by Jonathan D. Cohen
he clerk gave us a troubled look as he took my father's credit card.
"A father-and-son project?" he asked.
"It's his Bar Mitzvah present,"my father said. "I want him to look for God up there."
My father took the big box at one end and I took the other. He walked backwards, and I forward, and together we shlepped our ridiculous cargo across the hot and sunny parking lot..
"Dont'lift with your back,"my father said, adding to a vast list of hazardous activities about which he'd cautioned me over the years: frying eggs in droopy pajamas, overloading electrical sockets, touching dead birds, petting strange dogs.
We struggled at first to angle the box into the Honda's trunk, then reconsidered our strategy and succeeded, finally, in sliding it across the roomy back seat.
"That's why I like a wide car!" my father said, starting the car. "Not too long, so it's not hard to park, but wide enough for a big package! It allows you to avoid all that mishigas with tying things on the roof, cutting ropes, waiting for it all to come crashing down on the freeway."
"You can't park anyway,"I muttered. "You always park ten miles from where we want to go."
"You're right, but I always get you there,"said my sad-eyed, kissy-faced father.
e tried to make small talk about sports, the weather, but I kept my mouth clenched shut. Four hundred and fifty nine dollars of my rightful, religiously sanctioned happiness. Squandered for no good reason. We cruised along the freeway in silence for several exits, heading in the opposite direction of home, before I realized that my father wasn't through with me yet.
"Dad, where are we going now?" I asked.
"To the Kaminsky's,"he said.
"Remember I told you about the Kaminskys? The Russian couple that mom and I are tutoring at the Jewish Community Center. I want you to meet them."
"No way,"I said. "Take me home."
"I have plans."
"It's four o'clock, Sunday afternoon. What kind of plans do you have?"
"I don't want to meet some poor Russian immigrants."
"Because it's boring."
"How could it be boring to meet people from a far-off land?"
"You can play with Valery, the little boy."
"How old is he?!"
"You'll like him,"my father said, tapping his forehead at top speed. You'll like them all!"
"Valery is a girl's name."
"Not in Russia."
"You're avoiding the issues,"I said. "Why should I be forced to go there?"
"It's good for everybody,"my father said. "The social contact helps them learn English and feel more at home. The wife, Asaya, and the little boy already speak English pretty well. This is a woman with the equivalent of Master's degree and she's working as a hotel maid. Can you imagine that?"
"No, and I don't care."
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