FOTM, A1S2

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T W O, Haifa, Israel

 

“The Last of the Underground”

 

It’s November of 2001, and they are sitting in a Haifa hills café that is small and dimly lit, secluded from the street by a big black Bedouin sheet. The last light of day falls softly on the Carmel.

 

A fleeting splendor ripples over the harbor bay.

 

The boy is too thin to look American. His eyes have a lean and hungry look and are bad eyed and deeply sunken. They are filled with hate.  His clothing is worn and torn. He might even be mistaken for a Russian street kid. The dirty gray corduroy cap on his head is encrusted with sand and sweat. It conceals his natty brown hair and gives him the appearance of a child like Che Guevara, perhaps in his own mind alone. The loose, blue pin-stripe suit he wears had been kosher cut in Golder’s Green, but is now a patchwork of torn threads and desert dust. He removes a crumpled green pack of Noblisse cigarettes from the inner pocket, puts one in his mouth and lights it. He takes long drags.

 

It looks as though he might cry out at any moment, or lash out across the table throttling the chubby preacher with his bare hands. If he lets down his guard down long enough though, he might have to admit total defeat.

 

Occasionally the boy looks up to stare across the table at the man who is so determined to save him.  This true Christian soldier has a cherub-like face even though he is in his forties and sports a brown scraggly beard. The chubby man is a proselytizer disguised as a tour guide.  The man is uncertain whether this meeting will lead to more violent outbursts. His last encounter with this boy in Jerusalem was a debacle. The man says a quick prayer and begins to talk in his soft Midwestern drawl.

 

“I’m sorry,” the preacher says.

 

The boy looks up. His response is steady and calculated despite his condition.

 

“They fucked her within an inch of her life before they killed her. They ripped her to meat shreds. Her body, was cut into pieces. And then they dumped her along the southern highway as if they knew there wasn’t even any use in covering the thing up. Where was your man Jesus then? Not with the underground. What do you know of good hard pain?”

 

It is a sharp and biting response. There is a quick pause and the flash of yet another silent prayer as the preacher man’s eyes dart up. Apparently the kid’s partner was quite dead.

 

“I know plenty about plenty. And I’m sorry about Emma. Do you remember what I said that first evening we met Sebastian?”

 

The boy’s eyes focus intently. He is uncomfortable with anyone using his real name. No one has used his real name for a long time. Suddenly there is some frustration in his voice.

“Why do you insist on calling me that?”

 

“Because it is your name.”

 

“My name is Zachariah Artstien.”

 

The preacher give him a ‘boy don’t talk crazy’ look.

 

“Your real name is Sebastian Adonaev, you were born in New York City.”

 

“But there is no such a person anymore. If you wish to carry on this conversation you will not refer to me by the name of a man who is rotting in the ground,” he responds sharply.

 

“You know I don’t like to humor your devils.”

 

“You know I do not like to humor your just about anything,” the boy retorts. “You cannot save me. I don’t believe in your religion. You are wasting your time on me, yet again.”

 

“Please calm down, Sebastian. To the best of your ability. Emma would prefer that, I’d imagine. Having read all her work.”

 

The kid gets up to leave.

 

“Sit the fuck down!” That time he didn’t have a Southwesterly accent at all for some reason.

 

There is authority in the man’s voice for the first time.

 

“I told you the first time we met that I saw a well of pain in your eyes that was so deep that you might drown in your own sorrow. The night we met I laid awake praying for hours in the hope that you might find peace. It’s a long war, some of us need to survive to win it.”

 

“Redemption being some Nazerene, of course. Shut the fuck up.”

 

“Could you please stop?”

 

“What do you really know about me? About this Sebastian you’re trying so hard to save? I grow very tired of people these days. Especially those with penchants for doing the Lord’s work through lost children.  There is nothing you can say to me to make me forget everything that has happened.”

 

“You can forget the past, Sebastian. Even the immediate past. It’s actually part of your training to be able to do that incredibly well, invent a new reality, for now.”

 

“Well thank you, you quintessential, self-helping faith healer! I killed two people last night. The night before that they murdered up my partner. ”

 

The preacher stares into him and knows that cannot possibly be true. It’s not in the prophesy. Emma isn’t really dead. Something else is clearly going on with the Israelis and its time to bring the kid back home.

 

“Not everything you saw actually happened to you. You are not a corpse, but you have allowed hateful demons to possess your body and speak on your behalf. It is time to go home!”

 

“My home is a place near two flaming towers where men of finance sacrificed three thousand of my former country men to their false god and those that rule this country collaborated with them!”

 

His words sear the man’s heart as he continues.

 

“Thank you for telling me what everyone always tells me, just in case I had forgotten the misery and grind of things since yesterday? Perhaps another brilliant cliché is in order like ‘be myself?’  Or forgive my enemies perhaps! Remove the grey mask! I’ve been trying. I swear I have. In all honesty I think your coming here was an enormous waste of both of our time. I have no home at all, traded it for tea and fire.”

 

The man’s tone changes.

 

“I figure you tell lots of tales. Throw around theology at people and radical rhetoric. You’d tell your secrets to any stranger who’d care to listen if you thought it would teach them something. But that doesn’t make your secrets true.”

 

“I don’t follow you.”

 

“How many people speak out of your mouth boy? Who’s that imaginary friend whispering in your ear today? It’s gotten worse since you arrived here in the land hasn’t it? Can you tell anymore who is talking, you or the ghosts, you or the angels and devils?”

 

“Don’t worry your Southern neurons. So what’s the moral, Brent Avery? The take away?”

 

“What I want you to do is to tell me how you came to be the way you are without Zachariah doing the story-telling. Why are you so angry at your tribe and country of birth, the world in general and even God himself? ”

 

“You would never understand that story, Brent. It isn’t set in places where the wind blows lightly on the plain. I feel you’d quickly miss the plot points.”

 

“Try me then, comrade. Believe it or not we’re not so different. God cries for all of us. And we all have served Solomon and the underground.”

 

“Oh really!?  I don’t believe that for a second. God spits on us with its indifference! I doubt that there are two people who could be more different than you and I. You have your Lord, your God. You serve him blindly like a sheep. My only higher power is the inevitable great revolt. I will get what I contribute.”

“They are one and the same these higher powers you speak of.”

 

“Really, Brent Avery? Do you think I believe that?”

 

“No. I don’t think you don’t know what you believe in anymore. Other than in the hate that never leaves you, other than the demons whispering inside you to pick up arms and kill without compunction for cause.”

 

The thin boy smiles with a shit eating, devilish grin.

 

“At least I can believe in my hate. But if faith is what governs us–you in your God, and me in the coming revolution–what makes you think we should see eye to eye on anything? You play the preacher pray boy and I’ll play the rebel with righteous cause.”

 

“You should confide in me because we all have nightmares about the things we can’t control. Your demons have taken their toll, Sebastian Adonaev. An ocean, a latest new name and some ten thousand miles later ain’t improved your sleep, boy. Is that truth? You report directly to Solomon and Andrew, but you do not grasp their plans.”

 

The coffee shop has all but emptied out, still the boy doesn’t answer. The Arab Christian is keeping it open for the sole prospect of what these Americans might buy. He will stay open all night as long as they keep drinking and eating things. The Carmel is sometimes slow on a Tuesday night. Especially since the Second Intifada began.

 

“You want to hear a wild yarn?” the boy asks.

 

“I want to hear a mostly true story, true to facts as you care to tell it.”

 

“There’s no such thing as a true, Brent. There’s only the mostly true, the heartfelt and remembered past. It’s a long story. It goes well with vodka and cigarettes. Told backwards and forwards, as if I had rehearsed it under the supervison of visionaries.”

 

“We’ve got all night, and as long it takes. You enlist me in your narrative and I can get you on a plane back to New York. You walk out on me, you’re wide fucking open. But you’ll have to settle for coffee. I’m not much of a drinking man and neither should you be. I’ve come a very long way to get you back to New York and I don’t have anywhere else I’d rather be, but don’t play me.”

 

            “Well, let us all hope this Arab can tolerate the sound of our English and takes limited mental notes. It begins with the tale of a rude boy on the last days of summer. It ends with a fancy hooker beaten half to death on a lonely desert high way. A black man hanging from a tree and an early deportation. And we know exactly who brought the towers down, and more importantly why.”

 

Tough talk from a seventeen year old, the new recruits are hard.

 

“The underground thanks you in advance for your unit’s heroism out here,” Brent Avery half whispers.

 

But the boy is still just a walking corpse with a demon inside him and the if the lord works in mysterious ways maybe Avery can him back to a safe house before someone, something or even himself will cut the story short, or worse change the underlying narrative. The preacher has been in this game closing in on forty years. He knows the investment in talent that went into creating Emma and went into Sebastian. He’s hoping the story is coherent enough to allow actions to be taken to secure the blood line of the prophets, sure that’s part of the work. But, really no one wants this to be a double funeral. Certainly quite enough people died horribly this week getting those secrets out of Jerusalem.

 

As this war would take a very long time, the saying went in Hebrish; long live the underground!

 

T W O, Haifa, Israel

 

“The Last of the Underground”

 

It’s November of 2001, and they are sitting in a Haifa hills café that is small and dimly lit, secluded from the street by a big black Bedouin sheet. The last light of day falls softly on the Carmel.

 

A fleeting splendor ripples over the harbor bay.

 

The boy is too thin to look American. His eyes have a lean and hungry look and are bad eyed and deeply sunken. They are filled with hate.  His clothing is worn and torn. He might even be mistaken for a Russian street kid. The dirty gray corduroy cap on his head is encrusted with sand and sweat. It conceals his natty brown hair and gives him the appearance of a child like Che Guevara, perhaps in his own mind alone. The loose, blue pin-stripe suit he wears had been kosher cut in Golder’s Green, but is now a patchwork of torn threads and desert dust. He removes a crumpled green pack of Noblisse cigarettes from the inner pocket, puts one in his mouth and lights it. He takes long drags.

 

It looks as though he might cry out at any moment, or lash out across the table throttling the chubby preacher with his bare hands. If he lets down his guard down long enough though, he might have to admit total defeat.

 

Occasionally the boy looks up to stare across the table at the man who is so determined to save him.  This true Christian soldier has a cherub-like face even though he is in his forties and sports a brown scraggly beard. The chubby man is a proselytizer disguised as a tour guide.  The man is uncertain whether this meeting will lead to more violent outbursts. His last encounter with this boy in Jerusalem was a debacle. The man says a quick prayer and begins to talk in his soft Midwestern drawl.

 

“I’m sorry,” the preacher says.

 

The boy looks up. His response is steady and calculated despite his condition.

 

“They fucked her within an inch of her life before they killed her. They ripped her to meat shreds. Her body, was cut into pieces. And then they dumped her along the southern highway as if they knew there wasn’t even any use in covering the thing up. Where was your man Jesus then? Not with the underground. What do you know of good hard pain?”

 

It is a sharp and biting response. There is a quick pause and the flash of yet another silent prayer as the preacher man’s eyes dart up. Apparently the kid’s partner was quite dead.

 

“I know plenty about plenty. And I’m sorry about Emma. Do you remember what I said that first evening we met Sebastian?”

 

The boy’s eyes focus intently. He is uncomfortable with anyone using his real name. No one has used his real name for a long time. Suddenly there is some frustration in his voice.

“Why do you insist on calling me that?”

 

“Because it is your name.”

 

“My name is Zachariah Artstien.”

 

The preacher give him a ‘boy don’t talk crazy’ look.

 

“Your real name is Sebastian Adonaev, you were born in New York City.”

 

“But there is no such a person anymore. If you wish to carry on this conversation you will not refer to me by the name of a man who is rotting in the ground,” he responds sharply.

 

“You know I don’t like to humor your devils.”

 

“You know I do not like to humor your just about anything,” the boy retorts. “You cannot save me. I don’t believe in your religion. You are wasting your time on me, yet again.”

 

“Please calm down, Sebastian. To the best of your ability. Emma would prefer that, I’d imagine. Having read all her work.”

 

The kid gets up to leave.

 

“Sit the fuck down!” That time he didn’t have a Southwesterly accent at all for some reason.

 

There is authority in the man’s voice for the first time.

 

“I told you the first time we met that I saw a well of pain in your eyes that was so deep that you might drown in your own sorrow. The night we met I laid awake praying for hours in the hope that you might find peace. It’s a long war, some of us need to survive to win it.”

 

“Redemption being some Nazerene, of course. Shut the fuck up.”

 

“Could you please stop?”

 

“What do you really know about me? About this Sebastian you’re trying so hard to save? I grow very tired of people these days. Especially those with penchants for doing the Lord’s work through lost children.  There is nothing you can say to me to make me forget everything that has happened.”

 

“You can forget the past, Sebastian. Even the immediate past. It’s actually part of your training to be able to do that incredibly well, invent a new reality, for now.”

 

“Well thank you, you quintessential, self-helping faith healer! I killed two people last night. The night before that they murdered up my partner. ”

 

The preacher stares into him and knows that cannot possibly be true. It’s not in the prophesy. Emma isn’t really dead. Something else is clearly going on with the Israelis and its time to bring the kid back home.

 

“Not everything you saw actually happened to you. You are not a corpse, but you have allowed hateful demons to possess your body and speak on your behalf. It is time to go home!”

 

“My home is a place near two flaming towers where men of finance sacrificed three thousand of my former country men to their false god and those that rule this country collaborated with them!”

 

His words sear the man’s heart as he continues.

 

“Thank you for telling me what everyone always tells me, just in case I had forgotten the misery and grind of things since yesterday? Perhaps another brilliant cliché is in order like ‘be myself?’  Or forgive my enemies perhaps! Remove the grey mask! I’ve been trying. I swear I have. In all honesty I think your coming here was an enormous waste of both of our time. I have no home at all, traded it for tea and fire.”

 

The man’s tone changes.

 

“I figure you tell lots of tales. Throw around theology at people and radical rhetoric. You’d tell your secrets to any stranger who’d care to listen if you thought it would teach them something. But that doesn’t make your secrets true.”

 

“I don’t follow you.”

 

“How many people speak out of your mouth boy? Who’s that imaginary friend whispering in your ear today? It’s gotten worse since you arrived here in the land hasn’t it? Can you tell anymore who is talking, you or the ghosts, you or the angels and devils?”

 

“Don’t worry your Southern neurons. So what’s the moral, Brent Avery? The take away?”

 

“What I want you to do is to tell me how you came to be the way you are without Zachariah doing the story-telling. Why are you so angry at your tribe and country of birth, the world in general and even God himself? ”

 

“You would never understand that story, Brent. It isn’t set in places where the wind blows lightly on the plain. I feel you’d quickly miss the plot points.”

 

“Try me then, comrade. Believe it or not we’re not so different. God cries for all of us. And we all have served Solomon and the underground.”

 

“Oh really!?  I don’t believe that for a second. God spits on us with its indifference! I doubt that there are two people who could be more different than you and I. You have your Lord, your God. You serve him blindly like a sheep. My only higher power is the inevitable great revolt. I will get what I contribute.”

“They are one and the same these higher powers you speak of.”

 

“Really, Brent Avery? Do you think I believe that?”

 

“No. I don’t think you don’t know what you believe in anymore. Other than in the hate that never leaves you, other than the demons whispering inside you to pick up arms and kill without compunction for cause.”

 

The thin boy smiles with a shit eating, devilish grin.

 

“At least I can believe in my hate. But if faith is what governs us–you in your God, and me in the coming revolution–what makes you think we should see eye to eye on anything? You play the preacher pray boy and I’ll play the rebel with righteous cause.”

 

“You should confide in me because we all have nightmares about the things we can’t control. Your demons have taken their toll, Sebastian Adonaev. An ocean, a latest new name and some ten thousand miles later ain’t improved your sleep, boy. Is that truth? You report directly to Solomon and Andrew, but you do not grasp their plans.”

 

The coffee shop has all but emptied out, still the boy doesn’t answer. The Arab Christian is keeping it open for the sole prospect of what these Americans might buy. He will stay open all night as long as they keep drinking and eating things. The Carmel is sometimes slow on a Tuesday night. Especially since the Second Intifada began.

 

“You want to hear a wild yarn?” the boy asks.

 

“I want to hear a mostly true story, true to facts as you care to tell it.”

 

“There’s no such thing as a true, Brent. There’s only the mostly true, the heartfelt and remembered past. It’s a long story. It goes well with vodka and cigarettes. Told backwards and forwards, as if I had rehearsed it under the supervison of visionaries.”

 

“We’ve got all night, and as long it takes. You enlist me in your narrative and I can get you on a plane back to New York. You walk out on me, you’re wide fucking open. But you’ll have to settle for coffee. I’m not much of a drinking man and neither should you be. I’ve come a very long way to get you back to New York and I don’t have anywhere else I’d rather be, but don’t play me.”

 

            “Well, let us all hope this Arab can tolerate the sound of our English and takes limited mental notes. It begins with the tale of a rude boy on the last days of summer. It ends with a fancy hooker beaten half to death on a lonely desert high way. A black man hanging from a tree and an early deportation. And we know exactly who brought the towers down, and more importantly why.”

 

Tough talk from a seventeen year old, the new recruits are hard.

 

“The underground thanks you in advance for your unit’s heroism out here,” Brent Avery half whispers.

 

But the boy is still just a walking corpse with a demon inside him and the if the lord works in mysterious ways maybe Avery can him back to a safe house before someone, something or even himself will cut the story short, or worse change the underlying narrative. The preacher has been in this game closing in on forty years. He knows the investment in talent that went into creating Emma and went into Sebastian. He’s hoping the story is coherent enough to allow actions to be taken to secure the blood line of the prophets, sure that’s part of the work. But, really no one wants this to be a double funeral. Certainly quite enough people died horribly this week getting those secrets out of Jerusalem.

 

As this war would take a very long time, the saying went in Hebrish; long live the underground!

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