Another bite from my upcoming work NOT NOT A JEW, A NOVELLA IN VERSTS [fromPart II, “Long Day’s Journey into Day” when the ne’er-do-well son (Ira) returns to his parent’s (Vera and Eli’s) home after many years adrift (chasing food and sex) to try to be of some use at their life’s end….
At the stile, the official eyed Ira with perplexity. The official asked, Passport?
An old, lonely boy, Ira had no ass left, wore a short red leather jacket over a once black turtleneck jersey, tight jeans, showing his age when he called them dungarees. He lowered his eyelids while trolling through the blue and white plastic KLM bag, fluttering fine brown lashes. He handed the official a passport.
The official examined it, pushed it back, demanded, Passport?
Ira fished again. He knew them by feel, reinserted the sienna one, bypassed the Venetian-red and pulled out the dog-eared mars-brown-colored passport. The official passed the scanner across it. When the computer screen registered he was waved across the border. Between the stile and pyramid Ira stepped through a door labeled with a human stick figure logo. Next to it, the stick figure of a bird, an X through its wings. Crossing into the room, he stood before the porcelain urn. Wary of the elevator, he took the stairway. When he reached the pyramid he was still shaky but the suitcase was waiting. He looked around with fearsome eyes, was unsure as to which direction to go, so he sat down on a long narrow bench. He entirely cleared his throat of phlegm that had gathered in the 15 or so hours of travel. As he had come from east to west it was not very much later in the day than when he began the journey. He’d awakened at dawn, had coffee, gone to the airport, had breakfast, gotten on the aircraft, had breakfast, changed planes, had Italian coffee, boarded a larger airplane, been given breakfast, drinks, a large lunch. Now, it was not quite noon – a long day’s journey into day. Of course it was the same day and still lunchtime.
He looked up at the illuminated board covered with symbols and arrows: There was a cigarette crossed with an X and an onion crossed with an arrow. The letters WC below an arrow pointing towards the door he’d just closed. Also: An automobile logo. A bus logo. £Ÿ€$. A snail with an X through its shell. A cup with a rising, neon lightning rod bisected by an arrow surrounded by a neon ring. He spit what he’d gathered from his esophagus into a tissue and followed the cup logo arrow. In the coffee bar he asked for a double Ivory Coast with coronet of chicory. He drank it and his heart rang like a telephone bringing good news. He had another double and buckled a jeweled dagger onto his belt. He was ready to offer his services to his old/estranged/dying parents.
Wait! Shechina told him, and shut the door in his face.
He pressed the button on his stopwatch and let it go until Shechina (wearing a hairnet) opened the door once more. Six minutes and 32 seconds had passed.
No visitors, she explained.
But I’m the son!
Come back later … for lunch.
She looked him over coldly, wasn’t swayed though he beseeched her with his affecting face. It took him 10 minutes to walk back down the hill past the shallot and scallion field, past the war cemetery to the white sandy beach marked by painted oil drums. He ate lunch at a coffee shop. He seethed. A violet-colored rash, like a belt, developed around his waist. When he left the mosquito-infested restaurant by way of a hallway, he walked back along the sandy beach and, instead of passing the war cemetery again, climbed across the dry riverbed over which a slow train was crossing on a trestle. His boots were soaked with the aroma of scallions pleasantly mixed with the scents from the hillside lemon groves. It was necessary to walk the long way around thick shrubbery.
Once again he confronted the dilapidated house. This time he didn’t ring the bell but reached into his pocket, retrieved a handful of detritus that included nail clippings (not his own), one black and white die, cherry pits, crushed banknotes, key, coins, toothpicks, dental floss. He withdrew the key, blew off crumbs mixed into bits of flug and fitted it into the lock. The door swung on its old hinges. Ira emptied the pits and clippings onto the ground, returned what remained, including the key, to his pocket and wiped his palm across his hip. He stepped inside and dropped the KLM bag and the suitcase onto a tiger skin just as Vera’s jet-black whippets flew at him. He feared these Johnny-come-latelies and brushed them aside. Crossing the living room, he passed his father’s studio, his mother’s office, his childhood room, the aviary, bypassed the kitchen and Shechina’s room, and burst into his parents’ dark, west-facing bedroom.
The shades were drawn and it smelled of cooked lamb. He raised the shades. There they were, head to foot on their narrow 4-poster, motionless, 2 sunken-cheeked corpses. Vera was turned on her side. Eli’s yellow beard was a meter long and hung limply off the side of the bed. They seemed to have shrunk. Ira thought he might faint. He could swear they were dead and ran to the aviary, pulled a feather out of the tail of Vera’s white cockatiel (named Debit) dashed back into the bedroom. He put the feather under Vera’s nostrils, saw no movement. The same with Eli. A great nutcracker gripped his chest and squeezed. I’ve come too late? The pain hopped onto a pogo stick. He gasped, fell onto both knees and doubled over.
Ira’s next awareness was of lying fully clothed on the lower bunk bed he’d slept in as a boy. Eli was backlit, hanging onto the door frame.
Eli whispered, Have you had lunch? Have you eaten? Mama’s trying to murder me….