they fly? Or do they squat?
The rain cascades.
my father. Coming out of the work shed.
On the other side of the canyon. Closing
Striding the catwalk. Carefully he carries his prize, his
Carefully he carries a pair of trousers over
goes into the house.
There's Mamma's voice, and Uncle Benny's,
kitchen window. I go over to the open win-
dow to watch.
is holding up a pair of trousers. Annie and her
brother, Benny, are admiring.
Benny wears a mous-
tache to be smart. He is stocky. Short and plump.
There is always surprise and complaint in his voice.
glows with pleasure at the success of Harry's
perfectly creased pants, as
Uncle Benny praises the new
Harry!" says Benny, nodding approval.
"I told you!" says Harry, accepting his due.
I move to a better spot on the balcony to continue
watching the rain. Waiting for Grandpa's return.
Suddenly a smile. Here's
Grandpa now, steering Fer-
deleh into the courtyard.
hurriedly run from the rear balcony to the stairs
into the courtyard to meet
my grandpa and Ferdeleh
How we all suffer, not just I, when
it rains. Dear
Ferdeleh is covered with a canvas blanket and a hat,
ears sticking up through holes. Grandpa wears a
rain cape and hat. Even the
wagon is covered with
some canvas sheets.
I hurry to
help Grandpa unhitch Ferdeleh and
speed him to the comfort of his stable.
"Why can't I
go with you when it rains? It's not fair."
your mother worries you might catch cold"
I move under
Ferdeleh's head. Pet my faithful's
nose. The mist from his nostrils forms
about us, and I can feel his pleasure to be near me
she lets me go outside in the rain. Why ?
can't I go for a ride?"
Grandpa leads Ferdeleh toward
the stable. "Be-
cause your mother doesn't want you to be out in the
rain all day. She's right, you'll go next week."
backs Ferdeleh into the stall. He removes
the horse's hat and blanket, and
then his own cape.
"What if it rains again next week?"
Grandpa is drying Ferdeleh's head with a towel
go the week after."
I stare out at the rain. "It's
not fair. God's doing it
just to spite me."
not here to spite anybody."
"Why does He have
to make it rain on a Sunday?
Why can't He make it rain during the week?"
Grandpa has finished drying Ferdeleh, and turns to
the earth is thirsty, it makes its own
prayer." He gestures to the rain.
"So God listened to
the earth's prayer this Sunday and not to yours."
I climb on to the stall. "Then I'm going to pray to
the earth." I look down and address Mother Earth
with a child's admonishing
finger. "Would you
please not ask God to make it rain on Sundays? You
can have all the rain you want during the week."
nods his approval. That might work.
We'll wait and see.
during all this, in my earnestness, I have
missed Ferdeleh adding his comment,
rectally, on the
rain. Time, tide, and horse shit. Now Grandpa goes
fetches a shovel. I follow with a smaller shovel
We keep a clean stable. And
the smell is quite pun-
By the side of the stable,
to the left, is a "Dutch
barn," roofed, but open-walled, where we
and straw. At the front right-hand comer, by the
is a bin, a temporary receptacle for the manure
We shift the shit in stages.
From the stable we shove
it through a hatchway to this bin. Later we will
it from the bin to a garbage pail, and the garbage col-
will take it off our hands.
Ou! Suddenly, shrill, like an
air raid: "My God
The horse shit in the yard again!" Undamped by
rain, Mrs. Tannenbaum's voice falls on us. "Mr. Elias,
up the smell!"
Mrs. Tannenbaum lives on the second
to the left of our stable. Her stairway comes down be-
the front of the Dutch barn. The rain has
brought some seepage from the manure
bin in a
trickling rivulet into the courtyard across her path.
go out to take a look. Hay, straw, barn; gray
courtyard, rain. Tannenbaum
on her balcony: her pol-
take the law into our own hands!"
she's screaming like a lynch mob above
trickle, the thin brown-tinted puddle seeping to the
back to the earth.
The thing to do with shit is clean it
up. It's really
quite simple. Grandpa and I, like noble rustics, are
manure, cleaning out the bin.
Mrs. Tannenbaum's screeching
has brought our
ally, Mr. Baumgarten, to his doorway. He comes over
us and hands Grandpa a booklet. "Lenin's Im-
Mr. Elias. An important work You
will enjoy it."
nods, grateful for the tailor's support, but
Tannenbaum's attrition is beginning
to find its mark
She has come down her stairs, to stand perhaps ten
away from us, or closer. Here she begins again,
her nose, bellowing like an animal. "We're
respectable people! Not animals!"
She's done it. She has touched him. Shoveling a huge
of manure. Grandpa holds it up, arms out-
stretched, to Mrs. Tannenbaum. Still
trying to con-
trol his exasperation, he lectures her. "Horse manure,
Mrs. Tannenbaum! Nothing would grow without it!
It's the smell of life!"
The Elias-Tannenbaum feud is a feature of our
It's been going on for years. Mr. Vernier,
the grocer, making his way down
the stairs again, is
surprised by this novel development: Mr. Elias stoop-
ing to reply? He stops to listen, and is rewarded by
hearing Mrs. Tannenbaum
scoring her first point in
many months. "You like the smell so much,
horse into your house!" Her finger shaking. Of course,
not really practical with the stairs.
We wheel the wheelbarrow
from bin to garbage
pails, stash the manure, and start back toward the
Mr. Baumgarten joins us. He hands Grandpa
booklet. Grandpa places it in his pocket, and
speaks to him, but his thoughts
are far from the excre-
tions of world politics.
like to dump a shovelful on her doorstep. Then
she'd really smell it! It would
do her good!"
Today, recalling this idle threat of
direct action, I
would surmise that rainy Sundays took their toll even
from my Grandpa. But at the time I simply felt he
was inspired. By God, I
liked his idea.
"Let's do it. Grandpa!"
you heard me say that!" Grandpa says
Typical. My crazy father has a thousand mad ideas
each for months. My saintly Grandpa
comes up with a simple, practical, inspirational
scheme, and immediately throws it away. Where's
start up the stairs, leaving Mr. Baumgarten, the
tailor, behind in the courtyard.
"I'd like to hear your
opinion," he says, and Grandpa turns and
Up the stairs, along the balcony, across the catwalk,
and up the stairs. The water cascades, the rain de-
scends, but for me the
sun is shining again. Grandpa
He fishes in
his pocket and produces a strangely
shaped glass object, like a small sea
urchin, which he
gives to me. We go into the house."
one of those snowstorm things. Is it a paper-
weight? There's a winter scene.
A tiny church, and a
tiny fir tree, a sled, and a white horse, like Ferdeleh.
You shake it, and the snow swarms around.
the character of our kitchen changes. With
Mamma, Grandpa, and me it is the
center of our
warm home. Sometimes, as Zaideh watches his daugh-
the stove, his eyes go to yesterday, and he
speaks lovingly of his wife, his
woman, whom I never
met. But then, with Papa in the room, the kitchen is
a thoroughfare of tensions, from apprehension to de-
is wearing his creaseless trousers, sharp-
edged, like a soldier. Prussian.
It suits him. I'm look-
ing through the snowstorm swirl. The glass distorts.
There's Harry twisted around behind the tiny church.
The spire lances through
him. Whenever we pass a
church, Mamma spits three times on the ground. I
like churches. They're grand and peaceful. Grandpa
Says they're tabernacles.
Harry is demonstrating his
invention to Grandpa.
twelve machines we figure we can manu-
facture two hundred and eighty pairs
a week. At three
dollars a pair, we estimate a dollar profit...."
If I hold the glass away from my eye, everything
down and gets very small. I cannot walk,
but stumble, with the world so deranged.
under the table, and look out at legs and creases.
. . Within one month, we'll double our ma-
chinery and labor force and keep
within six months to a year we estimate five thou-
six hundred dollars a week profit...."
are striding back and forth up and
down the kitchen in their immaculate, perfectly
creased trousers. Mamma and Uncle Benny watch,
they heads swinging to and
fro, like they're watching
a tennis match. It's hard to keep Papa in focus
glass, him striding about so on the ceiling, back to
front. I get
up and go back to the chair beside Zaideh.
that in a year comes to five hun-
that. Harry?" asks Benny curiously.
Harry ignores Benny's interruption.
can sell anything this evening, he mounts one of the
chairs, and squats there. "... And that's only
the beginning." Eye-catching
casual. Harry is in the
air, with his hands covering his knees. "By then
can expand plant output to any size we want to sup-
Uncle Benny has noticed something peculiar.
He bends forward, trying to get
a better look. "What's
that with the knee, Harry?"
stands erect on the chair. "It's nothing." He
throws Benny a look,
an imperative desist, "lay off."
He gets down from the chair. "Five
eighty-two thousand dollars in two years. Pa." He sits,
hands on knees.
a little nervous, gets up and peers. "Stand
up. Harry. I want to see
me alone. I talk better sitting down. Did you
hear me. Pa? It takes you a
whole year to save five
hundred lousy dollars? In two years..."
Benny's anxiety will not be put away. "Stand
up, Harry. I want to see
that!" He pulls at Harry.
pushes him away. "Will you go away? Shut
up and let me finish explaining
Benny manages to pull him to his feet. It's
like a strange ballet. Harry keeps
his hands over his
pulls them away. "What is that, Harry? My
God! You didn't tell me about
knees bulge out like my Ferdeleh's shanks. But
bigger. The creases around
the pantaloon knees stand
out half an inch, like a corrugated-metal-flanged
nothing! I'll fix that! It's a minor bug! I'll have
this fixed! It's no problem."
gives Grandpa a knowing, sorrowful look.
Grandpa rocks quietly, not surprised
at all by the
Uncle Benny, flabbergasted, is complaining in his
singsong monotone. "My
God! I paid down a
month's rent on the shop! It's not ready. Harry! Why
didn't you tell me?"
is ready! It's a minor problem! It'll be fixed!"
jumps up, totally disgusted with stupid
Benny, who is spoiling everything.
is anxious and peeved. "You didn't level
with me. Harry! You sucked me
into a partnership!"
this behind the snowstorm, the fir tree, and the
Chrissake, Benny! This can't miss...."
I hold the glass near to my eye and then slowly
move it away, they all distort
like gargoyles, like in
the hall of mirrors.
use a softer tape at the knees, maybe not even
tape at the knees. The weight
of the other tape will
hold the crease. It's nothing to worry about"
move the glass away. Suddenly everything blurs.
holds his head. "It's not ready. Harry! My
suddenly everything comes back into focus,
but upside down and far away.
is infuriated, exasperated, pacing. His face is
red from frustration. Nobody
understands a genius.
be ready, damn it! I took it this far, you think
a minor problem like this
is going to stop me?"
stands, looks to Annie, raising his eye-
brows, and starts to move toward
continues, "I'll have it perfect." He notices
Grandpa leaving. "Pa!
Where are you going?"
stands in the doorway. "I have to read
He disappears into his room.
Harry takes a long accusing look at Benny. "You
idiot! You screwed it
up, didn't you?"
not ready yet, Harry! It makes a hard sharp
curve at the knee when you sit
moaning, storms out, sick with the fools
around him. "Idiots! I'm surrounded
descends. The snow settles in my glass.
stares dejectedly in front of him. He turns
to Annie for some reassurance.
"He'll be able to fix
it, won't he, Annie?"
nods, sad and abstracted.
look at my mother. "You know what would be a
good idea. Mamma?"
Benny's head jerks over toward me, intrigued
and anxiously he asks, "What?"
put some horse shit on Mrs. Tannenbaum's
sighs. "Go to bed, Davie... it's late."