Excerpt of Edges by Leora Skolkin-Smith
(Page 4 of 6)
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My mother put the photographs back in the envelope and slid
them into her dress pocket but, when she shifted in her seat, they spilled
to the floor. The reading light passed through her uncombed
"My sister Esther inherited the house on Metaduleh Street,"
she started to explain. "Did I ever tell you how it was in Israel? Now
Esther is married to Yakov Hendel, who lives in my father's house with her.
And your grandmother. I think Yakov is only in the ministry of hostels, a low position and he doesn't have much money of
his own.What a shame for Esther when all of our friends married diplomats or
generals after the war and built their own houses."
"I think you told me all this already," I said.
"You look like him."
"Like my brother, Elizar. When you were born, I swore it was
Elizar come back to me."
I looked down at the floor, trying to see if any other
photographs had spilled there.
"Get some sleep," my mother said. "We will be there before
you know it. You must learn to be a survivor, Liana. Do you want me to take
your hand in mine. Will it calm you?"
Two summers ago, my mother lay on the bed in Katonah, rolled
up in the white sheets and pillow, and stuffing handfuls of them into her mouth, biting them in a rage of grief as my father sat
at the desk table where he worked in the bedroom, reading the newspaper.
There had been a fight. It was about money, and how the car
he had bought was "theatrical" and "weak" like him, the blue MG which had
stirred her into a tirade. It was not like other fathers' cars at the
train station, she said. I heard them from the hall.
"Can't you do anything to quiet your mother?" asked my
father when I walked into the room. He folded the newspaper page and read
the next column. He wore tortoise-shelled half-glasses and
smelled of Balkan Sobraine pipe tobacco. "She wants you."
"I can't cope with your father when he gets like this," said
my mother. She looked at him the way she would at a long-suffering child.
He said, "I can't stand it either. I'm sorry." He put down
the newspaper and went out the door.
I went to my mother. She unhooked her bra and her breasts
fell out. "Stroke me. Do that, Liana," she said. Her hair was like a mashed
apricot, still wet from the shower and the curls were dripping. "I told you to
touch me," she said. I put my hand on the small of her back, on the sweaty,
dangerous flesh. "Lower," she said. The sheets dropped from her hand and her
underwear was large and oily. She pointed to a spot
above the rim of her panties. Calgon Bouquet bath powder and
slick bath oil shone on her ribs. A thin but sugary sensation passed through
me. I recognized it as love's involuntary and indiscriminate reflex. But disgust and humiliation, too.
I heard my father go down the stairs and I stroked her. I
breathed in the hot leak of my mother's pain. I did not get up to see where
my father was going. I was a traitor to him, lost in the heat of the night.
lay beside my mother, putting my head down on the pillow
where there were still some strands of his hair. The front door downstairs
My father went to the garage and I heard his car in the
gravel driveway, the road out.
I picked up the pillow the stewardess had given me at the
beginning of the flight and put it on my lap. The air was stuffy, it seemed
My mother was blinking her wide brown eyes at me. "I'm
having a bad time in my sleep again, you know," she said. "Not because we
are finally out of Katonah, but because when I close my
eyes, I dream of what happened that made us leave our house in the first
place. Now, leave it. Stop this whole discussion." Often my mother talked as
if someone else was in the conversation she was having with herself. She
beat at the pillow strapped onto her seat. "I have to
sleep. I have to be strong and think clearly when we get to
Israel. Oh, you and your father talk so high on your kite," she slipped her
tongue over one of the expressions she had picked up in Katonah,
only it was from my father this time, not a television show.
From Edges by Leora Skolkin-Smith. Copyright Leora Skolkin-Smith 2005. All rights reserved. Reproduced by permission of the author.