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Authors: Robert Klane

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BOOK: The Horse is Dead
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Nemiroff's group had an additional problem to overcome while learning to swim. They found it was very difficult to keep their minds on their lessons because they were afraid Nemiroff would try to drown them if he got the chance. Only the bravest and stupidest of them would think of wandering out where the water was over their heads. Only they had Nemiroff figured wrong. He didn't think it was fair to try and drown them unless they first knew how to swim. So he was desperately trying to teach them all before the end of the summer.

Nemiroff's nemesis of the pool was a little fat kid who even refused to get into a bathing suit. But Nemiroff decided to handle him with kid gloves so he wouldn't hurt his feelings.

"Hey, you fat shit, c'mere," Nemiroff yelled. The fat boy turned and tried to run but Nemiroff caught him and pinned him down.

"Listen, tubby," Nemiroff snarled, "go put on your swimming suit or I'll throw you in just like you are." The fat kid got up trembling and changed into his suit. When he came back to the pool Nemiroff was waiting for him.

"O.K.," Nemiroff said, "today you're going to learn how to swim." The fat kid pissed in his pants. "Wait until you get in the pool before you do that," Nemiroff ordered.

Nemiroff knew that he had to win the kid's confidence before he could teach him how to swim. "C'mere," he said, putting his arm around the boy and walking him to the deep end of the pool. "I want to show you something."

"No," the fat boy squealed, trying to get out of Nemiroff's grasp.

"What's the matter?" Nemiroff asked. "Have I ever done anything to hurt you?"

"Yes," replied the fat boy.

Nemiroff reminded himself to go easy on him. "Listen, you fat son of a bitch, you look like a blimp, you should at least be able to float like one."

The boy pissed in his pants again.

"Now," Nemiroff went on, "anyone can learn how to swim, but before they can, you know what they have to do?" His voice was reassuring.

"What?" The little fat kid was feeling better.

"They have to get in the fucking water," Nemiroff shouted as he pushed the fat kid in. Nemiroff watched him go all the way to the bottom.

"Swim," Nemiroff yelled. "Swim, you fat little ball of shit" But the boy just lay at the bottom of the pool.

Nemiroff stared down at the boy lying on the bottom of the pool. "Swim, swim, you silly little bastard." Then he turned to the rest of the group, who were standing around watching. Most of them were clinging to anything they could get their hands on so that Nemiroff wouldn't throw them in. He looked at them with disgust. "If he doesn't learn how to swim in five minutes," Nemiroff said, "pull his ass out." He turned and walked away.

 

Nemiroff wasn't too surprised when he found out that Uncle Bernie wanted to see him as soon as possible. He knocked very carefully on the door of Uncle Bernie's office. "Come in," Uncle Bernie said. Nemiroff opened the door and walked in.

"Oh, Nemiroff," Uncle Bernie sang, "have a seat, boy."

Nemiroff sat down in a crumbling chair. "You wanted to see me?"

"Yes," Uncle Bernie said, "I thought we could have a little chat"

"What about, sir," Nemiroff began. "If it's about the kid in the pool, they got him out in plenty of time."

"It's more than that," Uncle Bernie interrupted, "it's about you. The way you are."

"The way I am?" Nemiroff asked.

"Yes." Uncle Bernie settled back in his chair. "You seem like a bright boy. You're not bad-looking." He paused. "Why the hell are you such a fuck-up?"

"I don't know."

"I mean, have you ever stopped to figure out why you do the things you do?"

"No," Nemiroff answered matter-of-factly, "I just do them."

"Well" Uncle Bernie went on, "take a good look at yourself. Try and change your ways before it's too late."

"Too late for what?"

"I don't know, just too late." Uncle Bernie paused a minute to let the full effect of that sink in. "Listen," he finally went on, "I was a little like you once. But I've changed. I used to be a lonely man. A lot of people asked me why I never got married." He put his feet up on the desk.

"Well, let me tell you," Uncle Bernie's eyes gazed up at the holes in the ceiling. "I couldn't find the right girl. But that doesn't mean I didn't look. No sir. But I knew that the girl for me had to be someone special. Not just anyone." He looked back at Nemiroff, who was falling asleep in the chair.

"No sir, she had to be somebody special. But let me tell you, I've finally found her, Nemiroff, and believe me when I tell you she was well worth waiting for. I'm going to be a very happy man from now on." He turned back to the ceiling because he realized that the sight of Nemiroff disgusted him. "Yup, I'm going to be a very happy man once Miss Helen and I get married."

Nemiroff nearly fell out of the chair. "Did you say Miss Helen?"

"That's right," Uncle Bernie said. "A princess of a girl, don't you think?"

"I think a princess of a guy would be more like it." Now it was Uncle Bernie's turn to fall out of the chair.

"What the hell do you mean?" Uncle Bernie snapped.

"Miss Helen," Nemiroff said, "isn't a Miss Helen. It's a Mr. Green."

"Now listen here," Uncle Bernie exploded.

Nemiroff cut him off. "I'm not fooling," Nemiroff said.

Uncle Bernie was badly shaken. "My God," he muttered, "all those years I've spent looking for the perfect girl to marry, and when I finally find her, it turns out to be a guy."

'Tough shit, sir." Nemiroff said. "And you thought I had problems."

"Nemiroff," Uncle Bernie said, close to tears, "do you think he'll give me the ring back?"

 

Nemiroff was really much too concerned with his own problems to worry a hell of a lot about Uncle Bernie's. The summer was fast coming to an end and Nemiroff had accomplished very little. He would be very lucky to get enough money to go back to college for one semester. After that, the lousy army.

Nemiroff spent the next few days trying to think of some way to bail himself out. He didn't know what the hell to do with himself.

 

Then something strange happened to Nemiroff. He began to think that Miss Booe, beautiful, wonderful, lovely, soft Miss Booe, was following him around. Everywhere Nemiroff went at Camp Winituck, Miss Booe seemed to appear from out of nowhere. It was too good to be true, so Nemiroff ignored her at first.

Finally, after several days, Miss Booe walked over to Nemiroff and spoke to him.

"Why don't you talk to me any more?" the soft, sweet voice said.

Nemiroff decided to play it very smooth. He gazed deeply into her eyes, wet his lips and said, "Aaa-gghhhauuggh ..."

Miss Booe looked at him. "I beg your pardon?"

He regained his composure. "I'm sorry," Nemiroff said, "but I really never expected you to talk to me. I mean, not on purpose."

"Do I need a reason to talk to someone if I like them?" she said.

"Aaagghhaaugghhauuhh . . ." Nemiroff nearly choked on his tongue. He tried again. "I didn't think anyone wanted to talk to me."

"Well, I do," Miss Booe went on. "You mean you don't hate me?" Nemiroff asked, surprised.

"No," Miss Booe said. "Ever since that day at the pool, I've been madly in love with you. Nobody ever treated me like that before. You were so strong and forceful." She kissed him on the cheek, and walked away.

Nemiroff knew better. Somebody had to be putting him on. There wasn't a girl in her right mind who would fall in love with him, let alone the most beautiful girl in the world. He was willing to let the whole thing pass as a case of mistaken identity until his doorbell rang that night Nemiroff opened the door and there stood Miss Booe. "Hi," she said, stepping into the house. "I asked Uncle Bernie where you lived. Hope you don't mind."

"Gaaaah uughhghu ..."

"Just thought I'd drop over and see how you were doing." She ignored Nemiroff's ramblings.

Nemiroff regained his senses. "Great, please come in." They went into the living room and sat down. Miss Booe on one side of the room and Nemiroff on the other. He sat as far away from her as possible because he didn't want to blow it right away. Just having this beautiful girl in his house was enough for him.

"Why don't you sit over here," Miss Booe invited, patting the cushion next to her. "It's a lot more comfortable."

"No, I think I'll stay here on the table," Nemiroff said.

"Oh, come on," Miss Booe purred, "don't be bashful."

"No, I really better not," Nemiroff begged off. Maybe she'd stay for three or four minutes before she left.

"I want you to," Miss Booe pleaded. Nemiroff stared unbelievingly at her. "You want me to?"

"Yes."

"O.K.," Nemiroff said, getting off the table and moving over to the couch.

Miss Booe held out her arms to him. "I think you're wonderful," Miss Booe said when he reached her. "I love you."

Nemiroff tried to scramble away. "Why me?"

Miss Booe grabbed hold of his arms and pulled him to her. "Because you're so ... so Jewish."

"I'm so what?" Nemiroff was astonished.

"So
Jewish. I love Jewish men." She ran her fingers through his hair.

Nemiroff just couldn't believe what was happening to him. "You do?"

"Yes," Miss Booe said, "they're so mysterious. So exotic."

"Jews?" Nemiroff asked. "Why didn't you tell me this before?"

Miss Booe studied him. "I was waiting for you to make another move," she said. "I tried to tell you that day it rained, when you asked me to dance, but I never got a chance."

"Yes?" Nemiroff asked.

"And then I just got tired of waiting, so I started following you around the camp." Miss Booe gazed into Nemiroff's eyes.

"You mean you really were following me?" Nemiroff couldn't believe it

"Of course, I'm madly in love with you." Miss Booe rolled over on the couch. "Do you love me, Nemiroff?"

Nemiroff looked down at the gorgeous body stretched out before him. "I never gave it much thought," he lied. "I mean, I never dreamed in a million years that anyone like you would ever fall in love with me."

"Don't be silly," Miss Booe said, "I think you're terrific. You're strong, handsome—and Jewish." She looked up at him. "You are Jewish, aren't you?"

Nemiroff shook his head a few times, then finally spit it out. "Yes, yes, of course I'm Jewish." Imagine, he thought, I finally admit that I'm Jewish and I don't get the crap beat out of me.

Miss Booe pulled him down on top of her. "Oh, wonderful. Now kiss me."

While Nemiroff was kissing Miss Booe he started to realize what he had done. For the first time in fifteen years he had voluntarily admitted he was Jewish. And look what it got him. Miss Booe. Maybe being Jewish wasn't so bad. "Let's go to bed."

Nemiroff looked around to see who had said that Then the voice came again: "Let's go to bed." Christ, Nemiroff thought. It's her. She said that Nemiroff froze. He didn't know what to do. No one had ever wanted to go to bed with him before. Nemiroff stared into her eyes. "Do you know what you're saying?"

"Yes."

Nemiroff thought about it some more. "I mean you really want to go to bed with me?" She nodded her head. "I don't believe it."

"Don't you love me?" Miss Booe was asking. "Yes, I suppose so," Nemiroff answered. "But don't you think we ought to think about it?"

"What's to think about?"

A light lit up in Nemiroff's mind. "Is this some kind of a joke?" he asked. "What do you mean?"

"I mean are you diseased or something? Did Marshall send you over here to get even with me?" He pushed her away.

"I don't even know anyone named Marshall," Miss Booe said.

"Oh yes you do. He works at the camp, too," Nemiroff went on, "and he probably put you up to this."

Miss Booe looked hurt "No, honest I came over cause I love you."

"But you're beautiful."

"So what?"

"Well, if you were me you'd be suspicious too," Nemiroff said.

"You mean you don't want to go to bed with me?" Miss Booe asked.

"Of course I do, it's just that . . ." Nemiroff stopped for a moment to think about what he was saying. Was he mad? Finally he said, "Oh, what the hell, let's go to bed."

On the way to the bedroom the roof fell in. "Did you have a big bar mitzvah?" Miss Booe asked.

"A what?" Nemiroff stopped in his tracks.

"Bar mitzvah," Miss Booe went on. "I want you to tell me all about your bar mitzvah while we're in bed making love."

Nemiroff sank to the floor. "But I've never been bar-mitzvahed."

Miss Booe looked shocked. "But you told me you were Jewish."

"I am, recently that is, but I just haven't been bar-mitzvahed yet." Nemiroff prayed that she would understand.

"Look, Nemiroff, I love you because you're Jewish, but you can't really be Jewish if you haven't been bar-mitzvahed."

Nemiroff stared at her. "Look, what's this Jewish hang-up you've got? Can't I just show you my birth certificate?" He was desperate. He already could see this beautiful girl walking out of his life just because he didn't have a lousy bar mitzvah. He didn't want to lose her. Miss Booe was the girl that could make his life worthwhile.

"I'm sorry, I'll have to go," Miss Booe was saying.

"No, no, wait," Nemiroff screamed, "don't go. Give me a chance. I'll get bar-mitzvahed. Now. Tonight Just wait right here." He ran out of the house.

 

Nemiroff ran up the steps of the temple and burst through the doors. He nearly knocked Rabbi Rosenberg flat on his ass.

"Can I help you?" the rabbi asked.

"Who are you?"

"I'm Rabbi Rosenberg."

"Do you do the bar-mitzvahing?" Nemiroff asked.

"Yes," the rabbi said.

"Then you can help me," Nemiroff said, grabbing him by the arm. "I want you to perform an emergency bar mitzvah."

"A what?" the rabbi screamed.

"An emergency bar mitzvah," Nemiroff repeated. "I have to get bar-mitzvahed. Now."

"What's your name?" the rabbi asked.

"Nemiroff."

"I've never seen you here before, have I?" the rabbi questioned.

"No, but that's because I never realized how important it was to be Jewish before," Nemiroff explained. "That's why I want to get bar-mitzvahed."

BOOK: The Horse is Dead
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