In your Easter bonnet with all the frills upon it...
Coming to America, Morris (once Moses) escaped death. Being happy with the happiness of those who have escaped death, he saunter-sings about the house in Berlin strains. Easter! The sky an eggshell blue likely like the eyes of his daughter, Myriam, whom he'll peacockily prance down Fifth. For the First time. His princess. Proud Papa with the popular tune. Laughing at all this m'larky. But what the hell! Light heartedness never stole the bread off anyone's table. She is in the big bedroom being dolly dressed up and grand lady-fied . Oh Clara, dear wife, you who can wheedle anything from a needle, we need you to weave that magic spell. No spiel that is. Make her into a traffic stopping tot. Today we'll put the Rest to rest. The Rest? Quick! Another line of that ditty.
The photographers will snap us. Take it away, Boys! Snap snap snap like dragons. Next time the price goes up! Foolishness! He can give other meanings to "snap us." And, so can Clara locked firmly behind memory bars in the mind jail serving a life sentence. He sighs. Shadows there are that she dares neither question nor dispel. They are. She is. The living are only the dead deprived of their peace. "It's only the wind, Clara," he says when she jumps at a curtain's rebellious intrusion. But he knows for her it isn't.
And you will find you're in the row of graves yours. Or however that wicked English word is pronounced. Brrrr don't want to think of it. Must it all end like that?
Nah! This is America and they are here and food is on the table and no commissars no Red Army no nothing! And it is Easter, a Christian Easter, but a holiday all the same! Frilly bonnets, the peacocks on Fifth, the smile, blind 'n blink of the cameras, fine ladies, fine gents. And a brilliant, merry sun with mischievously fresh breezes that will be playing "get'em" with the hats. Let him have this magic just for one day! Clara ! Let him...! But other ideas she has. Why couldn't she be at peace with herself, happy with each passing moment? Small streams make big rivers, don' she know ? But, every river is the Don for her, writhing in its vomit of dead bodies they see after crawling out from wherever they were hiding and from wherever she still hides. She also speaks to the corpses. Mrs. Levine there, the baker lady, face down, her throat slit. She put too much salt in the bread. Was that why?
He has high hopes for Myriam, his six year old daughter. A true daughter of America, he told Mr Robinson (once Rabinowitz) as they played their daily game. She will go to college, she will have every opportunity, she will go far. "Take her as far as the Easter parade", one third of Mr Robinson advised. The other two thirds were drawing on a pipe and shuffling cards into a killer hand. "Take her as far as the Easter parade and then we'll see".
"The Easter parade"? Morris cocked his head and held his cards close.
"Clara never goes out so why should she not let her daughter"?
Mean spirited question . And lethal. The Cossack kicks aside a corner of the rug under which Morris kicks the dirt. A man has his pride, after all.
"Well, you know Samuel, Clara is very very nervous. Myriam is a delicate child".
"Myriam is a thin child, not a sick child. She is no more delicate than the others. She has different parents, however..." Thus spake the crypto- Cossack. Try a pleading beagle dog — spare - me - look. Spare me an indignity, Robinson né Rabinowitz. Life will take care of that for you. It always has. And don't kick up the rug. Lay it down again. No hard feelings. The beagle brings home the bone. Robinson lets it go. He has gin. Wasn't that what they were playing?
The Never Mind Screen
Myriam at Clara's night table turns the key. The music box bird - chirps a Haydn tune; a porcelain Marie Antoinette shepherdess, coiffed coquettishly minuets with her marquis. Why don't they turn in different directions? Because they can't, Myriam. They're made to turn one way, maid Myriam. Don't expect them to dance. Who knows where I got them! On sale at Gimbels, maybe. What a question! Real fancy porcelain we used to have in Kiev. Before. Never here. Well, never mind.
The never mind screen . Again and always. Clara a dainty delicate bird, built in one ovoid piece, like a Babushka doll, sans the painted smile, on her knees to arrange a last row of stitching on the Easter dress. The bonnet's on but the hemline's off so it's on her knees she goes. But the begging comes from above the pedestal.
"Mama. You never told me about the Kiev porcelain, the Kiev shepherdess, the Kiev prince..."
"Don't ask, you do not want to know".
But, Madame of the needle an' hem, Kiev is sugar plumming her brain. Your Prince-lass is Eastering in the finest streets of the finest porcelain where a Marie Antoinette shepherdess and a marquis minuet eternally and no hair, no hemline are out of place. Pleazz Mama, is Fifth Avenue also in Kiev?
"Don't ask me, you will not want to know". But a softer voice rips a small hole in the never mind screen. "Stand still Myriam, for the life of you, stand still". Or for the life of me.
"Mama you pra-mist meee. All the other kids know about the Kievs of their parents and why yam I dif'rent"?
"You are different because you are different". Clara deftly shortens the hem. Yanks the last trail of thread. Rises. But Myriam is still the plum prince — lass who wants to know. And thus it all begins with a little geography lesson. Big Atlantic Ocean. Big European continent and way over here (The night table draw draws open . An atlas for the prince — lass. Clara points to the YOU —WESS-ESS- R LEAPING WEST 'n EAST an' SQUIGGLING SOUTH A LITTLE AND NORTH A LOT and in the centre of it all, KIEV, Keystone of the leaping land.) Smile on Myriam's face but she is not satisfied. Not yet.
"Mama, are there pretty shepherds and shepherdesses in Kiev? Is there a Fifth Avenue in Kiev? Is there an Easter parade?"
Easter Sunday parades in Kiev tend to tear asunder the never mind curtains that all the deft Mama stitching cannot repair. Death and destruction are outrageous rips. No frilly bonnets on a Kiev Fifth Avenue; but, she can recall...
Come over here, little American Myriam princess. Off your pedestal. The geography lesson is over. A history lesson begins. Prince-lass here, princess-less THERE in Kiev. Also sometimes life... And she tells it. It takes an hour - horror as History lessens not. Will she ever be ready for the parade, the one on Fifth? Prince Papa raps on the door. But there is a slowness in her skipping to him.
The hand of fate
"So how wuz the parade, Morris?" Sam Robinson's got a so-so but still playable hand.
"Went very good, Sam". Morris slaps down a card.
"Did it"? His didit did it, again. Like Clara did it. To the child.
Sam picks a card from the pile. Yeah, maybe a run.
The Cossack and Clara. Nothing to do but beg for mercy. Or lie. Live and lie. The same word but for a letter. And Sam trumps him again.
"OH did it"? The soon to be knifed looks at the glistening blade; the glistening is more terrifying than the blade. Remember to take a deep breath before you die.
"Did you hear different?" Three kings and a jack Morris has. What can go wrong now?
"Did I hear different? Sure, I heard. I heard different. I saw different. " Truth is a stinging police light and, if truth be told, Sunday evening coming home from the parade, Morris had played the "I'm not looking at you so you can't see me" game with Sam who was where he was not supposed to be.
"What happened at that damn Easter parade that upset her like it did"? Breathe deeply dear Morris. Your truth time has come. Lie low and live.
"Like I told ya Sam, she's a very sensitive child. All those uniforms marching and tubas and the cymbals. And the mounted police... She's never been further than her public school down the block and all at once she sees strange looking people..." Morris discards and picks.
"We all know she's sick in the head Morris. Therez no two ways about it. She's poison living in poison and spitting out poison. There are doctors for that. Look, you can't go on with the ghosts all the time. They're eating her and they will be eating your little princess. She's death to you and will be to the kid. I'm sorry. But when I saw your little girl scream and cry all the way up to the house, I noo exactly what had happened. Again I'm sorry I gotta say this to you but it's for your own good. Because, believe me, I'm your friend. It's killin' you. It's killin' me. "
The rug again! Quick! Anything to weave over the woe. " Well, friend of mine. Die a thousand deaths because I got gin."