At the bottom of the stairs, Mrs. Champlain's three-
Cleo, is playing with her silent, pas-
sive dog, Nellie. They live on the
bottom floor. The
husband, the father, is invisible.
greets me with a serious face. "My father rides
But I run past.
Mr. Baumgarten is watering
his carefully tended
garden. Flowers, cucumbers, radishes, dill. A sign
reads: "A. Baumgarten, Tailor." I trust he expects no
through our courtyard. He waves to me
his eyes smiling below the shade of
his bushy eye-
brows. For Mr. Baumgarten I have time, just, to wave
I open the stable doors. Cleo has followed, but I've
time for my friend this morning.
"I'm late, Cleo,"
I explain with importance, and she
drifts off in a dream, back to her passive
Ferdeleh is a very old horse. White, he is, with a
very low stomach and xylophone ribs. He whinnies
with pleasure when he sees
me, and I rush over to
hug him. Little five-year-old David embracing, hugging
Ferdeleh's warm, wise, loving head, and then prepar-
ing his breakfast, filling
the pail with water, the bag
If my household
was constantly stoking my confu-
sion, the stable was my calm, my island.
How quiet the
light. How reassuring the smell of the hay. And how
article of junk that littered my domain seemed to
sit or hang in just the
spot ordained. I fit the nose bag
gulp your food down too fast. Chew it well.
And don't pay any attention to
what my father says.
Zaideh says to pay no attention. You smell real nice."
I nuzzle my face to his flesh. "Real nice."
How I loved the living scent of him, and the feel,
the texture of his coat.
In those days of my childhood, Ferdeleh was the
with whom I made a real and relaxed
sensuous exchange. I would sit on Grandpa's
rest my head on his chest, and he was the bosom of
his dignity held me still, and I did not
even fiddle with his clothing, touching
children are wont to do, but passively received the
of the mighty. I would cuddle Mamma too, and
often, but here too something
came between, paralyzed
my response. The too great intimacy of her sensuous-
ness, her body, enveloped me, and held me in check.
A feeling of drowning.
And my father? His touch was menacing, withering.
he had his high moments.
In the bedroom that morning he
is in a cheerful
mood, confident, yet nervous at the same time, hap-
manic and convinced he's on the way to fantastic
triumphs. Annie's cheered
by his mood, but slightly
suspicious, as she carefully makes the bed. Harry
les her under her arm playfully, making her giggle,
and she tells
him to stop it. Harry gloats.
"You didn't think I'd
do it, did you? Did you?"
And he tickles her again. "Did you?"
Annie shrieks, "Stop that. Harry! Harry!"
"Wanna mink coat? An Oldsmobile? Trip to Flor-
"I want you to stop tickling me." She pushes him
away gently and moves to the other side of the bed.
house in Westmount, in the country. ..." A
house, for that matter, anywhere.
wants a house of his own, where he could be master,
where he would not be beholden to his father-in-law,
Mr. Elias, an eccentric
religious fanatic, rag and bone
merchant, landlord, property owner.
"... a maid, swimming pool, a yacht, a charge ac-
count at Morgan's...."
Annie is bending over the bed, tucking the sheet
"You really checked this time?"
Harry moves around to her, takes her from her
making duties, and orates as ornately as he's able.
"With the patent office. With every big clothing
manufacturer in Canada;
and the States; and England;
and France! Checked and triple-checked. And then
double-checked my triple-check! Nobody! Nobody
has thought of this one before.
It can't miss! You just
handle your father right, and I'm away!"
Papa was an inventor.
Now he holds her,
hugs her, and she's confused, for
he really dazzles her sometimes.
"Mmm, I love you!" he says.
They walk into the
kitchen. Harry's face tight from
tension as he nods to Annie to speak to her
Grandpa sits at the table in silent prayer, and Annie
head no-this is not the time.
Grandpa opens one eye to
the silent gesturing. He
closes his eye and continues his davening, as Annie
goes to the door to call me, as Harry sits down and
begins to eat, as Grandpa's
food sits in front of him,
waiting for him, as he waits for me.
Mamma's voice flies out, "David! Breakfast!"-
reaching out to me
in the stable, where Ferdeleh's
snout is buried in his nose bag, nuzzling
I'm still nuzzling Ferdeleh's head, and noticing some
blemish near his ear, reaching into my back
pocket for my handkerchief to
polish my faithful stal-
lion, before I can answer breakfast's summons.
Now I run from the stable into the eye-blinking
I look up to see the enemy, Mrs. Tannenbaum,
glowering down and sniffing angrily
at my domain. She
takes the wash from her clothesline. I stick my tongue
out at her.
Someday I'll sling some small word at that
tine, and she'll tumble from her vulture's perch, to lie,
of feathers, at my feet. We'll bury her, without
undue pomp, in some manure
pile. Today Mrs. Tan-
nenbaum is concentrating so intently on her laundry,
and the smell, that she does not see my gesture, the
protruding tongue. David's
promise to Goliath. Some-
Cleo is playing with
her lazy, pregnant dog.
"Nellie is going to marry
Ferdeleh and have pup-
I run past
"Dogs don't marry horses! Dogs marry dogs!"
pulls on her dog's front legs.
"Girls marry boys!"
I let Cleo's comment pass. One doesn't really argue
Cleo. Her dog just lies there.
And I climb the stairs to
Grandpa sits silently at the breakfast
table. His eyes
are closed. Harry is gesturing to Annie to start talking,
to sell him yet again, and Annie is gesturing to Harry
that this is still
not the time. I run over to my chair.
Annie points to the sink.
Ah, such delays, and on a precious sunny Sunday.
the family is at the table. Only my profane
father has already finished eating,
starts the prayer. Zaideh reaches out to put his hand
my head, covering my head. For papa will not let
me wear a yarmulke.
And I join: "Adonai eleheynoo
melech. . . ."
The prayer finished, we can
start to eat the oat-
meal, the white challah, and the jam. It is hard to
centrate, to chew well, and not to gulp it down. Only
I was thus admonishing Ferdeleh. It
is Sunday. It is Sunday, and we must hurry,
strange undercurrents flicker above the table. Harry is
impatient looks; something's afoot, but
Grandpa pretends not to see.
last Annie steels herself to speak. "Pa..."
lifts his head slowly, holds us all imperi-
ously through a slight pause,
while he considers the
universe, its creatures, and their strange but endearing
"How much?" he asks.
laughs, but feels helpless. She gestures im-
He is listening.
trousers have a crease."
Grandpa tries to take this
.information in as if he's
just heard something profound.
"The crease gets baggy. They have to keep pressing
Harry is trying to control his impatience. Me, I'm
"Mr. Baumgarten presses pants."
Now Mamma can vent her nervousness. "You eat
She continues her exposition of daddy's
"Clothing manufacturers have been dreaming of a
make a pair of trousers that don't lose their
is removing the last remains of food from
his plate. "So how much?"
"Harry has invented something that nobody has in-
before. A creaseless trouser! You don't have to
fidgety now, waits to see what effect her
speech will have as Grandpa carefully
wipes his mouth
with his napkin.
"I'm still asking...
how much does he want?"
Harry leaps excitedly into
words, to intercede for
his fate and destiny.
hundred dollars! That's all I need to get it
off the ground. Pa!"
I have finished eating, and have no more time for
trivia. Important things are waiting. I go over
to the kitchen counter, onto
my toes to reach the
large straw basket, Our picnic,
better go. Grandpa. It's late."
Annie gestures me to
be quiet. Harry throws me a
quick, stern, nervous glance.
studying Harry's face, folds his napkin
neatly and places it next to his plate.
"It takes me a
year to save up five hundred dollars."
"In a year I can make a hundred thousand dollars
Annie solicitously interjects, "He'll pay it back to
you in three months."
"In one month! I've already got orders!"
Grandpa is a generous man, but he is no fool, and
no faith in anything my father said or did. He
tried not to show it, but we
all knew it. Still, where
my mother was involved he always strove to be as
gentle as possible. He loved his daughter deeply, and
she, a woman, played
upon this, while Harry played
be like the last time. Pa. He checked to
make sure nobody else invented it.
Isn't that true,
Her fawning voice exasperates
us all. Harry, taut
with suspense, can barely bury his sneer. "You al-
ready told him that, Annie."
I'm still holding the
lunch basket, my impatience
mounting. Sunday's vanishing, and the tension,
tension. To run from the tension. "Ferdeleh's getting
I certainly am.
My father's temper tightens
with each interruption,
but again it is Annie who machine-guns the demand
for my silence.
Zaideh pushes back his chair. "I have
saved a little
for a rainy day, not-for inventions which the world
or may not be waiting for."
A plaint washes through
my father's voice. "Pa! A
creaseless trouser! I don't think you understand
I've come up with!"
"Gee whiz, Grandpa!
The whole day's goin!"
Harry is furious with me, but
constrained by Zaideh.
He manages to keep his hands controlled. They don't
"Shut up!" he shouts.
like just what the world is waiting for. Har-
ry," says Grandpa, rising
and starting for the door,
me in tow. Harry, forgetting himself, retorts,
the world is still waiting for the Messiah, Mr. Elias!"
Even as he finishes speaking, Harry feels remorse. To
have slandered a patron!
He hurries after us onto the
balcony in hope of amends.
I said that. Pa! God, I'm so close to making
it now. I need your help, not
just for my sake, but for
all our sakes. You've worked hard all your life.
deserve to relax and enjoy your old age. Pa. This can
put us all on
easy street. I know you can't enjoy drag-
ging around that old horse that's
due to collapse any
This I cannot let
pass. "He's not going to col-
lapse any minute!"
my father raises his hand to me. I
flinch. But Grandpa is my sanctuary. Still,
Harry's frustrated wrath that I cannot go unlashed, if
"You shut up, you!"
sales pitch is a debacle.
Annie, trying to save the situation,
calls from the
kitchen, "Why don't you show it to my father? Show
it to him!"
Harry turns toward the kitchen with impatient
tation tightening his lips. "It's not ready to be shown
He turns back to Grasndpa. He is feeling besieged.
"I'll pay it back
in a month! With interest!"
"It isn't ready yet,
"It'll be ready in a few days."
I had already started down the stairs. Grandpa follows.
"When it's ready, show it to me."
father turns and enters the kitchen, frustrated
and dejected, moving close
to Annie to complain,
"Why did you tell him three months, when I said
"You might not be able to pay it
back in a month.
Harry. You might need three months."
angry, stalks from the kitchen. "Show it to
him! And what will he know
when I show it to him?
You were a great help. Thanks a lot."
Mamma. Confused and abused, she stands
there. As an animal in conflict, say,
a goose, will turn
to ritualized pulling out of grass, so Annie now runs
out onto the balcony to sing what Grandpa calls "the
woman's ritual Sunday
song." Clutching the railings
she leans over to shout, "Be sure
to come back if it
starts to rain. Don't let him hold the reins crossing
streets. Be sure to come back if it starts raining!"
Sunday departure is like a circus. The children
have gathered to watch us
back Ferdeleh between the
shafts and hitch him to the wagon. We mount the
wagon and sit, the center of this small universe
voice seagulls on. "Put on a sweater
if it starts to rain, David, and
come right back! You
even she is no match for Mrs. Tannenbaum,
who now appears on her balcony to
renew her guer-
rilla warfare with her raucous voice that penetrates for
miles. "When are you going to move that stinking
stable, Mr. Elias?"
Annie, counter-pointing behind: "Don't let him
the reins crossing streets."
In front, the Tannenbaum
theme: "All day and
night I keep smelling horse shit."
Baumgarten, the tailor, approaches, casting a
glance in the direction of the
whose voice fills and curdles the courtyard. He's on
our side. "Drop in this evening, Mr. Elias. I just fin-
ished a book
I'd like to discuss with you."
"Yes, Mr. Baumgarten."
Grandpa starts the wagon. The children gather clos-
watch, and fall in behind. I'm waving proudly.
and still shouting from her bal-
cony, "If it rains ..."
looks to the balcony where she's standing
like a circus we leave, our ears filled with the
Tannenbaum complaint whipping
through the air,
hounding after us: "My children are ashamed to bring
their friends to the house because of the smell. My
husband doesn't want to
come home because of the
horse shit! It's a disgrace and a shame!"
We turn the corner into Panet Street. The game
will soon begin. There's young Edna, full
of life, cleaning her window. She
waves to me, and
I wave back.
Nothing can hold down
my spirits now, even the
pursuing voice of Mrs. Tannenbaum: "A disgrace
and a shame, a stable next door to a kitchen. Stink-
ing horse shit! I'm ashamed
to live here! You gotta
move that stinking stable, Mr. Elias!"
Grandpa sighs. "When the Lord said,
'Love thy neighbor,' He didn't know