"And the results are in," the old TV buzzed.
"Gramma, why do you watch this channel?" Eli asked, handing the old woman her tea.
"Because it's the news," she said in that old, wheezing voice.
"Yeah but they're so political. They're practically propaganda." Eli had this argument with her nearly once a month. And always with the same answer.
"I know that, boychik. I'm not completely gone up here yet," she said, tapping her forehead. "But they've got more actual news then the other channels. You just have to know when they're reporting and when they're just saying."
"All they do is 'saying,'" muttered Eli.
"Ah, you think they're all just saying," she said with a dismissive wave. "You only listen if it's on that interwhatever."
"Internet, Gramma," he explained, like he always did. "There's free and independent news. The kind that doesn't have to go through some corporate editor." "So you're saying they're misspelled?"
The same little argument every time. This time a spelling joke. Eli once considered writing out a transcript with her final line in multiple-choice format. She probably wouldn't appreciate it though, her sense of humor didn't run towards that sort of dry, meta-concept type. More of a Mel Brooks fan.
"I can't believe She ever got elected in the first place," Gramma said, shaking her head at the triumphant graphics on the screen. "The President, the highest office, and it goes to this nudnik who can't even answer a simple question."
Eli smiled. Some things they could agree on.
"Some argue the President won by such an unexpected margin because of Her support from 'values voters,'" the TV buzzed. "The President has been very vocal about Her support for religious liberty, as well as promoting legislation to protect the rights of religious believers."
Eli gave a disgusted snort.
"Now now," his Gramma said. "As much as we don't like Her, that is a good cause."
"Gramma, She's not trying to 'protect' anyone," Eli protested. "All those laws She pushed through were to enforce Christian ideas."
"Well, some of their ideas aren't so bad," she countered. "Charity and such, everyone agrees on that."
"She's trying to start a state religion!"
Gramma just waved him off. "She couldn't do that even if She were smart enough to. It's just not allowed in this country - that's what all that talk of 'religious liberty' actually means. You believe one thing, the guy next door believes another, and you don't bother each other with it." She sipped her tea. "We should especially appreciate that because we haven't always been given that courtesy." The corner of her mouth ticked up to an almost-smile at her own understatement.
"Oh, of course," Eli grumbled, adding sarcastically, "Now we just get deported."
"For the last time, they were not deported!" she said sternly, her voice uncharacteristically rising. "They just -" she stopped to breathe, recompose herself. "They emigrated, which they have every right to do."
"But why would they want to?" Eli pressed. "And why Israel? It's a war zone!"
"Maybe they have family there," she said. "Or maybe they always wanted to live in Israel and now they can, so they do. Maybe they take a little pride in being Jews, did that ever occur to you?"
It always came back around to that. Gramma could never get over Eli needing to work Saturdays, as much as they needed the money. He also suspected that somewhere, under her usual warmth, she was forever blaming him for her own daughter getting divorced and running off with that snooty poet to Montreal. Eli still got occasional postcards from his mother and couldn't bear her any ill will, even if he couldn't stand her boyfriend. After all, she'd stuck around and supported him until he finished grad school a few years ago. Like how he stuck around to support Gramma.
"There's not much to take pride in," he said, adding hurriedly, "In Israel, I mean. You know they've got more than half the population drafted into the army? Old men and women too? I tell ya, Gramma, that whole region is going nuclear and pretty soon."
She set down the now empty tea cup. She always seemed to finish it faster when they had these heated discussions. "Oy, the kids these days... You say there's nothing to be proud of?" She waggled her finger for emphasis. "Always in someone else's land, always someone else's laws, but that all changed in Israel. Jews made the laws - finally! And all those others finally had to obey us!"
Eli wanted to point out "those others" were getting bulldozed into mass graves every week now but knew not to interrupt Gramma when she got on a roll. "I thought about moving there myself but I'm too much American. This is my home," she tapped her foot on the old rug, "Just like over there is home for them - and even a few over here. Maybe that's just something you don't understand, being young and all."
Young. If ever she didn't want to argue a point further, Gramma just dismissed it as something Eli was too young to understand. One of those petty little annoyances of living with her he'd gotten used to. "As long as you're not going over there yourself."
She laughed, the tension melting from the room. "Don't you worry about that. It's enough work just getting down the block!"
They both laughed, the argument quickly forgotten. Just like every other argument they'd had since Eli moved in. Pressure would build from minor disagreements or differences of opinion, from the close proximity to one another in the small apartment, or mostly from the mix of gratitude and loathing Eli felt from Gramma. Then they'd have a quick row and all was forgotten for a time. It wouldn't last, Eli constantly told himself. The economy would pick up, he would find a better job, social security would get its act together and start sending Gramma her proper checks again. He told himself this more and more... "I was going to have some pie. Would you like some too, boychik?"
Eli popped up, "I'll get it, Gramma." He went back to the kitchen, squeezing past the table to the refrigerator, the table with the pile of mail he brought in earlier that Gramma had since opened. He never paid much attention, the only mail he ever seemed to get were notices from the student loan people, but out of the corner of his eye he saw something. A folded, official looking letter hurriedly tucked under some junk mail.
Curious, Eli plucked it out. Unfolding it, he saw the predominant Emigration Office seal and big fat "Notice of Emigration Letter," across the header. "Jesus!" he whispered.
|Oy vey! Buy my book!|