The Only Hope of the Jews by Paul Beckman
You’re sitting on your stoop thinking how much you hate the stoop, the building you live in with six side-by-side apartments (now called town houses) and the neighborhood. You hate the neighborhood because all of the stoops in all of the buildings and all of the wire fenced-in tiny yards smaller than a jail cell look alike and your fourteen-year old self can’t wait to get out of these projects and scrub the stigma off and live in a place where you don’t need the roach exterminator every month and head lice are the main pets for the little kids and on top of it all your family are the only Jews in all the buildings. There are lots of blacks and Puerto Ricans (who are mortal enemies) and plenty of white people and there’s a big Catholic Church on the corner across from the corner store with its two pinballs and playing those pinballs are your only solace here. You look to your left and you see a couple of older and bigger kids coming down the walk and you reach behind you and grab the rock that you scraped against the cement stoop to make jagged edges that makes your fist a weapon and you don’t care how big or how many Jew haters there are you will go after them. Rock in hand you’ll punch them repeatedly until they subdue you and “teach you a lesson”. You know you’ll never learn your lesson and when your mother comes home she’ll take one look at you and punish you for fighting and you never tell her you’re the only hope of the Jews and she thinks you’ve gotten to be a ruffian since you had to move to this neighborhood and that unlike your brother and sisters you’re hanging out with the wrong crowd. You take your punishment from her and dream of owning a car and driving as far away from that stoop as you can and never having to carry a jagged rock in your pocket again.
Paul Beckman was one of the winners in the Queen’s Ferry 2016 Best of the Small Fictions. His latest collection, Peek, weighed in at 65 stories and 120 pages.