Lies My Father Told Me  

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Chapter XIII

   Saturday, rain or shine, I go with Grandpa to the
temple. This too is a game for me. And I am on
   The old men gather outside the synagogue in their
best clothes and their best manners,with their black
fedoras, and their Sabbath smiles.
   "A guten Shabbes, guten Shabbes "

   I stand by my grandfather, shy and proud.
The old men question me.
   "And who was David?"
   "Of the Bible?"
   "Of the Bible. Of the Bible."
   "A son to a king, and a man to God."
   "And Solomon?"
   "A man with a beard, and bearded words."
   "Very good, very good. And who is Jehovah?"
   "Lord and Creator of the Universe; the all-power-
ful one; the all-knowing One, wiser even than
   The old men look down their beards. and pat my
head, and cackle, speaking in third person,
invisible tense.
   "Already a scholar … a darling of a boy... a sweet-
heart … I should have such a grandson... a prince
of a boy."
Grandpa smiles and says, "I am blessed. I am
blessed with such a grandson."
   I glow.
   Everyone seemed to consider me pretty smart.
Everyone, that is, except my father.

   Across the canyon gully from our kitchen is the
workshed: home of Harry's endless inventions. The
inside walls of the shed are festooned with Harry's
own specialized tools, hanging curiously. The benches
are crowded with a jumble, tumble of bags, bags of
buttons, buttons for women's dresses, hundreds of
them, spilling out onto the workbenches.
   It is Saturday afternoon, and I am helping my fa-
   Harry is inside the shed. He is putting colored but-
tons together with little metal springs to make cuff-
links out of them. He is talking to himself. Educat-
ing me.
   "One could develop a machine that would make a
thousand of these in an hour. Trouble is, I never went
to college, so I didn't have the chance to study science
and engineering...."
   I am sitting on the stairs outside of the open door
of the shed, separating the buttons into little piles.
   "... That's where the future is, Davie... in science
and engineering. Not that religious nonsense your
grandfather fills your head with."
   "It's not nonsense."
   Harry tries impatiently to offset the effects of his
father-in-law on the mind of his son.
   "He really doesn't know very much, Davie. He's
only read one book in his whole life. He thinks noth-
ing's happened in five thousand years. In those days
they believed God was responsible for everything."
   "But Grandpa says..."
   Harry just drops the plastic metal-colored doodads
from his hand. They splash on the workbench, as
Harry turns to me to cut me off sharply. "Grandpa
tells you that when God wants it to rain, it rains.
That's what African savages believe."
   I've just noticed a group of children gathering on
Mrs. Bondy's balcony below, looking at something
I cannot see.
   Harry continues. "It so happens that rain comes
from rain clouds. Clouds, not God, make ram."
   I normally give my father little attention, and now
wish to give him even less. Still, his presumption must
be answered. Of course rain comes from rain clouds.
   "When the earth is thirsty, it prays for rain, and
God sends the rain clouds ... if He feels like it. You
don't know what you're talking about."
   Harry jumps up and rushes at me, his hand raised
to strike.
   I hold my arms above my head.
   "If I wallop you one across that big mouth of yours
to teach you how to talk to your father, will it be my
hand or the hand of God?"
   My head is drawn back. My hands protect my face.
But still I look straight into my father's eye.
   Harry simmers, but then deflates, and turns away,
dejected, back to the shed. "Go to that smelly old nag
of yours. You deserve each other."
   I collect up the piles of buttons and follow him
quietly into the shed. Harry is seated again at his
workbench, working on the Sabbath. I put the various
piles of buttons on the table beside Harry, and saunter
calmly from the shed, while harping Harry mutters to
himself, "That religious old maniac is ruining him.
It'll be too late to do anything about it. Christ!"
   I know it is too late for my father.


Chapter XIV