Lies My Father Told Me  

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Chapter IV


   In the week that followed Harry's demonstration,
the household simmered with tension. It was unbeara-
ble when Grandpa was away.
   All week long it seemed to rain.
   Saturday night brought storms. Lightning flashes
cross the sky, illuminating the dark city. Thunder
crashes, roaring, reverberating. I lie awake. The
lightning leaps like monkeys around my room. And
now to await the thunder's applause. Will be it near
or far? And listening, listening through the walls to
Harry's voice rising and falling. Harry storms too.
   "Bloody idiot... a fortune to be made ... screw-
ing me up that way. ... I could kill him . . . and

   Annie starts to cry behind the thunder. The thun-
der claps and rattles again. Or has he hurled some-
thing? Or has he hit her?
   In later years my parents might scream the night
away, the one at the other, and in my fear I would
sneak beneath the blanket and the pillow to seek ref-
uge, and wait for the rain to stop. But while Grandpa
still lived with us, while I was Grandpa's darling, I
was fearless.
   Alarmed, I rise from bed and hurry out from my
room. Flashes of lightning caper through the house.
Roaring thunder follows. I make my way swiftly
through the erratic, flickering light, through the liv-
ing room, to the open door of Annie and Harry's bed-
   Harry's voice is wicked. "Well, you didn't help
much. Did you?"
   Annie is weeping, her voice rising. "What could I
say? It isn't ready. You should have told Benny the
   "He's got as much brains as your father when it
comes to business." Death sneer.
   I stand in the shadow of the doorway. Annie's
voice is frightened but defiant, as she holds to her
truth. "You shouldn't have lied to him."
   Lightning crosses the town and shows blue on my
mother, sitting on the edge of the bed.
   Harry, in his underwear, frustrated, paces angrily.
"I didn't lie to him! The knee isn't a problem! You're
all idiots, and the biggest idiot is your father, that
religious old hypocrite."
   Annie weeps, holding her head.
   "Five hundred bucks could take us all out of this
crap can we're living in. That crap he tells the kid
about God! It isn't from the Talmud. He makes it
up. He's not even Orthodox."
   Harry's pacing back and forth across the room. I
have to stand invisibly in the shadow listening to his
   "An orthodox miser is what he is. Everybody
laughs at him. And that horse!"
   I'm shocked to see fully fledged the demonism of
this man, my papa.
Annie, confused, reacts, picking up Harry's com-
ment about Ferdeleh. "Why do you hate the horse so
   "I'd like to go down this very minute and shoot that
goddamned nag and put it out of its misery," the
demon snarls.
   Annie pulls herself together and rallies to our
defense. "Davie loves him. What harm does he do?"
   Harry is very pleased that his favorite subject of
condemnation has come up. It shows in the gleeful
anger of his goblin's voice. "It should be shot and
made into glue. It can barely drag its feet, it's so old.
It stinks up the whole neighborhood. It's an embar-
rassment. Christ, what a family I married into."
   On the verge of tears, I turn my back on him, grope
through the living room, the hall, the kitchen, toward
Grandpa's closed door.
   Harry's snickering pursues me. "And you've turned
out to be a real prize, haven't you? You didn't open
your mouth once to help me."
   Slowly I open the door and make my way to
Grandpa's bed. The rain and thunder continue, but.
they're gentler now when heard from Grandpa's room.
The lightning loses its sinister hues.
   I nudge Grandpa, but he doesn't awake. I have to
nudge him twice.
   "Grandpa . . ." Then, with insistence, "Grand-
   He awakens. "Davie, what is it? You're afraid of the
   Grandpa, yawning, sits up. He switches on the lamp
next to his bed and puts on his yarmulke. His legs are
over the side of the bed. He wears long underwear.
   "Come, I'll tell you a story." He motions me to re-
turn to my room.
   "Grandpa ... I just found out something terrible."
   "What? What?"
   "About Papa. He tells terrible lies."
   Grandpa beckons me closer. "That's not a nice
thing for a son to say about his father. I don't want to
hear you say a thing like that again."
   "But he tells lies all the time. About the Talmud
and about you, and about God."
   Grandpa grimaces and holds me close to him.
"That's not strictly lying, Davie. It's a difference of
opinion. You can't really call that lying."
   Tearfully I continue. "When he says Ferdeleh is old
and should be shot and made into glue... isn't that a
terrible, terrible lie?"
   Grandpa stands, hugging me close. "He's just being
foolish, Davie." He carries me back to my room.
   "He tells lies.... He tells terrible lies."
   Grandpa whispers, "Don't worry about Ferdeleh..
As long as I'm here, nobody is going to hurt Fer-
deleh. Come, I'll tell you a story."
   Gently he puts me into my bed and lies down be-
side me. He looks up at the ceiling, regarding and lis-
tening, and says, "I'm getting a message."
   "What is it. Grandpa?"
   He puts his finger to his mouth-"Shhh ..." -and
continues listening. "Yes, all right. . . . Thank you."
He turns to me. "God says that if He has to make it
rain tomorrow, you'll have a surprise, because you
can come with me for a couple of hours."
"Even if it rains?"
   Grandpa looks up to the ceiling again for the ver-
dict, then nods flatly. "Even if it rains."'
   I snuggle contentedly into Grandpa's side,


chapter five