For the Relief of Unbearable Urges: Stories

Free For the Relief of Unbearable Urges: Stories by Nathan Englander

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Authors: Nathan Englander
Tags: Religión, Contemporary
way out of his room.
    “A chopped-liver moon,” Marty says, “if I had to freeze it, freeze the moment when I knew it’d gone wrong. I walked into the house after synagogue, same as always. Table set, wine and challah, four small plates of liver, each with a little slice of carrot on top. Hardly in the room a second and the plate is up in the air, headed toward me. And there’s this moment when I’m watching it high in its trajectory, hanging in an are over the table. Robin’s looking at it, the kids are looking up at it, we’re all watching this plate hanging there. A perfect little moon that is all the sadness and anger that is my home.” Marty bites at a nail, looking off. “Once the dishes start to fly, it’s not long until I’m back in here.” He turns to Doe. “Something’s gone very wrong in my life.”
    “Better in here,” Doe says. “Something goes right if I’m in here.”
    “Nah,” Marty tells him. “You don’t mean that. Loving the kids so much, my Leah and my Sammy, loving Robin the way I do, it’s only trouble. You did it right for people like us. Living on the street. Free. Cut loose.”
    “Cut myself loose,” Doe says. “But I didn’t drift very far.”

    The children, Leah and Sammy, had beat him home from services. Marty had taken his time, strolling down Walnut and thinking to himself all the things he should have said. He had stepped into the dining room muttering a righteous speech, and Robin, raging, had thrown a small Corning Ware dish at his head. It shattered on the wall and he felt the splinters against his neck. She threw a glass and it hit the wall with greater force. Marty touched a finger behind his ear and there was blood. Leah screamed, “Ima!”
    “Go now,” Robin said, “anywhere. Just go. Disappear or I’ll have to kill you for what you do to this family. I’ll stab you to death right here in front of the children and that will really ruin their lives.” Leah caught her mother’s glance toward the table and grabbed for the serrated challah knife on the cutting board. “Unnecessary, dear, I’m going to use a butcher knife. I’m going to stab your father through the heart, not saw off his head.”
    “Ima!” Leah screamed, holding it long so that her voice broke and the tendons in her neck went taut. “Ima, don’t,” she screamed, dropping to her knees. Sammy did not scream, did not say anything. And if his mother had wanted to get a meat knife from the kitchen, he would have stepped aside and let her pass.
    “Robin would have left me long ago if it weren’t for the rabbi. The master of forgiveness. He can explain anything away.
    “Not so much what he says, either. But his style. The example he sets. A good man, the rabbi. Always ready to roll up his sleeves to save a Jewish marriage. Sits behind his big desk in front of a mint’s worth of silver picture frames. Talks about peace in the home in his high girl’s voice, with that sweet stink of a smell in the air. And Robin can’t get away. My wife’s helplessinside that house, with a football team at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and the place running like a machine. If they can pull that off, what’s Robin got to say? Two lovely children and a problem husband are too much? The rabbi and his wife have a baker’s dozen: two of them slow and one with leg braces, clanking around the house like the Tin Man.”
    “My brother,” Doe says. “My brother is the rabbi of your shul.” Doe takes a long, long pause, looking past Marty. He gives a short sigh. “Maybe,” he says.
    Marty is leaning forward in his chair, rubbing both palms in circles against his knees. He heard it right. Not the claim, but the word. “Shul” is what Doe said. Not “temple” or “synagogue,” but “shul.”
    “What do you mean ‘rabbi’?” Marty asks.
    “Over at Ohav Shalom, In Bridgelawn.”
    The silence is Marty’s this time. He’s considering. The delivery was sincere. But they are short on sanity, not

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