The first time she found my scribblings she flew into a crying fit. "This is garbage! Pure garbage! Dead Arabs and killings and nightmares and shit!"
"I know," I said weakly. "That's why I ..."
But before I finished she had begun to tear the pages up. "Don't waste your health on this crap. Take it from me. I am in the business. I know."
I knew that, too; but I couldn't help it. It just kept coming out. Sometimes I wrote ten, twelve pages at night, and then I hid them, in my half-sleep. You would think that in such a tiny apartment there would be no more hiding places; but in the morning, my head splitting, I sometimes wasted a whole hour trying to find that one last page.
Why I did it I don't know. It was one of those crazy compulsions, like biting on your nails, or scraping the paint off the wall and eating it. But Jenny was really good about it. Together we hunted-- on all fours, sometimes. When we found the last rogue page under the entrance mat, inside the lamp shade, wherever, she would take my head between her hands and tell me not to worry. One day I'll forget all about the horrible place I had come from. "I can't wait," she told me.
I couldnt either; but now, this.
While Jenny took her turn in the bathroom I called El Al, put my name on the standby list (all flights were full), dressed (my frayed jeans for the plane and a sweater, in case it got cold: after seven years in Canada I still had not gotten used to the cold weather), threw some underwear and my shaving kit into my old army backpack, and left Jenny crying at the door, her hair framed by milky light.
Excerpted from The Debba by Avner Mandelman. Copyright © 2010 by Avner Mandelman. Excerpted by permission of Other Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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