Thursday, 31 January 2013

Scenes from a Marriage Part 1: Baby-making by Naomi Elana Zener



Night 1

"It's the first fertile day of my cycle," Wife shouted. "Get upstairs and pants off NOW!"
This was the fourth month Wife and Husband were attempting to create a new human life after three months of their respective eggs and sperm disappointing them by failing to produce any fruit from their loins. Husband, a virile young man in his mid-twenties, ordinarily happy to be sexually satisfied by Wife, had become weary of the twice daily regimented uninteresting sex  routine revolving around Wife's basal temperature readings. In fact, Husband feared that his chafed manly member might fall off from the physical labour he was now viewing as torture. Aside from his fear of becoming a eunuch, sex had never been more boring.

"I'm here! I'm here," Husband gasped out of breath after running up the stairs. Husband was met by Wife, who was lying in bed with her sweatshirt on, bottoms off and texting with friends.

"Could you at least put the Blackberry away this time? Your texting while sexing is killing my erection," Husband requested.

"Hardy har har," Wife said ignoring Husband.

"Seriously, put it away," Husband ordered.

Wife slid her electronic boyfriend under the pillow by her head, as Husband assumed the necessary missionary position. No sooner than Husband's attention was diverted, Wife surreptitiously pulled out the device from her secret hiding place and proceeded to engage in some online shopping while providing Husband with some fake panting for good measure. Twenty minutes and two new pairs of shoes later, Husband finished, rolled over to his side of the bed and set his alarm clock for the next morning.

"Babe, can I ask a favour?" Wife asked.

"Anything," Husband replied.

"For tomorrow morning's session, do you think you could maybe masturbate to just before the point of ejaculation, use a little lube and then drop your swimmers off in my pool?" Wife queried.

"You've got to be kidding me!" Husband cried to no reaction from Wife. "You're essentially asking me to be a turkey basting sperm donor."

"What is your point?  We both want a baby, but I'm a little tired of having to have sex to make one," Wife revealed. "That is unless you can promise to take twenty seconds to come once we start."

"Don't I always take twenty seconds?" Husband stated rhetorically. Wife turned over to read her daily horoscope online before going to sleep.


Night 2

Another long day of work had met its end. Wife dreaded returning home for it meant that she had to engage in coitus. Wife tried to play the odds in her mind, questioning whether if she and Husband did not have sex that night, would their chances of achieving the revered state of parenthood be dashed this month. All Wife truly desired was a long hot shower, a ten ounce glass of Shiraz and a few chocolate chip cookies.

"Voulez-vous coucher avec moi ce soir?" Husband asked Wife, as she walked in the door.

"Sure, as long as you have something left in you to contribute to this baby-making venture after this morning's sex-capade," Wife advised.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Husband inquired.

"Don't bother having sex with me if you're going to shoot blanks," Wife stated snidely.

"I do NOT shoot blanks!" Husband cried. " I shoot Uzi bullet sperm."

"Well, judging from the fact that I'm not pregnant yet and this is our fourth time trying, I'm sticking with the blanks theory," Wife offered.

"I know exactly what ejects from my little buddy, so trust me when I say that you're lucky you're not riddled with bullet holes from the power of my zygote-producing soldiers!" Husband stated defiantly. "In all seriousness, since it's already seven o'clock, I propose that we eat dinner quickly and then we rendez-vous in the boudoir for some sexy time."

"Why so early?" Wife asked. "We never do it before we eat."

"Can't a guy want to shake things up?" Husband answered unconvincingly.

"Not buying it. What's with the rush to get it over with?" Wife queried not letting on that she too would rather put the act behind her rather than watch the minutes creep by as she waited for Husband to come upstairs for a little loving before the eleven o'clock news.

"Well, there's a hockey game on tonight that I want to watch and by the time it'll be over, you will have gone to sleep," Husband replied. "I'm just trying to squeeze you in."

"With an offer like that how can I not go dry like the Sahara?" Wife queried rhetorically.

No baby was conceived that evening.


Night 3

The time for the mandatory post-coital cuddling had expired and Wife, who was somewhat perturbed, turned over hastily to confront Husband.

"Where was my orgasm?" Wife demanded.

"Why are you complaining? Did you or did you not give me strict orders  to be quick," Husband advised.
"But, this time I was almost ready to climax from actual sex. Do you know how RARE that is for me!" Wife exclaimed. "It comes as often as Haley's Comet."

"Right, like every five years," Husband offered sympathetically.

"More like one hundred and seventy-five years. So..." Wife stated.

"So what?" Husband asked.

"So, aren't you going to give me some pleasure back? A little quid pro quo?" Wife asked. "Last time I checked, my belly button was not an erogenous zone."

"I wish it was," Husband joked.

"That's because you are too lazy to find my clitoris after twelve years of being together," Wife remarked without amusement.

"I'm just kidding! Why don't I try my 'come hither' move on you," Husband offered.

"Excuse me? Your what?" Wife laughed. "Where did you, Mr. Vanilla, learn that?"

"Community television - channel ten," Husband advised deadpan.

"I think I'll pass on experiencing the moves you learned from sex education on the community cable access channel," Wife retorted angrily as she exited the marital bed.

"Babe, I noticed you called 'it' a hog tonight when we were making love," Husband called after Wife cheerily who retreated to their master ensuite to chart her basal temperature.

"By 'it' my juvenile husband, do you mean your 'penis'?" Wife called out rhetorically.

"Yeah!" Husband giggled. "It was a huge turn on."

"I sort of thought that you were joking when you asked me to call it that. I was trying to be funny," Wife laughed.

"Sexy time, is no time for making with the funny," Husband advised.

"Ok. But, why 'hog'? You don't even eat pork products, yet you call your genitals one?" Wife queried.

"Just go with it," Husband dictated.

"I had no idea that you had such an affinity for pigs. Here's hoping that our future progeny won't suffer from the same affliction," Wife retorted.

Disappointed to see that her basal temperature had fallen, signaling an impending monthly visit from Aunt Flow, Wife was unsure if her disappointment had more to do with the fact that they had failed again to conceive or whether it was related to the reality that she would have to engage in more banal sexual relations with Husband next month. At least she had a fifteen or so day hiatus from having to take that bullet. Always the effervescent believer in seeing the glass as being half full, Wife buoyed herself by thinking that perhaps the fifth month would be a charm for them and they would get pregnant, meaning that she could avoid sex with Husband for at least forty weeks under the pretense that sex is verboten while gestating. Wife retreated between the sheets for some shuteye, sleeping soundly that night for the first time in four months in spite of Husband's snoring.

© 2012 Naomi Elana Zener. All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, 19 January 2013

I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR! by Naomi Elana Zener


"Beep! Beep!" shrieked the alarm clock, annoyingly reminding Samara that it was five thirty in the wee morning of her twelfth birthday. Time had expired with the day of reckoning resting upon her. No longer able to idly sit by as an innocent bystander and watch time creep slowly by, Samara was keenly aware that the silence floating ethereally through her family home, illuminated by the pearly glow of the moon, would be shattered by her explosive birthday plans.  Samara had been waging a calculated yet failing war against her parents’ efforts to thrust a Bat Mitzvah upon her. D-Day, as her seventh rescheduled Bat Mitzvah date, was seven months away, narrowing the field of time during which she could succeed in kiboshing the dreaded event.  It was not that Samara did not want to be Jewish, but rather she did not believe in god or religious rituals. Rather, she wanted to go to public school, eat pork and date whomever she pleased, not things in which her modern orthodox parents believed.

 
Despite her failures in having the celebration cancelled, Samara’s creative imagination had proven to be her most competent ally in her rebellion against the rite of passage. During her eleventh year of life, Samara mounted several battle campaigns. First, she faked laryngitis at her Bat Mitzvah preparation classes. Then, she redacted her Torah portion in her notebook blacking out all text claiming that the C.I.A. advised her to tell the Rabbi that it contained top secret information and there was no way she could recite it in public. When those efforts resulted in little more than verbal admonishments from her teacher, Rabbi, principal and parents, Samara upped the ante: she ordered Hawaiian pizza with ham to the principal's office on Teacher Appreciation Day, skipped out of gym class to plaster the school's walls and lockers with "Jesus Saves" bumper stickers, and organized having Father McCreedie from the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and Imam Hosseini from Mosque of the Golden Dome preside over the Bat Mitzvah as a peace initiative. Finally, when her parents went on vacation for six weeks to Europe, Samara cancelled the date of her Bat Mitzvah evincing Newton's Third Law of Motion, which resulted in her expulsion from her Hebrew day school. Samara's twelfth birthday also marked her first day at a new Hebrew school, which obligingly admitted her after much begging and pleading on her parents’ part. 

At seven o'clock in the morning, Samara's parents descended upon the kitchen after realizing that their daughter had fled the house, so as to avoid their well-rehearsed "be on your best behaviour" speech, but left behind a seemingly lovingly made quiche for their kosher breakfast. Both of her parents tucked into the meal with vigour ravenous from a night of fasting in observance of one of the many Jewish holidays Samara tried to ignore. Her parents ate more than half of the food their daughter had left for them before taking notice of an envelope addressed to them in Samara’s handwriting. After neatly wiping her mouth, Samara's mother put down her fork, opened the envelope and turned green upon reading the letter. Samara had spiked the quiche with lobster and prosciutto, the taste of which was cleverly masked by the sweet siren call of sugar. For good measure, the offensive quiche was served on the dishes reserved for milk-based foods. Samara’s parents, ever the pious people, chose to believe that the incident was not a sign of what was to come that day.
"Class, please welcome Samara to Jewish Hebrew Day Academy," the teacher instructed. "Not only is she new to our class, but today is her twelfth birthday and marks the year of her Bat Mitzvah. Samara, are you excited to be standing at the precipice of womanhood?"
"I'm as excited to be bat mitzvahed as I was when I got my period during swim class and aptly renamed Jaws as a result," Samara stated deadpan to classroom laughter. Her teacher clearly was not impressed.
"Since you've joined us in the midst of your Bat Mitzvah preparation, you will have to update us on what you've done to date to prepare for your big day. Also, since you have joined us on a Friday, your parents were told that you would be responsible to lead our school's mini-Shabbat service today and provide Shabbat lunch at lunchtime. Did you make the necessary preparations?"
"Everything is good to go," Samara sang sweetly.
"Now, please come to the front of the class to tell us everything about your Bat Mitzvah," the teacher instructed.
Samara strolled to the front of the class prepared to launch Operation Shock and Awe.
“For my good deed project, or mitzvah project as you call it, I planted 18 trees in Israel in the name of the first synagogue where my Bat Mitzvah was supposed to take place,” Samara began.
“What do you mean, ‘where it was supposed to take place?” the teacher asked.
“My first date was cancelled,” Samara advised.
“That’s a wonderful good deed,” said the teacher, “but why would the synagogue cancel your date?”
“I planted the trees in the synagogue’s name in honour of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad,” Samara stated to a snickering class.
“Class, stop laughing at once!” the teacher ordered. “A cancelled Bat Mitzvah is no a laughing matter. Samara, perhaps they simply did not understand your attempt to endorse peace between Iran and Israel. Please tell us about your charity project. I understand that you chose to raise funds at a Jewish National Fund dinner?”
“That’s right. It was a fantastic night. The fundraiser was being held at the new synagogue where my second Bat Mitzvah date was scheduled. The synagogue’s ballroom was staged to look like a 1950s glamorous Hollywood party. The goal of the night was to raise money for Israel’s army through the sale of war bonds. All of the Bat Mitzvah girls were dressed up as ‘cigarette’ sales girls, but instead of cigarettes, war bonds were the goods being sold,” Samara explained.
“How much money did you raise that night?” a classmate inquired.
“None,” Samara replied.
“That’s too bad,” said the teacher. “Did the other Bat Mitzvah girls have similar trouble selling bonds?”
“Not at all! I think they raised a combined total of twenty thousand bucks,” Samara explained.
“I don’t understand. Why wouldn’t anyone buy Israeli war bonds from you?” the teacher asked.
“I was selling Hamas war bonds,” Samara stated. 
The bell rang announcing the commencement of Shabbat services. Samara ran out of the class with the throng of girls and boys racing for the sanctuary before the teacher could say another word.
Samara recruited two of her new classmates, who had enjoyed her morning comedy routine, to hand out programs for the liturgical services. Samara took her place next to Rabbi Dorkin who introduced Samara and gave her the podium to commence the prayer session. Before the students could open their prayer programs, dancing Christmas elves burst down the sanctuary’s aisles and on to the stage accompanying a singing Samara:
"On the first day of Chanukah, my Rabbi gave to me, a nose job to sound less jappy.”
“On the second day of Chanukah, my Rabbi gave to me, two diamond studs, and a nose job to sound less jappy.”
Rabbi Dorkin, Samara’s teacher and the principal promptly rushed to the podium putting an end to the heretical performance. After the roaring laughter of the student body died down, traditional services resumed. Samara received a stern post-services warning not to pull any more stunts by the principal and ordered to return to class. Upon her return to class, Samara was greeted by the sweet smell emanating from the box marked with the “COR” kosher symbol sitting on her teachers desk containing the Shabbat lunch she had ordered.
“This food smells delicious,” the teacher offered kindly, as Samara handed out the meals, hoping that there would be no more hijinx. After a customary blessing on the food sung by the entire class, everyone began to eat.
“The food is amazing!” the teacher remarked.
“We’ve never eaten something so yummy for Shabbat at school before,” a classmate announced.
“I’m so glad that you like the food!” Samara exclaimed. “I was worried you wouldn’t enjoy it.”
“Not enjoy it? I don’t think I put my fork down once to inhale,” the teacher exclaimed showing Samara her empty plate.
“Milky way sweet pulled pork is the best!” Samara stated.
“What did you just say?” the teacher asked.
“I said that Milky Way sweet pulled pork is the best,” Samara retorted with a snarky smile.
“You fed us pork?” the teacher shrieked. “CLASS, STOP EATING AT ONCE AND SPIT OUT WHAT’S IN YOUR MOUTH! How could you serve pork in a kosher Jewish school? And, mixed with milk no less?”
“It’s not really mixing milk and meat since Jews don't consider pork to be edible meat,” Samara replied.
 “Go to the principal’s office at once!” the teacher screamed. “Everyone else, run to the washrooms to wash out your mouths and then come back immediately so we can pray this sin away!”
After a second stern meeting with a very disappointed, but forgiving principal, Samara was instructed to go to her Bat Mitzvah prep class with Rabbi Dorkin.
“Samara, I understand that you have reservations about having a Bat Mitzvah and religion generally, but this is really a beautiful tradition that celebrates you as a woman and your place in the Jewish community,” Rabbi Dorkin offered. “I believe you are performing Parashat Ki Thetze, but that you are sharing it with a few other girls, so you only had to write an essay on the part you are responsible for. Why don’t you read me your essay?”
“God is a misogynist. My part of the Torah portion talks about how a Jewish man is a caveman who can club any woman he wants over the head, force her to become his wife, be naked, become ugly so no other man would want her and basically be owned by the man who dragged her from her homeland. And, when the man has used up the woman for all that she is worth to him, basically for sex and to be a baby-making oven, he can toss her away like garbage because she is too insignificant to be his servant. Last, the woman cannot be sold for money because that would be wrong and offensive,” Samara read.
“How can you take the words of the Lord in vain like that?” Rabbi Dorkin raged.
“I call it like I see it. Take a look at the English translation of what I have to read at my sanctimonious Bat Mitzvah. How can you expect me, as a girl becoming a woman, to simply accept this wonderful place I hold within the Jewish religion?” Samara replied as she passed the translation to Rabbi Dorkin that she had received from her last school. The translation stated:
10. If you go out to war against your enemies, and the Lord, your God, will deliver him into your hands, and you take his captives,
11. and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you desire her, you may take [her] for yourself as a wife.
12. You shall bring her into your home, and she shall shave her head and let her nails grow.
13. And she shall remove the garment of her captivity from upon herself, and stay in your house, and weep for her father and her mother for a full month. After that, you may be intimate with her and possess her, and she will be a wife for you.
14. And it will be, if you do not desire her, then you shall send her away wherever she wishes, but you shall not sell her for money. You shall not keep her as a servant, because you have afflicted her.[i]
“I think you should go home,” Rabbi Dorkin solemnly ordered after reviewing the Anglicized ancient text. Samara left without a word triumphant and assured that she had set off just enough landmines to vanquish her parents plan to impose their religious mores and way of life on her.
On her return home, Samara was met with the defeated, blank and forlorn stares of her weary parents who were waiting for her in the living room.

 “We received two interesting voicemail messages today. Can you please explain why I got a phone call from Father O'Leery asking me to confirm that both dad and I are Catholic?” Samara’s mom queried.

 “Well, they need to make sure that you are not trying to sneak in a non-Catholic before I can be enrolled at Our Daughter of Futility,” Samara replied. “Just lie. It’s not like you’re a real Catholic, so you can’t burn in their hell for lying.”
“I see,” her father stated shaking his head. “And, what’s this we hear about Rabbi Dorkin quitting as your tenth Bat Mitzvah teacher?”

“Don’t worry! I found a new, more secular teacher, who respects my view of Judaism,” Samara replied. “He should be here any second.”

As if on cue, the doorbell rang. Standing in the doorway was Don Gong, the Hebrew-speaking head-waiter from Shanghai Gardens, her family’s favourite kosher Chinese restaurant.

"Shalom! Baruch hashem," Don Gong stated. “I am new Bat Misva teacher. Want a spring roll?”

© 2012 Naomi Elana Zener.



Sunday, 6 January 2013

Shiva Sharks by Naomi Elana Zener


"Marvin!" Mom shrieked. "Everyone will be arriving any second and the couches still have all of their cushions. Get down here at once and remove them."
"Gail, you remove them, he was your father!" Dad bellowed back. "You're already downstairs and I'm in the toilet."
"How dare you! I'm sitting Shiva and you are trying to make me work?" Mom screamed. "Either you get your ass off the can and prepare the couches or get our daughter to."

"Can't you just sit on the floor?" Dad replied.
"What kind of Jew do you think I am? My mother and brother should be taking care of this, but they are useless, so I'm stuck with this crap," Mom muttered loudly while finishing off her glass of wine before the guests arrived to pay their respects.

"Moira, go take the cushions off of the sofas in the living room," Dad instructed me from his porcelain throne.

I trotted out of my room, dutifully removing the offensive cushions to comply with a nonsensical religious ritual being adhered to in a household that believed that using the "milk" dishes to eat shrimp was compliant with kosher laws. My mother's preparation of our house for the incoming onslaught of visitors transformed it into a monastery. When I gently inquired as to why she felt the need to hide every valuable from sight, my mother explained that she needed to ensure that the only thing lost was her father and none of her valuables at the sticky hands of her relatives.

I hate funerals. Moreover, I hate Shiva houses. They are full of relatives you never see, frenemies of your parents about whom you only hear of in passing during a moment of schadenfreude and occasionally one or two people you actually like. Shiva is a mourning ritual pursuant to Jewish law that transpires for a period of approximately one week after a person dies. The only people legally allowed to 'sit' Shiva are the blood relatives who are one degree away in relation from the deceased: spouse, child, sibling or parent. In my personal experience, most people hanging around the Shiva house are just bottom-feeders circling the family either in the hopes that a few pennies will fall in their direction that drop from the bucket that was just kicked or to eat free food. Occasionally, there are some genuine mourners who really do express their sincere condolences, but they are as rare as finding Mother Theresa in a whorehouse.

Grandfather had died peacefully in the comfort of his own bed at the ripe old age of ninety-two. There was nothing sad about his demise, as he had lived a full, rich, healthy and happy life. So happy in fact that his heart gave out at the exact moment in which he had managed to fondle his palliative care nurse as she reached over his head to adjust his pillow.

Grandfather was rich, not Warren Buffet wealthy, but he did amass a sixty-five million dollar fortune (that the tax man knew about) during his lifetime. Grandfather’s wealth had transformed him into a Jewish WASP who insisted on being called 'Grandfather' instead of 'Zaida,' explaining that we could speak English and think Yiddish. Grandfather sported bespoke suits, shirts and ties acquired during bi-annual trips to Saville Row, which were replaced on a frequent basis due to his Yiddish-eating mouth that routinely dribbled almost daily mustard from his smoked meat sandwiches or oil from his herring and onions.

I didn’t expect many of my friends to show up to Grandfather’s Shiva simply because I never told them that Grandfather died.  However, I have one friend on whom I’d bet my entire inheritance from Grandfather will becoming to the Shiva because she is a professional Shiva-goer. During our friendship, not one week has gone by without us having a conversation in which she informs me that she has at least one Shiva to attend: it’s for my fourth cousin three times removed through marriage; it was my mother's best friend's sister's father-in-law; it was my aunt's dog walker's funeral for her Pomeranian. She claims that it gives her a sense of belonging. I think she goes to make herself seem like a beneficent person when in reality she is trying to find eligible men wherever she can.

Everyone in my family, with the exception of myself, his only grandchild of whom Grandfather was eternally proud for my academic achievements, and his pet poodle who pissed all over the world just like Grandfather did, was not sad to see him go. Aside from living a long decadent life, he was known to be a miserly bastard with his children, believing that they should be given less than nothing so they could hopefully become a fraction of a something. The only problem was with the enforcement of Grandfather’s philosophy because his wife, my beloved Bubbie Iris, spoiled her kids rotten. Thus, neither my mother nor  her brother, Uncle Phil, ended up doing much with their lives except spend Grandfather’s money. After my mother got married to my father, also known as the “Great Disappointment,’ Grandfather welded shut the leaking money faucet, a.k.a. Bubbie Iris, ending the flow of the unlimited cash supply to both my mother and Uncle Phil. My mother was particularly stressed because she had racked up substantial credit card debt on a 'secret' Visa card, of which my father had no knowledge, in pursuit of her very expensive four 'C' addition: carat, colour, clarity and cut. Grandfather’s demise was timely as her outstanding balance was set to go to collections. I, on the other hand, was the golden child he never had since I was set to become a lawyer.  Grandfather happily paid for my law school tuition and was grooming me to take over his real estate development empire.  Everyone else had spent the past ten years waiting for him to kick the bucket hoping to score the jackpot by inheriting millions.

The actual funeral was a gong show. The temperature was ninety-eight degrees, with air so dense due to the sweltering humidity that the attendees thought that they were inhaling the dirt from underfoot. Bubbie Iris made it clear that she was the chief shovel distributor, carefully dictating to those men selected, a melee of a few of my mother's ex-boyfriends, Uncle Phil’s loser buddies and sons of Grandfather's competitors, to fill the grave site in the proper Jewish Orthodox tradition as a final dig at Grandfather's self-hating Jewish attitude.

"Alan, why aren't you shoveling?" Bubbie Iris inquired of the man who my mother dated before she married my father.

"Iris, this heat is awful! We're shvitzing to death - can't you just have the backhoe fill in the grave?" Alan replied. "Even your son-in-law Marvin is not shoveling!"

"Exactly! Marvin could drop dead from a heart attack if he had to cover the casket with dirt, so get moving!" Bubbie Iris ordered.

"So could I!" Alan shrieked.

"Better you than him! You didn't put a ring on Gail's finger and my precious granddaughter Moira still needs her father," Bubbie Iris retorted.

I readied the sofa just in time, as the doorbell rang abruptly signaling the arrival of the Shiva sharks. A flood of cousins, Grandfather's business associates and their families, and friends of my grandparents, my parents and Uncle Phil arrived like a swarm of locusts, each one with their own agenda, with the actual paying of respects falling to number fifty on their priority list.  

"Oh Gail, Moira, Marvin - we are so sorry for your loss," three women chimed in unison, leaning over uncomfortably to hug my mother, who was desperate to stand given the spring poking through the frame of the sofa and into her ass.
 
"Where's the food?" Uncle Phil inquired immediately upon crossing the threshold. In tow, were Uncle Phil’s girlfriend Kelly and her two ne’er-do-well sons, who were constantly importing and exporting themselves in and out of failed business ventures.

"That's all you have to say? Where the hell have you been?" Mom cried. "You could have gotten here earlier to help me! You don't get to eat - you sit Shiva! Your girlfriend can get you food."

"My nails are still tacky from my manicure, so maybe sweet Moira can get her Uncle Phil a plate," Kelly offered.

"If you had time to get a manicure after the burial before coming here to help prepare the Shiva house, then you have time to get your boyfriend something to eat. If you don’t want to ruin your chop shop bedazzled cheap manicure, get on of your kids to do it seeing as how they are fit only for manual labour," I snorted watching Kelly's two sons, Dumb and Dumber, sort through the liquor cabinet in search of something to keep their buzz going.

"Honey, please just be a doll and get Phil something to eat," Mom pleaded. 

"Why the hell should I?" I whispered to my mother.

"I should look like I have an ill-mannered daughter at my father’s Shiva?" Mom replied rhetorically. "I can't have people say such things. Jesus Christ, I'm sitting Shiva!"

Begrudgingly, I walked over to the crowded dining room table where the rabid dogs were throwing elbows around more violently than during an NHL-playoff game in order to take as much smoked salmon as they could before it ran out.

"Remember, Phil is on a no-wheat, no-gluten, no-dairy, no-fish and no-sugar diet," Kelly advised, as she air-dried her freshly painted fingernails. I peeked through the human shield of bodies in front of me at a table full of tuna, egg salad, herring, smoked salmon, bagels, cream cheese and other foods offensive to Uncle Phil's stomach’s sensibilities. I returned to the sitting ducks on the sofa with a plate of three slices of cucumber for Uncle Phil.

"I'm here!" Bubbie Iris sang out as she marched into the house, an hour after the Shiva started, with a very young Frenchman on her ninety year old arm. "Where should I sit?"

My mother, half-glaring and half-hiding with embarrassment at her mother’s lack of propriety for bringing a date to her own husband’s Shiva, pointed to an empty space next to her on the couch.

"Oh no that won't dooooooo," Bubbie Iris chimed. "I can't sit so low with my arthritis. Besides, that spring poking through will snag my Chanel. Jean-Francois, be a dear and pull up a comfortable chair for me."

Date aside, being decked out in a red mink stole draped over her new red wool crêpe Chanel suit, Bubbie Iris made it known that acting solemn and understated were not attributes of which she was fond. In fact, only days before Grandfather died, Bubbie Iris acutely informed Grandfather that she was more likely to go to Disneyland after he died rather than prepare a Shiva house.

"Iris, my love," Grandfather whispered as he lay surrounded by a myriad of hospital equipment in his bedroom, "you don't have to worry about losing me. When I go, you'll come with me."

"That's what you think. You fly solo on this one," Bubbie Iris stated emphatically.

From my perch in the armchair next to the mourner's sofa, I could overhear the gauche conversations taking place amongst our visitors. The ‘guests,’ all of whom were members of the tribe, were about as subtle in both the volume of their voices and the content of their discussions as an obese woman eating at a table with a bunch of anorexic models. One group was trying to guess how rich my parents would become as a result of Grandfather's demise, while another consisting of Grandfather's competitors, was plotting when the best time would be to swoop in with a hostile takeover of Grandfather’s company.
Robotically, my mother dutifully thanked people for coming to the funeral and Shiva house, while keeping one eye on the Shiva meal calendar on the fridge in the kitchen, which she had positioned strategically in her direct sight line so as to see how quickly it would fill up with sponsored meals. The visitors streamed in and out for hours. It felt as though time stood still. Finally, after the mandatory prayer session, the house emptied, leaving only my parents, Uncle Phil, Kelly and her Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum sons, Bubbie Iris, Grandfather’s estate lawyer and myself. We were seated at the dining room table waiting in nervous anticipation wondering what would come first: the person to take the first bite of food or the person to ask the lawyer about the Will.

"Let's deal with the elephant in the room," Uncle Phil instructed. "What does the Will say?"

"Shouldn't we eat first? Won't it spoil the meal?" Mom asked.

"Tear off the band-aid quickly," Bubbie Iris stated.  

"It's quite simple really, Gail and Phil each get fifteen million and Iris gets a life interest in the thirty-five million dollar residue with the residue going to Moira upon Iris' death," the lawyer advised. “As for the real estate holdings, they all devolve to Iris, as they were held in joint tenancy, so when she dies, the real estate will be distributed under the terms of Iris’ Will.”

"I'm surprised," Phil stated feigning shock.

"Phil, since your father already had informed yourself, Gail, Iris and Moira about his intended dispositions, I'm surprised that you thought anything would be different," the lawyer replied.

"But, I thought he was going to provide for his other grandchildren," Kelly whined. “Phil , you promised me that they would be taken care of.”

"What other grandchildren? We only have two kids and one grandchild! Are you insinuating that my husband was unfaithful?" Bubbie Iris shrieked still smarting from Grandfather's dying act of fluffing his nurse's ample pillows.

Not wanting to get hit by a stray verbal bullet, the lawyer quickly packed up his briefcase and took his leave of the Shiva house.

"I'm talking about my kids with Phil," Kelly advised.

"Correction, they are your adult children from your first failed marriage that live with you and Phil," Mom advised.

"But, my sons are like his grandsons," Kelly spat.

"No, they are more like gangrenous appendages that require amputation," I offered.

"How can you say such a thing about your cousins! After all the times I tried to set you up with them. You should be so lucky to have one as a husband!" Kelly cried.

"So were they or weren’t they Grandfather’s grandchildren when you wanted to marry me off in an incestuous marriage to one of them?” I retorted.

"Please stop fighting, we are sitting Shiva!" Mom cried. My father uninterested in the commotion, snuck off to the kitchen to eat in peace and watch the baseball game with Kelly's two sons.

“It’s too bad that I wasn’t born a lesbian so as to avoid your matchmaking efforts,” I cried ignoring my mother’s pleas.

"Why would you want to be gay? Gays can't get married!" Kelly stated emphatically.

"Of course they can you gold-digging troll! They can marry, divorce, get half of the marital assets and spousal support," I spat back.

"Young lady, you do not know what you are talking about! I was divorced, so I am very aware of the law," Kelly advised.

"Putting aside the obvious fact that I stand in the top of my class in law school, just because you got fucked and left doesn't make you a divorce lawyer!" I shouted.

"I refuse to be spoken to this way. Phil, we are leaving!” Kelly dictated. "Boys get your coats, we're out of here."

"But, honey, I can't go home. I'm sitting Shiva, " Uncle Phil muttered, as noodle kugel fell out of his mouth.

"If you want a home to come back to tonight, you will leave here with me!" Kelly screamed.  Uncle Phil sheepishly followed after his girlfriend and her sons.

"This was all quite entertaining, but I have to get going. Jean-Francois is picking me up for our dinner reservations," Bubbie Iris advised kissing my mother, father and I before leaving.I will see you tomorrow for Shiva.”

As quickly and mightily as a tsunami wave forms and hits its prey, my relatives departed leaving in their wake my very angry mother.

"I cannot believe how disrespectful they all were. Don't they realize that I’m in mourning? That I’m sitting Shiva!" Mom sobbed while cleaning up the dishes.

"Honey, it's your family. Did you expect something to change?" Dad offered. "Iris and Phil were selfish narcissistic assholes before your dad died and the only difference is that now they are rich selfish narcissistic assholes."

"I'm not talking about my mother and brother," Mom stated snarkily. "I'm talking about those shleppers who came here to stuff their faces, gossip about my father's titty grab, and act like yentas guessing how much money he left us! Not one of them sponsored a lousy Shiva meal!"

"That's what you're mad about? You're nuts!" Dad exclaimed.

"I'm not nuts. I'm in mourning. When someone is in mourning the right thing to do is to sponsor a Shiva meal! For all those rich bastards who came, fressed on my smoked salmon and quiche, not one of them had the decency to buy me a dinner! I will never sponsor any of their Shiva meals again, mark my words!" Mom advised.

"How many more days of this shit do I have to put up with?" Dad inquired.

"How dare you clock-watch during my period of mourning!" Mom spat.

"Only two, since Grandfather died just before Yom Kippur, so Shiva is shortened," I offered.

"I swear, I will put out cat food tomorrow for those schnorrers and call it pâté!" Mom continued.

"If you do, at least you'll be able to atone for your sinful behaviour in a few days," I laughed. Mom scowled.

"What does it matter now? Gail, you're rich! Just put out some food like you did today and before you know it this charade will be over," Dad grumbled as he climbed the stairs to go to bed.

"This is not a charade. Show some respect. This is SHIVA!" Mom screamed. 


© 2012. Naomi Elana Zener. All rights reserved.