The Daily Bongo

Short Story 2

Passover, the most holy of Jewish holidays, was fast approaching and the Cohen household was preparing for the event. All the bread, cookies and cakes that Daphne’s mother, Ida, loved to bake were eaten or given away to non-Jewish friends. All products used to make the goodies were removed from the house and temporarily sold to the non-Jewish friends. It was important to remove all wheat, corn and leavening products from the household because Passover’s intent was to remind the Jew of the trials and tribulations experienced by the slave in Egypt. This was a most religious time, and Ida was taking the Jewish Mother Guilt up one level to make certain that Daphne would compile with the dietary restrictions for the week. “Would you want to break your mother’s heart and be the one responsible for the Messiah not coming to Earth?” Ida would say. Daphne would roll her eyes and keep her thoughts to herself that maybe the hypocrisy of following Passover rules while driving around in a car on the Sabbath might be the reason the Messiah was not appearing.

Unfortunately for Daphne, she had the misfortune to fall in love with a non-Jewish man. When Ida found out, she acted like Daphne had ripped her heart out just like Arnold Schwarzenegger did to the biker in Terminator. It was all Sam’s fault that Ida had a conniption. Daphne had been dating Sam for a year, and just wanted to keep the relationship a secret, but not Sam. He was adamant about meeting the family. When Daphne told her parents about Sam, her dad was non-committal as usual, but Ida instantly had a look on her face as if Daphne had speared her heart with a kabob skewer. “Oy,” Ida moaned afterwards to Daphne. “You couldn’t find a nice Jewish doctor? You had to break your mother’s heart by dating a goy ? What will my friends at the JCC say when they know my daughter is dating a shaygetz ?” At their first meeting, Sam had been quiet, and Ida did a lot of sighing and pouting. Daphne did not want a second meeting, but Ida shocked her by extending an invitation to Sam for the Passover seder. As far as Daphne was concerned, it was like standing on the railroad tracks with a train bearing down on you. Why in the world would Ida want a non-Jewish person to attend her most religious of dinners? What Ida didn’t know was that not only wasn’t Sam not Jewish, he was an atheist. Daphne wasn’t sure if the lack of religion would make Sam more acceptable in Ida’s eyes. What wouldn’t be so acceptable in Ida’s eyes was if she knew that Daphne didn’t really feel an affinity to the Jewish faith. It was bad enough that Ida was always making Daphne feel guilt for every white hair on her head and every extra inch on her waist, just imagine if she found out that Daphne wasn’t religious. Ida might go so far as to track down the head Rabbi in Jerusalem and alert him to the fact that Daphne Cohen was responsible for the non-appearance of the Messiah.

Daphne loved Sam, but there were times when she would wonder about the future of their relationship. Daphne hoped to marry Sam some day, although he was opposed to the idea. “The only thing left for a couple after marriage is divorce,” he said. Daphne disagreed and said that some people did stay married for the rest of their lives. “Okay,” Sam agreed, “there are two things left for a couple, divorce or death.” There was also the problem of children. Daphne liked children, and as far as Ida was concerned, a woman’s sole role in life was to procreate. Granted, Ida hadn’t done such a fine job of that herself since Daphne was an only child, but it did put more pressure on Daphne to be fruitful and multiple. Sam, however, wasn’t keen on children. He thought that the best place for children was in someone else’s family. It was all right to borrow a child for a fun outing to the park, but as soon as the diapers were dirty or the child would get too demanding, Sam wanted to send him back to the parents.

The sedar started peacefully enough. The four of them sat at the table across from each other like protagonists at a poker game. Who would be able to hold the bluff the longest, Ida pretending concern over Sam understanding the events that were about to happen or Sam pretending that he cared. Daphne and her father, Avram, were just witnesses to the play. Avram blessed the wine, pouring a glass full for each of the guests and filling an extra glass for Elijah, the Messiah. Daphne took a big sip from her glass. Anesthesia might be a better remedy for the evening, but wine was the only thing that was available.

Avram brought out the Hagadah and started reading the story of Moses and the Exodus from Egypt. The story tied into the foods that were served during the meal. Vegetables were dipped in salt water to represent the tears that were shed by the slaves. The hardship that the slaves faced at the hands of the Egyptians was represented by bitter herbs. Matzah represented the unleavened bread that the slaves were forced to take with them in their rush from Egypt. The dinner was a very ceremonial event, with story telling and singing, intermingled with the eating of foods at certain times and periodic sips of wine. Fortunately, Sam held to his part of the bargain and kept quiet throughout the reading and ceremony. After the lengthy process, the religious ceremony was over and it was time for dinner and conversation.

“So what did you think of your first Passover sedar, Sam?” Ida asked.

“Entertaining story,” Sam acknowledged. “Too bad there isn’t any historical fact in it.”

“Excuse me!” Ida’s eyes were opened wider than manhole covers as she stared at Sam as if horns would spontaneously sprout from his forehead.

Sam gave a wave of the chicken leg that he was eating and started pontificating. “It’s a known fact that the Egyptians were a culture that spent many hours recording the major and minor events of the country. Once we were able to decipher the hieroglyphs, we were able to piece together a good portion of their history over the ages. Today we believe that we have found all that there is to find of any great importance, and the only things left to be discovered are minuscule in comparison to the wealth of items already found.”

Daphne groaned, took a huge sip of wine, refilled her glass and peaked over at her mother. Ida was clutching at her ample bosom and staring at Sam in horror. “The Bible says that Ramses was pharaoh at the time of Moses, and there was a Ramses. That is proof enough for me that the story is true.”

Sam rolled his eyes. “Actually, Ramses II who is assumed to be the Ramses mentioned in the story lived into his 90s and had several sons. There was no record at all of Ramses having slave issues or of his eldest son dying at a young age of some sort of ‘mysterious’ illness or of plagues of frogs, flies, gnats or locusts. Yeah, the Nile might have had a reddish tint at times, but that might possibly be explained by flooding that was common at the times and rich topsoil being sucked into the river. Everything can be explained away with scientific fact. There’s no need to resort to fairy tales like the Bible.”

Daphne looked over at her father who was bent over his plate eating so furiously that she expected to see sparks flying from the fork. Daphne took another gulp of wine and got another bottle from the ice bucket beside the table to refill her glass.

“Fairy tales! The Bible isn’t fairy tales! It’s the history of my ancestors! What’s the matter with you?” Indignation streamed from Ida’s eyes.

“Nothing’s the matter with me. I just don’t happen to need the consolation of stories about an all-powerful being that created man and lives in the heavens. I believe in science and evolution. It makes sense.”

“Evolution? Pshaw! So your family comes from the apes?”

Sure,” Sam replied with a smirk. “Some of my relatives still haven’t evolved much either. Uncle Ernie’s knuckles still scrape the ground, and most of the men, and some of the women, have pretty hairy bodies.”

Ida clutched at her ample bosom, turned an anguished face to the ceiling and moaned, “Hashem , just come down and take me now.”

Then Ida turned to Daphne. “Daphne, how could you date this man?”

Daphne looked at them—Ida swooning and moaning, Sam rolling his eyes, and Avram staring intensely at his food—and she grabbed the wine glass that was reserved for Elijah and downed the glassful in one long swallow. “Frankly, Mother, I don’t give a damn. And you,” she turned to Sam, “fuck off. I’ve had enough of the lot of you. I’m going to a movie.” Daphne got up and walked out of the house, turning towards the local synagogue. It was time to thank Hashem.