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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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3945)

Sitting Five

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

Bruised.

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

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

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

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

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

Pal inserted, “Our ways.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Nope,” said Pal matter-of-factly.

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

“I could never hate you,” he said.

“Why would you want to?” asked Pal.

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

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

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

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

“How about Frank?” offered Iz.

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

Two friends giggling. The best sound ever.

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

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

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

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

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

Iz dozed off, thinking about water.

Pal fell asleep, wondering where his family was.


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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3931)

Sitting Four

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

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

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

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

“Pada?” asked Amir.

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

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

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

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

“But he loves you?” asked Jubal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I won’t. Not now,” said Iz.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3931)

Sitting Three

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

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

“I don’t like my name,” said Jubal.

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

“Jubal is just so old and religious.”

“Amir sucks.”

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

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

“We need new names,” decided Jubal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amir’s eyes widened. “You mean…?”

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

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

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

“Oh. What is it?” inquired Amir.

“I think I will call you Pal.”

“Pal?” asked Amir with a squint.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What is it?” asked Amir.

Jubal paused. “It’s a hand grenade.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They would soon be discovered.

 

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