Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4008)

Sitting Fourteen

Left alone.

Young boys run on energy, not smarts. They are fully capable of performing the duties of an army but are minus the insight to know where to march and when to struggle.

Pal paced around the tiny campsite. He flailed his hands in the air, enraged with everything he saw. “Somebody is gonna know we don’t got nothing!” he screamed.

Iz sat quietly, stilled by the circumstances, in what seemed to be a mountain of resolution, but most probably was just a crumbling hillside of destruction.

Karin stood stunned, staring at the two boys, trying to decide what her duty was going to have to be in this youthful fiasco. She needed to be decisive, yet she didn’t trust her own take on the events.

She realized that she should try to talk the boys into going home.  But then she considered Iz. What causes a twelve-year-old boy to contemplate death? Could any of that responsibility be laid at the doorstep of his family?

Then propriety chased down her musings. They certainly needed to go to their parents. These boys did not belong in the desert. If she left them there, the soldier might return with his buddies, to drive them back into town in disgrace, or even for punishment.

The whole thing was so crude and so nasty. It all could blow up and just promote more smugness in this region already permeated with piety.

But in her heart, Karin was a journalist. Her ethics forbade her to be a party to façade. She couldn’t allow herself to become the third wheel in a doomed game destined to produce nothing.

She considered—who would everybody blame? Of course, her. Here she was, out on a lark, trying to get a story. Some scoop to help her maintain her edge as a lead writer for a dead periodical. But she wasn’t looking for a cause. She didn’t want to become “Mother” to the Middle East version of Leopold and Loeb. All she wanted was a story.

Unfortunately, she had fumbled her way into a tragedy.

Pal finally wearied himself of pacing, leaped upon Iz, and the two boys were rolling in the sand, fighting, growing more angry with each flip and punch. So Karin shook herself awake from her deliberations and ran over to pull the boys apart.

“What are you guys doing?” she screamed. Somehow she managed to squeeze her body in between the wrestling pair.

“He won’t talk to me!” Pal spat.

Iz said nothing, just continuing to thrust at the air with his arms.

Karin lost all patience. She threw both boys to the ground and straddled them. “You’re going to listen to me!” she proclaimed. “I don’t know what you think you’re achieving by beating each other to a pulp. Hell, I don’t know why you’re disappointed that the hand grenade didn’t blow you to smithereens. I don’t know why you’re both so damned nuts. But here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to sit here until everyone is calm and I can sprout some sort of an idea.”

The boys were mad, their chests heaving. They wiggled and squirmed, but Karin’s firm thighs held them in check. They tried a series of insults.

“I hate you.”

“You really are fat, lady.”

“You smell bad.”

Karin laughed at them. At length, the twitching ceased as the young gents lay panting in a pile of exhaustion.

Slowly Karin released, dismounting her captives. “Here’s what we’re gonna do,” she said. “First, let me tell you what I think. There is nothing we can possibly to do determine what that soldier is going to tell or not tell. Secondly, I think the best thing is for me to get a ride back to town—somehow or another—and just talk to my editor and find out if I can get someone else with some brains, or someone maybe willing to share the pain, to become involved in this whole mess. And finally—this is the most important. You guys need to rest and promise me that you won’t claw each other’s eyes out.”

Iz was insulted. “We are friends,” he retorted.

Karin was relieved. He sounded a bit more normal.

Confident that they could no longer kill each other with a grenade and might be too worn out to box each other to death, she headed down the hill toward the nearest path that resembled a road, hoping to find some vagabond with wheels, who might be willing to pick up a disheveled female.

It could be a wait.

But she knew the next stop was her editor.

 

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3959)

Sitting Seven

Karin Koulyea was a reporter at the local newspaper. She was American educated, a tad Bohemian for the surrounding elders, very independent and unwilling to cast her lot with either Arab or Jew.

She dubbed herself “the Bedouin Babe.” After many confrontations and disagreements, the title had deteriorated among her male counterparts at the water cooler, into “the Bedouin Beast.”

She was over-qualified for her job and certainly not on the fast track for promotion in a Middle Eastern culture that viewed women with a similar worth as a stinky herd of goats.

She refused to wear the traditional veil and covering, even for special occasions when her editor felt it would benefit the image of the paper. She wasn’t tempestuous. Perhaps in any other situation in any other city of the world, she might be viewed as a rather dowdy wallflower, but in this war-torn, religiously burdened town, she was Margaret Sanger with a little bit of Bonnie Parker thrown in.

It was ten o’clock in the morning and Karin was bored. She didn’t like coffee, although she drank it. She was on her third cup of the unlikable fluid when a slender boy walked in carrying a note. He placed it on her desk and turned to leave. She attempted to communicate with him verbally, but every hackneyed dialect she knew seemed to perplex him more. She finally let him go and decided to read the note.

To Paper Lady: There are two boys living in the desert, one a Jew and one an Arab. They will not go home. They are dangerous.

There was no signature.

She read it over twice. Two boys. Desert. Arab and Jew. Dangerous? It seemed like a practical joke. Or perhaps worse—a trap.

There was this one photographer always taking pictures of her, minus the necessary veil and covering. He giggled and wagged his finger at her, taunting, “I’ve got you now!”

It was bizarre and disconcerting. Maybe this was just another chance for a “photo op” by Raoul the Ghoul.

She threw the note away, paused, and then chased it to the waste basket, where it was stuck to a half-eaten Danish. She needed a story. Nothing else had come in. She popped up, strolled out of the room, stopped off at her editor’s office and said, “I’ll be back this afternoon.”

“Here’s an idea,” stated the gruff voice from the other room. “How about you bring back a story?”

Karin laughed. “What? And make you go over to a second page of print?” She quickly scurried down the stairs and out the door.

Of course, the first question was, where in the desert? “Desert” by its very nature opened up too many possibilities. She decided to go back inside and grab the keys to the old jeep the paper used for transportation, and start riding around asking people if they had heard or seen anything.

It took half-a-dozen or more confused passers-by, but eventually a bus driver told her that he had seen two boys—just yesterday. Karin put together some rudimentary directions from his memory and headed off toward the location.

She shook her head. How could two boys in the desert be dangerous? Should she take some sort of weapon? But why? Was she going to kill them? She thought not. She could read the headline: “Newspaper Woman Slaughters Two Boys in the Desert Because Not Wearing a Veil.”

She picked up a little petrol and supplies and was on her way, feeling a bit foolish, but intrigued, all in the same thought.

Hot day. She stopped for more water and bread. Who knows? Maybe this was her big story.


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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3952)

Sitting Six

It took Iz and Pal a good solid two minutes to figure out where they were when they woke up in the desert, and another good five minutes to negotiate what direction to roll, to untangle themselves from their cocoon.

It was already hot.

Sweat was beading all over their bodies, and after two days absence from bathing, odor was aplenty. After all, when stink is near, grumpy will appear.

“You roll this way and I’ll stay still.” Iz was already sporting some attitude.

Pal objected. “I don’t know what you mean by ‘this way,’ because you have no hands to show me. They’re stuck in the tent.”

Iz heaved a deep sigh. “Look at the direction my head is nodding.”

“Would that be roll towards your nod, or opposite your nod?” replied Pal with a bit of whine.

Iz was done giving direction. He began a series of frantic twists, turns, shimmies and shakes, until the tent ripped, and he slithered his way to the safety of freedom.

Pal was angry. “Now look what you’ve done. You ripped it. What good is a ripped tent?”

“What good are two guys trapped in a tent?” Iz said, standing to his feet.

Pal wiggled two or three times and stood up as well. “You stink,” he stated.

Iz rolled his eyes. “That’s good,” he said. “It was difficult to believe you were producing all the odor.”

They jumped at each other and commenced to wrestling, at first with a bit of anger, and then, as the heat took over, with more pure silliness. They finally fell to the side in choked laughter. Pal was gasping for air.

“Oh, yes, this is really smart,” he said. “When you stink, don’t have any water, it’s always good to wrestle, get sweaty and thirsty.”

“I have a little water left,” said Iz coyly.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” shouted Pal. “Where is it?”

“I wasn’t holding out,” said Iz defensively. “I just didn’t know how to divide it. I don’t know when we’ll get water again.”

A quiet fell over the boys. How could they continue their adventure without food and water? Yet how could they ever go home without looking weak and stupid?

Iz considered. “Maybe your parents will bring some water.”

Pal shook his head. “It’s just my father. And as I told you, my father will never come here.”

“I really don’t want to die,” said Iz with a whimper.

Pal patted him on the shoulder. “Let’s just make a plan for the water.”

What followed was a rather in-depth discussion on the difference between a sip and a gulp. After finally overcoming the semantics, Iz and Pal determined that they had fourteen sips and eight gulps left—perhaps enough for the day, if they stopped wrestling and were not trapped in any more tents.

They tossed the ball back and forth and just talked as the hours passed. They saw no one. Perhaps no one saw them—unless lizards counted.

The day wore on and hunger pangs set in, with aggravation not far behind. Still, they focused on talking, living, loving and matters that concerned them as young boys.

But after a particularly long moment of silence, Iz presented a new topic. “Mine’s different,” he stated slowly.

“Your what?” asked Pal.

“It’s because I’m Jewish,” explained Iz.

“I know you’re Jewish,” said Pal. “But your what?”

“Think about it,” said Iz, lifting his eyebrows.

So Pal did. It took a moment or two, but he finally came up with the answer. “You mean circumcision,” he said proudly.

“So you know about that?” Iz was a bit surprised.

“Yes,” said Pal. “I guess that’s one of those many things that our religions fight about.”

Iz frowned. “Why do they make such a big deal about that?”

“Why do you think God wants you to do it?” Pal challenged.

“Why do you think God doesn’t want you to?” countered Iz.

“Geez,” said Pal. “I feel stupid even talking about this. Grown-ups make such a big deal about us not touching it or talking about it, or even naming it, and then they end up making it one of the big parts of religion. Which is it, Iz? Is it dirty, or is it holy?”

“I know what you mean,” said Iz. “I remember, in my house, I didn’t know what to call it. You know…what we’re talking about. Like, when I was talking to my Pada, how should I refer to that thing? So I decided to come up with a name, and he got really, really mad at me because I said the name out loud.”

“What was the name?” Pal asked with vigor.

“Oh, it was stupid,” Iz replied shyly.

“Even better,” said Pal. “What was the name?”

“I once found a pet snake,” said Iz. “And before Pada made me get rid of it, I named the snake Ulios.”

Pal frowned. “Ulios? What does that mean?”

“Nothing,” said Iz.

“Exactly,” agreed Pal.

Iz continued. “So once, in front of Pada, I made mention to him of my ‘Ulios’…”

Pal paused, letting the idea sink into his brain, and then burst into laughter. “My father was so nervous,” he said, “I mean, about discussing it with me, that we finally decided to refer to it as my ‘man-dilly.’”

Iz laughed uncontrollably. Gaining some breath, he cited, “It’s all so stupid. They tell us that what we feel and believe is the most important thing, and then they make such a fuss about… Well, you know. Ulios and man-dilly.”

Pal became serious. “Maybe that’s why things are messed up. If grown men are so nervous about such a simple thing, how do they ever expect to understand more important things?”

Iz took a quick sip of water. “I don’t care what you call it. I don’t care what it looks like. I don’t care if it’s circumcised. I would trade it all in right now for a big, cold frosty bottle of Coca-Cola.”

The boys nodded in holy agreement. Then they sat in silence, a bit uncomfortable over their discussion, but also wiser from what they learned.

The heat pressed down as the time passed. There was a great temptation to change sips into gulps, but amazing restraint was maintained. They breathed deeply, looking at the surrounding desert.

Never would they ever have such experiences again.

Never would friendship be so precious.

Never would it ever be so hot.


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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3945)

Sitting Five

Iz and Pal huddled and cried for a solid hour, shivering, sobbing, trying to speak, but diminishing to painful sighs and groans.

Bruised.

No father ever knows how deeply the rejection goes into the soul of a son who wishes to disagree but is cast into the role of the delinquent prodigal.

Night was falling—a desert night, black and chilly, clear and cold—the human blood still boiling from the day’s heat, but the skin releasing its warmth, beginning to freeze body and then, soul.

There had been no time to build a fire, so the two boys entwined inside the tent for heat and comfort. They whimpered and shuddered.

At length, Iz spoke. “Pada isn’t always that bad.”

Pal was speechless, unwilling to agree, yet not wanting to begin a useless discussion. Iz continued. “No, I mean it. He is a good man. He just has never understood my ways.”

Pal inserted, “Our ways.”

The boys soon discovered that having no fire allowed the creeping, squeaking, squawking and wiggling living organisms all around them to remain unseen, but certainly lively. The desert at night was terrifying. Some conversation was needed to keep them from thinking about the legendary, man-eating sand worm.

“Why do our people hate each other?” Iz asked.

“I don’t know,” said Pal, because he didn’t.

Iz objected. “‘I don’t know’ will not keep the conversation going and keep our minds off the bugs and slime.”

Pal growled, “I think your father thinks I’m bugs and slime.”

Iz attempted to soften his tone. “And what would your father think of me?” he asked.

Pal did not hesitate. “Probably just slime. Jew-boy slime.” Pal peered at his friend in the darkness. “Our skin is not different.”

Iz moved closer, agreeing. “No. In color, we could be brothers.”

Pal continued. “We eat, drink and live in the same places.”

“That’s right,” said Iz. “You don’t get pork, either, do you?”

“Nope,” said Pal matter-of-factly.

In the brief moment of silence between them, there were more buzzes and cackles in the surrounding bleakness. Iz inched even closer to Pal.

“I could never hate you,” he said.

“Why would you want to?” asked Pal.

“They want me to,” replied Iz, aggravated. “Because your God has a funny name.”

Without missing a beat, Pal replied, “And your God has a common name.”

Iz found this funny. “Maybe we could solve the whole thing by coming up with a new name for God that would please both of us,” he suggested.

Pal laughed. “One day in the desert and you’re ready to rename God.”

“How about Frank?” offered Iz.

Pal nodded. “The Americans would love it—and it sounds honest.”

Two friends giggling. The best sound ever.

Iz paused. “I need to tell you,” he said, “we’re almost out of water.”

Pal slowly shook his head. “Not a good thing in the desert.”

“What are we going to do?” inquired Iz with a slight creak in his voice.

Pal sat up on an elbow and said, “I think we should take this tiny tent down, and wrap ourselves in it for warmth, to keep all bugs and snakes far, far away.”

Iz eagerly agreed and the two friends turned themselves into a living, human cocoon. They tried to continue their conversation, but words began to fade into dreams. Dreams were displaced by moments of recollection—only to be interrupted by the sounds of the night creatures.

Iz dozed off, thinking about water.

Pal fell asleep, wondering where his family was.


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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3931)

Sitting Four

It was nearly dusk when the aging patriarch stumbled upon the make-shift camp of the two escaped lads–one his son.

Early in midday, a bus-load of tourists had spied the site as they journeyed and had casually, almost jokingly, remarked upon their return, to the townspeople, about the two boys they saw perched in the desert.

In the early afternoon, Jubal’s father was contacted by friends who knew about his missing son. He decided to follow the directions and retrace the bus route, to see if he could locate his wayward lad.

While the father was climbing the hill, still a good distance away, Jubal recognized him. “It is my Pada,” he said to Amir.

“Pada?” asked Amir.

“My name for my father,” Jubal said nervously.

Amir patted his shoulder. “You knew he must come.”

Jubal replied, half laughing, but mostly terrified, “I was hoping it would be yours.”

Amir shook his head. “I don’t expect him. He would never pursue me in the desert.”

“But he loves you?” asked Jubal.

Amir rubbed his chin and said, “He knows he made me and he takes that quite seriously.”

Jubal gazed at his father, who was now close enough to make out facial features. “What am I going to do, Pal?”

Pal did not know. He said quietly, “We’ll just have to take it as it comes.”

Jubal’s father stopped about a dozen meters away from the camp and beckoned to his son. “Jubal! You will come here right now. Stop this nonsense and pray to God that I will find it in my heart to forgive you of your insolence.”

All the words collided and exploded in Jubal’s head. God. Forgive. Come. Here. Nonsense. And even though Jubal was not sure what “insolence” meant, the tone of voice told him that his father considered it a great sin. Jubal felt his muscles tighten. He jumped up instinctively, in a ritual of obedience, but Amir grabbed his arms, pulling him back to the ground.

The father continued with renewed vigor, stepping closer. “I am not speaking to the wind,” he bellowed. “I have told my son to come to my side and return with me—now.”

Jubal sat, fidgeting, heart racing, mouth dry and his hands shaking. Pada moved closer to him.

Amir spoke. “Dear sir, we mean no harm. We are just boys on a journey of sorts, enjoying each other and the beauty of nature.”

The older man snorted like a bull. “You are certainly right about the ‘boys’ part,” he spat. “And little boys do not belong in the wilderness. They should be close to home where they will be safe.”

Jubal winced. Memories flashed into his mind of arguments with this man, where logic and reason were soon replaced with insult, then intimidation. How many times had he cowered in fear? How many occasions had he nodded in agreement when his heart screamed dissent? How often had he felt the hand strike his cheek in anger as he recoiled, submitting?

Amir spoke again. “We will return when we return.”

The hulking presence advanced more quickly toward the lads. Iz and Pal interlocked their legs and arms, becoming one flesh.

With a final lunge, Iz’s father reared back and slapped his son. Pal squeezed closer to deflect some of the blows. Pada continued to smack his son over and over again, until he finally stepped back from exertion. The brutal insanity of the moment hung in the air with a frightful wheeze and a pending sob.

Iz screamed, “Pada, please stop hitting me!”

The old man, panting, replied, “You will come home with me.”

“I won’t. Not now,” said Iz.

Pada glared at him. “What are you trying to do?”

In a tearful voice, Iz replied, “I just want to be with my friend.”

Pada reached out to grab his arm. “You are embarrassing our family, and you, young man,” he said, turning to Pal, “you are a disgrace—leading my fine son astray. It is the way of the heathen.”

Iz screamed, “He is not a heathen! And he did not lead me astray. He is Pal, my friend, and I am Iz—his friend.”

Pada stopped pulling and demanded, “What is this Pal and Iz?”

Iz wanted to explain but as he looked into the unflinching, unyielding face of his father, he chose silence. The old man raised his hand once again to strike, and Pal leaped to his feet, holding the grenade in front of him. “Don’t touch us!”

Pada paused, gazing at the weapon in Pal’s hand, alarmed, but more amused and perplexed. “What’s that?” he asked scornfully.

Iz eased to his feet next to Pal and answered. “It is a grenade. I stole it from an Israeli soldier.”

Pada shook his head. “And what do you plan to do with it?”

Pal replied, “Nothing if you will stop beating us and leave us alone.” He choked back tears.

Pada struck another threatening pose. “I don’t have to leave my son alone, you little pagan.”

When Iz heard these words, he snatched the grenade from Pal’s hands and moved toward his father. Pada backed up in respect to the weapon. “You don’t even know how to use that, do you?” he challenged.

Iz chuckled. “And that would be a good thing?”

The father remained motionless, exchanging glances with Pal and Iz. “If you kill me, don’t you kill yourselves?”

Iz’s eyes filled with tears. “I haven’t lived long enough to miss life, but you—you are old and have many more memories to lose. Don’t test me, Pada. Everything I believe in is right here. I don’t know whether I’m right or wrong. I don’t care. I’ve found a friend. If I go with you, I will never have that friend again. If I stay here with him, all I lose is you.”

The old man peered at his son, not certain of the boy’s motives, but definitely convinced of the intensity of his emotions. He pointed a finger at Iz and threatened, “I will be back, with the police.”

Police? Iz and Pal hadn’t thought that far ahead. But now it was more than a boyish prank.

They just might have to decide whether they could live or die with their decision.

 

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3931)

Sitting Three

It was nearly sunset before Jubal and Amir’s fathers became concerned that there was anything extraordinary about the absence of their sons. It was not unusual for the boys to be busy at chores and play, but night is the time to be home. Except now, minus two young men. Some inquiring was done, but frantic energy came with the morning.

Meanwhile, two friends sat at the crest of a hill in the sand, talking, fiddling, playing and laughing.

“I don’t like my name,” said Jubal.

“I like yours better than mine,” Amir inserted.

“Jubal is just so old and religious.”

“Amir sucks.”

Jubal objected. “I like Amir better than Jubal.”

“That’s because it’s not your name,” Amir said, lightly punching him in the arm.

“We need new names,” decided Jubal.

Amir nodded his head. “We’re starting new lives—might as well have new names.”

Jubal giggled. “Maybe I could be Frank and you could be Bob.”

Amir clapped his hands. “Where did you get Frank and Bob?” he asked.

Jubal peered around as if wondering if someone were listening in. “My uncle has cable television,” he explained. “It’s illegal. And sometimes I watch the American shows.”

Amir sat straight up. “What are they like? I mean, our television is so…you know. Boring. Everything in Farsi.”

Jubal leaned forward, whispering. “I have seen women without coverings.”

Amir’s eyes widened. “You mean…?”

Jubal interrupted. “Yes. I mean their tops.”

Amir was impressed to the point of speechless. On and on they talked—about American television, dreams, women, parents and even hot sand.

“I have a new name for you,” Jubal said with a flair of inspiration.

“Oh. What is it?” inquired Amir.

“I think I will call you Pal.”

“Pal?” asked Amir with a squint.

“Yes, it’s short for Palestinian,” said Jubal.

Amir leaped to his feet, and with one arm extended in the air, proclaimed, “Then I shall call you Iz.”

Jubal jumped to his feet, too, asking, “What’s Iz?”

Amir danced around in a little circle and replied, “It is very short—for Israeli.”

This exchange welcomed great laughter. They giggled and danced and wiggled, which deteriorated into a fake boxing match.

Finally, Amir took a breath and spoke. “So is our new little country called Paliz? Or Izpal?”

Jubal firmly shook his head. “Let’s not get started with that. That’s how our people ended up killing each other.”

Now, the word “killing” doesn’t normally invoke laughter, but on a hot day, silly friends will find almost anything hilarious. They giggled, stopped and started again because stopping seemed so ridiculous. At length, Jubal ceased laughing and said, “I have something to show you.”

“All right.” Amir was a bit bewildered by the solemn transition. Jubal walked over to the small tent they had pitched and returned, gingerly cupping an object in his hands.

“What is it?” asked Amir.

Jubal paused. “It’s a hand grenade.”

Amir scooted away. “What do you have that for?”

Jubal rebuked him. “Don’t be foolish. Do you really think they won’t find us here? Do you think they’ll let us stay? Do you think they’re going to pat us on the back and say, ‘Great job, boys.’ They’re all crazy with hate, so they want us to be crazy, too. So I needed something to convince them we are serious—and we’ll never return to being just Arab and Jewish little boys again”

Amir was impressed. “Where did you get it?” he challenged.

“A patrol of Israeli troops came into our town, and it fell out of one of their bags,” Jubal explained. “Before I could think, I grabbed it and took it back to the soldier. He thanked me and gave me some chocolate. Then I thought about us—if we were going to be together—how we needed something. So I cautiously followed the troops, until they rested next to a well. When the young soldier went over to draw some water to drink, I stole the grenade from his pack.”

Amir was frightened. “What are you going to do with it?”

“I don’t know,” said Jubal, with a tear in his voice. “I didn’t think that through. I just don’t want to go back to any place where you cannot be my friend.”

Iz and Pal shook hands, very careful to set the grenade to the side. It was nearly midday.

They would soon be discovered.

 

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