Authors: Robert Klane
THE HORSE IS DEAD
PUBLISHED BY POCKET BOOKS NEW YORK
The author gratefully acknowledge! permission to quote from: "If You Knew Susie" by B. G. DeSylva and Joseph Meyer, Copyright 1925 by Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., Inc. New York. Copyright renewed. Published by joint arrangement between Shapiro, Bernstein & Co., Inc., and Ron Jung-nickel, Inc., New York.
"My Mammy" by Sam Lewis, Joe Young, and Walter Donaldson. Copyright 1920 by Bourne Co., New York, N.Y. Copyright renewed.
To Lois and Stan Korey, who helped in so many ways
THE HORSE IS DEAD
Random House edition published April, 1968
1st printing July, 1969
4th printing August, 1970
edition Includes every word contained in the original, higher-priced edition. It Is printed from brand-new plates made from completely reset, clear, easy-to-read type.
Pocket Book editions are published by Pocket Books, a division of Simon & Schuster, Inc., 630 Fifth Avenue, New York, N.Y. 10020.
Trademarks registered In the United States and other countries.
Standard Book Number: 671-75386-X.
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 68-14493.
Copyright 1968, by Robert Klone. All rights reserved.
This Pocket Book edition is published by arrangement with Random House.
Printed in the U.S.A.
Even if Nemiroff tried very hard, he could not come up with one really good reason to like school. Unless it was Miss Bettins, the art teacher with the big breasts who could destroy the whole class just by reaching for a dropped Crayola.
Nemiroff said a silent prayer to God, thanking Him for making Miss Bettins' breasts so big. Then Nemiroff shook his head as the image of Miss Chaucer, the librarian, took form in his mind. The poor woman, she didn't have a damn thing. Nemiroff wondered how God could give so much to Miss Bettins, and so little to Miss Chaucer. It just didn't seem fair. There is the Almighty sitting high on His throne, and along comes Miss Bettins' turn to be born and He says, "You, you, Miss Bettins, to you I give everything. Including a big pair of breasts. And to you, Miss Chaucer, to you I give nothing. Maybe a pretty right ear, but that is all." So there it was. Somehow it just didn't seem fair to Nemiroff.
Nemiroff walked over to a group of his friends who were waiting for the school bell to ring. "Hi," Nemiroff said.
"Hi, Nemmy," one of them said. The others gave various signs of acknowledgment. "Don't forget to show up for baseball practice tonight," someone reminded Nemiroff.
"Don't worry," Nemiroff answered, "I wouldn't let you down."
"Atta boy, Nemmy," somebody else said, "big game coming up."
They continued to talk about practice and the big game for a while. Nemiroff was the first to notice the ugly tough kid. The ugly tough kid was standing around with a bunch of guys who were several grades ahead of Nemiroff and his friends. The ugly tough kid was pointing at Nemiroff and then saying something to some of the other guys. They were all obviously having a big laugh over it. Nemiroff turned away and tried to get back into the conversation with his own friends. But he couldn't. He could feel the eyes staring through the back of his head, and then he could feel them getting closer. It became very quiet.
"Hey, Jew," the voice split the silence. Nemiroff noticed that the rest of his friends had moved away, leaving him standing alone. He turned slowly
face the voice. It was the ugly tough kid. "You're a dumb sheenie," the ugly tough kid said. Nemiroff looked around to make sure the ugly tough kid was really talking to him. There was nobody else there.
Nemiroff took a deep breath. "Are you talking to me?"
The ugly tough kid started to laugh. Nemiroff breathed a little easier, and then he started to laugh, too. Thank God, he thought to himself, it's just a joke. Nemiroff laughed louder and louder until he couldn't laugh any more because there was a gigantic fist in his mouth. The gigantic fist belonged to the ugly tough kid. Nemiroff noticed right away that the ugly tough kid was not only ugly and tough, but brutal. The second fist crashed into Nemiroff s jaw with a dull thud. Nemiroff felt himself falling backward. His books spilled out of his arms as he hit the sidewalk.
Nemiroff looked around helplessly for some of his friends. He sported them way back in the crowd of people that had formed a circle around the fight Nemiroff wondered why people always form circles around other people who are either getting beat up or dying. It must be significant.
"Get up," the ugly tough kid was yelling
Nemiroff knew that if he got up he was going to get killed. But if his friends helped, they could beat the crap out of the ugly tough kid.
Together they could do him harm.
He nodded at his friends, then got up and charged the ugly tough kid, yelling, "Pile on the ugly tough kid. Pile on the ugly tough kid."
Nemiroff was face to face with the ugly tough kid before he realized that nobody but him was piling on.
Nemiroff made for a very small pile, and the ugly tough kid pushed him off and beat him several times about the face. Then the ugly tough kid knocked Nemiroff to the ground again.
Nemiroff looked over to his friends again. "What about practice?" he shouted. "What about the big game?" Nemiroff stopped shouting when he realized that his friends were shouting back. Nemiroff listened carefully. They were probably trying to give him some instructions or something. Like lay down and play dead. That would be the smartest thing to do. Nemiroff listened. Now he could hear them yelling.
"Hit the Jew."
"Step on the Jew."
"Kick the Jew."
They were yelling all right. They were yelling for Nemiroff's ass.
Nemiroff turned back to the ugly tough kid just in time to see the size-ten coming right for his stomach. Nemiroff rolled out of the way. He stood up and faced the ugly tough kid again. For some reason he looked even uglier and tougher. The fist flashed out and came away with some blood from Nemiroff's nose. The circle went crazy. They crowded in even closer. Nemiroff wished they would form a triangle or parallelogram or trapezoid. Anything but that damn circle.
Just then the school bell rang. The crowd started to thin out as people walked into the school. No circle, no fight. Everybody knew that. The ugly tough kid started to walk toward Nemiroff. Nemiroff was afraid that maybe the ugly tough kid didn't know about the rule with the circle. Maybe he didn't care. The ugly tough kid stood over Nemiroff. "You're lucky the bell rang, Jewie."
A lot of people ran over to the ugly tough kid and patted him on the back. Nemiroff noticed some of his friends getting in a few pats. The crowd followed the ugly tough kid into the school. Nemiroff got slowly to his feet. He looked up at the sky and said another silent prayer: Listen, God, remember before when I thanked you for making Miss Bettins' breasts so big? Well, I want to thank you again for making school bells loud.
Nemiroff looked around for his books. He noticed that everyone had taken extra pains to step all over them. Nemiroff bent over slowly and picked up the books. He wiped some of the blood from his nose with what was left of his sleeve. Nemiroff walked very slowly into the school. If it isn't too late, Nemiroff said to himself, I'm not going to be Jewish any more.
Nemiroff spent the next few days following the fight trying to figure out some way to get un-Jewish.
It was obviously going to be rough, but Nemiroff realized he had to do it fast before he really got murdered. And then Nemiroff bumped into Morty Bernstein. Good old skinny weak shitty little Morty Bernstein. With thick glasses yet—just knock the glasses off and Morty Bernstein was as blind as a bat Nemiroff stood by himself outside the school waiting for the bell to ring. He saw the ugly tough kid standing around with his friends. There were only about five minutes left until the bell would ring. Where the hell was Morty Bernstein? Then the Caddy pulled up in front of the school and Nemiroff watched as Morty Bernstein kissed his mother goodbye and climbed out of the car. Morty started to walk up the sidewalk. Nemiroff jumped out from behind some bushes and ran to meet Morty halfway.
"Hi, Nemmy," Morty said.
Nemiroff pushed Morty to the ground. "Don't 'Hi' me, you lousy lake," Nemiroff shouted.
"What the hell is going on?" Morty asked.
Nemiroff turned to see if the ugly tough kid was looking. He was. Perfect. Nemiroff shouted a little louder. "Never mind the cheap talk, get up and fight, you dumb Jew." Morty stood up and tried to run away. Nemiroff stopped him. He felt his hand close on the skinny arm. A pushover.
The ugly tough kid walked over to Nemiroff and Morty. "What's going on?" the ugly tough kid asked.
"I thought I'd just beat the crap out of this lousy Jew." Nemiroff said it very casually. Like he beat up lousy Jews every day of his life. The ugly tough kid looked at Nemiroff. The circle had formed again.
But this time it was going to be Nemiroff's circle.
"Smash him in the face," the ugly tough kid said.
Nemiroff looked at Morty. "Take off your glasses, Morty."
Morty shook his head. "No, I can't see without them."
Nemiroff trembled inside. Perfect, he thought, he doesn't have a chance. "You better take them off before I break them."
"Smash him in the face," the ugly tough kid said again.
"O.K., Morty, you're asking for it." Nemiroff lunged at Morty and struck out with his fists. Morty dropped his books and stepped out of the way. Nemiroff couldn't believe ft. Morty was moving like a matador. And he was taking Nemiroff apart. The punches were fight, but they all hit the mark. Nemiroff was on the ground in a few seconds and Morty was sitting on his head and beating the daylights out of him.
"Pull him off me," Nemiroff shouted. "Pull the son of a bitch off me."
But nobody listened. And Morty pounded on Nemiroff's head until the school bell rang.
The crowd disappeared as it had before, until only Nemiroff and his stepped-on books were left Nemiroff caught a glimpse of Morty Bernstein going through the school door. He was being followed by everybody and patted on the back. Even the ugly tough kid got in a few pats. Nemiroff looked up at the sky, but he said nothing.
Nemiroff was very discouraged. Maybe, he thought, just maybe I could take on Naomi Bloomgarten and get away with it.
Twelve years later as Nemiroff walked along the diamond-shaped base path at Camp Winituck, he knew that he was stuck with being Jewish. The beating Naomi Bloomgarten had given him in front of the whole school had proved that. Now Nemiroff knew that the best he could do was keep it under wraps. For Nemiroff it would be like syphilis, he had it, but he would be damned if he would tell anybody about it. Nemiroff had enough problems.
Nemiroff could hardly control himself as he walked along. Outside he seemed calm and composed, but inside he was laughing so hard it almost hurt. Nemiroff carried the burlap sacks that served as bases slung over his shoulder. He counted off forty feet and stopped. Nemiroff dropped one of the sacks on the ground where first base was to be. Nemiroff looked around at the ten campers in his group who were watching anxiously from the sideline. Nemiroff shuffled the sack around with his feet Nemiroff took his time placing the burlap sack near some little holes and rocks so that when the kids ran around the bases there was a very good possibility that one of them might injure himself seriously. Nemiroff looked back at the kids and smiled, then moved on down the base path toward second base. The kids were straining their necks and sweating as they tried to catch all of Nemiroff's moves. Nemiroff dropped second base on the ground and then reached into his pocket. He very carefully pulled out some pieces of broken glass and sprinkled them around the base. Nemiroff conjured op a beautiful vision of one of the campers sliding into second base on a close play. There would be crying and screaming as the kid rolled over with his legs ripped to hell. Nemiroff stared at the kids. They stared back with big, wide eyes and made mental notes not to slide into second base today. Nemiroff giggled and moved on down to third base. He dropped the sack and walked back toward the ten little kids. He looked at each one of them and smiled. They smiled back. The other group who Nemiroff's group was to play arrived on the field.
"Play ball," Nemiroff screamed.
Without saying a word, Nemiroff's group reluctantly took their positions on the field. They stared at Nemiroff with hate in their eyes. Nemiroff turned his head to speak to the other team. It was all the time his kids needed. Each one of them took out the rocks they had been saving in their pockets for just such an occasion and unloaded them on Nemiroff. Most of them missed, but a couple were right on target. Nemiroff looked at them, gave a little smile and nodded his head. He didn't check to see if he was bleeding. He wasn't going to give them the satisfaction.