Lies My Father Told Me 

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Chapter IX

   A gentle man with a gentle voice, the doctor is a
good friend of Grandpa's.
   Harry is sick in bed. His eyes focus on some distant
comer of the ceiling. The doctor is listening to his
chest with a stethoscope. Taking his pulse. Keeping
him cool.
   Pale and ashen. Harry looks like he's been felled by
some fatal disease; or that disasters, ten thousand
strong, have marched their muddy boots across his
stricken form.

   Looking into the kitchen from the window of the   
balcony, I can see into Grandpa's room. Grandpa
sits at his desk reading a Russian newspaper. Annie,
more pregnant than ever, is in the kitchen preparing
supper. The boiling stove lends cabbage and carrots
to the early-evening still-light, the city smells, and the
room. Uncle Benny is also here, sits forlorn, de-
   The doctor enters the kitchen. Grandpa puts down
his paper and comes through to the kitchen. All at-
tention focuses on the medical man, who tells us,
very professionally, "It's nothing physical. I'll leave a
prescription for a nerve tonic."
   Grandpa hands his friend a couple of dollars.
Annie, in turn, takes the prescription from the doc-
tor's hand. And the doctor, rephrasing his words,
gives the diagnosis again. Harry's in deep depression,
and there's really nothing to be done medically. We
just have to wait till he comes out of it, like the last
   The doctor moves to the kitchen door and bids
the Eliases a warm good night. He opens the door,
comes out, past me, pats my head, and passes into the
twilight, moonlight, balcony, cool. The screen door
swings to with a swoop and a bang, and I open it
again and enter the kitchen and listen.
   Uncle Benny speaks as if he were in a trance. "We
got a thousand pairs of trousers with baggy knees.
The soft tape he used curled up. Every order was sent
back. Maybe you could sell them. Pa?"
   Grandpa, back at his desk, nods. "You just have to
find a thousand men with swollen knees."
   Annie, sad, laughs silently, sits down, and stares.
"Bankrupt. In less than a month, bankrupt."
   Uncle Benny rejoins sarcastically, "It's made his-
   I, ecstatic, run out to the balcony, run down the
stairs, shouting my joyous news. "Papa's gone bank-
rupt! We're not moving!" I shout it to pretty Mrs.
Bondy, who is taking the late groceries from Mr.
Vernier, as always, in his apron and leather cap, with
his small moustache. Dashing figure. They both ac-
knowledge the news as best they can, and try not to
   I run through the courtyard, shouting to Mrs.
Champlain, the seamstress, and her daughter, Cleo,
my friend, "My papa's gone bankrupt! We're not mov-
ing!" Mrs. Champlain and Cleo grow large, beaming
smiles on their smiling faces.
   In the tailor's shop there's a secret meeting. Shad-
ows and daggers. Communist party branch meeting?
The swelling revolution's five local members plotting
in the darkness a brighter new world. Mr. Baumgar-
ten is giving a lecture. "Two steps forward . . . one
step backward.... Lenin's new economic policy does
not mean the reintroduction of capitalism. It is a
temporary, necessary compromise to save the revolu-
tion. . . . Don't throw the baby out with the bath-
   A door is flung open, and I whirl in.
   A strange collection. These shadow figures. Leap-
ing to their feet. The fatherly Baumgarten, with his
white Trotsky goatee, stands gaping at me. Behind
him, a strange man with a shaven head. Bodyguard?
Political refugee? Leaning against the clothes press.
A little man in tweed with gold-rimmed glasses, wide
staring eyes; archetypal student, seeming ineffectual.
The midnight hours see him with his lamp and screw-
driver making fuses, dreaming of Napoleons. Two
further mysterious parties are sequestered in the deep
shadows. One fumbles with a jacket off the peg, to
demonstrate the innocence of this tailor-shop meet-
ing; the other shuffles papers. Disturbed anthill.
   "My papa's gone bankrupt! We're not moving!"
   Baumgarten's face relaxes, smiles, and he offers me
his hand. "Congratulations!"
   Off I rush again, back to the yard.
   Baumgarten reassures his comrades. "A friend.
… Where was I? Ah yes . . . two steps forward . . .
one step backward...."
Edna, at her window, has just invited a young man
into her parlor, when she hears my happy news.
Standing in front of the courtyard gate, I wave and
shout, and Edna makes a happy face, gesturing back
to me, and the young man looks very confused.
   "My papa's gone bankrupt! We're not moving!"
   "Wonderful!" shouts Edna, turns back to her
dumbfounded client, and leads him indoors.
   I hurry to the stable to spread the glad tidings, to
tell my beloved Ferdeleh that we're not going to move.
   I hug the horse's head. "He's too sick to send you
to the glue factory, so you can stop worrying about
that too."
   Ferdeleh is relieved and very, very happy.

Chapter X