Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4140)

Sitting Thirty-Three

Wednesday night in the desert, although the unforgiving wasteland knows no season or hour.

Iz and Pal sat and watched as the sun set behind the hill. A burgeoning, chilly breeze whizzed its way past their ears, tingling their spines, causing them to draw closer to one another. It was the night before the day when everything…

Well, it seemed that everything would happen.

Wednesday had been a glorious day, chock-full of soccer, food and laughter, wrestling with each other, and questions designed to “stump your friend.” It was an ongoing Olympian marathon, trying to outdo the other fellow—gleefully making fun of each other—short of humiliation.

They had come to terms with one realization. This would be their last night in the desert, one way or another. Tomorrow they would either be overtaken by the brute force of the interfering mob, forced to return to their homes, or they would select their final option of dying together in the sand.

Emotions were colliding—joy desperately trying to keep its head up as sadness was tugging away.

Iz suggested they take this last night to eat up all the remaining food. He posed a provocative question. “Is it possible to eat until you puke?” he asked Pal, sporting a grin, but trying to maintain a certain decorum of scientific intrigue.

Pal did not know.

So the two boys were on a mission. They ate and they ate. It was not long until they were full, stuffed to the top of their eyebrows. Further eating was becoming painful. Actually, the sight of food began to make them sick. But still—they pressed on.

They devoured.

At length their throats were reluctant to swallow so they drank until their bodies sloshed. Managing some huge burps, they tried to eat some more. There were cramps, and attempts at laughter, which quickly turned into moans of pain from stomachs that were bloated from overuse.

Food supplies were lessening, and they were down to cans of provisions which were unidentifiable or deemed distasteful. At this point, Iz dug into the pile, pulled out a can of sardines, peeled back the tin lid and held up one of the yellow, drippy fishies. Reading the can, Iz proclaimed, “This one is in mustard sauce!”

That’s all Pal required. The thought of a fish swimming around in mustard was enough to cause him to unleash the burden lurking in his entrails. He threw up, laughed, coughed, threw up again, giggled—and went for a third round as Iz dangled the nasty little fish in front of his nose.

Yet it was when Iz actually ate the sardine that Pal exploded with what would be his final deluge of urping. This prompted Iz—overcome by both the scene and the smell of the fish—to join in the party, uncapping his own barrage of bellowing bounty from below.

It was a sight that would cause a mother to weep, a priest to fast and pray, and anyone feeling the least little bit queasy to join up and join in.

But to Iz and Pal, the brothers in the desert, it was the greatest fun in the world.

Regaining their composure, they shoveled sand over the remains and lay down on the desert, trying to recover from the ache of regurgitation. Breathing heavily, staring at the night sky, they still managed an occasional giggle.

This was their moment. They were desperately grasping onto it with all their might.

 

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4133)

Sitting Thirty-Two

Sergeant Minioz lay on his bunk, confined to his barracks, awaiting the outcome of the charges levied against him: absent without leave and dereliction of duty.

Plenty of time to think.

The first realization was that if he had used the time two weeks earlier to be just a little more reflective, he might not be sequestered, trying to figure out if the stink was coming from the room or from him.

Fresh in his mind was the questioning he endured from his major, a petty young officer with a jaw of granite and the disposition of a camel (if it had hemorrhoids.)

He remembered it well.

“What is your rank?” barked the major.

That one was easy. The stripes on Minioz’s shoulder told it all.

“Serial number,” came the next demand.

The sergeant had that one memorized. He also got the right platoon, company, commander and the days of the week complete and accurate.

Then the questions got tougher. The major drew in a deep breath and released it slowly, as he queried, “Have you now, or have you ever lost any military issue?”

Now there was the heart of the matter. Minioz paused for a second and decided it best for his cause to focus on the word “lost”—because certainly, he had never “lost” anything. After all, having something snatched by a little brat was not having it “lost,” right?

Minnioz spat out as quickly as possible so as not to appear tentative. “No, sir, I have never lost any military issue.”

The major spit right back. “Are you presently in possession of your entire weapon stockpile?”

Once again, the sergeant breathed a sigh of relief, thankful for the words “presently” and “in possession.” For Minioz had rectified his lack of a hand grenade by purchasing one at an Army surplus store in the city. It did not work—disarmed—and he hoped he would never have to demonstrate its purpose and power. But still, it hung impressively from his belt.

So the answer was simple. Yes, presently he was in possession of all of his military weapons. Of course, he did not volunteer the considerable span of time he was absent some hardware, which he had tracked down in the desert to two little punks who had outsmarted him and nearly killed them all.

The delay between questions was maddening. A bead of sweat broke on Minioz’s brow. He tried to stop the dribble but after all—how does one do that?

And then, the next challenge: “If you are in possession of all of your weapons, why was a report filed that you were attempting to retrieve a hand grenade which you alleged had been stolen from you?”

The brain of Sergeant Minioz exploded like a volcano. Report filed? Whom had he told? Who knew? Who had the evidence to derail him if he lied?

Of course, it’s very difficult to contemplate the correct answer without appearing evasive, so as quickly as possible, the sergeant retorted, “I know of no report, and know of no alleged charge and know of no one who would make such a claim.”

Minioz managed to stop himself before incoherency took over his reply. The fussy major stared at him but said nothing. Had he gotten by with it? Was his answer so twisted that the major was afraid to disassemble it?

But apparently, it was not enough. Obviously, the major knew more than Minioz thought he knew. Now it seemed that his superior officer was just stalling to watch him squirm.

The sergeant chose silence, limited his squirming and suffered through what was now a stream of perspiration.

After a long pause of scrutiny, the major spoke again. “So that is your answer?” he thundered.

Minioz widened his eyeballs to try to keep away some tears of fear. “Entirely, for now,” he piped back.

The major didn’t miss a beat. “So why were you absent from your post without leave?”

Minioz was not prepared to answer, but grateful to get away from the subject of the hand grenade. He cleared his throat and spoke slowly to the major. “Personal problems forbade me, sir, from arriving at camp at the designated time. Poor judgment prevented me from reporting my status, and utter stupidity kept me away a little longer out of fear of punishment.”

Sudden silence. The sergeant muted a smile. It was quite an answer, threatening truth. Matter of fact, in the history of all military justice, it might have been the best response ever offered.

The major nodded. The answer had even impressed Old Sour Britches. “One final question,” he posed. “Is there any truth to the rumor that a hand grenade is loose and available among the citizenry, which found its point of origin in our camp?”

“Sir,” said Minioz, “I do not know the whereabouts of every hand grenade in this camp. I do not want to be so presumptuous as to suggest that such an absence is not possible. All I know is that my hand grenade is hanging from my belt, and ready for further orders.”

Minnioz felt horrible. He knew he had lied. It wasn’t a big whopper, but certainly, a stinky fish laying on the dock.

But he thought to himself, “Is it really a lie, when the alternative is so dastardly and detrimental to all parties involved? Sometimes the truth is just a sword ready to behead everyone in the room.”

Sergeant Minioz was busy trying to make sense of his own failure. Whatever the answer, he was going to stick to his story. He chuckled to himself. After all, he had just purchased one dud to replace the dud the government had issued him. 

 

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4126)

Sitting Thirty-One

And then all at once, an interruption came to rob the attention from the cause. The priest sank to his knees, seemingly overcome by the desert heat. He grabbed his head as the perspiration poured off his face. The gathered horde of critics moved to his side, deeply concerned for his well-being.

“You see what you’ve done, boys? I’m very tired of your disrespect,” said the suit.

The robe stepped forward threateningly. “You must learn to hold your tongue, young man.”

And the priest, still on his knees breathing heavily, voiced his objection. “My collar does not pinch me.”

He turned to those holding him up, finishing. “I will be fine, my brothers. Just a little too much heat.”

All the adults turned with one disapproving gaze in the direction of the pair of renegade escapees.

Pal stepped forward. “Listen, you should not be here. He’s sick. Just leave us alone. If you are truly men of God, as you say, you need to realize that there’s nothing wrong with love between two friends.”

“Honor your father and mother,” replied the suit.

All the men vigorously nodded their heads in agreement. They had finally found a common axiom which they could all agree upon.

Iz and Pal looked at the four men and then back at each other. Trying to talk to these immovable statues was a fruitless task. It seemed they were speaking different languages.

“Understand this,” said blue jeans. “We were sent to resolve this peacefully. We mean you no harm. We’re not trying to overtake you. But when they come with the rally, they will not be as nice as we have been to you.”

“Why can’t you just leave us alone?” demanded Pal.

“Because you are children,” responded the collar.

“Weren’t you a child once?” queried Iz.

Now standing solidly on his feet, he replied, “Yes. But I’ve put away childish things.” His face was still flushed with crimson.

Iz stopped and held his hands up in the air, requiring a reprieve. Several times the collar, the robe, the blue jeans and the suit tried to speak, but he covered his ears.

When Iz saw that their lips didn’t move any more and silence had settled in, he said, “I guess we’re just not ready to put away childish things—because you grown-ups pack away all of their dreams along with those childish things. We are not ready to be dreamless.”

The robe screamed at the top of his voice, “Is it true there’s a hand grenade?”

Pal was very nervous, but somehow or another managed to remain cool. He glanced over at Iz, who displayed an unsettling, icy stare. “Would you like to see it?” he asked. “Or would you like to hear it?”

The men were not willing to overwhelm the two boys—not at the risk of their own lives. The meeting was over. The committee stared at the unflinching features of the young men. One by one, the invaders turned and walked slowly down the hill.

Collar spoke as he left. “May it never be said that we didn’t try to warn you.”

Pal yelled after them as they trudged along. “How about Joseph and his brothers? They lived in Egypt and lived in peace—Jew and Arab. Did anyone hold a rally and try to stop them? Were they wrong, Mullah?”

There was no more response.

After all, the mission was not about discovering the truth or even discussing the facts. It wasn’t even about redeeming the time. The whole goal had been to get the little boys to do what little boys were supposed to do.

Yet what do you do when you’re old and the young will not listen? What is your recourse when boys grow into men without your permission?

Iz and Pal stood and watched as the men finished their walk and disappeared.

The rally would be in two days. That meant there were forty-eight hours of freedom left—guaranteed space for Iz and Pal.

They decided not to waste a second of it thinking about religious figures who frowned and never smiled…and also resembled melting snow that had no place in the desert.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4119)

Sitting Thirty

There was an attempt at a silent meeting of the minds.

Those melting in the desert heat who were over eighteen years of age peered at one another, trying to decide who should speak up next to foil the efforts of the little ingrates. In the meantime, Iz frowned. He had grown weary of the conversation.

Before the inquisitors could come to terms on whose turn it was to interrogate the boys, Iz spoke up. “Here—I have some questions. Listen, if you can answer them, then I will certainly stay silent and receive what you have to say. Let me start with you, Rabbi. Are Ishmael and Isaac brothers—both sons of Abraham?”

The shirt and tie cleared his throat. “Well, actually, half-brothers. Abraham had Ishmael with a slave girl and Isaac was born under the true promise of God.”

“E-e-e-e-h-h-h, there’s the buzzer,” said Iz. “Wrong again. They’re either brothers or they’re not. And actually, Ishmael was Isaac’s older brother. Don’t you think God knew he needed an older brother? Weren’t they supposed to stay together?”

The mullah stepped forward. “My answer would have been quite different…”

“Yes,” Pal interrupted. “I know your answer. I learned it early on. You believe Ishmael was a child of promise, too, and he was mistreated by the Jews and forced into exile, where God raised him up to be equal. But here’s my question, Mullah. Doesn’t that make him the underdog? Aren’t you always teaching that we have to struggle to live up to the same standard as the Jews instead of having our own identity, our own mission?”

The mullah chuckled. “You are so young. You do not understand, and I don’t have the time to educate you.”

“Next question,” said Iz, inserting himself. “This one goes to the guy with the funny collar. Was your Jesus a Jew, and if he was, why didn’t he come as an Arab instead?”

The collar spoke. “By the way, I am Father Shannon, and you’re right. I believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ, and we do believe Jesus was a Jew…”

Pal raised his hand. “So why should I care about him? Why do I want another Jewish guy to be in charge of me, telling me I’m not part of the promise of God?”

Blue jeans interceded. “Actually, according to Christian theology, Jesus was Jewish on his mother’s side, but spent most of his early years in Egypt, as an Arab. Lots of theologians believe God wanted Jesus’s disciples to take the message to the Jews, Arabs and Afrikaans first. Well, they really didn’t. They ended up taking it to the Jews, Greeks and Romans.”

“You see?” screamed Iz. “They screwed up, and because they screwed up, you all got different names for the same things that end up doing nothing for anybody. And Pal and I get messed up because we don’t get to be friends, ’cause you guys can’t even agree on what clothes to wear. One of you’s got a collar pinching your throat, another is dressed like a businessman, you over there—well, you’re wearing a robe like some sort of shepherd, and dude—you’ve got on blue jeans, trying to pretend like you’re young.”

“I hear a lot of anger,” said Blue jeans.

“I see a lot of stupid,” said Pal.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4105)

Sitting Twenty-Eight

All at once, Karin was chilled by a startling realization. She considered herself to be an intelligent, astute, and even clever discerner of human emotions, especially being able to separate the false from the true, with some regularity. Now she found herself completely overwhelmed by the common sense of two twelve-year-old boys, whose argument not only left her perplexed, but nearly breathless with its sincerity.

Was she going crazy? Had she spent too much time in the desert with these two youngsters? Or perhaps it was just her own internal questioning about the hypocrisy of the society surrounding her, surfacing and finding voice in the two adolescent rabble-rousers.

But there was no doubt about it—Karin Koulyea, newspaper woman extraordinaire, was stymied. She realized that Iz and Pal could not be coaxed back to their former lives through the presentation of treats or the sum token of receiving a little more freedom.

She took a deep breath and then growled at them with the most gravitas she could muster. “You see, here’s the problem. They are grown-ups. They have earned the right to be stupid. The years that have passed, that have grayed their hair, have also given them the privilege to do stupid things. I’m not telling you I agree, but I am telling you that nobody cares what my opinion may be on the matter. Guys, they don’t have to make sense. Of course hate is stupid! But hate is what they always do when they run out of ideas. And if you ask me, government is what people do when they feel they’ve lost control. If you’ll just hear me for a second, I, Karin, your friend, am just telling you that they are not going to let you continue to be your own little country out here in the sand.”

Iz interrupted. “I suppose you’re talking about the rally.”

Karin was taken aback. “Iz, how did you find out about the rally?”

He just shook his head. “They wrap some of our food in newspaper, so as we sit and eat the cheese and bread, we read the local news. We understand that next Thursday, they plan on coming out here and taking us away.”

Karin sat for a moment. Pal started to speak but Iz reached over and put a hand on his leg, encouraging his silence.

Finally Karin asked, “So what are you going to do?”

Iz lifted his hand, motioning toward Pal, giving him the moment. “You just don’t get it, lady. What do you mean, ‘what are we gonna do?’ We’re gonna stay. They’re the ones who are going to cause trouble. So as long as we don’t fight, they’ll end up looking like the troublers.”

Iz interrupted, “And we will end up looking like the heroes.” The two boys exchanged a high five.

Karin didn’t know what she felt about their statements. There was an optimism that might have a grain or two of truth, but deep in her heart, she was aware that the staunch purveyors of religion and culture would never be satisfied without dominating.

She reached out and took each boy by the hand. “They won’t let you be what you want to be—mainly because they all want to be something else but have convinced themselves that their God is mad at anyone who is truly happy.”

There was a moment of stillness, almost resembling understanding. Suddenly, Iz crawled away on all fours, across the desert sand, stumbling to his feet, and walked a few paces away. Turning, he said, with tears in his voice, “What good is it if we start something out here and don’t finish it? How are we any different from them? They make peace treaties, and the first time it becomes hard to follow, they drop it. They make promises to love and care, and then they just forget.”  He stepped toward Karin. “We will not forget. And we will never give up.”

Karin struggled to her feet, stood and pointed at Iz. “Yes, you will. Because they will make you give up. They will defeat you and humiliate you and make you seem even younger and smaller than you really are.”

Karin turned to include Pal in her words. “Maybe when you’re men someday, you can change the world. But nobody changes the world with a child’s hand.”

Pal leaped to his feet and pointed to Iz and back to himself. “Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘a little child shall lead them?’” he asked defiantly.

“The Bible says a helluva lot of things,” Karin scoffed, “but the Bible always gets shouted down by folks with money and power.”

The three stood in the desert, exchanging glances. Slowly, Iz stepped over and sat back down. He looked off in the distance as if speaking to the universe. “I don’t care about that. We have a plan.”

He quickly glanced over at Pal, who widened his eye sockets to well back the tears. Pal nodded and added, “Yes. A plan.”

Karin pivoted and turned to them, a little bit shaken by their tone of voice. “Well, come on. You can tell me what the plan is.”

As if on cue, Iz and Pal stood and began to kick the soccer ball back and forth, running in circles around Karin, bouncing the ball against her legs, off her hips and then, her head, closing in nearer and nearer to her.

“Quit it!” she screamed, angry and frightened. But they didn’t. They kept kicking the ball, dancing in a circle around her. She stumbled, nearly falling, and tried to push back at them, but they kept kicking the ball, encircling her. They were laughing.

“All right, you little jerks!” she screamed. “I’m out of here!”

Gaining her balance, she rushed past them and stomped away, but as she left, she turned and said, “This doesn’t change anything. You can chase me away, but you can’t chase the goddamn world away.”

The two boys continued their kicking and playing, ignoring her words. When they were sure that she was far down the hill and would not return, Iz stopped, wiping the sweat from his brow. He turned to Pal, panting, and said, “She’s just like all the rest. She doesn’t understand. No one understands.”

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4098)

Sitting Twenty-Seven

Karin caught wind of it and told her editor about the planned rally. He didn’t respond—just sprouted a tiny smile.

She was not comforted. She didn’t know what to do. She wanted to press her editor to gain more involvement from him, but it seemed he was more cynical than she was—and she knew that her negativity was beyond salvation.

So Karin decided to go see the boys. She sat down and shared a hamburger with them, asking a few idle questions. When she felt relaxed enough to broach the subject, she inquired, “What are you guys gonna do?”

“About what?” asked Pal.

Karin was perturbed. She was fully aware that they knew much more than they let on. “Do you really think this can go on?” she challenged.

Iz responded. “You mean us staying here in the desert?” He had that pesky little smile on his face, warning of his cunning.

“Yes,” said Karin in exasperation.

Pal spoke up. “We’ve talked about it.” He glanced over at Iz, carefully.

Karin leaned forward. “Well, I figured you had. I mean, you must be aware that people will not allow you to continue to do this.”

Iz objected. “Not allow us?”

Karin tossed her hamburger to the side. “Yes, Iz. To most people this is just foolishness.  You know—silliness? Boys at play?”

Iz stood, throwing his hamburger on the ground. “I see,” he began. “We’re silly. They have fought wars for thousands of years and we’re silly. They hate each other, and we’re silly. They blow up buses—and we’re silly. They try to keep us apart from each other, and we’re silly. They kill over oil and little tiny pieces of desert—and we’re silly.”

Pal leaped to his feet. “I don’t think we’re silly, lady. We may not have a plan, but who does? Are you trying to tell me that the Israelis or the Palestinians or even Americans have some sort of plan? Haven’t they just all run away, and found their own space to pout? Just like us—they’re over there in a corner, playing, hoping everything works out. How, tell me, are they any different from us? We’re just boys. We do boy things. Okay—we do them in a boy way. But they’re supposed to be men, and some of them women. You want us to take the blame for their stupid.”

Iz interrupted. “Yeah, lady newspaper. How are they different from us?”

 

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4092)

Sitting Twenty-Six

Two weeks passed.

Uneasy time.

Karin went out to the desert on multiple occasions. The boys seemed fine. There was plenty of food, plenty of play. She brought along soap and suggested they use some of the water to wash off the dirt and grime. They seemed better, and they also smelled better.

Iz and Pal had even begun to read some of the books that had been offered to them. They schooled one another by creating math problems and brain teasers. Everything seemed weirdly normal—eerie. Yet deep in her heart, Karin knew this brief hiatus from reality would certainly not continue.

And then it happened. The worst possible scenario.

Somebody was campaigning for some sort of office in a nearby district, trying to win a seat in some sort of assembly. This candidate decided he needed a cause.

For the picture taken by Matthew had gradually eked its way into the news media, even gaining the attention of some of the larger wire services.

Even though initially the Iz-and-Pal-escapade had been viewed by the public as a lark—a feature story—all at once things changed. It was no longer just two boys cavorting in the desert until they grew tired of each other. Politics entered and changed the scene.

Certainly it only takes a politician to turn an innocent situation into a global fiasco. The candidate, who was desperately seeking a cause, blew the whole matter out of proportion. He was convinced that a combination of issues prevailed: children’s lack of respect for their parents mingled with Jewish and Palestinian frustrations about unresolved causes, aggravated by threats from young ones who needed to be returned to a subservient profile. “Someone should do something about it!”

This statement is often the beginning of much that troubles us in the world. Who knows? Maybe many of the things that bother us would soon disappear, either through boredom or just the changing of the guard. But when someone takes on these things as a cause, then we are propelled on a merciless journey of discovering what’s right and what’s wrong—an odyssey fraught with bantering, bickering and eventually, Bolshevism. After all, Fascism is just some ugly, opinionated adult way of stealing someone’s toy and forcing a new way to play with it.

The candidate railed until it was decided there would be a rally held in the desert near the encampment where Iz and Pal had established their playground. At the rally, speeches would be made, followed by an active attempt to “rescue” the boys from their irresponsible outing. The police would be there, and the parents of both young men would be encouraged to take the children back to the safekeeping of hearth and home.

It was a disaster in the making.

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