Never Too Old
The centenarian hero of the forthcoming novel Liebestod enjoys a ménage à six with a rabbi’s wife, a Brazilian bombshell, and a three-legged cat
Friends! Leib Goldkorn speaking. Though I can hardly believe myself the miraculous events I am about to relate. They took place on the night of my 104th birthday, in my birthplace of Iglau—now, in the Czech Republic, the town of Jihlava. Yes, in my old boyhood home, in my bedroom, and on the tafetta-covered bed of my youth. Also sleeping within the walls of Number 5 Lindenstrasse, the following personages:
—Three of my cousins, Zipporah, the rebbetzin, that is, wife to a rabbi; Josefina, the Brazilian Bombshell, no more than age 30; and Abdi, the rabbi’s son, a muscular mesomorph with the defect of a lisp.
—Also: “Miss” Iveta Crumsovatna, Deputy Mayor, town of Jihlava, for Culture, Entertainments, and Sports. On the thin side. Jasmine perfume.
—Last: my feline friend, Hymena, a three-legged cat, green-eyed and red, with the general appearance of a brush that is used to clean bottles.
Let us return to the midnight hour. I had been asleep and dreaming, as is the wont of old men, of pretty little pigtailed things. I was awakened by a rustle and the creak of my door. I in my nightdress sat up: pushing through the crack, a slippered foot and the five plump fingers of a hand. Zipporah! The rebbetzin! Tip-toeing into my chamber. As the full figure drew closer, I calmly addressed her: “Begone, Madam. You are but a dream, a fig leaf of fancy.”
She did not vanish. She came toward me, speaking thus: “Oh, dear man, look at you! Such a nightcap! With a ball at the end.”
Still I resisted. “Madam, Leib Goldkorn cannot be fooled by such a wool-of-the wisp. Be off! To horse!”
But she did not go off. Instead, in her tent-like caftan, she drew closer. “Permission, if you please, to sit?” She pointed to a corner of my feather-filled mattress. I nodded. “Cousin Goldkorn, I have for you certain feelings. Look, I will show them to you.” And with that she pulled both halves of her robe aside.
Like many a youth, I took much interest in the operations of the Deutsche Luftschiffahrts-AG, particularly the LZ-4, which I once saw sailing over the Bohemian-Moravian Heights, and the LZ-11, the Viktoria Luise, named for the Duchess of Brunswick, who with her high waist and hair in a bun was for the lads of Iglau a hot ticket. What the spouse of Rabbi Yitzhak ben Kaspar did when she offered to show me her feelings was to release from the hanger of her opened caftan two such Zeppelins, which, in this windless atmosphere, hung motionless before my gaping eyes.
It was on this very bed and on that very spot that my mother, Falma, had perched when reading to her only male child a Silesian fairy tale; or rocking him in times of illness; or, on more than one occasion, shedding with him a tear as she complained of the attentions shown to our housemaid by my putative père. Herr Doktor Freud, of nearby Vienna, might say that this was the reason I in the grip of a primitive instinct threw off my nightshirt and lurched forward on all fours, taking the leftward mam in my mouth and suckling there a full moment before changing objects and beginning to nurse at the mam on the right. And in the dark continent? Stirrings.
Suddenly, a crash! a bang! And the door flew wide. The Bombshell!
“Meu Leib! With another amante!”
“Ho, ho. It is not what you think. Nourishment only. Water, water everywhere. You know. And not a drop to drink.”
Uttering that cry, Josefina dashed to the non-Sealy and began to climb aboard. “Not her. Me! I know what Leibie like. Eh? He like the sapatos. Sapatos com salto. With heels.”
By this she meant not any old McAn but her own five-inchers, red with black, shiny stilettos. But the Brazilian did not allow me the pleasure of examining the buckles, the straps, or the ankle knobs trapped inside them; instead, in an athletic maneuver, she leaped to my back, upon whose spine she began to trod.
“Ha, ha. I have hirsute shoulders. This has been from childhood an embarrassment.”
“Olha que coisa mais linda—” The Bombshell was singing the lyrics to “The Girl From Impanema,” while doing a samba across the short ribs.
Now occurred a moment that was even harder to believe. Through the open door strode the Deputy Mayor for Culture, Entertainments, and Sports.
“Leibie, Milácky, it is I, your Iveta.”
Not only that, she was barefoot. Barefoot, comrades! And through the loosened top of her waistcoat the pink eye of each modest mam came a-winking and a-peeking. Was it at that sight, or her smell of gardenia, that my Jewish-style member decided to explore the world outside its S. Klein drawers?
Jews and Booze, a fascinating new history of Prohibition-era bootleggers, barmen, rabbis, and cops, picks up where HBO’s Boardwalk Empire leaves off