The Ballad Of Sigurd Jorsalfare

Chapter 41

Israel

Monday, August 17, 1990

8:48 PM

To alleviate the burden of cumbersome questions I recommend falling to one’s knees and begging for mercy.

I do so. Then I remember despair and impotent rage, so I look to the bucket and the stuff we got at the poison stores and the ammunition depot.

So I crawl to the bucket and I smile, because you should always greet strangers with a smile. Or a gun.

“Water,” I say.

Nissim shoots me a look from across the abyss. “Are you OK?” he asks.

“Hey, I’m no kid,” I say with a certain swagger, as only a kid would say. And I pull on the red shiny bucket to show him the water is strictly for industrial purposes. I’m no wuss. I smile with confidence.

Nissim points to my left and goes back to sorting. That’s my sorting Nissim.

Didn’t I just come from the left? Apparently there are many lefts in this hovel. This left is beyond the three dead horses, towards the dark, which is now less dark than before, thanks to the open wound in the wall.

I get up, bravely I might add, and walk towards the dark left which turns out to be a hallway. In the hallway there is a trellis or something beady and loose hanging from the ceiling — the bamboo curtain? I walk through it straight ahead and there are two options — I love options — one to the left and one to the right. Thank God for symmetrical options — I abhor asymmetry.

I turn left. Good choice, master David!

A kitchen is what greets me on the left. I say a kitchen because there is a refrigerator, a stove and a sink. These items usually denote a kitchen. I know kitchens. I grew up in kitchens. The most meaningful interchanges I’ve had with my daddy have been in kitchens — and cockpits — but there is no cockpit here, only a kitchen.

“Learn to live with what you have,” my daddy would always say. “Never expect what isn’t there.”

My daddy was a realist. He was also part Danish, which may account for the statement just quoted more than pure realism.

Danes are no mere realists — they are obviouslists, the purest form of practical realism.

When I say kitchen, you may immediately have in mind a warm, clean, nurturing environment, in which food is conceived, concocted, assembled and prepared for the nourishment of family and friends.

And you would be wrong.

This is a room with a refrigerator, a sink and a stove. This is a room with feces and filth and rats and rust and a window and a floor and a ceiling. This is a room in which to howl and shriek and pound and shred and dissect and dismember every gentle moment you ever had.

This is the room in which every sweet recollection of cooking with daddy, in which every recipe I learned is burned, charred, ruined and discarded.

My daddy, captain daddy, would clean after himself meticulously.

“Never leave a dirty dish behind, sonny,” he’d say, “That’s a sure way to crash.”

No one wants to crash — you’ve gotta know that even if you’re not a pilot’s son. Ergo — no one wants a dirty kitchen.

I would scrub and wash and rinse and wipe like a maniac — anything to keep my daddy safe. Anything to make my daddy happy.

Our kitchen, my daddy’s kitchen was spotless. Immaculate.

So where am I now?

These are the things that confuse and befuddle us so that we cannot make sense of any moment we thought we’ve experienced. Any memory we thought we had is decimated. We are not who we think we were; we are not what we think we know; we are not even who we are.

This is not possible for a sane person. A sane person rejects such a preposition. A sane person throws filthy pots and rusty pans against a soiled wall and screams obscenities. A sane person rips their eyes out and howls at the stains on the floor, imploring them to give back what they stole, to return what they took, to, at least, bear witness to the impossible cruelty that ravaged this house, this kitchen, this insult in which we stand.

So I open cabinets and rip off their doors; so I spit on the floor; so I kick the sink; so I throw the dishes out from their hiding places like flying Jews through their burning shtetle windows — ping, zing, swoosh, swash through the acrid atmosphere; so I fuck the baking pans and hump the platters and aykah, aykah, aykah hoff. So I trounce the cups and the pretentious saucers and their little pseudo-Germanic ways and I beak them with my beak and flap them with my wings and gore them with my talons and spray their remnants throughout New Jaffa.

And I say: “Nissim!!!” which is to say, miracles, in Hebrew; which is to say my friend, my protector; which is to say what am I supposed to do now? How am I supposed to sleep? To walk? To eat? To go back to my wife and children?

And I say: “Where’s the torch, the fire, the TNT?”

“Nissim!!?”

“Daddy,” which is to whisper: “I hate you more than you can ever imagine,” which is to say: “I am totally alone now. Totally. Alone.”

Which is to say: evening is here and the kitchen, ugly as it already was, is dying now and turning a putrid green. Which is to say I’m dying.