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Moshiach is Here


Paula Paige

2010 Gordon Award for Flash Fiction




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JENNA SCOWLED AT THE DOORMAN AS SHE LEFT THE BUILDING ON WEST END AVENUE AND WALKED TOWARD BROADWAY. Hey, you creep, she thought, I’m not a home-breaker:  his wife’s already left!  This neighborhood was definitely not her scene.  Why did Roger live up here, anyway?  All these kids, baby strollers bumping you right and left, as though these mousy moms owned the street!   Children crying everywhere, even in nice restaurants, like the boy last night:  “I don’t want any crème brûlée!”   Then why not leave the kid home, with Oreos?  Now if she had a child . . .  but she didn’t, and had no plans to have one, pregnant or not. Why compound Roger’s hassles?  The last thing he needed right now was another kid, along with his bitchy, alimony-grubbing, soon-to-be ex.

The garage on 87th disgorged a big black SUV, which zoomed so close it brushed her skirt; a little boy in the back seat stuck out his tongue at her.  She stuck out hers back, and the father in his yarmulke turned and glowered at her over his shoulder, almost hitting a passing taxi.  Serves you right, she thought:  if you want to live in the city, why don’t you walk?  Isn’t it the Sabbath, anyhow?  She smiled, remembering the time she’d yelled at an Orthodox Jew who’d elbowed her aside on the street:  “Watch out, I’m a shiksa on the rag!”

Well, she wasn’t on the rag now, hadn’t been for a couple of months.  She even felt different already.  Inflated, somehow, kinder and slower, more womanly, slightly bovine.  Her small boobs were bigger, as Roger had noticed last night, although she hadn’t told him anything yet.   Which was what had given her the idea of buying a bra this morning:  it wasn’t going to last very long, so why not enjoy being zaftig for a bit?  She looked at the ads in the windows of Victoria’s Secret, then strode in, past the stony-faced large black guard, over to the drawers of 36 B’s.  She found a black lace bra and tried it on, admiring the way her fuller breasts suddenly blossomed into cleavage.  It would be hard to give this up.

Out on the sidewalk again, she paused, wondering whether to go back to Roger’s, or down to Zabar’s to get something for lunch.  Thinking of the disapproving doorman, she decided to head downtown.  Past Origins and Coach and Harry’s Shoes, Broadway turning into one big fat mall.  She remembered Benny’s, the little hamburger joint that used to be around here, up on the corner of 89th, that had hung on for so long, while Broadway around it fell prey to the conglomerates and condos . . . eating there with Sebby, her first boyfriend after she’d come to the City.  He was an actor, too, in “Fiddler” with her, her first job.  Sebby was from Brooklyn and very funny.  How he used to make her laugh with his lawyer jokes!   (What’s the difference between a sperm and a lawyer?  A sperm has one chance in a million of becoming a human being!)  Once she’d almost strangled laughing on a bite of burger that had gone down the wrong way.  Where was Sebby now?  Still, it was nice to visit Roger on weekends up here in his spacious apartment, with its views of the Hudson and parquet floors.  Her studio in the Village was so small.

In front of Zabar’s, a dark young man with dreadlocks handed Jenna a small card that proclaimed “Moshiach is Here!”  It showed a smiling old Jew with a black hat and white beard, who claimed to be the Rebbe King Messiah.  She idly turned it over and scanned the seven laws written on the back:  “Believe in One G-d.  Do not blaspheme.  Do not murder (respect and value human life, including unborn babies) . . .” Oh, give me a fucking break, she thought, as she entered the store, which was, predictably, a mad house at ten on Saturday morning.   She made her way to the delicatessen, where an old lady and a yuppie guy were glaring at each other, apparently disputing the next ticket from the machine.  A red-haired boy stood beside an old man with side curls in a fur hat.  She took a ticket, watching the kid as he stared up, open-mouthed, at the dazzling display of smoked fish and a bright tower of panettone on top of the counter.

“Vut you vaunt here?” the old man asked the child.  “Here is nothing!”
Jenna laughed.  The old man glared at her.
“Here is everything,” she said. 

The boy smiled, but his grandfather pulled him away, muttering about “the goyim.”

She watched, longingly, as the boy was hauled along, still looking back at her.   She might not be a bad mother, after all, she thought, staring at the card with the so-called King Messiah.  Maybe next year, when she and Roger were more stable, and the divorce was over.  But next year she would be thirty-eight, and her eggs would be that much staler, and who knew about Roger’s sperm, at forty-five?  Maybe, maybe, they should seize the day.

Jenna thought of the Off-Broadway play she was in now, and how she couldn’t possibly go on playing the sexy secretary for more than a couple of months, if the play ran that long.  Easy to feign pregnancy, hard to hide it.  Someone else could step in, though:  Roger, as producer, could see to that.

“A pound of Nova,” she said to the Hispanic girl behind the counter.  “And pickles.”



Paula Paige at Our Stories

Paula Paige

Paula is an Adjunct Professor Emerita of Romance Languages and Literatures at Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT and a recent grandmother. Her last two publications were translations of nineteenth century Italian writers, the Marchesa Colombi (A Small-town Marriage, 2001) and Matilde Serao (Unmarried Women:  Stories, 2007).  Both were published by Northwestern University Press. Although she’s been writing fiction for a long time, this is her first publication.   She was long-listed for the Fish International Fiction Prize, and received Honorable Mentions in the “New Millenium Writings” winter competition of 2009 and in the 2010 Richard Bausch Short Story Prize. She was Writer in Residence at the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France, in 1991.


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