Authors: Dexter Morgenstern
Artwork by Anna Stockbring
Copyright © 2012 by Dexter Morgenstern
Artwork Copyright © 2012 Anna
All rights reserved. No part of this
book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic
form without permission.
Kindle: October 2012
I can’t say I’m a spiritual person, but I definitely enjoy
the Sabbath. My family is Jewish, and every weekend we get together with the Hawthorns
to celebrate. We used to go to a synagogue, but ever since we moved here to
Murphy, North Carolina, we've been celebrating the Sabbath the traditional way,
at home. The closest synagogue here is two hours away and not good enough to be
worth the trip, so every week we alternate houses with the Hawthorns, our best
friends, to celebrate. To tell the truth, they are our only true friends out
here. Shana, their oldest daughter is like my sister. Every Sabbath we take
turns sleeping over at each other’s house.
I met her on my first day at school here when we moved, and
was so happy that I wasn't the only Jewish person there, because honestly this
town is so under-populated for its size that I’ve met at least half of the
people here. Shana has an olive complexion; a button nose that she complains is
too big, long thick black hair, and beautiful brown eyes. She's almost exactly
my size and even our birthdays are in the same month, May. Ever since we found
that out we always celebrate our birthdays together and even ask for the same
presents. When we turned fourteen, we both got our own guitars. When we turned
fifteen, we both got Labret lip rings. We’re not sure what we want this year.
We will both be turning sixteen so we want it to be something special, but a
car would be too much to ask of our parents.
It took us forever to learn how to play our guitars well and
even now she's still having trouble plucking. I'm a natural at it. We found
that she is a much better singer though so mostly I play the more difficult
notes on my acoustic guitar, and she plays single chords while focusing on
singing. It works out well, but both of us are terrible at writing lyrics and
guitar tabs so often we just practice our favorite songs.
Right now we are singing the prayer Adon Olam. We always
play it, because it is my seven-year-old brother Adam's favorite hymn- well,
actually his favorite song in the whole world. I'll admit that we're a little
unorthodox with the way we conduct our Sabbath. Normally a song like Adon Olam
would be played at the end of a Rabbi's sermon just before the food, but we
don't follow that anymore. Instead we play a whole bunch of songs for our
family's entertainment, and then we eat. Her sister Denise likes the song
“Complicated” by Avril Lavigne, so we will do that next.
As we play I look around the room at our audience. They're
all sitting at the dining room table, eyes on us. My family, the Redwoods, is
sitting to our left. Adam looks very happy and is mouthing the words while we
sing. Next to him sits my mother Sarah. She has shoulder length brown hair
that's starting to gray (after all, she's turning forty-five soon), and hazel
eyes that look just like mine except... older. Mom doesn't seem too impressed
by our sometimes off-key playing. Sometimes Shana’s guitar chords and mine
don't mix well, or sometimes we'll sing on two very different notes making it
sound weird, but she still looks happy that we're playing. Next to her sits my
dad and he looks just as happy as ever. You can almost see tears of joy in his
eyes through his almost rimless glasses. He is balding on the top of his head
but is still very proud of the thick bushes around it. So proud in fact that he
dyes it black to make himself look younger (although he isn’t pulling it off),
and just covers his bald spot with his dark blue yarmulke. I modify my hair too
though. I'm a natural brunette like my mom, but I think blonde looks better on
me, so I bleach mine. Most people are shocked when they find out it's not
naturally blonde. Next to him is my grandmother Hannah, but I call her Bubbe.
My grandmother is very old and always seems melancholy, but whenever someone
speaks to her she always smiles and appears to be enjoying herself. I don't
know, maybe it's just her ashen hair and many wrinkles that make her appear so
grim. Despite being in her eighties, she’s not senile at all, but I think that
has to do with the fact that she has lived with us instead of being thrown into
a nursing home.
On the other side of the dining table sits Shana’s family,
the Hawthorns. Her father Matt Hawthorn is fully bald but that doesn't stop him
from having a good time. He's a joyous man that's putting on some weight, but
doesn't even seem to care. By contrast, his wife Barbara is very slim. She has
short black hair and very few wrinkles on her face. Most people don't believe
she's over forty. Shana’s sister seems to be taking up her father’s eating
habits as she is a little too big for a seven year old, but her curly brown
pigtails fashioned by her sister make the mix look cute.
We finish the prayer and our families applaud us. Shana and
I take each other's hand and give a low bow as a single unit before playing our
next and last song for Denise. I let Shana sing this one alone while I play
guitar. We found that only one guitar is necessary and well, I'm not so good at
singing this one either. We play it a little differently than the original
version. Shana starts with the first verse and when she finishes I come in
slowly with the guitar.
After that song we have a little more applause but then we
set our guitars down and join our families at the table.
Our moms get up and run into the kitchen to fetch the
challah bread and the meal.
“Alyssa?” asks Mr. Hawthorn. “
Yes?” I answered.
“Your brother is going on the camping trip to the lake
tomorrow right?” he asks.
“Yes, he is,” I say, ruffling Adam's hair. He hunches
forward. Adam hates when I touch his hair, but it's a habit I picked up when he
was a baby and still haven't dropped. “Do you two mind if Denise stays over
tonight, too? So she can just be dropped off with Adam? I'd appreciate getting
to sleep in for the weekend, and she’s got everything she needs in her backpack
in the car,” he asks. I look at my Dad and he just shrugs.
“Fine with me,” he says. I look back at Mr. Hawthorn and
“Sounds like fun. She'll get to play with Adam,” I answer.
He nods his appreciation.
At that, our mothers reentered the room carrying trays. Mrs.
Hawthorn sets hers down first and quickly heads back to the kitchen. My Mom sets
her tray down and we sing the Motzi before she removes the cloth to reveal two
warm loaves of challah- braided bread. While doing this, Mrs. Hawthorn returns
with one final tray with nine shot glasses. Seven are full of red wine and two
are separated from the rest full of grape juice for Adam and Denise. It's a
Jewish custom to enjoy wine at the Sabbath but all our parents agree that
children can only have it when they turn thirteen, so the two younger ones have
a ways to go. As Mrs. Hawthorn distributes the glasses, she waves one hand to
cue the blessing over fruit and the Sabbath. “
Baruch atah Adonai...” I start.
“Elohaynu melech ha'olam,” Shana joins followed by the rest
of them, until we all finish the prayer with a loud
“L'chayim!” which is toast that means “To Life!”
After we eat the breaded chicken, baked potatoes, and green
beans, Barbara and Matt Hawthorn say their goodbyes and then take their leave.
Shana and I begin to rush up stairs but my mom stops us.
“Nope, not yet. You need to get these dishes done first,”
she said. I sigh, but that’s the way we do things. Mom cooks, Dad cleans the
counters and table, I do the dishes, and Adam stays out of the way. It would be
more of a chore to wash dishes on the Sabbath because our meals were always special
and since there are more people, there are more dishes, but Shana always helps
and the job goes by more than twice as fast.
Once we finish the dishes, we head up the wooden staircase
to my room. Shana and I both have the habit of using the walls of the stairs
for balance instead of the banister. Most of our walls seem too cluttered with
portraits and decorations, but everything is at least neatly organized. That
is, until we get to my room. Marked by a worn down Karen-O poster on the door,
my room is the most cluttered of them all. Almost every inch of wall is taken
up by some poster or picture or even some of the drawings I drew when I was
On my floor are various clothes. Clean or dirty? I don't
care, and I just kick them all into a pile in the corner on top of my school
papers. Oh well, I'll sort through them tomorrow when I start my essay that's
not due till Tuesday. I can hear Adam and Denise playing what sounds like an
old Dance Dance Revolution game, but with the lack of rhythm in their trampling
I bet they aren't getting very high scores.
The clothes are just part of the mess in my room. Even my
decorations are placed messily. I have lopsided posters of some of my favorite
bands like Chevelle and Paramore. Mom doesn't stress me too much about the
cleanliness of my room. She's more worried about my grades. I'm lingering on
the low end of a B average and she doesn't want to see it decline any further.
After I clear out a decent space on my floor, I pull out the
chair from my desk and move it near my vanity for Shana to sit. I take the
vanity stool and Shana and I both proceed to remove our makeup which isn't
really much. We both wear eyeliner and lip gloss, and Shana wears a little
blush on her cheeks, but when we finish removing the makeup from our faces, we
begin reapplying nail polish.
“What colors should we do this week?” I ask. Shana looks at
the assortment of colors laying on my vanity and picks out two. We always wear
two different colors of nail polish, alternating the colors on every other
“How 'bout... green, and black?” she asks.
“Dark green or light?” I respond
“Light,” she answers without hesitation.
As we apply the nail polish to our fingernails, we begin to
speak. We mostly talk about school. She and I don't really hang out with any of
the other students. It's not that we're anti-social or that we don't get along
with the other students, it's because both of us have parents that work in the
school. Her mother is the school counselor and my father is the vice principal.
“At least having parents at the school keeps the boys
respectful,” she says.
“Yeah, but when prom time comes that means we will probably
be the only ones without a date,” I respond. She shook her head.
“Come on Lyss, if they're afraid to approach us because of
our parents, don't you think they'd be even more reluctant to reject us?” she
“That’s evil,” I laugh.
“How's track?” she asks. I've been part of the track team
for the last two years.
“Awful!” I exclaim.
“Leanne has got some kind of problem with me. She always
sprints to pass me and then when she's tired she makes a point to body-block me
so I can't get ahead.”
“Doesn't that slow her down too?” she asks. I shake my head.
“No, she and I are the fastest on the team by like ten
seconds, but she finishes just ahead of me like half the time now just because
she does that,” I explain. I’m getting angry just thinking about it.
“Is it really that hard to pass her?” she asks.
“I don't know. I guess I'll just fake her out and pass her
on the opposite side I approach from,” I say. She claps once, as an idea just
“No! I have a better idea. When she speeds up to pass you,
you speed up. That way she'll tire out faster and won't be able to keep up with
you. She'll probably end up slowing down to third or even worse if she tries
too hard,” she explains. I like that idea.
“Well hey I'm going on my weekend jog tomorrow morning after
I drop my brother- er our siblings off. You wanna come?” I ask. She looks hesitant.
“I mentioned to my mom about our run last time. She doesn't
want me going into the forest like that. She's even surprised that your mom
lets you do it alone,” she says. I bite my lip and fumble my labret ring with
“But as long as we don't tell her,” she continues. A sly
smile crosses my lips. Shana is a worrier though so I can tell that’s not the
“My mom realizes it's dangerous too,” I say, standing up.
I look around the mess in my room to find my purse. It's a
small colorful Alice in Wonderland bag that I've had since I was ten. It's
pretty worn now, but I've always used it. I open it and reach in.
“My mom always has me carry this,” I say, pulling out a
small blue cylinder.
“Pepper spray?” she asks. I nod.
“Your momma lets you carry that around?” she asks.
“Makes me,” I correct. “Just don't mention it to anyone.
It's not really... legal per se,” I add.
“Well what's more legal then? A dead girl, or a crook with
burning eyes?” she asks. “That's what my mom said!” I exclaim. I clasp both
hands to my mouth, thinking I was too loud.
I look at my clock and realize it's only eight. It only
seems darker because of the opaque purple curtain that hides my window. My mom
buys into the urban legend that people will spy on me undressing if I don't
block the view from the window.
“So anyway, if you're trying to outrun Leanne, won't I slow
you down on the trail?” she asks.
“Oh no that trail is like what three miles? I can't run that
at top speed. I can barely make it at a medium pace,” I laugh. The trail is not
really a paved trail, but more of a path I found that can take me all the way
to the school district and even further, so I can get to almost anywhere
important in the town from it.
We spend the rest of the night talking about our schoolwork.
The essays we have to write are on creative historical fiction. It's a project
that affects both our history and our English grade, so it's kind of important.
We both have to make up short stories where we place ourselves in a historical
event and then explain how our lives worked through it. Shana brings up the
idea that our stories should collide so that it was the same story, but through
both of our points of view. I think it's a great idea, but it makes our essays
that much harder.