I’m going to put up Vol. I of Far Gresham. This is a novel of life in America that many people would deny. I have been told by a few people that the story is a lie and could never happen in America.
The story is not a lie. It is a fictionalized account of a true story. In many ways it is horrifying but nevertheless it happened.
This Book is about 500 pages so that it will take a couple months to get up. As usual I will post one day and proofread the copy the next. Read along like an old newspaper serial if you like or come back at the end or drop in whenever you choose. I think you’ll find it’s a good story. This half takes place in the 1940s and the very early fifties.
Table Of Contents
Book I: Deep Mud And Slick Tires
Book II: Forty Miles Of Bad Road
Book III: Warbaby Remembers/The Bible In America
Book IV: Into The Mystic
Ah, Sinful nation,
folk whose guilt is heavy
oh, race of wrongdoers,
they have have abandoned the eternal.
Your whole head is sick,
Your whole heart is diseased.
Isaiah 1: 4,5
Book I: Deep Mud And Slick Tires
May 1938-June 1946
I was born on May 26, 1938. But like any other story mine has its antecedents long before the blessed event. They involve the characters of my mother and father. Their acts would have so much to do with what happened to me. To a very large extent my life would be shaped not only by my character and deeds but as well by animosities created long before I was conceived.
My mother’s family had come from Poland. Her grandparents emigrated to the United States in the eighteen-nineties. Landing at Castle Gardens they were conducted into the lower East Side, even to the fabled Hester Street. They had found the East Side too congested, too inhospitable. They longed more for the smell of the earth, the vista of more open skies. Migrating West, they stopped at Pittsburgh for a couple years, but hearing of even greener pastures they turned the corner of Lake Erie and settled in the Valley of Michigan. They were Jews.
Their daughter, my grandmother, a hard bitter woman, abjured Judaism as soon as she was able to embrace Americanism. She interpreted Americanism in the faith of her husband who was Pennsylvania Dutch, or as alternatively known, Rhineland German, whose family had found a place in the New Secular Order during the eighteenth century. So you see I go way back.
Thus, my mother, who was brought up Methodist, was shielded from my great-grandparents’ nationality by her mother. My grandmother forbade her parents to even mention Judaism in front of her children. You didn’t want to mess with that woman either. She was hard. My grandmother aspired for English husbands for her daughters. She wanted in.
The United States between the wars was still one of unassimilated or partially assimilated immigrants. Contrary to the Melting Pot theory of immigration, large numbers of immigrants refused to be melted. Many went to their graves speaking their native tongues. Foreign accents were still very common when I was a boy. National antecedents were still very important. It would take the European and Pacific wars to smash down the big wrinkles of national rivalries. The wars didn’t do a very job at that.
It was in this environment that the event occurred that would shape my history when it came my time to see the light of day.
My mother lived out in the Thumb in a little town called Adrian for most of her youth. As she entered high school her parents emigrated from the burg Adrian to the larger Valley. No one should ever be compelled to change schools after the sixth grade. A person needs the security of having a place among classmates he knows and who know him. There is nothing more difficult or dangerous to a person’s character than entering a new high school.
My mother was a large robust woman who still had traces of the cow dung of the farm about her shoes. The mildly sophisticated Valleyites smirked at her open frank manners as a hick from the sticks. She was a good hearted naive innocent thing who wished well for everyone. She could not comprehend why others should not be the same. Her goodwill gradually became blunted when she realized, had it pressed home to her, that the others ridiculed her open frank, or hick, attitude. Her cry of pain was such that only one who has had their kindness flung back in their faces can understand. It’s something like the scream of the butterfly.
You can imagine the attitude of the boys toward her. Those knights without chargers, Prince Charmings sans titles, decided to break her down for easy seduction by refusing to date her. Then when she was desperate from ostracization to move in for the easy kill. My mother had been brought up by fervent rural preachers, she was a good Christian girl; she had a sense of her own worth. Thus, rather than ripe for easy conquest, she was angered by the crude attentions thrust upon her by the sons of the Valley sophisticates.
Her frustrations were increased by her mother’s insistence that she date only good English boys. My mother had no trouble finding English boys but she couldn’t find a good one.
Her freshman and junior years were thus spent rejecting the advances of some crude young fellows. In her senior year, this tender maiden was asked out, perhaps politely commanded to go out would be a better description, with a boy named David Hirsh. Her wounded heart was doubtful of David’s intentions, yet she was flattered. David Hirsh was the son of one of the wealthiest families in the Valley. As my mother’s family’s economic status didn’t register on a scale of one to ten, she really ought to have known better. Rich boys ask poor girls out for one reason only.
Still, as I said, my mother had arrived in the city with the naivte of a Christian country girl. According to Christian doctrine if one has a pure heart one’s worthiness will eventually be recognized. My mother considered herself worthy. She thought perhaps her moment of recognition had come. She was, in fact, more worthy than David Hirsh.
David Hirsh’s family , as his name implies, was Jewish. You’d have to ask my grandmother why she made this exception. His family had emigrated during the German immigration of the 1840s to 1860s. Hirsh’s ancestors actually came from Prague that ancient center of European Jewry. His ancestors had actually lived against the wall of that famous cemetery in Prague where the saints of Judaism were buried. The Hirshes were of ancient lineage. David’s grandfather had arrived in the 1860s while the Civil War raged. He stepped from Castle Gardens just as the flames of that great criminal uprising known as the Draft Riots were dying down.
David’s ancestors were not without means. His relatives in Europe had been well to do. After mucking about in New York a bit trying to find a sense of direction, his grandfather found one and headed West into the Old Northwest. Thus the eighties found David’s immediate ancestors in the Valley. Baruch Hirsh, David’s grandfather, set up as a haberdasher. Baruch’s son Solomon had a greater retail vision. Baruch listened and was proud to have such a son. the two developed Hershey’s Department Store. Hershey’s was the marvel of Michigan retail North of Detroit, which was saying something. But it has to be kept in perspective, there weren’t that many people North of Detroit at that time.
David Hirsh was thus the heir apparent of the most successful store North of Detroit. This was saying something unqualifiedly in both Valley terms and the terms of the times of the Great Depression. Hershey’s wasn’t doing as well as it mgiht have been in more affluent times but Solomon Hirsh had not been caught off base by the Crash of ’29 as many of his contemporaries had. Solomon was not all that quick but neither was he that slow. While others had plunged into the stock market heavily and stayed too long, he had been more moderate in his investing and more intelligent in realizing that nothing goes up forever. He was patient and methodical. He would be surprised but given time to analyze a situation he would always be able to perceive the general trend. Now benefiting from his father’s wisdom, David Hirsh was enabled to cut a wide swath about town. David had his own automobile, and he had a new one in his Junior year, that was not quite as snappy as his new one in his Senior year. He drove it to school every day. There was plenty of parking. He bounced into the parking lot and slid to a stop in a stall in a manner that announced that David A. Hirsh was HERE. He had the latest styles in clothing, every color and every shade of every design. He had the latest styles and in abundance. He was living the good life.
Nature had also endowed him. He was tall, dark and handsome. Six feet two with just the right amount of wave to his hair. He cut a fine figure about town. Yet, there was just a hint of a lack of confidence in his posture; a slight diffidence in his walk. Perhaps he felt apologetic for being Jewish. He certainly, one couldn’t say he concealed it, but he didn’t like the fact brought out either. To conceal this slight sense of inferiority he adopted an attitude of brash arrogance. Yet to the observant eye, and there were not that many, he failed to pull the attitude off. His attitude slid off to the edge of bumptiousness with an apparent streak of cruelty.
Thus David Hirsh watched the tall buxom girl, my mother, who no one had been able to touch for two years and he fancied he was the man to break the bank at Monte Carlo. Or, as they all talked among themselves, he was the one to get into her pants.
David chose his friends from that group that was just beneath him in status as he was unable to be comfortable with his equals. Among these friends he was in the habit of being boastful of his possessions and exploits. They were sycophantic hoping for crumbs like riding around in his car. Thus as his desire grew he began telling the boys what he was going to do to the Polish broad.
Finally, one day he strode over to my mother and told her that she was going out with him. My mother was both offended and flattered at the same time. Her mixed feelings flashed before his eyes which David in his egoism took for the flush of pleasure. She was uncertain of his intentions, nevertheless her tender heart was bursting for recognition of her virtues. Her first two years had been painful; more in hope that her value was at last recognized, as the Good Book promised, rather than enamored of David she accepted, besides how could her mother complain when the catch of the school drove up for her.
Here David Hirsh, as was his habit throughout life, began to dig his own grave. Perhaps he over compensated for his sense, not really of inferiority, but his conspicuousness as a Jew, or what he thought was conspicuousness, for his American lineage was quite respectable. He did not, as yet, look Jewish, yet he wore his Jewishness as a badge. There were those to remind him of it if he forgot but then they had the same attitudes toward Poles, Italians and immigrants in general. David was over tender in a rough and tumble America. thus he did not wear his advantages with the calm air of the patrician, but with the bumptiousness of the upstart. We are all innocents in that respect, we carry our weight not only as we would but as others permit us. David saw himself as the persecuted exception and reacted accordingly.
With my mother’s consent to a date he began to boast to the boys what he was going to do to the ‘Polack bitch’, when he was going to do it to her and where. As always David Hirsh would have no one to blame but himself; as always he would refuse responsibility.
Having primed both his fellows and himself, the big Saturday night arrived. His car pulled away from the curb in front of my mother’s house with my mother in the passenger seat. David’s confidence for the success of his plan would have been apparent to the Derby Ram. My mother immediately realized her mistake; in his exultation David failed to note my mother’s instant disappointment and revulsion. She looked away, her merit was yet to be validated.
As her emotions overwhelmed her senses, she probably didn’t even hear David Hirsh ask why didn’t they dispense with the movie and just go for a drive in the country instead. David with a deep chuckle interpreted her silence as acquiescence. As she sat immersed in her misery David kept up a bright chat as his car surged impatiently for those country lanes.
My mother had not yet emerged from her misery when she felt David’s hand on her thigh. Reflexively she batted Hirsh across the mouth with the back of her hand. David felt it but he felt more the mortification of his disappointed hopes. In his anger he began to shout, scream at my mother that she must put out or get out. His words roared past her like the winds of a hurricane. Scarcely understanding David’s words but registering his dismissive gesture her hand mechanically reached for the door handle as her eyes filled with tears.
Politely shutting the door she began the long walk home.
Scarcely able to believe my mother’s reaction, David had been successful with this ploy before, he sat bouncing on the seat clutching the steering wheel yelling, ‘Hey, hey.’ at her receding figure. Beside himself with the humiliation of rejection David opened the car door, stood on the running board, and yelled epithets at her like Bohunk and Wop, erring in his geography as the clarityof his mind shifted left through the reds. People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. My mother shot back one word, the most feared word in the Jewish vocabulary, ‘Kike!’ To gois the word has only one meaning that includes all Jews but David considered himself a German Jew . The word kike is of German Jewish origin used to denigrate Eastern European Jews from the Russian Pale of Settlement. Thus David took it in a double sense accentuating the German-Jewish meaning. Technically speaking he wasn’t a kike. The word was not only an insult to him, he thought, it wasn’t even used correctly.
David immediately choked back his rage and calmly sat back behind the wheel. Closing the door calmly and deliberately he thought: So that was why she rejected him. Because he was Jewish. She was an anti-Semite. Minds like David Hirsh’s can never differentiate between action and reaction. Well he would be able to show her. He put his car in gear moving slowly along until his rear wheels were abreast of my mother at which time he gave it all the gas the pedal allowed and popped the clutch showering her with gravel from the unpaved road. Sliding to a halt he stood on the running board shouting back at her: “Ha! Ha! Take that you bigoted bitch!’ How David twisted the facts around. While he had the makings of a gentleman he didn’t have the wrapper.
Acting on Hirsh’s boast of his anticipated conquest, his friends, unwilling to accept his bare word as to his success, had driven out to the location which Hirsh had advertised to them and secreted themselves in the ditch. At that time in the Valley the fields were drained into deep ditches which ran along either side of the road. It had been his friends’ intention, when the car got rocking, to emerge from the ditch to enjoy the live sex act. They had intended to clap and grunt to the rhythm, then run off cackling loudly. Now they emerged from their ditch cackling loudly, but for a different reason. In their car, driving past my mother who was trudging along disconsolately, they flung a few insults at her and drove away laughing madly. My mother recognized them, intuited the whole situation and buried the pain in her heart.
The following Monday Hirsh arrived at Valley High. Putting on his most boastful strut he walked up to his locker where the boys were waiting for him with an air of expectation. They were obvious enough that David should have seen through them, but with the confidence of obtuseness he plunged ahead. Assuming the smile of one who knows but who has to be coaxed to tell he quietly went abut stowing his jacket with a soft ‘Hi, boys.’ tossed off in their direction. To a chorus of ‘How’d it go, Dave?’ he dropped his jaw open shoved his tongue into his left cheek and beamed a ‘Wouldn’t you like to know?’ look at them. They were ready and they wanted to know.
The boys began a series of innocent questions, then eased into a series of more knowing questions. David looked at them sharply. The thought: Hey, how could you guys know that? began to form in his mind, when, the answer quickly following, slammed against the inside of his forehead crushed like popcorn under the wheels of a locomotive. His pained expression brought forth the merriment of his friends. He had set himself up, been had, and been had bad. His friends, who chafed under their inferiority to him took full advantage of his embarrassment. Nor when he turned fifty would they let him forget it. Big boys don’t cry, at least they don’t let others see them doing it. Excusing himself, David Hirsh went home and vomited in the toilet.
My poor mother who, had she fornicated, would have paid a dear price for her lapse of character, now paid for her integrity. David Hirsh was that type of person who found slights and insults to avenge where none had been intended or even existed. He had dug his own grave, he blamed everyone else because he had to lie in it. Unable to accept responsibility for his own actions he accused my mother of intentionally humiliating him. He began the whisper campaign. He changed and distorted the facts; he didn’t fail to mention that her retort had been ‘kike’ but he left out that it had been a retort to his own insults. His torts disappeared in the telling.
On this note their senior year ended. Their lives had nothing in common. My mother went her way, Hirsh went his. But David Hirsh was neither the forgiving or forgetting kind. David believed, quite sincerely, that my mother had humiliated him and had set him up for humiliation on purpose. He meant to have vengeance he could feel. There was not enough of it in the whole world.
Sometime in the summer after graduation my mother met my father. He was a nice looking boy who had graduated in her class. He had an English name, my grandmother was satisfied. David Hirsh, who in this same summer was busy with his own romance took time to notice. He was determined to scotch her romance if he could. He was determined that she was not to find happiness. Hirsh sent a couple of his friends to pay attention to my mother. If he could divert her attention from my father perhaps he could ruin the romance. Once the romance was destroyed then his friends would lose interest in my mother and she would be left empty handed. David would gain some satisfaction, not enough, but some.
My father found Hirsh’s flies buzzing around my mother. They in their turn made knowing comments about my mother. My father was not a stupid man. He looked at those guys, knew who their leader was and was vaguely aware of the situation between my mother and Hirsh through high school gossip. My father did not come from an affluent background. His people were hillbillies from Kentucky. He had despised Hirsh from afar because of his show of wealth. Now that the equality of school was a thing of the past and economic shadings were being forced upon him, he was developing a real resentment against the presumptions of the rich. Thus he easily traced the problem to its source. My father was not known for his placid temper.
While Hirsh was attending a Sunday Ice Cream Social in Pfeffercorn Park, my father strode into the park and confronted Hirsh. Bad form but right action. In the resulting exchange of words, David made the mistake of asking: ‘Yeah, Gresham, what are you going to do about it?’ My father belted Hirsh in the mouth and knocked him down. ‘That’s what I’m going to do about it. And there’s more where that came from if you don’t lay off.’ he said as he walked away. To add to David’s chagrin he was knocked down and didn’t jump up in front of his soon to be fiancee, Beverly Webster. Still on the ground he uttered dire threats as my father stalked out of the park.
‘The sins of the father…’ Hirsh muttered as he attempted to retrieve his dignity and get up, ‘The sins of the father…’
Nevertheless he did not desist; he only became more circumspect. He was learning to become a man.
About a year later both my mother and father as well as David Hirsh and Beverly Webster were married. Beverly Webster was the daughter of Big Ben Webster who owned Webster’s Coal Company. The Websters, with a monopoly of coal in the Valley, at that time few houses were heated by oil or natural gas, were probably the most influential family in the Valley. The union of the two families was the sensation of the season. As my mother had been instructed to get an Englishman, David had been instructed to find a wife of old American stock. He had; the Websters had landed in 1669.
The wedding was celebrated in the Valley News under the headline: The Melting Pot Bubbles. David Hirsh was billed as a son of the God of Justice, while Beverly Webster was referred to as a daughter of the Religion Of Love. Two biblical traditions were joined as one. Very romantic. After a couple of paragraphs gushing over how Old World differences were being filed away to create an entirely new and golden people, my how they could ramble in those days, the paper got into the details of the wedding which were lavish.
David kept an eye on my mother and father, against both of whom he now bore a grudge. Hershey’s, as a department store was a major financial strut of the Valley News. David used his influence to keep the notice of my parents more modest wedding out of the paper. They complained, of course, but were given the glib excuse thast it was an oversight. My mother actually believed such trash. She believed that things happened, that coincidence abounds. Things don’t happen, they are caused. Coincidences don’t abound, they are more often planned.
After a time I was given the gift of light, a month before the first Hirsh offspring, their son Michael.
To all appearances David Hirsh had a brilliant future before him. But rather than counting his blessings he dwelt on his grievances. His grievances ate like chancres at his soul. He couldn’t forget that each of my parents had frustrated his designs. Like most elitists he believed he was entitled to succeed; failure of his plans meant to him that his rights had been violated. He now set out to destroy my parents marriage, and he did.
My father had apparently expected to live on love as he had no steady job. It was still the tail end of the depression before the Wars provided steady employment for millions: men at war and women in the factories. He had no skills, we had very little money. My parents lived in a small little house, just a notch above a shack, really, out in the numbers off Janes Road. I can’t remember the number of the street. Thus after a fairly desperate life in high school my mother was faced with a bleak impoverished existence.
One would think that Hirsh would have settled for that, but he didn’t. David sent seducers to dazzle her with the appearance of affluence. She told my father she was neither dazzled nor seduced. My father refused to believe it. Thus between his embarrassment at not being able to provide for us adequately and his suspicions about my mother’s virtue, he began to have fits of violence. He had always had a temper; now, unable to reach his enemies he began to take it out on my mother.
When I was two and a half he became angry with my mother and began to beat her in my presence. My father had knocked my mother down and was bending over her when I leaped on his back demanding he leave my mother alone. Fist still clenched and raised before him, my little arms clutched around his neck, he glanced over his left shoulder and gave me a look of the most inexpressible sorrow. Shame had overcome him. I read in his eyes that he meant to desist.
At that moment my mother leapt up. She lifted me off my father’s back and stood me up against the wall. She said: ‘Farley, honey, stay out of this or you’ll get hurt.’ Then she went to assume her former position to be beaten.
The human mind reacts to information in peculiar ways. One’s character is made up, not so much by the information presented to one’s mind as by one’s interpretation of it. My young unformed mind grappled with this information. My brain interpreted the information as that one was not to defend oneself. One was not to attempt to alter the course of events. Thus since then, I, while unafraid, have made little effort to defend myself. I have let events take their course.
Shortly after this instance my mother and father parted. She filed for divorce. Her life to that point had been one of bitter disappointments. Her attitude toward life changed after her divorce. She then had to go to work. We went to live at her mother’s. There, perhaps because of the dazzle Hirsh’s friends had shown her, ashamed of the poverty of life with my father, she determined to ‘better’ herself.
In the manner of those who have known poverty the clothes she chose to express her betterment were a bit on the flashy side. the Fortress Of God Congreational Church was considered the elite of churches in the Valley; all the prosperous families attended it. For some reason my mother thought she would be welcome among those very Christian brethren of the religion of love.
Fortress Congregational happened to be the church that David and Beverly Hirsh attended. David was Jewish but was lax and unobservant. Affluence and a lack of antagonism caused David to be unconcerned about religion. He and Beverly had never discussed religion before marriage. So when Michael was born Beverly automatically began to attend Fortress Congregational. David had not objected and even accompanied her. Thus David attended Fortress Congregational with Beverly without discussion or even thinking about it.
Beveryly was quite proud of David. She considered him a catch. The idea of ‘catch’ went beyond his appearance and social standing which were, of course, important to her, but with her biblical Protestant upbringing which taught her to reverence the mythic quality of Israel and Israelites she prized him especially as ‘her tall Israelite.’ Israelite should not be confused with Jew. True, as an Israelite he must have been a Jew but for Beverly David stepped straight out of the pages of the Old Testament bypassing all the history between. She saw him not only as a direct lineal descendant of the Patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but almost as contemporary with them. All the mythos which the Protestants invest in Genesis and Exodus was transferred by Beverly onto David’s shoulders. The whole divine afflatus, as it were, she invested in David Hirsh.
David himself, unaware of the mystery invested in the Old Testament by Protestants, and quite mystified by some of their interpretations of that text, was quite unknowing of the real reason Beverly loved him so. He accepted the adoration she gave him which was never more apparent than while in Fortress Of God Congregational.
This glow from Beverly was actually part of why he enjoyed attending church with her.
The two with little Michael were two pews ahead of us as my mother and I took our seats. Hirsh, with half an eye on incoming worshippers, had recognized her immediately and turned his back so as not to be seen. My mother did not notice him.
Not yet three, I was scooting about the aisles, probably trying to get the attention I promptly received. The ‘sins of my father’ descended upon me. Here before the God of Justice in His citadel of love, Hirsh grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, thrust me back at my mother, hissing between his teeth: ‘Keep the little bastard quiet.’
‘Don’t take it out on my little boy.’ My mother pleaded.
‘Yes!’ Hirsh hissed. ‘Yes!’
We didn’t go back.
Our move to my grandmother’s was more fateful than I might have thought. Had we stayed out on Janes Road I would have entered kindergarten in a different school district. My grandmother lived in the Emerson school district. Emerson district just happened to be the one within which the Hirshes resided although in a better neighborhood. So when I entered kindergarten Michael Hirsh took the news home to his father.
David listened, pursed his lips just so, raised his eyebrows as the cat who has just spotted the mouse, picked up his newspaper and walked slowly and thoughfully over to his recliner. He calmly slid into the seat easing the chair back as he raised the paper to cover his eyes and became absorbed in thought. Wasn’t God good to him? he thought. He had delivered his enemy into his hands.
What did David Hirsh lack to enjoy the most pleasant of lives? Nothing. His pregnant wife cooked in the kitchen, his son played on the floor at his feet, his roof was freshly tiled, the check to pay for it had cleared and left a goodly balance behind in the bank. Could David have counted his blessings this story would not be told. But he couldn’t. He could not change his habit of clinging to old grievances. The poison red berries of yesteryear’s harvest had drenched his brain with their bitter juice. He demanded vengeance for injuries that had been returned on himself because of his need to inflict injury to prove his pre-eminence to himself. The seeds sown in the Old Testament of the Bible provide but a bitter harvest. Rather than embracing a joyous life, David pursued death to prove himself alive.
David’s grandfather Baruch who had established the basis of the family fortune had, in David’s view, been compelled to live the life of a nonentity. His father, Solomon, while respected, had been denied the ascendancy which, in David’s view, God had intended him to have. The way appeared clear in 1943 for David to achieve the status the Hirshes believed was theirs by the divine right of their personal god. Still David would have to work for his position. The fourth generation Hirsh, Michael, was being groomed to inherit the position of arbiter, Prince, of the Valley. In 1943 the Hirshes and Websters appeared to be an unbeatable combination. The scions of the Hershey Department Store and Webster Coal Co. fortunes had determined that Michael Hirsh was to be a leader of men. They foresaw a time when he would assume the title of King of the Valley. This was not an unwarranted hope.
There was a fatal flaw to their plan. Rather than training Michael to leadership traits, more effort was being put into the training of his companions, who were half the kindergarten class to be submissive. He and his friends were the Eloy of the class. Below Michael and the Eloy were we Morlocks who were expected to be servile, hewers of wood and carriers of water. Here too the Scions erred, for I was not by nature a Morlock.
But David sat and considered. Having sat and considered he concluded. He gave Michael his instructions. I was to be beneath the Morlocks. I was to be the least of the lesser, the most bottom of all. I was to be denied and humiliated at every turn.
David and the parents of the Eloy were influential. Our teacher acceded to their requests, she was even attuned to respond to hints. The Eloy were given preference. The Morlocks fell in behind. I demanded equality. During the first part of the year I was fairly successful. But having attained my rights the Eloy failed to cooperate.
The teacher had constructed a boat out of boxes and chairs and what not. We all wove Indian file through this boat on an imaginary voyage.
One of us led the procession making all the whistle noises. I was entranced. Michael led the first day, succeeded on the next day by the Eloy in turn. When the Eloy had finished the game was discontinued rather than have Morlocks leading Eloy. I demanded an opportunity to lead the procession, but the lesser and the least were not intended to be leaders of the Eloy. I insisted and of course in Democratic America the teacher had to concede.
I proudly took my place as leader and the Morlocks fell in behind. The Eloy, giving me reproachful venemous looks refused to participate. I had transgressed on their aristocratic rights. Michael Hirsh carried his tale to David Hirsh. David gave instructions and efforts to isolate me were redoubled. They were also successful. It was David Hirsh’s idea to avenge himself on my mother and father by destroying my life. He hoped to convince me that I was worthless. I’m sure he would have succeeded. The rejection which I could not understand left me more and more despondent as the year wore on. Such treatment continued for years would have left me abject. I was as good as lost when an event occurred in the spring of kindergarten which had an astounding effect not only on my life but on David and Michael Hirsh’s lives as well.
The wars in Europe and the Pacific raged requiring ever larger complements of men. Employers sought workers anywhere to keep production going. Women of Rosie the Riveter fame entered manufacturing in numbers but they were not enough besides they couldn’t do the heavy work. You need real slaveys for that.
The government and employers went into the South and moved Negroes North and West. Prior to the wars there had been few Black Folk in the Valley. Then, in 1943, numbers of Negroes, as they were respectfully known, began to arrive. The inevitable friction arose between Blacks and Whites. Of course, today no one will admit to ever having been resentful of Black Folk; nevertheless, then as now, they were expected to live and stay in their own quarter of town.
In 1943, as the school year was nearing its end, it was announced to us, or word got out, that three Black children, Negroes, would be joining our class. Without our, or at least my, knowing it the knowledge which had reached adult circles before us created a furor among them. There were great racial distinctions made at that time. The South was still separate but equal. The doctrine had great appeal in the North also if not put into those exact words. The parents of our students were infuriated that their children would have to attend school with Negroes.
At the same time forces were working to integrate the races. The two sides came into conflict in the kindergarten at Emerson. David Hirsh and his allies refused to have Negroes attend Emerson. His opponents pointed out that the law required all children to attend school; the Negro children could be no exception. All people were equal before the law. The Negroes would attend Emerson.
Hirsh and his allies lost the first round. The Negro children were entered at Emerson.
David Hirsh made up his mind that if they did attend they would be sorry. They were not to be received in good grace. Michael Hirsh and the Eloy began circulating among the Morlocks advising them that the Negroes would be arriving and on what day. It was made emphatically clear that no one was to play with them or talk to them. I was already in that category so I was not startled by their intent. The Morlocks acquiesced with their usual placidity. I’ve never had to wonder why they chew gum.
Then the Negro kids arrived. Hostility toward them turned the atmosphere vicious. They were studiously and contemptuously avoided. As recess time arrived we were again warned not to play with them. Michael Hirsh singled me out; he made a point of wagging his finger at me, sternly looking at me while he admonished me. Perhaps he remembered when I led the Morlocks through the boat against his wishes.
The Eloy filed out first followed by the Negroes. As usual I was required to bring up the rear. As I say, I was nearly isolated, no one could play with me. I didn’t understand why; thus I was developing a listless indifferent attitude that would have gratified David Hirsh’s vengeful wishes except for what happened next.
By the time I got outside I saw that the Negro kids had been compelled to sit on the edge of the sandbox. Michael Hirsh with the massed Eloy at his back was standing over the Negroes wagging his everlasting finger at them. As I slouched up I heard him telling them that they were to sit on the sandbox all through recess and not move a kinky hair. I was aghast. I was prepared not to talk to them, but to compel them to sit on the sandbox was criminally unfair. I thought Michael and the Eloy were going too far.
As I was an outcast I had nothing to lose. I told the Negroes to ignore Michael. I told them to get up and the four of us would go off and play together. Michael came unglued. He started shouting at me to watch my step. I raised my fists and told the Negroes to get up and we would fight them.
Michael faced the first opposition of his life. He recoiled back into the massed Eloy, it was a fatal mistake. He was being groomed as a leader but the Eloy were being trained as followers. Michael had never been tested. He failed his first test. The sword remained in the stone.
I had embraced Sunday School morality; I knew that the God of Justice was on my side; I knew that the Religion of Love forbade this treatment of the Negroes, not to mention myself.
From within the Eloy Michael’s eyes narrowed. Shaking his finger through the mass of Eloy, he shouted; ‘You shut up Gresham, and get back in your place.’ My place was where I made it. I was doubly angry now. I exhorted the Negroes to get up and we would fight them. The Negroes meekly declined the exert themselves for their freedom. They left me hanging out there to dry.
Left with nothing to fight for I was fearful as to what would happen next. Nothing. I wandered away; the Negroes accepted their place on the bench. Michael and the Eloy glowered after me.
Oddly, my resistance had completely shattered Michael Hirsh’s self-confidence. His image of himself as leader was shaken to the foundation. Neither had his conduct gone unnoticed by the Eloy. Doubts had entered the girls’ minds; an internal smile of satisfaction beamed from the eyes of the boys.
David Hirsh sat upright glowering in his recliner listening as Michael sobbed out his tale of humiliation to him. He knew exactly what the scene had meant to his aspirations for Michael. In his vanity he hoped that Michael’s reputation could be recovered. In his heart he knew that even with his influence and position it could not. Like a woman’s love, once gone, forever gone.
David sat for a moment then he dismissed Michael, pushed the paper from his lap and moved slowly and painfully into his bedroom. He closed and locked the door. Then he walked into the far corner of the room. Placing a hand on each wall he leaned his head against the right angle where the walls joined and began to sob softly.
‘Oh, God.’ He thought. ‘Where is thy justice in this world. How much shame and humiliation must I bear.’
As with my mother and father David forgot what he had done to cause his own humiliation. But David thought that he was God’s favorite child and that he was entitled to prevail. Merely resistance to his wishes in itself was unjustifiable and unforgivable conduct. God’s favor to David was shown by his wealth and position. If he were not better than others then God would not have given him his advantages. The inferiority of others was thus proven. It was bad enough that God had allowed my mother to humiliate him; but then my father and now me. David A. Hirsh’s son, his heir, the once and future king had been humiliated by a virtual outcast.
Had David Hirsh been a wiser, more philosophic man he would have examined his behavior, known himself, adjusted his behavior to the circumstances and been a happier man. But the poison red berries sank more deeply into his mind. Like Abraham of old, David believed that he was talking to God. Yea verily, he heard a voice within his mind say: ‘You will be avenged, my son David, you will be avenged. You shall see your enemies prostrate themselves before you.’ He understood this wish of his mere ego to be permission from God to smite his enemy hip and thigh. Satisfied, David Hirsh choked back his sobs, ordered his face, opened the bedroom door and reassumed his place in his recliner as though nothing had happened. Still, he was thinking.
He knew what he had to do, or wanted to do, to avenge his son’s humiliation. Just as he had dug his own grave boasting to his friends about my mother, he now began to dig it deeper. The year was nearly over. He had not time to devise a plan to humiliate me sufficiently. Everyone was forbidden to be seen speaking to me. I played alone for the rest of the year.
On the last day of school as I was leaving Michael ran up behind me, leaving plenty of room for a safe retreat, to hiss at the back of my head: ‘We’re going to get you next year, Gresham.’
I returned a standard retort: ‘You and what army.’ But my brow furrowed in genuine concern. Internally I trembled because I knew he did have an army. I was fearful because I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist it.
The stars that play with the laughing dice chuckled at us both. I was to get a temporary reprieve; David Hirsh was given a temporary frustration.
My mother, since her divorce, wanted to ‘live.’ She was to pursue that phantom that invariably ends in disaster. I had become a burden to her. It would be easier to ‘live’ without me around. She decided to farm me out. Blessed Salvation, she found a family over on the West Side in the Thoreau School District to board me. I was delivered from the lion’s den; I heaved a sigh of relief.
On the one hand deliverance but on the other rejection by my mother. I don’t believe adults, parents, have any idea of the trauma such a situation has on a child. There is no way that it cannot disturb a child’s emotions no matter what his external deportment may be. There is no argument to be given, no line of reasoning to follow by which you can explain his abandonment to the child. Abandonment is abandonment, partial or complete. There is no way, no matter how frequently you visit the child, to make him understand why his mother doesn’t want him.
Nor was my mother overly discreet. I wasn’t in rags by any stretch of imagination but I was wearing ill-fitting hand-me-downs. When my mother did visit, which wasn’t often, she always seemed resplendently dressed. I was too young to understand, but it made me uneasy to see my mother looking so well while she left me with these people who didn’t, couldn’t love me.
My kindergarten memories, my mother’s abandonment and this new family all contributed to a mental malaise that expressed itself in aberrant behavior. The fear of Michael Hirsh and his retaliation was a palpable presence with me. My young mind no longer associated my fear with the incident of the Negroes. My fear was disociated from its cause. My fear was a fear of vague hatred that haunted both my waking and sleeping hours. Entering the first grade class at Thoreau was no comfort and I had to make my way in my shades of mental distress among a new set of classmates who had of course been forewarned by Hirsh.
The family with whom I boarded was named Smith. They were decent enough folks. They had five other children among whom I was expected to integrate myself immediately. As might be expected I was given no time to acclimate myself; nor, quite possibly in such circumstances could any be expected. A young mind still cannot make such a diffiuclt tranistion without support and understanding. I had no support; I was an outsider who brought them money each week.
They as adults should have expected me to be somewhat reticent and unruly as I adjusted to my new circumstances. I had no place with them. I was difficult but I was gradually learning to accept them. They were learning to reject me.
I would not like to have been imprinted by the Smiths. They were not my kind of people. Thus rejection by them which was certainly very painful was probably not the worst thing that could have happened to me. I would rather be outside a group of people that I don’t like then inside a group of people one has to bear.
I had only been with them nine months. I was about to accept them as part of my permanent environment when they threw me a thunderbolt. It came about that they were having a major party. I was not to be allowed to attend. My mother was to take me for the evening. She acted as though this were an imposition for her. Thus I entered a no man’s land in my mind. I was a burden for my mother and unwanted by the Smiths. Just as I was about to accept the Smiths they began to push me out of the nest into the void.
My mother came to pick me up in her ridiculous clothes. A desperate feeling began to rise in me for I already considered my mother a stranger. She didn’t want me and now if the Smiths rejected me where would I go? More pertinent, who would I be?
I was extremely distraught when my mother brought me back. I thought I had better be good. I wanted to demonstrate my solidarity with the Smiths. I had already made up my mind that my future lay with them rather than my mother. They had purchased a carton of ice cream sandwiches for their party. The sandwiches were packed in dry ice to keep them cold. The box was sitting on top of the counter. I thought by eating a sandwich I could retroactively participate in the party and be one with the family. I was prepared at that moment to be ‘good.’ The box was above my head and I stretched my hand up over the top of the box to grab a sandwich; I came up with a cake of dry ice instead. I didn’t know dry ice, had never seen it. Expecting the cold of the ice cream sandwich I was more surprised than hurt by the burning sensation of the dry ice. All my fears crystallized around that burning cake of dry ice. I could veritably see them taunting me. I screamed and cried out of all proportion to the pain. It wasn’t that easy to be ‘good.’
The adults couldn’t understand my reaction. What good is it to grow old if one doesn’t grow wise? It was incumbent on them to understand. Mr. Smith, leaning comfortably against the counter looked complacently down at me than looked at my mother with a wry face as if to say: ‘See!’
They had no compassion on that little boy. I was turned out with just a couple months left in the school year. I was to be expected to ingratiate myself into a new class. My mother found a new place for me with a family called Johnson. The Johnsons lived on the East Side. I shuddered when I learned that they lived in the Emerson school district.
A great groundswell of terror rose at the base of my brain and rose in great swirling spirals to overwhelm my brain. The evil that I feared had come to pass. At the same time the moorings of my life had been cast from their bollocks. First my mother had rejected me; then the Smiths; now my mother again passed me on to a new family. I had been rejected by the Smiths just at the point that I was about to transfer my trust and affection to them. I was not capable of accepting the Johnsons as more than temporary. The effect on my attitude was corrosive. I could not explain the turmoil of my mind to them. Oddly, I think, the adults were incapable of understanding that a child is not an adult, even an adult has difficulty adapting to abrupt changes. The adults were obtuse well beyond their years. I was about seven. I was about to be written off as a troublesome and disorderly child. As dark as my childhood had been, yet darker days lay ahead. I do not know how I or other children survive such ordeals.
Mrs. Johnson herself was a lovely woman who administered a lovely home. Everything that I appreciate of beauty can be traced to that sojourn. The constant agitation from the five children at the Smiths was missing as Mrs. Johnson had only one daughter who was my age. There was a placidity to her manner of living that would have placated my anxieties except for the torment that awaited me at Emerson.
I reappeared among the Eloy and Morlocks at Emerson in late April of the first grade. I appeared as a rock thrown in a schoolyard. I felt the shudder of recognition and heard the muted ‘He’s back.’ whispered as I walked past. The incident of our antipathy had been forgotten by both of us. They merely knew that I had repudiated their authority; as always in such situations that was a capital crime. I only knew that they hated me, I didn’t know why but I had transferred the cause to myself. I felt a vague sense of guilt. I felt their enmity but I didn’t know why I was hated.
I had completely surprised them. It was too late in the year for them, or rather for David Hirsh, to evolve a plan to punish me for being an uppity ‘nigger.’ David and the Eloy would spend the summer preparing for my reception in the second grade. For the interim they contented themselves with hazing me continually. They committed little spiteful acts. As usual they were all committed at my back. Michael Hirsh would never take the chance of confronting me on a one to one basis. The teacher observed these acts but did nothing to correct the situation. Whether she felt unequal to the task or had been warned off by David Hirsh I don’t know. What I realized was that I was completely on my own. Authority, in the person of the teacher, would not interest itself in the justice of my case. My mother was no help and Mrs. Johnson was beyond the reach of my ability to explain.
Thus the school year ended to my great relief. My summer was made a purgatory to the hell that awaited me in the second grade. I was new to the neighborhood and had to make friends. The Eloy kept a close watch over me. As I found someone to play with, one of the Eloy showed up, a few words were said and I was shunned. My feelings of desperation grew as I tried to amuse myself. I gave evidence of unexlainable apprehensions in front of Mrs. Johnson who merely shook her head. Actually adults are not the brightest of people.
David and Michael Hirsh had already, or would easily have achieved my psychological destruction if they had continued the same course and let well enough alone. That was not in David Hirsh’s nature. He demanded a blood sacrifice. He demanded that which neither he nor Michael could ever have, homage.
A series of events, perhaps for God to test David, were beginning for David Hirsh which he would be unsuccessful in meeting. In the spring of the first grade a long awaited event had come to pass just before I transferred back to Emerson. It was the joyous event of VE Day, Victory in Europe. Hitler had gone up in the acrid fumes of a gasoline fed pyre. The Nazis had been run to ground. David’s live was changed forever. All his relationships changed like a stack of marbles in an earthquake.
The Smiths and I had gone down to a row of shops surrounding the Court Street theatre. There the people were shouting and dancing in the street. I looked on in amazement, unable to comprehend.
‘What’s the matter little boy, aren’t you happy? The boys are coming home.’
I didn’t even know the boys had been gone. I was just at the age when the war was all I had ever known. It was normal to me. When I still lived over on Grimm Street with my grandmother, planes had flown overhead filling the sky with printed fliers. Tens of thousands of them had fluttered down, waffling through the air as we leaped to snatch them from the sky. An older boy said that they said: ‘Buy War Bonds.’ I had rushed home to exhort my grandmother to buy bonds.
Someone had nailed a poster to all the telephone poles. On the right was a gross caricature of Hideki Tojo, little round glasses, near sighted squint and buck teeth. One the left was a picture of that most common of common men, Adolf Hitler. I had stood studying them wondering what they meant. Then, in the spring of 1945 the European War had ended.
As the Allied troops occupied Germany horrid rumors were proved to be true, but, even then, we all had a hard time believing them. The Nazis had extermination camps where they killed millions of people. There had been rumors beginning in 1943, not that I heard them, that the Nazis were systematically killing Jews but they had been dismissed as wartime propaganda. Now the rumors proved true. The Jews had been the Nazis’ primary target.
David had been blithely going through life not too concerned about his Jewishness. Indeed, for years he had been attending the Fortress Of God Congretational with Beverly. The hold of Judaism on the majority of Jews had been as strong as ever, but a segment, David Hirsh was among them, had become lacksadaisical and nonobservant. They might easily have slipped away into the American ethos.
The confirmation of the existence of the extermination camps crossed David’s mind like one of those atomic clouds in the movies that mutated all those it passed over. A new man was born. David had drifted from his people; Michael had virtually no Jewish education. David now began to reverse this situation as he realized that he was above all else, a Jew. He, like every other errant Jew, was called back to the fold. As a rabbi was to say: I have been an American all my life but I have been a Jew for four thousand years. The Nazis had called every person with a Jewish grandparent a Jew. The method was universal, there was nothing unusual in it. All peoples, the Jews themselves, required both sets of grandparents to represent the nationality if one were truly to reflect the ethos of the nation. But to the Jews of the time it indicated that there was no escaping one’s Jewishness. Thus if it had happened here, and in the hysteria of the times it was thought possible if not probable there would be no escape for any Jew. The feeling arose that once a Jew always a Jew, the Jewish nation cohered ever more strongly.
The return to the fold created troubling difficulties for David, for he had married a goish wife, a shiksa. Descent in Jewish families is traced through the female. Thus a child of a shiksa by a Jewish fathere is not automatically a Jew, whereas a child fathered by a goi on a Jewish mother is. Therefore, technically, Michael Hirsh was not a Jew. While he would now be brought up as a Jew, he nevertheless would have a lower status within the Jewish community. Socially Michael was at the top of the ladder; in Jewish circles he was at the bottom. His son’s situation rankled David Hirsh and embittered him further.
With his reattachement to Judaism and his estrangement to the goi world, David Hirsh found his relationship with Beverly enter a different period. Not that Beverly would abandon her ‘tall Israelite’ but their relationship changed and became a little more distant because of Beverly’s relationship to the two worlds. A little sponge rubber wedge entered their relationship. Beverly found that, while it was easy for David Hirsh to be accepted into her, for want of a better word, Christian community, it was impossible for her to find acceptance in his smaller much more exclusive community now traumatized into actual hysteria by the news from Europe.
The Jews confused Hitler and the Nazis with Christianity. Over the ages their arch enemy had been their offshoot, Catholicism, or as they generalized it, Christianity. Thus the Nazis seemed to be the culmination of the Jewish conflict with Christianity. This was not true. The Nazis were outside Christianity. But now Beverly was received as a quasi-perpetrator of the extermination camps. Her presence made the Jewish congregation uneasy.
For her part she simply wasn’t Jewish. She didn’t have the Jewish education or manner. The God Of Justice looked on the Religion of Love from a higher mount. Beverly’s life took on an ambiguous quality that left her unhappy just where the limes and sublimes met. Thus additional discord was introduced into David Hirsh’s life. Changes which he wasn’t actually aware of nor that he could understand altered his life. More were to come. Just as mine, his problems were only beginning. His hand rose to stroke his chin as wonder crossed his mind, then it slid down to his throat on the way to clutch his heart.
Through the spring and summer these influences jostled in his mind crying for a solution which his inherent bitterness would never allow him to resolve. Rather than turning toward the light he allowed the darkness to grow in his mind. Slowly his anger and frustration turned in my direction and centered on me. I was the defenseless object of his irritation. During that bright time of year he mulled over darkest thoughts on how to best punish me.
As he sat in his recliner Hirsh concentrated on what he thought was the humiliation I had caused Michael. David had won the second round over the Negroes at Emerson; they had finished out kindergarten but had been put in another school district at year end. David equated me with Negroes. Like them I had no social status. I, a mere nobody had dared to challenge the future king. Nor, in David’s mind, had I given Michael a fair chance. I had appeared out of nowhere, I had surprised his boy, just like Hideki Tojo and the Japs had surprised us at Pearl Harbor. I was therefore a dirty fighter. Commingling his anger with me he confused his relationship with my mother and father, transferring his machinations against them into unwarranted humiliation of himself. David Hirsh and his ilk never accept responsibility for their actions. When their own plans misfire it’s always someone else’s fault. The plan was perfect except that those people ruined it.
The worst of Michael’s situation was that my resistance had sapped the foundation of his authority. Whereas before he had been the young prince among the Eloy his conduct on that day had reduced him to primus into pares, a mere first among equals. It was apparent to David that Michael would never be able to regain his former position. All the effort toward grooming Michael for his throne had been rendered null by a mere nobody.
David literally gnashed his teeth as he pondered the best way to make me see the enormity of my crime. He was of Biblical orientation so that the punishment had to ‘fit the crime.’ The events of Europe weighed heavily on his mind. He had reflected on the words of the itinerant rabbi rolling them around in his mind: ‘I have been an American all my life, but I have been a Jew for four thousand years.’ The statement was a flight of incredible fantasy, but David pondered it deeply, ignoring its absurdity. He was in the process of placing his life in that mode, as improbable as the statement was.
As was his way he began to ruminate on all the injustices done to the Jews over their four thousand year history. He shuffled the deck of been forward and backward; laid the cards out face up and stared at them. The implacable dripping of the juice of the poison red berries of yesteryear corroded his sensibilities. Each injustice corroborated and amplified the real or imagined injustices done to him. David was sensitized to insult, he could find a personal injury in a stranger driving past his house too fast.
Naturally the category of ‘humiliation’ was uppermost in his mind. Slowly a figure emerged from the dense fog of resentment in his mind. David nodded affirmatively as he recognized his appropriateness. The figure was someone who had endured as bad a humiliation as possible. If not the worst, there is nothing in history to exceed it. The humiliation was certainly as bad as anyone had ever endured.
In the France of 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a Jew, an officer of the elite Statistical Department of the French Army had been convicted of spying. The conflict between Jews and Europeans was reaching high intensity. The fact that a Jew was involved enraged the French nation.
On a rainy day, the ground of the compound turned into mud, Dreyfus had been arraigned before his fellow officers, surrounded by a hostile public. There, as he stood at stiff attention his commanding officer stripped him of his insignia and trampled them in the mud. Before the hooting jeering mob he broke the symbol of Dreyfus’ manhood over his knee. The two halves of the sword lay in mud with his insignia at his feet. The hatred against Dreyfus was so intense that a new prison was designated to contain him. He was sent to Devil’s Island. Just as the French thought the Jews were devils, so David Hirsh thought of me.
The picture was so vivid in Hirsh’s mind that he relived it in the person of his son’s humiliation in kindergarten. Involuntary sobs rose from his breast. He now knew what to do. In the closing weeks of the summer he assembled Michael and the Eloy to drill them in the procedure so that nothing would misfire. The Hirsh name would be redeemed, or so he thought.
I passed the summer in dread. The Eloy prevented anyone from playing with me. I knew that something terrible was waiting for me in the second grade. I was isolated; I had no friends, no parents, no guardians, no help.
What happened to me on that day was concealed from me for forty years. The suppressed memories controlled my actions against my will from their subliminal hole in my brain. I was only able to recover the memory and free my soul after a series of dreams finally revealed this major cause of my emotional distress.
I don’t know exactly when it happened. It may very well have been the first day of the second grade. It was a warm late summer day. We were all in shirt sleeves. It happened, naturally, at recess.
All morning long Michael had turned to look back at me with a malevolent stare. The Eloy were seated in the front of the class, the Morlocks behind them. I was in the very last row. After Michael Hirsh glared back at me another of the Eloy would turn to glare. One after the other they fixed baleful glances on me. Then in teams they did the same. Then all. Then Michael Hirsh began again. I sat glumly, fearful of the outcome.
The teacher announced recess. I dropped my eyes to the desk pondering whether I should stay there or whether I had to go to recess. When I looked up the Eloy stood glaring at me by the door; hands by their sides, waiting for me to precede them. I got up. I walked by each one on my way to the door. As though he were telling me what to do Michael flicked his finger indicating to me to go outside. It was a symbol of weakness, I should have resolved to oppose him. They all filed out behind me. I was apprehended. The Eloy gathered around me in a semicircle. Michael Hirsh was the keystone of the arch.
David Hirsh and Michael had analyzed the scene in the playground during kindergarten and arrived at conclusions which missed the point. It was true that Michael had been vulnerable standing at point. It had behooved him, a young Arthur, to step forward and chastise me; instead he had stepped back into the protection of his confederates. The act was a confession of weakness. To redeem the situation it now behooved him to reprove me in individual combat. Having failed as Arthur; Michael was not the boy to succeed as Richard. For whatever reason, David chose Michael to do otherwise. The flaw in his character cost him the triumph he desired.
Thus Michael stood with the Eloy flanking him and surrounding me. In my mind he shrank to insignificance while the Eloy surrounding me paralyzed my mind. They annihilated my existence with their projected hatred. Beams of malice flashed from their eyes piercing my body and soul from all angles. Their hatred reduced me to impotence. I could not resist. My attention was fixed on them while Michael intoned at me. I didn’t hear his words, I was only aware of the finger he was shaking at me. He probably was telling me what I would have to do to remove their hatred. If so, I didn’t hear it. The only thing I heard him say was that I was to take a step forward and stop when he told me to stop. I raised my foot and was told to stop. I was then told to stay in that position through recess. I did and I died of shame.
Perhaps the Hirshes were lucky in tapping into the subliminal memory of my mother standing me against the wall. The punishment was so extreme, so successful, if you will, that it failed to achieve its desired result. The punishment so succeeded that it appeared to fail in the Hirshes’ and Eloys’ eyes. I was not only humiliated as much as Dreyfus had been but my personality had been murdered. I was no longer able to face myself. My personality withered, atrophied, to a mere empty garment, a deflated balloon. My body remained but Far Gresham was gone. When Far Gresham died the memory of the event died with him.
Whatever the Eloy hoped to achieve was never acknowledged by me. Whatever instructions Michael Hirsh had given me were never performed. I never begged for forgiveness nor rendered the proper obeisance.
Michael had proceeded from weakness. He had acknowledged his dependence on the Eloy. Indeed, they achieved the results not Michael. I had in actuality won the victory; but like the Greek General Pyrrhus I was annihilated in the process. Michael had won but was unable to realize the fruits of his victory. They were all dumbfounded.
Once again Michael was compelled to go to his father in tears. David Hirsh listened in astonishment; his mouth hung open in wonder. How could I have resisted? He could not know the degree to which he had suceeded, for though dead, Far Gresham was real to the naked eye. It took much more subtle perception than David Hirsh had to perceive the truth. He was much too self-absorbed to develop that sublety. But he was able to perceive the consequences on his son. Michael had fallen from Prince-in-process to Primus Inter Pares; he now sank to Pal. He could only rely on group solidarity not lead it.
All of David’s hopes for his son were being dashed by the insignificant son of his two insignficant enemies. Had David been a true student of the Bible he would have known to curb his pride. He would have taken pleasure in accepting the will of the Lord. Oh, but justice had another meaning for David Hirsh. What he called justice wise men called pride.
The defeat was a blow, a severe blow. Coupled with his renascent Judaism born of despair it was a blow that David’s mind could not withstand. Who knows which of his own inadequacies, which he apparently felt so keenly, he thought would be redeemed by his first born son.
Unlike myself, who was compelled to endure the consequences by inflicting the punishment on myself, David Hirsh was in a position to gather his frustration together and lay them on someone else. He honestly believed that he could purge, cleanse, his own spirit in such a dishonest way. He thought he could expel darkness rather than letting the sun shine in. David had heard it said: Know thyself, but its wisdom went over his head.
David was mystified by the apparent failure of his plan. It had proceeded satisfactorily but had been excessive. Now he sought to escalate the punishment, to raise the violence to a higher plateau. I must acknowledge my humiliation, I must give homage.
I sat through the second grade in a fog of pain. I could not understand my ostracization. If I had been able to associate it with the kindergaren incident with the Negroes I would have thought I had been right. Stripped of my identity by my humiliation, or murder, I now sat as a lifeless lump in class. My whole existence revolved around my mental anguish. Anguish was my identity.
I daily endured the enmity and spiteful tricks of the Eloy. The Morlocks who had merely watched my humiliation from a distance were of no help to me at all. Of course, had they shown me friendship they would have incurred the enmity of the Eloy themselves. Who can blame the Jellyfish because it has no spine?
The Eloy were well rewarded by my abject appearance, nevertheless I gave no obeisance, no homage. They remained unsatisfied. Had I been old enough to bear the situation I would not even have satisfied them with a long face, but then my identity had been obliterated.
The constant hazing of me coupled with my resistance brought the situation to the attention of the teacher. Since it was twelve on one she assume I must be at fault. She demanded that I explain. I was barely alive, I couldn’t give a suitable explanation. Then, in what should have been a clear admission of Michael’s guilt to the teacher, Michael motioned the teacher to lower her ear to him which she did. Michael cupping his hand so that I souldn’t be able to hear and possibly refute him whispered a few words to her. She straightened up, glared at me steadily and said: ‘Now I understand. You’ve got only yourself to blame.’
She was wrong and she should have known she was wrong. If at any time your accuser cannot announce his accusation in front of you then he is lying. The teacher, who was after all, authority, should have been aware of the principle and demanded that Michael accuse me openly. How often these unfounded accusations evaporate when the light hits them. Aware of the injustice of the teacher’s response I began to rebuild an interim identity based on the realization of injustice. As I grew and observed, the structure begun with that single brick developed rapidly. The basis of my view of society was laid.
My emotional state was the same at Mrs. Johnson’s as it was at school. I became morose and despondent, true sadness frequently overcame me. I had no one to whom I could turn. Once I sat in the darkened dining room crying softly to myself. Mrs. Johnson, who was a kindhearted woman, asked me as solicitously as possible, what the matter was. I had no way of articulating my situation to her. I could only turn away in despair.
At that moment I knew that Mrs. Johnson made the decision to send me away. I could sense it. Mrs. Johnson notified my mother that she no longer wished to keep me.
Go To Clip 2 of Far Gresham