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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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3966)

Sitting Eight

By midday, Iz and Pal had developed a brand-new game. They called it, “Your Book, My Book.”

They mentioned the various names that were in the Talmud and the Koran, and were shocked to find out how many were the same. Abraham was in both, as was Joseph, Isaac, Ishmael, Noah, Adam, Eve, Moses. Yes, they were all there.

Iz’s book had some other different names and Pal’s mentioned both Jesus of Nazareth and Mohammed, but it was really quite surprising. Kind of freaky.

They also realized that the two of them looked much the same. By now they smelled the same. They both believed in God. Both had never touched pork and had strict families. They came from desert Bedouins and they both really, really liked Hershey chocolate bars with almonds.

Aside from Iz being shorted by circumcision and Pal not really having a country, they should be brothers.

It made them wonder if anyone had ever thought of it before. They were so preoccupied with their new game that neither noticed the arrival of a guest—a slender, lanky young man with dark brown skin, curly hair and pieces of coal for eyes—piercing but still permitting some of the warmth of childhood.

Iz did not recognize the stranger but Pal knew him.  He spoke quietly. “Hello, Talsan.”

The young man stood tall, staring off into the distance. “It is hot, my little brother. You will sicken yourself in this heat.”

“I drink as much as I can,” said Pal, continuing his calm tone.

Talsan chuckled. “In the desert, by the time you think to drink, it is already too late.”

He sat down next to his younger brother.

Iz spoke up. “I am Jubal,” he stated. “Amir’s friend.”

“So,” asked Talsan, “are you the trouble-maker?”

Pal interrupted. “No, I am the trouble-maker. No, I mean—there is no trouble. We are just enjoying being together.”

Talsan shook his head. “Papa is worried. He has talked to the elders.”

Pal quickly shifted to his haunches. “Why did he talk to them?”

Talsan raised his voice. “Because he wasn’t going to talk to you out here in the desert, running from family and Allah.”

“I’m not running,” said Pal. “All my life I’ve done whatever I was told to do, even though there were questions exploding in my mind.”

“Questions?” scoffed Talsan, “what questions?”

Pal paused as if deciding whether to continue the conflict. “All right, Talsan,” he said with intensity. “Answer this. Why do we live in a religion, in a culture, that speaks so highly of family, friends and love, but then teaches us to hate these people walking nearest to us in the village?”

“We do not hate them,” Talsan spat. “They hate us. We are merely protecting our lives.”

Iz jumped in. “I don’t hate you. I don’t hate Pal. I don’t hate your father. I would just like to live—and have some fun.”

Talsan laughed scornfully. “Now I know you are a boy. Fun is out of the question. We are to become men and take our place—first at the universities and then, in leadership of our communities.”

“Without fun?” asked Pal.

Talsan heaved a deep sigh. “Papa has explained all of this to you. It is time for you to come home. He will not pursue you. He will pray for you but he will not come to you. It is a shame and a disgrace that you would wish him to defile himself by chasing his son down in the desert.”

“I don’t want him to chase me,” shouted Pal. “I want him to leave me alone and let my friend, Iz, and me, start a new life. Maybe a new town.”

“Or even a country,” piped in Iz.

“Iz,” said Talsan. “Listen to yourself, little boy. Our country has existed for thousands of years, filled with tradition and rich spirituality.”

Iz interrupted. “But how can it be spiritual when it is so full of hate?”

Talsan shook his head. “Do you hate the lamb when you take the wool? Do you hate the chicken when you collect its eggs? Do you hate the animal when you spill its blood to provide meat for your table? What you call hate is merely the way of nature. Things that are alike seek their own. In the process, they reject different species so as to keep purity within the ranks.”

Pal screamed at his brother. “You make no sense! Is this what they teach you at the university? These are just weird stories that don’t mean anything. My friend, Iz, here, is not a chicken. And I’m not an animal stuck in some herd. Talsan, you cannot tell me that you believe this.”

Talsan drew a deep breath. “What I believe has no power if it cannot change what I see. All of my wishes for peace and love are meaningless when I live in a world of bigotry and intolerance. I don’t want to change the world. I just want to keep the world from changing me.”

Both boys squinted at him, confused.

Talsan grabbed Pal’s arm, pulling him to his feet. “You will go with me,” he stated.

Pal collapsed, forcing his body to the ground, as Iz grabbed the grenade.

Talsan spied the weapon extended in the young boy’s hand. “So this is your answer to violence?” he posed. “How are you any different than anyone else? You would kill me to maintain your little society?”

Pal, lying face-down in the ground, spit back, “Talsan, I don’t want to kill you. You are my brother. I just don’t want you to decide my life.”

Talsan released his hold on Pal’s arm and stepped a few paces away, then turned and said, “I will tell Papa that your mind is deranged by the desert sun, and that you are under the power of some evil spirit. This should comfort him.”

He continued. “My little brother, I do not know what you’re doing. I do not know what in the hell this ‘Iz and Pal’ business is all about, but you are skin of my skin and blood of my blood. I will not hate you because I do not understand. This is where I am different from Papa. I pray you will change your ways, but I do not want you to starve and die of thirst. I will have food and water delivered here every morning until you decide to come to your senses. You are a childish idiot—but that should not be a death sentence.”

Pal stood to his feet and gingerly gave his brother a hug. Talsan nodded at Iz and concluded, “I do not hate you Jews. I just don’t believe that God chose you any more than He chose me.”

“No argument from me,” said Iz simply. “And thanks for the food.”

The boys perched in silence and watched as Talsan made his way down the hill. With each step he took they realized they were growing further and further away from their families and communities. Soon there would be nothing but the sand under their feet and the love they had in their hearts.

Still, it seemed like enough.


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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

(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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