Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3980)

Sitting Ten

“Stay back, lady!” Pal leaped to his feet, alarmed.

Karin shouted, “I’m a reporter! “

“We are young men,” said Pal.

“Dangerous young men,” added Iz. They stood shoulder to shoulder, gazing at the intruding female.

Karin halted her progress and softened her voice. “So I heard.”

“What do you want?” demanded Pal.

Karin slowly inched her way forward. “I want to report your story. I want to find out why you two boys are in the desert together. If you don’t mind, I want you to tell me why you’re dangerous. And I also want to give you some water and food,” she said, motioning to the supplies she had laid to the side.

Pal and Iz gave each other a quick glance. Water and food—always good. Iz spoke up. “Just leave the water and food and go.”

Karin shook her head. “No deal. I didn’t come out here to be your delivery service. I told you—I’m a reporter. I want to know what’s going on.”

“Nothing,” spat Iz.

“So why are you dangerous, then?” Karin moved a few steps closer.

Pal backed away. “Because we want to be left alone,” he replied.

Karin reached out with open hands and said, “Okay. Give me my story and I’ll leave you alone.”

“Here’s your story,” said Iz. “Two boys…”

Pal interrupted. “We’re not boys, Iz.”

“Right,” said Iz, slapping his forehead with his palm. “Make that ‘Two Macho Men, Left Alone and At Peace in Desert by Reporter’.”

“I don’t know,” said Karin. “I can tell you—it’s not really a page turner. How about this instead? ‘Two Muscular Manly Men Tell Their Intriguing Story to Attractive Reporter and All At Once, the World Understands’?”

Pal shook his head. “The world will not understand.”

Iz jabbed his friend in the arm. “And listen, lady. You’re not that attractive.”

Karin feigned an offended gasp. “Now I see why they say you’re dangerous. Your tongue just killed my ego at fifteen paces.” She paused to see if the boys would laugh. When they didn’t, she eyed them with deep contemplation, then continued. “Just let me ask you five questions.”

“One question,” said Pal.

“Four,” countered Karin.

“Two!” shouted Iz.

Pal displayed a toothy grin. “I guess that means three.”

“All right. Three questions,” Karin agreed.

“And no funny business,” said Pal, crossing his arms.

Karin chuckled. “Listen, fellas. I live in the Middle East. What’s funny?” She carefully eased her way into the thrown-together encampment and sat down beneath a palm, staring at the two young gentlemen in front of her. She crinkled her nose. Although she was a good four feet away, they reeked of sweat and grain. She motioned for them to be seated.

Pal refused. “So what is your first question?”

Karin said, “I’ll make it easy. I’ll give you all three questions at once. Why are you here, what are you trying to do, and I guess my friend down there in the jeep? He wants to know where in the hell his grenade is.”

Pal jerked his head and shot a look at the vehicle. “Is that him?” he asked Iz.

Iz squinted to see. “I can’t tell. At this distance, Army men all look the same.”

Karin eased her way to her knees and interrupted. “Well, are you going to answer my questions?”

Iz could not take his eyes off the soldier. “What does he want?” he asked Karin.

“He wants his grenade back,” she replied quickly. “He really doesn’t want to be blamed for killing and mutilating people because he was careless with his weapons. You can certainly understand that.”

Pal shook his head. “We’re not trying to kill and mutilate anyone,” he said.

Karin sensed a moment of vulnerability, so she went on the attack. “Well, listen, dude,” she said. “That’s what grenades do. Maybe you should have thought of that before you stole it and came out here, flashing it at people.”

Iz continued to stare at the soldier, with his back to Karin, and inserted, “We just want to be left alone.”

Karin spoke back harshly. “If you’re not careful, you’re gonna be just left dead.”

Pal eased his way a bit closer to her. “Listen, lady. No one will die. We don’t even know how the grenade works.”

“Shut up, Pal!” screamed Iz.

Karin laughed. “Oh—and that’s good?” she asked. “That you don’t know how a grenade works?”

Her question quieted Iz and Pal. Iz made his way over and sat down by the reporter. Pal stepped closer but remained standing. It was all so crazy—not what they had envisioned. They were horrified by their plight.

Karin gave the moment a chance to simmer, then asked, much quieter. “Why are you here?”

Fighting back tears, Iz tried to explain. “We had become friends, but we really were not allowed to be friends. Our families are separated, our countries are at war and our people hate each other.”

Moved by Iz’s admission, Pal came over and sat down. “If we try to be friends, excuses will be made why it is a bad thing. So we’ve come out here in the desert, where we can be friends without interfering with the war that the grown-ups like to have.”

Iz leaned forward and emphatically concluded. “They can have their war. We just want to be together and be left alone.”

Karin was reasoning in her mind the whole time the boys were speaking. She knew she needed to do something, or the situation could easily go awry. She spoke gently but firmly. “It’s not that way, boys. There are lots of Arabs and Jews that get along together. For God’s sakes—they work in the same companies and factories. I’m sure there are lots of Jewish and Arab boys that are friends.”

“Do you know any?” Pal asked sincerely.

“Now that is a trick question,” said Karin. “Just because I can’t offer a name doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

Iz leaned forward. “But aren’t you a reporter? Aren’t you supposed to have answers?”

“Okay,” said Karin, drawing a very deep breath and releasing it slowly. “Let’s say you guys are right. Let’s say your families won’t allow you to be friends. Here’s my question. Is it really better to live out here—pardon me—starve out here, to be with each other, than to be with your families, safe and sound, knowing they love you, in your own communities?”

Iz sadly shook his head. “You just don’t get it, lady. What you’re saying to us is to give up our love and friendship just so our families will think we’re all right and will include us in the home. Why can’t we be included…together? Why don’t they make an exception because they love us?”

Iz’s speech touched Karin. “Hell if I know,” she responded. “That’s just not the way it works right now. And you’re not going to change it playing in the desert, dehydrating yourselves and smelling like a three-day-dead goat.”

Pal was surprised. “Do we smell that bad?” he asked.

“No,” replied Karin. “It would take four baths for you to smell like the goat.”

Iz shook his head. “Very sorry. I guess our manly body parts are much more mature than we thought.”

Karin winced, considered a retort, but opted to move on. “Well, I guess you’ve answered question two–‘What are you trying to do?’” she noted. “Or is there more? Are you boys trying to send a message to the Israelis and Palestinians?”

“Yes, we are,” said Iz. “Leave us alone.”

Karin looked around in all directions. “It appears you are alone.”

“Then good,” replied Pal. “But we also can do without reporters.”

Karin pretended to cry. “You mean you don’t want to be famous?”

“No,” said Iz. “Famous is our worst fear. The less people know about us the better.”


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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3973)

Sitting Nine

Chug, chug. Hiss, hiss. Hiss, hiss. Ker-click.

Yes, that was definitely the order. A strong emphasis on hissing with a whisper of ker-click.

Karin made it about a kilometer from town before the engine on the jeep began to serenade her with this chorus of complaints. She turned off the engine and sat staring at the steering wheel, which was now barely visible through a haze of hot smoke accompanied by burning humidity.

She didn’t know anything about the jeep. She was unacquainted with cars—except she was pretty sure that chugging, hissing and ker-clicking meant that she was stranded and going no further.

She sat, gathering her thoughts, which had scattered in every direction for fear of being blamed for the dilemma.

She mused her fate. She was single, broken down, going nowhere, chasing a story in the desert, while her biological clock seemed to be zooming through time zones.

Suddenly she was startled by the beeping of a horn. Another jeep. Army issue. Israeli army.

She heaved a sigh. It wasn’t that she disliked the Israeli army, it was just that they asked so many questions that they often stumped her and became suspicious when she had no answers and seemed dumbfounded.

Karin sat quietly, peeking into her rearview mirror as the soldier crawled out of his jeep and ambled toward her. “Having problems?” he inquired.

He seemed friendlier than most, so Karin returned the kind tone. “No, I’m fine,” she said. “It’s my jeep that’s psychotic.”

The soldier lifted the hood and glanced beneath. “It’s just overheated. Did you check the fluids before you left?” he asked.

“I went to the bathroom. Does that count?” Karin quipped.

He didn’t smile. “Where were you heading?”

The inevitable interrogation was about to begin. “Into the desert,” said Karin vaguely.

“I can see that,” he replied.

Karin decided to be cooperative. “I’m on my way to cover a story.”

“A story?” the soldier questioned, gaining some interest.

“Yes,” said Karin.

“And what story would that be?” His nosy nature was returning.

Karin was baffled. She didn’t mistrust him, but she didn’t know enough about where she was going and whom she was going to meet to be able to communicate her mission very well. And of course, in the back of her mind was the ominous warning from the note: “The boys are dangerous.”

The soldier became dissatisfied with the delay. “Well, let me see, now,” he said, walking around the jeep. “Are you investigating the effects of the sun and sand on sensitive skin?”

“No,” she chuckled. Karin decided there was no time better than now to become forthcoming. “I was given a lead on two boys who are camped in the desert.”

The soldier’s eyebrows raised. “I am looking for those very same boys. One Arab, one Jew.”

Karin eyed him carefully. “That’s my information.”

The soldier patted the hood of the jeep and said, “Well, your vehicle needs to cool before we can add water, so why don’t you hop in with me, and we’ll find those boys together?”

Karin pounded the steering wheel, laughing. “Oh, yeah. I get it. And the girl giddily jumped out of her jeep and said, ‘thank you, kind sir,’ and they found her body, two months later, stuck in the trunk of a date palm.

This time the soldier did smile. He peered at her carefully. “I don’t think I could get you into the trunk of a date palm. I think you’re a bit boomy around the bou-daire for such a maneuver.”

Karin did not know what ‘boomy’ or ‘bou-daire’ meant—but was pretty sure it was not a compliment. “My mother told me never to take rides from strangers,” she explained.

The soldier extended his hand in friendship. “I’m Sergeant Minioz—none stranger.”

Karin reached out with a jerk of nerves and shook his hand. “My name is Karin. Have you ever killed a woman?” she queried.

The sergeant scrunched his face and replied, “No, but I’m willing to learn.” He shrugged. “Right now, I’m your best taxi service. And it looks like we’re going to the same place.”

Karin pursed her lips and crinkled her nose. He seemed harmless enough—for an armed, well-trained killing machine.

She picked up her purse, water and food supplies, threw them into his jeep and they were off. After a couple of moments of driving the Sergeant asked, “What do you know about these boys?”

“No,” said Karin. “You first. What do you know?”

Minioz hesitated. “Well… I know there’s a rumor that one of the boys has a grenade. Matter of fact, it’s my grenade. You see, I feel compelled to retrieve it from the little rascal before he blows up part of the world in my name.”

“A grenade?” Karin was shocked.

“Yes,” said the Sergeant. “An M-67 fragmentation grenade. Very deadly in close range.”

“What do you mean by close range?” Karin questioned.

Minioz shook his head. “I wouldn’t want to be within fifteen meters of it and be wearing human skin.”

She got the idea, so laid down some ground rules. “When we find them I want to talk to them first, without your interference.”

The Sergeant adamantly shook his head. “I can’t agree to that. The most important thing is to disarm those boys.”

“I disagree,” said Karin curtly. “The most important thing is to find out why two boys are in the desert with a grenade. If you come at them in a threatening manner, we may not get a second chance to retrieve that grenade all in one piece.”

Sergeant Minioz reluctantly nodded. They drove for another fifteen or twenty minutes in sweeping circles, looking for anything that resembled an encampment. Finally, at the top of a hill, they spied two blobs tumbling and tussling.

“Those must be our renegade lads,” said the soldier with an eerie lilt in his voice. Karin turned to him and said firmly, “Let me go up and talk to them first. Then I’ll tell them that you’re here and would like to meet with them, too.”

Minioz grabbed her arm. “Don’t double-cross me,” he warned.

“Right back at’cha,” replied Karin. She escaped his grasp and stumbled out of the jeep, toting the water and food.

Her bizarre quest had taken on an even more bewildering twist. It was now a search for a story complete with a military escort. She did not see how it could end well.

Taking a deep breath, she just decided not to think about it, as she slowly, but determinedly, climbed the hill.


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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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