The Rabbi looks at the picture and pushes it back in the eleven o’clock’s direction. “You are a bright young lady. With all of this enthusiasm and spark, you should consider finding a cure for a disease along with a nice husband and lots of grandkids for your parents.”
She points to her proof. “This is a photograph of Paul Bunyan’s foreskin, Rabbi. Naturally, the entire thing is colossal so this is only a partial picture of the fossilized foreskin. Carbon dating. Lab analysis. We’re right on target with this.”
Though his Judaic studies were much more intensive than those secular in nature, the Rabbi knows this: “Miss, Paul Bunyan is legend. He was never real.”
The eleven o’clock was hoping the Rabbi wouldn’t be like everyone else. “Okay. Well then. How do you explain the foreskin, Rabbi? I mean, it’s huge. DNA testing proves that it’s from Paul Bunyan, and the only men to routinely get circumcised back then were the Jews. Christian settlers and colonists did not; they kept themselves in one piece. Come on, Rabbi. Just think—when word gets out to the media and the public that Paul Bunyan’s foreskin has been discovered, it’ll shed a whole new light on Judaism. I see an exhibit, Rabbi. A traveling museum all across this country: Paul Bunyan: The Myth, The Man, The Frontier Member.
“People will look at the Jews differently. Everyone loves Paul Bunyan, so everyone will love the Jews. Articles. Hollywood will be scrambling for movie rights. Some of the biggest box office names will want to play Paul Bunyan, Jew with an ax. Oiy vey, right? Who knew? Broadway could turn this into one heck of a musical. And then Hollywood would turn the Broadway musical into a movie version of the musical. Paul Bunyan will do for Judaism what Jesus Christ did for Christianity. Oh gosh, I’m sorry. Am I allowed to say ‘Jesus Christ’ in front of you?” The eleven o’clock is flush with her own fervor.
The Rabbi is gentle. “The Jews do not need a PR campaign. We’ve existed thousands of years without one. We have our heroes: Moses, Judah Macabee, King David...but Paul Bunyan? He’s not mentioned in the Bible.”
The eleven o’clock tells the Rabbi that had the biblical writers continued writing, Paul Bunyan surely would have been mentioned. “One day they’re chronicling events, the next day, nobody’s writing anything anymore. I mean really, what’s up with that?”
The Rabbi shakes his head.
The eleven o’clock looks away from the Rabbi. The foreskin picture looks blurrier as her eyes fill. She has all her years of education, study, and devotion. She probably hasn’t had a home cooked meal in years. No date since forever because what boyfriend wouldn’t feel threatened by a woman immersed in her academic life? And well, the foreskin is just so damn huge.
She grabs her stacks. She grabs her briefcase. “I’ve been to all of the other synagogues in the state. I’ve written letters to synagogues all over the country. They all said they’re not interested. You were the last one. I almost didn’t know you were here. My friend, she’s working on Alice’s Wonderland. They think it was an ancient city…on another planet! I mean if they can find water on Mars...Anyway, she got lost driving and passed by your poor little synagogue. ‘This is the one,’ she said to me. ‘This one will believe.’ You have to believe, Rabbi. And I’m not leaving until you do.”
The Rabbi says, “I walk home for lunch every day, young lady. Shainamaidel leaves to count her children. You’re going to have to go. Her husband is a rabbi and a urologist. I’ll have her mention this to him. Perhaps you can switch your sights to the medical community, and they can use your work in a prostate commercial. Doesn’t that sound nice?”
The eleven o’clock undoes her hair. It falls from the bun on the back of her head like streamers down her shoulders. She shakes it out, feeling it the way it is meant to be felt. “A prostate commercial? Why do you insult me, Rabbi? I need for you to believe. I need you to embrace Paul Bunyan as a Jew.”
The Rabbi apologizes. He cannot.
The eleven o’clock braces herself against his door. “Well, then. I’m not leaving until you do. I put too much into this to get a final rejection. There’s no one left. There’s only you.”
Read "The Eleven O'Clock" in its entirety in the Winter 2011 Issue of Tainted Tea.
About Sharon Goldner:
Sharon Goldner is a three-time Pushcart Prize nominee. Her short stories have been published in literary journals across the country & in England, and her plays have been produced. She resides in Baltimore, MD where she lives out her life's lunacy, sometimes days at a time. No letters were harmed in her manipulations of the alphabet.