Three weeks ago we announced our New Yorker fiction parody contest, inspired by a short story in The New Yorker. The original, “Means of Suppressing Demonstrations,” was written by Shani Boianjiu from the point of view of an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint and depicted Palestinian demonstrators as begging to be injured so as to manipulate world opinion. Our parody contest asked writers to recast other historical events in the New Yorker mode of reversing sympathy.
We got many entries, and in a few days we’ll announce winners. Meantime, we wanted to publish 25 entrants in the order received, to get readers’ reactions. We’ve done a little selection. Several writers submitted more than one story; we chose the one we thought was best. We supplied many of the titles.
1. “Dershy,” by Dbroncos:
Gone were the sour playground days of his youth when jolly apes would snicker and make fun of him and his name. “No one kicks Alan Dershowitz around anymore” Mr. Dershowitz said out loud with a great deal of satisfaction. Mr. Dershowitz smiled as he reflected on how far he had travelled, how high he had climbed: a Harvard chair, a made-for-hollywood profile on the legal defense team of a black football star, and invitations to the White House.
The White House visits were the best of it, and Mr. Dershowitz prided himself in always remembering why he was there. He was there to remind the President, Mr. President whatever-your-name-is, that it is Mr. Alan Dershowitz who speaks for the Jewish people. As long as he made this point crystal clear he could say, “mission acomplished”, and rest easy on the eve of his visit. Mr. Dershowitz was intent on making this point clear this afternoon when he travelled to the White House to meet with President Bush. He brought a signed copy of his book, The Case For Israel, with the intension of personally presenting it to the President.
“How’s it hangin’, Dershy?’”said President Bush, slapping Mr. Dershowitz on the back. It was out of character for Mr.Dershowitz to feel nervous, even in the presence of the Commander in Chief, but when the time came Mr. Dershowitz’s hands trembled a little. His book felt heavy and Mr. Dershowitz understood this to mean that it wasn’t just a book. It was Yaweh’s design for the President’s ME foreign policy. It was written for powerful lawmakers who need to be reminded constantly of the exalted role that the Chosen People play in in our own universe and beyond. Mr. Dershowitz presented his book with both hands. His eyes were moist. “Thanks, Dershy!, that’ll be a great prop for election season!” said the President, slapping him on the back. The President never touched The Case For Israel. A White House staffer snatched the book out of Mr. Dershowitz hands, and briskly left the Oval office with The Case For Israel teetering on a tall stack of note cards and pizza boxes. “Now let’s talk business, Dershy.” said the President. “Do you have a check for me and can you deliver Pennsylvania?”
2. The IDF Fiction Department, by Shmuel
Col. Arik Klein sat in his office on the third floor of the IDF Spokesman’s Unit headquarters on Kaplan Street, overlooking Victor Gate. He had just been appointed head of the Unit’s new Fiction Department, brainchild of Information Minister Yoni Edelman, and was awaiting the arrival of his staff: a major on loan from the IDF Journal and four recruits fresh from basic training–a secretary and three writers. The first to arrive was Private Shira Bejerano. According to her file, she had won first prize in the Ministry-sponsored “My Country Right or Wrong” essay contest, and had already published a couple of short stories in Bamahane.
“At ease, Shira. You don’t have to salute me; we’re not that kind of unit. Make yourself a cup of coffee and pull up a chair.”
“Thank you, sir.”
“I like your writing. I think we can do some really good work here, but it will take you some time to mature as a writer. The way I see it, your service in this department is just the beginning. Your real service to the country will come later, after the army, at university, maybe abroad, and after graduation. Press releases, reports and even documentaries can only go so far in getting our side of the story across. Fiction is the key to winning hearts and minds. I think Uris proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt.”
“Leon Uris. Your first assignment is to read Exodus. You’ll have to find your own voice and style of course, but it’s important that you understand Uris’ achievement. Learn your lesson well and, who knows, you may even be featured in the New Yorker some day.”
“Where, sir … I mean Arik?”
“Never mind. Just read the book, for now.”
3. Beirut, by Seafoid
Sitting in his office in the sweltering summer heat of Beirut, General Sharon thought back to his childhood and his father, Adolf, the man he could never please. It had always been the same, the small boy doing his best, the father, distant, ignoring him. That time he came first in the Grade 4 inter schools race- immediately he crossed the line he looked up to catch the eyes of his father but the bastard had his back turned and was reading the stock prices in the FT.
That was before he started eating to compensate for his lack of paternal love. Those croissants, they never let him down. Or the Jewish speciality his mother brought to the Holy Land from old Poland- that baklava. Or the famous Israeli dish his aunt Rivka invented in her apartment on the Jaffa Road back in the autumn of 1936 – tabouleh. The one that went global. They even eat it now in this benighted city he thought to himself. Where would they be without Jewish genius ? Even in Shatila. And why did they call the other camp after the Sabras? He too was a Sabra, he thought.
And his father, he wondered, where was he now? He hadn’t seen him in 20 years.
Hobeika rushed into the office. “Yalla let’s go” he said. General Sharon gave the order. Within a minute Shlomo had set the phosphorous flares going and the Kataib teams set to work. The smell of blood filled the Beirut night. He could hear the screams of the women through the window.
After about an hour he went to the gate of the camp. Such a magnificent job, all his work. The teams would power on into the night. He lost himself in thought.
Felt a tap on his shoulder , and a voice said “well done Arik. I’m proud of you !
He turned around
The tears welled up.
He barely managed the next question
“And who is that beside you ?”
« Moshiach »
4. Bizarre cult in Judea, by William Burns
Nobody really wants to serve in Judea. The people there really don’t appreciate us and are constantly kicking up pointless rebellions, usually motivated by their bizarre, monotheistic cult. And then they very often fight to the death, impelled by some strange lust for martyrdom–thinking that the scribes will write five pages about them, no doubt.
I was serving in the fourteenth legion when another one of their prophets began to stir up trouble. This time, praise Jupiter, the serving procurator decided to take aggressive countermeasures and suppress the movement before it actually grew into a rebellion. As centurion on duty, I was leading the crucifixion party, and I have seldom seen an uglier crowd.
Typical of his people, the prophet–I forget his name–seemed to positively lust for martyrdom. It was an old-fashioned crucifixion, with nails rather than ropes, and he kept acting like he was doing us a favor by letting us do it. Some claim that it was one of our boys who stabbed him in the side on the cross, but the legions know it was one of the Jews.
It worked, though–the rebellion was nipped in the bud, and the city spared what we would have done to it–not that they showed any gratitude. And I won this nifty cloak gambling with the boys under the cross.
5. Westy, by Ira Glunts
Westy, the American officer, had stopped feeling his own body since the acid took effect four hours ago. He lay on top of his cheap tattered Chinese beach chair, holding an old copy of the New York Times, blocking the sun. He had to stretch out his arms to hold the wide page above his head.
“Oh, shit, he said.
“The fuckin’ ARVN didn’t do it,” Van said. He flicked his joint carelessly near a gasoline can. He was talking about Kim, the little Vietnamese girl on the road. The picture in the newspaper showed her running, screaming and naked, amid a group of other hysterical little ragamuffins in various stages of undress.
“I know,” Westy said, “This is a manipulation.”
The world said they were hit by napalm when the South Vietnamese Army pilots mistook them for enemy soldiers. But the American Army knew that this was a staged event by the Vietcong to garner international sympathy for its flagging cause. Westy looked at Van. The orange yellow glare of the sun and the acid made Van look like a demon-warrior. Westy wondered if his countrymen would appreciate the hardships his troops had suffered here amid this faceless inscrutable enemy 50 years from now.
6. The cockpit, by David Samel
Werner was only 20 but already had logged more flight time than most of the senior officers twice his age. He was more comfortable in the cockpit than anywhere on solid ground. As he sped toward his target, he glanced to his right and could clearly make out Hans, no more than 70 meters away, with one hand occupied eating a sandwich, no doubt his usual bratwurst with sauerkraut, and the other hand casually on the controls. Werner chuckled softly to himself, alternately thinking about Hans’s legendary appetite and his legendary piloting skills. How angry he would have been to see anyone else having only one free hand while flying at such close distance!
Suddenly, Werner’s thoughts turned serious. He could recall every word of Reichsmarschall Goring’s speech that morning. This would be Werner’s first combat mission, and his first flight for international solidarity. The Communists were advancing in Spain, and the Generalissimo had begged for German assistance. This may be the turning point in the campaign, the decisive moment when the Bolsheviks would learn a lesson they would never forget. Some pilots at the morning’s briefing appeared anxious about bombing a town where many civilians might be killed. But the Reichsmarschall had assured them that the Communists who hid among the town’s inhabitants were counting on good German boys to have scruples, and it was the Communists alone, not the proud sons of Germany, who were imperiling the lives of common folk.
As they walked to their planes, Hans had expressed doubts. He was worried that the Communists were goading them to kill civilians to gain international sympathy and attract recruits – useful idiots! – from all over the world to fight – ignorantly! – for the dictatorship of the proletariat. Werner recognized his friend’s brilliance, but assured him that the Reichsmarschall had thought of that, had thought of everything. This was Spain’s hour of need, and if Franco needed our help, how could we abandon him?
Then the town appeared through the slight haze, about 20 kilometers straight ahead. Werner wondered about the Spanish pronunciation for Guernica. When the Reichsmarschall said it in German, it sounded like a combination of a sneeze and a cough. Werner smiled again, but quickly trained his mind on the mission. It would be only a few minutes more before he could make his first contribution to his Fatherland and its most valuable allies. He knew his life could end at any minute, as the town was overrun with Communist soldiers whose anti-aircraft fire could find his plane without any warning. Every man dies, Werner thought, and death for a cause is the most honorable. His mind turned to sharp focus on the details of his task. Werner felt nothing but a slight bump on the wing as the plane released its payload. As he turned around, his thoughts turned to schnitzel and beer, and how Hans would finish his portion, refill his plate, and finish that before Werner was half-way through his meal.
7. Resolutions, by talknic
I walked quietly up to uncle Jacob who was sitting on a rock on the side of the hill, looking over what we’d accomplished that day. A book lay at his feet. Spine broken. It’s partly burned, tortured pages flapping and flying away in the evening breeze, over the eerily glowing embers of the old Palestinian olive grove.
“We did well eh” I always enjoyed nights like this
His silence told me more than I wanted to know. I tried to avert the direction I knew things were about to go, “Look at it uncle Jacob. Quite a sight in the sunset. Beautiful.”
By that I knew this was going to go in only one direction “Ok uncle Jacob, what is …. uh …. was the book about?”
“UNSC Resolutions against Israel” he sighed. “Ever read ‘em?”
I shuffled uncomfortably, thinking I must work harder to overcome the way I shuffle uncomfortably when I hear anything beginning with UN. Damn unsettling when you’re talking to your ‘un’cle. Even more ‘un’settling that it’s ‘un’settling and ‘un’comfortable
I tried not to stammer. “Uh? No u u u u n … Jacob. I er…uh… haven’t. What’re they about?” I replied, thinking as I did of early life in NY and how I’d always found it difficult lying to my uncle.
He slowly turned to face me, sighing again. Louder. Deeper. With an impatient edge I could feel. His eyes fixed on mine “You know what they’re about”. I began to sweat.
“I remember thinking at the time, I gotta get this cold sweating thing under control. Any way, I never did get it under control because uncle Jacob was right and we all knew it. That’s the night I stopped stuttering and when your mother and I decided we’d be raising Brooklyn kids. Now go to sleep and don’t bother your mother. Uncle Jacob and I are gonna go play bowls at Melody Lanes”
“Dad…. tomorrow, can we make a card to Mohammad Alsaafins family to celebrate Palestinian Independence day?”
8. Heart warmer, by NickJOCW
I have a truly heart warming story to tell. There is this settler, a retired soldier with an honourable record. I cannot name him, his humility resists the acclaim his generous spirit so surely deserves.
His parents were among the very first to survive the stormy seas and reach safety in this fairest of lands and he was born within a year of their arrival. As the years passed he never tired hearing the stories his parents told of their journey. Again and again he would beg them to recount how on their arrival an Arab family had raised hands to heaven in welcome and, refusing all recompense, gladly offered them land and a home before disappearing westwards never to be properly thanked. Even now, after a long full life, the story still moves him. It moved him so much indeed that a year ago when news was brought to him of a young Arab so severely damaged in some reckless youthful adventure that his parents were in despair for his survival, he summoned a doctor and, without a moment’s pause for reflection, sent him urgently to the youth’s parents with his offer to donate his own body that the youth’s heart might survive. It seemed to him the very least he could do, and as a direct consequence of his spontaneous act of generosity the boy’s heart is beating strongly even as I tell the story here.
9. Fateful triangle, by Annie Robbins
this guy, a member of a mossad team killed a commander of an elite israeli army commando unit named yoni during a faux ‘rescue’ mission of an airline highjacking operation on the 4th of july in uganda.
yoni was screwing the mossad agents lover, a hot young american named bill whose father owned an influential cia affiliated magazine called Kommentary. it wasn’t supposed to turn out like that. young bill was only supposed to be the bait, to lure yoni into a compromising situation to blackmail (big gap..read pt 2)..but it didn’t turn out like that, the 2 fell in love and the mossad agent used the opportunity of the operation to get rid of him. so there’s the plot anyway. i don’t know how to pretty it up. i like the whole yoni/bill hook up tho. besides, gay is hot right now.
10. Shtetl Police, by Charles Barwin
The veterans center was chaotic. A line of patients spilled out into the sticky Haifa night.
I held up the beta version of the Karmameter (pronounced car-mameter) into the smokey air. The light blinked red as soon as I turned the device on.
The red light went solid whenever the device was pointed at the crowd, accompanied by a piercing noise.
The line of men and women looked at me, and the device exploded in my hand. Despite the second degree burn which would later require medical treatment, I was actually relieved when the Karmameter broke. The red light and beeping were supposed to indicate BAD karma, and a lump of despair had filled my throat before the explosion.
Back to the lab for reprogramming, I thought. Besides, the technology was rumored to have originated in the US.
Inside the veterans center, several large classrooms were re-arranged for group therapy sessions. In each room, semi-circles of twenty chairs faced an elevated lectern, each with a movie screen behind.
I stood in the back of room 4, but searched about for something, anything to sit on. Schindler’s List was 3 hours, after all.
The session began with a quick statement from the group counselor. She was a short, stocky woman, and not particularly easy on the eyes.
“Hi everybody, I’m Elena K. Most of you know me from the past few weeks, but we have a visitor tonight from Wired magazine. Mr. Ackerman, say hello.”
I smiled and said “hey” in my best friendly-insecure-Jew voice, to put them at ease. Hopefully the exploding device episode was behind us, I thought.
“Okay, who’s up first toight?”, Elena asked.
A tall, strong guy stood up. He must have been 230 pounds of pure Jewish muscle. I couldn’t help but smile, pride swelling within my Abercrombie zip-up hoodie. THIS is a Jew that kicked ass in gym class, I fantasized.
But Nathan-Amshel spoke in a low, mumbling voice. His body language read “loser”, and my Jewish pride got a case of shrinkage not seen since that episode of Seinfeld.
“Two months ago, my unit was outside Hebron,” Nathan-Amshel began. “an American family was with us, a Jewish family, and my commander wanted to show them some action.”
Yeah? I thought. I knew then and there that my verbal skills would make me pretty f’ing smooth in a setting like this.
“As the only sniper on duty that day, my commander told me to get in firing position” Nathan-Amshel continued. “I did as I was told, and the American family got more and more excited.”
The other soldiers in the circle started hanging their heads, undoubtedly out of boredom. Only Elena and I seemed engaged in the story, and her eyes met mine. Yeesh.
“When I settled into firing position, my commander handed a pair of binoculars to the American father, and said, ‘do you see that red shirt, next to the white car?’
The father said yes.” Nathan-Amshel stopped speaking, and the room was silent.
“You’re doing great, and you should be proud of your service,” Elena said warmly. “Remember who we are dealing with. They are not like us. They would make lampshades out of your children, and it wouldn’t be the first time that happened, you know.”
I nodded in agreement.
“Go on,” Elena said, more sternly this time.
At this, big Nathan-Amshel buried his face in his lap and started bawling. Silently at first, before the wails came on.
“You’re ashamed, aren’t you?” Elena suddenly yelled. “You want to turn your back on this whole war, don’t you?”
Nathan-Amshel’s sobs got louder and louder.
“You want to be a martyr, don’t you? You want to be a martyr for the Arabs.”
Nathan-Amshel shook his head as if to say no, but I knew he meant yes.
“Guards!” Elena yelled.
Two uniformed IDF came in the room, but the big martyr was not easily tasered. After the third shock, Nathan-Amshel finally got hold of one of the guards. The other guard, a balding, overweight fellow, smacked the martyr on the side of his face with the butt of his AR-15. Nathan-Amshel fell to the floor, but got up quickly.
“Shoot me! Martyr me!” Nathan-Amshel cried. The balding guard shook his head no, but the big martyr started towards him. The guard let out a quick burst of 5-7 shots, and Nathan-Amshel dropped to the ground, flopping like live lox on a bagel on the F-train before Smith and 9th Street.
“Any more martyrs in here?” The guard asked. He no longer looked balding and overweight to me. He looked like a Nazi god of full-bodied hair. The role reversal was really something.
“Not to be the shtetl police,” I said to the other patients, “but Israel really needs all of our support.”
11. What We Talk About When We Talk About Birthright, by Liz Shulman
Miriam was sitting at an outdoor bar with her other American friends on Ben Yehuda Street. The fifth day of the Birthright trip underway, she felt as though she had been in Israel for years. In fact, according to her Hebrew teacher, rabbis, and Hillel coordinator in the U.S., she had been. She remembered fondly the poster in her Hebrew class at Brandeis that said, “Your soul is here. Bring your body here too.” The four friends sat drinking beer. They were people-watching. She saw an unshaven soldier in his olive shaded uniform. He was cute. He was protecting her. She looked at him, determined to make eye contact. With his M-16 slung over his shoulder, he looked back. “Yes,” she said to herself, “Israel is awesome.” This was their first of two free nights during Birthright. “No rest for the weary,” their guides told them as they schlepped around Jerusalem. And, really, they were tired. Visiting the Western Wall, ancient ruins, Yad Vashem, David’s Citadel, the Israel Museum, and shopping in the shuk, was a lot for one day.
They ordered a second round of drinks. It was hot and they were all feeling the exhaustion of the day mixed with the alcohol they were drinking. Looking out at the buildings, she saw the sunlight hit the limestone in a way that made the stone look rose colored. She reflected on the walks in the ancient ruins earlier in the day. She felt connected to the land and aware of her past, in these ancient ruins, where clearly people had once lived. After all, it was this connection to her past that led her to come on the Birthright trip. Suddenly, she remembered another important part of her past. “Hey, you guys,” she said to the others at the table, “let’s play the Anne Frank game.” Zack squinted at her as he lit a cigarette. The others stared into their phones and scrolled. Through the haze of alcohol, she wasn’t sure if anyone knew what she was talking about. Only Zack seemed to care, smoking and staring. ”You know,” she continued, “We go around and think of people in our lives and then we decide if they would have hidden us during the Holocaust.”
Miriam started. She thought of her friend Jackie and decided that she was too passive. “No, Jackie wouldn’t have saved me.” Zach went next. “I know my girlfriend would’ve,” he said. “I don’t know about that,” said Miriam, “I mean, Zach, we’re talking about the Holocaust. She won’t even make you dinner.” Zach looked sullen and depressed and ordered another drink. This was getting intense. Miriam looked again over at the soldier. “I know who would save me,” she said to the others, making eye contact again with the soldier.
Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the soldier making his way over to her. She knew it wouldn’t be long before they took a walk and did the Birthright hookup. Her friends had given hand jobs to soldiers in Bedouin tents. Why couldn’t she? After all, it was her birthright.
12. Baghdad, by SimonWallaby
The minarets and towers of Baghdad glittered in the setting sun falling behind the city. The plain smelled faintly of smoke, but the army was so used to its smell, the sight of fire and smoke, that they did not notice it, and if they had, would not have thought it anything special. It was the stench of this miserable, dead, hostile land. Both horses and men were drinking greedily from the river, and slaves were busy setting up tents and small temporary palisades to surround them. There was a real sense of excitement in the camp, and secretly most people were hoping the peace negotiations would fail. They had hardly travelled ten thousand kilometres, for a year and twenty days, for a peaceful exchange of prisoners.
In the largest tent at the centre of the camp the Khan of Khan’s brother-in-law was discussing the matter with a vizier from Baghdad. The Arab was a small man, rather young, and with the countenance of a schoolteacher or horse attendant, rather than a respectable diplomat. Still, he tried to present his case with conviction: “the great God in heavens has granted the Caliph the greatest power on Earth, with his divine blessing, his force which not all the armies of men could match, it is God’s will”. The Mongol had heard similar arguments day in and day out in his talks with the Arabs, and was still uninterested in attempting to comprehend the petty theological niceties of their banal and crude religion. For him, the affair was very simple: “in the eyes of all the gods, who see all that happens on Earth, there is no one greater than the Khan of Khans. He institutes his right and will by might, and demands that your Caliph bows down to him in submission, like his god has done. We wish you and your people no harm, but simply an arrangement of the powers that be into a more natural order. Our subjects are happy, our vassals prosperous: your King would benefit from our protection, from our highly evolved financial and judicial policies.”
The Turkish soldier guarding the tent was all tense from the quiet arousal that had overtaken him in the last few days: Baghdad was in sight, you could almost touch it, and inside it were all the stunning riches which the folk tales spoke of. He was so happy the Mongols had arrived: they would spread the wealth of Iraq to their warriors, the rough and illiterate men of the steppe, those who no one had taught to read. The Arabs would receive what had been coming to them for so long, now it was time for the men of Asia to enjoy God’s blessings.
The haughty and stubborn Caliph until the last minute would not allow freedom for his subjects, would not allow them to bow down to the King of Kings, Caliph of Caliphs, the Conquering Wrath of Allah. He refused to accept the possibility there was a greater man than him in the deserts of the east, in fact he failed to comprehend it, and when the barbarian army surrounded the city, he was sure it was some fiendish trick played by his brother. He loved that sort of pranks. Even when he was unceremoniously rolled in a rug and thrown out of a palace window, the Caliph, in his pitiful tribal pride, refused to accept any offers of friendship, assistance and co-öperation.
13. Jonathan Pollard, by Danaa
I hereby submit, slightly edited, reformatted and titled, giladg’s comment of June 29,2012 at 9:19 am. The substance and spirit are entirely unchanged and all due credit goes to giladg as the creative genius behind this polemic. However, please file under my name, giladg’s humble copy editor, as I have some aspirations of my own, especially as discoverer of lost gems.
The injustice of being accused of something he did not do!
The something that apparently convinced the judge to renege on the plea-bargain agreement. The injustice of one man, Caspar Weinberger, sending a secret letter to the judge, a letter that changed the case. One man can write a secret letter without being vetted, a letter that has profound impact on another human being – the travesty of it! The injustice of the length of sentence for spying for a friendly country when no other sentence for similar, and even worse acts, received a fraction of the time he has already spent in jail and solitary confinement.
Injustice you ask? you betcha.
Weinberger and Co. hoped that the long sentence would deter others. Let us all hope that there are still brave and upstanding men who can find the strength to do the right thing. Undo the evil of Pollard’s superiors who allowed their hate for Jews and Israel, to hold back on insuring vital info be passed on to a strong friend and partner of the US.
There will always be those who will be willing to make the sacrifice and continue to do the right thing and not go over the edge with others. Pollard’s superiors were not of this type. Neither was the judge in the case nor Casper Weinberger himself. Most certainly not the judge who later denied a late appeal.
Conspiracy, injustice? Absolutely!
Free Jonathan Pollard and let justice ring again in the land of the free and Home of the Brave!
14. A rape, by Eljay
As she lay on the ground before him, writhing in agony, he courteously turned his head and spat. “You disgust me. Get up, get dressed and get the hell out of my sight.” He opened the interrogation room’s door and stepped to the side.
Using the wall to support herself, and fighting back both her pain and her tears, the woman slowly stood up. Her numb gaze fell upon his boots, upon his proudly-stained trousers and upon the cold pistol at his hip, but her eyes could not bear to look upon his face. “You took everything from me,” she whispered, her voice eerily empty.
Flinging her dress at her, he laughed coarsely. “I took only what was mine to take. Now go, before I decide that you still have something which belongs to me.”
The woman hesitated, overwhelmed by the pain, the loss and the laughter. Her dress betrayed her, slipping from her shoulder and exposing her breast. His eyes flitted over it. A smile crossed his lips as he slowly closed the door.
15. Iraq, by NorthOfFortyNine
Cindy had done it for the money — it was the shortest path between her folk’s home in Lafayette and a diploma in veterinary technology. and all the bucks that went with that. Field exercises four week-ends per year — that’s all they wanted. The deal seemed cold enough. Then came the letter in the mail.
Baghdad in summer was bad enough, but the cinder block hellhole where Cindy was stationed cooked your brain like Jambalaya shrimp. Most of the action went down in the next wing but she still heard shit, the long halls acting as acoustic guides. Her posting could have been worse — she could have been charged with a bunch of men. As it was, the duty cycle was light. Boredom reigned. Cindy spent a lot of her time lying on her bunk, thumbing through old porn mags.
“Sgt. Boulard! C Block. Now!”
That’s how the call would usually come.
Cindy would sit up and cluck twice. “C’mon, Sam,” she would motion. “time to go.” Sam would lift his head, half-cocked, and lumber to his feet. His tongue would pant like nothing she’d ever seen back home. “That’s a good boy,” she’d say as she scratched his ear and affixed his leash. “That’s a good boy.”
Then Cindy herself would get to her feet, don cap on cropped hair and, camera in one hand, Sam on the other, exit her room and head down the hall.
16. The End of the Tunnel, by Daniel Rich
We dug with everything we’d got; spoons, forks and our bare hands. Long ago I’d given up hope to save my hands from destruction. The feel of my fingertips caressing ivory keys as they ran up and down the scales was nothing but a distant memory; a memory of another man.
Almost every night the soldiers barged into one room or another. Every night you could hear the distant screams of someone being kicked, beaten tortured or killed. There was no let up and everyone knew they wouldn’t stop until all of us were dead.
For weeks we’d been digging; five young men, a small group of trusted brothers. Every night we slipped down the rabbit hole underneath the floorboard and worked diligently. We were always on edge, because every sound, every bark and every footstep could be the last thing we ever heard.
Tonight, according to our calculations, we should have reached a safe spot on the other side, out of sight of the searchlights, towers and machineguns. We were all nervous, although no one would admit it. A and D, the biggest and strongest men took point and crawled on their hands and feet forward, duly followed by the rest of us.
At one point we could hear the muffled voices of on-duty guards as they joked around and the vibrations of their footsteps only a few feet away. The pulsating beat of my heart became so loud that my eardrums began to hurt and I stopped breathing, but didn’t realize it. The seconds sneaked by, one by one and the tunnel seemed endless. Some sand crumbled and fell on my hands.
‘No time to stop. Keep going. Keep going!’
Finally I reached the rest of the group and watched as A and D widened the hole above their heads. I could see a few stars twinkle and started to cry.
“Shut up!” growled A over his shoulder. “You’re gonna get us all killed.”
Then, one by one, the men got out and grappling hands reached in and helped me up and out of the tunnel. The urge to start running was overwhelming. I looked around and saw more haunted eyes piercing through the darkness and all beamed the same messages of distress.
“OK,” whispered D. “Stay low and follow me. Whatever happens, do not make any sound! Got that?”
I glanced one last time at where we’d escape from. The horrors lay behind us, but what about all those we left behind? How were they supposed to survive Dachau?
17. Why, Sam, Why? by Donald
“Why, Sam, why?”
“Well, Mr. Frodo, sir, you seemed to be suffering so much and for what? Besides, I thought you were dead when I took It”.
“But look what it’s done to you! You were the best of us, brave, unselfish, humble, if anything too much so and always ‘sirring’ me, liking nothing better than to work in your garden…”
“But nothing has changed, Mr. Frodo sir. I still like gardening. So do…., no, no Shagrat, put Celeborn’s body in that hole. Sindarin fertilizer, maybe I can get Lotho to build a factory, we can put out bags of the stuff. Nothing better for mallorn trees. Gorbag, go fetch Galadriel from her cage. My feet need combing. What was that you were saying, Mr. Frodo sir? ”
18. Operation Cast Stone, by libra
David crept forward along the hillside towards the Philistine lines. He turned a rocky outcrop and there, the giant was suddenly before him. Bigger than an ox, snorting even louder, and bellowing out dark, stinking breath. Holding in front a massive iron shield which could topple whole walls and houses. If not stopped, the phils would soon push the Israelites beyond the Jordan into the far desert.
David was frozen with terror. How could he beat this monster with just a sling and a few small stones? But then the words of the wise old hasbarist echoed prophetically in his mind. “Does not a cherry tomato taste a thousandfold sweeter than a beefsteak?”
The giant started towards him. With renewed courage, David took careful aim and swung his sling with all his might, casting a stone right into the eye of the mighty Goliath. The giant gave a terrible roar of anger, surged forward like a crazed beast, then all of a sudden veered sideways and toppled into a deep gully, rolling over and over with an almighty clatter…
Cpl. Ben-David awoke with a start. The cab was on its side. The stones from the village boys above pinged metallically all around him. Oh no, what a freier! How they’d all laugh at him back at base. Damn that Birthright babe for keeping him up all night. Damn the pals for. . . for just not giving up. Damn Israel even! How could it be worth all his sacrifices?
19. The village, by Citizen
Henri, the leader, lay on the makeshift barricade, reading the leaflet before his young eyes. At age 17, he was in charge. “Our Army didn’t do it,” the boy Karl said, “Junk dropped from a plane to make us lose heart–thought you should see it, stuff’s littering the road out there”
“I know,” Henri said. “Propaganda–our Leader warned us, thank goodness.”
The leaflet said that the German Army had done it, but the Army knew the family had been killed by the negligence of fellow Jews, or perhaps sneaky local Slavs looking for a hand-out from them. “I’m numb,” said Henri.
It wasn’t the first time Karl had heard that from Henri. He tried to soothe his leader, even gave him his precious chewing gum. Henri chewed a stick as if he was in heaven. Henri’s thoughts turned to school days… In the morning he woke up. He had been given command of the small bridge attendant the tiny village nestled at the stream bank. Over a week and not a sign of activity approaching it. The Leader had magical weapons he was about to spring. Henri thought about his future, after Germany was secure. The Hitlerjugend was a good place to start in any career, and he had a command defense position–holding the bridge against all comers… suddenly Karl was saying, “Look! Coming down the road!”
Three unarmed guys were approaching, and Karl was shouting, “Halt! Halt! What are you doing! What do you want?” They produced a ragged piece of cardboard. Held it up. “We are looking for mushrooms to eat.”
” So, you won’t let us pass so we can gather some food to eat?” The older one said.
“That’s not true.”
Henri was suddenly even more excited than he had been since he was posted to defend the little bridge. He grabbed the orders he had been given, which spelled out what to do in any situation. He looked for mushrooms there. Finding nothing, he asked the older one: “You want to cross my bridge for mushrooms?”
“We just want to try. Everybody around here knows we’ve come here. We want to see if we can. We use to pick them all the time back there, behind you.”
“Well, you can’t. Go away!”
And they did. They came back a few more times.
The last time, Karl was really annoyed. Although the hecklers did nothing to warrant a bullet, he was itching to unsheath his knife, which bore the inscription “blood and honor.” Henri calmed him down, saying to the silly ones, ” Go home. Nothing to see here or behind us. We are defending Germany. That includes the mushrooms in the fields around here.”
20. Means of Suppressing Occupations, by bindup
Rami, the Mayor, had never stopped feeling his own body. Even after his legs were gone. He stretched out his arms to hold the wide page far out in front of him.
“Oh,” he said. A family murdered.
“The boys didn’t do it,” Toma said. “Thai did it, or one of their own. They never look under their own beds.”
Rami shrugged. “Anything’s possible.”
He shifted his legs, which dangled over the lip of the seat of his motorized chair. The world said the Israeli Army had shot him with live-fire, but the Israeli Army said the boy he’d once been had been crippled by a dormant shell other Palestinians had left in the dirt.
Rami slapped his lap and looked up at his cousin: He was fifty now, ten years older than Toma.
“It’s just that I can feel them all of a sudden,” he said.
“Every time the Army’s near.”
The story that was in the paper Toma brought over the next night was about a Haredi girl who’d been killed by her father.
“Sex”, said Toma.
Rami frowned and changed the subject. “The soldiers slept in their trucks last night, right next to the Mosque, can you believe it?”
“We kept everything quiet all night, hooded the roosters.”
“Don’t serve them tea unless they ask.”
Now it was Toma’s turn to frown. “When will they ever really rest… enough to feel ashamed?”
The picture in the newspaper Toma brought the next night was of a bird washed up on the beach at Acre. He and Rami were out on the porch. The night sky was clear, the moon was full. No starlight.
“We just want this one thing, and you can give it to us”.
Rami gestured at his legs, which weren’t there. “May we offer you tea instead?”
Live fire is not a means of suppressing occupations, and the Officer, Lea, knew that the cooperative villagers knew this– they knew all the rules– and so she knew that they would never fire. That’s why they’d felt secured enough to park their trucks on the street in the center of the village beside the Mosque, and go right to sleep.
“Please, shoot us,” one of the soldier had said, in Hebrew, before turning in. Their guns still slung across their shoulders, he and four buddies had lined up side-by-side, held their arms out wide, grinned lopsidedly. The boys gathered across the street– not one of them over 12– averted their eyes, embarrassed by the overture, which they understood well enough.
Through the eyes of a stranger looking out from the light of a very distant house, they could have been executioners.
21. The “Rape” of Nanking, by EdwardQ
Corporal Yoshiro Takamura of the Japanese Imperial Army flattened himself against a wall and prayed they had given their pursuer the slip, the fear in his face mirrored in the eyes of his squad mates further down the alley. Alas a shadow fell across the alley entrance followed by the dreaded form of a boy wearing a malicious grin, filling them all with panic. The boy had chased them more then two miles through the streets of Nanking, threatening to kill himself while someone else photographed more “proof” of Japanese atrocities. Now he crept towards them knowing utter triumph was close at hand.
Yoshiro’s squad was franticly trying to form a human pyramid to reach the rooftops above, leaving fingernail scratches on the wall, but it was too late. Desperately, Yoshiro pointed his rifle at his head and spoke in broken Chinese, “Stop or I’ll shoot myself!” But the boy only laughed; “where is your camera?”, he chortled between gasps for air and then proceeded to taunt them. Pointing his pistol toward and away from his head the kid jeered, “maybe I will, maybe I won’t”. “Be reasonable”, Yoshiro pleaded, as sweat dripped down his strained face, “I will give you my rifle if you leave us alone!” “Too late”, the boy replied, shooting himself and collapsing on the ground, while above them, from a window, a camera snapped a photo of the grisly scene.
Yoshiro felt like he was being simultaneously crushed by 1000 tons of bricks and pulled apart by the hard vacuum of outer space. As he slipped to the ground he seemed to have an out-of-body experience. When he could move again he noticed there was a commotion to his left. Private Hiru had snapped and now believed he was Han Yang, citizen of China. This was happening all the time now. Yesterday another member of his squad had gone crazy and decided he was a Fuji-Nikon 800B camera. How long would the army last at this rate?
In desperation, General Omu had made an emergency request for 100,000 cameras so they could retaliate, but it would take weeks for them to reach Nanking. Even if they arrived, all Nanking had to do was evacuate its male citizens. Then it would be Japanese males versus Chinese women, children, and the elderly. Who would be blamed for the atrocities in that situation? Yoshiro reflected bitterly that they would have to break their arms and legs and use wheelchairs to have any hope of parity. Even then, would it work?
Yoshiro felt his insides turn to ice and started to gibber as a woman appeared at the alley entrance holding a knife.
22. Jerusalem, by Katherine Janson
Ibrahim al-Rashid was an old soldier. Battle-hardened, ruthless, a loyal follower of his caliph, he had been on campaign far beyond the centers of the Islamic empires, fighting the infidel on the frontier. Memories of riding on a dark horse, the wind pushing him forward, sand in his eyes, his hair, in every orifice, but through it he can still see the enemy army moving forward. Horses scream as the armies meet, sounds of metal clashing against metal.
Now, in his retirement, he had begun to question; who were these infidels? Christians and Jews who refused to acknowledge the teachings of Muhammad, yes. But they were also the shopkeepers he bought his vegetables from, members of the group he met with once a week to discuss philosophy and science, his daughter’s neighbors, the little boys who played on the dusty streets with his grandsons.
He heard the horses in the distance now. Soon he would hear the swords and axes fall. Running through the streets, everyone else was running through the streets too; Muslims, Jews, Arabs, Syrians, Egyptians, neighbors, friends, enemies. Running, although there was nowhere to go. The great city of Jerusalem had fallen.
For the Franks had finally come to the holy city- and they were not taking prisoners.
23. Animal Instincts Caused Tom Hurndall’s Death, by Hatim Kanaaneh
TaysirHayb felt dejected and outraged: The sun was scorching hot and the tank commander would not turn the AC on. And he had to insultTaysir by mentioning his family’s sale of their tribal land in Galilee to the Jewish Agency. True the price they collected for the rocky piece, for which they held no title in the first place and which never produced a thing, was exorbitant. Still, the stain on the Hayb’s honor was difficult to erase. Taysir decided that day was his day to prove himself to his commander, and put that insult behind him.
“Remember,” he thought to himself, “It was outsiders in the guise of volunteers who spread the rumor about our tribe selling out. They kept agitating till a veritable war broke out between el-Hayb and other tribes despite the Shin Bet’s best efforts to make peace between them. And here they are at it again: foreigners pretending to be ISM volunteers while tricking my Palestinian brothers in Gaza to resist the enlightened and modernizing influence of the most moral army in the world. If Gazans had any sense, they would have followed our example, us Bedouins, and welcomed the economic progress under the only democracy in the Middle East. Of what value is land in the hands of the ignorant? Or those piles of rock they call homes that Gazans insist on locating in the way of the IDF tanks? ‘Bulldoze away,’ I say!
“And you know what? It is time I proved my good marksmanship to my commanders again. I will not continue to be mocked by fellow snipers for my poor performance out on the firing range. What do I have the telescope on my gun for if not to nail my target every single time? And I never miss with a live human target, only with those practice dummies that I do. The visceral high that comes from that cannibalistic instinct that all of us Arabs have is what does the trick. Still, failure during practice shames me to no end. Missing the mark is the cause of my impotence in bed. The only way I can function is to imagine my wife a Jewish woman soldier and have her praise my marksmanship.”
Taysir smiled to himself. He knew his friend has it even worse: He dresses his wife up in IDF uniform, leaves her by a checkpoint and drives by in his jeep to pick her as a hitchhiking soldier and rushes with her to bed where she has to repeat to him in bed “Bravo! Ten out of ten! You did it again!” That way he is OK. But then the last time he left her at the checkpoint, by the time he circled back, she had hitched a ride with someone else.
“All in all, we can’t disappoint Shimon Peres,” Taysir concluded. ”Not after he had personally shaken our hands and thanked us for protecting the country and redeeming the honor of all Arabs. And it is very simple: All I have to do is follow my carnivorous animal drive. The first foreign man I see hanging around Palestinian women with the pretense of protecting civilians from us, I am going to aim for his head. Two birds with one stone, or even three: honor, marksmanship and stopping foreign meddling. There goes that tall white photographer again. He has put a cheap price on his own life by joining Gazans. Time to satisfy my instincts and act out the animal in me!”
24. Sacrifice, by Pat Carmeli
Rummaging through the refrigerator, she spied the peanut butter on a lower shelf in the back behind the unopened and molding bag of salad greens. “Clever of the children”, she thought, for trying to hide yet another cause of her growing girth. Reaching in, careful not to upset the precise order of the lair, she manipulated the jar out and generously lathed the spread onto a piece of stale challah from the Shabbat meal three days before. Quickly (albeit temporarily) she was satisfied and quietly and stealthily, reinserted the jar into its refrigerated cradle of obscurity so her kids would not realize it had been dislocated.
Sarah was not happy with herself afterwards. Each day she began with a pledge to “be good”, to resist succumbing to the need for a quick fix, for a calorie overload, just to allay her fears of those F15 fighter jets which caused the sliding doors of her Caesarea villa to shake with sonic booms. After this glorious summer her only son would be heading off to Israeli “boot camp”, to become a proud defender of the Israeli (and therefore entire Jewish) people. The thought scared her. But she accepted the sacrifice of giving her only begotten son. It was necessary. The thought of being driven to the sea set her teeth chattering…Sara couldn’t swim.
Sipping her tea and pondering the fate of herself and her people, Sara uttered a barely audible “damn them”. Then rose and returned to the refrigerator.
25. Summer Watch, by Mallika Ganguly
Sepoy Khem Shrestha ,9th Gurkha Rifles , twenty one , stocky , suffering the first onslaught of summer ,sweat pooling in his armpits and pouring down his back ,dreams of his mountain home as he broods at the back of an army jeep ,wishing he could go back home . It is not often that such radical thoughts attack him – since he is conditioned into believing that the masters he serves are as important as the gods he worships; that the Sikhs he has watched for over a year, now, are rabid troublemakers and insolent rabble rousers of the worst kind who always have their hackles raised. He looks at the milling crowds on the narrow streets with distaste . The Baisakhi festivities today, mean that more people are in town from the outlying villages. Curious looks are flung at the army convoy packed with Gurkhas. There are mutterings and the hate is palpable, as groups of Sikhs huddle together and watch them pass.
The roads leading to the Jallianwallah Bag are festive with bunting and little banners .Sepoy Khem Shrestha notices a small boy in white kurta and shalwar , a red cloth wound around his topknot, a beacon of pure joy. He runs ahead of his family arms widespread, whooping with joy . He reverses , rams into a young villager and his wife, carrying a baby . His hand is grabbed and he disappears into the crowd . The loudspeakers in the Bagh are live with sound as the armoured cars and the army trucks rumble down the narrow road and the sun begins its descent as they stop . A helicopter hovers in the sky, over the field and disappears .The soldiers are on the road now standing stiffly to attention as Dyer and two British officers alight from their car.
First the armoured car with the machine gun atop, moves in ,blocking the narrow pathway to the entrance ;then the soldiers take up position to open fire . Sepoy Khem Shrestha , stares straight ahead, waiting for the command . The .303 Lee Enfield rifle he holds, fires and hits targets at random which is not at all difficult as the field , penned in by walls and houses on all sides is so thick with people it is difficult to fire without missing a body . He is like a machine now as adrenaline pumps through his body fuelled by the wails , screams of terror , pain and frenzied confusion, people running amok – giving rise in his brain to a buzzing that screams and orders him to decimate . He feels a peculiar sadistic joy in this mindless killing and an all consuming hate for these people begging to be killed.
From his vantage point on an elevated platform on one side he raises his rifle and fires, now hitting a young man . A woman with a baby screams, flinging herself on his body. Another shot takes care of her and the third deals with the baby. Khem Shrestha glancing around, sees a small boy running towards the couple on the ground, his mouth opened in a silent scream , his yellow shirt spattered with blood, the red headcloth unravelling He flings his arms out as his mouth opens in a wail. Hell, Khem Shrestha thinks, the little bugger is going to get pasted to the ground in this stampede . He shrugs, takes aim and fires , the shot catching the little boy in the chest and flinging him backwards . he fires another shot at him and another , unaware that the commander has given the order to stop firing and disperse .