Thursday, August 16, 2012

The man in the white suit

By Hagai Cohen

Jerusalem December 27 1947

It was the afternoon and the weather was fair but brisk

I was sitting on a bench in an empty playground waiting for my friend Yehuda to return home. It was atypical of me to sit on a bench doing nothing especially in the winter, but I had a mission to attend to, Yehuda was a new immigrant and I was assigned to help him with his homework.

From my position on the bench I could watch the gate of the playground and also the entrance to Yehuda’s apartment building. A man, who had approached silently from behind, took me by surprise. He appeared three meters to my right. I looked back; there were only bushes. "Had the man been hiding in the bushes?" I wondered.

The man was dressed in a neat white suit and was wearing a white hat. He stopped short, two meters from where I was sitting and said: "Would you please, young man, be my Saving Angel, and help me to find my way in this labyrinth called Jerusalem? I am lost; I need directions to get to Amos Street.”

Nobody I knew walked around wearing a white suit in the afternoon. The fashion at that time was Khaki slacks and matching color shirt. And nobody I knew used this clumsy Hebrew. It was somewhere between the biblical language and Shalom Aleichem's Hebrew. The man raised my hackles. Something did not seem right. What was he doing in this empty playground? When did he enter the yard? Why was he asking directions from me and not from people in the street? I was silent while pondering how to deal with the situation. The man moved and sat on the bench next to me.

"Amos Street is three blocks down this street on your left." I said dryly without any enthusiasm and moved a little to the left. The man felt my suspicion," don't be afraid", he said "you probably go to school, I myself I am in the 'education business”.

It sounded phony, what does he mean 'education business?' Is he a teacher, a headmaster or even a school nurse? I wondered. "In which school sir, are you acquiring your education"? He asked, again speaking in his archaic style. I did not like the way he spoke and I did not want to give him any information. I pointed to a school building a block away and said "Ma'ale." It was not the name of my school.

The white suited man responded "I just came from a class in…. 'Bait Hinuch.”

At that moment I knew the man was lying. 'Bait Hinuch' was a school on Amos Street. He gave the name of a school that was different from the school that I said I attended and it was on Amos Street. I became very suspicious, but did not move.

"I teach sex education to boys." He said after a pause," to eighth graders, but you are too young. You probably don’t know what I am talking about. Is my Hebrew too sophisticated for you? I don't think so, you seem to be an intelligent smart boy and you will definitely comprehend it. Please allow me to be your mentor."

He looked at me with a smiling yet questioning face and then added, "Let's go to a quiet place for our first session."

I was about to jump up and run away when, with a swift motion, the man grabbed my right arm, halting my attempt to escape. He yanked me forcefully off the bench and pulled me towards the bushes located a few meters behind the bench. The change in the man's face and body was frightening, while his forceful grip of my arm made me livid. I resisted as strongly as I could and when he pulled me again, I gathered all of my strength, and used my arm as a pivot and with a right swing hammered my left fist into his testis. The man folded over in pain. He needed both of his hands to grab his testicles and released my arm. I ran the sprint of a lifetime, until I finally reached my home.

The first time ever I told this story, was on a radio show. My interviewer was my friend M.R., also a professor in a prestigious university.

“As you know” he told me before the interview “I am a ‘collector of people’. In fact his inner circle of friends was the unique, the talented and the creative people. Or as he once put it “I am interested in the fish that swim in the opposite direction”. He even has a copy right on the expression, the “mis-fish” that describes the curious and nonconformist person.

During the interview I was encouraged to talk about my life. I spoke about my projects and my inventions. He wanted me to tell the audience at what age I had started creating and inventing things. I said it started when I was Ten years old and described some of my projects. While saying it aloud I succeeded in surprising myself. What encouraged me as a ten years old to build various gadgets and where did I learn the skills?

Towards the end of the show professor M.R had promoted me to unveil a personal story, one I had never told before. I was ready for the question but I had not prepared a story in advance. I chose the story about the attempted sexual assault just because I felt it had some relevance to the time frame of the questions in the interview.

After hearing my story my friend was unusually quiet for a few seconds before he launched a barrage of questions:

"Were you traumatized?

"What did you do?" Did you complain to the police?

"Did you tell your parents?"

“How did they react?”

"After the incident, were you afraid of people?"

"Did you ever meet that man again?"

"Were you aware of similar incidents at that time?"

I felt at that moment that I did not have the answers. My memory had many blanks and I felt that my brain was full of holes like a Swiss cheese.

I was preoccupied with the interview for several weeks, especially with the unanswered questions. I asked myself the same questions again and again and step by step the puzzle pieces fell into place.

When I met M.R. a few weeks later I was ready to complete my story.

“While I was sprinting home I decided not to say a word to my parents. I was okay but was not ready to deal with their reaction. So before entering home I stayed in the back yard for fifteen minutes to get my breath back. I did not like my interaction with the man in white. I was enraged and angry with myself. Why did I stay so long with him? My instinct had told me to be more careful. I was suspicious and for an unexplained reason I had recklessly endangered myself.

I went over the story in my mind over and over again. Every time I backed up a little, increased the 'distance' and changed the point of view. Each time I reviewed it I felt a little better. As I said I was angry in the beginning but telling the story to myself more than a hundred times finally made me feel proud. I had dealt with a monster and survived. That was not everything; I knew that my friends would never have believed this story if I had told them. I could not imagine any of them in my situation behaving as I did. I became a hero in my own eyes and I was pleased.

Was it really over?

The day after the incident my temperature shot up. Two more days were required for the measles to show. Strangely enough I was the happiest kid with measles ever.

My measles came with textbook complications and I was sick for over four weeks. I was quite weak after the long sickness and one of my concerns was my ability to run fast in case I would ever run into the man in white again. Would I recognize him in a different outfit? I wasn't sure. I decided it would be better to stay home as much as possible. My problem was what to tell my parents. To avoid interrogation I did everything I could to please them.

My day started early. I got the milk from the milkman and boiled it. While the milk was boiling I read the morning newspaper. I prepared my breakfast and left for school always with a large group of kids. Later after school my routine was homework and reading. I read all the books I could lay my hands on. I read the ten volumes of the children's encyclopedia cover-to-cover several times. I learned about the human organs from an anatomy picture book where all the layers of the human organs could be removed. I read all the books written by prominent leaders of the socialist and Zionist movements. I even read ‘Das Capital’ by Karl Marx. My mom was very happy with my urge to learn. She taught me to cook and to bake simple cakes. She taught me to make various sauces and the secrets of slow cooking. My mom was also technologically inclined, so she showed me how to use tools and how to solder. With those skills I built various gizmos, a battery, an electric motor, a Morse signaling lamp, and a steam engine. During the siege of Jerusalem I built an outdoor stove to cook on wood and of course a fire extinguisher to go with it I did not go to any playgrounds nor join any soccer team. Instead I joined a private sports-club and took parallel bars gymnastics and long distance running. The last was to increase my survival skills. (I could take swimming but I preferred running.) I trained five times a week, 10 kilometers each time.

I read a lot of good literature, improved my English and practiced the piano. The apex of my achievements, at the end of this period was the construction of a huge kite capable of lifting me off the ground. I found a folded parachute of a British soldier and used some bamboo poles to build a hexagonal kite. I was lucky, it worked. A successful liftoff pulled my 24 kilos to an elevation of ten meters. As I was beginning to enjoy the scenery strapped by the original parachute harness, one of the bamboo poles broke. The kite vigorously banked to the right and crashed on a pile of soft garbage. Unfortunately, the soft pile was full of broken bottles. I walked home on my own feet but multitude stitches were required to fix me up.

This period of my self-segregation ended about a year later on November 1948, after the State of Israel was founded and the War of Independence ended. Retrospectively, I am sure that the time I spent with books and tools paved the path of my life over the last sixty four years. The few minutes I spent with the pedophile in white, shaped my life.

During the years I had no recollection and no sense of the details of the incident. Everything was archived somewhere in the cellers of my brain.

One of the reasons the pedophile incident had low priority in my conscience was probably the events of the hectic year of 1948.

A few days before the incident, the 16 years old brother of my friend Yehuda was shot and killed by a British Police officer.

I knew about the brother while waiting for him. I did not know that I would never see him again. Then there was the war of independence, the siege on Jerusalem, the nonstop shelling, the food, water rationing and more.

The magnitude of my fear of the pedophile crept up on me sixty five years later. slowly while I was talking to my friend M.R. the story returned to life.

In the weeks following our radio conversation, I finally acknowledged the latent impact the pedophile incident had on my life.

Monday, January 9, 2012

The painting

The Painting

Hagai Cohen

Reuven Arbel was well known in the artist's milieu of Jerusalem. He and his wife were always mingling with the rich and famous art lover's of the city. Arbel was never employed by any formal establishment. All his time was dedicated to his work. His constant need for expensive canvases and paints was supported by his wife's income. He claimed he was selling enough painting to make a good living. It was patently false. He did not sell but had no real need to do so.
His wife was a famous dress designer. No two dresses came out alike from her boutique. Her clientele were the wives of foreign diplomats, government officials and affluent women. Mrs. Arbel’s social connections and her dresses made Reuven Arbel reputable in the right circles.
There were many artists in Jerusalem with endless subjects to paint but few customers to pay for their work. Also there were no galleries to show or promote their paintings. This was not the case with Arbel. With the money his wife made she supported her husband’s artistic passion. She bought a three story house, the top floor of which became his atelier – a 200 square meters loft with windows all around.
As an artist he managed to find sponsors and with their donations he founded "The society of the artists of Jerusalem." To add to his self-importance, Reuven Arbel detached himself from his fellow artists and placed himself above them. The artist's society became his own private secret society. He wrote the rules, he collected the fees from the poorer members, he put price tags on the exhibits and he pocketed commissions when a paintings were sold.
It was a common knowledge he and his close friends got better exposure. Other artists had to bribe him secretly for some attention. On top of everything else, Arbel appointed himself the 'jury,' deciding what would be exhibited and what would be not.
My father was one of the few artists who did not care much about Arbel. He was not keen on selling paintings. He did not need Arbel and was not afraid of him. On the contrary, Arbel was afraid of my father who was outspoken, and his opinions were respected by his colleagues. My father, who never liked Arbel, could expose his true face if he chose but never did. Arbel's fear of my father was the best reason to embrace him and even share secrets with him..
The first time I saw Arbel's atelier was when he had a stroke and died, and my father took me to the Shiva. I was impressed by the unique architecture of the loft.
I understood Mrs. Arbel’s grief was short. Before her husband was buried, she found the time to arrange several of his paintings around the loft and price-tagged them. She then spread the rumor that her husband had left her with a large debt.
The woman did not stay when visitors came to console her; she retired to her room to 'mourn alone.' The people who were left in the huge loft without any family member, felt uneasy. For them her effort to sell her husband’s paintings during the Shiva was in bad taste, and her pretence at poverty was pathetic and disturbing. It was uncomfortably silent in the loft. One man whom I did not know broke the silence.
"Who has the key to the gallery? We should retrieve our paintings before Mrs. Arbel confiscates them."
More people spoke, mostly on ways to retrieve their paintings. Nobody trusted her. It seemed to me that many of the visitors came just to make sure Arbel had really died and was buried; not to grieve and definitely not to buy his paintings.
Some people talked about the future of the organization but most of them spoke harshly about Arbel. Some even used the word 'cheat.'
"We all know" said a young painter "it was hard to get good canvases during war time and I usually recycled paintings I did not like. I remember one time when I came to collect my painting from Arbel's, I found it had disappeared. I never got a good explanation."
"Yes, you’re right.” said another. “It happened to me too. Was he selling our paintings?"
My father decided to speak.
"Please, please," he said, angrily, "shame on you. The man was buried this morning and you are already 'looting his chest.' Let us wait until the end of the Shiva. I promise to speak to the widow and get the key to the gallery. After the Shiva, we will convene in the gallery and decide how to proceed."
"She did not grieve for one second," said one.
"She will rob us clean if we give her a chance" another asserted.
My father tried to silence the voices. "It is an act of disrespect to the deceased and his wife."
Nobody listened and the volume went up, everybody talking and no one listening. My father was completely ignored. I could feel the rage building up inside him. He was not by nature volatile or violent but I knew he was close to exploding. Like a movie in slow motion, he got up, picked up the most expensive painting marked at 600 pounds and said, "I'll take this." He glared at the astounded people, then grabbing my arm, yanked me and stalked away.
My initial surprise turned to humiliation. I did not understand my father. What was he trying to demonstrate? That he was a rich man? That he was morally superior to them? That he believed the widow was really in debt and was helping her? I was furious.
My father had returned home after a long stay in hospital just before Arbel died. For over ten months our family had no income. It was my own idea to found a small chicken farm. With the income I earned I supported my pregnant mother, my baby sister and my seven years old brother. My earnings paid my father debts, repainted the house, fixed the roof and even fixed his truck, in which I drove my mother to the maternity hospital. I felt I had been working ten months for nothing.
My mother became frantic when she saw the painting.
"Where do you think to get this kind of money?"
I left home a few days later and moved to my grandfather who lived alone. I realized that my presence at home would sharpen the conflict between my father and me, and would deprive my brother and sisters of food. My family had very little food for several months. My mother and I hated the painting.
In the years following Arbel's death, Mrs. Arbel used her marketing skills to increase the market value of Arbel's paintings. First she collected the paintings he gave away as gifts on the pretence she was organizing a retrospect exhibition. She gave creative and fancy titles to the paintings like: "The Wailing Wall from the private collection of Herbert Samuel, the governor of Palestine." Just the fact the painting was in the collection was enough to raise the bids in the auctions. The high prices she demanded and received for the paintings established Arbel as a leading painter among the art appraisers in the country.
For over thirty years until my father’s death, the controversial painting hung on the wall of my parent's living room as an unpleasant reminder. Among the many chores my mother executed after my father died was to get rid of the painting. She gave it to my cousin as a wedding present.
Unfortunately that was not the end of the story.
Some years later, after my mother’s demise, my cousin and his wife decided to end their marriage. Neither of them wanted to keep the painting.
"You are the legal heir of your mother's estate" they said and gave me the painting.
I took it but only out of respect for my mom's memory. It would have been impossible for me to say, "Throw it away." Never having liked the painting I tried to give it to my children who politely refused to accept it. So I tried to sell it and followed expert advice. I gave the painting an antacid treatment, anti UV coating, kept it in controlled humidity and stashed in a dark room. I offered it to many galleries, but nobody wanted even to look at it. This unwanted painting was the cause for my brothers and sisters to suffer malnutrition for some time. It was the cause of my leaving home; it also gave my parents a good reason for constant fights.
The story of the painting was a trauma I have endured all my life. I have been unable to purchase a single painting. Feeling I had had enough of the painting dangling in front of my eyes, I relocated it to my junk room. Everything there was destined for disposal.
For years I did not enter the storage room, but one day when I finally opened the door, a strong chemical smell confronted me. After evaluating the smell and ventilating the place I found that a tin of turpentine had rusted and leaked its contents. The leak had damaged Arbel's painting beyond repair. I was pleased now I had no other recourse but to throw it away but, strangely I also felt sad to part with it after all these years.
I carried the painting to the garbage bin. I looked at it for the last time and noticed another signature in the corner of the painting.
"Wow!" I said to myself. "The famous Arbel painted on someone else's painting."
Intrigued I surfed the internet and found a restorations expert. After an initial examination, the expert did not want to promise anything.
"I'll look at it when I have time" she said
"Don’t work too hard on it, I am just curious" I said.
She called me a few days later, late at night.
"Sit tight," she said, excited and with voice all atremble. "The canvas was hand woven in the 16 century from real cannabis fibers. The signature though is modern. I was astounded and did not respond.
"Do you understand what I’m saying? The canvas is five hundred years old." Without waiting for an answer, she continued, "With your permission I shall send it for an x-ray scan."
She spoke so fast I did not have time to digest the information.
"You have my permission" was the only thing I said.
The verdict came a few days later; the x-ray revealed that under Arbel's painting was a painting signed by Josef Piamenta, one of our local painters. Arbel had stolen the canvas. Beneath that was an old portrait of a woman.
"The composition of the old paint is typical of the 16 century homemade paints," said the report.
It was not difficult to find Piamenta. He was in the phone book, ninety years old, had been living in the same house in Jerusalem for the last 60 years and with crystal clear memory.
"I never forgave Arbel for losing the painting,” he told me. “He said it was not good enough for exhibition but when I came to collect it, it was gone. He stole it for the frame and the canvas. One can save a lot of money painting on used canvases. No expensive treatment is necessary to prepare it."
I still did not tell Piamenta that the canvas was a relic of the 16th century.
"During the siege and war of 1948,” he continued, “I could not get any canvases so I roamed demolished houses and looked for old paintings. I found this large old cracked portrait and painted over it. I could never have afforded a canvas and a frame that size."
"Do you remember where you got this canvas?" I asked.
"In fact I do," said the old man.
"There was this German family in Jerusalem’s Beth Ha-Kerem. A big intersection is built on the site today." After a short pause, he continued. "The man was an expert on talking birds. He had a small zoo. He taught his birds to say 'Yacob,' his name.
"Yes I know the place," I said. "My father took me to the bird zoo several times."
"The man was a Nazi as Nazi memorabilia was found in his house," said Piamenta.
In 1947, when the state was declared, he sealed his house and fled from Israel. During the War of Independence, the house was destroyed by a direct hit from a canon shell. Exploring the ruins, I found this canvas and painted a demolished house on it."
I thanked Mr. Piamenta and rushed home very excited.
Armed with this information, I tried to find a way to restore the original painting. All the museums and galleries I approached gave me a negative answer. None was willing to take a chance. After the intense excitement over the painting, the let-down was unbearable. So one morning, I put the painting in my car and drove to Jerusalem to pay a visit to Mr. Piamenta.
He was very excited to hear the story.
"We need to drink to celebrate this moment," he said and fetched a bottle and glasses from a cabinet and poured scotch.
"Are you still painting Mr. Piamenta" I asked?
"Yes I am, but not much. My eyes are not what they used to be".
"Well," I said, “you have two choices, Mr. Piamenta. One is to paint a fourth picture on this canvas; or two, to find Yacob the Nazi and give him back his frame.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Reluctant bridegroom

The Reluctant Bridegroom
Hagai Cohen
My mother was in her final stages of terminal illness but her crisp memory and crystal-clear mind made her last days with us a memorable experience. She wanted to share with us stories of her early days, so we sat in shifts to write down what she told us.

"Mom," I said to her one day, "it may not be the right time but I remember an incident which troubles me for years, I'm not sure if my memory is playing me tricks or it really happened."
"Of course, it's the right time." My mother was anxious to talk and added drolly: "How long do you think I continue to be with you?"
"I see myself playing in the yard with our dog." I started "Her angry bark drew my attention to a strange man at the gate; the man was all in a black."
"How do you remember that?" interrupted my Mom. "You were two and a half years old."
"I see you," I continued without responding, "coming out of the house, hushing the dog, giving the strange man a hug and inviting him in."
"That was your uncle Isaac," said my Mom with a reminiscent look in her eyes, "and I said to you: 'Come, Yakov, say hello to your uncle,' but you were scared so you ran and hid under the bed." She laughed at the thought.
"I remember exactly when it was," said my Mom.
"It was in the summer of 1939, a few months after the British government issued the 'McDonald's white paper' (9. Nov 1838) banning the immigration of Jews to Palestine. The paper was tantamount to death sentence for countless European Jews. The organized Jewish Agency launched a campaign to smuggle in young Jews in any possible way. One of the methods was to send eligible bachelors to Europe, mainly to Poland, to marry young Jewish women and bring them back to Palestine as their wives. It was a clever trick, wasn't it? The young men got a tailor-made black suit from OBG, then the official tailoring establishment for the Jewish agency delegates, new black shoes, an umbrella, a hat and a matching black leather suitcase. As this wardrobe was expensive, each man had to sign a contract agreeing to marry three times."
My mother paused as her eyes looked back into the past. "Funnily enough, the contract stated the man may keep the wardrobe, but only after he fulfils his three marriages. That meant if he fell in love with his first or second wife and did not want to divorce, he'd have to pay for the suit and all that went with it.
Your uncle Isaac was a hired hand on a farm in Kfar Yehoshua and he lived in a shack. He volunteered and was accepted for the mission. He was ready to board the boat to Trieste when he got malaria and was hospitalized for a week. After the hospital, he came to recuperate before the next boat. He had lost several pounds and when you saw him at the gate he looked like a scarecrow in his oversized suit. He also smelled of hospital disinfectants which raised the hackles on our bitch. The dog calmed down only after Uncle Isaac took a shower and changed into a fresh set of khakis. The week he stayed with us passed peacefully. You became very friendly with him. You were fascinated by his flute and always begged him to play."
"I don't remember the part about the flute," I said, "but a flute solo does things to me and fills me with a unique pleasure."
"When Uncle Isaac was ready for his boat trip," continued my mother, "he got into his ill-fitting outfit, still smelling of the hospital, and was walking towards the gate when the dog charged. She bit him in the buttocks and tore his pants. A real crisis, he could miss the bus to Haifa and the boat to Trieste.
I mended his pants and treated his buttocks so he would not miss the boat again.
He was the only bridegroom who got married in patched pants with an infected rear end. Poor fellow, he could hardly walk."
My mom stopped again and closed her eyes.
"I wish you could have seen the wedding picture, (a mandatory 'document' requested by the British authorities.)
It was grotesque, He was ten years younger than her, eight inches shorter and half her weight. In the picture she was sitting and he was standing next to her. That's how they looked the same height. On their way back to Palestine, she found him so much to her taste that she chased him relentlessly around the ship and that probably frightened him. They could not communicate at all, they had no a common language. He went into hiding, probably afraid she would sit on his lap." My mother chuckled at her little joke and then coughed wretchedly. It took her a while to get her breath.
"He found shelter under the tarpaulin of one of the covered life boats, where a friend secretly fed him.
The Polish bride was so upset by his behaviour and decided to take revenge. After they arrived in Haifa and were interrogated and cleared by the immigration officials, she vanished into thin air.
She found shelter at the home of Polish compatriots in an unknown Kibbutz.
Uncle Isaac was desperate, he became depressed. He would sit long hours under the mulberry tree and play his flute. If that were not enough, he was sued for the black suit.
This saga continued for two years until one day, the sun came out for him. The Polish bride found a man her size, and decided it was time to divorce Isaac.

As they say in Yiddish; 'While people plan, God laughs'."
My mother turned to me.
"You know, Yakov, despite the hard time your Uncle Isaac had with that Polish bride, he was ever grateful to her. For years he kept sending her greeting cards on her birthdays and for the holydays."
"Why, Mom?" I asked. "He should have hated her for what she did."
"You see," said my mother, "his second wedding had been scheduled in Warsaw for the second week in September. Fortunately, he could not attend, as the woman would not divorce him. On the 1st of September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland and carpet-bombed Vilna destroying the city and killing 1200 people. Two weeks later when Isaac second honeymoon was planed the Germans got to Warsaw. That second 'honeymoon', Isaac was mighty glad to miss."

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The other woman

The other woman

Hagai Cohen

Four of us sat chatting, drinking wine and exchanging yarns, when Bob decided to share his friend’s story with us.
Bob had no opinion about anything. He always talked on behalf of someone else –
‘My wife thinks his work is primitive;’ or, ‘My nephew told me not to buy those shares;’ and so on.
Whenever he said ‘a friend’, or ‘that friend’ we knew he was talking about himself. So, when he said, “my friend” we all jumped to attention.

“A married friend of mine” said Bob in a voice of exaggerated confidentiality,
“told me an interesting story. He has a girlfriend he sees twice a week. Now, my friend never takes his socks off when he beds her. He claims that if he dies in the middle of love-making, the woman would be able to dress him completely except, for the difficult socks.”

“Come on Bob” said Bill
“Why should the woman care to dress him? Is she married too?”
“No, no, she’s not,” said Bob.
“Tell me, Bob, does he wear nylons or woollies? Which is easier to put on?”
“Maybe you should tell your friend,” said Steve, stressing ‘your friend,’
“to ask for a haircut and manicure before jumping into bed, just to look respectable if he happens to die in her arms."
I said, “Believe me, Bob, embarrassing your friend’s family will be the last thing on her mind.”
Steve turned to me. "Why not tell Bob about Mr. Rosenzweig, your next door neighbor?” he said and then turned to Bob. "This story will put a new slant on your friend's idea."
“Yeah, I think I will. Ok, Bob. Listen."
* * *

The burglar alarm in Mr. Rosenzweig’s house went off at 9.P.M. The house was in darkness, although Mr. Rosenzweig had returned the day before from a long trip around the world.
Mr. Rosenzweig’s alarm system was a real nuisance to the neighborhood. I had an agreement with Mr. Rosenzweig’s son-in-law (the electrician who installed the system), that every time the alarm went off, I would first disconnect the wires to the alarm and then call him to come and fix it.
So as before, I fetched a ladder, an insulated pair of pliers and a set of earplugs, and was on my way to fulfill my duty.
* * *

A year earlier, Rosenzweig’s wife had contracted Hong Kong ‘flu, and died. Mr. Rosenzweig's grief was short-lived. Two weeks, after the death of his beloved wife, a woman was observed coming to the house.

“She’s the maid I hired to take care of the house,” he explained to me, although I hadn’t asked.

Apparently, there was a lot of work at Mr. Rosenzweig’s household; very soon, the 'maid' was seen working overtime. On several occasions, she even stayed the night to finish her tasks.

A week later, Rosenzweig’s daughters, who could not stand the gossips, convinced him to take a long trip,
“just to relax and to visit places you always wanted to. Take the woman along to look after you,” they said.

A few more days were needed for the travel arrangements, and for completing the installation of the burglar alarm system. Mr. Rosenzweig was bent on exploring the world accompanied by a lady half his age.
They returned a year later.
* * *
I was on the porch leading to Mr. Rosenzweig’s main entrance to stop the damned alarm as I had done many times before, when the door opened and the ‘maid’ ran out naked and screaming: “He’s not well, he’s in a coma.”

I put the ladder and the pliers aside and moved in to stop the noisy alarm. I turned the lights on and went into the bedroom.
Lying on the bed was Mr. Rosenzweig motionless in a very odd position. He was at the edge of the bed; he had his arm extended with one sleeve of his pajamas top on it. The rest of his pajamas top was under his back, the bottom part was half way up on one leg and one foot up on the other. I did not know what had happened and decided not to touch anything. I could tell he was not breathing.

Two other neighbors, who had heard the lady’s cries, came to the scene. They seemed agitated and confused. I told them not to touch anything and to stay out. I picked up the phone in the entrance room, called the police and the emergency services. I also called Mr. Rosenzweig’s daughters.

After I was done, I turned to the petrified girlfriend: “What is your name please?”
“Rita” she said, “My name is Rita”.
“Rita,” I said to her, “I think you should put on some clothes.” My words had the impact of an electric shock: she had forgotten that she was naked and the two neighbors were too shocked to notice.
“Don’t take anything from the room,” I told Rita “Get into some clothes and do not go in there.”
A few minutes later, the woman came out in a dressing gown.
* * *
At 11:00 PM I had to leave the scene to catch a flight. Upon my return three days later, a police detective came to my house to get my deposition. I told him the sequence of events. He wrote them down and made me sign the paper. After the formalities were done I offered the detective a drink, which he took. While drinking he volunteered some information.
“Well the case is unfolding nicely, No more loose ends or unanswered questions.
The man gave a small party to celebrate his birthday and his return home. He had a few drinks and a very good time.
The people present at the party attested to the fact. After the party, Mr. Rosenzweig and his girlfriend washed the dishes and went to bed. While making love, his heart stopped. She was underneath him and, as she described it, suddenly two hundred pounds of dead weight fell on her. She panicked and rolled out from under him with great difficulty. She ran to call for help. When she opened the door the alarm went off. The only thing she could think of in her panic was that people should not see him naked. Therefore, she ran back and tried to dress him in his pajamas, not with great success as you know. You met her when she opened the door the second time to call for help.
The coroner insisted on a very thorough autopsy, for two reasons. One, there were marks on the body that needed explanation. Two, something about the lady’s name sounded familiar.

The autopsy revealed that the suspicious marks were made after the man was already dead. It happened when she tried to get out from underneath him and to put on his pajamas.
This woman apparently was involved three years ago with a man who died also whilst having sex with her. I looked it up, read all the old reports, but did not find any indication of foul play. Strangely enough she tried to dress the other man too. I think Rita needs ‘on the job training’ dressing corpses,” the officer concluded.
* * *

"Now, back to you Bob, if you happen to see your friend, please tell him about Rita and her great difficulties in dressing the two dead men. Suggest to your friend to stay completely dressed while making love. To be on the safe side tell him only his organ should be exposed. Tell him it would be better to perform the act in the garden. If he happens to kick the bucket during his lovemaking, his family will be convinced he was out for a leak. To eliminate any doubt, suggest to your friend to tattoo his penis:
‘It’s not what you think.
It’s only rigor mortis’”

* * *

"Come on Jack Please" said Steve.
Are you telling us that you went into the bedroom saw a dead man, did not panic and casually called the emergency crew, the police, the daughters and also reminded the woman to get dressed? I would be petrified and become a marble statue before I could even think.
"Elementary my dear Stevie, elementary"
When we fly a plane and encounter a flight emergency, (such as an engine fire for example), the alarm goes off.
The first item on the checklist is 'cut the alarm'. It is a conditional reflex or second nature for us. After silencing the alarm we do the necessary tasks to fix the problem. We follow a checklist. And that is exactly what I did in this case.
They all became silent until Bob broke in.
"I bet you there was one more item on your checklist you did not tell us about".
"And what might that be?"
"You did get the woman's phone number didn’t you?
We will never talk to you again if you don’t share it with us."
"Listen boys" I said smiling I am not admitting I got the number and I am not denying it either.
If I have the number it will be given only to my enemies. You are my friends, I love you, and I have no desire to write obituaries.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The lady next door and the dupe

The Lady Next Door
And the dupe
Hagai Cohen

My phone rang at 7:15 am.
“Listen,” said the voice on the other end, “you screwed my wife but damn you I won't let you screw me.”

It was Gideon, a neighbor living only half a block away and he was very angry.

“I am divorcing my wife and you will be subpoenaed to testify about your affair with her.”

I was in no mood for jokes and this preposterous accusation did not sound like one. I had not had an affair with Gideon’s wife, Vicki. She was young, pretty and sexy but I didn't like her and I didn't respect her for her active and ugly involvement in Gideon's second divorce.

Gideon’s call rendered me speechless. The last time I had 'spoken' to Gideon was in a busy street more than five years ago where we had had a row.

“You will tell the truth and will testify that you had an affair with my wife.” Gideon repeated, “Listen carefully: I can ruin your career. I know where you work, and I know the people in the corner offices. Your affair, when made public, will make your life miserable.”

By all standards, it was a threat. Gideon had to be sure that I had had an affair with his wife otherwise, a threat would not make sense.

My initial surprise faded while I put my brain into intensive thinking. How can he be so sure Vicki and I had had an affair?

How could Gideon know what I might say in court? Gideon has enough money to negotiate any testimony he fancies.

Why did he pick on me? In addition, why the harassment? Had Gideon known me better he would not have started on this tack. As a witness, I could cause him irreparable damage. Did he really think me a village idiot?

The actual threat did not bother me. The more I thought about it, the more relaxed I became. Gideon did not understand the nature of my work as a pilot nor the people with whom I work. A juicy story of this nature, true or not, would be headlines in the cockpit for at least two years.

“The best way to deal with Gideon,” I said to myself, still holding the phone, "is to keep quiet and not say a word. Let him wonder what I think and what I’ll do.”

“You’ve ruined my life. You’ve ruined the life of a pure innocent woman, an angel, you sonofabitch.” Gideon’s voice trembled; his speech became less articulate and he began to use foul language. He sounded insecure, probably troubled by my silence.

“I know the right people who will stop at nothing. I know the school your children go to… Gideon stopped in mid-sentence as he remembered his children and mine go to the same school.

Gideon was volatile and aggressive. He could indeed employ violence against my children, but he became scared by his own threat.

As I listened to Gideon's harangue, it occurred to me that he had not threatened to tell my wife. Had he overlooked this winning threat in a situation like this?

The monologue was over when he hung up. I had not said a word except for my first hello. I had not spoken to him for a long time. I was in no hurry to start talking to him now.

The first thing I had to do was to tell my wife about Gideon’s call. Unfortunately, the timing was bad. My father-in-law had died during the night. When Gideon’s call came in, we were dressing for the funeral.

When I told my wife a week later, she surprised me by telling me she knew about the alleged affair. “Gideon used Hanna,” my wife told me, “who called me and said you spent a certain Thursday with Vicki at the Hilton. She even showed me a receipt in your name. It definitely was upsetting and incriminating evidence," said my wife “except for one small problem. It was my birthday when you allegedly spent the night at the Hilton, that’s why I remember the date, unfortunately for Gideon; you were in Seattle at the time. I forgot to tell you about it when you returned.”
"When did it happen"?
"About two and a half years ago"
"What? Why did he wait so long with the phone call? It does not make sense."

I had first met Gideon about eleven years prior to the phone call. He was a construction contractor and I was building my house at the time.

Gideon was in the process of divorcing his second wife, and was into a very advanced affair with his future wife, Vicki.

If there was any compatibility between Vicki and Gideon, it was not evident to an outsider. Vicki was twenty years younger than Gideon. She was a University graduate in business & administration; Gideon had merely four years of elementary school to his credit. She was articulate and spoke with a rich vocabulary; he used only two hundred words. She practiced refined manners even in a dispute. He was known to solve his disputes peacefully only if there were no alternative.

Vicki was his office manager. She won contracts using her skills and during the ten years they were together, they managed to accumulate a substantial fortune, negotiable assets and real estate. Now they were divorcing.

During the proceedings of his last divorce, he had managed to prove to the court that he was broke, so his wife got no settlement. As he had no known property when he married Vicki, she was entitled to get half their worth, a capital she could live on for the rest of her life without the need to work.

Although Gideon was uneducated, he was street smart. He manipulated people by flattery, by offering “protection” and worthless promises. If they were not won over by these methods, he would become brutal and use threats and eventually extortion.

My interest in Gideon was a complex one. First, he was giving me well-needed construction advice. I had learned various building tricks from him. Secondly, he occasionally came up with original philosophical ideas.

I would let Gideon talk without interruption. He was not always smart and was sometimes full of hogwash but I never corrected or challenged him.

When Gideon told stories about himself, he would repeat himself. He re-clothed the same stories, changed versions, venues, and timing. I never discussed the discrepancies; why would I bother. I did not believe him anyway.

“The man has had so many things happen to him in his lifetime,” I said to my wife, “he must have been living for two hundred years.”

Gideon, full of his own importance, felt superior to me. He was sure I was an idiot. I was unaware of Gideon’s manipulation or of his low opinion of me until one morning when he called and asked for my help.

“I have devised a new way to connect the fluorescent fixture to the ceiling. I want you to come and connect the electricity for me.”
It was an odd request as Gideon had a platoon of electricians working for him. Why would he want me to connect the wires?

“I had this idea,” Gideon told me when he met me at his door. “In fact, it is an invention that makes it easy to replace the transformer when it fails and I don’t want my electrician to know about it”.

This did not sound logical, as there was no need to have easy access to replace the part. When it failed, one replaced the entire fixture. Nobody would overhaul a light hanging on a ladder.

There was a thin wooden box attached to the ceiling and the fixture was fastened to the box with two wing nuts. When the wing nuts were released, bathroom chains retained the fixture and the box twelve inches down from the ceiling.

'Easy access, but what for?' I was thinking.
While I was connecting the wires I got my answer.
Inside the open top box, I found two dry broken rubber bands and a single USA dollar bill.

It was clear now. Gideon used the fluorescent fixture to hide ‘Off the books untaxed cash’; of course, he didn't want his electricians knowing about it. He was afraid to keep the money in a safe as the Tax Authority can open safes without a search warrant.

I felt a little sorry for Gideon. He was not equipped to assess my intelligence and definitely not my knowledge. He knew how to deal with people like him whose emotions were exposed. Whenever he needed a relative advantage, he got it by brute force. I wondered about Vicki. My disrespect for her had definitely increased.

When I used to visit them, he would say to Vicki, "Woman, we have a guest. Get us some nosh.” She would meekly set the coffee table with all kinds of appetizers and ice-cold beer and leave. She was never invited to sit with us.

It was ‘men talk.'
“I change horses every few years,” he said to me once.
“I like to replace the old, tired, sweaty nag with a young fresh one, Vicki was my best purchase.”

This unpleasant statement and other similar ones made me think of the time I was wasting with Gideon. I felt I had had enough of him. Therefore, I made the time intervals between each visit longer and longer.

One day I was walking past his house while he was working in the garden. “Hi Yaakov! Come in let's have a bear" I joined him on the porch and Vicki brought out the usual stuff but, this time Gideon invited her to sit with us.

“Why don’t you take a course in Kabala?” I said to Gideon, “Kabala is a brainstorming subject and in my opinion you will feel very much at home.”

“What a great idea!” Vicki exclaimed, “Please help Gideon find a place in a course.”

No problem!” I assured them. A few weeks later Gideon was attending Kabala lectures twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

We now had more subjects to talk about and Vicki sat with us participating in the conversation. Monday nights were allocated to those talks and with my work schedule; Mondays were only available once, or less a month.

The evenings always followed the same ritual; the beer the appetizers and the talks. Therefore it was very surprising when one evening after having a half glass of beer, Gideon got up and said “I am going to my room. You continue the discussion.”

It was peculiar and unpleasant I was his guest not hers. The only explanation I could give for his behavior was that he must be tiered from the effort of having to think at new higher levels. When this scenario was repeated a third time I became concerned. Something felt wrong, unpleasant and in bad taste.

I stopped visiting Gideon and Vicki. However, on one of my last visits, Gideon asked me to buy him a James Bond attaché case, which was the latest fashion amongst business people.
"Buying it in New York would cost me half the price I would pay at home," he said.

I purchased the case and even had it branded with his name. “I will change the money and pay you back in dollars.” he said when I gave him the case. Gideon never paid me back.

One morning, a month later, shortly after we moved into our new house, Gideon came and asked for some equipment he needed “for a week or two”. His request was timed perfectly. I was in the process of clearing the yard to make a garden and was looking for somebody to buy my equipment.

Gideon came with one of his hired hands loaded the equipment on his truck and drove away. Two months went by when I met Gideon on the street and asked him about the equipment.

“It was all garbage! I threw it away!"
“What?” I exploded “It was working well when you loaded it on to your truck. What is going on?”
“I told you I threw it away! I wasn't going to waste gas bringing that garbage back to you. All the wood was rotten and your rusty winch never worked.”

This was really annoying as I had made this winch myself and was proud of it. In addition, I had already sold it and had to deliver it.

Gideon was up to something! He was getting ready for a fight, but for what? He was good at creating war zones. He started to scream at me but did not manage to drag me into the verbal feud.

His loud voice and his disgusting vocabulary brought an audience. Without saying a word, I sidled out of the crowd and walked away. When I was safely away, I looked back as Gideon was explaining to the crowd, his side of the conflict.

The street row was the last time Gideon and I had had any 'conversation' until the call, five years later, informing me, how he put it? That "I had been screwing his wife."

After telling my wife about Gideon’s call, we discussed it at length. We both concluded that he couldn't prove to the court that I had had an affair with his wife, unless he had some slick witnesses to corroborate his accusations.

A messenger came to my house a few days after the call from Gideon with an official looking envelope. He served me with the papers subpoenaing me to appear in court as a witness. I was not yet ready for the court, I had to get more information about this bizarre accusations
I managed to postpone the hearing for a year after all I was the only witness.

Meantime I confided Gideon's accusations in Motty, a good friend and a private investigator. He offered me his help. “No charge I absolutely loathe Gideon.” He said
“What can you do about it?”
“I have my sources"
“Next Thursday, Omry's pub at 10 PM. Beers on me.” I retorted.

“OK! I should have something by Thursday.” Motty assured me.

Motty, with his glasses, looked like “a good boy scout, who would never harm a fly”. He was, charismatic; a kind of person you like at first sight. He knew many people who claimed to be his friends and he never forgot a name. Using this skill at the right moment, he could easily find what a person needed and exchange it for information. 'Commodity exchange' he called it.

Motty was friendly with the archive Clerk of the Court. He had managed to find a job for the Clerk’s daughter, in exchange the clerk let him read divorce files as often as he wanted, no copying of course.

What the clerk didn't know was that Motty had a photographic memory and every document he saw was scanned directly into his brain. I was very impatient during the week and very curious to know what he would discover.

“OK!” Motty started, once we were comfortable with our first drink at Omry's. “Your 'friend' Gideon hasn't worked since he allegedly, found out his wife was unfaithful to him.

In the file, there is a psychiatrist's report, claiming Gideon is very depressed and cannot work. According to the statement, it all started, after Gideon confronted you on the street and you admitted to being 'the lover'.

There is a name in the file of a person who saw the fight and is willing to attest to the fact.”

“So Gideon had created the fight about the equipment on purpose, to establish a date to the end of the relationship?” I asked.
“So it seems!” exclaimed Motty. Breaking out into a wide smile, he continued: “There is also a letter in the file from his local rabbi, describing Gideon as a very good member of the congregation, seen in the temple every morning, giving donations to the poor and helping to remodel the synagogue at his own expense.”

It was getting clearer by the second why Gideon had filed the divorce with the rabbinical court. Half of his assets belonged to Vicki by law; however in the rabbinical court once a wife was proved to be unfaithful she would be denied any divorce settlement.

As he had allegedly brought no assets of any kind to this marriage, he claimed to be 'broke' for the purposes of the previous divorce. There was a lot at stake; a jackpot if his wife was found to have been unfaithful.

“There is more circumstantial, incriminating evidence," continued Motty. “Several photos of you, very close to her, looking into the engine with the hood open and then getting into the car and driving away. It says on the back of one ‘In the morning, after I left for work they drove away in my car’.

“I have no idea where they came from or when the photos were taken.” I mumbled.

“Did you ever drive her Volvo? Just concentrate. You must remember. You were seen driving the Volvo.”

“Oh shit!” I said, “I remember now, Vicki called me one morning and said Gideon had left the car at home it did not start. He told her to call me before she called the tow truck.”

I walked to her house, opened the hood and was surprised to find some ignition wires were not connected to the spark plugs. I reconnected them, started the car and drove it to my home with Vicki next to me. She dropped me off and drove away.”

I suddenly realized Gideon must have staged the ignition problem so that someone could photograph us driving away in the Volvo. I said as much to Motty.
”It looks like it!, but that is not all!” he continued. “There is a statement written by Gideon saying you and Vicki conspired to send him to a Kabala course twice a week so you could meet-up. There is even a note in your hand writing that you wrote to Gideon, saying you had found him a place to study Kabala, asking him to call there and confirm his participation.”

“Then there is a photo of you and Vicki getting out of your fiat, in front of the Zavta Theater and the poster says “ONE SHOW ONLY ON TUESDAY”.

I was beginning to get annoyed. “He staged that as well.” I fumed, “Vicki had called me saying that she had forgotten to put gas in the car and that she was stuck in front of the theater. It was Kabala night and Gideon was not home. She asked me to get some gas and pick her up.

I didn't think it through. I just drove Vicki to the car and the photo shows us getting out of the car, on that Tuesday, in front of the theater while he was in the Kabala lecture.” After I paused for breath it hit me.” Now, I remember! After I put one Gallon of fuel in the tank, the gage showed a quarter. 'It was a setup!'

“There is a receipt in your name for $75, paid in cash, for a night at the Tel-Aviv Hilton.” Motty went on. “And to conclude the file,” he said smiling “I have good news and bad news; Take your pick.”
“Ok, bad news first”
“Vicki signed a confession”.
“Yes, a full confession, describing the first time you had sex with her. It is written as a diary page.
“This is crazy! How could she do a thing like that? I was outraged.
And what is the good news?”
“Aha! One, your name is not mentioned. Two, she did not compose the confession. It’s her hand writing all right but not her words.”

“How can you be so sure?”

“I have seen the text before; it is from a poorly translated story in a cheap sex oriented magazine. Don’t worry, I’ll find the original for you.”

This last talk with Motty left me very troubled. “How could she do it to me?” I was thinking. “Did he force her to write it? He is definitely capable of such behavior as he certainly knows how to get a confession.”

Not long after our conversation Motty brought me a copy of the magazine in which he had marked the section that had been copied by Vicki. I was ready for the court. Gideon’s actions with the fabrication of evidence looked very ugly.

“If you say anything against me, you are fish food.” whispered Gideon in my ear as I entered the courtroom.

I think, I was quite tense but Gideon’s threat made me smile to myself. A man who has so much to lose must be more creative. I was wondering why Gideon had chosen to pick on me. I thought I had some of the answers, but not all.
I was the only person who had been friendly with Gideon. I knew his wife and was a frequent visitor in his home. Also I pretended to believe all his stories. The stories were the fruit of his imagination and could be challenged easily.

He was certain I was naïve and could be easily manipulated. He was certain threatening me would work better than bribing me.

Very soon I realized I was the key witness. My testimony and only mine will enable Gideon to keep his assets or lose half of it. If I said I had slept with Vicki she would get nothing, and Gideon would win the jackpot. If I said I had not slept with her, without any real direct evidence the case would go back to a court which would give her half of the property.

As I looked at Gideon I thought to myself, ”what a shmuck,” five years of waiting plus one year caused by my delay. All these years he had pretended to be sick and depressed and did not work, only to blame it on her.

Most ridiculous of all was that he was willing to go through a court hearing with a witness whose testimony was completely unknown.

“Do you swear to say the truth and nothing but the truth?”
“I do your honor, but before we proceed I need to know two things:

One, who is going to pay me for the day’s work I lost coming here,?”

I knew this was a gray area. I was a witness for Gideon and he should cover the witness expenses, but as I had been subpoenaed because of my delays it had become the court’s problem.

As expected, an argument erupted between the court and Gideon’s lawyer.

The judge ruled Gideon was supposed to pay and asked me what to write down.
I have a statement here from my company, saying my hourly rate is $150.00.
“What? Show me the document.”

The judge used a calculator and mumbled to himself “eight hours multiplied by 150 makes $1,200”. The judge wrote it down and Gideon was furious.

There was no need to tell the judge, my monthly income is based on seventy-five flight hours a month and not eight hours per day. It was the judge’s fault, he neglected to ask.

I knew Gideon would never pay me any money but for me it was an insurance policy. The sum would collect interest for seven years and a fine for late payment. If Gideon makes trouble, I will press charges.

“And what is your second problem?” asked the judge.
“My second problem your honor is, I am standing here in front of this respectable court and I am very scared”.

“Why are you scared?”

“This person Gideon Ben Hoor threatened to ruin my career and to harm my children. Even now as we entered the door he managed to threaten me again.” I added.

“What did he say to you?”

“He said if I do not testify on his behalf I would be very sorry.
“I do not understand why you didn’t go to the Police.”
“It is very simple your honor I did not go to the police because I did not want him to know what will be my testimony.” I explained. Now my statement that was given under oath is documented in this file, I might go to the police.

Gideon could not control himself any more, and like a mad dog charged at me with his hands lunging at my neck.

The two lawyers and the court guard jumped on Gideon and remove him from my neck.

After recuperating, I said to the judge in a hoarse voice, “You see your honor this was an attempt on my life. This violent Gideon Ben-Hoor tried to kill me he went directly for my neck. Please write it down.

After a five minutes recession during which the court guard brought me some water. The clerk who did not like Gideon asked me in whisper, “Do you want to see a doctor?”
“No I’ll be O.K.” I replied.

It was Gideon’s lawyer who asked the first stupid question.
Mr. Shamir “why do you hate Mr. Ben Hoor?”

“After this man Mr. Ben Hoor took my building materials and never returned them. After Mr. Ben Hoor asked me to purchase for him a James Bond case, and never paid me back. After Mr. Ben Hoor sends people to my wife to tell her I am having an affair with his wife. After Mr. Ben Hoor twice threatened my children. After Mr. Ben Hoor charged at me in order to kill me. I can hardly find any good reasons to love him.” I responded.

“What did your wife do when she heard about your affair with Gideon’s wife? “ The lawyer went on.

“Your honor, I am not answering this question as the question states that I had an affair.”
“Re phrasing your honor. What did your wife do when she heard about your alleged affair with Gideon’s wife?”
“Gideon sent Hanna Cohen, a neighbor, to tell my wife, that while he was attending Kabala classes, I was spending my time in a hotel room with Vicki. My wife got very angry with Hanna and asked her to leave.”

“As simple as that? Just asked her to leave”?
“Yes your honor that simple”.

“And what about this hotel business?”

I saw the judge looking at the receipt Motty mentioned.
"What date was it please?"
The judge answered.

“At that date, that the receipt was issued" I said after pretending I consult my notes "I was abroad and here is a document to prove it.”

From time to time turned my head towards Vicki. She did not look good. I had not seen her for at least six years. She looked older and thinner, almost sick. I felt sorry for her.

I did not want to think about her life with Gideon. Of course I knew the implications of my testimony a large lump sum was at stake, ’make or break‘for Vicki. I promised myself I would help her, as much as I could, as I hated Gideon more than I disliked her.

Since Gideon’s call I had tried very hard to contact Vicki. I had found her office phone number and had tried to call her.

However, she had refused to talk. She sounded very scared and demanded I not call her again; she added her house phone was bugged, and all her calls were being monitored. Of course, I did not call her.

“Did you have an affair with Gideon’s wife?” asked Gideon’s lawyer.
“No I did not”
“Let me tell you one thing Mr. Shamir you had an affair and you are lying.”

While saying it he took a paper from the file in front of him and started to read.

“When he took me to the citrus orchard I knew what to expect, in fact I was ready for a first session of passionate love making”… This was an extract from Vicki’s confession.

“May I read it?” I said to the judges

“Yes of course”

I scanned the document quickly only to make sure the text was exactly the same as in the magazine Motty had given me ,than I gave it back saying I don’t have to read it I have the original. Thus, I opened the magazine and started to read.

After one sentence I stopped and said to the judge “in the original version they did it at the river bank as you know your honor there is no river in Rishon so it was changed to a citrus orchard.

“It is irrelevant completely irrelevant” said Gideon’s lawyer she signed the paper, who cares if someone else uses the same words”
I looked at Gideon who looked very surprised or at least pretended to be. Vicki on the other hand looked very distressed.
“What is your opinion Mr. Shamir about this document?”

“I think,” I said “a good lawyer never asks for the opinion of a witness, but if you really want to know it is obvious that this document is a fabrication. Mr. Ben-Hoor dictated it to her and forced her to sign it”

Gideon exploded with anger “tell them, tell them,” he turned to Vicki, “Did you write it by yourself or what?”
Vicki did not answer.
“You are dismissed Mr. Shamir”

I was later told the court did not divorce them but rather sent them back to a civil court for the property settlement. Vicki and Gideon were finally divorced and Vicki got a substantial amount of money as a settlement.

I was very happy for her, and very pleased with my contribution to her success.
Motty disappeared for a few years. Omry sold his pub. The place changed its name and the old customers stopped coming around as did I.

Five years later, Motty returned from an assignment abroad and I accidentally met him on the street.
"Let's have a coffee" was the first thing he said.
“I need to fill you in it’s about the Ben-Hoor case.”

“What are you saying Motty, are there some new developments?”
“No, no, it is some information I never told you.”
I looked very surprised.
“Remember the first time I saw the divorce file? Well there were those Photos of you and Vicki with the hood of the Volvo open?

“She stood next to you with very short cutoffs in a sexy posture. It looked suspicious; I felt she knew her picture was being taken. When I saw the second photo I knew for sure she was aware of the photographer. She was dressed really fancily, and the photographer made sure she would be seen getting into the car exposing her legs, while you were standing behind the car with only your shirt visible.

She knew when to get into the car for a perfect pose”.

“I don’t get it why would she do a thing like that?”

“It looked very suspicious to me said Motty without answering my question and I decided to continue my investigation. With a lot of footwork I found it was Vicki who had commissioned the Photos.”
I looked at Motty in disbelief.
“I had no doubt from the beginning you had been framed, however what I discovered was a complicated case of a double cross. Vicki manipulated Gideon into thinking she was having an affair with you. It all seemed too bad to let it go. I made it my mission to discover the truth without telling you.”

“At first I found Vicki’s behavior to be consistent. Every Thursday at about one o’clock, she drove her Volvo to the Hilton, checked in, paid in cash and asked for a receipt. On one occasion the receipt was made out in your name.

Shortly after arriving in her room, a male visitor would join her. At about 8:30 p.m. she would get back into her Volvo and drive home without checking out.

The following morning, at 08:00 AM, she would be back in her room. Shortly after, a different male visitor would come to visit, an older guy. This guy would leave twenty minutes later, at 09:00 AM by the first man reappeared.”
I was completely at a loss and asked Motty: “Why are you being so mysterious Motty, who were those men? Do I know them?”

“Yes, one you probably know by name. At the time of my surveillance he was the deputy police commissioner, now he is the commissioner.”
I hardly could believe it I stared at him with my mouth wide open.
"And who might the other guy be?" I probed.

“You see my friend.” Motty continued. “During the entire investigation I was troubled by an enigma, something didn't fit. Why would this woman Vicky be willing to be declared unfaithful and sacrifice all the money she was entitled to by law?

The answer did not come too easy. I followed the older guy and he was found to be a black market money changer.
A little more snooping along with some help from friends led me to the discovery she had been stealing money from the company, she and her husband owned. Her method was quite sophisticated.
Gideon hired people on a daily basis, usually Palestinians villagers. She withdrew cash to pay them. She also paid their social security fees. To this point it was all kosher, However as she handled the payments and the accounts she continued 'paying' them weeks after they had stopped working for them. To make it look legal she paid their social security fees. The cash she pocketed took a complicated route to an overseas account in her name only.
Gideon had never understood the book keeping and Vicky was clever enough to hide it from the accountant, who approved the books year by year. The bottom line was she was stealing from company they owned by cooking the books and by using untraceable cash only transactions.

“Damn it!” I said. “I was just bait, a decoy for Gideon to “bite,” while she stole the money and got her freedom." I responded angrily.
“I am sorry I could not tell you about my findings earlier. I had to let it cool. The commissioner administration is the authority that grants me my private investigator license. However, trust me I made a very nice insurance dossier. In case of any trouble with the law, I would have leverage on the married commissioner, and 'prove' my innocence.

"Are they still together?" I queried.
"No! He dumped her the day he became commissioner."
The end

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The inventor

The Inventor
Hagai Cohen
Word count 2100
I was having my morning coffee in my usual sidewalk café next to the promenade in Brooklyn heights, when I saw Michael Foyerman walking in my direction.
It was an accepted rule that one should never ask Mike how he is unless one had plenty of time to kill. The odds were ten to one Michael Foyerman would answer in full detail. Therefore, as did every other citizen who knew Michael Foyerman, I lifted my newspaper and became deeply interested in the afternoon races.

Michael Foyerman always carried an attaché case and was always in a hurry to get someplace although he never worked. People who knew Michael Foyerman were ready to bet that all he had in his case was his lunch. He was at all times well dressed though he never had a penny in his pocket.
Whenever Michael Foyerman saw me, he sat next to me and told me his endless stories. Of course I listened and even paid for his coffee. I had good reason to do so.
One morning about a year ago, Mike had come to the coffee shop and said: "Good morning, Harry. It's a gorgeous day. I love the morning breeze." I was still reading the Post's horse racing section when he spoke and it was like a miracle. My eyes locked on a horse called 'Morning Breeze' racing that day. It was a sign from heaven and no coincidence.
Without wasting any time I crossed the street to O.T.B and bet fifty bucks on Morning Breeze at twenty to one. You bet on a horse with those odds only if the horse himself tells you he is going to win.
By noon, right before the race, the odds on that nag went up to forty to one. I was about to stop believing in God when the Almighty moved his wand and a thunder storm broke over the race track. The lightning and thunder scared the horses and slowed them down.

Morning Breeze must have been deaf and blind for he won the race. I never told Mike he was instrumental in my winning two grand that day, but I bought him coffee every morning, hoping he might see the light again and offer me another subconscious tip.

Michael Foyerman lived on the pocket money his wife gave him on daily basis and what he got was only good for a small lunch and two subway tokens. She never gave him more although she was doing very well in her beauty parlour.

For some time Michael Foyerman had saved his lunch money by eating at home. With the money he accumulated, he ordered a few hundred visiting cards printed with raised gold letters that said:

Inventor and entrepreneur.

During the many coffees Michael Foyerman had with me, he told me about his inventions. According to him, something always went wrong and he had a list of excuses.

"There was no more need for my inventions," or "I could not find the right investors," or "people don't have enough intelligence to appreciate my inventions."
I of course, could not be the judge but, to me, some of his ideas sounded bizarre but some seemed logical.

During the energy crisis in the seventies, he spent time inventing a special clamp to put on the gas pipe leading to the stove. “The clamp when tightened restricts the flow of gas in the pipe and saves energy,” explained Michael and asked me to invest in the project. His invention sounded practical but before investing I consulted my scientific nephew who explained that to boil a pot of water you need the same amount of gas whether the flow is fast or slow and probably more when you boil water slowly.

Of course, I did not invest. Michael Foyerman worked on his invention for some time and when he had a prototype at hand, the energy crisis was over. “It was a great idea” he said, “but there is no more need for it.” I did not say a word.

Then there was the double function refrigerator. As Michael explained it, “Whenever you are hot, you open the refrigerator door. Inside, the pre-installed fan blows the cool air into the room.” This idea also seemed a good one to me and I encouraged Michael to try it, and he did. But he never told me what happened when he finished his prototype. I heard rumours that Mrs Foyerman, when she came home one evening, found a very warm kitchen, a refrigerator full of spoiled food, and an enormous iceberg in the freezer. She did not give him supper for a whole week.
“My new idea,” he told me one morning, “is the sniffing mechanical dog. Its trade name will be ‘Fee or Smudge.' This is a robot which strolls down the street sniffing dog excrement.
A small vacuum pump takes in a sample of the contaminated air.
A very sensitive gas analyser classifies the ingredients to a very high degree of accuracy and thus constructs a smell profile capable of distinguishing between two hundred different dogs.

After the sniffing robot makes the analysis, it is ready for its next mission: It picks up the dung, stores it in a special container and thoroughly cleans the affected area adding a touch of perfume.
Our sophisticated machine sniffs around to find the track of the matching dog then follows the clues to the doorstep of the alleged contaminator.
Our robot knocks on the alleged door and as the doors opens it takes a big sniff to establish a positive identification.
Then our dog announces F-E-E-O-R-S-M-U-D-G-E! In simple words, it means: pay for the cleaning, or your ordure will be smeared on your doorstep.

My business plan is based on logic,” he continued. "Every reasonable citizen will pay the fee on the first occasion; the less reasonable will pay it by the second occasion.”

“Was anyone interested in your invention?” I asked.
“Yes” said Michael, “City Hall. I got a letter from the sanitation department saying the citizens of New-York City are disciplined and usually clean up after their dogs so it may not be a cost-effective machine but they are willing to check a prototype, once I have one”.

Every time Michael told me about his peculiar ideas, I felt a bit sorry that none of them made him a little fortune.

Today he was approaching me very quickly and although I could not see him because of the newspaper, I knew, I’d have his company. When Michael reached the chair next to me, I said “Hello Mike,” without raising my face from the paper. Before he was fully seated, Michael started talking:
”Thanksgiving is not what it used to be.” I put my paper down and looked at Michael intrigued, as he was not the type to discuss tradition or nostalgia. But he did not stop there and kept on telling his long sermon at high speed:

“Farmers used to work hard all summer. In the fall, they gathered the crops and the fruits. After preserving, the food for the winter, they baked a turkey to celebrate their good luck and offered thanks to God. But today” he continued
“it's hard to find farmers. People buy frozen turkeys. The secret stuffing recipe is long forgotten. The pumpkin bread is made in factories and the cranberry sauce is canned.”
“Now that is very interesting,” I said, “but there's nothing one can do to change it.”
“No, you are wrong” jumps in Michael, “you are absolutely wrong. Listen to my idea.” He leaned forward, his eyes dancing with excitement. “My intention is to bring back to the American people the joy of life. To restore civilized values, self-importance, dignity and respect. To retrieve for them, the warmth of a loving family, even for single and lonely individuals.
The people will be taught how to raise a turkey, how to feed it correctly with organic food and vitamins, how to slaughter it humanely, clean it, stuff it with the right stuffing, bake it to perfection and carve it by the book.”

“But wait a minute Mike,” I said, “turkeys stink. Do you really think people will hatch a turkey egg and raise a turkey in their living rooms? You must be out of your mind.”

“You don't understand. There is on the market this small virtual pet, called Tamaguzi. My plan,” he continued, “is to make a virtual turkey, like the Tamaguzi and to give to the people."
“To give?” I asked.
“Yes, City Hall will distribute them to the homeless and jobless, so they can live the spirit and the tradition of Thanksgiving when they go to the soup kitchens."

I am beginning to think Michael is finally and officially off his rocker and I say to him with heavy sarcasm: “See here, Mike, don’t you think you should sell it also to the rich? They usually eat too much and would want to start a diet on Thanksgiving?”

Michael, insulted, looked sadly into my eyes, did not say a word and left. I did not see him for long time after that. Of course I wondered what had happened to him as he was not a man to miss his morning coffee, especially when someone else pays for it.

Rumours began to reach me that Michael Foyerman got into some money as someone had seen him driving a fancy car. I was happy for him as probably one of his inventions finally was a success. I was curious to know if it was the virtual turkey.

So, one morning, when I saw Michael Foyerman with a new suit and a new attaché case walking in my direction, I did not hide behind my newspaper. Instead, I gave him a big smile and said: ““Hi Mike, long time no see, what’s up?”

Michael Foyerman took his seat next to me and said: “They make lousy coffee in this place”.
Well, this was a big surprise as Michael Foyerman had never before complained about the coffee I bought him.

“I take my coffee nowadays in a small coffee shop over-looking Long Island Sound, on the way to my office in Huntington", he continued. "Their coffee is great, freshly ground, home blend of special Colombian beans."
With that he drew my attention completely and I was even ready to forgive Michael for not telling me before that the coffee I bought him was no good.

“What are you saying Mike, is it the virtual turkey?”
“Well” said Michael Foyerman “in a way it is”. I was puzzled till he continued: “My Aunt Laura is very rich, and she is very generous too. She bought the beauty parlour for my wife when she agreed to marry me.

Well, I went to Aunt Laura with the idea of the virtual turkey and offered her partnership. When I told her I had already spoken to New-York City social services she became quite upset and even angry.

"Look Mike," she said, "your ideas are so advanced, the world is not ready to understand or appreciate them. We live in a very competitive business community. I don't want you to approach any official person about your inventions." She said and after a pause continued:
"My company is handling city hall employees' pension and any rumors we invest in high-risk ventures will harm our solid no-risk business. I’ll handle the business end of your projects from now on, and I'll talk to the people if necessary."

After that conversation, Aunt Laura built me an office in her basement, where I sit, think, write my thoughts and file them. She gave me a car as well. Twice a week, I see a man Aunt Laura hired to discuss my ideas. He listens and asks a lot of questions. But, sometimes I feel it's a waste of time. He asks irrelevant questions, like about my dad who died when I was very young. Aunt Laura insists I have to see him or she will not let me use the office or my car.

I never knew how my father died so I asked Aunt Laura. She told me he was 'very special' but he too 'was not understood.'

“One night,” she said," your Dad, who was like you in many ways, woke up from a nightmare screaming: 'The refrigerator is after me. It wants to freeze me.' It was summer, the window was open, and he ran from his bed in terror. He fell from the seventh floor window.”

“Oh!” I said, "How horrible!"

"I'm glad Aunt Laura told me about my father," continued Michael after a pause. "It was all for the best. My latest idea is already fully formulated in my head: a device to detect and disable haunted refrigerators.”

Tuesday, October 12, 2010



Hagai Cohen

“We are the only flight tonight,” I said to Manny after we had crossed longitude 40 west.

“Nobody flies on Christmas night,” said Manny. “Anybody with any little sense stays home.”

Even the oceanic controller in Gander, judging by his voice, had been asleep. It was a very boring cargo flight.

Manny was in the middle of complaining about our bad luck when a woman's voice came over the radio.

"This is delivery 036 transmitting blind, request relay.”

It was a call from a female pilot on flight 036. She wanted us to call Gander for her. To our ears, her voice was like the singing of the sirens on the Aegean Sea. The night was shaping up after all.

“Delivery 036 Echo Lima Yankee 851, go ahead,” said Manny on the radio.

“Delivery 036, position, Checked 40 west 52 north at 08:35 flight level 110 estimate 30 west 54 north at 11:05”.

I looked at Manny and he looked at me. What she said meant that she was flying too low and too slow.

“Repeat your Estimated Time over 30 west,” said Manny. And the lady answered “Echo Tango Oscar 30 west 11:05”.

I could not conquer my curiosity and I said to her “What airplane are you flying?”

“A piper cub,” was her answer.

“What?! Are you flying a single engine aircraft over the Atlantic?”

“Yes,” was the incredible answer. “That’s what I do for a living. I deliver small airplanes from the manufacturer to the customer.”

“What is your flight plan time from Gander to Shannon?"

“I'm lucky today,” she said. “I have good winds. 12 hours and forty minutes. And my name is Marge.”

We relayed her position to Gander, introduced ourselves and continued to talking with her.
We spoke on the VHF radio which have a limited range and using the emergency frequency, always 'on' when an airplane is airborne.

Marge Many and I were the only people on the radio. We felt quite comfortable chit chatting with her although it was against the regulations. She was very cooperative answering our interrogative questions.

"Call me if you happen to be in Köln, Germany or Annapolis, Maryland, I live in both places, I promise to answer all your questions and to prove to you that I am not crazy” she said and gave us her phone numbers as her voice faded out.

"A woman flying over the ocean with a single engine is, in my opinion, an unimaginable provocation against manhood. I would never dare to fly as she does. I don't have the courage and I’m definitely not an idiot. She is challenging her luck. She must be crazy, do you really think she wants us to call her ?” I said to Manny.

She was very friendly, and I think she wants to brag about her ability and prove to us she is as good and as professional anyone could be.

In truth, I was full of respect for her bravery and somewhat jealous. “We have to see her one day; there are a million questions I'd like to ask her.”

Four months later, Manny and I were assigned to fly together to Köln.

“Jack,” said Manny “did you ever call Marge?”

“No. I have been in Köln twice since that flight, but I just didn't have the guts.”

“I neither," said Manny. "I didn't know what to expect”.

"Well, we’re together now so why don’t we pool our poor courage and give her a call?"
“OK let’s do it.”

“I thought you'll never call,” she said over the telephone. “I was sure you had forgotten me. I’ll pick you up at seven. I have a place in mind for dinner but I have to call first.” In answer to our question, as to whether she was changing her plans for us, she answered, “Definitely not, but I would change my plans for you any time.” Her statement left us wondering. Is she so desperate? We decided to plan against uncertainty. “In the event we don’t like her, we'll make an excuse about an early flight and leave,” we agreed.

We were sitting in the lobby waiting when a man and a woman walked through the door. There was no one else in the lounge. We did not pay much attention to them as they looked too young and we were expecting a woman alone. They started to walk in our direction. As they approached, the woman said: “Manny? Jack?”
We stood up and said together “Marge?”

Our jaws hit the floor. The lady in front of us was a glamorous blonde dressed in an evening gown. We learned later she was just twenty four years old. She could not possibly be the lady from 40 West. Women like this are not let loose, I thought. The last time I saw a woman like Marge was in a James Bond movie.

“This is my husband Julius,” she said. "He is a pilot too and we work together." Marge drove us in her big Mercedes to Aachen, a nearby town. “I have reserved a table at the best restaurant I know, it's a part of the Aachen casino and run by a world renowned Chef George Lemoine.”

To get into the restaurant, we had to go through the casino. The rule of the house was, one must state one's occupation to the guard. It really seemed funny. I could not imagine anyone announcing: "gambler," “Bank robber,” “Kidnapper,” or such. Julius led the way in.
“Piloten,” he said and walked passed the guard. Manny followed and repeated “Piloten.” I was next and I recited the magic word. The guard looked puzzled. When Marge said “Piloten,” the guard pushed a button and two oversized gorillas appeared from nowhere grabbed the four of us and pushed us towards the door.

I do not know what Marge said to the older gorilla, which had a good hold of her arm, but it was very effective. In less than a second, the giants became as soft as marshmallows and immediately apologized, straightened our clothes and led us into the lounge. The owner of the casino came rushing in apologizing for the ignorance of the stupid gorillas, summoned the Maitre d’ and said,

“These people are my guests.”

Then he turned to Marge:

“Well, Well, Well! It took you far too long to report in. Please enjoy your evening, I will join you later,” he said and left.

“What's going on Marge”? I asked.

“Oh, nothing, He owns several casinos throughout Europe. He needed an airplane to hop between the casinos and I delivered it.”

“You knew he'd be here tonight”?

"Yes, of course. I called earlier."

I was beginning to respect Marge; she looked to me less and less crazy and more and more calculated, and definitely not spontaneous.

The entire menu was recommended by the chef in person. He came to the table at the owner’s request. We let the chef decide for us. The outstanding dinner suggested by the chef was, Pate de foie gras au truffe as an appetizer. “Soupe de tortue aquatique , and as a main course Faisan A la Georgienne, a Russian aristocratic dish, cooked only on special occasions.
The sommelier came to the table to suggest the wines wearing a traditional costume with a big golden key on his chest, the key to the wine cellar of course.

The conversation was mostly about flying. While drinking an aperitif, Julius explained the structure of their airline. Marge is the president of the company,” he said. “She deals with the commercial aspects. I am the vice-president of operations; I deal with the technical aspects. We have ten pilots working for us. Marge founded the company, some three years ago. She is a born pilot. She has been flying since she was fifteen. I was hired only after the company was founded.”

“Any privileges for being the boss’s husband?” I asked.

“Privileges! I get the worst flights because Marge is afraid to lose her pilots,” he laughed.

The more we learned about the technical aspects, the more we realized we were dealing with professionals. Special equipment is installed for the delivery: extra fuel tanks, anti-icing systems, navigation equipment and a special radio. They carry a survival suit made to sustain body temperature up to a hundred hours in the cold north Atlantic waters. The suit is equipped with special candies for energy and a water desalination kit, enough to survive for a long time.
For Manny and me, it was a completely new facet of aviation and a very fascinating one at that.

We learned about Ms Diane and her husband in Bangor Main, who do the necessary installations. We were educated about the flight watch services for delivery pilots, about the flight plan and route calculations,when the delicious appetizer, the goose liver paste with truffles arrived.
"Marge" I asked

“Have you experienced any hazardous incidents?”

“Not too many.”

“Tell us about them."

“I'll tell you about two” said Marge, "both of which happened while delivering birthday presents to the rich."

“You mean airplanes?"

“Yes, a Swiss banker” she smiled, “wanted to give his daughter an airplane for Christmas. I brought the airplane to Bangor for the installations. I had to take off on time so the Christmas present would not miss the chimney.

It was evening, Bangor airport was under light snow; with sub zero Fahrenheit temperatures. The airplane was refueled for an eighteen hour flight, from Bangor to Bordeaux, and was very heavy.

It was a very long takeoff run on powdery snow, and a very slow climb after the takeoff. At an altitude of a thousand feet, the right door burst open, left hanging on one hinge. The airplane became almost impossible to handle because of the extra drag.

To descend to the runway took more than thirty minutes. I could not dump the extra fuel so I had to descend very slowly.

During the extended descent I got very cold, my goggles fogged up and I had to remove them. My frozen eyes could hardly see the instruments or indeed the runway. I had to defrost for an hour after the landing.

Diane and her husband decided to weld the broken hinge. Luckily the door itself was not damaged. They took it to the repair shop and two hours later, I took off again and happily started my climb. The hinge broke again at fifteen hundred feet. The door blew away completely and caused some damage to the stabilizer.

Handling the airplane was easy this time as there was no door. Unfortunately I made a big mistake. I was too quick to celebrate. During my initial climb, it was quite warm and I had decided to unzip my overalls. To do it, I removed my gloves and placed them on the seat next to me. When the door blew away, the sudden suction took my gloves away too. I flew the airplane with one hand alternately, trying to warm the other by sitting on it. The goggles, as before, fogged up and had to be removed. My frozen fingers could not zip up the overalls. I was so cold I could not even apply the brakes after landing.

This time it took me half an hour in a hot bath to thaw. The new toy was delivered not as a Christmas present but rather for New Year’s Eve instead.”

Marge paused while we thought about what a great pilot she must be to handle the plane in such terrible circumstances.

“Actually the incident was more in the category of unpleasantness and not in the category of dangerous” said Marge.

“What do you mean unpleasantness?” I said. “At twenty west, a similar incident and you would have had to ditch in the middle of the ocean - and with your broken H.F radio, no one would have ever found you.”

“You're right, of course,” said Marge “but we are not speculating on what could have happened. In my next story, you will hear about a really dangerous experience."

We quietly consumed our superb turtle soup enriched with chunks of bone marrow while waiting for Marge to talk. She took her time.

"I think it was my fourth or fifth delivery after I founded my company" She started, but was interrupted by a mobile platoon of waiters bringing the impressive main dish. After the plates, garnished on sight, were served and a fancy unique decanted wine was poured into our glasses Marge continued.

"It was a single engine two-seat Cessna. The route was from Annapolis Maryland to Shreveport Louisiana; about 700 miles and six hours away.

I took off at 14:00 hours so I could be there at 20:00. The machine I was delivering was a birthday present to an eighteen year old boy, the son of a wealthy “farmer,” who owned 20,000 acres of cotton and corn in addition to numerous oil rigs.

The man insisted I come to the party as a local girl dressed in a tight mini skirt, a blouse and the proper hat and boots.

He wanted me to taxi the Cessna into the meadow in front of the old plantation house, to make it look as if it was a forced landing, to pretend I was lost and after inquiring where I was, I would give the keys to the boy.

It was staged to be a dramatic scene. The Cessna was brand new; champagne in color, with a Magnolia Grandiflora flower painted on the door and a brown pelican on the fin.

I had to stop for refueling at a small airport in Mississippi. After takeoff, I was airborne for half an hour cruising at an altitude of 700 feet when my engine started coughing and sneezing. The fuel was contaminated.

I looked for a proper strip to land. The ground beneath me was dark although the horizon was in twilight. The engine stalled completely after two minutes. Attempts to restart were unsuccessful. I glided down, trying to maintain the best angle.

Beneath me was interstate 20, which was practically my route. I still could vaguely see the highway, and there were no cars on it. I got to the ground quickly without increasing my speed and landed safely. I touched down at Lincoln Parish, a place with almost no population.

After landing, I pushed the airplane off the road into the dividing area between the opposite side of the highway.

Before touchdown,” Marge continued, “I noticed an exit and some lights at the end of the exit ramp. It was an easy walk, about a mile and I was wearing my sneakers. I could not very well fly with the fancy boots I was supposed to wear for the party.

The place I had seen before landing was a kind of a rural bar with the “Bud” neon sign. I was quite happy to find civilization in a place like this. I went into the bar looking for a pay phone.

There were only two men in the bar; one of them was the bartender. The other was this ugly looking man, with two front teeth missing. He had tattoos covering most of his arms. He definitely had not seen a barber for many years. He was constantly scratching his head, armpits and crotch. It was obvious his body was the natural habitat for various vermin. He was consuming whisky directly from a bottle and seemed quite drunk.

I went toward the phone to make a call for the local sheriff. 'Howdy!' I said 'do you happen to know the sheriff’s phone number?'
I had probably said something very wrong for the man at the bar turned and yelled: 'Don't touch the phone.'

The volume of his voice shocked me. 'Do not touch the phone and get the fuck out of out of here.'

I was still holding the receiver, very surprised as the man got off the bar, came at me, snatched the receiver from my hand and broke the cable. With his other hand, he grabbed me by my leather tie and started to push me toward the door. The stench emanating from the man was unbelievable. He smelled sour and moldy. His clothes stank like rotten rags. He was strong and I felt as if I were flying when he almost lifted me off the ground. I was certain I’d be thrown out. I was mistaken. He bolted the door, turned off the ‘Bud’ sign and said,

'You want to play games, Missy, let me see what you have got here.'

He tore off my blouse, popping the buttons. I was petrified. I looked across to the bartender for help but he had conveniently disappeared.

The first action in a flight emergency, as we were taught,” Continued Marge, “is to keep flying the airplane. Power, speed, attitude, level wings, then think, identify the problem and try to solve it. In this situation, I took the same steps. I realized fighting the guy was useless. He was too big and violent. The only way out was to distract him and run. I knew for sure the drunk could not run as fast as I.”

“Hey, big boy,” I said. “I came here for fun and you come on to me with force? Let’s do it on the pool table.”

He was so surprised, he let go of me. I put down my pocket book and started to pull up my skirt very slowly. The guy looked confused. He did not expect it to be so simple.

“Go ahead, Poppy, take them down. Show him to me, Let me see what I am getting.” While speaking, I backed up slowly continuing to pull up my skirt. The guy got the message and started to drool.

Now he was fighting his sticky stinky tight jeans. He managed to take his pants all the way down. My skirt went up a little more while the guy started to walk with funny tiny steps towards me. My skirt was now fully up and he was getting closer to me.
As he moved on I realized that a skunk definitely smelled better. The man was now about three feet away from me; exposed and ready. With my skirt up I had greater maneuverability to my legs. My foot moved fast and hard into his testicles. My hands followed the foot and pushed him away from me, my back was against the pool table and I could push him hard despite the fact he was taller and heavier than I.

The man screamed like a slaughtered pig, and fell back folded like a baby in the womb. I had plenty of time now. A woman with her skirt up can run much faster than a man with cracked nuts and pants down. I picked up my pocket book, and ran to the door. I was out within two seconds. I did not know what to do next."

I looked at Many and he looked at me it was very unusual for a woman to talk about a rape experience. From what I read it takes year of therapy to get the victim to tell her story. On the other hand it is quite common amongst pilots to talk about near misses and incidents. In fact we were taught to tell our stories as many times as we can and to many people.

"Once outside" marge continued "I looked around and found there was only one pickup truck next to the house. Only one truck I said to myself the two guys are together and it may be dangerous.

I ran to the truck bursting with a great desire to drive the truck with its heavy bumper, right through the front wall and smash down the bar with its bottles. I took my gloves from my pocket book put them, so as not to leave fingerprints, and I got into the truck. The key was in the ignition switch as I expected, and there was also a shotgun. A loaded shotgun! Immediately my plans changed I felt more secure and I waited for them to come out. Nothing happened for a long time.

My skunk was probably indulging his balls with ice cubes. I could not wait the entire night. So I started the engine and backed the truck up to the door. The noise made them rush out and then the chase began. I drove the truck slowly so they would think they could catch it, then a little faster and then another stop. I was driving the truck on the highway in the opposite direction and took them about a mile away from their bar. When I had gained a nice distance from them I brought the truck to a stop, and used the gun butt to break the key inside the switch.

I left the truck with the lights on. I crossed the highway to the opposite side and started to run back to my Cessna. It was about two miles down the road.

Once at my plane, I took off my skirt and blouse and put on my flight overalls, the fancy boots and changed my hair. The changes made me look taller and different. The descent and landing with the lights on and no engine running had depleted my battery. The radio had not worked either after my landing. I hoped my radio would work after the battery’s “rest”. I tried the radio “transmit blind” hoping any commercial airplane would hear me.

I got lucky. After some time, a commercial flight heard me on the emergency frequency. They managed to get my message through.

The sheriff, who came to the site, was very surprised to see me. 'Never before, in my twenty five years on the force, has an airplane landed on my highway' he said to me. 'I will leave an officer next to your airplane and you will be my guest. My wife will be thrilled. Let’s go through the station so I can finish my paper work and then we’ll drive home.'

Down at the station I saw an officer bringing in my “friends” from the bar. They were thrown into the detention room handcuffed. They were charged with drunken driving, possession of an illegal firearm and driving in the wrong direction. They looked into my eyes but did not seem to recognize me.

On the way home the sheriff was talking to me and to himself at the same time. 'They think I was born yesterday, idiots, even a child can come up with a better story.
A whore they said came with a shotgun to the bar to rob them. They did not have any money so she hijacked their truck and dumped it on the highway next to her getaway car.

Whore my ass. You know Margaret' said to me the sheriff: 'there was a famous whore house five miles down the old road. The last whore of our parish died of old age fifteen years ago.' "

We sat quietly for some time after Marge finished her story. We were astounded and speechless.

“Well Marge” I said “I am now convinced, flying is dangerous, I am convinced that you are professional, industrious, brave and quite crazy. However, this succulent 'Pheasant Georgian Stile' created by chef Lemoin The Great is definitely one of the fringe benefits of the life on the edge."

The end