Lies My Father Told Me  

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Chapter XV

   The kitchen door opens, and Mrs. Tannenbaum's
mouth proceeds her as she enters. Screaming. "On my
doorstep! Horse shit on my doorstep!"
   Grandpa and Annie and Harry, who have just fin-
ished their dinner, sit helplessly. They stare at the fury.
Mrs. Tannenbaum, with Danny in tow, standing at
the doorway, heaving and raging.

   "He put horse shit on my doorstep! Danny saw
   Tatfletale Danny tells: "Him and Cleo. I saw
   Annie is embarrassed. Harry is also embarrassed,
and furious. Grandpa, seated at the table, feels guilty,
and says nothing.
   Tannenbaum rants on, "It's all your fault! You'll
pay for it! I tell you." She is gasping at the hor-
rendous meaning of it all. "Where is that little bandit!
I'd like to lay my hands on him."
   Grandpa, though shamed, is angered. "You'll lay
your hands on nobody. We're sorry about what hap-
pened. I apologize."
    "That's not enough! I want that brat given a lesson
he won't forget! And I want that stable moved once
and for all!"
Exit Mrs. Tannenbaum, pulling Danny out after
   Stunned, Grandpa looks at Annie. "Where is
   "In his room."
   Wearily Grandpa gets up, retires toward his own
room to collect himself. Harry's voice snarls after him,
"Your smell of life!"
   Grandpa has no answer now.
   Harry, with a grimly fired determination, starts to
walk out of the kitchen, toward my room, and Annie
asks him, anxious, "What are you going to do?"
   Harry stops, looks back, and snarls again, "What
do you suggest? That I give him an ice-cream cone?"
   Annie, holding her hands to her mouth, gasps,
"Don't hit him."
   Harry gives her a long, cold look. Anger and disgust
"I have had it, Annie. From all of you."
   Annie, frightened, just waits and listens.
   I am under my blanket, completely covered, my
head unseen. Awaiting the dreadful.
   Harry stalks into the room, to the bed, pulling
down the blanket
   In my nightclothes, I feign sleep.
   Harry turns me over on to my stomach and beats
me with his belt. "I'll teach you a lesson you won't
forget, you bloody spoiled brat."
   He hits me across the bottom, harshly. And again,
and again, and again. "They're ruining you!"
   I scream in fear and pain, and Harry whacks me
again. Continues to beat me mercilessly. His breath-
ing becomes labored. Belt through air whistling. "Put
horse shit on somebody's stairs." Whack. "Grandpa
knows, eh?" Whack. "Eh?"
   Annie opens her father's door. "Go! Stop him!"
   In my room I am screaming, and Harry is beating
me, belting me. Grandpa rushes in and pulls Harry
away with such force that Harry bounces against the
wall and into the hallway.
   I sob as I watch the two men, my eyes wide at my
grandpa's anger. Grandpa's face is large, like a tiger's.
Grandpa is Zion. Grandpa is shaking Harry with great
force, dragging him toward the living room.
   "You ever hit that child again. I'll kill you."
   "He's my son, and I can do what I want with him!"
   "Raise your hand to him once more . . . and I'll
tear you limb from limb." Grandpa is breathless with
   "He deserved it. And you're to blame. Let go of
   Grandpa is holding Harry by the neck. Grandpa is
Gabriel. Grandpa is my Avenging Angel.
   Annie shouts out in fear at her father's anger. "Pa!"
   Grandpa releases his grip, but pushes Harry down
onto the living-room sofa.
   Half on the floor, and half on the couch. Harry
shouts up at his father-in-law. "Is it any wonder he
did what he did, with the bullshit you've been filling
his head with?"
   Grandpa, breathing heavily, stares down at Harry
with disgust and contempt, but what to say? Zaideh
gasps for air as he talks. "Never ask me for another
penny... as long as I live! You hear me?"
   Annie runs to me and tries to console me.
   Harry, exasperated, humiliated, and defiant, makes
his way through the hallway to his bedroom. A plain-
tive cry shambles from his throat high-pitched and
dry. "I want a divorce!"
   Annie runs back to the doorway, confused and
frightened. She stands in the doorway, looking after
Harry, not knowing what to do.
   Grandpa comes over to her, softening, but bitter
still. "Go. Maybe you'll be lucky, and he meant what
he said."
   The woman follows her man into the bedroom.
   Harry is lying on the bed, shaken by the encounter
with his father-in-law.
   Annie is standing beside the bed. "You didn't have
to hit him like that. One slap would have been
   "Get out of here. Leave me alone. I'm trapped."
   Annie goes over to the crib. Looks down at her
sleeping baby. Will it all pass over? "All right. We'll
   Harry turns over on his face, face in the pillow,
obliterate. He's depressed, and empty, and angry at
the whole stupid world. "My cufflinks aren't selling.
The idiots don't appreciate them!"
   Annie just nods. It's all so inevitable.

    Meanwhile, I huddle in one comer of my bed.
Grandpa stands there waiting. "Why did you do it
when I told you not to?" he asks softly.
   I don't answer, and won't look at my grandpa.
   Again the old man asks gently. "Why?"
   And I answer him, "You're a liar too."
   Grandpa takes a while to let that sink in. Softly,
again he asks, "Why do you say that?"
I look at him. "You lied, and Mamma lied. Not only
babies suck at women's breasts. Men do it too."
   Grandpa is quiet, and moves closer to me. Still.
"Who told you that?"
   I look Grandpa straight in the eye. "Nobody! I
   "What exactly was it you saw?"
   "Mr. Vernier does it with Mrs. Bondy!"
   Grandpa's-face screws up. He's puzzled. "In the
   Irritated, I explain. "No! In her bedroom!"
   "You were there?"
   "No. Through the window. Cleo saw them too. All
the kids."
   "Yes, well. . ." The old man stands. Pauses for a
moment, and then starts pacing. "It wasn't that I
told you a lie," he explains. "I just left something out
I should have told you."
   He pauses again. He's thinking hard. This is dif-
   "When your Mamma and I said only babies suck
at breasts, we meant only babies suck at breasts for
milk." He hunts for words to explain. "Men suck at
their wives' breasts for pleasure. ..." A momentary
pause, and some confusion on his face. "I know Mrs.
Bondy isn't Mr. Vernier's wife, so it would be best
for everybody if Mr. Bondy didn't hear about it...
and if Mrs. Vernier didn't hear about it either. Men
and women are supposed to be married when they
... when they do things like that."
   Aiee, this is a tricky one.
   "Maybe when the Messiah comes, everybody will
be able to do it and nobody will consider it a sin,
but today it's not considered right if a man sucks an-
other man's wife's breast . . ." Grandpa groans
again. It isn't coming easy.
   I certainly am not impressed by Grandpa's explana-
   To tidy up the tangle and to get away as quickly
as possible, Zaideh blurts out an improvised talmudic
quotation. "Davie, it's like the Talmud says, 'Give
unto children what is for children, and to men'.. . .
   Grandpa bolts toward the door. He stops at the
door, looks back at his Davie. And David sits, stone-
faced, looking back at his zaideh.
   Grandpa stands in the doorway. Calms. And finds
his gentle voice. "He won't hit you again. Not while
I'm alive. Good night, Davie. ... Go to sleep now."


Chapter XVI