Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Hangman's Rope

“What’s that on the mantelpiece, little girl?”

Mr. Brunner had always made me nervous- his unctuous flattery to my mother and me on his way into my father’s study had always seemed slightly creepy, but I didn’t want him to tell Father that I’d been rude to him.

“A rope,” I said, not looking up at him but keeping my eyes on the needlepoint I’d been working on.

“A rope, sir.”

“Sir,” I repeated obediently.

“And what manner of rope would it be, for it to be placed in such a prominent location?”

“Father keeps collectibles there, sir, see the porcelain vases? He’s getting through his Chinese pottery phase, Mother says, and he’s buying historical things.”

“So what would be so historical about that section of rope, my little tyke?” Mr. Brunner patted me on the head. “I am so curious.”

I ducked out from underneath his hand. “Mother said it was a part of a rope that hung someone. I guess they must have been famous, but she didn’t tell me who it was. Why don’t you ask Father?”

Mr. Brunner straightened, looking thoughtful. “No, I don’t think I’ll do that. Why don’t you find out for me?”

“Me?” I was surprised, and dropped my needle. When I’d retrieved it from the floor, I looked up to see him looking at me thoughtfully.

“Yes, you. I’d consider it a favor. Would you like a nice present in return?”

“I suppose,” I said doubtfully. “Would Father mind?”

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Prison Exchange

Prison Exchange

"Mazal tov," the large man in the grey suit said gloomily. He passed the chunk of stale brown bread to his companion, a skinny man with a ratlike pointed nose and beady eyes. "You've got your wish."

"Yes, and I'd like to thank you." The skinny man passed him an equal-sized chunk. "I know you think I'm being silly and that I'm in denial about the reality of our situation."

"You are."

"But I appreciate your agreeing to do it anyway," the skinny man continued. "It means a lot to me."

"Cut the sap, man."

"I will, I will; I just had to say it."

A moment of silence between the two was broken by the large man's sigh. "Remember the Purim seuda at home? My wife always made light, fluffy kneidlach, chicken soup with real meat, real vegetables, a kugel so good you wanted to keep on eating more of it forever, and all day long, hamantaschen and wine and candy were coming in the door."

"I don't like that kind of talk," the skinny man growled.

"Sorry, just thinking."

"Keep it in your head, then."

The large man looked hurt. "But- but we agreed- we need to keep-"

"I'm sorry," the skinny man said contritely. "I know. I just- just don't talk about food, okay? My wife was only a barely average cook anyway."

"Sorry too," the large man mumbled.

"It's getting dark," the skinny man said, staring up towards the ceiling at the tiny crack that served them as a window.

They sat in silence, munching their dry bread, watching the sky fade again into twilight.