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Content warning: this story contains some mild graphic imagery that may be disturbing to some readers

There was a shortage of headstones that year. They ordered one from England because it would arrive quickest. The body arrived before the headstone, so they used a little placard instead of a stone at the funeral. The funeral was an hour away— I took the train and they picked me up from the station. There was a rabbi at the funeral. He was short and fat, and smelled like matzo balls. There were others too, but I did not know them, or perhaps I had forgotten them. It was hot and the sun was out, but I thought it would be better if it had rained. The ceremony was brief. People spoke, but nothing was said. His mother could not finish her speech, she had to be helped back to her seat. They played music too, but it was the wrong music, he wouldn’t have liked it if he knew he was being buried to it. But he didn’t know, so it was alright. The heat was awful. Six of us carried him. It was strange because I hadn’t seen him in many years and now he was in a box and I was carrying the box. I didn’t remember him being so heavy. Was it the coffin that was making him so heavy? Do people get heavier when they die? Maybe they got him mixed up with his headstone and it was his headstone in the coffin instead of him. If it was really him you wouldn’t need six — one or two would do. We put him down by the pit and joined the others. The rabbi led us in the kaddish prayer, rocking back and forth and muttering. I caught clutches of Hebrew, but most of it was just sound. I liked the kaddish though. I liked the rhythm of it. It was just like all the other prayers except it was for the dead and it had that wonderful rhythm to it. Even the words were about the same — no mention of the dead. It was all about the rhythm, rocking you back and forth in the cradle as if it were the opposite end of life. ‘Born anew in God.’ They say there’s a hormone that only gets released at birth and at death. The only other way to get it is to take DMT. I never did it but he did. He got to die twice, I guess. Or maybe we are the ones being born. He died and he was a part of us, so we died too, and now we are reborn. When the kaddish ended the undertaker came. He had a sick grin on his face, I don’t know why. Maybe he thought it was reassuring but it wasn’t, it was sick and disgusting. There was a guy on a tractor who came with the undertaker. The tractor was obscenely loud. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything so loud in my life. I looked around to see if it was some kind of joke but nobody was smiling besides the undertaker. The tractor dumped a pile of dirt by the pit. We all lined up like Jews on a death march. I suppose we were Jews on a death march. One by one everyone shoveled a clod of dirt onto the coffin. It was very important that everyone had their turn. Some were too old to manage it themselves, but in those cases the rabbi would always give them a hand. Why? Because otherwise he’s not really gone. Not unless everyone agreed to it. Now it was over. I hadn’t cried though I wanted to. I never cry when I really ought to, it’s always at the stupidest times. It would be nice not to cry when dogs die in movies. I know it isn’t real, but what does it matter. It’s even worse. It dies again and again and again and again each time you watch the movie. But no tears for Lev — not yet. After the funeral they took us to the synagogue, the rabbi was there again. I thought maybe he’d leave us alone. There were tables with cold sandwiches at the synagogue. I wonder what God thinks of cold sandwiches. There were drinks too, they had Makers, I remember. Makers Mark — Seal of God — Sigillum Dei, is it? Fitting. I poured myself some. More speeches, more prayers. More prayers, more speeches.

The smartest in the room

A son, a brother

An awful tragedy

Died for his people

He will be remembered

Baruch atah adonai

Baruch atah adonai

One more baruch atah and I’ll cave someone’s head in. I ate a cold sandwich to calm down. What was I thinking? Of all the things that could calm me down… They had the flag up on the wall. Stars (six-pointed) and stripes (double-fisted). I could’ve drawn them a better one. There was a picture of Lev in uniform by the altar. He looked good in uniform. Different, but good. Did they bury him in that? No. It must’ve been ripped to shreds. Besides, it’s tasteless. Like cold sandwiches. Lev didn’t mind cold sandwiches. He didn’t mind the army either. That’s how it goes: if you can take a cold sandwich you can take anything. I prefer the Makers —that’s weakness of character. They want me to say something. Say what? I think that, I don’t say it. That would be rude. I should have prepared something, I even thought about it but I didn’t. I didn’t because I’m lazy. Not because I didn’t have anything to say, or because it wouldn’t be right, or because fuck them, no. Indolence. I’ll say something anyway, or rather I’ll speak, but I won’t say anything.

We met in

Both of us knew that

Can’t believe

I hope everyone

I almost said something but I held back. They don’t want to end the war, they want to win it. It’s times like this that I want to watch TV. TV doesn’t have right and wrong, only good and bad. Funny is good, corny is bad. Unpredictable/predictable. Character/construct. Life is better in TV. Lev thought so too, at Yeshiva sometimes I would climb up into his bunk from mine and we would sit together watching it. His favorite was a show about Mossad. Someone who used to be in Mossad went and made a show about how he was in Mossad starring himself. He’s one ugly bastard but in the show he gets all the girls. Blood, guts, guns, cuts, knives, lives, etc. Lev thought it was badass and it was but it was TV. TV doesn’t have right and wrong but we do. The good guys are only good because it’s good TV. Anyway. It was late. They took me back to the station.

Be careful out there

People have gone crazy

I heard

They heard. I’m sure they heard all kinds of things. The train came and rescued me.

I heard it as soon as I got off. At first I thought it was just the tractor echoing in my head — GHGHGHGHGHGHGHGHGH. The sun was still out and it was peaceful in town, but the sound wouldn’t go away. Then I looked up and saw the helicopter. That’s a bird of prey if I’ve ever seen one. That means it’s still going on then — the cops bluffed. It was a long walk home and the meadow was closer so that’s where I headed. The sun was out and it was the same sun as before but it was cold now. Too cold if I’m being honest. It was the wind: it kept blowing one way, then another way, then another way, until all you wanted was to be inside with a hot cup of tea. Or Maker’s. When I got close enough the megaphones drowned out the GHGHGHGH. The camp had grown. There were more tents now and more people on blankets. It was all color-coded: Red tent, black tent. White tent, green tent. Cute. The meadow was by a big road and cars would honk as they passed by. Signs with the word "fuck" in block letters. Sea rhymed with free and things like that. Lots of flags — now that’s a nice-looking flag, they had the right idea. It all comes down to the flag at the end of the day. Someone I knew was being interviewed by a reporter. She was nervous in front of the big fancy camera. I get that.

What are you protesting?

The university funds genocide

What do you mean?


They both knew that she didn’t know and I felt bad. I was standing and someone tapped me. It was another reporter and I saw that he they had a nose like mine.

A few questions?



What are you protesting?

The murder of innocents

Is that what the others are here for?

Enemy of my enemy

And so on. He didn’t like my answers but that didn’t bother me so much, I liked that he didn’t like my answers. Where are my friends? It’s cold. Coffee first. I walked over the tarp to base camp. It took a while, which was impressive. Base camp was heaven, they had it all. From there I could see the police on the edges standing around with their dicks in their hands and the people holding megaphones with spit flying out of their mouths. They had coffee from Starbucks, none of that Dunkin bongwater. Also bagels. Pizza. Fried tofu for the vegans. Propane grill for nonvegans. Sleeping bags. First Aid. Ponchos. Educational pamphlets. Board games. Tampons. No condoms though — there go my plans. I go to find my friends. They’re out there on a blanket reading the paper: first time I’ve seen anyone reading the paper in years. I say hello and they hand me a paper. Workers Vanguard. I read, well I don’t read because like I said I’m lazy, I look at the pictures and read the captions: Page 2, Biden (left) and Trump (right), posterboys of decrepit U.S. imperialism. Yikes. Not my presidents. I share my coffee and they share their nicotine, fair’s fair. They don’t know about Lev and I don’t tell them. It’s better that way I think. Everyone’s talking about some poet and how great he’s gonna be. Then they announced it on the loudspeaker, only he’s not a poet, the poet is someone else and he’s reading their poem against bourgeois art. Sorry, he’s reading their poem, ‘Against Bourgeois Art.’ He read it.

they are as safe as old toilet paper

revolution swoops the world, bourgeois artists stare at crumbs of dust in the light

the world is heavier than they know. THEY DO NOT KNOW

they fight knowledge with abstraction and think they cool because they talk to theyself!

complex but the people think it’s as profound and complex as m o n k e y   f a r t s

Oh god. Oh god. He comes over after to say hi and I smile because that’s what you do. We’re all one big happy family out here on our camping trip. A girl in a neon vest is making the rounds asking people for their trash and recycling and if they need anything. Oh god. Out of the frying pan and into the eco-friendly air fryer. GHGHGHGHGHGH goes the news helicopter that is gonna drop a pile of dirt any day now that’ll bury us all. I leave them now to go off and sniff monkey farts in peace. I think about Lev and his headstone that hasn’t arrived yet. What does it say? What would mine say, if I dropped dead? I know — ‘He thought he was cool because he talked to himself.’ Someone started singing over the loudspeaker and I stopped walking. I didn’t understand at first, I’d never heard anything like it. The melody wound its way and danced around a single syllable, then flowed almost unnoticeably into the next. A hush fell over the camp. I could see by their faces that they didn’t understand either. There was something deeply mystical about it, something that grabbed you by the spinal cord and squeezed the fluid out like toothpaste. Even the sound of the helicopter blades had disappeared. My body was entirely weightless and I could feel the Maker’s Mark boiling back up into my esophagus, and still I did not know what it was. Only when people in keffiyeh began to stand and gather at one end of the camp did I understand that it was a call to prayer. Yet it was nothing like the kaddish, it was something else entirely and yet it was the same. They were all kneeling with their heads touching the ground now and the singer went to join them and there was silence. That was when the tears came —scorching, punishing acid tears. I try to choke them down but they won’t listen, they come screaming out into the quiet even though there is no dog and this isn’t a movie. It doesn’t last long. Some guy takes the mic and starts saying things like

Get comfortable

We’re gonna show them we’re not going anywhere

This is a slumber party

Then some music started playing that sounded a lot like monkey farts. Everything went back to how it was before the prayer with the megaphones and the GHGHGHGHGH and the signs with the obscenities and the recyclers and the Workers Vanguard and the smirking reporters and that was a shame I think. I thought maybe I’d like to see it from the outside again, so I left the camp. It was starting to drizzle. I hid from the rain under a tree and there was someone else there. He was real stylish, that was my first thought, my second was why does he have a camera. It wasn’t any old thing either — I don’t know much about cameras but I know for sure I can’t afford that one.

You work for the Daily or something?

I asked.


What’s with the camera?

For posterity


He adjusted his glasses and looked at me like I was a museum antique. I could see the question in his eyes.

Do you support the cause?

Do I? I don’t know. Do you?