Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4085)

Sitting Twenty-Five

As it turned out, orange construction cones make great soccer goals for runaway boys in the desert, dreaming of football stardom.

Iz and Pal were desperate for a diversion—a way to physically explode with energy, allowing their muscles to stretch and ache. With the arrival of the cones, the soccer balls, the tennis shoes and the hamburgers, they had the makings of a deliriously exciting life.

Sweet play.

They vigorously kicked the ball, imagining acclaim and cheers in the great arenas of the world capitals as renowned soccer players, drawing applause and the favor of men with the pleasure of many women.

They fell, exhausted, in the sand, laughing, liberated from conventional restraints, simply content to live in the moment’s lingering bliss.

Nothing seemed wrong. Therefore, nothing was wrong.

During one of these respites, Iz posed a question. “Pal, what do you think will become of us?”

Pal, still ablaze from the fervor of the game, asked enthusiastically, “Do you mean before or after we win the World Cup?”

Iz frowned. “No, really. Where do you think this is going?”

Pal realized his friend was once again turning serious—an attribute he didn’t favor much but decided to tolerate from his more melancholy partner. Settling into some solemnity, he replied, “I don’t know.”

Iz perked up. “I think I do.”

Pal drew a deep breath and inquired, “Well, tell me what’s gonna happen.”

“They’re going to take us back,” said Iz. “They’re going to make us go home.”

Pal shook his head. “They haven’t been able to do that so far.”

Iz shifted to his knees, grabbing his friend by the shoulders. He stared into his eyes. “That’s because they still think we have a hand grenade. When the soldier tells them the truth, they will come for us.”

Pal’s eyes welled with tears. “I don’t want to go back.”

Iz settled down on his backside and looked at Pal carefully. “Don’t want to? Or won’t? Which is it, Pal? You know we have to decide. It could happen at any moment. We have to decide.”

Pal was confused as to what Iz might be referring—very concerned. “We have to decide what?” he posed cautiously.

Iz didn’t miss a beat. “We have to decide what we’re going to do if they come here and try to make us go back.”

“Well, we don’t have a hand grenade,” Pal said flatly.

Iz shook his head vigorously. “Don’t be stupid. Did you think we were going to use the hand grenade?”

Angry, Pal rose to his knees. “Don’t call me stupid. I hate that. If we weren’t going to use the hand grenade, why did we have it?”

Iz scoffed at him. “To scare them away. That’s why. But they won’t be scared anymore. I can just feel it. They’re coming for us.”

Suddenly Pal was overtaken by a streak of tenderness. “Iz,” he said, “I won’t let them take you.”

“How will you stop them?” demanded Iz. “My father is so angry—so mean. I can still feel his anger pouring all over me, making me shrink before his eyes, becoming a little ant that he could step on at any time and mash with his foot.”

Pal was shocked by the words. It was a true revelation into his friend’s soul, but a sudden one that left him bewildered. He reached out to touch his comrade’s arm. “Listen,” he said, “No one’s going to mash us anymore.”

Iz looked up with a glassy stare. “Are you with me, buddy?”

“You know I am,” said Pal.

“No,” insisted Iz, gaining an unnatural intensity. “Are you with me?”

Pal was startled. “With you for what?” His friend’s reactions sometimes seemed chilling, foreboding. There was something frozen, perhaps dead, in the heart of Iz that never quite warmed or showed life, no matter how much joy came into their situation. Pal felt equal—but still overwhelmed.

Iz continued. “Are you with me to the death?”

“Death?” Pal lurched back, unable to hide his shock.

Iz shook his head. “I won’t go back alive.”

Pal drew a deep, ragged breath. “Iz, I don’t want to die. I came out here because I wanted to live.”

Iz rose up and pointed his finger at Pal, screaming. “But what if they won’t let us live? What if they just come out here and act like we’re silly little boys and spank us, ridicule us, and take us home? I’m telling you, Pal. I can’t go back to Pada. I will not be that scared little ant anymore.”

Pal nodded his head in agreement, if not understanding. “So what do we do?”

Iz scrambled to his feet and ran over to the portable toilet. He opened the door, reached in, grabbed something and returned quickly. He held a pink stick in his hand. Breathlessly he explained, “Pal, these came with the toilets. They are poison. If they come for us, we will break this stick into two pieces and each one of us eat our half.”

Eat it?” Pal shouted.

“I won’t go back,” repeated Iz calmly.

Pal wanted to object. Pal needed to reason with his perplexed, confused friend. But Pal was just twelve years old. So a sense of allegiance swept over his heart.  He felt no need to resist. The plan was made, and it seemed to make sense.

Time would tell.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4043)

Sitting Nineteen

Karin was perturbed at herself—“perturbed” being the most civilized word she could come up with after rejecting some more colorful choices.

It seemed she had totally lost perspective. No, that diagnosis was much too clinical. She had just downright screwed up. Plainly, she had let sentiment take over her better judgment.

There was nothing wrong with being sentimental—as long as the work you set out to do gets done, the children are safe in their beds, the fire is lit and all the cows are in the barn. (She had no idea whatsoever why she had chosen such a rural metaphor. She was trying to be completely practical, and nothing seemed more “earthy” than a farm.)

After all the excruciating activity of the day, it turned out that she had not improved the situation whatsoever. Arrogantly, she had tried to solve all the world’s problems. She was aware that this was not her job—her actual job was two-fold: to keep from being a problem to the planet and try to keep all the crazies around her from doing outrageous things.

She considered—if each person with a lick of sense would just try to stay out of trouble and take a few moments to care for friends who couldn’t make things work, well, to quote the old song, “what a lovely world this would be.”

But she had not helped two boys stop their insanity. She had made it worse. After all, before she came on the scene, they were two young dudes out in the desert, chomping on food and giggling. Sure, they had a hand grenade—but they didn’t know how to use it. No, she was the one who provided that information to them. She brought the soldier. She caused the conflict. And she got those two friends spitting mad at each other.

Karin realized that she could work a lifetime and not tally such a disaster again. Yet she had done it in a single afternoon—not to mention losing the respect of her editor.

What perturbed her most of all was that she could not figure out why she had acted so “girlie.” She had been trained better and had certainly learned better. Frankly, she had never bought into the lingo of the day, which claimed that men and women were hopelessly non-communicating misanthropes. If men were from Mars and women were from Venus, why couldn’t they just build spaceships and travel to this good ole’ Earth and live together as humans?

The whole thing was rather ridiculous. But—and a very important “but” it was—she needed to do something. Her soul and conscience refused to stay out of the affair. It was frightening, considering this was how she got into trouble in the first place. Yet Karin Koulyea had a heart to be part of the solution instead of remaining a jagged edge of the problem.

So she pondered—a rather exhausting task after completing such introspection.

Then she remembered what the editor said. He was going to make some calls. Well, she knew how to use a phone. And God knows she would be safer in her apartment contacting people instead of in the desert, threatening to blow up little boys.

She opened up a book she had never used before:

The local Yellow Pages.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4022)

Sitting Sixteen

The editor sat, staring her in the eyes. He refused to avert his gaze, so she continued hers, hoping to win the standoff.

She could hear herself breathing. The quiet between the two of them made it possible for her to feel her heart beating.

After a moment, he leaned back in his chair. “No,” he concluded. “You’re wrong. The truth is, we don’t ‘got to do’ anything. Just because you’ve lost your objectivity doesn’t mean I’m going to follow you over the cliff.” He shook his head. “Young lady, you’ve got to remember what your job is. I just hate it when people try to do other people’s jobs. Hell—I don’t want my butcher talking to me about tomatoes, and I’m not particularly pleased to have my dentist comment on my haircut.”

He continued. “Here’s the thing. I don’t want my reporters, or in this case, you, pretending that she is really privately working as a social services agent. You’re a reporter, so start acting like one.”

Karin stood tall, walked over to the chair and sat down. “A reporter’s first duty is to find the story,” she said. “Try finding a story without becoming involved in the lives of the people who are dictating to you what you must write on the page. How antiseptic do you think you can become before doing all your work wearing kid gloves? Yes. I won’t deny it. This story reaches me. I guess from your perspective, you would claim it’s dirtied me. But nevertheless, it is a story. If you think I’m too passionate, edit my copy. Or isn’t that what you do?”

He smiled. The editor was always amused at Karin’s spunk—sometimes even drew it out or exaggerate it by generating fictitious conflict. He waved his hands in the air as if surrendering and said, “Okay. What’s your angle?”

Karin paused. She didn’t want to come across too verbose, or worse, off-point. What was her angle? She had already lied and had appeared too high-strung. So where did she intend to go with a story like this one, which was begging to become an obsession?

“Let’s help them.” That’s all she said.

The editor ferociously shook his head. “There you go again, back to saving the world. Don’t you understand, girl, if the world were to blow up tomorrow, I would put out my last edition of the paper ten minutes before the explosion, and have my sales team on the street drumming up advertising—until we were all dead.” He pointed at her. “I’m a newspaper man. I don’t care about solutions. Sometimes they get in my way. I know you don’t want to hear that, and if you ever told anyone that I said that, I’d call you a disgruntled employee and a liar. But I don’t dare care about solutions because if I do, I’m gonna miss the next juicy problem that needs to be addressed. It is not my intention to give you a sermon. I’m just trying to get your head back on straight. I need my good reporter back.”

Karin felt a quick flush of pride over being dubbed “good.” The editor’s compliments were infrequent. He was as cheap with his praise as he was with his pocketbook. But she pressed on.

“Let me go back out there. How about this? Let me see who comes to them. Let me just report how it plays out without trying to affect it in any way.”

“What is it they want?” the editor asked.

“I thought you didn’t care,” chided Karin.

He snorted. “Isn’t what they want part of the story?”

Karin sucked in a deep breath. Maybe she was tired. Maybe it was her religious training. Or maybe she was just being softened by the editor calling her a good reporter. Who could say? But she was plagued by a guilty conscience. She couldn’t go on. Her presentation to her boss was built on sand—the granules of a lie. She had to tell him the truth—so Karin took a few minutes to relate the whole story—the broken-down vehicle, the angry sergeant, the boys, the hand grenade, the confrontation and the fact that the weapon ended up being a dud.

She explained that the grenade was buried in the desert, and how the one boy seemed plagued with some craziness. She finished up by describing the wrestling match and the ride back to the city.

The editor listened quietly and carefully, conscious not to appear alarmed or disapproving.

“So you see,” Karin concluded, “I feel a little responsible for the two fellas. I know there’s a story here, but God forgive me, I need to be part of how this story pans out.”

The editor eyed her for a lengthy span of time. While he mused, she offered one afterthought. “Let me take it just a little further.”

He closed his eyes and shook his head, but then changed it to a nod. He grumbled, “Let me make some calls.”

 

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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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