“So, what’s next for The Hebrew Kid?”
This question comes my way, oh, a dozen times a week. It seems that people like The Hebrew Kid and the Apache Maiden so much that they crave further adventures for Ariel Isaacson and his family.
Well, have no fear. I have not been idle. In spite of chronic laziness I have been working on the sequel to my award-winning first novel, and the new book is called, The Hebrew Kid and Wyatt Earp.
Did you know that Wyatt Earp, the famous gunfighter and lawman, is buried in a Jewish cemetery in Colma California? Did you know that Earp’s second wife, Josephine Marcus was from a prominent Jewish San Francisco family?
Anyway, The Hebrew Kid and Wyatt Earp is a Chanukah story.
Let me briefly set-up this excerpt.
The Isaacson family have finally setled in Tombstone, Arizona. Papa has hung out a shingle as a bootmaker. Doc Holliday, the tubercular dentist and much feared gunfighter who had a prominent role in arranging Ariel’s Bar Mitzvah, is also in Tombstone, and makes a living as a gambler. He is addicted to liquor — and Mama’s cholent.
Ariel’s older sister Rebecca, still dreams of being invited to an ice-cream social, and in this story will seek a proper husband. Naturally, disaster ensues and Ariel will rescue her from the clutches of a unscrupulous “theatrical producer” who promises to make Rebecca “The Star of the American West.” Some things never change.
Have no fear, Lozen plays a prominent role in The Hebrew Kid and Wyatt Earp. Though the terrible and bloody Apache Wars rage on, Ariel and Lozen’s friendship remains steadfast though all the forces of society insist on forcing them apart.
Ariel attends the Tombstone one-room school house where he is being bullied by the pint-sized Clanton Gang. And this is where we step in:
Enjoy, and please do let me know how you like–or do not like–what you read.
The Hebrew KId and Wyatt Earp
Stepping out of the schoolhouse, I got hit by a harsh gust of wind. The windowpanes clattered in their frames. It was cold in Tombstone in late October. It felt as if the wind was shoving me down the stairs where Butch and his gang were waiting for me.
The Clanton boys always stuck together. If one of them started in on you, you can be sure that the others were not far behind. Running away was a possibility, and I considered it, but I hated the idea of them calling me a coward, and knowing the Clanton boys they’d be sure to add Jew—cowardly Jew they’d call em. Well, there was nothing to do but do what I had to do.
Butch pushed me with his forefinger, saying: “You and me,” he smiled, “we’re gonna have us a set to. Think you’re so smart, don’tcha?”
“You going to fight like a man?”
I was just about to agree to the fight, raise my fists and take a proper stance when Butch hauled off and punched me square in the face. The world turned dark for a split second and suddenly I found myself sitting on the ground and studying a thick clot of blood in the palm of my hand. Mama was going to be angry, for the front of my shirt was stained with the blood dripping from my nose. My vision was blurred from hot tears and it felt like a burning poker was being pushed directly through my skull.
Butch and his cousins were laughing and pointing at me.
I looked past Butch’s shoulder and squinted into the rising heat waves. There on a hill in the distance I thought I saw Lozen. The Apache Maiden was seated on her white pony, staring at me and even from this great distance I could see a look of such great sadness on her face. I was filled with such shame. Here was my friend, a great Apache warrior maiden who had taught me how to fight and now she was witnessing this terrible humiliation.
I fought to my feet and charged at Butch. My hands encircled his waist and I held on for dear life. Butch pummeled me with his fists. Over and over again he pounded at the base of my skull, all the while he was laughing and taunting me. He was so much bigger than me that I knew that if I dared let go he would hit me again in the face and who knows what damage he would do.
“Git this boy off me,” Butch ordered.
The brothers pulled me away; and all three boys pummeled me with their fists for what seemed like hours. I curled up into a tiny ball, covered my face with my hands, drew my knees up to my chest and prayed that I would survive this beating. They were punching me and when they got tired of punching, they kicked me and their heavy leather boots crashed into my ribs like steel hammers. Perhaps, I said to myself I should recite the Sh’ma.
And then, I heard the thundering hooves of an approaching horse.
An arm was raised, a Colt’s .45 pointed straight into the sky and a shot exploded in the cool clean air.
Lozen; she was coming to save me. As she always did. But oh my goodness, she would not just fight Butch and his brothers, Lozen was an Apache; she would absolutely massacre them. I couldn’t let that happen. When an Apache warrior goes to battle no quarter is given and none is asked.
From a distance, I heard Butch order Ed and Jake to beat it.
Abruptly, there was silence.
“Lozen,” I whispered hoarsely.
A shadow like a sword fell over me. Blinking, I found myself staring up at a tall man who had the bluest eyes I had ever seen. They were more like chips of ice. The man had a lavishly waxed handle-bar mustache and before I knew it I was aloft, in his arms, being carried along as if on an ocean’s wave. Mounted on his horse, the man held me in his strong arms and held the reins in his teeth.
“Lozen…” I heard my voice saying. Oh, how I missed the Apache Maiden, my one true friend.
The tall man just looked at me in bafflement.
“You took an awful beating, son.”
He spoke in the flat tones of the Midwest.
I just stared into his blue eyes. They seemed limitless.
“I know it hurts to talk, your lips are all tore up, just give over your name and I’ll get you home.”
“Ariel Isaacson,” I managed to whisper, “I’m the Hebrew Kid.”
The tall man made a small clicking sound and tapped the horse with his knees. The horse, a blue roan gelding, immediately obeyed and took off into a gentle walk. I felt as if I was being rocked to sleep. The last thing I remember was the tall man’s eyes, twinkling with amusement as he said, “The Hebrew Kid, well I never.”
I must have dozed off, but when my eyes opened I realized that the tall man had just entered Tombstone, was riding north on Fremont. Still using his teeth, he gently reined in his horse at the O.K. Corral. He asked Mr. Montgomery, the proprietor, “Know the Isaacson family?”
Mr. Montgomery, always with a nugget of chewing tobacco tucked into his cheek, spit out a brown stream and squinted up saying:
“Straight up Fremont, south on Third. Fourth lot on the east side. Isaacson’s Handmade Boots.” Hebrew folk. And who might you be, pilgrim?”
The stranger tipped his black Stetson, and nudged his horse forward without answering Mr. Montgomery’s question.
I looked into the stranger’s face and it occurred to me that perhaps he was Elijah. Elijah the Prophet never died. He ascended to heaven in a whirlwind with a fiery chariot. The sages teach us that Elijah often returns to earth in many different disguises, helping people in times of need.
“Are you the righteous Prophet Elijah?” I managed to whisper.
The tall man’s eyes glittered with amusement.
prophet, nor righteous, son. Hush and I’ll have you home to your folks in but a few moments.”
The Rabbis also tell us that Elijah will never admit to being Elijah, so naturally I didn’t quite believe the tall stranger when he denied being Elijah.
Papa would know.
My sister Rebecca was on the front porch spinning wool when she caught sight of me cradled in the stranger’s arms.
“Ariel!” she cried. “What has happened?”
Rebecca leaped down the stairs and the stranger gently handed me down into Rebecca’s waiting arms. She propped me up and waited for the stranger to dismount. Once on the ground, he lifted me in his arms and Rebecca led him into our house.
“Mama, Papa,” cried Rebecca, “something has happened to Ariel!”
The stranger carried me into the back room where Rebecca led him. I felt my straw mattress sink beneath my weight and as if from a distance I heard the excited voices of my family.
Papa: “What happened?”
Mama: “My God, all the blood!”
Rebecca: “Who did this? Did you do this to my brother?”
The deep, resonant voice of the stranger: “No, Ma’am.”
Gabriel, my baby brother, wailed in a corner of the room, sensing the pain and unhappiness in our family.
Again, Rebecca demanded to know, “Who committed this outrage?” Though we are from Russia and English our second language, Rebecca has a real flair for our new language. She has read every single book that Mr. Charles Dickens has ever written. As soon as she finishes one volume, she begins another. Actually, I don’t know why she bothers reading them. I believe she can recite the stories by heart. When she reads she sighs. Very loudly. Mama thinks the books are bad for Rebecca; Mama believes that these stories put naughty ideas in Rebecca’s mind. I think the books are just silly, not that I’ve ever read any of them. Well, not all the way through. Papa tells me to learn Torah. That all I need, that all I’ll ever need to know can be found in the Torah.
And of course, Papa is right.
Whack! Rebecca stamped the heel of her boot on the floor and again demanded from the stranger the name of the person who did this outrage—she really liked that word—to me. Meanwhile, Mama was washing the cuts on my face with a warm cloth and Papa was whispering Tehillim into my ear.
The stranger turned his cold gaze on Rebecca and said, “Don’t know their names, little Missy, but I wager they’re just some low-down country trash. Best not get all riled all you’ll get the vapors.”
“Vapors-shmapors,” Rebecca shot back angrily. “I want justice.”
The stranger curled the edges of his mustache, a habitual gesture.
“Justice in Tombstone? Not likely.”
“Who says?” challenged Rebecca.
“Just saying my say, Ma’am.
The stranger kneeled and said: “You got courage, going up against such numbers. When you recover, we’ll discuss the ways and means of justice.”
The stranger walked to the door. He wore a black suit and a boiled white shirt. I spotted the walnut handle of a big Colt’s .45 on his right hip. His boot heels snapped against the floor like gunshots.
“What is your name?” asked Rebecca.
“Wyatt Earp.” He touched the flat brim of his Stetson hat, and stepped out into the white light of the afternoon. I had just met the man who would forever change my life and the life and times of Tombstone.