FORMULA FOR DISASTER

Eugene was a wreck – disheveled, bloodshot eyes, tired, hungry and freezing. He had been working in the lab nonstop throughout this sleety and wet January night, frantically perfecting the classified formula. He still had 500 small black-capped vials to fill, hide inside porcelain statues, pack in boxes and deliver to the storage facility before dawn. A TOP SECRET ASSIGNMENT, he was told.          

Just then the harried chemist was startled by a swift scurrying motion across the room. A rat? “Keep going – no time to dilly dally” he muttered to himself, choosing to ignore the unwelcome intruder. 

There it was again .. that scampering scurrying movement! Eugene glanced in the general direction of the noise, then did a double take, squinting. He removed his thick glasses and rubbed his tired eyes. Putting his specs back on, he slowly snuck a peek. On a shelf, partially hidden behind urns and sculptures, sat a leathery-skinned troll with enormous eyes and pointy ears. 

“Great”, Eugene mumbled. “Now I’m hallucinating.” 

“Working too hard, you are. Weebly, I am. Help, I can”, whispered the troll in a raspy voice. 

“What the…? This is insane!”

“Finish, you won’t. My help, you need. Watch.” Raising one scrawny finger, Weebly pointed to the formula and magically poured it into the vial, sealed it, carefully hid it inside a statuette and gently placed it in the box. Eugene was too stunned to move. 

Understand now, you do? Work together, we will. Four hands work better.” 

Despite his incredulity, Eugene realized this clever troll was his only hope to finish in time. Swiftly they got the job done. Eyeing the clock, Eugene saw he had ten minutes to carry the heavy boxes to the warehouse around the corner. 

Weebly’s help, you need. Too heavy, they are. Transport you, I will”, offered the sage intruder, but Eugene ignored him. Straining, he placed the boxes on a hand truck and walked toward the stairs. 

Beware the stairs! Frozen, they are!”

But unwisely he ignored Weebly’s warning. Struggling up the frozen stairs, Eugene’s feet suddenly flew out from under him and he lost his grip on the hand truck. He tumbled backwards, crashed into a shelf and knocked over a basilisk statue which crushed his skull, killing him instantly. The hand truck landed with an incredible THUD, spilling its shattered contents everywhere. 

“Listened, you should have” said the wizardly troll before scurrying away. 

NAR © 2018

THE BIG STING

Open a map of New York, go as far east as possible and you’ll find the town of Montauk – a laid-back fishing village kissing the Atlantic Ocean. I lived there with my brother and parents. Winters were harsh and barren, a sharp contrast to the summers teeming with tourists escaping madding NYC in search of the perfect wave, a golden tan. My favorite month was April – trees budding, flowers sprouting, the delicious smell of the ocean. 

Our house was off the beaten path, with only two neighbors nearby. One was a young couple with rambunctious five year old triplets: Timothy, Thomas and Theodore – ‘The Terrorizing Trio’. The boys had identical bicycles – one red, one blue, one yellow – which they rode with wild abandon throughout the neighborhood. 

Our other neighbor was snooty old Professor MacGregor, newly-retired teacher turned nature enthusiast. He was very particular about the upkeep of his yard and the glorious profusion of flowers attracting all varieties of birds and insects. His pride and joy was a tall redwood hive encasing eight honeycomb trays. Inside sat the queen, surrounded by her working and droning colony. Mac, our secret nickname for the professor, would don his protective suit every day and inspect the hive and the honey within – puttering, muttering – making sure everything was as it should be. 

And it always was .. except for THAT day when mom looked outside and saw a huge black swarm rapidly approaching. Closing all the windows and doors, we watched anxiously as thousands of buzzing bees hovered over our house, took a sharp turn and headed straight for town. Once we knew it was safe, we ventured outside only to hear the enraged obscenities of the professor. 

Dad and the triplet’s father ran over to see what was going on. There in his yard was a blustering Mac, wandering around the remnants of his beloved hive which were strewn about the yard, the redwood gouged and marred with traces of blue, red and yellow paint. The triplet’s dad groaned and raced out the yard toward his house, yelling out their names as he ran. 

Suddenly, we heard screams coming from the village as horrified townsfolk ran for cover from the buzzing horde. It took a long time for Montauk to settle down; the only one to benefit from that infamous day was the town doctor, busily tending sting after sting after sting.

NAR © 2018

LAPIS LAZULI SKIES

Arabic lanterns surrounded the palace high up in the hills of Qatar. Some were on the ground lighting the maze of pathways leading to the palace. Others dangled from the multi-layered eaves and swayed gently in the breeze, creating shadows that danced in the night. Still other lanterns stood atop the parapets, casting a diaphanous cloud over the entire fortress, encasing it in a shroud of the palest turquoise blue imaginable. And the largest lanterns of all were mounted on the high palace turrets, their glow reaching up to the heavens and down into the deep forest below. 

As enchanting as the palace looked on the outside, inside was filled with sorrow and despair. Within the great walls of the palace lived King Abdel, the royal family and a countless number of servants. King Abdel resided in the palace since the day of his birth, the first child born to his parents, King Aali and Queen Nuha. Tragically Queen Nuha died in childbirth, leaving her husband alone with their newborn son. Abdel was cared for by the queen’s wet-nurse and handmaids but King Aali was too heartbroken over the death of his only wife to take an interest in his newborn son. Burdened by anguish and grief, the king lost his will to live and he, too, died .. leaving the infant orphaned and King of Qatar. 

Abdel grew to be a strong and handsome man. He was a brave warrior and commanded a huge army of loyal soldiers.  Abdel married twenty-seven times, each wife lovelier than the last. Sadly, no children were conceived and Abdel was childless with no heir to assume the throne. At last, when Abdel was sixty years old his newest bride, Queen Yaffa, presented him with his first child .. Her Royal Highness Princess Fayruz, the Arabic name for turquoise – the color emanating from the palace lanterns as well as her incredible eyes. 

“By Allah, our Lord, to You belongs all praise. You are the Sustainer of heaven and earth. But could you not have given me a son?!” cried King Abdel in a combination of frustration and joy. 

But once Abdel looked at his daughter, he was enchanted .. besotted by her perfect beauty. Her skin was a warm mocha color, her downy hair just a shade darker and her eyes, like two turquoise gem stones, were bewitching. She was the treasure of the palace, worth more than any fortune in all of Qatar. 

Weeks turned into months and months into years and, as if ordained by the gods, Princess Fayruz remained the only child of King Abdel. She was a delight to everyone in the palace, loved by all from the cooks in the kitchen to the great advisors of the king. Having no siblings, she became friends with the children of the palace workers, all the while being groomed to one day assume the position of Queen of Qatar. 

Of all her many friends, her dearest one was Dabir, the son of the palace teacher. Dabir was a handsome boy with skin and hair the same color as Fayruz. And just like the princess, Dabir also had the most amazing eyes .. his a twinkling amethyst violet. All the children shared a classroom, played together and napped on cots in the large rest area. The princess’s handmaids were always with her but it was Dabir whom Fayruz would run to when she had a nightmare. The two children huddled together as Dabir calmed her fears. His tenderness and gentle spirit did not go unnoticed by the palace physician and it was decided that when he turned thirteen  Dabir would begin to study medicine. 

Dabir was an exemplary student and at the age of fifteen was ready to continue his studies at a university hundreds of miles away from the palace. The day of his departure was the saddest day in Fayruz and Dabir’s young lives and the two dearest of friends vowed to write to each other daily. Fayruz cried every night for two weeks after Dabir left but the arrival of his first letter brought her much happiness. They wrote each other frequently but as time went on the letters became few and far between as both became more involved in everyday life. 

Now Fayruz was seventeen and “High time that she be married”, declared King Abdel. Arrangements were made for princes from far and wide to call upon Princess Fayruz in the hope of winning her hand. She was a stunning beauty and all her suitors were smitten with her, but Fayruz was not interested in any of them. Two more years passed and still no husband was chosen by Fayruz. King Abdel was nearly eighty years old and his health was failing. He begged Fayruz to choose a husband so he could die in peace .. a bit of an exaggeration which was always King Abdel’s nature. 

As Abdel’s conditioned worsened, the palace doctor was at a loss to help him and other doctors were summoned to treat the king. Once again he pleaded with Fayruz to choose a husband and this time she acquiesced, promising to select someone by the end of the month. Perhaps love between her and her chosen one would come after marriage. 

The final week of the month arrived and Fayruz met with possible suitors while doctors examined the king. On the last day of the month Queen Yaffa rushed into her daughter’s drawing room to tell her the king was much improved and was asking to see her. Fayruz hurried to her father and as she approached his bed the doctor turned to bow before her. To Fayruz’s amazement the doctor was Dabir! Crying tears of joy, Fayruz and Dabir ran to each other, embracing – reunited after so many years. 

One month to the day Fayruz and Dabir were joined in marriage. That night King Abdel slept as peacefully as a newborn babe while the palace lanterns glowed in a delicate fusion of turquoise and amethyst. 

NAR © 2018

SAFE IN A BUBBLE

“Arabic For Dummies”? The Qur’an? What the hell are these disgusting books doing in our house? You’re still associating with that .. that .. savage, aren’t you, Gloria? Answer me!” 

“Papa, please, calm yourself. It’s not good for your blood pressure. If you’re referring to Yusuf, he is not a savage. He’s a sweet, gentle and loving man and you’d  realize that if you got to know him. He’s a student at the university studying religion and…..” 

“And the making of bombs and God knows what else! Gloria, he’s an Arab, a Muslim, for the love of God! Haven’t you seen enough on tv and in the papers to know what these people are capable of? Crashing planes into buildings, blowing up villages, turning themselves into human bombs! They’re animals, all of them!” 

“And since when did you become an expert on Muslims or Arabs? You’ve never even tried to get to know them. All my Arab friends are good people .. peace loving people. We’ve spent hours talking, exchanging philosophies and sharing meals.” 

“I cannot believe what I’m hearing. You actually sit down and eat with these people, if you can even call them that? This is a nightmare! How can you do this to me?” 

“What am I doing to you, Papa? You haven’t even given him a chance. You refuse to meet him, to sit down and have a conversation with him. You’d see he is a man of peace, a good man incapable of hurting anyone.” 

“Are you crazy? Do you actually think I would sit with him in my house? Please, God, don’t tell me he has you brainwashed already! That’s what they do, you know…draw you in to their cult and before you know it you’re hooked and there’s no way out. Why can’t you stick to our own kind, find a nice Jewish boy? An Arab and a Jew .. whoever heard of such nonsense?!?

“I can’t believe we’re fighting over this again! Why must you keep bringing it up, Papa?You didn’t give Evelyn a hard time when she said she wanted to marry Sal. And what about Kenny when he and Makayla got engaged? An Italian son-in-law and a black daughter-in-law are in our family now and you won’t let me see Yusuf, simply because he’s an Arab!” 

“Oh no, there’s no such thing as simply an Arab, Gloria. They all have a hidden agenda! Are you blind to what’s going on around you?” 

“Papa, look at me. I’m a grown woman capable of making my own decisions. Why can’t you trust my judgement like you did with Kenny and Evelyn?” 

“Gloria, you’re not thinking clearly. Sal is a doctor, making a fortune. Your sister and their kids will never want for anything. Makayla’s parents are both lawyers and she’s in law school herself. Your brother and sister made smart choices. They didn’t bring some maniac suicide bomber into our family.” 

“STOP! Stop saying that! You know nothing about Yusuf and you have no idea what you’re talking about! He’s a wonderful man and I have deep feelings for him.” 

“Deep feelings? What are you saying, Gloria? Are you sleeping with him?” 

“Oh my God! I can’t believe you just asked me that! I’m not a child and, frankly, that’s none of your business.” 

“None of my business? As long as you’re living under my roof, it’s my business.”

“Here we go again! Well maybe it’s high time I moved out of this prison and found a place of my own!” 

“PRISON! After all your mother and I have done for you, you have the nerve to say that? And by ‘a place of your own’, you mean shacking up with that terrorist, don’t you? Why don’t you just stab me in the heart and put me out of my misery!” 

“Enough! What’s going on here? I can hear the two of you all the way downstairs!” 

“Hilda, אהובתי (“my love”) I didn’t hear you come in.” 

“As if you could hear anything over all the yelling in here! What’s gotten into the two of you?” 

“It’s your daughter. She’s being absolutely unreasonable. I don’t even know who she is anymore.” 

“Oh, so now she’s MY daughter? Sheldon, the last time I checked she was OUR daughter.
Is this about that Arab boy again?” 

“Mama, please, I can’t talk to Papa about this any more. If anyone is being unreasonable, it’s him.” 

“Gloria, why don’t you go out for a while, go to that nice coffee shop near the university.
Sheldon, come sit with me.”  

“Hilda, are you crazy? She’s going to run right to him! Don’t you see what you’re doing?” 

“Just like you ran to me, Sheldon, when your parents called me a filthy Nazi? Look at me, Shelly. Do you remember what it was like for us when we first met? You a Jew and me a German. Ach du lieber! What were we thinking? My father was so furious, he wanted to kill both of us. But we knew we’d rather die than be separated. Sheldon, you should know better than anyone that you cannot judge one man simply by the color of his skin or what country he comes from or what god he worships. You’re a good man, liebchen. You were a good man when we were teenagers and you’re a good man now. You’re scared, Shelly, just like we were scared back then. But we persevered and in time my parents saw the real you and your parents saw the real me. Do you remember what you told your parents all those years ago?” 

“Of course I do. I said ‘I love her and I would die for her’.” 

“Ja. And do you remember what I said to your parents?” 

“Like it was yesterday. You said ‘I love him and I would die without him’.” 

“Things haven’t changed that much, Sheldon, except now WE’RE the parents. I hate to burst your bubble but they love each other and it’s as simple as that. Trust them.” 

NAR © 2018