Friend to the Jews
That night after work, the last night in November, I had dinner with my mother and stepfather at the house of a couple of ludicrously wealthy friends of theirs they were staying with, a massive, brassy, bilious home in the hills overlooking the Pacific. It was the first time I had seen the ocean in months, from their heated balcony, despite living in Los Angeles. That’s where I was at. I suppose on a clear day you can see the class struggle from here, I thought, a line I remembered from a movie, Career Girls, the Mike Leigh film. During dinner, which was delicious—brisket, latkes with apple sauce, for it was the second night of Hanukkah (or maybe the third), and broccolini, for good measure—the couple whose house I found myself in, kind people I had long resented, grilled me about my job. I told them of one Dr. Dante Ferguson; at least, that’s what he claimed his name and title to be. He had called several times asking for my boss to return his “teaching manual.” I asked him if it had a title and he said it did not. I told him it would be hard for me to find, then, as so many Christian Brothers had sent my boss their books, and would continue to do so, so that there were piles and piles of them in all the spare rooms of his house—and now that his wife was dead and with his all daughters long gone, nearly every room of the sprawling estate was a spare room. He gave me an address to deliver the book to, if we found it, general delivery to a post office near the border, and threatened to call again, which he did, over a dozen more times so far, each call more ominous than the last. “Vengeance is mine, so saith God,” he said on one of them. The office manager, a lovely woman whose doubts about the vaccine I forced myself to overlook, told me not to worry, this man was in his 80s after all. “Was that his only copy?” she wondered. He called again and said he was friends with the governor and would be presenting the matter to him. He called again and told me the LA County Sheriffs were closing in on us. Nothing has come of this so far. It all greatly amused my company at the dining room table—round and so massive that it was much too large for our group of five—except for my mother, who worried I’d be shot and killed. “I saw your boss on the news last night, actually,” our hostess said. “What was that about?” I told her that my boss, a Friend to the Jews, had been interviewed regarding an anti-Semitic leaflet being distributed around Beverly Hills. “Well, at least your boss is a friend to the Jews,” my host said, but no, I replied, it was for all the wrong reasons, he was a strong supporter of Israel due to his convictions pertaining to the Second Coming. He knew Bibi personally. He was that sort of evangelical. My stepfather did not like the tone in which I had invoked Netanyahu. “Actually, he was at my first wedding,” he said, clearly wounded. “When he was at the UN.” Christ, I thought. Each day my life gets more surreal, I have seemingly reached a breaking point and will soon lose my tenuous grasp on reality. Which will likely make everything far simpler for me. Afterward I headed home and drove down Pacific Coast Highway—in my head I called it Pacific Coast Hawaii, my mind was starting to drift away for the night and I would not catch up to it again until tomorrow. I could not see the ocean in the dark. I listened to an audiobook of The Red and the Black on 17 CDs. I thought about how the ocean could use streetlights, rising up and out in colossal lines all the way to the horizon, lighting up the water like a football field. I thought about how this could be detrimental to the local wildlife, but that maybe it would be worth it so we could all see out there into the water after the sun quit us for the day, which it did early that day, for Daylight Savings had just ended. We could all use an image of such scale at that time of night. Maybe the wildlife would be fine. Maybe we could replicate what we lost in laboratory settings. We could all be saved, maybe—a passing thought, we would not be. I’m not sure how the streetlights would kill the animals, actually, but I knew they would. Maybe some seafarers, too. The lights could blind them. They could crash into the poles, capsize. Or maybe they would help them find their way. But I was more concerned with those here on land, those sitting on the beach at night, and us driving past, up and down the coast. A speeding police cruiser brought me back from all this—it streaked by so quickly that my car, dinky and on its last legs, lurched into oncoming traffic. But I caught myself, corrected, accelerated, sped off towards the tunnel that would bring me to the freeway.
Z.H. Gill is a writer based in Los Angeles. His work has appeared in HOMINTERN and The Sick Muse.