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Mendel broke the news to Rabbi Engel, he was very
"Look, Mrs. Mendel," he said, shaking a finger.
"It's your funeral. I am not
personally against it -- but I'm not personally for
it either. However! ....
and it's a big however already .... is it asking
too much to put your
in a patch of dirt?" The Rabbi was dead set against
cremation. "For five
thousand years we Jews have been on the run. Isn't
it about time in this day
that a Jew can put his bones in a patch of dirt?"
Beverly took this as a qualified approval. "My mind
is made up, Reb Engel,
after the service, Schachter is driving Simon to
the crematory, I will have
with me always."
Beverly had no intention of cherishing the ashes of
Simon Mendel any longer
than she had to. Instead, she wanted to eradicate
his earthly remains as
quickly as possible. She wanted no trace of him
left behind. He was a most
man, and even if he were interred in a remote
corner of the Jewish Cemetery
in the borough of Queens, she could not be sure he
would stay there. For the
past twelve years, she and Simon had exchanged no
more than a dozen words --
almost all of them heated, and if it had been she,
instead of Simon who had
massive coronary, she knew he would feel the same.
Even when they were on speaking terms, it was
always "Simon says this," and
"Simon says that." They would go where Simon wanted
to go and eat what Simon
wanted to eat. He was the same way down at the
business. Sheila, his
would raise her eyes to the ceiling and shout, "D'yukst
aros de kishkas!"
Which, in choice Yiddish means, "You're rushing my
guts out!" The outburst
have no effect on Simon, who would continue to
stride back and forth in his
tiny office at the back of the shop waving his arms
and dictating while
tried to finish the letter he had just dictated. He
went from crisis to
and it's not surprising that he met his sudden end
at the age of fifty-six.
It happened during the busy season at Big Boy Jeans
-- early summer when the
stores are stocking up for the fall. Simon was
berating Paulo Santos, the
cutter (and the only gentile on the premises).
"Meshuggah! Dumb Filipino! Ve can get six extra
pairs of pants if ve cut on
"We can't cut on the bias -- you know that, Mr.
Mendel. The pants won't hang
right -- besides I am Puerto Rican -- you know that
too!" Santos later said
that Senor Mendel had given him a "funny" look and
began walking backwards.
thought it was strange that he had gotten the last
word. "It wasn't like
Mendel to let me have the last word." Simon
stumbled backward all the way
across the shop and through the door of his office,
"As though he had eyes
back of his head," Santos said. Then he collapsed
in a heap in front of
Sheila, whose only response was, "Oy, gevald."
Big Boy Jeans carried on however. Most clothing
manufacturers are owned by
two or more people for reasons of solvency; but at
the same time, to have
someone to blame when things go wrong. Wayne
Shatner was Simon's partner.
Simon called him, "Mine potna.") Wayne, who sported
a mustache similar to
worn by Ronald Coleman, spent no time in the shop.
He was a road man. Every
successful clothing company partnership consists of
a shop man and a road
Wayne, a bachelor, was a born road man, every bit
as much as Simon was a
Now, with Wayne Shatner and Beverly Mendel as 'potnas',
the shop man's
responsibilities fell on the narrow shoulders of
Paulo Santos. He was
foreman status even before Simon Mendel made the
trip to the crematory, and
Simon's former secretary, Sheila, was now an office
honcho with greater
responsibilities and a secretary of her own. She
had to handle all the
and day to day office duties that had been one of
the causes of Simon
coronary. Everyone had something to be thankful for
it seemed -- if you
discount Simon Mendel.
The only fly in Beverly Mendel's ointment, so to
speak, was the urn
containing the ashes of her husband now sitting on
her fireplace mantel.
presence had been such a stifling influence on her
that she was determined
eliminate all traces of him.
The Mendel's fourteen room residence in Oyster Bay
Cove was located in the
center of a six acre lot, the northern end of which
sloped gently down to
Cove's private sandy beach on Long Island Sound.
Simon had often sunned
there on weekends while working on his shipping
schedules and raw material
purchasing records. How simple it would be, thought
Beverly, to walk down
some evening and empty his urn into the outgoing
tide, his remains would
certainly be thoroughly diluted in the turbid
waters of the Sound.
It was very tempting ...
But could she do it in broad daylight? All the
residents of Oyster Bay Cove
had access to the beach, all their patios, sun
rooms and cabanas overlooked
beach and the broad expanse of Long Island Sound.
Nothing passed unnoticed
during the daylight hours -- binoculars would be
quickly trained on a lone
figure emptying a suspicious container. The people
of Oyster Bay Cove were
ecologically vigilant as well -- they were
concerned with the dwindling
and the fate of the spotted owl. The pollution of
their precious shoreline
be a subject of grave concern to them.
Could she do it in the dead of night? Hardly. It
was early summer, and for
the next few months the singles of Oyster Bay Cove
would be partying 'til
hours. The things that went on down there! From
what she'd heard, there was
drinking and bon fires and all sorts of
monkeyshines going on in the dunes.
much too risky to wander down there in the evening
with the ashes of Simon
But there had to be a way. The northern shore of
Long Island is an unending
series of indented bays and inlets. Beverly decided
to reconnoiter. She got
the BMW one lovely early summer afternoon and
headed east from Oyster Bay
Cove. Threading her way along the winding back
roads of the north shore, she
eventually discovered the quaint little town of Old
Field. At the very end
Field Road she pulled up to a sandy beach
surrounding the abandoned Old
Lighthouse. "This is it!" she exclaimed. To the
north, the only land she
see was the distant Connecticut shore. The nearest
human beings were too
small to be seen in their sailboats out on the vast
blue expanse of Long
On the beach a curious gull or two were her
only companions. She
the tide was ebbing,
"Tomorrow," she said to herself, "tomorrow it is --
same time, same place!"
Yes, by this time tomorrow, it would be 'bon
voyage' for Simon.
She turned the BMW around and hurried home. She
wasn't hungry. She was much
too edgy to watch television and too preoccupied to
read. Early that
with nothing to do, she looked through the hall
closet and found a
Bloomingdales shopping bag and carefully put
Simon's urn inside. "How small
it is," she
thought, remembering Simon's considerable bulk. "A
miracle they squeezed all
him in there." She brought it out to the car and
put it in the trunk.
she said, "nothing to do now but wait." -- later,
she was restless and slept
fitfully. "Will the morning ever come?" She asked
herself again and again as
the dark night dragged on. Again and again she
would turn to check on the
passage of time on the radio alarm clock.
At the first light of morning, Beverly dragged
herself out of bed and into a
long hot shower. She dressed casually in a sweater
and slacks; then,
she hadn't eaten a thing for dinner, decided to
make herself a decent
breakfast. She was determined not to start off for
Old Field until ten
because at noon the tide would turn and the waters
off the sandy shore of
Lighthouse would ebb with the confluence of the sun
and the moon and Simon
would become one with the infinite.
She set the kitchen timer and sat down to wait. A
thump at the front door
startled her. Only the paper boy! -- something to
pass the time. She checked
weather, the tide tables and the local news.
Everything was going according
plan. The weather would be cooler today than
yesterday with a freshening
breeze from the south, and the tide indeed would
turn to the ebb in the
of Old Field at twelve noon. The combination of the
wind and the tide would
the impetus to drive the remains of Simon Mendel
across Long Island Sound.
There was no local news, but there were sales!
Sales everywhere! Summer
that she couldn't wait to get back to -- the
scattering of Simon had taken
much of her time! She hadn't been to the mall in
After what seemed an eternity, the kitchen timer
buzzed. "Thank God,"
muttered to herself. Her purse was by her side --
keys? Yes, there they
She took a quick look around her and left by the
kitchen door to the garage.
Although she knew he would be there, she checked on
Simon in the trunk. She
started the BMW and pushed the button for the
garage door opener -- a
flash of panic when the door wouldn't open, then
she realized she had pushed
the wrong button. She backed out ever so carefully
into the almost deserted
Beverly had always been a careful driver. Simon
would not agree; he would
ride shotgun at her side and tell her to, "Watch
out for this guy!" or "You
turn right on red, so vy y'vaitin'?!" Simon, of
course had never driven a
or operated anything of a mechanical nature in his
life. This morning
was particularly careful, and the trip out to Old
Field went slowly. At
stop sign and every red light, she would look in
the rear view mirror to see
the trunk lid was closed .... she couldn't help it.
The BMW was as trouble
free as an automobile can be -- the trunk lid had
never popped open on its
but .... she couldn't help it.
If anything, the little town of Old Field was more
deserted than it had been
yesterday, and the empty beach front by the
lighthouse showed no sign of
people. Beverly stopped the car and got out -- it
was indeed cooler than
The distant Connecticut shore could not be seen and
there were no pleasure
boats sailing on the restless waters of the Sound.
She was alone with the
fretful gulls that circled tirelessly above her --
their harsh and caustic
reminded her to get on with it.
She rolled the cuffs of her slacks up to her knees
and took off her shoes,
then she walked to the rear of the BMW and opened
the trunk. There he was,
nestled comfortably in the Bloomingdales shopping
bag. This was it -- "So,
y'doin' Simon?" The ornate light oak plastic
laminate urn seemed more
perhaps, for a younger man -- a rock-and-roller cut
down in the flower of
creativity perhaps. The contradiction flitted
across Beverly's mind for the
briefest of moments, but she quickly returned to
the job at hand.
She pulled the urn out of the bag and hefted its
weight. How light it was!
She felt a surge of power within her; as though she
were a pitcher on the
with a count of two strikes on the batter. "I'm
sure I could heave this
half way across the Sound," she muttered. But
instead, she unscrewed the top
and waded out into the receding tide.
As a cook might sprinkle flour on a batter board or
powdered sugar on a hot
cross bun, Beverly sprinkled Simon on the restless
waters of the Sound. They
floated off to the north in the general direction
of Connecticut. The gulls
down to investigate but quickly lost interest as
the mortal remains slowly
settled to the bottom. Beverly upended the urn and
rapped it smartly with
cover to assure herself there was nothing left
inside, then she threw the
and its lid as far out as she could. They fell with
a tiny splash, and they,
too, quickly sank to the bottom. She dusted her
hands and rinsed them in the
chilly water. Then she quickly waded back to shore.
How simple it had been! How quickly a living thing
can change its form and
disappear! Like the miracle of water which can be a
solid, a liquid, or a
depending on the temperature in which it is found.
These thoughts crowded
mind as she dried her feet by the side of the BMW.
A final look and she was
convinced that not a sign of Simon remained. It was
as though he had never
-- and in a way, she thought .... "Did he ever?"
The BMW started
erasing a momentary fear that it might strand her
here alone on this remote
and lonely stretch of sand.
The drive home was pleasant. The stress was gone
now and Beverly was acutely
aware of her surroundings. Early summer greens,
colorful banks of flowers
the smell of new mown grass -- the sights and
smells, the sounds along the
road home were vivid and full of promise. She felt
as though she had just
out of the dentist's office, and when she finally
pulled into her driveway
couldn't wait to make herself a Martini.
It was in the middle of the making of her Martini
that the telephone rang.
She let it ring until the answering machine took
over. Oops! That was
she had forgotten to do!
"This is 894-3749, the home of Big Boy Jeans. Simon
Mendel speaking. Ve are
not home at the moment, please leaf a message after
S**T! She thought, why didn't I take care of that a
week ago? "Well -- get
with the message, already -- maybe the caller was
distracted hearing a dead
man answering the phone. "Er, Mrs. Mendel? ....
this is Herman Schachter?
know, Schachter's Funeral Parlor?" Every word out
of the man's mouth was a
question .... "Would you please call me? The number
"In my own good time." She replied confidently. She
finished stirring her
pitcher of Martinis and pulled the funeral party
tray of last week's
of the refrigerator -- some nice emmenthaler, a
little herring, and the
kielbasa that Simon was so fond of.
She walked into the living room and put the pitcher
of Martinis and the
leftovers on the coffee table, then picked up the
portable phone. She sat
"Beverly Mendel, is this Mr. Schachter?"
The answer seemed to emerge from a man in pain.
"Mrs. Mendel, thank you for
returning the call -- yes by all means, this is
Herman Schachter. Do you
moment Mrs. Mendel, there is something I must tell
you." A chill, a flutter
of restless wings, and a coolness like that which
precedes the coming of a
summer storm passed through the Mendel's living
room. Beverly took a quick
her Martini and put the glass down.
"Mrs. Mendel, this has never -- I repeat -- NEVER
-- happened at Schachter's
before. The remains of your husband -- Mr. Mendel
-- were inadvertently
delivered to the Levy's." Herman paused to collect
himself. "It is really
embarrassing, Mrs. Mendel, you see, you ordered the
light oak plastic
By the oddest of coincidences the Levy's ordered
the same thing for their
grandmother, Belinda." Beverly reached quickly for
her Martini, and drained
glass. "If you look at the silver plaque on the
bottom of your urn, you will
see that we .... inadvertently .... as I said
before, Mrs. Mendel --
Belinda Levy to you."
Beverly put the empty Martini
glass down and picked up
the pitcher. "We'll be over immediately, Mrs.
Mendel -- with the loving
of Mr. Mendel. I'm sure the Levy's are as anxious
to get Belinda back as you
are to get Mr. Mendel."
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