He had never asked to carry such a burden.

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A VG Serial: ToxiCity

Episode 68

Matt bristled. He’d never asked for this burden. He wanted to be like other kids, shooting hoops and swinging bats on Saturday, not spending the day in synagogue. He resented paying homage to a God that allowed unspeakable horrors to happen. He lashed out at his parents as a proxy. Caroline had been a part of that. Maybe Georgia too.

“So I should marry a Jewish woman and produce Jewish heirs, to keep future Nazis at bay?”

“It’s not that simple.” She sat at the round kitchen table and patted the chair next to her. “Some Jews do marry gentiles. It happens. That doesn’t mean we don’t care about them. But a Jewish woman—how do I put this—a Jewish woman understands things without having to talk about them. There’s a—a reverence for thousands of years of shared history, shared values…even a shared sense of humor. You see it on her face, the set of her shoulders, the twinkle in her eye. You don’t have to ask if she gets it. You know she does, and she knows you do too. It makes for a powerful intimacy, a special connection. Your father and I have that.” She rose, went to the cabinet and pulled out the Rosenthal demitasses she’d brought from Europe. They were the only thing she’d carried out of Germany. “Some people run away from it. It’s too much for them. I’d hoped you were different.”

***

An hour later Matt drove to Stone and Deanna’s in Northview. Unlike the quiet melancholy he’d just left, lights spilled from the windows, and a Scott Joplin rag tinkled on the piano. He opened the door to a cacophony of noise, music, and laughter.

“Matt. I’m so glad you came.” Deanna came through the hall with a tray of dirty plates. She leaned over to try and kiss him, but her stomach got in the way. Giggling, she tipped her head toward the kitchen. “He’s in there.”

Stone, cheerfully hacking away at a turkey carcass, beamed as his wife stood in the doorway. Then he spied Matt. “Hey, partner. Happy Thanksgiving.”

“Thanks.”

“How’s it going?”

“I feel sorry for the bird.”

“He’s feeling no pain.” Stone laughed. “How about you?”

“Stuffed, trussed, and ready for roasting,” Matt said.

“Don’t I know it.”

Matt moved into the kitchen. As if by mutual agreement, they didn’t talk about the cases. They were on break. “How’d you end up with such a big crowd?”

Stone waved the knife. “She couldn’t stop. She took out an ad—you know, all orphans welcome.” Footsteps sounded behind Matt. Stone’s face lit. “Your turn, son.”

Matt twisted around to see Stone’s son Jack coming into the kitchen, beer in hand. “Hey, Matt. Good to see you.”

“Jack. I didn’t know you were in town.”

“Deanna forced me. Got me a deal on the ticket.”

“It was tough.” Stone grinned. “Like giving candy to a baby.”

Matt shook Jack’s hand.

“Listen, make sure your stepmother gets her bones for the soup.” Stone relinquished the knife to his son.

“I have no idea how to do this.” Jack set his beer on the counter with a helpless shrug.

“Wanna know a secret? Neither do I. Punt.”

Jack turned the carcass over, inspecting it carefully. “Dad, you butchered this thing.”

“It was dead last time I checked.”

Jack raised an eyebrow and started in, shaving off bits of meat and putting them in a bowl.

“What’ll it be, Matt?” Stone opened the refrigerator.

“Coke.”

Stone scrounged inside and gave Matt a can. “So, how you doing?” He walked Matt out of the kitchen.

“Not as good as you.”

“We can fix that. Let’s go watch ourselves some football.”

Episodes in the novel will be published on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

Please click the following title,ToxiCity, to read more about Libby Fischer Hellman’s books on Amazon.

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