For the Relief of Unbearable Urges: Stories

For the Relief of Unbearable Urges: Stories by Nathan Englander Read Free Book Online Page A

Book: For the Relief of Unbearable Urges: Stories by Nathan Englander Read Free Book Online
Authors: Nathan Englander
Tags: Religión, Contemporary
to finish his drink, Mendel ran back to the car full of Mahmirim and relayed to the Rebbe the tales of horror he had heard. Mendel was the Rebbe’s favorite. Maybe not always so strict in his service of the Lord, Mendel was full of His spirit; this the Rebbe could see. For that reason he ignored the prohibition against gossip and took into consideration his student’s most unbelievable report.
    “It can’t be, Mendele!” said the Rebbe.
    “Their cruelty knows no bounds,” cried Raizel the widow.
    The Rebbe sat in silence for some minutes, considering theevents of the last years and the mystery of all those who had disappeared before them. He decided that what Mendel told them must be so.
    “I’m afraid,” he said, “that the gossip Mendel repeats is true. Due to its importance, in this instance there can be no sin in repeating such idle talk.” The Rebbe glanced at the passing scenery and pulled at the air where once had been his beard. “No other choice,” he said. “A solitary option. Only one thing for us to do …” The followers of the Mahmir Rebbe hung on his words.
    “We must tumble.”
    Mendel had been to the circus as a boy. During the three-day engagement, Mendel had sneaked into the tent for every performance, hiding under the bowed pine benches and peering out through the space beneath all the legs too short to reach the hay-strewn ground.
    Though he did not remember a single routine or feat of daring, he did recall, in addition to the sparkling of some scandalously placed sequins, the secret to convincing the other performers that they were indeed acrobats. The secret was nothing more than an exclamation. It was, simply, a “Hup!” Knowing this, the Mahmirim lined the corridor and began to practice.
    “You must clap your hands once in a while as well,” Mendel told them. The Rebbe was already nearing old age and therefore clapped and hupped far more than he jumped.
    Who knew that Raizel the widow had double-jointed arms, or that Shmuel Berel could scurry about upside down on hands and feet mocking the movements of a crab. Falling from a luggage rack from which he had tried to suspend himself, Mendel, on his back, began to laugh. The others shared the release and laughed along with him. In their car near the endof the train, there was real and heartfelt delight. They were giddy with the chance God had granted them. They laughed as the uncondemned might, as free people in free countries do.
    The Rebbe interrupted this laughter. “Even in the most foreign situation we must adhere to the laws,” he said. Therefore, as in the laws of singing, no woman was to tumble unless accompanied by another woman, and no man was to catch a woman—though husbands were given a dispensation to catch their airborne wives.
    Not even an hour had gone by before it was obvious what state they were in: weak with hunger and sickness, never having asked of their bodies such rigors before—all this on top of their near-total ignorance of acrobatics and the shaking of the train. At the least, they would need further direction. A tip or two on which to build.
    Pained by the sight of it, the Rebbe called a stop to their futile flailing about.
    “Mendel,” he said, “back to your drunks and gossips. Bring us the secrets to this act. As is, not even a blind man would be tricked by the sounds of such graceless footfalls.”
    “Me!” Mendel said, with the mock surprise of Moses, as if there were some other among them fit to do the job.
    “Yes, you,” the Rebbe said, shooing him away. “Hurry off.”
    Mendel did not move.
    He looked at the Mahmirim as he thought the others might. He saw that it was only by God’s will that they had gotten that far. A ward of the insane or of consumptives would have been a far better misperception in which to entangle this group of uniformly clad souls. Their acceptance as acrobats was a stretch, a first-glance guess, a benefit of the doubt granted by circumstance and only as valuable

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