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Little Maria

Below is the eighth segment of a new short story, Little Maria. While the story is new, it is based on a chapter from my novel, Unidentified Woman, a literary crime about rape, revenge and redemption. I believe it stands alone as is, and will reward you handsomely when you read it.

“Feel lucky today, Adela. Breathe the clean, fresh air. Listen to the singing of the birds. Smell wild flowers. Shake my hair loose and let it fly. Quiet is suddenly all around me, and I can listen to myself thinking for the first time since I was kidnapped. Maybe there is a future for me after all, like Big Mamá said.
Work alone, the way Mario told me to. Not with the other workers I saw on the way here, before we entered this small narrow valley, hidden in the shadow of these high mountains. The work is easy, and much better than the hard work at the factory. All I do is water the coca plants with the black hose. The shrubs are about my size, no more than one meter and twenty tall. They don’t seem thirsty to me at all. But still, I fill the shallow circles that surround them with water.
The water is streaming so nicely and then, when it’s full, I move the hose around to the next plant. Feel the gentle touch of the breeze coming down from the hills. Hear the birds singing and the wind whispering, as if trying to tell me some secrets. See the water swirling and see yellow butterflies fly all around me. My wish at this moment is to be a yellow butterfly.
But then, suddenly, I see a long shadow in the water circling the plant. Hear footsteps too. When I raise my head to look, the man is too close for me to run away. He is tall and old and Gringo. He is wearing boots and cowboy hat, like in that movie we saw together once, Adela, in our village. Remember?
The hose drops down from my hand as if it has a will of its own, and I take a few steps back. That’s when he takes his hat off and throws it on the ground. His head is bald like a melon and so ugly. He looks me up and down. What for? He smiles an evil smile. You’re all mine, Little Maria, he says in Spanish with an American accent.
How does he know my name? Hate that name so much. One day I’m going to change it. Turn around and begin to run. He chases after me and grabs me from behind. Scream as loud as I can, but nobody hears me. Where is Mario? Where is Big Mamá? Where are the other workers I saw when we drove in here? Where is everybody?

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Little Maria

Below is the seventh segment of a new short story, Little Maria. While the story is new, it is based on a chapter from my novel, Unidentified Woman, a literary crime about rape, revenge and redemption. I believe it stands alone as is, and will reward you handsomely when you read it.

“Here they don’t even talk much. Learned why on my second day on the farm. Big Mamá took me away when we came back from the factory. Could hardly walk, I was so tired and hungry. Thought she was showing me the farm, the horses and the cows, the chickens and the pigs. But instead she led me outside the walls and showed this me this big hole in the ground full of snakes. A real snake pit, Adela, I’m not lying to you. A worker was feeding them mice. Saw a skeleton there too.
You see this snake pit, Little Maria? Big Mamá asked me. Yes, I see it, I answered. If you ever talk with anyone, she warned me, about anything that happens to you here, during the day especially, you’ll end up down with the snakes. You understand?
Yes, I understand. What else could I say? What could I tell anybody anyhow? There is nothing to tell, and nobody to tell anything to but you, Adela. Maybe it’s better for me to die here, I was thinking. Jump down into this snake pit and die and be like that skeleton down there. So I took one small step forward, as if to see better. But Big Mamá held my hand firmly and took me away from there.
Don’t be stupid, Little Maria, she told me on the way back, speaking suddenly with a softer voice. We need you here. And you… you have good things coming to you in the near future. Then she led me back to our sisters’ hall.
Why did she tell me that? And why do they need me here, anyhow? Me, Little Maria as they call me. Did she see something in my eyes that made her say that? And why, walking back from the snake pit, did I suddenly feel some warmth coming from her hand, holding mine? As if she really cared about me. As if she really believed good things would happen to me soon.

*
Now I know why. I have a strong feeling, especially on this morning when Mario is taking me away from the bus, when he is driving me through the flat fields toward those rolling brown hills, that one day soon I’ll be back home. That’s why the girls who go to the coca field never come back.”

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Sex War One, the YouTube Video

The book trailer video for “Sex War One” is available for viewing on YouTube – http://youtu.be/dAGuktuMmLE – my Smashwords page – https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/Shalomhd – my Goodreads page – https://www.goodreads.com/autho/show/5392683.Hillel_F_Damron
– and my literary website’s videos page: https://hillelbridge.com/videos-3/

Take your pick, as long as you sit back, relax, and enjoy watching and listening. For the full effect to penetrate your mind and stimulate your senses, I suggest a couple of viewing at the very least. If you like it – let it be known by spreading the word and “liking” it.

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The Third Man and Me

My piece, a personal reflection — “The Third Man and Me: A Halloween Tradition” — is posted on Moment Magazine Online. Here’s a taste of it: “My love affair with The Third Man began many years ago. It was a sunny, hot summer day in Tel Aviv, and the cool and darkness of the small art-deco cinema theater – I believe it was the Paris Cinema Theater, creaking wooden chairs and all – was too tempting to resist, even if the advertised film was an old black and white film, a British-American collaborative effort. I was a fresh film student then in a small, off-Dizengoff Street private school, taught exclusively by an old, grumpy Jewish émigré professor from Poland. According to the legend percolating in the city’s sidewalk cafés, he had thought Roman Polanski the alphabet of filmmaking, which made a big impression on me. I was all into the “auteur theory” of cinema back then, looking down on anything that did not come from Italian or French directors. Yet something in that film’s title, the premise of the two film stars of Citizen Kane going at it again, and the allure of the beautiful, sad-eyed woman between them in the poster, attracted my attention and curiosity.”

To read more go to:
http://www.momentmag.com/third-man-halloween-tradition/

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Phantom John (Part Five)

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He didn’t even look at her when he’d said that. His eyes remained fixed on the black wall. But not Joy’s eyes – they stared at him shell-shocked. She was unable to speak or move, while everything around her froze accordingly: the trees and the birds and the wind and the clouds and the rain and the people and the city. And time; certainly time.

“Watch your fag,” he said and pointed at her cigarette, which fell from her fingers down to the ground and was still smoldering in the grass. So she quickly stumped her foot on it, crushing it with her wet sneaker. And then, gathering some strength from this simple act, she turned back to him and asked: “What you mean?”
“What I mean what?”
“That he ain’t dead?”
He smiled at her and laid his hand gently on her arm.
“If he ain’t on the wall, child, he ain’t dead.”
She just stared at him. Dumbfounded.
“Ain’t missin’, either,” he said, reading her mind again. And as if realizing that he didn’t convince her yet, he added: “I’m an expert, child, believe me.”

But she was yet to believe him. Her birth mother was standing in the way. And then she heard him saying, “Who is he, anyways?”
“My father.”
“You never met him?”
She shook her head. “He died in Vietnam on February eleventh, sixty-nine. The day I was born. That’s what my mother told me.”
“She did?”
“Yes. He was…” she hesitated to use the word hero. “He got a medal, too.”
“What medal?”
“Of honor or something.”

He studied her for a moment, curiously.
“What else you know?”
She shrugged her shoulders. But then said, “He was a marine, nineteen when he died. Like I’m now. Never knew I was born, even.”
“His name?”
“Raymond De Rosi.”
He was quiet for a while, as if searching his memory. Finally, he shook his head and said, “Never heard of him.”
“So…”
“So he ain’t on the wall.”
“’Cuse me,” she reacted quickly, “you know all the names on the wall?”
He nodded, smiling.
“All fifty-eight thousand something?”
“That’s right,” he said, a hint of pride in his voice. “Used to help people there myself, there by the wall.”
“I see.”
“Tell you something else, though.”
“What?”
“If he ain’t on the wall, he ain’t dead.”
“You said that already.”
“Correcto, dear child, correcto. Because, you see, if he ain’t dead, he must be alive.”
“Alive?!…”
He smiled at her and said, “Facto, if you ask me, facto. Must be kicking dust somewhere.”

She turned her back to him and looked away from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, her eyes stopping on a visible part of the Reflecting Pool, where she saw a reflection of a pair of big dark eyes. As if someone, deep inside the pool, was staring back at her, his eyes crying for help. But Joy, in horror, raised her eyes away from this frightening sight and looked at the city. A city unlike any other city she’d ever seen. Even more foreign to her now than when she first arrived here. And if her wishes at that very moment were to be granted, then that thick layer of dark clouds would have fallen over this city. Over the memorials and the buildings. Over him and her. And it would have buried them and everything else underneath it.

Instead, she heard his voice again: “Come with me, my child.”
And although she didn’t turn her head yet, she saw him coming into view in front of her, spinning the wheels of his chair on the wet grass. He didn’t look back and she knew that he wouldn’t. Deep down, she figured, he was still a proud soldier. But something – inexplicable as of yet – lifted her up from the ground, backpack and all, and pushed her forward until she reached him, until she placed her hands on the back of his wheelchair; leaving behind on the grass only her bouquet of red roses.

* A short story excerpt from my novel: Very Narrow Bridge.
To be continued next month on the 15th.

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Who’s the “Unidentified Woman?” (Part Five)

Summer reading used to be easy: just fun in the sun. But wait, my friends, here comes a beach-worthy fiction with substance and merit as well! A month from today, on August 15, a literary mystery novel like no other—a story of rape, revenge, and redemption—will be published online, available throughout the E-reader Universe (see a short description of the novel by clicking on the “Woman” page above). Be the first to read an excerpt, and have an initial clue on the road to solving the mystery: who is she, the Unidentified Woman, and what’s her story? Here’s another short excerpt: 

I feel lucky today, Adela. I breathe the crisp spring air. I listen to the singing of the birds. I smell wild flowers. I shake my hair loose and let it fly. The promise of quiet is suddenly all around me, and I can hear myself thinking for the first time since I was kidnapped. Maybe there is a future for me after all, like Big Mamá said.

I’m working alone, the way Mario told me to. Not with the other workers I saw on the way before we entered this narrow valley. The work is easy, much better than the hard work at the factory. I water the coca plants with a hose. That’s all I do. It’s a young field and the shrubs are about my size, no more than one meter and twenty tall. They don’t seem thirsty to me, the plants, but still, I fill this shallow circle that surrounds them with water. I just look at the water streaming so nicely. Then when it’s full, I move the hose to the next plant. I feel a gentle breeze coming down from the hills. I hear only birds and the whisper of the wind. I see the water swirling and I see the butterflies fly around me. My wish at this moment is to be a butterfly.

But suddenly—don’t know how, don’t know why—I see a shadow in the water circling the plant. I hear footsteps, too. And when I raise my head to look, the man is too close for me to run away. He is tall and old and Gringo. He is wearing boots and a cowboy hat. Like in a movie we saw together once, Adela, in our village. Remember?

I let the hose drop down from my hand and take a step back. That’s when he takes his hat off and throws it on the ground. His head is bald like a melon, and so ugly. He looks me up and down. He smiles. Evil smile. “You’re mine, Little Maria,” he says in Spanish with an American accent.

How does he know my name? I hate that name. One day I’m going to change it. I turn around and begin to run. He chases after me and grabs me from behind. I scream but nobody hears me. Where is Mario? Where is Big Mamá? Where are the other workers I saw when we drove in here? Where is everybody?

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Moment Magazine Memoir Contest Winner

On Sunday February 12, I was awarded Moment Magazine 2011 Memoir Contest first place prize. The award ceremony was held at the Spertus Institute — http://spertus.edu/moment — in Chicago.  Here’s a short excerpt from the winning entry, “The Sweet Life:” 

All the films that came to the kibbutz, crisscrossing the Jezreel Valley from place to place, were in 16mm, mostly Black & White, as was the film that night. They came spooled in tin reels, usually three or four, which required regular breaks in the action for the projectionist—by far the most important person in the kibbutz in my opinion—to replace them and start again. In addition, the film itself would break occasionally during each screening, evident by strange noises and pictures running in high speed on the screen. These unexpected breaks in the action had always seemed to occur, at least to me, at the most crucial, suspenseful moments.

The adults, however, didn’t seem to mind one way or the other, and used these breaks for a variety of other things. First among them was the lighting of cigarettes, as almost everybody in the kibbutz smoked back then. Small flames flickered here and there, dotting the canvas of the dark lawn with color, before dying out into oblivion. Another favorite pastime activity was watching and pointing at the stars, and in later years at the Sputniks and Satellites floating slowly across the nightly skies. Some men used these breaks as an opportunity to relieve themselves in the nearby bushes. Shouts of all kinds, mainly announcements of urgent meetings or changes in work schedule, could be heard as well. A new mother would often be called to the babies-house, since her baby was crying for milk. There were hugs, kisses and feel-ups on the lawn. And between the blankets, rumors circulated through the grapevine, a baby or two were actually conceived.

Not me. I was conceived either on the boat of refugees bringing my parents, Holocaust survivors from Hungary, to Eretz Israel from Europe, or in the interment camp the British had brought them to after capturing their boat. It was probably a vacation for them there, compared with what they had gone through in the German concentration camps, since it was set up on the shore of the Mediterranean Sea. Somehow, they had both survived the horrors. But they had left behind in the burning chambers, among other relatives, my grandparents on both sides. Come to think of it now, there were no grandparents to be found in my kibbutz at all as I was growing up.

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Unidentified Woman

A new Gideon Gold’s investigation mystery novel, a work-in-progress, is to be published this summer on Amazon Kindle and other E-reader outlets. Here is a short description:

Unidentified Woman is a story of rape, revenge, and redemption. A young Mexican girl, Maria Sanchez, is kidnapped on her way to school one morning. She is enslaved and repeatedly raped by paying costumers, mostly Americans. But she survives and grows up to become an independent young woman living in Los Angeles. She tracks down those men who wronged her, exerting a deadly, unusual punishment. On her footsteps, following the police’s failure to capture her, is a reluctant, amateur private investigator, Gideon Gold; a former commander of an elite Israeli paratroops unit and a Mossad secret agent. His frantic pursuit of the her takes unexpected twists and turns, culminating in a dramatic, compelling game of cat-and-mouse that will change both of their lives forever.

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Very Narrow Bridge — First Chapter’s Excerpt

My novel, VERY NARROW BRIDGE, is available now at the Amazon Kindle Store. Please go directly to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005L652QU, check it out and read the favorable reviews. I hope you will consider purchasing the book for $4.99.

On the right sidebar, under Blogroll, there are links to my Amazon Novel Page, and my Author Page. Above, click on the “Very Narrow Bridge” page for a book description, and on the “Videos” page for the book trailer videos. Below, you can read an excerpt from the book’s First Chapter.

                                                    First Chapter’s Excerpt

A reunion, in fact. A probability, which made him deliberate long and hard whether to help accelerate by calling that woman, Susan Plummer, and let her know of the mistake she had made. A missing daughter, after all, was a serious matter. And a good enough reason to lift the receiver of his old rotary telephone (he was a sucker for anything old, junk as well) and dial her number. Which he finally did.

But then he put the receiver down quickly, before it even rang at the other end, and remained motionless. Surrounded by pictures and documents that reflected his achievements – and partly his life – since he had left the kibbutz seventeen years ago, at the age of twenty-three. He looked at the picture of London under a layer of fog: a still that closed the first film he had ever made, at the London Film School. He felt surrounded by fog himself; a melancholy fog. He loved London, and the small, old school near Covent Garden Market in West End. But those were hard days for him as well. He was always short on money then (as he was now, too, so nothing much had changed), working at nights as a security guard in the Israeli Embassy, and going to film school in the mornings straight from there. He remembered, also, his first wife. With agony he remembered her – though he tried to forget her. And he thought about his first son, Nimrod, who still lived with her in Tel-Aviv.

He felt guilty: him being here and his son, a teenager, growing up there. Without a father. He figured that a search for a missing teenage daughter, at this point in time, would be almost like a search for his own son. So he picked up the receiver and dialed the number. But it rang only once before he put it down again. He was still a Kibbutznik at heart, Gideon Gold. He still believed – despite all the evidences to the contrary, and his experiences in the big cities of the world showing otherwise – that two plus two equals four. Pure and simple. As he had been taught to believe. Even if later, step by step, he had learned his lesson.

Learned that two plus two equals five. Or six or seven, depend on the circumstances. Rarely four, though. But his education and therefore transformation, from an idealistic youth raised on sublime universal principles of goodness and integrity and honesty and morality; to a savvy, cynical, amoral Machiavellian citizen of the world – was never completed. He was dying to be a hard-boiled, been there done that private detective. Like the one he was writing about in his current screenplay: an erotic-thriller, dealing with sex, crime and the pursuit of happiness. American style.

 He was a Captain in the Israeli Army, after all, in an elite unit of the paratroops. He was an Air Marshal, too, on El-Al Israeli airplanes, in the heyday of hijacking and all that terror. And, to top it all – a memory he dared not remember too often – a brief stint as a secret agent of the Mossad, the Israeli secret service. He did his training, therefore, he couldn’t let an opportunity such as this one slip by him, the way he did so many times in the past. He must dial the number.

And so he did. But this time he had failed to hang up in time. As a woman’s voice, exceedingly worried, answered the phone immediately. Forcing him to introduce himself as Gideon Gold, a private investigator, telling her of her mistake, reaching him instead of the “Gold Investigations Inc.”

      “Pure Gold,” he named his business off the top of his head. “At your service.”

      “Sounds good to me,” she responded. “As long as you can do the job, Mr. Gold.”

 He assured her that he could, sensing from her voice that she was a woman past her prime, and that this conversation was very hard – painful, even – on her to conduct.

      “What’s the job?” he asked.

So she told him that her only daughter, Joy Plummer, had run away from home more than a year ago, in the summer of 1986. She was seventeen then, and didn’t even finish high school. Maybe he could look for her out there, she suggested. She was willing to pay him, of course.

Whatever it takes, a sign flashed in front of Gideon’s eyes. So he asked her (he still spoke with some accent in his voice, which worried him mostly when he spoke on the phone), why did she think her daughter was here in L.A.?

      “Her good friend, June, thinks so.”     

      “That’s all?”        

      “There always was a bit of an actress in her, sir.”

      “I see.”

      “That’s why I thought, you know… they all run there to Hollywood, don’t they?”

Himself included, he had to admit. And said yes, they sure do. And of course he could look for her here. Where else but here? He wasn’t going anywhere, anyway, he had a son here to take care of. He didn’t even hesitate when he agreed to do the job. His education therefore completed: two plus two equals five.

She asked him to name his price. A request he was glad to fulfill: Ten thousand dollars, he said, his voice steady and business-like, half of it to launch the investigation, the second half when – no “if” about it – he found her daughter.

To his surprise, astonishment even, she agreed. So he asked her to send him a letter, as soon as she could, containing as many details as possible about her daughter. Including a close-up picture and a full-body shot as well. And a personal letter from mother to daughter, if possible. And the check, of course.

      “Of course, Mr. Gold.”

 He gave her his address, before they hung up. And that was that. Or so he thought, at first. His hand was still clutching the receiver, yet he was smiling like a kid who pulled off a trick.  But by the second he took his hand off the telephone, he already felt bad about the whole thing.  He hated telephones, all his life, and blamed the impersonal instrument for his brewing guilt trip.  He grew up without telephones and was sixteen, he remembered, when he first used one. He called his mother, who had left the kibbutz and moved to the city by then. She was a city-type person, while his father was a simple farmer. And Gideon himself was half and half: not here not there.  He was a product of the Holocaust. Which his parents, somehow, survived.  And of course, never forgot.

He remembered too much, Gideon. It made him feel lousy. So he considered smoking his pipe, to reflect on it all; or play his harmonica, to forget it all.  But he did neither. Instead, he read “Youth,” a poem by Czelaw Milosz, enlarged and framed on his wall.  It always made him feel a little bit better about himself. As if he were not alone in this chaotic world. Especially one short stanza, which he kept reading again and again:

Your wishes will be fulfilled, you will gape then

At the essence of time, woven of smoke and mist, 

With that in mind he left his room. And with that in mind he entered Daniel’s room, and quietly watched his son asleep. He and his old teddy bear; both lending Gideon some tranquility. Making it possible for him to leave the room, put on his swim-trunks and step outside and down the stairs. Where he stopped on the edge of the pink swimming pool. Alone.

Gloria with her glorious body, nature-made in mahogany brown but gym-sculptured, was not around. The Armenian family, on the other hand, was around. Members and ever-present guests alike, with their constant commotion: people coming and going, singing and eating. Always eating. And the maddening noise of the backgammon pieces, day and night, hitting the board.

      “It’s a free country, man,” they had told him some weeks ago, when he had reproached them about it.

No doubt, he reflected now, staring at his own distorted reflection in the dimly lit pool. And then, after taking a deep breath, he jumped into the colder than he expected water and swam underneath the surface to the other side. Seeing – as always, whenever he jumped like that into a pool – a single lucid image establishing itself in his mind: the crystal clear water of his childhood stream. His fountain of youth. Where he and his friends, on hot summer days, had experienced the time of their lives. Under the watchful eyes of Mount Gilboa, where King Saul and his son Jonathan fought the Philistines. And where they died.

A place where, in those hot days, there were no parents. No teachers either. Just kids and nature, in an endless wild summer dance. So liberating a dance it was, that he remembered it all in a flash. A flash and then a vision, which made him yearn to go back home. Made him sad, too. Because when he finally emerged from under the water, dying for a breath of fresh air, it all evaporated. Vanished like a sudden wind.  And left him empty. Left him with the knowledge, plain and cruel, that his small childhood stream – like his childhood – no longer existed. Diverted into a bigger canal for agricultural purposes. A rock quarry, digging and eating at the biblical mountain, was operating beside it. In the name of a new god: Profit. Spoiling the lucidity of the water with dust.

It made him shiver. As he remembered not only what Thomas Wolfe wrote, but what his father had written as well, about his disillusions with the place he had helped built.

      “The place you left behind, son, is no longer the place you left behind,” his father had remarked in his last letter. Maybe he had read it somewhere, and maybe not. It didn’t matter.

What mattered was, that sitting on the edge of the pool with one foot still in the water, illuminated by a brilliant Southern California moon, and surrounded by birds-of-paradise and palm trees, made Gideon Gold feel a little bit better about himself. And about things as a whole. He was reassured in his belief that he could not go back home. And that, as the saying goes here in America, home is where the heart is. Right here in beautiful Burbank, where the future still held a lot of promise for him.  Whether as a screenwriter or as a private investigator he could not yet tell.

 

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“Very Narrow Bridge is a Wide Reaching Novel”

My novel, VERY NARROW BRIDGE, is available now at the Amazon Kindle Store. Please go directly to http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005L652QU and check it out.

There are now two very favorable reviews of my book. One of them starts with these words: “Took me by surprise, this novel. Thought it’s a plain old mystery, but else, “Very Narrow Bridge” is a wide reaching novel, and very complicated at that…” You can read the rest at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005L652QU

 A hybrid of literary and mystery fiction, the novel VERY NARROW BRIDGE is centered on a complicated relationship between a daughter and her long lost father, a Vietnam War hero. You can read the rest of the description here on the page titled VERY NARROW BRIDGE, or at the book page on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B005L652QU.

Please consider purchasing the book for the ridicules sum of $4.99. Apart from Kindle devices, it can be downloaded to practically any old computer, as well as Ipads, Iphones and so on. Please visit my VIDEOS page above, and watch the YouTube videos: “The Girl with the Long Hair” (three parts). I hope you, your family and friends will watch and enjoy these book trailer videos.

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