Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4085)

Sitting Twenty-Five

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

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

Sweet play.

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

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

Nothing seemed wrong. Therefore, nothing was wrong.

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

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

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

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

Iz perked up. “I think I do.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“You know I am,” said Pal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Eat it?” Pal shouted.

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

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

Time would tell.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4078)

Sitting Twenty-Four

Pada was surprised at how easy it was to acquire the address of the gentile boy’s father. He drove to the home, walked up and knocked on the door.

When it opened, a man stood there in front of him, not that different from himself, both in appearance and in countenance—not a mirror image, but still—more alike than different.

Pada spoke deliberately. “Are you the father of Amir?”

“Who are you?” the man responded.

“I am the father of Jubal.”

“And who is Jubal?” he countered.

Pada drew a deep breath. “He is the boy with your son, in the desert.”

The man in the doorway vigorously shook his head. “You mean the boy who has tricked my son into disobeying his father, and who is living like an animal in the sand?”

Pada was up to the fight. “That’s strange. I thought it was your boy who deceived my son.”

The two men eyed each other.

There was no semblance of friendliness—no indication that an invitation would be extended to enter the home. This conversation certainly would be conducted standing in the doorway.

Pada continued. “I didn’t come here to argue with you, but I guess, to ask you, overall, what do you think we should do?”

The man smirked. “You want my opinion?”

Pada pursued with more vehemence. “Actually, I want an answer. Your opinion will suffice.”

The man leaned in a little closer and responded coldly, “I think until my people are given their freedom and the land they deserve, such atrocities by the children will be rampant.”

Pada sighed. “Ah. Politics. Must it always be politics? I am here to talk about our children, not the condition of our people.”

Amir’s father raised his finger and pointed at Pada’s face. “But it is about our people. It’s about thousands of years of you Jews arrogantly believing that you are the only sons granted inheritance in this land. I am a son of Abraham.”

“I am, too,” insisted Pada. “But that can’t be possible, because there’s no way that the two of us could actually be brothers.”

Amir’s father stiffened. “I do not want to be your brother. I just want my father’s inheritance.”

Pada stepped back to escape the intensity. “Why can’t we speak of our children?” he pleaded.

“What children?” the man asked.

“Your son—Amir, am I right? And my son, Jubal.”

Amir’s father shook his head. “I don’t know if you have a son named Jubal, but I have no son named Amir. You see, disgrace has no name, and dishonor cannot live in my house.”

Pada shook his head. “Nor will I allow it to live in mine,” he retorted. “Jubal is a shame to me. Yet he is my shame.”

The angry man moved as if he was going to close the door but stopped short of completing the deed. He spoke through a smaller crack. “I have no shame, for I have no disgrace, for I have no son named Amir.”

He was about to finish closing the door but stalled, inserting a thought. “Do you really expect to come to my house as a Jew and talk to me of earthly things? Family and children? If we do not agree on the heavenly, how can we ever discern the earth? You are not my enemy. You are just nothing at all.”

Having completed his speech, Amir’s father slammed the door Pada’s face. He stood for a moment, wondering whether to pound on the door until the man responded, but finally turned on his heel and made his way down the steps to his car.

For a moment, he wondered if he had a part in causing the rage in Amir’s father, or bringing about the disrespect he felt from Jubal.

Then all at once he remembered his own father’s words: “The Palestinians will serve us, just as our children are born to do so.”

Pada smiled and nodded his head. So it was, so it is and so it shall be.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4064)

Sitting Twenty-Two

Karin was embarrassed.

She had promised “the boys in the sand” that she would come up with some answers—or just do anything contrary to their belief that she would do nothing–so she took some time to gather together a sampling of the gifts donated during her phone solicitation. Matthew stared at her in disbelief—partly because of the frenzy of nerves that had overtaken her in accumulating the items, but mostly because he couldn’t figure out how this particular collage of “things” had any central theme.

They drove until Karin was able, through trial and error, to remember where the encampment was. Then, much to her surprise, she saw that many other of the gifts had been delivered to Iz and Pal, including the portable toilet, orange construction cones, fruit baskets, and what appeared to be bags of hamburgers. She shook her head, unable to conceive how anybody had been able to find the location.

As she climbed the hill with her trinkets, she observed the boys opening and closing the door to the toilet, poking their heads inside and giggling. “It’s a toilet!” she shouted.

They jumped back, startled. She covered the remaining distance quickly, and gently patted Iz on the shoulder. “I didn’t mean to scare you,” she said tenderly. “So, what do you think of your new toilet?” She stood back, holding out her hand as if introducing royalty.

Iz shook his head, perplexed. “Why do we need a toilet?”

“Well,” said Karin slowly, “don’t you get kind of tired of, like, burying your stuff in the desert?”

“No, actually it’s kind of fun,” inserted Pal. “I mean, every once in a while you forget, and you dig up one of your old…”

Karin interrupted. “I got the idea!” She lifted her hand to stop any further explanation. Suddenly remembering her guest, she turned to Matthew, who had just arrived. “Iz and Pal, this is Matthew Bradley, and he is here to take your picture.”

Matthew stepped forward. “Hey, dudes. You see, I’ll take this box and point it at you, and what you look like will come through this lens…” He paused to point at the front of the camera and continued. “And from this lens it goes onto what they call film, and makes a picture of your faces.”

He said each word slowly and deliberately, like a missionary schoolteacher. Karin intervened. “Matthew, they are not Aborigines. They have seen cameras, and they’ve had their picture taken. And by the way, they don’t think you’re stealing their souls. Just tell them how you want them to stand.”

Matthew paused, rubbing his chin. “Karin, what is the theme of the picture?”

Karin rolled her eyes, trying to make sure that Matthew didn’t notice. “Theme? There is no theme, Matt. I need a picture of these boys so I can get more attention for their situation.”

Matthew signed, impatient with her ignorance. “Well, if you just wanted a picture you could have picked up one of those disposable cameras,” he said, disgusted. “Listen, Karin, I’m more than a ‘photo guy.’ That’s your problem. You see me as so, so, so very small…”

Karin realized that what she deemed logical he felt was unappreciative. She eased over and gave him a sideways hug (so as to avoid his breath) and said, “Matthew, I’m sorry. I just don’t know about picture themes. What do you think?”

Matthew, immediately healed by the gratuitous apology, was elated. He suggested the two boys embrace as a symbol of their friendship, but since the boys had never really embraced before, it looked terribly awkward. Then, in a brief flicker of pure dumb luck, they managed to hug each other and turn to the camera with huge, cheesy grins.

It was an inspiring moment.

“What are you going to do with the picture?” asked Pal.

“I’m going to try to make your picture famous,” Karin replied, “so you don’t have to be.”

The boys nodded (the way twelve-year-olds do when they don’t really understand adult talk, but also don’t want to hear any more.)

Truthfully, Karin didn’t really understand herself.

Yet several hours later, in a small darkroom, Matthew developed the photo and presented it to Karin. Never in her journalistic life had she seen a picture reflect such clumsy warmth and genuine homespun tenderness. A tear came to her eye, which she reached up and dried quickly. It was no time to be sentimental.

There were still cows to get into the barn.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4057)

Sitting Twenty-One

Matthew Bradley was a photographer with a lesser known news organization with the unfortunate acronym of W.U.S.—Wire United Service.

Matthew refused to be called Matt because he felt that using his full name, Matthew, along with Bradley, might remind people of the famous photographer, Matthew Brady, from the Civil War, who no one remembered anyway.

He was sweet—which in the world of romance, is akin to leprous. He wasn’t unattractive, but certainly never did anything to paint his old barn. He nervously talked too much, and his voice was pitched high. His cheeks were sunken and his teeth, with just a touch of “buck” to them, threatened halitosis. For his breath was just south of peppermint with a hint of garlic, which made close contact just a little stuffy.

Matthew liked Karin. He was infatuated. She was a female and he, a male. Twice a month he asked Karin to go out on a date. She had never accepted the offer—not only fearing that he might become too obsessed, but also having little desire to provide the lion’s share of the small talk.

Even though Karin was not interested in him as a potential boyfriend, she had never needed a photographer as much as she needed one now. Pictures were required so that the public could catch a vision of what was going on in the desert with Iz and Pal.

Taking a deep breath, Karin picked up her phone and called him. She told him that she wanted to see him. There was a very long pause. Matthew replied, “Who is this really?”

After thoroughly convincing him of her pedigree and authenticity, they met for a brief luncheon, at which time she explained her dilemma. He never took his eyes off what seemed to be a region below her nose and above her mouth. It was unnerving.

Yet he agreed to go with her to the desert location to take pictures—if she agreed to attend a correspondence dinner with him in two weeks, where he was going to receive some sort of simple award. Even though Karin was dedicated to the project and wanted to do what she could for the two young fellows, she still paused for a moment to consider what an evening with Matthew would be like—especially if he was juiced up with the energy of grasping a small trophy.

Still, she knew how important this visual would be to her article—and taking heart from contemplating that some forms of cancer can take effect suddenly, be diagnosed and kill in less than fourteen days, she agreed.

They split the bill, she offered him a mint and they headed off into the desert.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4043)

Sitting Nineteen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She opened up a book she had never used before:

The local Yellow Pages.

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4036)

Sitting Eighteen

Iz was still bewitched and bedazzled by his night vision. Charged with energy, he surged past Pal’s proclamation, yearning to speak of his own experience. “I must tell you about my dream,” he said. “Pal, I must tell you before I forget it.”

Pal was instantly sullen. Although he loved his young friend dearly and the relationship was very new, he already realized that he was losing the lion’s share of arguments—being pushed to the side by the manic energy of Iz. But this time Pal was so enraptured in his vision that he chanced speaking up to his overbearing friend. “I want you to listen to mine first,” he insisted. “Then I promise to listen to yours. But I think if we start with yours, there won’t be time to tell you what I saw.”

Pal didn’t hesitate further. Before Iz could object, he launched dramatically:

My brother stole my hat and began to run through the streets. I chased him, all the while knowing he would be too fast for me—that I would never be able to catch him. Meanwhile, the streets grew more narrow. I heard laughter coming from the walls of each home, as if unseen people, were making fun of me—of my weakness because I could not keep up with my brother. I was too slow. The streets kept narrowing until finally, the path closed in on me. All at once I ran into a wall, and fell on my back, splashing into a pool of water.

Well, I thought it was water, but it was green and sticky, and it really stunk. It got on my skin and turned it red and made it bumpy. Alarmed, I tried to scream but nothing came out of my mouth. My pleas were blocked. I tried to rise to my feet, but the green tide pulled me back down, deeper and deeper, into a puddle. I was terrified. I fell, until just my head, and then my lips, and finally, my nose was all that was exposed to the outside air. And then, like with one gigantic push, I was thrust underneath the scum. I looked around, trying to see what I could perceive, as the current gradually became a golden yellow.

The next thing I knew, I was in what seemed to be a small box, being rolled up and down the hills. I had an upset stomach and became sick. I begged for release but the box wouldn’t stop rolling. I heard cheering, clapping and yelling.

Then, deep within me, I stopped being afraid. It was so weird. I was still sick, but I wasn’t terrified.

Now listen. Finally the scene changed, and I was sitting in front of a thousand tents, filled with the smells of great food, with people standing outside calling to me, saying, “Here, Pal! Try this! Here, Pal! Eat this!”

I looked at the array of treats before my eyes. I didn’t know where to start. But I had no fear. Iz, I really wasn’t afraid.

Pal stopped his story, nearly breathless.

Two boys sat by the light of a single candle. They were still. They were thinking. Occasionally they would glance at one another.

Sweet fellowship. Neither one understood his dream. Neither one could interpret the other’s.

But they weren’t afraid.

No. Iz and Pal were unafraid.

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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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