A Miami Tale



A Miami Tale

By Lewis Moyse




She was an unclean force. That was the way we thought of her. There did not seem to be any other words to make her known. And even unclean is too poor a word. There was another name for her too.
            I still recall and I am sure the rest, if they are alive, do too.
            I sit and bake in the humidity and heat of Miami Beach in stained pale yellow polyester pants and an orange shirt decorated with pineapples my son gave me amid the odor of the decay of memory and of my own aging.
            We sit on benches, rarely on the beach. Sand is unpleasant and we hate and envy the pretty narcissistic young who show themselves off. The water seems to shine and become brilliant when they are near it. They leave us alone when the sun begins to fall. We stare into the water and the emptiness over it. Sometimes we talk and we talk about money and Medicare and insurance and ungrateful children and what to eat and who among us has just died.
            Lucky the Jew who survives Majdanek. We are among the first camps liberated by the approaching Soviet Army. It is only 1944 and we are already free. July 24th they capture Lublin and so that is my independence day. It is why I still harbor affection for the red star. Lucky the Russian prisoners who survive Majdanek, too. Compound IV was for them.
            For me, there is no hurt in remembering. Not now. For me, I never woke in the night and screamed. Not here. Not in Marseilles or Lisbon and not in New York. If I did I am not aware. I laugh and tell myself I slept through it. Still, it does no good and makes no sense to tell you the camp was 667 acres or that it had five commanders in its lifetime. What do you gain to know that they built a new cremation facility that had five incinerators? That two were not enough? Does it make you smarter and somehow more righteous to hear that at first they buried the dead and later we had to dig them up and hew the arms and legs from the corpses in the ground at Majdanek and put them on planks and feed them to the ovens? Four corpses burn in 15 minutes. As long maybe as it takes to eat a little meal or make love. That is 16 in one hour in one oven. That is 1,920 in a day if you have five ovens. The ovens burn all day and all night. But mathematics is a wearisome science. 1,920 means nothing. Six million and twenty million mean nothing.
You lie if you say you comprehend. Just like if you say you know what it is like to choke on the ardent ashes of the dead.
            On the way out I saw the building superintendent. He tells us all how much he hates Jews. His name is Jesus and he has a tattoo of a serpent on his right forearm. Jesus something, and of course he does not say Jesus but “Hay-Soos.” It reads Jesus on his uniform, the word in red script within a white oval. The Latins are lousy with children named Jesus just like the Moslems are lousy with children named Mohammed. Mohammed this. Mohammed that. But have you ever known a Jew named Yahweh? Or Adonai? He always smiles when he makes his slurs and I do not care if he hates Jews.
            —Mr. Soble?
            I stopped. Jesus the superintendent smiled.
            —Do you know why the Jews wandered forty years in the desert? Do you? No? Well, it was because one of them dropped a nickel . . .
            I had to go see the doctor because I have a chronic lung condition. It is COPD and it was caused by the cigarettes I used to smoke and the corruption and pollution everyone breathes in. He renewed my expensive prescription for an inhaler and told me next time I come I will have to take a chest x-ray and test the power of my lungs. I hate that last because it makes me dizzy. I could tell him without a test there is not much there.
            It was hot and vaporous on the street that day but that is not news along Collins Avenue in July. I waited for my bus and filled the prescription and then I stopped by a delicatessen for a bite. Just two deviled eggs and a bagel. I saw a man I knew there. Nathan. From New York. That is the way he always introduced himself. I am Nathan from New York, like there cannot possibly be another Nathan in that city. He waved me over to sit with him and I shrugged and sat at his booth.
            —Soble. What are you up to?
            —The doctor. The drugstore. Being an old man in Florida. And you?
            Nathan from New York waved his hand towards me. He said I lost two dollars at Bingo last night and six dollars the night before playing poker.
            —I am not buying your lunch.
            —Soble. Two dollars. Six dollars. I got money. I didn’t work 40 years to be broke.
            Nathan from New York has to be a big-shot.
            —Good. Buy mine.
            —Get out with that.
            He had the big soft belly of a spoiled rich man and liked to talk about money in front of women. He did not even care if he lost money so long as he could talk about it.
            I was happy to leave him a little later and wander my way back, even in that heat, to my rooms in the little apartment building. It is not prime real estate, you can imagine. It was built poorly by drug fiends I am sure and with lousy materials and it is almost a death trap. Small. Stuffy. It smells foul. I took a puff from the purple inhaler.
            I sat down and caught my breath. I wanted to drink a little vodka but I didn’t have a little vodka and it was too hot to go get any. The old woman next door who looks leprotic and says all the time how lonely she is would have some. I knew that. She is an alcoholic. I thought if I am lucky I will just fall asleep on the dirty striped sofa I bet came from a whore-motel. Seeing that woman, the one next door, is an ordeal because she wants to talk. And she has a filthy mouth. Just filthy. Once she leered at me and said I am not too old to fuck, Soble. I told her she was too old to fuck me. She laughed like a cat. What is more bitter than a cat?
            Better to be alone.
            I watched the television for a little while. I used to like to keep up with the news, the current events. But now the news is too loud for me and all the newscasters do is shout and ridicule. They are bullies. They are so-called personalities and they have their docket of items to shove in your face. The latest, of course, is terror. It is the Twin Tower catastrophe and Bin Laden and Iraq and you name it. Or sometimes a blonde-headed white girl is kidnapped or killed and her corpse is a star until the next one like her is kidnapped or killed.
            I wonder what they know about terror and corpses, really.
            I woke up in the middle of the next morning. I had fallen asleep on the soiled couch. The television set glowered and outside the darkness beyond midnight seemed so deep. It suddenly came to me in the way it comes from a dream that I had dreamed of Lublin: of one dozen synagogues and one hundred prayer houses, of an orphanage, two newspapers, of three cemeteries and Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin. I dreamed of times when there was light according to law and when there was silence or feasting or fasting according to law. I dreamed of seeing a play at the Lubliner Yiddishe Dramatische Studie two years before they came, and the smile and laughter of my younger sister as she hissed “Haman” in the Purim plays, of the cantor’s song and the way my grandfather swayed as we stood for the Sh’ma and the Kaddish and did not dream there could ever be so many to say Kaddish over who in this life possibly could and did not dream of how they made us register and pay tribute and did not dream of the day we all were adorned with the yellow star.
            But even those things seemed for a moment cleaner and more crucial than the noise and glare outside in the American Miami night.
            Did you know: you can remember the last touch of a loved one’s hand even after the passing of 63 years . . .
            I could not sleep anymore so I made tea and watched the television.
            There had been a man who lived in the apartment complex a block farther from the water than mine. His name was Levenboim and he had come from Lublin. He was older than I and I had not known him until here. We met the first time and shook hands and when we sat down he said we make two.
            —Two what?
            —Two of the two hundred thirty of the forty-two thousand eight hundred thirty they did not manage to kill.
            Levenboim was a fanatic. He had an obsession with Majdenak and with them. He was like a scrivener always writing in his notebooks with fury. He was a madman but at least he had hatred in him. Levenboim did not have the cold emptiness that feeds on you, that makes a banquet of your bowels. The cold emptiness is the spawn of the vultures that eat the liver of Prometheus. Your bowels regenerate so they may eat again. His hatred was a wonder and a flame, his everlasting light.
            —Soble, what is the matter with you? Can’t you hate?
            —Oh, I did. With as much might as I used to love God. And then it went away . . . it all went away.
            —Do you remember?
            —Good. And so what do you feel?
            Levenboim’s pencil was circling over his notebook, ready to strike, to copy my words and I knew I should not lie.
            —Nothing. Pure immaculate nothing, Levenboim. Not alive, not dead. But in its place nothing. No will, no pain. Just what is left after the rest is gone.
            —Nothing? Nothing? I can’t write nothing.
            He looked at his pencil, perhaps thinking it had failed him.
            — But if you feel this nothing you talk about tell me one thing.
            —Tell me you remember her. The unclean one and what we named her.
            —I do.
            Levenboim wrote that in his notebook.
            —You see, not everything goes, not everything vanishes, Soble.
            I am the last man to tell you memory vanishes.
            Thank God it rained later in the day. A steady rain, not relentless and not torrential, but enough so that you could not go outside. I stayed in the air conditioning and got older. In the middle of the afternoon as the rain began to taper, there was a knock on my door and I feared it was the woman from next door. Her name is Lily. It was Lily. Lily had a bottle of vodka. It had a drugstore label on it, the kind you drink when you are poor and think maybe you have two livers.
            —This is the kind of day for a drink and some talk, Soble.
            I shrugged. I told her to come in.
            Lily made a little shiver and said it was cold in my rooms. I told her you want hot, go outside. She poured us the vodka and toasted me and so I toasted her back. To life. Indeed.
            Lily told me I had the reputation of being a wisenheimer. She told me the other old women she gossiped with said I was a cynic. I only shook my head and sipped her vodka. I didn’t want to tell her it did not matter what a flock of crones thought of me.
            But she said something I did not expect: I know why you are this way, Soble.
            —Please tell me.
            —One word. One little word. Memory.
            —So tell me, Lily: who can live 82 years and not have memory I would like to know?
            —You. Everyone. Everyone remembers what happened and so memory is what life has made of us. Maybe all we are is what we remember.
            —Lily, I never knew you were so profound.
            She frowned. Soble, I am only talking and drinking with a neighbor. If you want I should leave say so.
            There came a silence. Even the rain seemed mute as it fell. I thought this woman has some nerve. I didn’t ask her to knock on my door. And among the one million things in this world that are easy to hate psychology is high on the list. To be analyzed for crying out loud. They have their terminology, their jargon, these doctors do and they shoot it around like a Roman candle and say you are this or that. They try to put you in a box and then you are well and maybe you were not even sick. But as long as they know how to name you they have done their job. And if that is not enough for them that they have marked you as this or that they give you pills. Now you’re cured. Well, cure this I say . . .
            The woman had an odor. It seemed of vodka, certainly, but of sweet coconut lotion and almonds and basil too. Some concoction. Or perhaps she had put on a perfume that is cheaper by the gallon than gasoline.
            —What do you remember, Lily?
            —The sand at Lake Michigan in the summer and the way the new snow looked in Grant Park. How the moon shone at the Navy Pier and ten summers in Wisconsin at Mecan Lake. Once my younger brother Allen said he was going to marry the Indian woman on the box of butter. Then it was the Depression but we had butter. My eighteenth birthday party at the Drake Hotel and it was something then but now who knows? I have a picture of the night. Want me to get it? I’m drinking a highball. Jake Guzik was there. Barney Ross . . . the prize fighter. A Jew to be proud of, Soble. And then love, Soble, first love last love all loves and of them all especially Harold Schiffren, not a lawyer nor a doctor, not a banker or a broker, but a cantor with a such a voice as God in his heaven gives only to angels. You see his gelt was in his throat and not in his bank. His parents they could not even speak English. Shtetl Jews, Soble, the ones with felt boots and babushkas who were frightened by electric lights and wheels not made of wood and who could not imagine a street made from something other than dirt and a policeman who was not on the corner waiting to club them. You do not need to know my mother and father to take your guess that they did not approve of Harold and his family. Haughty people, a man and a woman of undue pride because, Soble, so what if you have a lot of money? So what if you came from Córdoba where they said your ancestors were advisors to the Court and wrote books? Books. Ach. Give me song, pure song. If God eats he eats only song but maybe he doesn’t eat. I don’t know but I know song and in the mouth of Harold it was spun light. Song doesn’t need words and God Almighty would never eat words. Do they ever say of angels, Soble, that they read? They flutter around God with gold books on the tips of their wings reciting? Do they say of angels, Soble, they take an examination in vocabulary? No. Of course not. They say they sing. Heaven is ripe with song.
            She was driving me crazy. I told her Heaven is full of the iron clash of machinery.
            —Heaven is ripe with song because Harold Schiffren is there.
            I shrugged. Good for Heaven, I said. Good for your Harold Schiffren and good for God and all the little singing angels. This is what you remember?
            She looked at me as though she could hate me but that it would be so much trouble. Then she made us another drink and looked into the rain.
            —Soble. My parents forbade me to see him. To be with him. They did not like the smell of his dusty clothes and the look of his beard and they said his mouth was misshapen. They said I knew nothing about love but I knew enough to leave them for him. You are cut off, Lily Abravanel. You are dead to us. You walk out of this house and see that man and you are dead to us, Lily Abravanel.
            —So let me guess. You were a young woman and so much in love and you knew love . . . what does it do . . . conquer all . . . ? You would live on love and so you left.
            For many moments I was not there to her, it seemed. She watched the rain and the Florida steam and people caught within those things. Maybe she saw Harold Schiffren. Maybe she heard him singing. I know she wept but she would not face me with her tears. Not this one who was so strong she could live on love.
            When she turned her eyes seemed empty. So, she said, so you know everything, Sobel. You know the plot of the old old story because it has been told so many times before. Yes. I did leave. Yes. I was dead to them until the time my father sent a detective looking for me to say Miss Abravanel your mother has died of a broken heart. I told him my name is Schiffren. He was a big man who looked like a truck driver. They are waiting for you, he said. They sit shiva and wait. Then he looked at Harold.
            —But not him.
            —Go, Harold said. We bury our dead in a day so go. I’ll be here when you come back, Lily.
            —It was hard for me to leave him, Soble, in the little rooms we shared in a Polack neighborhood not far from the old stockyards. So what if it smelled of dust and cabbage and that Harold had to hock one book just so as to get another to study. So what if the darkened house where my mother lay was made of stone and marble floors and gold faucets and gangsters and rabbis and financiers came in and out.
            —I embraced my husband. I said I will see you after she is buried and the detective brought me home to the darkened house where old women whispered and where my father looked at me once and said that I had murdered her and then never spoke another word to me. But I did not care: I had Harold. I stayed alone in my room. The detective watched me go up the staircase. Below, I heard the mourners murmur about her. The dead mother. And it was she who had said that I am dead to her. I whispered back and now you are dead to everyone. One night there in that house. It would feel like eternity itself. Each hour would, I knew, creep by like an old injured beast. Late, well into the heart of some dark hour, the maid brought me supper.
            —We miss you, Miss Abravanel.
            —Thank you but I am Mrs. Schiffren now.
            —Oh. You married the man with the wonderful voice?
            —Yes. That wonderful man with the wonderful voice.
            She smiled and wished us great happiness.
            I ate a little of the lentil soup and spent that night thinking of Harold. I missed him very much. I missed rubbing his feet while he studied and I wanted him to sing to me the way he did. And, Soble. He did not sing only the hymns and chants from prayer services. I can tell you this: No man ever sang “Harbor Lights” or “You Can’t Stop Me from Dreaming” the way he did. He knew all the current songs of the times. Harold could have been Dick Powell. A Jewish Dick Powell. Imagine.
            —The next morning we buried her at Jewish Graceland on a day so cold the stones rattled their teeth as well. All around the splendid grave markers chattered in the light of pinprick sun . . . so small . . . so feeble. . . . Now, Soble, Jewish Graceland is a ghetto for the dead but I did not care that morning and I do not care today. I heard the rabbi and I slurred the words of the Kaddish to make them speed by so I could see Harold sooner. Only one time did I look at my father. He must have felt the weight of my eyes on him because he lifted his eyes from the prayer book and the flame of all those Hebrew words that filled the air and he smiled at me. It was his famous smile, the one I knew was not a smile, the one that meant I know something you don’t know. It sent ice into me. It made my eyes throb.
            —As soon as I put a stone on my mother’s coffin I turned to go. My mother’s chauffeur asked me if I would like to return to the rooms where Harold and I lived. He drove me there through empty streets until we came to the neighborhood of crumbling stoops, windows shuttered against the cold, broken street lamps and old men who moved like death rode their backs. Three gaunt men stood warming their hands over a fire in a barrel and a little girl in a tattered scarf carried a heavy sack into the wind. There was no opulence here, Soble. There was not even sufficiency. But there was Harold and for me that was enough. Another drink of vodka, Soble?
            —Why not?
            She stumbled into the small kitchen and poured two long drinks. She said sometimes she hated the rain and hated more the steam that comes after it. It makes everyone seem like ghosts, she said. She asked if I had ever seen a ghost.
            —That’s all I see.
            —Sometimes I think they are all that is. What we remember. It’s ghosts.
            —But I don’t believe in them.
            She sighed and said but he was not there. Soble, I waited through the day and through the night and he never came and there was nothing but the cold in those rooms and there were no books and there was no song. I stood at the window overlooking the wintry street the way you are looking at the rain now with a rough green blanket over my shoulders and I looked and sought and prayed and waited until the sun came and the one after that because I knew he was gone.
            I did not want to face her because I knew what I would see: another woman weeping. The world is filled with them the way it is filled with bitter men.
            —What? I asked. They killed him?
            —No, they killed me. They bought him.
             And so that was it for her: the sum of the biggest broken heart in the world. I did not like even her vodka any longer and I did not like her face of the biggest broken heart in the world. It wilted but would not shatter. It seemed hot to the point of being molten. Her face was overcome with wrath.
            —They bought him and my fucking heart was riven. I do not lie when I tell you, Soble, it was the worst thing in this corrupt and grievous world. They mocked me with their money and left me with a fucking broken heart.
            Old woman bile dripped between her teeth and when she held her arms out to me I told her: I am not the fixer for broken hearts.
            —I know the worst thing in the world, Soble. Do you?
            —It must be your broken heart. I shrugged. Go . . . let me rest.
            That night in the steam beneath a soiled moon when I came back from the market I saw Jesus, the superintendent of the building.
            —I smell Jew, he said.
            —And I smell Puerto Rican.
            —Not Puerto Rican. . . . Cuban. I have told you many times.
            —And I have forgotten many times.
            He was a short squat man with slick hair and big arms.
            —I always smell Jew in here. He laughed. Dried-up Jew.
            I shifted the bags in my arm and punched the elevator button.
            —It is broken, Jesus the superintendent said. You’ll have to walk.
            I shrugged. I’ll walk . . .
            —I’ll carry a bag for the old Jew, he said.
            I looked at him and I wondered. I handed a bag to him and he opened the door. The walk was three flights up and it winded me. On the way he asked if it was terrible to be a Jew and know I will not go to any place like a heaven when I die. His voice ricocheted in the stairwell. I stopped. Not to answer but to catch my breath. He asked if I recalled the pain of my circumcision. The bag felt heavy in my arms. At the second-floor landing I stopped again against the railing. Jesus the superintendent looked at me and his look wrapped me in care and loathing. Is it true, he asked, you people drink the blood of innocent Christian babies and mix it in your Passover bread? For I have heard that many times.
            When we got to the door to my rooms he asked if I were all right. I said yes, just old.
            He laughed. Old Jew, he said . . . a whole building and a whole world of old Jews.
            Once inside with the bags I went to close the door.
            Jesus the superintendent grinned. What no tip? Ha-ha . . . I would not expect one from a Jew . . .maybe next time you can tell me about your so called el holocausto...
            His hand was on the inside of the door and suddenly his eyes looked lost.
            —If you are not busy come in. I will tell you something.
            Now he took one small step inside my rooms and he looked around. He laughed again and said, What? You want to show me where they cut off the tip of your pijo? Your little Jew-pijo? You want to show me the black numbers on your arm? I have already seen them.
            —I won’t hurt you.
            —But I can hurt you, old man.
            —No. You can’t.
            —Where did you get the ice in your voice?
            —A gift from the time of el holocausto.
            —Maybe there have been men on the moon but there has been no such thing as that. It is a . . . a . . . cuento de hadas . . . a tale of fairies . . . a lie to make the rest of the world be sorry for you.
            I had some red wine and I poured a glass for him and one for myself. I asked him to sit down and put the bottle on the little coffee table between us.
            I have never asked for sympathy in my life but I did not say so.
            —If you try to poison me it will not work. If you try to touch me I will beat you into a pulp.
            I drank some wine. He drank some of his.
            —So what will you tell me?
            Jesus eyed me with vigilance not unlike the way we had been looked at by them in Majdanek. They had guns and ovens and dogs and they did not trust us.
            —What you said is a fairy tale.
            He looked at me, then at the beeper device he always carried. He said, Well OK, old Jew but if another old Jew beeps for me I will have to go. He wiped wine from his lips.
            —Once upon a time, Hay-soos, in a place you cannot pronounce, a boy and his younger sister were taken with their parents from their home and put into a crowded truck with many just like themselves and driven in the night to a camp. There, the children were separated from their parents and they never saw them after that. The boy to this day does not even know if he saw their smoke. The people who took the children deloused them and shaved their heads and tattooed numbers on their arms and gave them a coarse striped uniform to wear and the next morning they were put to work in a small industrial factory on the grounds. Each day and each night were the same. The only things that changed were the faces of the dead and the smells that became more dense and worse and the sky was dark each noon with ash and smoke. There was no song and there was no color and the sky was a sheet of grey milk but the boy and his sister were at least still alive. They could pray and remember and even for a while hope. Then one evening after the children had been brought back to their rooms and had eaten their water with pieces of sour rat meat floating in it a woman came into the room. She was tall and thin and wore a black wig and dressed in the uniform of the captors. It was black and had silver lightning bolts on the shoulders of the blouse. She wore black boots and a carried a riding crop made of black leather and tinged with flecks of something red. She did not speak, she screamed, and she screamed for the children to rise and those who could did, and she walked along the plank floor with her black boots that made the sound of rifles and she said I am the Commandant here and each night I will choose a girl and take her with me. And that night she chose a girl and we never saw the child again and the following night for many nights the woman came and chose another child and we never saw those children again. The little boy’s sister was afraid each night the woman would choose her and the boy told her to be strong. There are many others. She won’t pick you. Stay in the shadows.
            I poured myself more wine. Jesus had barely touched his. He looked at me the way you do when you are expecting a trick.
            —So, Hay-soos, this went on night after night and in the daylight through the smoke and ash that blew from the high black chimneys there were rumors. Some said the commandant ate the children she stole. Others said she made them all do acts of perversion with her and with one another. She kept them in a cage and taunted them. They were subjects in medical experiments. She starved them to death to watch them die. She made them eat and grow obese and sleep in their own excrement. Once on a work detail when the little boy helped an old man carry large rocks from one end of a field to another the old man said we call her die klafte du Majdendak. The little boy heard all these things and more and every day the commandant came without fail and when the little boy looked around the barracks at the plank beds and into other hag-ridden eyes and at the footprints of rats and at the frostbitten faces he knew soon that his little sister would be taken. It was simple mathematics . . . the so-called law of averages. But, Hay-soos . . . I do not think there are any such laws. Nothing happens for a reason. It just happens. Because pretend for a moment you do not think el holocausto is a fairy tale and millions upon millions of people did die . . . the way it is recorded . . . the way it has been witnessed . . . what is the reason?
            Finally he said: Well, old Soble . . . if it did happen maybe it because God likes dead Jews.
            He drank some of his wine and looked at the tattoo on his forearm, the thick oily serpent with bared fangs.
            —You make me laugh, Hay-soos. Tell me something I don’t know. The old joke: If this is what it means to be chosen don’t choose me.
            I am sure as many have driven themselves crazy as died because of it, trying to find a reason for it.
            —The little boy knew the woman would soon come for his sister. He could not hide her and he could not pray and he could not hope. Not any longer. So each night they waited and each night she came and finally she pointed at the little boy’s sister whose face was red from the cold and dried yellow mucous covered her upper lip and was crusted on her cheeks and who coughed like a dog whose lungs are filled with worms and the woman walked to her and hit the child with her riding crop.
            —Tonight it is you.
            —The little girl held the little boy’s hand so hard. My hand is pressed between stones he thought. The little girl could not stop coughing. She hid her face in the striped shirt of her brother and she sucked in the stench of him. Maybe it was to her the taste of water in the face of the woman. Klafte, I said, and the woman whipped my face. The little girl coughed more and her breath was a rasp on steel.
            The commandant klafte woman smiled and said she is suffocating. Let me help her.
            —The guards in their black clothes had the machine guns. They were still until the woman called for one of them and he walked to her like menace. He grabbed the little girl who coughed and the woman stripped off her clothes while the guard threw the child onto the floor. The little girl writhed on her back and the guard slapped her with the back of his hand and the commandant klafte sat on her face and when the little boy tried to stop the woman another guard hit him. He fell by his sister and he heard her gasp and had to watch the woman grind herself more and more onto the little girl’s face. The little girl said something but I never understood what it was. Every night and every day, Hay-soos, I try to think what it could be. A cry? A prayer? A protest? And every night and every day I see those who have lost more or less and who walk through what is left of life with their private kiss of death and I know we are dying out so fast now there will not be for long living memory but only projects by well-meaning historians and movie-makers. Never again? And it will happen again, Hay-soos. Not to me. Once is enough. Maybe to you but it will happen again and there will be the ones like you who deny it and make it a myth and on the day all the ones with the numbers on their arms are gone maybe you will shed a tear because there will be no one left to stop the next time.
            Jesus the superintendent flexed his arm and watched the serpent. He looked at me. I told him I have no mercy left for the past and I know the future holds no promise.
            —So, are you a prophet, old Jew Soble?
            —You want a prophet? Go to Hialeah.
            He finished his wine and looked at the serpent again. It was still there.
            —I still think you lie, old Jew Soble.
            I shrugged. I said go. There is a whole apartment building filled with such liars. And one special apartment with a broken heart inside.
            He looked at me and shook his head.
            —Shame on old Jew Soble for making up such a story.
            He stopped at the doorway and looked around the room and then at me.
            —I think I am pretty sure you made it up.
            Then Jesus left.
            Outside, the sky held the prospect of rain. I did the little trick with the purple inhaler and then I wanted a drink of vodka but not so bad as to go to Lily’s. I couldn’t listen to it again. I despised her and the abomination of her precious broken heart.
            It had been a long time since I had told anyone how my sister died and I doubted I would live long enough to have to tell it again but, I thought as I lay down on the sofa, how right it would be for Jesus to never forget it either.
Copyright © Lewis Moyse 2011
Lewis Moyse lives in Baton Rouge, La. His short story "She Belongs to Me" was recently a Finalist entry in Narrative Magazine's Winter Story Contest. His story "Marrying Barbara Eden" was chosen as Second Place Winner by Mid American Review in 2005. He is a recipient of the James Agee Award for Graduate fiction at the University of Tennessee (2005) and "A Miami Tale" is his first publication.

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