Two Faces of Mensch

Edna Yaghi’s Column


It all began in the land of the ancient nightingale amidst the background of homemade pita bread, olive oil and freshly made yogurt. Then, days were as soft as the rays of golden sunlight and even more promising; and nights, made of black velvet, smelled like musk, incense and orange blossoms.

It was here that a people called the Goys tended the land they loved for thousands of years. Every tree they planted was as precious as a small child and watered tenderly by loving hands. These Goyans were noble, gentle and peace loving.

Together the men ventured and retold their adventures around antique coffee shops against the background of blue skies, orange groves, to the sound of the hummingbird and the buzz of honeybees searching for rich citrus nectar.

Barefoot children dashed in and out of summer sprinklers that irrigated row upon row of orange and lemon trees whose famous fruits were shipped off to faraway lands. Life was indeed good and the Goy people lived in bliss and harmony. Even migrating birds, tired of their long overseas journey would flutter down on Goyan shores until they had gained enough strength to resume their flight. Seagulls beat their wings against azure Goyan skies.

Then one day, a people known as the Mamzers invaded the land of the Goys, scorching the fertile earth, uprooting the trees that the Goyans had lovingly tended and killing unarmed men, women and children who had until this time, only known peace and tranquility in their garden of Eden.

These Mamzers, who were meshugenes, schlemiels and downright nogoodniks, convinced the world that all along, the Goyan’s land had been theirs. And the world, hasty to be rid of the Mamzers, armed them, defended them and helped spread their lies. Mamzerian atrocities and attempts to liquidate and drive away the surviving Goyans from their land was portrayed as merely attempts to safeguard the survival of the invaders while the Goyans were portrayed as violent rebellious souls who somehow were unable to appreciate the fact that they were being slaughtered.

Thousands of Goyans fled to neighboring countries. Others huddled in newly established camps within the remnants of their own land, thinking that soon they would be able to return home. Some even kept the keys to their houses in their pockets or treasure chests hoping that when tomorrow came, they would see their orange and lemon groves once more.

But this was not to be. Soon the Mamzers declared their statehood and made leaders out of those who had killed the most Goyans. With the aid of Kosher deceptions, Hollywood theatrics, Clintonian acting and ludicrous lies, the new state was recognized and with time, the gentle Goyans came to be stereotyped as uncivilized, uneducated and undeserving of their own land.

The Mamzer campaign of lies succeeded and so the invaders began to build an army state bent on the extermination of the Goyans. Unable to bear the oppression of Manzerian leaders whose flag bore a Swastika-like emblem, infant Goyans rose up to fight for the freedom of their people only to be ruthlessly cut down. More and more Mamzers flooded onto the shores of the ancient Goyans razing more Goyan homes, constructing new settlements and hiding many Goyan skeletons in their dank closets.

And out of the chaos and destruction came new sages and pseudo-prophets declaring they had visions of the carnage and destruction they had perpetrated revisiting their own ranks. One such visionary painted colorful pictures on archaic walls declaiming what his fellow Mamzers had done. With his gnarled hands, gaunt face, and bent figure, he succeeded in convincing many Goyans that he was sincere, for he was well-versed in story telling, drew beautiful pictures on scraps of parchment and sang songs of love and peace.

Thus, some Goyans exalted him and made him one of their own. But one day, a friendly Goyan artist, interested in learning the trade from the kindly gnarled visionary, decided to visit the acclaimed hero who he had conversed with on various occasions. Gently, he tap tapped on the Visionary’s door. From within, he heard a voice, at first deep and harsh sounding, growl a “come in.”

The Goyan artist at first hesitated, not wanting to encroach on the privacy of others. He was startled when the door flung open and the disheveled figure of the Visionary appeared before him. “Oh, it’s you. Come in.”

The artist entered. A dark odor seemed to linger about the house and he thought he could hear moans and groans of tortured souls somewhere in the distance. No sunlight permeated the drawing room. The curtains were stained and yellowed, the carpet worn and tired. Some incense burned in a tin container sending off puffs that curled upwards towards a moldy ceiling. It seemed to the Goyan artist that no windows had been opened for ever so long and he could think of no better description of the lingering odor than that of death. Though it was winter, beads of sweat formed on the artist’s forehead and a shudder that began at the top of his head worked its way down to the bottom of his feet.

“Do sit down.” Said the Visionary. “Make yourself at home. I am honored by your visit.”

The artist stuttered. Then he cleared his throat. Finally he summoned up the courage and said, “I have come to learn art from you Mensch. Everyone I know is praising your courage to paint against our oppressors.”

A spark flashed in Mensch’s eyes. The corners of his cragged lips turned up slightly revealing brown stained teeth. Then he spoke, the gruffness softening to a mellow whine, “Why yes of course. I will teach you how to paint beautiful pictures. Naturally, we will begin at the beginning.”

The Goyan artist learned new techniques and abandoned his crude style of expression. Now he could command new splashes of vivid colors and now maybe his fellow Goyans would acknowledge his talents. On a day that looked like summer, the artist paid his last visit to Mensch the visionary. As he hopped up the Mamzer’s steps, he felt the rays of the winter sun warm his back. Later, he told himself. Later when he was finished with his final lesson, he could enjoy the last of the day’s sun while walking back home.

During his many visits to Mensch’s home, he had almost forgotten the dismal cluttered appearance of the shoddy house and tried to imagine the smell of lemon and orange blossoms instead of the sickly odor that clung to the worn chairs and the threadbare carpet. After all, he reassured himself, he was in the home of his dear friend, a talented visionary who had taught him the finer art of painting. One last time he was met at the door by the gaunt gnarled figure of Mensch. Once more he was invited inside and asked to sit himself down.

After the Goy’s last efforts at perfecting his newly learned art, his mentor said, “Come here my good man. We are now the best of friends and I have taught you all I know. I have something special to show you today. Something that will both shock and inspire you. Something that you will never forget as long as you live.”

Little did he suspect that the length of his life was coming to an end. The artist followed the withered figure of his cherished friend. Down dark stairs the two went. The steps creaked and groaned with each downward movement. His heart beat excitedly. He was on the verge of discovering art in its most perfect form, he thought. He would be the first Goyan to view the greatest of all the Visionary’s creations. He would go back and reconfirm what many of his fellow Goyans had now believed as well. That this Mamzer was the not only the greatest artist, but truly a Goyan at heart. The Goyan artist decided then and there that upon returning home, he would paint his own masterpiece and dedicate it to his visionary friend. Perhaps in this way, he could share some of Mensch’s glory.

“It’s right over here. Step this way but be careful you don’t fall. I would hate to see you hurt.”

The Visionary slowly opened a heavy metal door. “Please, it is here inside. Come have a look.”

The Goyan artist moved ahead of Mensch and stepped carefully inside a vault-like structure. A very fitting place for a treasure he thought as he nodded his head in silent approval. It was too dark to see well. Suddenly, the heavy door slammed shut. He heard the key lock. He pounded on the metal door, there must be some mistake. He yelled at Mensch the Visionary. “Hey, the door locked. Let me out.”

All he heard was a shrill cackle and sluggish footsteps leading awayéfar away. He tried to feel his way around, to grope for a light, a candle, a match, anything. His foot hit what felt like a dead body. A sickening stench overcame him and he almost fainted. His hand landed on something that felt like human bones. He screamed and cried and beat at the door. No one came to open it.

It took days to die an agonizing death. He finally stopped yelling and screaming for he knew it was no use. He knew no one would come to search for him for a Goyan would not be missed by the outside world and his own fellow Goyans had already forgotten him and his meager talents. He became just another skeleton in the apocryphal visionary’s closet.

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