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

(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

(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

(3959)

Sitting Seven

Karin Koulyea was a reporter at the local newspaper. She was American educated, a tad Bohemian for the surrounding elders, very independent and unwilling to cast her lot with either Arab or Jew.

She dubbed herself “the Bedouin Babe.” After many confrontations and disagreements, the title had deteriorated among her male counterparts at the water cooler, into “the Bedouin Beast.”

She was over-qualified for her job and certainly not on the fast track for promotion in a Middle Eastern culture that viewed women with a similar worth as a stinky herd of goats.

She refused to wear the traditional veil and covering, even for special occasions when her editor felt it would benefit the image of the paper. She wasn’t tempestuous. Perhaps in any other situation in any other city of the world, she might be viewed as a rather dowdy wallflower, but in this war-torn, religiously burdened town, she was Margaret Sanger with a little bit of Bonnie Parker thrown in.

It was ten o’clock in the morning and Karin was bored. She didn’t like coffee, although she drank it. She was on her third cup of the unlikable fluid when a slender boy walked in carrying a note. He placed it on her desk and turned to leave. She attempted to communicate with him verbally, but every hackneyed dialect she knew seemed to perplex him more. She finally let him go and decided to read the note.

To Paper Lady: There are two boys living in the desert, one a Jew and one an Arab. They will not go home. They are dangerous.

There was no signature.

She read it over twice. Two boys. Desert. Arab and Jew. Dangerous? It seemed like a practical joke. Or perhaps worse—a trap.

There was this one photographer always taking pictures of her, minus the necessary veil and covering. He giggled and wagged his finger at her, taunting, “I’ve got you now!”

It was bizarre and disconcerting. Maybe this was just another chance for a “photo op” by Raoul the Ghoul.

She threw the note away, paused, and then chased it to the waste basket, where it was stuck to a half-eaten Danish. She needed a story. Nothing else had come in. She popped up, strolled out of the room, stopped off at her editor’s office and said, “I’ll be back this afternoon.”

“Here’s an idea,” stated the gruff voice from the other room. “How about you bring back a story?”

Karin laughed. “What? And make you go over to a second page of print?” She quickly scurried down the stairs and out the door.

Of course, the first question was, where in the desert? “Desert” by its very nature opened up too many possibilities. She decided to go back inside and grab the keys to the old jeep the paper used for transportation, and start riding around asking people if they had heard or seen anything.

It took half-a-dozen or more confused passers-by, but eventually a bus driver told her that he had seen two boys—just yesterday. Karin put together some rudimentary directions from his memory and headed off toward the location.

She shook her head. How could two boys in the desert be dangerous? Should she take some sort of weapon? But why? Was she going to kill them? She thought not. She could read the headline: “Newspaper Woman Slaughters Two Boys in the Desert Because Not Wearing a Veil.”

She picked up a little petrol and supplies and was on her way, feeling a bit foolish, but intrigued, all in the same thought.

Hot day. She stopped for more water and bread. Who knows? Maybe this was her big story.


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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3952)

Sitting Six

It took Iz and Pal a good solid two minutes to figure out where they were when they woke up in the desert, and another good five minutes to negotiate what direction to roll, to untangle themselves from their cocoon.

It was already hot.

Sweat was beading all over their bodies, and after two days absence from bathing, odor was aplenty. After all, when stink is near, grumpy will appear.

“You roll this way and I’ll stay still.” Iz was already sporting some attitude.

Pal objected. “I don’t know what you mean by ‘this way,’ because you have no hands to show me. They’re stuck in the tent.”

Iz heaved a deep sigh. “Look at the direction my head is nodding.”

“Would that be roll towards your nod, or opposite your nod?” replied Pal with a bit of whine.

Iz was done giving direction. He began a series of frantic twists, turns, shimmies and shakes, until the tent ripped, and he slithered his way to the safety of freedom.

Pal was angry. “Now look what you’ve done. You ripped it. What good is a ripped tent?”

“What good are two guys trapped in a tent?” Iz said, standing to his feet.

Pal wiggled two or three times and stood up as well. “You stink,” he stated.

Iz rolled his eyes. “That’s good,” he said. “It was difficult to believe you were producing all the odor.”

They jumped at each other and commenced to wrestling, at first with a bit of anger, and then, as the heat took over, with more pure silliness. They finally fell to the side in choked laughter. Pal was gasping for air.

“Oh, yes, this is really smart,” he said. “When you stink, don’t have any water, it’s always good to wrestle, get sweaty and thirsty.”

“I have a little water left,” said Iz coyly.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” shouted Pal. “Where is it?”

“I wasn’t holding out,” said Iz defensively. “I just didn’t know how to divide it. I don’t know when we’ll get water again.”

A quiet fell over the boys. How could they continue their adventure without food and water? Yet how could they ever go home without looking weak and stupid?

Iz considered. “Maybe your parents will bring some water.”

Pal shook his head. “It’s just my father. And as I told you, my father will never come here.”

“I really don’t want to die,” said Iz with a whimper.

Pal patted him on the shoulder. “Let’s just make a plan for the water.”

What followed was a rather in-depth discussion on the difference between a sip and a gulp. After finally overcoming the semantics, Iz and Pal determined that they had fourteen sips and eight gulps left—perhaps enough for the day, if they stopped wrestling and were not trapped in any more tents.

They tossed the ball back and forth and just talked as the hours passed. They saw no one. Perhaps no one saw them—unless lizards counted.

The day wore on and hunger pangs set in, with aggravation not far behind. Still, they focused on talking, living, loving and matters that concerned them as young boys.

But after a particularly long moment of silence, Iz presented a new topic. “Mine’s different,” he stated slowly.

“Your what?” asked Pal.

“It’s because I’m Jewish,” explained Iz.

“I know you’re Jewish,” said Pal. “But your what?”

“Think about it,” said Iz, lifting his eyebrows.

So Pal did. It took a moment or two, but he finally came up with the answer. “You mean circumcision,” he said proudly.

“So you know about that?” Iz was a bit surprised.

“Yes,” said Pal. “I guess that’s one of those many things that our religions fight about.”

Iz frowned. “Why do they make such a big deal about that?”

“Why do you think God wants you to do it?” Pal challenged.

“Why do you think God doesn’t want you to?” countered Iz.

“Geez,” said Pal. “I feel stupid even talking about this. Grown-ups make such a big deal about us not touching it or talking about it, or even naming it, and then they end up making it one of the big parts of religion. Which is it, Iz? Is it dirty, or is it holy?”

“I know what you mean,” said Iz. “I remember, in my house, I didn’t know what to call it. You know…what we’re talking about. Like, when I was talking to my Pada, how should I refer to that thing? So I decided to come up with a name, and he got really, really mad at me because I said the name out loud.”

“What was the name?” Pal asked with vigor.

“Oh, it was stupid,” Iz replied shyly.

“Even better,” said Pal. “What was the name?”

“I once found a pet snake,” said Iz. “And before Pada made me get rid of it, I named the snake Ulios.”

Pal frowned. “Ulios? What does that mean?”

“Nothing,” said Iz.

“Exactly,” agreed Pal.

Iz continued. “So once, in front of Pada, I made mention to him of my ‘Ulios’…”

Pal paused, letting the idea sink into his brain, and then burst into laughter. “My father was so nervous,” he said, “I mean, about discussing it with me, that we finally decided to refer to it as my ‘man-dilly.’”

Iz laughed uncontrollably. Gaining some breath, he cited, “It’s all so stupid. They tell us that what we feel and believe is the most important thing, and then they make such a fuss about… Well, you know. Ulios and man-dilly.”

Pal became serious. “Maybe that’s why things are messed up. If grown men are so nervous about such a simple thing, how do they ever expect to understand more important things?”

Iz took a quick sip of water. “I don’t care what you call it. I don’t care what it looks like. I don’t care if it’s circumcised. I would trade it all in right now for a big, cold frosty bottle of Coca-Cola.”

The boys nodded in holy agreement. Then they sat in silence, a bit uncomfortable over their discussion, but also wiser from what they learned.

The heat pressed down as the time passed. There was a great temptation to change sips into gulps, but amazing restraint was maintained. They breathed deeply, looking at the surrounding desert.

Never would they ever have such experiences again.

Never would friendship be so precious.

Never would it ever be so hot.


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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3917)

Sitting One

The sun is unrelenting and sand is hot—often forgotten in discussing desert matters, the blistering heat baking earth and all humans from head to toe.

Young boys—no, fellows. Growing humans. What would be the right words to describe two twelve-year-old gentlemen? The term “boys” certainly limits their experience, and the distinction “men” seems overwrought, almost comical.

Amir and Jubal, two chaps trapped in both name and culture, demanded compliance to a lifestyle of birth—one Arab, one Jew, respectively.

How did it all begin? How does anything begin? If necessity is the “mother of invention,” then curiosity is the flamboyantly dressed aunt with the horn-rimmed glasses, chomping on her gum, saying, “Why not?”

One day, these two boys just noticed each other across the dusty road of an open-market. Eyes met and then nervously retreated in fear of breaching some ancient cultural taboo. But after all, they were just guys—so eyes met again, affixing a stare which promptly sprouted a grin and a tiny, inconspicuous wave. Caution was observed to make sure that milling adults did not notice the connection, but it was made. Two fellows noticing each other for the first time, wondering what the other one was really like, curious about playtime possibilities.

All at once, Amir pointed straight down to the ground and then immediately up to the sky. Jubal’s brow furrowed in confusion, so Amir repeated his gesture. Jubal nodded his head, not certain of the agreement. On the walk home, he thought about the finger-pointing. All at once it occurred to him. “He wants me to meet him there tomorrow at mid-day.”

Jubal wasn’t sure, but it certainly sounded more fun than carving the vegetables set before him by his stern father. “Yes, that must be what he meant,” Jubal concluded.

It was the last thing on his mind before he went to sleep and the first thought that popped in his head with his awakening at dawn.

At midday, Jubal raced to the market, and there was Amir. It was such a delightful moment—not just the sensation of seeing each other, but the excitement of knowing they had crafted a plan without words.

 

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