Saturday, October 13, 2012

Marshalle Lawe and the Case of the Snobby Lady, Part I

By Nurit Kraus-Friedberg

Stake-outs get my nose out of joint to begin with and this one was giving me a serious
case of the heebie-jeebies. It was my dumb luck - the only case to come walking
through my door since the flood had put me down smack in the middle of an alley filled
with rotting garbage, with a chop shop on one side and an empty storefront on the
other. It wasn’t good enough to be assaulted by the smell, either. The weather did its
part by contributing a torrent of rain that ran off the brim of my fedora and down the
neck of my trench coat.

I contemplated the possibility of purchasing an umbrella, but quickly dismissed the
idea. For one thing, the balance of the checking account I had opened in the name
of “Marshalle Lawe, Private Eye” (“If you’re looking for a tough gumshoe, I’m your gal”)
hovered around zero.And then there was the issue of The Association’s by-laws to

The bold-print ad in the local directory announced the name of the organization as
The Southern Association of Tough Private Investigators. A strict code of ethics and
behavior was incumbent upon the entire membership. I had pledged to uphold every
last syllable when I joined and the rest of the membership, all of the male persuasion,
took every opportunity to make sure I knew that no exceptions would be forthcoming for
a dame. Should I be discovered wielding an umbrella, my name in the field would be

I cautiously stuck my head out of the alleyway and glanced briefly in both directions.
The lone streetlight cast a sickly yellow glow on the wet, disintegrating landscape.
There was still no sign of my quarry, Big Jack.

Big Jack was wanted in all 48 contiguous United States. Canada and Mexico weren’t
too fond of the creep either, and rumor had it that Iceland was about to get on the
bandwagon of Big Jack haters. Each locale had a number of good reasons for putting
the sleaze’s mug shot up in their post offices. Embezzlement, fraud, armed robbery –
you name it, Big Jack had been there, done that. Yessiree, this was one rare specimen
of humankind, even rarer when you stopped to consider that the individual in question
had been born Jacqueline Farnsworth, magnolia blossom daughter of Southern steel
tycoon Pierre Farnsworth.

My client, Miss Jane “Mah Daddy Owns Oil Wells” Quinn, had hired me to find Big Jack
for a different reason, though. A really different reason.

“Miz Law, Ah’m frantic, just frantic!” she had emoted in cultivated Southern tones as she
sat in my office three days previously. She dabbed delicately at a tear running down her
porcelain-smooth face and handed me a cream-colored envelope. “Ah sent out this li’l
ol’ invitation to all the addresses Ah’ve got for her, and it came back undeliverable each
time! Ah swear, Ah cain’t think what to do next! You just have to find her!”

“You want to send an invitation to Jacqueline Farnsworth?” I queried, my voice tinged
with Northern roots and incredulity. “What on earth for?”

“It’s to the reunion, o’ course!” She stared at me as if I were an idiot. “Ah’ll have you
know that Jackie and Ah are both graduates of Miss Healy’s Academy for Snobby
Young Ladies and this Sat’day night is our class’ 10 year reunion! We’re havin’ it at a
real exclusive place, the Plantation Club. None of us has seen li’l ol’ Jackie in ages and
we were so hopin’ she’d come! Ah cain’t imagine she’d want to miss it!”

Somehow, I could. But my job description doesn’t entail calling into question the
judgement of rich skirts who offer me paid employment at a time when my rent is
seriously overdue. So I coughed briefly but significantly and ran through a list of
question regarding Big Jack’s looks, personal proclivities and last known whereabouts,
all of which Miss Quinn answered with relish and in more detail than I would need in
three lifetimes. I was relieved when she finally left and I could hit the streets.

I soon found that none of Big Jack’s most recent haunts were as swanky as her
upbringing might lead one to suspect. Not that her upbringing would lead one to suspect
she’d become a hardened criminal either, but three out of the four locations Miss Quinn
had suggested turned out to be places that no one with human genetic material should
get within ten miles of. Li’l ol’ Jackie seemed to agree, as she was nowhere to be seen,
heard, or otherwise discovered in any of them. Less than 48 hours now remained
until “Sat’day night” and the allegedly joyous reunion. There was no doubt that I was
going to need major results from Location #4 in order to solve this case.

So now I was standing ankle deep in soggy trash, waiting for Big Jack to put in an
appearance and trying not to think about extraneous topics such as that cut-off notice
from the gas company or the note from the Association threatening me with dire
retribution should I continue to retain custody of their library’s video, “Funniest Detective

I stuck my hand in my pocket and fished for the Hershey bar I always bring with me
on stakeouts. I a world of lies and deceit, trickery and cowardice, chocolate stands
tough and true. I had just torn through the outer wrapper when something seemed to
flicker across the street. I squinted to get a better view. Had the door to a seemingly
abandoned warehouse really opened a crack or was the waterfall descending from my
hat reflecting the weak glow of the streetlamp?

There was only one way to find out. I crammed the chocolate back into my pocket and,
staying low, dashed across the road into the shadows of the buildings on the other side.

I found myself about fifteen feet from the warehouse door, my way blocked by a puddle
the size of the Gulf of Mexico. Making a mental note to acquire a pair of boots at the first
possible financial opportunity, I flattened myself against the wall at hand and stepped
into the black, oily liquid. Icy water closed in over my tootsies and made itself at home in
my footwear. I cursed. (The Association would have been proud.)

The sound of a squeaking hinge diverted my attention from my podiatric predicament.
Sloshing carefully along the wall, I focused on the slowly widening gap as the door
continued to open. I reached under my coat and pulled out my long-out-of-ammunition-
but-it-looks-deadly-anyway gun and waited.

The door came to a standstill. I listened closely for sounds within – of almost-silent feet
creeping across a concrete floor, of an actually-loaded gun being drawn, of a feminine
felon with, I hoped, a bad case of bronchitis. Nothing.

Slipping inside, it was only a matter of a few steps before my foot caught on something
soft and yielding and I fell forward, my weapon flying off into the nether regions. The
silence was shattered by ear-splitting shrieks that went on and on. Luckily, I discovered,
the shrieks were not coming from me.

However, they did seem to emanate from the very spot where I lay. I rolled over and
fumbled for my flashlight, which illuminated a small, somewhat flattened member of
the feline persuasion. Its white fur was rumpled and damp and it wore a jazzy collar
with some silvery doodads hanging from it. Upper crust it obviously was, but Big Jack
it certainly wasn’t. I groaned and stood up. The cat retreated a few feet and, between
hisses, began to put its fur in order with its tongue.

It was obvious by now that no one was home in this potential den of iniquity but I
decided to give the joint a once-over anyway. The beam of the flashlight revealed a
huge, two-story room containing assorted broken packing crates and no place in which
anything larger than a cat could conceal itself. Some empty Willy’s Whiskey flasks lay
in a particularly fragrant corner with a bunch of crumpled napkins and the remains of
a cheese sandwich. I picked up one of the less grimy napkins and examined it. A few
pencil marks were scrawled on one side, maybe significant, maybe not. I shoved it into
my pocket for later perusal and went through the others.

Napkin #5 turned out to be the charm, for on it were the clearest set of lip-prints I had
ever seen, all in the shade of Blushing Pink Paradise!

According to Miss Quinn, this particular color had been Big Jack’s favorite since her
days at Miss Healy’s. She had further emphasized that a Miss Healy’s girl never, ever
went out without a full face of makeup. She had looked aghast just speaking about the

Fortunately, the esteemed Miss Farnsworth seemed to have internalized at least this
aspect of the school’s code of ethics.

I decided to call it a night. My evidence needed closer examination and my body
needed a bath. I could take care of both at home and it was unlikely that my making
contact with hot water and a bar of soap would ever be discovered by the membership
of the Association. Flashlight in hand, I located my gun and made a grateful exit,
heading for the bus stop three blocks away.

The cat did too, following me and howling to beat the band. I turned to face the little

“Enough!” I thundered. “Vamoose! Scram!”

It remained where it was, continuing to howl.

I stamped my foot, then picked up a bottle cap from the pavement and threw it to
emphasize my point. “Get out of here! Now!”

The creature held its ground, as well as its volume.

This was one tough feline, but as much as I admire toughness, I had no intention of
spending all night in combat. I turned and continued walking. So did the cat, continuing
to exercise its right to free speech.

My patience was deteriorating exponentially and my ears were ringing. I turned around
and grabbed the miserable thing with both hands whereupon it cut the howls and began
to purr. I wasn’t impressed.

“I’ve got bad news for you, cat!” I informed it, trying not to snarl. “It’s time to make your
exit! Showtime’s over!”

It purred some more.

I had to admit, this was a major improvement over its previous vocal gymnastics. Afraid
now of putting it down, I reluctantly tucked it under my arm and continued on my way
to the bus, wondering what to do with it next. The thing was obviously lost, I thought. A
cat this fancy must have a worried owner somewhere. How had it gotten to this part of
town, though? And what, if anything, did it have to do with Big Jack?

Stay tuned for Marshalle Law and the Case of the Snobby Lady, Part II.

Ruti's Tree

by Shira Romm

Ruti was a little girl who lived in Eretz Yisrael. She lived with her family high on Har Carmel, where you could hear the jackals howling at night in the wadi. She was a quiet girl, with a shy smile and a black shiny braid down her back.

She loved nature and anything that grew from the earth. So when her Morah told the class they would each get a plant of their very own, no one was more excited than Ruti!

She stood on line and bounced up and down on her heels while she waited her turn. A plant of her very own! She would take it home and show it to Ima, and water it so carefully…

Suddenly she was in front of Morah, who was reaching out to give her a small clay pot. Everyone else had already gotten a plant and was admiring it. “Aizeh Yofi!” The children took turns exclaiming to each other, as they looked at the dark green leaves and white stems that their plants had.

Ruti looked down at her pot and was shocked. Her plant was small, crooked, and the leaves were drooping. Some had even fallen off! “Misken,” announced the boy next to her, and she had to agree.  Hers was the last plant, the one no one else wanted. It was sick and would probably die.

Illustration by Aliza Gold
When Ima picked her up from gan, Ruti was crying quietly. She didn’t have to say anything. Ima saw all the other children with their healthy looking plants, and she understood. She took the plant from Ruti’s hands and they walked home. She tried to talk to Ruti and make her feel better, but she was convinced that her plant would die. Ima put the plant on Ruti’s windowsill, where Ruti watched it until she fell asleep.

Ima spoke to Abba that night. The next day, he went down to the wadi and came back with a bucketful of rich earth. Ruti watched him move the little “misken” plant to a bigger pot with new earth. She helped him water it. A seed of hope was planted.

Ruti watered her plant every day, but not too much. Soon it began to look much better. It grew more leaves, and got taller. By the time Ruti left gan, her plant was twice as big. All the other kids had already forgotten their plants – some had died from too much water, or not enough.

Through elementary school Ruti grew along with her plant. She would ask a neighbor to water it if they ever went away. If there was a storm, she took it inside. When it got too big for the windowsill, she put it on the back screened porch. By the time they moved from their house many years later, it was touching the ceiling. They called it Ruti’s tree.

Ruti is all grown up now. She is an Ima with children of her own. She still has the same shy smile, but she knows that she can make little things grow big. And sometimes, the smallest one grows to be the biggest!


Wadi –valley

Aizeh Yofi –How beautiful!

Misken – poor thing, nebach

Gan - nursery

Sunday, August 19, 2012

L'shem Shamayim

L. Newmark

I could win $10,000. I really could. All I have to do is put a ticket in the box. A ticket to the tune of $50. 2 hours of work down the drain. But the payoff will be so great.
And Hashem probably does want me to win. This is His way of giving me parnassa. I just have to do my hishtadlus. Anyway, tzedaka is a mitzvah.

Whoa. A custom sheitel. I have two already, but this would only be $35! That's like one tenth of the going cost. It's a bargain!

Nice. A leather sofa for $25. I can imagine it now. Perched in the corner of my living room, inviting me to curl up on its welcoming cushions with a good book. Yeah, that's calling my name.

And those seforim shelves! Every good Torah home needs proper shelves to make an honorable place for the seforim kedoshim. Hashem really does want me to have those. It's for a mitzvah!

Where should I place that hi-riser I KNOW I will win. I mean, I need to be machnis orchim, don't I? Would it fit better lengthwise next to the closet, or would it be better positioned under the window?

Wait, what's that? I didn't know they came out with a new Canon. I'm like 5 years behind. My camera can't zoom ten times. I really should get this one; it's practically free. My parents will just love seeing clearer images of their grandchildren.

Oh, if I spend $150, I get an extra $25 of tickets? I've always wanted to go to Switzerland. And this would be absolutely free. I'm not even spending any extra money. The kids would love to go there for Sukkos! They're going to be so excited!

That was exhausting, but worth it. Look how much I am going to get. And it's for a good cause.

Ah, they're announcing the winners. Hmm, the camera went to a young high school girl. Oh well, I didn't really need it anyway.

They announced the hi-riser already? But I didn't hear my name. Didn't I need it to be a better Jew? Maybe next year.

That's cute: the newlywed couple next door got the seforim shelves. That makes sense; they could use it more.

But that couch? That was supposed to be for me! I know, I know, it's because I'm going to win the grand prize that I'll be able to buy all these things myself. So I didn't get the sheitel. I understand. Yeah, that trip to Switzerland would have been a hassle...I'm ready for the grand prize to be announced.

And the winner is...the Goldsteins?! Why do THEY need the money? They have plenty of it already!

I just don't understand. I donated $150 to tzedaka. Where is my schar? I did this all l'shem shamayim... didn't I?

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

On Principal

I bumped into a demon from my past the other day.
It’s funny, the twists that life throws your way. I was taking a route I don’t usually take to the store when I rounded a corner, and there it was. My elementary school loomed in front of me. I could almost retrace every cranny on the red brick walls from memory; I even smelled the slightly sour odor of school lunch. Memories assaulted me and a bitter taste rose up in my mouth.

I was the girl who had inserted chalk into the eraser as revenge for a wrong the teacher had perpetrated. I was the girl who had been suspended, and then grounded for a month when my parents found out what had occurred. I was the archetypal “problem child”.
Every year the teachers started out with optimism, certain they would inculcate me with some sense of obedience, responsibility, or participation. But school wasn’t my thing; I couldn’t care less. And this particular school was absolutely not “my thing”; elitist, old-school stronghold that it was. I just didn’t fit the mold. In their minds, a smart child should be a studious one. Period. I eluded this stereotype, baffling them with my interest in learning but total apathy for anything school related, my desire to know coupled with lack of structure.
They wanted to change me without knowing which parts needed change, why I was so troubled. Because troubled I was. Life was no bed of roses in my family, and I suffered from undiagnosed ADD. So sooner or later I would inevitably end up in the principal’s office.
Ah, yes, the principal. Many were the encounters I’d had with this venerable individual. I bitterly recall the time another girl and I had been successfully dared by a third classmate into raiding the teacher’s secret prize stash. The principal was infuriated. When I told him of the girl who had dared me, I was told, “You liar. That girl comes from a respected family. She would never do such a thing.”
My punishment? Docked from the class field trip. My partner in crime’s punishment? Let off scot-free. Not to mention the original darer, she of the “respected family,” who also escaped any rebuke whatsoever. A child’s sense of justice had been irreparably betrayed.
Then there was the time he’d actually threatened me with corporal punishment. “Do that again and I’ll give you a slap you’ll never forget.”
This, in a Bais Yaakov!
After years of good behavior I was called into the lion’s den once more, sometime in May of eighth grade. “We’ve decided to accept you to our high school,”  my nemesis revealed with condescending grace. How sweet. My classmates had all gotten their acceptance letters months before, while I was left in limbo.  “But only,” he continued, “because you seem to have left your bad ways, and only on condition that you give your word never to repeat them.”
I gave my word. Even better, I went to a different high school. I didn’t need his favors.

When I recounted these episodes to my husband he detected the note of bitterness in my voice and interrupted my litany. “Enough! Just forgive him already. Does the old man have to roast in gehinnom because of you?”
“Whatever,” I casually responded. “It doesn’t really matter anymore, right? I just think these stories are cute. Little me, the troublemaker.” I broke into an impish grin that fooled no one.
Indeed, I had put it all behind me. After excelling in high school I went on to a top seminary in Yerushalayim. I graduated with honors, came home, got married after only a short wait to a serious masmid of a kollel husband, and was now involved in raising my beautiful yiddishe family. I had better things to think about than my bumpy lift-off in elementary school. After all, I had long overcome all that.
Or so I thought.

My pace slowed as the wash of unbidden memories came in torrents. I could almost picture my old principal stepping out to imperiously summon me to his office. I blinked and shook my head to clear it. Could it be? Yes, there, clear as day, was the man himself walking along!
The years hadn’t changed him one bit. He still wore that painstakingly benevolent, saintly look on his face. As he neared, I thought I perceived a change of expression, a faint smile playing beneath his patriarchal white beard. “Ah, yes,” he seemed to be thinking. “I dimly recognize that face…must be another student whom I gently guided through the elementary years, setting the stage for her to become the fine frum woman she is today.”
Hypocrite! I wanted to scream. It’s no thanks to you that I am who I am! I felt an extreme urge to erupt at him, to wipe that smirk off his face.
I was stunned by the intensity of my reaction, frightened of the hatred—yes, hatred—that so overwhelmed me. As if propelled, I let my gaze slide coolly past his and fix itself aloofly on some point above his head. Nose in the air, I marched past with an expression of the utmost disgust on my face, as though he were no more than a speck, or perhaps an object with an unpleasant smell that had gotten in my way. I saw his smile falter, become uncertain.
Good, I thought savagely. Take note that this former student is not gushing over with thanks. Let’s see you feel a little uncomfortable for once.
Once home, I paced the floor in a turmoil. The incident had disturbed me to the core, and I wondered what kind of person I truly was. Was I really so vindictive? Was I unable to forgive?
The feeling of pride still lingered, though. In a way I almost wished I had said those words: “Look what I have become . It’s not because of you, it’s in spite of you. I am a self-made woman.”


Chocolate Chip Cookies

My family always had a soft spot for chocolate chip cookies, so I was always on the lookout for a yummy, soft chocolate chip cookie recipe. I tried many recipes and played around with them until I finally hit upon this winner.
1/2 c. margarine 
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg c.
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. chocolate chips

1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
2. In a bowl of an electric mixer, cream margarine and sugars.
3. Add vanilla extract and an egg. Mix well.
4. Slowly add flour mixture until combined.
5. Add chocolate chips. Stir until just combined.
6. Drop by teaspoonfuls and bake @ 350 for 10 minutes.

Freezer tip: Roll the batter into balls. Freeze on a cookie sheet for an hour. Place the frozen cookie dough into a freezer bag and refreeze.

You can also substitute 1/2 c. of whole wheat flour for some of the white flour.
Yield: Approximately 30 cookies

Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 c. margarine
2/3 c. peanut butter
1 T. corn syrup
1 c. brown sugar
1 egg 
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 3/4 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 salt
sugar and chocolate chips

1. Combine flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
2. Beat margarine until fluffy.
3. Add peanut butter, corn syrup and brown sugar. Mix.
4. Add egg and vanilla extract. 
5. Slowly add flour mixture and mix well.
6. Roll cookie dough into balls and then roll into sugar.
7. Bake @ 350 for 10 minutes.
8. Remove from the oven and immediately place 1 chocolate chip in the center of each cookie.
Yield: 45-50 cookies

--Rena Stern

Friday, August 3, 2012

Village of the Dead

Uncle Stanley at a Family Barbeque

In Memory of Stanley Rosenberg

So, Kaila, did I ever tell you
About the time I almost met
Ingrid Bergman?
Yes, Stan, but you can tell it again.
We were stationed in ______ during the war.
There was a USO show starring Jack Benny and
Ingrid Bergman.
(She wasn’t a big star yet, so most of the boys really just went to see
Jack Benny.)
Who else was performing in that show?
Martha Tilton and Larry Adler.
Right, right, but no one really went to see a big band singer and a harmonica player.
Anyway, after the show we went to get the stars’ autographs.
(Each of them autographed the corner of a German mark for me, and years later I sent the mark to Ingrid Bergman.  She never responded.  I wonder if she ever got it?)
I went with my friend, Sergeant Liff, who spoke some Swedish.
“Excuse me, Ms. Bergman, do you speak Swedish?”
That was his opening line.  He knew she spoke Swedish.
“Well, of course, Sergeant, I was born there.”
And they started speaking Swedish.
It sounded like this:
Ishki biddi hede, burda bede…
They spoke for a while.  Then Sergeant Liff turned to me, and said,
“Ms. Bergman, this is my friend…”
And do you know what happened?  Jack Benny prevented me from being introduced.
He came out of nowhere.
“Come, Ingrid, we have another show to do!”
And I never got to speak to Ingrid Bergman.
I was mad at Jack Benny for weeks.


Kaila, did I ever tell you about why I don’t like
Well, we were stationed in _______,
On this man’s farm.  It was pretty cold over there, and we used up the farmer’s supply
Of firewood.  We got into trouble for that one.
We had to chop him a whole winter’s supply of firewood after that.
The farmer had a large flock of geese, which were pretty tame.
The gander, on the other hand, was a monster.
He was huge, overprotective, and he hissed.
We were generally armed with rifles, and
My first instinct was to shoot the gander. 
He was really scary.
But then I thought of the firewood,
And I had no way of getting the farmer a replacement gander.
Any time I passed by the flock of geese,
The gander was there to chase me away.
He was a mean old gander.
Well, he used to chase me pretty far.
A few times he chased me up a hill.
Until one day an army buddy of mine said,
“Rosie, why are you running away from the stupid gander?”
“Well, I can’t shoot him.  So I run.”
My buddy burst out laughing.
“Why don’t you just swing the rifle butt at it?  That’s what everyone else does.”
Somehow that had never occurred to me.
And that’s why I don’t like geese.


Kaila, you know about “shoot ‘im, Rosie,” right?
Well, we were transporting a Nazi prisoner for questioning.
 It was just the two of us in the truck with him.
He was unarmed and frightened.
We were driving along, when suddenly, my friend hit the brakes.
He leaned over to me, and said,
“Shoot ‘im, Rosie.”
“Whaddaya mean, shoot him? And stop talking like that.
You’ll frighten the prisoner to death!”
“Aw, he doesn’t speak English.  Go ahead, shoot ‘im!”
“You’re crazy.
We’ll be court-martialed.”
“Don’t worry.  We’ll say he escaped and we had to shoot him down.”
“I can’t shoot him.”
“Come on, Rosie, you’re Jewish, aren’t you?”
“After what his people did to your people, you have to shoot him.”
“I can’t shoot him, Joe. I’ll feel like a Nazi then.”

Well, we delivered the Nazi prisoner alive.
I couldn’t figure Joe out until later. 
It turns out that Joe had gone to liberate one of the camps the day before. 
I never saw the horror of the camps.

             --Kaila Iserovich