Jay Michaelson
The Place of Anger, p.3

“The frustration is more intense than you realize,” Chava had said on the phone to her mother, just a few days earlier. “It’s as if, we keep giving and giving and giving, and the world doesn’t understand, and the Arabs will just take and take and take until there’s nothing left to give because they have everything. That is how they think.”

“Tell her about the rockets!” Eliezer shouted from the other room.

“You know yesterday they found rockets -- just sitting there, in plain view. Why couldn't the so-called peace-loving Arabs have found them?! But does CNN report this? No. Nothing.... Yes, mama, I know, we’re scared too. But... no, we’re not... no, mama, we’re not leaving.... I know you’re worried. Eliezer is very careful. He carries a gun now always.... I know, I know that... Ma–... Look, I don’t want to talk about this.”

“Is she trying to convince us to move back to America?”

Chava didn’t answer. That was her mother, Eliezer thought: always looking out for number one. To her, there was nothing worth dying for. What was worth living for?

Years earlier, they had met on a yishuv in the West Bank, just out of college. Eliezer was preparing to spend a year in yeshiva, and then enlist in the army; Chava was not sure what she wanted to do, but had already made aliya and was going to look for a job. Chava was awed by Eliezer’s intensity, his love of the land and of God. He was passionate. So many of the men Chava was set up with were wimpy, effeminate mama’s boys, with their thin-rimmed glasses and pale complexions. Eliezer was direct, serious, certain. He wasn’t arrogant about his own ideas – he would quote Rav Kook, or Jabotinsky, or rabbis that Chava had not heard of. He had so much vitality; Chava never suspected, not for a moment, that this intensity of feeling could translate into cruelty. And yet it did. If she forgot even a trivial household errand – paying a bill, or picking something up at the grocery store – Eliezer would get so angry. He didn’t hit her as much as their friends thought (she knew they thought this, knew by the half-fearful, half-deferential distance they maintained, and by how they never talked about Eliezer’s temper, even though it was so obvious). But he did hit her. Once was enough, really. After the first time, she was certain that there could be more. She was terrorized.

Eliezer had been a conservative in the States, before he came to Israel. But the American right lacked fire, or if they had fire, it was a fire Eliezer felt to be one of weakness: lashing out at the blacks, or the gays. There was not a real belief there. But in Israel, the strength of the right was no mere saber-rattling; it required true stamina, and sacrifice, and it had real principles behind it. There was a fight going on here, a fight to the death most likely, with two sides locked in combat. Anyone who didn’t see that was a fool. And yet – the fools had won! No wonder most of the Left’s support came from secular quarters, of places of accommodation and compromise. Giving away the land was just like giving up on God. It came easy to the weak.

Eliezer knew that he could not get away with this deed, could not lie his way out of what had happened. Chava had many friends, and relatives, and there was no plausible explanation for how a television set -- it was absurd -- there was no way. Could he explain it solely as an accident? Eliezer thought about ballistics. Probably the experts could tell that the set was high in the air when it came crashing down onto her head. So he would have to explain. It wasn’t that the set just fell on her, in some sort of freak accident. Yes, he had thrown it.

But it was merely out of frustration! He hadn’t known she was there!

What Eliezer also did not know was that, in fact, Chava was not dead at the moment he stood over her. She was unconscious, and would be dead soon. But she had enough brain activity to have one vague and fragmentary dream. She was at the mikva, about to immerse. But there was a creature in the mikva – a sort of manta ray, or devil ray, the sort of creeping, undulating sea-dragon that inhabits the floor of the ocean. She felt defiled, as if the creature’s impurity had poisoned the mikva and infected her as well. So she ran upstairs and outside, and found herself near the Jerusalem central bus station, only it was totally deserted. The sky was the color of slate.

It was only when Eliezer finally dialed the ambulance that Chava at last died. It was imperceptible to the material world: her breathing had long since ceased, and the last flickers of brain activity did not manifest themselves in any visible movement. As the dreams got slower and darker, they reduced to a few images: a skull of a mouse (which Chava had once found, in the cellar, as a little girl), and the electric ner tamid flickering over the ark in her shul in Ohio.

“There has been a horrible accident,” Eliezer said in Hebrew to the operator. The police investigated him at the hospital. The detectives concluded, from the angle of the body, from the shrapnel of the television, that the story checked out: it was an accident. Eliezer was careful not to mention that he never loved his wife.

[1]       [2]       3
Image: Klaus Lange, Les Cabales Dangereux

Jay Michaelson presently lives in Jerusalem. This story is part of a collection of stories on faith and desire entitled The Inflected Letters.

Klaus Lange photographs the worn paint on the sides of ships at sea. He says, "A ship's hull is like a great expressionist canvas on which I capture both physical struggle and natural beauty, and with that I portray the story told by the ship's own paint." Email us your comments


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