The Member of the Tribe
Christina Marie never found
her name to be a liability until
she became a Jew.
The daughter of a faithless father
and a mother once too liberal for Oberlin
who mitigated a midlife crisis by
flocking to the fundamentalists,
Christina sought her tribe
as vertigo patients clutch at railings.
Mesmerized by the Mosaic faith
that flashed in the velvety black eyes
of Avi, the raffish artist
who romanced her roommate,
Christina convinced a bull-necked
Reform rabbi to direct her
as she devoured responsa,
inhaled history from Noah to Netanyahu,
and tackled Teach Yourself Hebrew
until the day she was dunked
like a doughnut of naked flesh in the mikveh
and was issued a conversion certificate
that called her Rachel.
But to Christina’s chagrin,
a shul can be icy
for a greenhorn giyoret,
a convert lacking the culture,
so after a month of Fridays
of feeling like meat among milk,
Christina decided to try
Trips to Kensley
never refused an overnight trip to see
Aunt Peggy and Uncle Lee and
Christopher and Steve
in the unincorporated community of Kensley
caressing de facto farmland
so dissimilar to their soulless suburb
lying limply on the commuter line from the city.
Unlike their own bland bungalow
where tired, trite rites and tensions
fueled fracases and failures,
Aunt Peggy’s place was perpetually splashed with
volleys of laughter and lights
and video games and whispering after dark
and bowls brimming with Better Than Robert Redford Cake.
Now Aunt Peggy and Uncle Lee have expired, and
Christopher, Steve and even Eddie
have gradually retreated into
the territory of unfamiliarity.
Ditches deepened by
decades of disappointment and boredom
have been dug across Oliver’s brow,
but sometimes he stabs the key
into his used Nissan Micra –
which isn’t even close to being paid off –
and cruises over to Kensley
onto a street that has been renamed,
to a once-halcyon house claimed by strangers
before returning to a room that’s
haunted by nothing.
An Obscure Half-Century in Suburbia
that he’d failed at adulting
though he had no debt,
no criminal record,
and no addictions
other than snack cakes,
and a Rubik’s cube
he still hadn’t resolved.
Five weeks from his forty-fifth birthday,
he still slept in the same twin bed
that had sheltered his itchy, sweating limbs
after he’ d contracted chicken pox
at New Year 1984.
He clung to his octogenarian progenitors
for fish fingers, fresh fluffy laundry and
too anxious for a driving license
and too cloudy-headed for a job since
his diligent daydreaming had got him
sacked from shelf-reading
at the community library.
And when he craved companionship,
he copied the mobile numbers
of grinning realtors advertised
on weather-beaten bus-stops
and typed “howdy, buddy”
under an invented nom de texto
and an imaginary reason
just to receive a response.
Adrian Slonaker works as a copywriter and copy editor in Urbandale, Iowa, USA. Adrian’s work has appeared in The Bohemyth, Queen’s Mob Tea House, Pangolin Review, Picaroon Poetry, Runcible Spoon and others.