The story of Harry
Klezmer begins, like a ghost story, with the empty eye-sockets and
idiot grin on the face of an abandoned house. The three-bedroom
aluminum neocolonial at 3830 Magic Flute Lane, a small cul-de-sac in
the Huxley, Maryland, neighborhood of Mozart Creek, had been built,
along with all of its neighbors, in the middle nineteen-seventies, by a
contractor named Frank Happey, an improvident and overambitious dreamer
who went bankrupt and shot himself in the unfinished family room of
3838. It was the house Harry Klezmer had been raised in from the age of
ten, and the one from which he had set out, a year earlier, on an
aimless ramble across the United States in his dead brother's Alfa
Romeo. On that distant morning his mother had stood on the doorstep, in
a vast purple muumuu, blowing operatical kisses of farewell. Now the
red-and-blue sign of a real estate company had been staked to the weedy
front lawn, the first-floor windows, flanked by fake shutters that
could never be closed, were bare of curtains, and the iron-black
Federal eagle over the front door had fallen askew. The whole house
seemed to exhale a melancholy breath of emptiness. Harry climbed
uneasily out of the Alfa and started up the walk. When he reached the
front door he saw that the mailbox was choked with circulars and
gaily-colored rubbish, among them an advertisement for a Fourth of July
sale on barbecue grills, suggesting that his mother had been gone for
at least two months. Harry shivered. It had grown cool in the last hour
and he was wearing a threadbare cotton baseball jacket that bore his
brother's name, stitched in red thread, over the left breast. It was a
Washington Senators jacket. Although it did not keep him very warm he
was glad to have it on just then, to remind him of old Alex, who had
been the kind of man people went to for advice and consolation.
At first Harry knocked, absurdly,
on the paneled front door, producing a hollow sound so plaintive that
it made him a little sick. Then he took the key from its hiding place
in his wallet, unlocked the door, and pushed it open with his foot. He
forced himself to stick his head over the threshhold and look around at
all the empty September light bouncing off of the walls of what had
once been the Klezmer hallway. Although he supposed that he ought to
take a last tour while he was here--for nostalgia's sake, and to see if
there were any clues to his family's disappearance, such as the word
croatoan scrawled on a wall--there was a foxed, bitter smell in the air
of the house, the floor was littered with mysterious black crumbs, and
he could not make himself take another step. He withdrew the brass key
from the lock and tossed it into the house; it hit against something in
the kitchen and rang out once. Then he slammed the front door and
hurried back to the car, shuddering.
He looked up and down Magic Flute
Lane to see if any of the neighbors might be around, but all of the
garages and carports stood empty. There was no one in the street except
for Erno, the old yellow Labrador who often slept on the sidewalk in
front of the Klezmers' house. As a puppy Erno had surprised and been
bludgeoned by a prowler, an injury that left him sleepy and a little
demented. His owner, an elderly neighbor, had been dead for two years
now, and Erno didn't belong to anyone anymore. Harry hadn't expected
him still to be around and he was glad to see Erno, sitting on the
sidewalk beside the Alfa as though keeping a stalwart vigil over it,
but looking dopey and half-asleep.
"Erno, Nerno, my buddy, my
knucklebrain, my yellow, yellow pal," Harry said. He knelt and put his
arms around Erno, and smelled him; he had always been a little
sentimental about dogs. Erno smelled like the leather of his collar and
like a still-warm afternoon sidewalk. Harry held onto him for a moment
longer; then he got back into the car.
The car was a 1973 Spyder ragtop,
red as an old Coke can, and in very bad shape; as the guardian of
Alex's memory Harry had, in this respect, let his brother down. The
left front fender was perforated with rust, the windshield wiper blades
were held on by twist-ties, one of which had scratched an arc in the
glass, and the canvas top was criss-crossed by peeling strips of duct
tape. Harry's piled-in belongings only made it all look worse--they
were few and disorganized and jostled for space in the small interior
of the car. Harry wished, briefly but intensely, that there were room
in Alex's car for Erno; but since he didn't know where he was going, or
what he was going to do when he got there, finally he started the
engine, pumping the gas pedal the prescribed three times quick.
"See you, Erno," said Harry.
He headed down Magic Flute Lane to
Idomeneo Drive, then left onto the state road, toward the Huxley
Interfaith Plexus. Although over the course of twenty years the
planned, integrated, enlightened and ecumenical city of Huxley had come
to seem nearly indistinguishable from the ninety-nine other suburbs
strung along the freeways from Baltimore to Washington, D.C., and its
school system had abandoned Open Classrooms and Team Teaching, and its
candy-striped electric minibuses, which took you anywhere in town free
of charge, were sold off to a Christian theme park in West Virginia,
the geodesic Interfaith Plexus remained as a testament to the
turned-on, Great Society-era egalitarianism of its planners. (It was
Harry's peculiar destiny, and perhaps his entire problem in life, to
have been raised and educated in Utopia.) At the Plexus he hoped to
find his father, Jay Klezmer, who was the rabbi of Shekinah, the oddest
of Huxley's three Jewish congregations. It was a Tuesday afternoon,
still light, and unless his father had resigned his pulpit, he ought to
be on the Plexus's playfield with the Shekinah Maccabees right about
now, fungoing softballs out to this summer's outfield.
The peewee softball team was the
most normal thing about Shekinah, a congregation that had been founded
soon after the city of Huxley itself, in the late nineteen sixties, and
whose constantly 'evolving,' Xeroxed-and-stapled liturgy incorporated
not only the Torah, Midrash, and writings of Martin Buber but also
those of Joseph Campbell and Wilhelm Reich, as well as Kundalini and
Tantric texts, bits from the Bhagavad Gita, Popol Vuh, and the Tibetan
Book of the Dead, Beatles songs, Black spirituals, and the poetry of
Robert Frost. It was the rabbi's second congregation. He had been
pressured to leave the more conventional Beth Shalom after his divorce
from Harry's mother. Since he had always been a committed Leftist
peacenik who liked oysters on the half-shell, fervently supported the
claim of Palestinians to a national home, and believed that the
original God of the Hebrews was a female deity named Hawwah, the
rabbinate of even a Reform Movement temple had never quite been a
comfortable fit for him, anyway. He had thrived in the pulpit of
Shekinah for a long time. He was popular with the members of his
congregation. He embraced leaders of the Arab community on podiums and
solemnized interfaith marriages and coached the Shekinah softball team
on Saturday afternoons. Then Alex Klezmer killed himself, and Harry's
father made his first visit to Israel since 1966. When he came back, he
Rabbi Klezmer spotted his son when
the latter was halfway across the Interfaith Plexus parking lot, and he
slowly, perhaps wonderingly, waved his hand; by the time Harry reached
the visitor's bench his father had jogged all the way in from left
field to greet him.
"Harry!" his father said, drawing
out the first syllable and doing a magician's hey presto with his
spread hands. He was normally a restrained, even dour sort of man, but
always effusive in greeting and farewell. His limbs were thin and
angular, his nose long, and Harry noted, in the instant before they
embraced, that his beard, blond, red, and silver, was longer and
shaggier and more silver than ever before.
"Hey, Dad," said Harry. His father
smelled of exertion, and the fabric of his sweatshirt felt good against
Harry's cheek. "I went by the house."
"She moved," said Rabbi Klezmer, giving his son a big, scratchy kiss on the cheek.
"I gathered that," said Harry.
"Come over here," said his
father, gesturing toward the visitor's bench. "Okay, you kids," he
called to the children on the field, who had stopped practicing and
were watching their rabbi, who was always good for at least one piece
of unusual behavior, such as hugging a strange young man, per
afternoon. "Take three laps around the field." He shooed them away with
a fluttering of his hands. "Go on, go on."
The children set off, rather
indolently, it seemed to Harry, and indeed as soon as his father sat
down and turned his back they stopped running altogether and just
walked the perimeter of the playfield, imitating his father's
dismissive flutter, saying 'go on, go on,' and giggling. Rabbi Klezmer
took off his cap with its big yellow M and ran his fingers through his
"So? Where have you been?" he said.
There was not a trace of reproach in his voice, though Harry had sent
only one postcard in all the time he was away, and had called only
three times, early on in his ramble.
"Oh, just all over," Harry said. "I
went to California. I went to Indiana." The vagueness of this reply was
only partly intentional. He had passed through all of the contiguous
forty-eight but North Dakota and Maine, as well as British Columbia,
Ontario, and Quebec, living off the money he had inherited from Alex,
sleeping in two hundred and seventy-five motels, and he had seen the
geological marvels, the full range of American weather, the disastrous
suburbs of the West, and he had watched a baseball game at Wrigley
Field, and slept with a girl named Sheena. But all the details of his
trip seemed too manifold and too mundane to put into words. He
shrugged. Mostly, he supposed, he had driven Alex's car, endlessly,
without a thought in his head. "I saw Mount Rushmore. I had a tuna
sandwich and French fries for lunch in every truck stop in America."
"Wonderful," said his father,
smiling as though he hadn't quite heard. Like many rabbis, Rabbi
Klezmer had always been a deliberate and pragmatic man, mundane in the
best sense of the word, interested in this life and its burdens and
joys, but since Alex's death his plainness of spirit and engagement
with the world had given way to a kind of pleasant, perpetual fog. He
had let his beard, always hitherto kept trim as a dentist's, grow wild
and wispy as a cloud, and moved like a graduate student or fugitive
through a series of anonymous and ill-kept apartments. His manner had
become distracted and otherworldly, his conversation filled with
references to Messianic literature and ancient history. A few members
of his congregation, in uncharitable moments, had been known to refer
to him as Rabbi Krazy. "That sounds like a lot of fun."
"Dad, where is Mom? Did she leave Huxley?"
Harry's father hesitated before
replying, and for a moment Harry was afraid that something had happened
to her, as it was a hesitation identical to that which had preceded his
telling Harry, four years before, that Alex had killed himself. His
father must have sensed this, for he put a hand on Harry's arm.
"She's in Hawaii," he said. He
blinked, wonderingly, at the information he was about to divulge. "On
Maui. In a town called Makawao." The rabbi had been raised in Canarsie
and his accent, generally moribund, revived in an amusing fashion when
he was called upon to pronounce exotic words.
"Hawaii? What's she doing there?"
"Well," said the rabbi. "We don't talk often, but I gather she's become very interested in that channelling nonsense."
"Wow," said Harry, recalling a
night in a motel somewhere in the lower third of California when he had
seen a channeller, on a local-access cable television station. The
channeller was named Rhiannon Free. After a perky and nonsensical
general preamble on the subject of Soul Travel, read like the weather
off a teleprompter, Rhiannon Free had licked her lips, rolled back her
eyes, stiffened her shoulders briefly, and then proceeded to answer the
questions of telephone callers, over the air, in the husky, sarcastic
voice of a Lemurian court astrologer of the sixteenth century before
Christ. "How'd she get into that?"
"She met a man," said the rabbi.
"Andros, Andron, something like that. He took her to Hawaiil. Two
months later she put the house on the market."
"When was that?"
"Right after you left." He pulled at his big, nephitic beard. "I haven't seen here since."
His father looked very glum all of a sudden and it occured to Harry that he had probably felt lonely for quite some time.
"Dad," he said, taking his father's hand.
"Everyone went so far away," said Rabbi Klezmer.
"Well, now I'm back. Can I come live with you for a while? Where are you living?"
"Uh, actually," said his father,
averting his eyes. He coughed once, and was about to go on, when the
Shekinah Maccabees, having completed their three slow laps, came
trotting across the infield toward them. They rolled their eyes and
panted, as though they had been knocking themselves out.
"Soda, soda," they clamored.
Harry's father stood and,
complaining and cooing in an almost grandfatherly way, took out his
wallet and handed nine one-dollar bills to a chubby little boy with
"Now, there are fifteen of you so
that should be exactly enough, Ira," he said. "Don't jam the dollar
changer. Mr. Dorsey was very irritated with me last week. "
"Thank you, Rabbi Klezmer," they
said. One of them said, "Thank you, Rabbi Krazy," and was elbowed by
Ira. Now they ran, toward the soda machine, which, as Harry recalled,
was outside the central dome of the Interfaith Plexus, by the ladies'
room, and could be easily pillaged by one determined child with a thin
arm and long fingers.
"Actually," said Rabbi Klezmer, sitting down again and making an effort to look Harry in the eye. "I'm going away myself."
"Yes. I'm going back to Israel. Um,
in two days, as a matter of fact. I'm taking a sabbatical. I have a new
assistant here--a very intelligent young woman. Her name is Susan
Finegold. She's quite capable of taking over for six months or so.
Really." An uncharacteristic look of irritation crossed his face, and
he pinched a little wearily at the bridge of his nose. "Frankly, the
Council and I don't see eye to eye on much of anything anymore."
Rabbi Klezmer had been having
problems with the Shekinah Leadership Council ever since he had
returned from Israel talking about a vision of the Holy City he'd had
while praying at the Western Wall, and, more remarkably considering his
former views, about the reĪstablishment of Eretz Yisrael, the biblical
kingdom of Greater Israel. Although he had not by any means embraced
religious Orthodoxy, or the politics of the Koch party, he did stop
marrying Christians to Jews, and he got the Pee-wee softball league to
allow Shekinah to play its games on Sundays and weekdays; and soon
every holiday, and each new appeal to help the Soviet immigrants to
Israel, seemed to bring a fresh round of doctrinal skirmishes and
arguments on policy with the members of the Council. For a long time
they forgave their beloved rabbi, and tolerated his detour ż droite,
because he had lost his oldest son to plague and suicide; but now their
patience had finally run thin. Last month the council had hired Susan
"Sounds as though this may be a kind of permanent sabbatical, Dad."
"It may be," he agreed.
"But what will you do over there?"
"Why, I'll write. And I'm going to give some lectures, at the invitation of a--certain group of people."
"Gee, Dad. In two days, huh?"
"And I'm afraid I've already rented out my apartment here."
"That's okay." Harry looked down at
his feet. "Lectures on what? The Temple?" Outside of Huxley, where he
had a reputation only as the rabbi who had had an affair with an
eighteen-year-old tennis pro named Mindy Benezra, Rabbi Klezmer was
known, in some circles, for a book he had written after his first
return from Israel, on the subject of the great lost Temple in
Jerusalem, entitled Speedily in Our Days. Part One of this work
consisted of a scholary and considered description of the First and
Second Temples, according to the evidence of Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Kings I
and II, the Talmud, Josephus, and other authorities; in Part Two he
examined the long and tragicomical history of the latter-day dream of
Rebuilding. "What group is bringing you? Hebrew University?"
All at once Harry's father looked very uncomfortable, and he pulled miserably at his beard.
"I'm afraid I can't really go into it," he mumbled.
"Dad, it's a secret mission?" Harry gave his father a gentle punch on the arm. "What, are you going to work for the Mossad?"
"It's a religious group. They're called the Moriah Society. I'm going to be doing some consulting work for them. That's all."
"Consulting work." Harry shook his
head, and smiled at the thought of the strange man his father had
become. He stood, and walked over toward first base. The sun had gone
down and he was stirred, and somehow saddened, by the sight of the
lights coming on all around him in the houses of Huxley and by the
familiar scrape and give of the base path under his feet. In the
distance he could make out the warning beacon flashing atop the
watertower by his old high school, and, beyond it, the flashing red
light on the watertower by his old elementary school.
"What do I do now?" Harry said.
His father shrugged.
"Well, what did you have in mind before you knew I was going away?"
"Hmm," said Harry.
"You have some money, you know."
"From Alex's life insurance. It was
finally settled. The insurance company agreed to pay off both of Alex's
policies. One of them named you as the beneficiary."
"Great," said Harry. He zipped the jacket up a little tighter and kicked at the soft red clay.
"You could use it to live on, for a while. Rent an apartment in D.C. Another year at least. Get back to your sculpture."
"I stink as a sculptor, Dad," said Harry, without rancor, since this,
like the knowledge that he was to be forevermore only his brother's
heir, was something he had accustomed himself to. He had been about to
start his last futile year of art school, at Carnegie-Mellon in
Pittsburgh, when the news had come of Alex's death in Paris. In the
four years since he had waited tables and sold shoes and worked in an
art gallery, but he hadn't touched a pair of jeweler's pliers or a
sheaf of wire or a roll of copper-zinc solder, and he knew that part of
his life, like Alex, was gone forever.
"That's true," said his father
mildly. "Well, where would like to live? In all the places you visited,
did you like any of them especially well?"
"I don't know, Dad," said Harry,
walking slowly up the baseline to first, breathing in deep the
suppertime autumn air of Huxley and the sweet, lost smell of the grass
around him. "I guess I don't feel like I really live anywhere anymore.
I mean, that house on Magic Flute Lane wasn't really our home, anyway."
"No, it never was," said Harry's father.
Until Harry was ten years old the
Klezmers had lived in the country outside of Huxley, on fallow
farmland, beside a large pond, where, like many other happy, isolated
children before them, the Klezmer brothers had invented a planet. It
was called Palindrome, and was a stormy, verdant world of moors the
size of continents and two thousand lakes (each one carefully named).
Its inhabitants, like Alex Klezmer, rode and worshipped horses, like
Harry Klezmer they loved flags and heraldry; the languages of
Palindrome were numerous and complex, its customs beautiful and
sinister. The boys mapped their planet, drew pictures of it, wrote
loose-leaf novels about it, lived in it. Its charm was so pervasive
that even their parents eventually learned to speak a few words of
Palalap, the predominant language of Palindrome, and knew, for example,
the fatal secret of Lady Eflan Analfe.
In 1973, when Alex was thirteen and
Harry was eight, Rabbi Klezmer, for reasons obscure to everyone but
himself, had decided to build the family a new house, on a lot in
Joplin Junction, at the center of Huxley, a decision which, in addition
to removing the boys forever from the Palindromian pond and meadowlands
around their old home, ultimately helped to destAlex the family. He
built the huge, half-timbered, stucco and fir folly almost entirely
himself, according to grandiose, unpracticable plans drawn up by him
and Iris Klezmer, and had no sooner finished it, after two years'
labor, then the debt its construction had incurred forced him to sell
it, at a loss, to Mr. Ross Huxley III. They had then moved into the
ugly little house on Magic Flute Lane, and then there had followed the
revelations of Rabbi Klezmer's serve-and-volley with Mindy Benezra.
Soon afterward his parents had filed for divorce.
Rabbi Klezmer rose and came toward
Harry, and together they stood by the bag at first, kicking at it with
their toes in a comforting and automatic way.
Harry looked at his father, then
looked out at the twinkling windows of Utopia that filled the distance
like lights in a faraway sky. "I just don't know where home is," he
His father sighed, clucked his
tongue once, and then turned to face the children, who were returning,
with their cans of soda, in a shadowy troop.
"Welcome to your heritage," said Rabbi Klezmer.
That night Harry and his father
rented Mothra and Calling All Monsters and brought in the traditional
black olive and red onion pizza from Bellacqua's in the Huxley
Marketplace. Rabbi Klezmer, in a celebratory mood, drank a whole beer
and fell asleep on the couch, with his leg pinned underneath him, so
that when he woke up, all Japan was a smoldering ruin and his foot so
filled with needles and pins that he could not walk. Harry had to help
him to bed. It was the first time Harry had ever performed this service
for his father and he found the experience both touching and
disturbing. His father smelled of beer and garlic and a characteristic
odor that Harry had discovered to be common among rabbis, the grave and
comforting aroma of a roomful of new suits. He sat on his father's and
mother's old king-sized mattress while the rabbi was brushing and
flossing his teeth, and looked around at the bedroom. He'd forgotten
that his father had ended up with the scarred, too-often-moved Lane
bedroom set and with the pair of jaded Degas ballerinas who since the
dawn of time had hung on the wall over the cherrywood Colonial
Williamsburg bed. The sight of the familiar old furniture of the Primal
Scene, cast adrift in the tiny bedroom of his father's apartment, with
its drop ceiling and its lone aluminum window, was strange and
depressing, and reminded him of the way his aunt Bessie's wingbacked
armchair had sat, velveteen, imperial, in the corner of her haphazard
cubicle in the Hebrew Home for the Aged.
His father had already packed up
the better part of his few personal belongings, and put them into a
storage space in the basement of his apartment building, and there was
otherwise no decoration to speak of in the bedroom. The room had been
stripped clean. On the nightstand sat only the Big Ben alarm clock that
had for thirty-seven years measured the nights of Harry's widowed
grandmother with its loud ticking, a haunting sound that Harry would
always associate with her and with the infinite solitude of her
apartment in the middle of the night, and a small pile of
important-looking papers held together with a blue rubber band. Harry
was about to pick up this bundle and examine it when he heard his
father switching off the bathroom fan; he sat back quickly and adopted
a bored and incurious expression. The rabbi emerged from the bathroom
wearing a threadbare robe that many years before his ex-wife had sewn
for him out of an old Hudson Bay blanket.
"Harry, I've been thinking--"
"Dad." Harry smiled. There
was a long piece of green string entangled in the wispy fingers of the
rabbi's blond beard. "Mint." Harry reached up to tug it free. "Waxed,"
"I've been thinking about
you," said the rabbi, taking no notice. "Why don't you come to Israel
with me, Harry? We could get a house together in Talbieh or Yemin
Moshe! We could study."
"Study," said Harry.
"Study Hebrew. Study Talmud. Study the ruins and the women and the sea."
The rabbi nodded, looking
unanswerably and almost beatifically convinced of the excellence of
this idea. He sat down beside Harry, then swung his skinny pale legs up
onto the bed. He took off the Hudson Bay bathrobe and spread it on the
empty bed beside him where for sixteen years Iris Klezmer had spread
her ample self; no one else had lain there, as far as Harry knew, since
his mother's flight into the land of Divorce. The rabbi's pajamas were
old-fashioned, pale blue with a navy stripe; he had been wearing them,
or a pair just like them, since Harry was nine years old. Harry slid
over on the mattress to make room for his father's legs as his father
climbed beneath the covers. The rabbi lay back against a pillow and
folded his hands across his belly. He looked his son up and down, not
entirely satisfied or reassurred by what he saw.
"It isn't a good thing to be wandering loose in the world, Harry," he said.
"I know that, Dad," said Harry.
"It's a kind of disease."
There was a pause, during which his
father's long face took on a philosophical, almost bitter expression,
as it did after a game when he had coached the Maccabees to defeat.
"I'm sorry that I couldn't give you a place to come home to," he said.
"That's all right."
"But that's why you should come to Israel with me. Israel is your home, Harry."
"It is?" Harry wished almost
painfully that it could turn out to be that easy, that he could just
get off the plane in Tel Aviv, and touch the holy ground of Eretz
Yisrael, and all at once feel that that his heart had been mended and
his home recovered, and the dead would live again, and the night would
be as day, and the hills would skip like rams. "Israel." He was ashamed
to tell his father, but of all the nations of the world, Israel was the
one he had never felt the slightest desire to see. It did not seem so
much a country one could visit as a kind of elaborate family myth, a
little like the planet Palindrome but far less interesting.
Intellectually he knew, of course, that Israel was the homeland of the
Jews, and the only compensation for the Holocaust, and he knew that as
a Jew his feelings ought to be commensurate and deep; but they were
not. Israel had always been a shadow country in comparison to his own,
as Hebrew had always seemed to be only a harsh and phantom tongue. He
would have gone to a hundred other places first; he would have gone to
Botswana, Kiribati, or the Maldives as soon as to Israel.
"I guess I just don't feel like I'm
quite through with my wandering phase, yet," he said at last. "Maybe
I'm just not ready for Jerusalem, you know?"
"Maybe," said his father, sleepy
now. His eyelids fluttered, closed, fluttered open. "Well, I really
hope you'll think about it, Harry. Will you?"
"I will," Harry lied, giving his father's hand a squeeze.
The rabbi smiled, and shut his eyes again, and a few minutes later he was asleep.
For a while Harry just sat there on
the bed, listening to the rabbi's breathing and to the plaintive
machinations of the old Big Ben alarm clock. Then, idly, he reached for
the pile of papers that his father had left on the nightstand, bound by
the thick blue rubberband. Among them were Rabbi Klezmer's passport, a
checklist of his last-minute errands, his airplane ticket in a paper
wallet, and a copy of the U.S. Information Agency brochure, "Your Trip
to the Holy Land." Wedged into the paper wallet with the ticket, folded
into the pleats of a letter written on airmail stationery, Harry found
a photograph. It was a picture of a tombstone, plain, polished granite,
taken with a cheap camera by an unsteady hand.
The letter in which it had come
enclosed was written entirely in Hebrew, and signed, simply, with the
Hebrew letter Lamed. One of his father's Israeli friends must have
visited Paris and stopped by Alex's grave to take a picture. Harry's
parents had flown to Paris for the funeral, but no one had been there
to see the stone raised. There were fresh irises on the grave, in a
small glass vase.
"Paris," Harry said, in a
voice no louder than the voice of his grandmother's clock. He closed
his eyes, and considered Paris. He had never had the chance to visit
Alex in all the ten years that his brother had lived there. Perhaps it
was time to visit him now. Harry opened his eyes, took one last look at
the flowers. He wondered who had put them there. Then he wrapped the
photograph in the letter and slipped them back into paper wallet. He
rolled the rubber band down over the bundle, and replaced it on the
nightstand. Then he looked pityingly at his father, who would have to
go to Jerusalem alone.
"I'm sorry, Dad," he said softly.
"It's all right, Alex," the rabbi said, in a clear and reasonable voice. "I forgive you."
He was sound asleep.
"Thanks, Dad," said Harry. He
kissed his father on the forehead, and gave his diaphanous beard a pat.
Then he switched off the light, closed his father's door, and went to
find sheets and a pillow for the couch.
© Michael Chabon. All rights reserved.