By Stephen Rosen


Am I the only grandson on the planet who doesn’t remember his grandparents with fondness and nostalgia? Do I deserve familial banishment because of a certain incident that wasn’t even my fault?
Let me describe the place where it all started to go wrong: the Ashkenazi household of my learned, myopic grandfather and muscle-bound grandmother.
The air in their home was stale, as if no window had ever been opened. It was filled with the smells of old Jewish books, snuffed Shabbos candles, fresh-baked potato kugel, wool socks drying on a steam radiator, unhygienic old bodies. The “Schlabin smell” was what Mother called it. The smell clung to my grandparents’ sheets and blankets, the sofa where Grandpa Schlabin took his Saturday afternoon nap, and Grandma and Grandpa themselves. After I visited them, I had the smell in my clothes and hair; it soaked into every pore of my skin. I could even taste it in my spit. There was no escaping it.
The interior of their house was dark and solemn. The place had a subterranean feel to it: the thick drapes and closed windows blocked out all sunlight and noise. When the heavy front door slammed shut behind you, it was as if the outside world ceased to exist.
Every Shabbos after services Father would visit his parents’ home, with me firmly in tow. I used to roam through the stuffy twilight of long Saturday afternoons in search of something to do. Out of the greenish gloom Grandpa Schlabin would soundlessly appear, a tiny figure with suspenders and a yarmulke, and a huge book tucked under his arm.
It was not Grandpa Schlabin who frightened me—not yet. I stole quietly along dim hallways, trying to avoid the severe look of Grandma Schlabin, who did not take kindly to her grandson running about and knocking over her delicate Venetian vase with a crash. To my hyperactive imagination, those narrow passageways became a maze with no exit, where I was pursued by our family matriarch who was built like a bouncer. Like God, Grandma Schlabin was omniscient: she always knew where I was hiding. I could feel the vibrations of Grandma Schlabin’s approaching solid footsteps, and hear them in the tinkling tea cups hanging in the cupboards.
Mostly I confined my explorations to the main floor, though it was in the remote regions of that ramshackle house that I made unexpected discoveries. Once I ended up in the basement, where I saw Grandpa Schlabin in his long underwear peeing into a cast-iron drain. In the attic hidden behind some junk I discovered a treasure: a small black and white television set (a present from Uncle Lou). For Grandpa Schlabin, television was a goyishe invention that seduced the Jews from their religion. I watched it on the sly, with the volume turned off. Sometimes I snuck up to Grandma and Grandpa Schlabin’s bedroom on the top floor. The room where they slept had a sort of porthole in the wall facing the hallway. Inside, it looked more like a used bookstore than a bedroom. There were books in boxes, on window sills, and in piles falling out of closets. A stack of tomes served as a nightstand. It was a shock, when I was in the house of one of my friend’s grandparents, to see regular furniture instead of books scattered all over the place.
What else of interest was there in that forbidden sanctuary? Underneath a table was a chest with tarnished brass fittings. It made me think of the Ark of the Covenant, carried by the Israelites in their wanderings in the desert after the Exodus. Instead of stone tablets inscribed with the Ten Commandments, this ark contained merely Yiddish newspapers, a grim family photograph with the date November 1938 on the back, airmail envelopes with Polish writing, and a yarmulke that had WEINBERG CATERER'S, LAKESIDE AVE. in gold lettering on the lining. And a child’s single patent-leather shoe.
One afternoon I opened a book with olivewood covers and tried to read the Hebrew letters. Bored, I drifted off into a long daydream. I always dreamed the same thing. I was a senior Apollo astronaut flying my command module toward the moon at five times the speed of sound. What I longed for most of all was the feeling of weightlessness, a total unburdening of everything that oppressed me, soaring thousands of miles above the gravitational pull of my grandparents’ gloomy house.
I was eight when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon. I watched it on the little black and white TV, off by myself in the corner. From that day on, flying to the moon became my obsession. I filled my bedroom with posters of the moon and with scale models of rockets and spaceships. I would sit for hours in my lunar module made from cardboard boxes and blankets, a little boy playing dress-up in a snowsuit and rubber boots with metal buckles, pretending to be Neil Armstrong or Buzz Aldrin. Mrs. Litman, who lived across the street, called me “Moon Boy.”
My daydream in the bedroom ended badly. My powered descent to a perfect lunar landing was interrupted by the sight of Grandma Schlabin's face with its mouth set in a permanent expression of disapproval, and her powerful legs planted apart. I could see two long black hairs on her leg through a tear in her stockings.  
Grandma Schlabin, as I have said, was something of a behemoth. Actually, behemoth has its origin in the book of Job, where it is described as a mighty animal that is an incarnation of the power of God. In Grandma Schlabin’s case, that definition fit perfectly. She was quite hirsute, which conformed to the Biblical description. Also she was broad in the shoulders and tall; she stood a full head above Grandpa Schlabin. This serious colossus had no time for a young upstart messing up her house. Her sharp eyes followed my every move.
Grandma Schlabin had bionic forearms. It was nothing for her to rip apart the breastbones of the kosher chickens she roasted on Shabbos. I walked around her on tiptoe, remembering a phrase our Hebrew school teacher, Mr. Rackman, used to describe Moses in God's presence: “He felt a certain trembling in his being.”
Grandma had been married fifty years to Max Schlabin, a hardware store owner by day and a Talmudic scholar by night. Grandpa Schlabin had a wizard-like appearance: small with a long white beard. His bushy hair rebelled at any sort of hat being placed on it, except for a yarmulke. He wrapped folded pieces of toilet paper around the corns on his toes. He brushed his teeth with soap samples given to him by Aunt Rose, who collected them from hotels that she and Uncle Lou stayed at, including The King David in Jerusalem.
Grandpa Schlabin was a member of Temple Beth Jacob, but he attended the daily minyan at the Orthodox shul on Fourth Street, where he was revered by the small group of white-haired men. He was a great student of Torah, and of plum brandy. Following services, he poured it into his coffee or into anything else that was handy. A few glasses later he began to rail against the Reform movement. “Their choirs are turning our synagogues into churches” was the opening line of his tirades.
Of all the times that we visited my grandparents, there is one that I will never forget because it changed my life forever. I was ten. The occasion was the Seder on the first night of Passover. We arrived early. Mother wore a straw bowler that she’d ordered fromLord and Taylor, and Father a new tie. I was decked out in my cousin’s blue bar mitzvah suit, three sizes too big. “Shalom, avi,” Father greeted Grandpa Schlabin, and we crossed the threshold into another era. Time in that household did not follow the same calendar and clock that everyone else used. The Schlabins lived in their own self-contained little world, running on Jewish time of the Old Country: all week long they waited for Shabbos; all year long they waited for the holidays.
“Come here,” Grandpa Schlabin said to me, and I had to withstand close inspection. “No yarmulke?” he asked. “What next? Next you will become a goy.” He handed me a yarmulke to put on. He already wore his, which was crumpled, giving it the appearance that he had slept with it on, which was entirely possible. He had put on his best suit, the fuzzy one with the belt; underneath, a stiff white shirt was buttoned to the neck. Grandma Schlabin, shuttling between the kitchen and the dining room table, wore the same orange dress with large buttons that she wore on all the holidays. The muscles of her calves bulged under brown opaque hose.
In a few minutes Aunt Rose arrived. Aunt Rose was brought up in an Orthodox family; she’d married Uncle Lou when she was eighteen. She had made two bus tours of EretzYisroel. She wore stockings with seams and sometimes a mink stole with three small heads with glass eyes. Aunt Rose always had a modest covering on her head; for the holidays she chose her favorite kerchief with the apple-blossom print. Though that Passover, in a departure that no one could explain, she wore a complicated affair with dyed ostrich feathers.
Aunt Rose was a big woman with tiny teeth. She was a tremendous eater, a real fresser. She could put away as much food as any man. When she traveled she packed her suitcase with bagels, knishes, rugelach, jars of gefilte fish, and pickled eggplant from Israel. I don’t know how she managed to carry the suitcase because it weighed a ton.
Nobody really talked with me about what was wrong with Aunt Rose, but family members made vague references to her being “in the hospital again.” It’s true, she didn’t look all there. She sat in an armchair with a hazy half-smile and said nothing. Mother, always the social worker, lost no time in trying to draw her into the conversation. But Aunt Rose just stared absently and made odd little movements with her chubby hands. Later, when no one was looking, she slipped me a chocolate macaroon and winked.
When I was very young, Aunt Rose and Uncle Lou used to come to the Schlabins together. Uncle Lou was a big bald man. He wore powder blue suits with monogrammed shirts and lots of gold jewelry, including a huge Chai pendant. He bought Israel bonds. On the High Holidays he was called up to the Torah for an aliya. He kept a loaded revolver next to his yarmulke in the glove box of his Lincoln Continental.
Uncle Lou owned Schlabin Heating and Sheet Metal, which he had built from the ground up. During the day he was always shouting and yelling on the phone while writing things down on a small pad. Late at night he pored over his business ledgers, much like the rabbis among his ancestors pored over their own books of a different kind.
Every so often he would jab me in the ribs with a hairy knuckle and say, “What your old man needs is a little goddamn, just like your uncle. What kind of job is a philosophy professor?” Uncle Lou did everything decisively. You could feel it even in the snap with which he turned the pages of a newspaper.
Grandpa Schlabin was not shy about letting people know that at least one of his sons made money. “My Lou is a millionaire,” he bragged to his cronies at the minyan. Uncle Lou had been welcome in the Schlabin home even though he put his Italian leather shoes up on the velvet ottoman brought over from the Old Country and even though he had once skipped the Neilah service to watch The Big Game.
But Grandpa Schlabin drew the line when Uncle Lou joined the congregation at Temple Sinai, the huge Reform temple near the country club. To add insult to injury, Uncle Lou even gave a bunch of money to Temple Sinai. The new library was named after him. A polished brass plaque bore witness to this. The Schlabin name was permanently inscribed in a Reform temple. It was from this historic moment that Grandpa Schlabin began to call my uncle “the convert” and barred him from his house. Ever since, Aunt Rose showed up for Passover alone.
Grandpa Schlabin took his place at his “throne,” an old brown sofa. The left side where he sat was worn through to its cotton lining. He and Father toasted the holiday with a glass of Slivovitz.
The subject that afternoon was genealogy. Grandpa Schlabin's stories about our family history invariably began with Great-grandfather Issachar. He spoke about him as though he were still alive. It wasn't long before he brought out a thick stack of notebook pages filled with his shaky handwriting. At the age of eighty-two, Grandpa Schlabin had taken it into his head to write the definitive biography of Great-grandfather Issachar. He sent the manuscript to all the Jewish presses in this country, and when it came back rejected, he sent it off to publishers in Tel Aviv and Buenos Aires. Eventually his manuscript got published, by which I mean that he paid two thousand dollars for twenty copies that were printed in the basement of somebody’s house in Brooklyn.
Grandpa Schlabin recited by heart from these voluminous pages. He took a shot of Slivovitz, and began to speak of legendary great uncles and aunts. Once he got going you couldn’t stop him. Tears formed in his eyes as he went through our misshapen family tree, where whole limbs had gone missing. He gesticulated, wept, spit on my arm and neck. Exhausted finally, he fell into a doze. His breathing made a whistling noise through the gap in his front teeth. Awakened, he sat straight up and continued without missing a beat with his roll of remembrance.
The heavy air in the Schlabin house pressed down on me. The overheated room made me feel faint; the dark walls, saturated with immigrant odors, closed in around me. The room started to spin with dizzying speed and my fevered imagination spun me into outer space, where I sped through the soothing vastness. I banked my lunar module to the left; it was a much better flying machine than I expected. Through the module's triangular window, I saw the moon coming closer. The moonscape tilted crazily, looming larger. Craters came into view, then boulders. I stepped out into the eerie blue light of earthshine, moving with little buoyant steps in the soft moondust. Pure oxygen flowed through my space suit, cooling me. Carefree, I bounced lightly along.
When I finally came to, the subject had changed from genealogy to horseradish. A panic had descended upon the Schlabin household. There was no horseradish for the Seder plate. I sensed an opportunity. My excitement grew at the prospect of escaping from the stifling house. “I'll go and get the horseradish,” I volunteered, careful not to appear too eager. A great debate took place between Mother and Father over my going. Mother had a habit of conjuring up all sorts of evil things happening to me whenever I left her sight. She was convinced that every murderer and kidnapper in the country was lurking in the bushes outside the house, waiting for me to set out.
Their argument went back and forth as follows.
“Let the kid go to the store,” Father said.
“Absolutely not.”
“Because it's in one of those neighborhoods.”
“Because it's in one of those neighborhoods,” Father mimicked her in a falsetto voice, and threw up his hands. He appealed to Grandpa Schlabin for support. Grandpa Schlabin's sole comment on the situation was that “the stuff they sell in the stores is not like the horseradish we made in the old days.” In the end Father got his way, and he stuffed a few dollars in my pocket for the horseradish. Father warned me to go straight to Kaminsky’s and come right home so that the Seder could start on time.
Meanwhile, Grandpa Schlabin was frowning and wandering about the room in search of something. I thought I heard him say an improper word in Yiddish. Mother must have hidden the bottle of Slivovitz, a strategy she had employed at a previous Seder, with disastrous results.
Before I set off, Mother took me in her arms and hugged me as if I were crossing the ocean instead of going to the little market down on East Eighth. She smothered me in her soft bulk. I squirmed and almost escaped but she clutched me more tightly, until I broke free for good. “Stay on Washington,” Mother shouted after me. “That street is always full of people.” I rushed away, knocking off the shelf a schmaltzy china dog that had been in the family forever. As I looked back, I saw Grandma Schlabin kneeling on the floor and staring at the broken pieces in her strong hands. Quickly I slammed the door behind me.
My liberation began with a full moon that looked as though it rose straight out of Lake Superior, vast as a sea. I stretched out my arms like spacecraft wings, flying along, light with release. I was a literal luftmensch, not the kind that Uncle Lou called Father. I was a true air-man, soaring above the roof tops, which sloped away from me down toward the harbor. I was an astronaut on an Apollo mission, wearing a yarmulkeinstead of a bubble helmet. I flew along in the direction in which I was launched, hurtling through the cosmos, oblivious to Washington Street and horseradish.
Much later, I touched back down on earth at an intersection I did not recognize. The street signs were unfamiliar. I turned down a street I had never been on before and found myself in a neighborhood I didn’t know. I passed an abandoned apartment building with busted windows and graffiti. It grew quiet suddenly. Looking around, I took my yarmulke off and stuffed it in my back pocket. I walked by a pawn shop and a liquor store with iron bars across its windows. Behind a chain-link fence topped with razor wire, a black German shepherd with yellow eyes was pacing. When he saw me he growled deep in his throat and hurtled himself against the diamond-shaped mesh. I could feel the thud of his body against the fence. He backed away and lunged again. I jumped back, and ran to the other side of the street.
I passed three or four streets with unfamiliar names. There were no buildings or landmarks that I knew. I was walking faster now. All I wanted was to get out of there as fast as I could and find the way back to my grandparents’ home. Without a clue of where I was going, I went down a side street. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a bunch of older kids with shaved heads. They sat on an old concrete foundation, swinging their legs and smoking. A muscular, tattooed boy pointed in my direction and said something to the others. I kept walking and looking straight ahead, pretending not to notice them. I ducked into an alley. I quickened my pace, half walking, half running. A car backfired. I must have jumped a foot off the ground. I’d almost reached the end of the alley when someone behind me whistled viciously. I didn’t look back. A gate at the end of a dark passage opened and the muscular boy with the tattoos stepped out. He blocked the exit from the alley, planting his black leather boots wide apart. From the left, two of the hooligans were advancing steadily toward me. Out of nowhere others joined them. Shaved heads closed in on me from all sides.
“Lose something, Jew boy?” someone asked, immediately behind me. I turned. He was twirling my yarmulke on his finger. He and the others started tossing it playfully among themselves, then the muscular boy grabbed it and walked up to me. On each of his forearms was a skull and crossbones tattoo.
“This yours?” he asked with a smirk.
I sort of nodded.
“Want it back?” he asked, dangling it in front of my face.
I didn’t dare answer.
“Cat got your tongue, Jew boy?”
I was silent.
“I’m talking to you, Jew boy.”
“Yes,” I said, and heard a stranger’s voice instead of my own.
“You hear that? Jew boy says he wants his little cap back.”
“Give it back to him good, Bones,” someone shouted.
The circle of gang members tightened around me, with everyone pushing for a good view.
I was thinking that this would be a perfect time for my Uncle Lou to drive up, open the door of his Lincoln Continental, and step out with his loaded revolver. I concede that there wasn’t anything realistic in this hope, but reality and my ten-year-old, fanciful mind had never got along.
Bones bent down and filled my yarmulke with gravel. He rose, holding the heaviness of it with both hands. I stood rigid. He placed the gravel-filled yarmulke on my head, slowly turning it over. The gravel went down my shirt, all over me; a good amount of it remained on top of my head, which I held perfectly still. I looked straight ahead amid riotous laughter.
“Jew boy’s pretty clothes are all dirty now,” one of them said. “His mama's gonna be real mad at us.” This provoked more laughter.
I kept looking straight ahead.
“Yo, Jew boy, you killed Jesus,” someone yelled out.
Bones took a step toward me.
“Make him work for his freedom!” someone else yelled.
“Work will make you free, Jew,” another shouted.
Bones walked around me twice. I waited for him to rabbit punch me or slam a knee into my back, but he just circled slowly, watching. He stopped and came up to me. His face was an inch from my face. In the small packed space between our faces, I could hear my heart beating. We stood looking at each other. He put his mouth against my ear and whispered, “If I ever see you again, I’m gonna beat your Jewish ass.” He took one step back, still looking at me. He smiled. I knew what that smile meant and he knew that I knew.
The others stood there with an impatient glitter in their inflamed eyes, waiting for the signal from their leader. I started to walk out of the alley, the crowd of skinheads grudgingly parting to let me pass. I advanced with a calm that surprised me, though when I had passed the last of them I shivered all over. When I got to the end of the alley, I took off. I positively flew through the air, like one of those figures in a Chagall painting. The dirty gray stream that was the pavement went flowing under my feet. I looked around and saw waves of red: the setting sun tinting the choppy waters of the Great Lake. I landed on a street that appeared to lead straight into the middle of the lake, but it took me to the stoop of my Grandpa and Grandma Schlabin’s house. My hand fell shakily onto the doorknob. I pushed the door open just as the old grandfather clock struck, announcing the late hour.
The second Mother saw me, she screamed. “You’re bleeding! There’s blood all over your shirt! I’ve never seen so much blood!” The blood that was “all over” my shirt amounted to a few drops on my collar, which had trickled down from the scrape I got when I tripped and fell. This fact notwithstanding, Mother did not stop screaming. She screamed at Father, who screamed back at her and also berated me. “Where have you been? Your mother was worried to death. We were ready to call the police. Why didn’t you do as you were told and come straight home?”
Breathless, I uttered confused and disconnected words.
Grandpa Schlabin paced about the room with his hands clasped behind his head. He was talking to himself in Yiddish. A bad sign. When he saw me, he stopped in the middle of his pacing. The tip of his nose was bright red. His dark eyes fixed on me crookedly. I felt a shiver of dread. To him, I was undoubtedly the wicked son in the Haggadah. I took refuge behind Aunt Rose, who was arranging hardboiled eggs on a large platter.
In the middle of the commotion Grandma Schlabin held a spatula and cookie sheet up high as if she were auctioning them off. She smacked the cookie sheet with the spatula three times. In a stern voice she said, “If people want to shout and make a scene, then let them go out into the street with the goyim. There will be no shouting in this house on Passover.”
Forgetting about me for the moment, Grandpa Schlabin turned round and uttered a Yiddish exclamation. The notion of being associated with the goyim had set him off. He climbed up unsteadily onto the ottoman, his “little pony” as he called it, and launched into a tribute to his proud Jewish lineage. He invoked first and foremost the name of Great-grandfather Issachar, Pinsk rabbi and confidant of Chaim Weizmann, who became the first president of Israel. Once he had spoken of Great-grandfather Issachar, he was bound to go on to Great-Uncle Zalman, renowned Babylonian scholar turned successful Chicago lumber wholesaler. After Great-Uncle Zalman, he got sidetracked, bemoaning the lack of respect for the old ways, and from there moved on to the impending end of Jewish life in America. Of course the Reform movement, Uncle Lou, and I came in for the lion's share of the blame. In Grandpa Schlabin's impassioned state―I had never seen him do this―he took off his yarmulke and started waving it. On frail legs he swayed precariously above our heads. I was convinced that he was going to fall, break his hip, end up in the hospital, catch pneumonia, and die, and everyone would think it was my fault. My life would be over.
A scream came from the kitchen. Smoke began to billow out the kitchen door, and Grandma Schlabin came rushing out, coughing, holding a scorched brisket in a roasting pan. For Grandpa Schlabin this was the final straw. He surveyed the room with his bloodshot eyes, looking for the young culprit whose tardiness was to blame for this disaster.
There was a loud thud to my left. Aunt Rose had slumped to the floor. She’d either fainted from the sight of the ruined meal or had been knocked down by Grandpa Schlabin, who was rapidly advancing in my direction. Luckily for me, the dining room table stood in his path and slowed him down considerably. I made a dash across the room toward the stairs. I was not much of an athlete, but I dodged the members of my family with amazing agility. I looked like one of the halfbacks in The Big Game. With a burst of speed I flew up the narrow stairs. I was inspired with flight: I did not feel my sneakers even touch the stair treads. I ran straight to the room with the porthole and locked myself in.
By now, there was the sound of footsteps on the stairs. I jumped on the iron bed and watched the progress of events through the porthole. Grandpa Schlabin led the charge. He had suddenly shed his years and was taking the stairs two at a time. Close behind came Mother, clutching a bottle of iodine in one hand, and in the other a large roll of gauze, which unraveled and flowed behind her like a streamer. Aunt Rose, short in the legs and heavy, struggled behind the others. The whole family assembled outside the door. For a long time there was loud whispering. Then Grandpa Schlabin shouted a single word that was absolutely unrepeatable. Father calmed him down, and in gentle tones tried to coax me from the room. When that failed, he tried to bribe me with a raise in my allowance. Exasperated, he shouted, “Open the door, or else!” His ultimatum was backed up by a low growl coming from Grandma Schlabin.
Under no circumstances was I going to unlock that door.
Someone started pounding on the door with a shoe. A framed picture fell from its hook to the floor and the glass shattered. People were shouting in Hebrew, Yiddish, and English. In a momentary lull in the chaos, Aunt Rose looked around mildly at everyone and said in her sweetest, most polite voice, “Is anyone interested in matzo ball soup?”
There was a long interval of silence.
It was shattered by a bam! that made the whole door shake. My worst fears were realized: the door was under assault from Grandma Schlabin's lethal forearms. I could see her pounding the door through the crack where the hinges were. At that moment I wished I had never broken her little china dog. Each of her blows slammed into the door like a cannon ball; I felt every small explosion right in the middle of my head. But the oak door was more than a match even for Grandma Schlabin's forearms. The ferocity of her blows subsided and then stopped altogether.
It grew eerily quiet outside the door. I cautiously raised my head to the porthole for a peek. Grandpa Schlabin had procured a crowbar from somewhere. A new tactic. He touched the mezuzah on the right side of the door frame and solemnly kissed his fingers. That act of piety did not detain him for long. Without delay he began to furiously pry the door from all possible positions. He worked the iron bar with his right hand, while with his left he held off Mother’s attempts to frustrate his progress. Aunt Rose whimpered in the corner. With plump hands she covered her eyes. I jumped down and shoved the iron bed against the door. To fortify it, I piled on top of it boxes of books.
Grandpa Schlabin switched from prying to hammering. Blow after blow smashed against the door, making it shudder on its hinges. For his age, Grandpa was a hard fighter.
I was certain that any moment the door would give way. I turned to the window, then  looked back toward the door. Grandpa Schlabin's Yiddish curses mixed with Mother's high-pitched voice yelling, “Morris, do something!” I looked back and forth, from the hermetically sealed window that looked out onto the world of the goyim, to the battered door that held back a family of Jews in hot pursuit. I ran to the window and searched for the moon. Privately I appealed to it for help. The Man in the Moon looked down at all this mishegas on earth and yawned.
As the door burst open, I gave a shriek and dove into the blankets on the iron bed. I curled up in a ball. I began to have an odd sensation of being far away, somewhere high above in the blackness of outer space. I floated up and up. As I levitated, a twitching started in the corner of my mouth. The twitching traveled down my body and I trembled all over. I fell earthward. No moon shot tonight, I thought.
Tears came to my eyes and I cried into the blankets. From the wet wool rose the smell of my people going back generations, centuries, millennia. I breathed it in and cried harder.

When I stopped crying, everything was quiet. I listened. A faint sound reached my ears through the heap of blankets. The barely audible chanting grew louder and louder. Grandpa Schlabin was leaning over me and reciting Kaddish, the mourners’ prayer for the dead.


Copyright © Stephen Rosen 2024 

Stephen Rosen lives in northern Minnesota near Lake Superior. He has published short stories in The Iowa Review, Stiller’s Pond: New Fiction from the Upper Midwest, Snake Nation Review, The William and Mary Review, and Prairie Schooner. He is a past recipient of the McKnight Artist Fellowship for Writers. 

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