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“What the fuck were you thinking?”

The shmura matzah lies, edge broken, on the table. It’s still in its plastic bag, wrapped in Israel and sealed all the way to us. I release it, fingers tentatively dangling above it, deciding whether to continue trying to return it to its box.

“The package says ‘to Mr. Ronald Reiches.’ That’s my name, not yours.”

He’d opened it mere moments before, spacious yellow envelope with this simple, square box within. I’d removed the matzah from the box, to show him what shmura is. Thirty seconds ago, he’d had no concept of hand-pressed matzah, individually baked. A minute ago, he hadn’t even known we’d had matzah in the house.

I pick up the box once more, carefully return the matzah to the package and seal it back up, holding my tongue.

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Posted by on April 12, 2011 in Writing


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A Cacophony of Affirmation

I’d know what he was ranting about, but I can’t hear him over her.

Her voice rises, crescendos above his, and what does she say?

“Yes, I agree.”

That’s the gist. Her words stumble over themselves, her tone grows shrill, her manner more excited. She rushes to cut him off with her agreement, with her affirmation. He ignores it and continues talking, continues to stand upon his soap box and spout his opinions.

She compliments him on dinner. Every night, her voice just as shocked, as appreciative, as it was the night before.

“My God, Ron, this chicken is incredible! The potatoes are amazing! So flavorful! You did really well with them!”

He shrugs it off. Reminds her that he’s been cooking for thirty years. She knows this. I know this. The dance, however, continues every night, endless and unappreciated, a thing of rote.

Just like the rest of the conversation. “Isn’t it amazing what you can make for so cheap? Who’d eat out when this is so inexpensive, so easy?” I don’t call him on it, on how our income is non-existent, on how his words are more for personal reassurance than anything he truly believes. Our dire financial straits are kept from the spotlight until they’re too big, too grand, to be hidden anymore. Then they will explode outward and I will, unfailingly, be fingered as their source, as the cause for such frugality, for such cutbacks. It’s my fault for still being here, for not having found a better paying job, for having student loans. She should never have cosigned my loan. He was against it, he says. He’d never agreed to pay for a fifth year of school. The words hiss through his teeth. Fifth year. Who needs five years for a four year program? Only his son, only the black sheep among his children.

He has forgotten within hours, or acts the part. His behavior has a schizophrenic element, jumping from personal attack to unreserved joviality, finding something external at which to direct his frustrations. He sits on the couch in his bathrobe and watches the TV, gives the dog bones she should not have, wonders why she feels ill the next day, shouts at the horses who beat his picks, watches the news for something to attack.

She watches it with him, feeds his rants, keeps him talking. The television is background static, inaudible before their heated agreement. If I did not hear the words, I would say they were arguing, but my silence remains, I watch and observe, wait for the moment when it ends, when he calls her “simple,” though she agrees with him. When the thought or moment she recalls frustrates him, unrelated, he says, to their current conversation. I hear the crack of the verbal whip in his voice and stand, walk away. I eat, to calm myself. I sit and talk to friends, far away. They offer entertainment, I respond with complaint. He goes to bed, I follow hours later. Dream, wake-up, hide in my room, called for dinner, repeat.

Repeat repeat repeat.

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Posted by on May 7, 2010 in Uncategorized


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Get Yourself Together

“Clean your fucking room.”

It’s really not a lot to ask. I just want the floor to be visible, the walls the color I had them painted, the bed made with sheets that don’t carry weeks of your sweat. I want your clothes in the laundry basket, your trash in a bag, your books and games stacked and maybe alphabetized, if you’re feeling saucy. I want it odor neutral, clean clothes in drawers, electronics distributed neatly, closet door closed.

I want your eyes on the job listing, I want your resumé out there, I want that degree framed and on your wall, its picture on the internet. I want it to be your wall, not my wall, I want your loans paid, I want you in school, I want you paying for school, I want you working, I want you working for more than minimum wage.

I want to handicap horses, I want to drink Smirnoff, I want you paying rent, I want you paying utilities. I want you to be like your sisters, I want you to get off your high horse. I want to play Hold ’em, I want you moved out, I want you to give back. I want you to thank me, I want you to prostrate yourself before me. I want you to show initiative, I want you to show drive, I want you to do what I did when I was your age. I want you to clean your room.

You’re tired? You don’t get to be tired. You play video games when you’re not working. That’s your poor decision-making. You dealt with asshole customers? I deal with you. Don’t look at me like that. Stop staring at me. You’re twenty-three years old. Act your age. Get a job, get a life, stop sitting on my credit, squatting in my house, swallowing my food. You graduated a year ago, it’s time for you to do something. It’s time for you to have done something. Clean up from dinner, I’m going to go shower.

The bottle’s down a fourth today. It was down a fourth yesterday, too, and now it’s a half. Tomorrow’s three-quarters, then empty. Twenty bucks, ‘nother bottle. Beer to complement, snacks to offset. Pot’s out, but “Spice” is in. Drink, drank, drunk, drive and rave. Shot of vodka for the road, toke for the night.

I think you drink too much. You know too much about beer, so you must be drinking too much. You’re going to be a fucking alcoholic. You’re going to be an addict. I’ve been doing it longer, I have a better tolerance, it’s safer for me. Who the fuck needs to know about beer? That’s stupid knowledge, useless like video games. They’re all the same, why play the new ones? Why spend your money? What do you get out of it?

Why do I race horses? Because it’s fun. It’s okay, I never bet enough to matter if I lose. Where do I get the money? Fuck you, I worked for years to support this family. Your mom can indulge me a little. Poker? Same deal.

What are you still doing here? Go. Get out. I’m done taking care of you. I don’t need the extra weight around my neck. Clean your fucking room.

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Posted by on May 3, 2010 in Uncategorized


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