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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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3987)

Sitting Eleven

A gentle moment of tenderness swept over the heart of Karin Koulyea.

At first she didn’t recognize the emotion, having not encountered it for some time. She found it best to protect her soul just short of the border of bitterness. She never felt comfortable, she was never assured, and she always found herself defending her life because she was born a woman.

But standing there in the desert, she realized that these two young boys had captured her imagination, as immature and foolish as they obviously were. There was a devotion that linked the two of them which was unmistakable, and nearly brought the hard-bitten reporter to tears.

Confused by her feelings and realizing that she was flirting with becoming part of the story instead of reporting it, she asked, “So, what is my story? What do you know about me? Are you just setting me aside because you’re rejecting everyone who isn’t one of you two?”

“You don’t have a story,” Iz explained, leaning forward. “We didn’t ask you to come here. We didn’t ask to be bothered. We don’t want to solve any problem. We just don’t want anyone to take away our friendship.”

Karin shook her head and scoffed. “How about that soldier down there? How about the grenade?”

You brought him,” countered Iz.

Karin took a deep breath for dramatic effect. “Actually, he brought me. My jeep gave up on the way here and I hitched a ride.” She gazed steadily at the pair. “And I will tell you right now—he wants his grenade back and he will not leave until he gets it.”

Pal carefully considered her words. “Tell him he can have his hand grenade if we can have his gun.”

Iz loved the idea and clapped his hands. Karin, on the other hand, chuckled before realizing that Pal was serious. “No, I don’t think he’ll do that,” she said. “Matter of fact, I can pretty well guarantee you that he’ll nix that suggestion. But calm down—let’s drop this for now. Just listen. For my story…” She held up her hand. “And listen, boys, I am going to walk away from here with a story. So for my story, I need your names.”

“We have new names,” said Iz proudly. Pal nodded in agreement.

Karin, grateful for the conversation, asked, “All right. What are your new names?”

“I am Iz and this is Pal,” he replied.

Karin nodded her head. “I see,” she said. “For Israeli and Palestinian.”

Pal was very aggravated at how quickly Karin figured out their cleverness. “Is it that obvious?” he asked, disappointed.

“Well, it sure ain’t Gordian’s knot,” she replied.

Iz and Pal looked at each other, confused. Karin reconsidered her comparison and replaced, “Well, it sure ain’t algebra.”

The two boys bobbed their heads, understanding. Karin continued. “Well, Iz and Pal, you’ve got a problem. You really can’t stay here—especially with a hand grenade, which is going to gather great interest. Let’s be honest. What’s to keep that big, burly soldier down there from running up the hill and whipping your butts, and carrying you off to jail?”

“The hand grenade,” said Iz simply.

Karin pointed at him. “You mean the hand grenade you don’t know how to use?”

“The soldier doesn’t know that,” responded Pal.

Karin looked around the desert as if seeking divine wisdom, and then continued. “Listen, kid—there is no threat you will ever make that you won’t eventually have to back up. That’s why countries go to war. Because somebody somewhere was stupid enough to threaten somebody else. Then they end up needing to back it up by killing a bunch of innocent people.”

Iz and Pal listened very carefully. Karin was once again moved by their sincerity, but completely unnerved by their foolish innocence. They did not realize how dangerous it was to live in this land, where threats always became violence. They were ignorant of how a weapon in the hand eventually became a casualty on the ground. Whether they knew how to use a hand grenade or not, they were still in great peril.

She had no idea what to do. Perhaps they were small enough that she could take them on herself—at least one of them. Maybe if she overpowered Iz and pulled him down the hill, then Pal would dutifully follow. As always, the problem was, there wasn’t much time to think it over. And she didn’t trust Minioz. Was he concerned about the boys, or just intent on retrieving his hand grenade and making sure no ranking officer was aware he had lost it?

She looked toward the jeep. Suddenly, it was even more problematic. The sergeant was heading up the hill, weary of waiting. He was definitely not to be trusted. How desperate was he to cover up his error? Would he harm the boys?

Karin made a quick decision. “Listen,” she said. “Here he comes. I am probably the most stupid woman on Earth—but watch carefully. Here’s how the hand grenade works. I had to learn about them when I was a correspondent in Lebanon. First, look at the pin.” She pointed to the pin dangling from the grenade. “When you remove that pin, it opens a fuse. You have no more than five seconds to toss it and get away from the grenade before it explodes. Be careful. Some people know how to put the pin back into the grenade, but I don’t.”

Iz and Pal focused intently. Fidgeting, Iz fingered the pin.

“No!” screamed Karin, pulling his hand away. “It’s not a toy and this is no game. I did not tell you this so you would kill yourselves, or me, for that matter. I just don’t want the soldier to hurt you.”

Minioz was very near. It was all heading toward a very precarious conclusion.

Karin had been right.

Could any good thing come out of this story?


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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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