"Shma Yisrael, adonai elohim adonai echad...", Irv prayed softly as he released the worn leather tefillin wrapped around his bicep. He then removed the rosh block from his forehead and sighed as he placed it in the old purple velvet bag that had held it these many years. Was it not written in the mishna?
And it shall be for a sign upon your hand, and as totafot between your eyes; for with a mighty hand did the LORD bring us forth out of Egypt" — Exodus 13:16
Irv stared grimly at the formica table situated squarely in the middle of his spartan one room apartment. This had surely been a day not like any other day. It was one thing to have to deal with the usual detective mumzer from the Police Department, maybe he forgot to fill out one of the secondhand reports, but a man from the Department of Treasury? Vay is mir. How could he be responsible for the actions of these goyim, these filth? Yes, he took a larger bite than he should have sometimes but he was an old man. Who else had been through what he had been through?
The treasury man had slowly turned the stark white pages of the binder with the photographs of the suspects, one by one. Irv had largely feigned ignorance, "I might have seen that one" but felt that the man's eyes were piercing right through him when he got to the picture of Don. Irving coughed and excused himself for a little drink of water, can an old man get a drink of water? He ran the cold water at full blast in the pawn shop's small filthy wash room, as if the sound could drown out the pressure of this temporal world and whisk him away to a place of peace. He pulled a yellowed hand towel off the shelf and after whetting it, placed it on his forehead.
After a brief moment of composure and a deep breath Irv returned to the faded midcentury couch where the government agent was still sitting. "I wish I could help you - if any of these guys walk in, is there a number I can call? The Treasury Agent stared at him intensely for a second, handed him a crisp business card and left without a word.
Irv's eyes followed the agent to his car. He flipped the light switch off and lowered the tattered aluminum blinds. That was enough excitement for one day. Surely. Had any of these people ever been through what he had been through? He peeled his right sleeve up and bared the ink stained numbers from Buchenwald.
He had been one of the famed singing horses - one of the few who had survived the camp and whose job it was to haul the large rocks around until their bodies expired. He never spoke, he never snitched - he served his death sentence with a palpable flame of hatred. He barely had the strength to walk when he was finally liberated by the kind American soldiers who were visibly stunned by his emaciated physique.
He had managed passage to New York on a lower deck berth on the White Star Line from Holland. It was on that ship where he met his eventual wife, Elise. She was a beautiful girl, a shiksa, but so very kind. He knew that they were meant for each other from the moment he laid eyes on her and they had lived a mostly great life together but now she was gone. Life had grown cold and now had little meaning. Death had stolen the only thing important to him and now he was entirely alone.
Irv had a cousin in Cleveland that he vaguely remembered, in Shaker Heights. He wouldn't bother him. He was too proud. Life was now spent mostly glued to the television, Montell to Oprah to Springer, again and again and again and now these shmutzig thieves who sold him hot watches and gold filled charms. But by god, the Treasury Department, oy, this was hot water.
Irv slumped in his metal chair and a tear welled up in his eye. Hearing the whistle of the teapot, he found his favorite russian tea, poured the boiling water into the glass mug and filled it with a little too much sugar. His small arms extruded at odd angles above his stained undershirt. He had hustled his whole life and always managed to fill that inside straight. Would it be too much to ask for another hole card? Why was he still alive when so many of the truly great ones in the camps had been killed?
Dear God, help your old buddy one more time and I will truly repent. We have been through so much together. Haven't I suffered enough already?
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