Next from the Blog: A new series of excerpts from some of my books, and from some of my yet-to-be published work. I begin with a taste of my latest in the Rabbi Ben Mystery Series, "A Tale Of Two Rabbis." For a longer peek at the book, click on the cover wherever it’s offered for sale (Amazon, Kindle, B&N. iTunes, Kobo, Smashwords). For more info and reviews, click here.
The kid under the bridge looked to be about ten, nicely dressed in slacks with a white shirt and tie under a sports jacket. A yarmulke graced the top of an oval head covered with dark curls. His skin was cocoa, with carmine highlights, and his face was so finely featured that at first glance Ben took him for a girl.
A trio of white boys in jeans and running shoes had shoved him against a wall beneath the bridge. The smaller two were almost Ben’s height, about five feet, seven inches, a head taller than yarmulke boy. The third kid, old enough to sprout a few sparse hairs on his upper lip, was six feet tall and well over 200 pounds, soft in the middle, and working on a second chin. He was going through yarmulke boy’s backpack, dropping books and papers on the ground, tossing an orange to one of his henchman, a bagged sandwich to the other, and then pocketing a cell phone.
Taking this in at a glance from the top of a gentle slope above the bridge, Ben started forward, feeling weak and shaky, but unwilling to be a spectator to what was obviously a robbery or something worse.
It was his first Tuesday afternoon in Pittsburgh. Five days earlier, he had kissed Miryam goodbye at Ben Gurion Airport, swapped hugs with her maternal grandparents and a phalanx of cousins, and boarded a plane for Boston. After a night in his Cambridge apartment, Ben had packed his four-year-old Honda Accord and drove straight through to Pittsburgh.
And on the previous morning, Ben had gone to a university clinic to give a bone-marrow sample and the first of what would be a year-long series of weekly injections and blood tests. Afterward, he took a cab back to his rented room in Pittsburgh’s Squirrel Hill neighborhood, where he slept all that day and night. At noon Tuesday, weak but hungry, he had made coffee and toasted a bagel. Unable even to consider the five-mile run that for years had launched his daily routine, Ben had settled on a walk, a leisurely exploration of the community where he would live until he learned if the Human Immunodeficiency Virus had been eradicated from his body.
And now this. Three big kids robbing a smaller boy.
Instinctively, he reached up to remove his glasses, fingers fumbling on his face until he remembered that two weeks earlier, in Tel Aviv, he’d had Lasik surgery.
Ben no longer needed glasses.
He lengthened his stride, still walking but now with a purpose, and as he came into earshot, he heard the big kid laughing.
“Hey, you know what this is? It’s a kigger—a kike and a nigger.” The big kid laughed at his own joke, and the other two joined in.
Yarmulke boy didn’t seem to see the humor.
Ben said, “Hey!”
Four kids turned their heads as Ben approached.
Ben said, “I’d ask what’s going on, but I can see that.”
The tall kid said, “Nothing going on. Just hanging out with my bros.”
Ben said, “You’ve got one minute to pick up all that stuff, take what you’ve stolen out of your pockets, and put everything back in this young man’s backpack. And then you’ve got one more minute to get out of my sight.”
One of the smaller kids asked, “Or what?”
The tall kid smiled. “Yeah. Or what?”
Ben said, “Or I kick all your bully boy asses.”
Yarmulke boy said, “Go away, Mister. You’re making everything worser.”
The tall kid said, “Yeah, go away before we kick your ass.”
Ben said, “You’ve wasted half your minute.”
The tall kid advanced on Ben, balling his fists, menace etched into his fair face. Ben waited, hands loosely at his side, until he was six feet away.
Then he danced forward on his toes, whirling to his left, bending at the waist and bringing his right foot across to land solidly in the kid’s midsection.
The kid went down like a sack of onions. Gasping for air, he writhed on the ground.
One of the boys fumbled under his shirt and produced a 9mm Beretta.
Ben snatched it away before the kid could thumb back the safety catch.
Ben said, “Pick up all those things and put them back in the pack.” The smaller of the two boys knelt, stuffing papers and books into the bag. Ben turned to the still-writhing juvenile giant and hauled him to his feet, then pulled two cell phones, an iPod and a wad of cash from his pockets.
Ben turned to yarmulke boy. “These yours?”
“Not the silver one. The phone, I mean. The black one’s mine. I think the iPod is Joey’s.”
“Who is Joey?”
“Joey Gordon. He’s in my class.”
“And the money?”
“No, sir. Not mine.”
Ben handed him his things, then turned to the three boys. “You’ve exceeded my store of goodwill. Get out of my sight—and if I ever hear that you bothered this young man, I’ll come after you and make you regret it for the rest of your lives.”
He feinted a kick at the tall kid, who turned and ran, the others on his heels.
With a few swift motions, Ben checked to see that the gun was unloaded, removed the magazine, then detached the barrel assembly from the receiver and distributed the pieces among his pockets.
He turned back to yarmulke kid. “You okay?”
“Yeah. Thanks, Mister.”
“What’s your name?”
“How ’bout I walk you home, just to make sure you get there in one piece?”
Midway up the incline, Ben’s adrenaline rush began to wear off. The toll of his exertions had to be paid. He grew lightheaded and nauseous. Spots appeared before his eyes. Each step became an effort. Ben realized that he couldn’t go on.
“I have to rest,” he gasped.
Yarmulke boy said, “You don’t look so good, Mister. Are you sick?”
“Is there a bench… I… sit… a minute?”
“It’s only a little ways more.”
Ben opened his mouth to answer, but no words came out. Breathing became a labor. The sky revolved. The world grew dark and fuzzy.
Ben staggered toward the bushes lining the sidewalk.
Zach screamed, “Mister!”
© 2017 Marvin J. Wolf
FROM Marvin J. Wolf
On this page are true stories, magazine articles, excerpts from books and unpublished works, short fiction, and photographs, each offering a glimpse of my life, work and times. I'll be posting weekly. Your comments welcome. © Marvin J. Wolf. All rights reserved.