Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4057)

Sitting Twenty-One

Matthew Bradley was a photographer with a lesser known news organization with the unfortunate acronym of W.U.S.—Wire United Service.

Matthew refused to be called Matt because he felt that using his full name, Matthew, along with Bradley, might remind people of the famous photographer, Matthew Brady, from the Civil War, who no one remembered anyway.

He was sweet—which in the world of romance, is akin to leprous. He wasn’t unattractive, but certainly never did anything to paint his old barn. He nervously talked too much, and his voice was pitched high. His cheeks were sunken and his teeth, with just a touch of “buck” to them, threatened halitosis. For his breath was just south of peppermint with a hint of garlic, which made close contact just a little stuffy.

Matthew liked Karin. He was infatuated. She was a female and he, a male. Twice a month he asked Karin to go out on a date. She had never accepted the offer—not only fearing that he might become too obsessed, but also having little desire to provide the lion’s share of the small talk.

Even though Karin was not interested in him as a potential boyfriend, she had never needed a photographer as much as she needed one now. Pictures were required so that the public could catch a vision of what was going on in the desert with Iz and Pal.

Taking a deep breath, Karin picked up her phone and called him. She told him that she wanted to see him. There was a very long pause. Matthew replied, “Who is this really?”

After thoroughly convincing him of her pedigree and authenticity, they met for a brief luncheon, at which time she explained her dilemma. He never took his eyes off what seemed to be a region below her nose and above her mouth. It was unnerving.

Yet he agreed to go with her to the desert location to take pictures—if she agreed to attend a correspondence dinner with him in two weeks, where he was going to receive some sort of simple award. Even though Karin was dedicated to the project and wanted to do what she could for the two young fellows, she still paused for a moment to consider what an evening with Matthew would be like—especially if he was juiced up with the energy of grasping a small trophy.

Still, she knew how important this visual would be to her article—and taking heart from contemplating that some forms of cancer can take effect suddenly, be diagnosed and kill in less than fourteen days, she agreed.

They split the bill, she offered him a mint and they headed off into the desert.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4050)

Sitting Twenty

Actually, there was no Yellow Pages printed out by the local community.

Even though the town was emotionally depressed, spiritually entrenched and socially retarded, it had culturally caught up to the current century in technology. Therefore most astute businesspeople found their information via their computers. Yet there were several private schools in the city which had agreed to put together a Yellow Pages, including telephone numbers and business ads, to raise money for their institutions so that their students could have at least some good of the better, if not the best.

Karin’s editor, in a fit of civic pride and an unusual bout of generosity, had purchased twenty of the volumes, which now lay around the office ignored, threatening to be fire hazards.

Karin tired of web surfing, so she resorted to one of the catalogues, which began with a table of contents, including:

Agencies

Banks

Child Psychologists

Doctors

Educators

Financiers

Grocers

Helping Hands

Insurance Companies

Judges

Kan-Ga-Roofing

Labor Organizations

Mothers

Newspapers

Office Supplies

Priests

Q-Tie-Pie Child Care

Religious Organizations

Senators

Teachers

UNICEF

Videos

Women

X-Ray Technicians

Youth Clubs, and the

Zoo

Yes, everything from A to Z. It seemed that blessed benefactors were bountiful—an alliteration of possibilities of people to hit up.

Karin entered the project optimistic and energetic, but soon found that no one wanted to become involved—at least not directly or openly. Yet amazingly, almost everyone offered something, even if it was just negative advice. After about six hours of calling, Karin sat back, having secured the following assistance through her persistence:

One Port-a-john toilet

Sixteen orange construction cones

Seven miscellaneous books in Aramaic

Two fluorescent green soccer balls

Four pairs of tennis shoes

One hundred dollars-worth of gift certificates for food items

One teddy bear

A bag of army men

Three Bibles

Two Korans

A single copy of the Talmud

Seventeen sympathetic sentiments

Eighteen guarantees to participate “if someone else does something first”

A promise from a politician to do his part after he was elected

And a bag of all-black jellybeans

Karin perused the list carefully, trying to determine if there was any theme to the collection, and finally decided that the common thread to the whole encounter was: thoughtful but basically worthless.

Persisting, she decided to chase down one more idea. Some press coverage would help, but nobody at the wire services and news agencies expressed interest. A universal chorus arose from all hearers. It was either, “no story there,” or the story that was there was too scary to chase.

As a matter of fact, one cranky son-of-a-gun called the situation “blasphemous.” When Karin inquired what made it blasphemous, he replied, “That’s easy. If you want to make money and you live in the Middle East, anything that’s too hot to handle is best determined to be blasphemous.”

He continued, “It would be like someone calling me on the phone who said he had a huge scoop about an abortion doctor who discovered the mysterious gay gene while vacationing with his mistress in Red China.” His conclusion to Karin? “Although intriguing, there’s no part of the topic that’s public-friendly, so therefore, it must be classified as blasphemous and be avoided—like a Biblical plague.”

Karin listened carefully, wanting to object to comparing the two boys to locusts, but before she could speak, he added, “Arabs and Jews want to pretend that they don’t have a problem, and they certainly don’t want two upstarts reminding them that they are lying to each other.”

She tried to insert a thought, but the line was dead. She was pretty sure he hung up on her. Still, one possibility remained.

She picked up her phone one last time and called…

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4029)

Sitting Seventeen

The desert has little to offer—mainly the presence of persistence.

After Karin left Iz and Pal, they were suddenly overtaken by the sleep of exhaustion—just two boys, lying flat on their backs in the ragged remains of a tent, deeply asleep, overcome by worry and woe, welcoming the needed rest, yet nervous about the pending dreams.

And there were dreams.

Iz floated, his body upheld in a liquidy glue of moisture, suspended a few meters above his family’s home. He tried to flip himself over, to look into the windows and see Pada, but he was held down, some force holding his arms, squeezing his legs, forbidding movement. Then it was as if the glue became thicker and oozed around his nostrils, threatening to suffocate the life from him. Struggling, he loosened himself and fell, landing on the roof of his home, hearing the crack of a bone in his right leg.

Voices ascended to the rooftop where he was impaled, writhing in pain. They were mentioning his name. It was “Jubal this” and “Jubal that.” Nothing he could actually discern, nor words that were perceptible. More an angry, disapproving tone.

He was in pain. Then, all the bones in his body started to break, one by one. Gradually the agony was displaced by oblivion. He melted like a piece of ice on a hot summer’s day, his body dribbling down the walls, through the window, pooling in a puddle on the floor of his home. It seemed he was all there—eyes, nose, hands, ears. But each part separated—a toe where an ear should be, a mouth replacing a knee. Gleaming, watery, flat against the ground, he was trying to see, attempting to find Pada.

Then there was a sound—a whoosh of a broom. Dust flew around his puddle of life. He choked—coughing, wheezing. The broom was sweeping him, pushing him toward the door. He splattered down the steps of his home, gushing his life away and landed on the bottom step in a splat—but somehow, once again, whole. Free of all broken bones and molten flesh.

Iz tried to stand but could not. Instead he walked backward on his hands like a crab, reconnoitering his way into the street, which was busy with cars and buses. Yet no one saw him. No one noticed the crab boy creeping along. All at once, a giant hand wearing a yellow shirt-sleeve reached down and picked him up by his right arm, yanking him into the air and placing him at the gate of what appeared to be a great shining city—an ancient site. There was carvings of gold and statues of granite and cedar. He did not know any of the figures, just that they were large, massive and overwhelming.

The gate suddenly opened, and he heard laughter. No—giggling. It was much younger. Free, absent of trouble, broken bones and gelatin flesh. Then a dog, barking at the gate, and men with beards who came and packed him up, carrying him into the city, as a beautiful woman with long, black hair stepped forward and kissed him. It was not the smooch of a sister, but rather, the caress of a friend who would be a lover or at least as much as a twelve-year-old mind could conjure.

He was giddy with the sights and sounds. He was stimulated even more by the woman’s lips. The bearded men carried him on to a huge castle, where he entered the portals and seemed to disappear forever more.

Iz awoke with a start. It was nighttime.

There was a single candle lit, and Pal sat in the shadows, staring at him. “Did you have a dream?” he asked.

Iz was not sure whether he was awake, or if this was part of the continuing saga.

Pal spoke again. “I had a dream.”

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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

(4001)

Sitting Thirteen

Karin ran out of ladylike ways to handle the situation. She wanted to seem intelligent, in control or even demure. But the sight of a young boy walking toward a hand grenade which was capable of tearing his body to shreds, not to mention casting lethal shrapnel in her direction, stirred up all of her jungle instincts.

She ran and tackled Iz and threw him to the ground as the soldier made his way up the embankment to the grenade.

Even though Iz struggled—apparently possessed by some sort of demon of self-destruction—Karin climbed on his back and held him down, as the two lay panting, staring at the stumbling soldier like two chums on their bellies in front of a movie screen.

When Minioz came within two meters of the grenade, he paused, chin rubbing, head scratching, hands on hips, with loud cursing. He then gently tiptoed a centimeter at a time, closer and closer. Then, in one lightning-fast motion, he picked it up and held it in his hand.

Karin braced herself, ready for the impact of explosion.

Nothing.

The absence of nothing.

A perturbing, chilling silence.

Minioz looked around at the desert like a man discovering treasure, wondering if others passing by had seen. He was grateful.

Then he fell to his knees and started digging a hole. The sand was loose and light, and in no time at all, a two-meter chasm was unearthed. He dropped the dud inside and used his arms to quickly spread the sand over the top.

In the meantime, Karin had gradually climbed off Iz as the boy calmed, gaining sensibility. She flipped him over on his back, pinned his arms and shouted into his face, “Iz, what in the hell were you thinking?”

He stared at her—no, beyond her—and replied, “It just seemed like the time for us to die.”

Before Karin could respond, the sergeant, having completed his burial detail, suddenly stood and ran down the hill toward his jeep. Karin quickly pulled Iz to his feet. “Listen, I need to catch a ride with him. I will be back. Do you understand me? I am coming back. You must promise me…”

She stopped. What did she want to say? What was he supposed to promise? The young fellow was obviously damaged and needed some help. His friend was on a lark and didn’t realize the serious nature of his buddy’s situation. So what promise could Iz keep?

In the midst of her deliberation, Iz pointed and said, “Lady, look.”

Karin quickly glanced down the hill as the soldier leaped into his jeep, frantically started the engine, put it in gear, whirled it around and took off.

Karin just shook her head and said, “Wow.”

“I guess you’re stuck here with us,” Iz said.

Karin collapsed back onto the sand, half in exhaustion and half exasperation. She said, “My mother told me never to date soldiers. She said everything they have is a weapon, and unfortunately, they’re still in training.”

Pal walked up and looked down at the defeated reporter. “I guess we don’t have a grenade anymore,” he said.

Iz shook his head and intoned, “That’s not good.”

Karin looked at the two boys, who had obviously separated the little bit of sense they once had from the reality they now knew.

They didn’t understand.

No one understood.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3994)

Sitting Twelve

A comedy of horrors, worst fears realized—for a bedraggled, sweaty soldier huffed and puffed his way to the top of the hill, screaming, frustrated and completely aggravated by the role of bully, which had been thrust upon him by two thieving, punk hoodlums.

A young Arab boy, gasping for his next breath, too frightened to move from the clawing hands of his attacker, the great Behemoth of military strength.

A seasoned female reporter, jaded by the world around her, reduced to becoming a screeching tearful lass in distress at the prospect of the mayhem unfolding before her eyes.

And then there was the young Jewish boy, sitting quietly, overly calm, holding a hand grenade and heaving huge sighs as tears careened down his cheeks.

The scene was an active one, filled with danger, yet unnervingly still, poised in the moment, as the great fear of all those concerned had now become reality.

The soldier, focusing in on Pal, pulled on his leg, yanking him down the hill as the boy pleaded in the many languages of his culture.

Meanwhile, Karin was punching the arm of the enraged soldier, shouting obscenities and trying to trip him with her legs.

Iz remained quiet. But then, all at once, he commanded, “Stop!”

It wasn’t that his voice was powerful and loud. He was standing on his feet, holding the hand grenade in his outstretched hands, his finger fiddling with the pin. Yet the soldier only delayed for a moment—then scoffed and continued pulling Pal down the hill.

Iz seemed peaceful, wide-eyed and aware when he squeezed the pin and pulled it from the fuse.

Everything halted.

Karin ran the few short feet to Iz as the soldier scrambled up the hill and grabbed the grenade from his hand. Iz remained like a statue—immovable. The sergeant, though well-trained, was petrified and froze.

Karin squalled, “Do something!”

Hearing those words, all of the training that Minioz had received kicked into gear. He wielded back and with the brute force granted only to a soul energized by adrenalin, he hurled the grenade across the desert, as everyone leaped to the sand.

That is, everyone but Iz. The young boy stood and watched as the grenade flew through the air and bounced on the sand about thirty meters away.

Everyone waited. Everyone held a collective breath. And then, everyone was bewildered.

Nothing.

Nothing happened.

Very gradually, each of them got up from the ground, staring in the distance at the tiny object lying on the sand, which for some reason, had failed to deliver its big bang.

“What happened?” whispered Karin.

Minioz wiped some sweat from his face. “A dud. Or maybe a fooler.”

Pal wiggled his way over to Iz’s side. “What’s a fooler?” he asked.

Minioz shook his head. “Sometimes they pretend not to work until you go over and try to move them again, and then they blow up in your face.”

All the gathered souls at the desert encampment paused for a moment and thought about the statement offered by the sergeant, each conjuring a horrifying word picture.

Iz finally spoke. “I told you to leave us alone.”

He possessed an unsettling tone—icy and cold, his pain seemingly buried deep inside. He walked toward the failed grenade.

Karin looked at Minioz, expecting him to do something. “Stop him!” she ordered.

The soldier just shook his head. “As I remember it,” he replied, “the one who throws it goes and gets it.”

Pal leaped to his feet and called his friend’s name. “Iz! Iz! Iz!”

Karin gained her feet and jogged toward the determined young man. The soldier rolled his eyes and simply said, “Oh, hell.”

He caught up and grabbed Karin’s arm. “I don’t want to be here when they pick up the bodies of a boy and a woman and ask me why I didn’t do something. I will get it. But in case you didn’t know, I really, really hate you.”

Minioz craned his neck and concluded, “You just make sure that crazy boy there stays out of the way.”


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