Lost Tribe: Jewish Fiction from the Edge

Lost Tribe: Jewish Fiction from the Edge

by Paul Zakrzewski


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060533465
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 08/05/2003
Series: Harper Perennial
Pages: 576
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

Paul Zakrzewski (pronounced Zak-shef-ski) is awriter, editor, and literary event curator. As director of literary programs for the Jewish Community Center in Manhattan, he runs a popular reading series featuring new and provocative Jewish writers at the KGB Bar in the East Village. He is also an editor at Heeb magazine, a Jewish pop culture collective, which was nominated for BestNew Title in the 2002 Utne Reader Alternative Press Awards. He lives in Brooklyn, New York, and can be reached at www.lost-tribe-fiction.com.

Read an Excerpt

Lost Tribe

Jewish Fiction from the Edge
By Paul Zakrzewski

Harper Collins Publishers

Copyright © 2003 Paul Zakrzewski All right reserved. ISBN: 0060533463

Chapter One

The Last One Way

Nathan Englander

Electrolysis promises permanence, hair killed at the roots. As far as Gitta could tell, in eighteen years of weekly visits not a single hair had been dissuaded from growing. Still she crossed to the Italian edge of Royal Hills each week and lay back on the cracked Naugahyde table in Lili's makeshift salon. They talked. Lili shocked and plucked. Then Gitta made her way home red faced and tender, the crisp sting of witch hazel humming in electrified pores.

Gitta never blamed Lili, not her stiffening fingers or boxy outdated machine. She never expected results. Her life was one of infinite patience and unfinished business, an existence of relations drawn out.

Quick she didn't look for either. The only quick she had known was her shiddach. One flit of a date in the lobby of a Manhattan hotel and the next month married. For that bit of economy she had paid with eighteen years of miserable marriage and eighteen years separated, waiting for Berel to give her a divorce. She was Royal Hills's agunah, their woman in waiting - trapped in Jewish marriage by loopholeless laws. Not to think that New York State did for her better. A state with no no-fault divorce.Even the blessing of the gentile court she couldn't get. Her reasons weren't prima facie. The judge was not impressed. What more should she have to say than she didn't want to be married? Idiot rules. No-fault in itself an idiot concept. Anyone who's experienced will tell you the same: when a marriage fails, always, always there is fault.

Up on the stool, switches flicked, the circular bulb of the magnifying light crackled while the gases fired up and raced round the tube. Lili pushed the light into place - Gitta's halo. She then witch-hazeled the glass center, witch-hazeled the needle, witch-hazeled Gitta, and leaned in.

"I went to the kabbalist," Gitta said, "went to the rabbi. Useless both."

"And who said useless from the start?"

"Still, I thought," Gitta said. "Better to try the others one more time. Mystical numbers, I brought. A kabbalist's feast. Married at eighteen for eighteen years. And now eighteen years waiting for a divorce. One second it took to explain. Clear as I'm telling you."

"Easy numbers," Lili agreed.

"I got the same as they've been giving all along," Gitta said. "The rabbi wanting to know if there was someone else, if I'd fallen in love, if, God forbid, I was pregnant. The kabbalist, no better. A blessing at the end, much mazal and a healed marriage and a house full of children. Fifty-four years old and wishing me children. And me with a hot flash in the middle."

"They're waiting for Berel to die of old age. They'll bring you a divorce when they can trail in the mud off his grave along with it. Enough is enough. If he needs to die for you to live, then see to it yourself." For emphasis, Lili sank in the needle and hit the pedal twice, shock-shocking Gitta and tweezing out the freed hair.

"I picture it done, sometimes. Berel face-down behind the supermarket drowned in a puddle, or in his apartment with a broken neck, by a broken ladder, an empty fixture hanging from the ceiling, and a lightbulb broken in his hand. Accidents. Who would guess? No trail from him to me, from me to you, from you to a husband with a cousin who knows people who do such things."

"It's a simple transaction, Gitta. Berel's life spent to buy back yours. At this point, a fair price to pay."

"Terrible. Terrible talk. There is still the matchmaker. A saner idea."

"Who's been saying matchmaker from the start? You want business done, do it in a business way. You don't go looking for some rabbi's sympathy, you go to the source. If this guy made the match, let him undo it, and let him know there are more permanent solutions. Trust me, it's not killing but the prospect of killing that gets things done."

"And if it doesn't?"

"Then there is killing. Win-win situation. For once. For Gitta. Win-win."

Looking at her now, Liebman remembered her then. He was a pious man and not one for staring. But the matchmaker, well, he is part of a highly specialized field, like the doctor. He is forced to look, to see, with honest eyes.

His memory confirmed what he saw before him: a woman not easy to match.

This was not just a cruel judgment, not because so maybe one of her eyes was a little higher than the other, and one of her breasts a whole lot lower so that it pointed out and down and looked like it was embarrassed on its own about the condition and trying to sneak behind Gitta's back to hide. It had nothing even to do with her trademark hirsuteness.

What Little Liebman could not afford to ignore was her nature. A generous person might pretend not to notice. But it's the matchmaker's job to know. Gitta Floog had always been different, and it threatened everyone. And for all the unfairness she'd seen in her life, Royal Hills somehow looked upon her thankfully. A sad case, but always someone has to suffer. Better it was Gitta. Somehow, underneath, they thought it. Gitta got what she deserved.

For this prevailing, unspoken feeling, Liebman felt worst of all. In thirty-six years of successful matchmaking she was his only agunah. And to his only agunah he owed his success.

Little Liebman had long trailed Heshel the Matchmaker begging a chance to make a match on his own ...


Excerpted from Lost Tribe by Paul Zakrzewski
Copyright © 2003 by Paul Zakrzewski
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

Part 1Love and Sex After Portnoy
The Last One Way3
Several Anecdotes About My Wife22
Knitting One66
Bachelor Party146
Part 2Dreams, Prayers, and Nightmares
Who Knows Kaddish171
A Dream of Sleep192
Barbarians at the Gates213
Ordinary Pain248
Die Grosse Liebe265
Dreaming in Polish281
Walt Kaplan Reads Hiroshima, March 1947293
In Memory of Chanveasna Chan, Who Is Still Alive300
How to Make It to the Promised Land325
The Argument345
Part 3Mystics, Seekers, and Fanatics
Bee Season375
A Poland, a Lithuania, a Galicia400
Ten Plagues438
Seekers in the Holy Land456
The Very Rigid Search476
Goodbye, Evil Eye505
The King of the King of Falafel527
The Contributors537

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