. Now I could make out details. Now, I could see that the molten, stinking sulfuric mass was what that thing called optical jelly. The gloppy, angry smell was still unformed, but it had a boundary. Drops of nasty sludge shimmered in the light of the blood-red eyes, but it was not moving.

“Who are you?” I screamed, more than asked.

It just hovered. For the first tie, I noticed that someone had turned off the sun. Now I slapped the pine frame on my bunk to wake myself up.

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