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annehart

Fiction and verse for factual female freethinkers: Traveling Purse or Pocket Poems and Short Stories of Anne Hart

Reblogged from annehart:
Who's Buying Which Popular Short Fiction Now, & What Are They Paying?: How to Write, Customize, & Sell Tales Online or on Paper - Anne Hart

 

Traveling Purse or Pocket Poems and Short Stories of Anne Hart 
©1959-1979, 2008, 1996, 1997, 2016 

Also see: "FICTION AND VERSE FOR FACTUAL FEMALE FREETHINKERS"
 
Synopsis: 
 
Some, but not all of the poems and some of the short stories in this work 
present submission, rage and guilt seen through powerless and vulnerable 
people under stress. Corrosive and negating, the freethinker in each poem is 
the internalized voice of a parent setting a child free, or belittling his/her child, 
or coercing it into the ways the parent finds least offensive. The individual 
grows, transcends past decisions, and chooses to be a freethinker. 
 
The heroines and heroes of the poems are always intense persons for whom 
life is a succession of traps created by spouses and themselves, by 
personalities that have the habit of confinement, but choose instead, 
freethinking. 
 
These freethinkers begin to grow, nourish, and transcend from their parent's 
past passions of jailed lives — the desperate loves that go reeling in the most 
rebellious directions, love of career versus lack of career fulfillment, or the 
relationship of husband and wife raging and violent. 
 
The most intelligent women are mindless in marriage, so unable to set limits 
that they are easily controlled by the threat of poverty or by their battering 
husbands, until they reach a point of freethinking. 
 
They let themselves sink into the most abysmal misery, a wretchedness so 
total it destroys their ability to react at all, and then from that point transcend 
their choices to learn from free thinking how to stand on their own two feet 
and pull their own weight while being interdependent on their new choices. 
 
They may bolt. But once free, they will do it all over again. Despite the 
intelligence of the characters in the poems, they never gain enough insight 
into themselves to get off the treadmill of submission, rage and guilt. 
 
They think with the logic of the psychically jailed, for which even working is a 
process as closed as a knot. They retreat from knowledge into the huge 
abstractions of politicized sexism... until they become freethinkers. 
 
Here is the anguish of characters doomed never to face their brokenness, 
never to say — I want, I need, but to conceal themselves in marriage where 
the most exciting thing is getting battered and being too agoraphobic to 
escape. 
 
The characters in the poems feel that they are always liable to sink into a 
total passivity where they have no eyes, no mind, and no will. They are 
battered between their family's love and their ridicule. Each character 
becomes the person she hates most and then transcends past choices 
through free thought, possibilities, and alternatives. 
 
These poems and some of the stories are protests against the human 
condition both for its finality and its rigidity due to conventional stereotypes in 
sex roles. The poems and stories are concerned in concrete ways with 
contesting the origins and ends of human identity and finding a voice of 
confidence and resilience by transcending past choices into freethinking, 
critical thinking, and restructuring the craft of creativity as a healing tool. 
 
And then, in the stories that follow, they become freethinkers. The stories 
include male and female characters choosing to grow and transcend, achieve 
measurable results, and find rational solutions to their problems using free 
thought and exploring mind-body-spirit, creativity enhancement as a tool of 
change, debating symbolically Mother Nature and Father Time, and 
considering new science as a state of mind. 
 
THE POEMS: 
 
HOW FAR BACK IN TIME WERE MY GENES IN ICE AGE REFUGIA? 
 
The redundancy and flux in my mtDNA 
Shows you why I arrived perplexed today. 
The tight curl of my ash brown tresses 
Reveals sailing modular ontogeny's stresses. 
 
Tolerating changes on the fly, 
Neutral drift asked molecular drive why 
I landed somewhere in the frozen sea 
of genetic redundancy. 
 
My inner, tangled bank whispered rules 
Between consenting molecules. 
Why such plieotopy in my many modes? 
And such kaleidoscopic codes for roads? 
 
# 
IS GOD LONELY WITHOUT A SPOUSE AND FAMILY? 
How does God keep from feeling lonely 
If there's only one stock to hawk? 
With none of equal rank nearby only, 
To whom does the Creator talk? 
 
Is God universe-bound? 
 
Did humankind plaster a parental skull 
To avoid familiar feelings of growing dull? 
Is God our elders from whom we seek 
Protection from a timely peak? 
 
Who created God as a singleton? 
 
In man's image yet, with no room to grow, 
 
God still won't be contained for show. 
 
If life frames love, then Santa's eyes above 
 
Distract us from worry so we'd heal instead of hurry. 
 
Was God advertised that way? 
 
To lift our mood and mind? 
 
If life is equally diverse as a hermits purse, 
In whose image does design align? 
 
Your multiverse or mine? 
 
# 
Let Me Take on Wall St. 
 
Let me take on Wall Street in a chastity belt, 
Should the writer be screwed on her throne. 
Let me gulp my bonds like a patty melt 
Should words peak in my throat on the phone. 
 
I love 
 
My Cisco, Yahoo, and Juniper stocks 
 
Because they keep going down up 
 
Like a salty sea of sanity 
 
To check remiss reality. 
 
And when they go down, 
I Shalt not drown, or sell or frown, 
Or upward gush the race to rush 
like lemmings to the edge. 
 
Instead, I'll compound my legions 
Of Ginnie Maes with cortical maze 
Or dip my pen in softly fallen metaphors 
To skate cleanly shaven buy waves. 
 
# 
 
LET ME PAUSE IN A MARKET SO BEARISH 
 
Something strolled wonderfully right through the door. 
Asking, "Where have we improved?" 
Is there creativity on the Stock Exchange floor? 
Has peristalsis in a time capsule moved? 
 
Panopticons know all, so panopticon-bound. 
Push technology became too rough, a midlist 
When we all need a best seller, and so we found 
The Web unrisked, unmasked, unmissed. 
 
Search Engines' stock read, "Are We Still Number One?" 
While investors traded from their online gazebo. 
Dreaming of DVDs skipping crazily on a run, 
Webmasters sold their placebo. 
 
Computers streamline senses by masking noise. 
At their exits, existence fades. 
Ambient hums of Treasury bonds escape as toys. 
Joy is social security, entertainment, and shades. 
 
# 
 
 
Song Lyrics of the Silk Road Healers 
 
Not since Sarkel set on fire. 
 
Not since Samandar moved to Spire. 
 
Not since Khatun called Khagan, "Cutie." 
 
Not Since Khazaria went to Kievan booty. 
 
Not since Bulan turned from pagan. 
 
Lit the candles, and became the Khagan. 
 
Not since Svyatoslav went to hire 
 
Pechenegs from his transpire. 
Not since yarmaq coins were minted. 
Not since isinglass trade was hinted. 
Not since Khazars fought oppression. 
 
Not since Atil sank in depression. 
 
Not since Samandar went underwater. 
 
Not since Byzantines married Khagan's daughter. 
 
Not since Ha-Sangari converted the people. 
 
Not since Balanjar became a steeple. 
 
Not since the steppes stepped lively to a tune. 
 
Not since Khazaria, did the sky ride the moon. 
 
 
 
# 
 
 
 
THE BELLYDANCER 
 
Down Mai's heavy breasts burst ripe chestnut locl<s, 
 
innocent as Eden and just as moot. 
 
Men still toss money, but women throw rocl<s; 
 
war has sapped and cankered them at their root. 
 
She draws her own blood as part of the act, 
 
and each man views the other with mistrust. 
 
From her ruby navel poems contract. 
In labor Shakespeare settles to brown dust. 
Then, under booze's banner visions weft. 
Impurities cover smiles like dead bones. 
She rips her skirt to show how she is cleft 
like the hoof of the devil smashed by stones. 
 
# 
 
ONE DREAM AWAY FROM HAPPINESS 
 
My steno pool supervisor sets the gin down slowly at her feet 
 
with utmost care, knowing that most things break. 
 
And soon amid her tearful loneliness, 
 
she, with her hand extended, drinks again. 
 
Miss Jean! Love your rosary-wracked and wretched mom, 
 
besotted and swollen like a finger smashed. 
 
My steno pool supervisor enters her prayer tunnel each night 
 
in the subways where the lisping of wheels 
 
carve escape routes in the double-knit snow 
 
full of mist, like evaporating stone. 
 
Jean has poured her mom's whiskey down the drain, 
and she expects to be struck in the face. 
She stops, one dream away from happiness 
and burning wires creep within her brain. 
Missy supervisor beams down like an echo, telescopic eyes, 
delicate as a watercolor wash. 
 
# 
 
 
 
THE OUTER LIMITS OF LONELINESS 
 
My steno pool supervisor's body prepares for a famine. 
 
her sobs inhabit a room 
 
where she touches no one. 
 
Behind a wall of fear, 
 
tactile talcum's dusted 
 
inch by inch on her crepe skin. 
 
She dreams of Mattress Mack 
 
on whom she cannot re-warm herself 
 
when urgent hunger 
 
triggers another facelift. 
 
Back in 1800 Costume Dramas 
 
The late night movie didn't show the science hero I wanted to see. Instead, 
 
the film showed that a boy knew about 
 
the hole his mother drilled 
 
in his wall — her secret door. 
 
For a year she watched him 
undress and lay his magazines 
across his bed. 
How could he explain? 
 
She laughed, 
 
plunging her finger in and out 
 
of the drilled hole. 
 
"I saw you from there," 
 
she laughed again. 
 
— Saw you naked and alone. 
 
He wrenched his mother's wrist. 
Sobs convulsed his body. 
"Shut up, you slut," he cried. 
 
And he followed her, unaware 
of the sashweight he took 
from an open drawer. 
 
 
 
The back of her knees 
brushed the footboard 
of his bed. 
 
She crouched there, 
her eyes wide with fright. 
Drunken sounds twitched 
from her stapled smile. 
 
She tried to kick the sash weight 
 
from his hand, but tumbled 
 
across his bed. 
 
His mother struggled upward, 
 
clawing her son with razor-sharp nails, 
 
and the sash weight 
 
plunged harder and harder 
 
across her skull. 
 
The boy was unable to stop. 
He fell across his mother's body, 
begging forgiveness, 
before he called police. 
Turning back one last time 
he put the pillow over her face. 
 
 
 
BLAZING PHONES 
 
I sleep, 
 
reading the bright sun 
backward, like a robot's prayer. 
My will expands. 
 
Then you answer 
like an calving flume 
on a gnawed hill. 
 
The cold phone blazes 
 
 
 
with your anger, 
and I wake, afraid. 
 
A velvet network of veins 
behind my eyes halts. 
 
My logic slides back and forth 
 
with the iron, 
 
folding, pleating, 
 
my thoughts scattering 
 
in a shrill forest of air 
 
As I stitch loops around buttons, 
sewing sagely in the crevices 
of your swell-bottom seams. 
 
 
 
AN UNDERGROUND RAILROAD FOR VICTIMS 
 
Beneath the white-stemmed tree, 
 
ladies of the afternoon 
sit at the Backslide Inn 
hearts filling with fear 
like a layer of petals 
sprayed with formalin. 
 
You sit, a stranded hulk 
hell-bent and born to speed. 
A stranger's shadow 
strikes the treadmill 
in blind alleys of motel rooms. 
 
Old leeches leaf through 
the noon hours 
to hang salesmen 
by their itchy ears. 
 
The burden of the Law 
 
heaves the kittens on their hindlegs 
 
 
 
in the wreckage of blankets. 
 
What power you have, 
wives of the night, 
whores of the day! 
 
You make men weep 
 
and push their bowels empty, 
 
their eyes turned up 
 
so that only the whites show, 
 
red-veined and dirty, 
 
howling for mercy 
 
under your needle-spiked heels 
 
'neath your whips and black leather. 
 
And at four 
 
you come home to your children, 
 
telling your husbands 
 
the money came from 
 
that real estate job. 
 
# 
 
BURLY MEN WITH PLAYPEN EYES IN CAVERNS OF CRITICAL 
THINKING 
 
It is typical of women ... 
waiting for answers 
to come charging down 
on white horses 
instead of playing them out 
scene by scene. 
 
We study your playpen eyes, 
and poke our noses 
into your rancid marriages, 
denied of crawling space, 
blotted behind paper walls 
where we hear your toilets flush. 
 
 
 
You reach for a weapon, 
 
telling us tonelessly, 
 
"You rambled." 
 
"There was nothing else to do." 
 
We used our eyes in a theatrical way 
 
and thumbed through your girlie magazines. 
 
But — if we were to create wombs in men, 
caverns of deep, physical thinking, 
then we would risk our lives 
for one moment of absolute power. 
 
You see us in a pink mist, 
 
our faces blurred by anger. 
 
You gaze with those unfocused eyes 
 
that forever stare at a point 
 
above our shoulders. 
 
We taunt you with our tongues 
 
and swing our brittle legs 
 
like fascists in pantyhose. 
 
# 
 
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE DIAMOND ENGAGEMENT RING 
 
A seven-inch scar puckers 
on Rosie's teenage belly 
where never crippling fevers 
will be unlived iron-eyed. 
 
She's like an arthritic leg, 
bent at the knee 
with sinews like snakes, 
yelling, "Today I died." 
 
As a bride she holds 
her dead mother's hand 
as if it were still a part of her, 
her years spent. 
 
 
 
Without a trace of warmth 
the groom rustles his bride 
feeling formless as a zygote, 
pushing past her slantwise tears. 
 
A nomadic trail of light 
spreads out through the room. 
She lifts her lids a splinter. 
The groom steps back as if asleep. 
 
And in the mirror, bare to attack, 
her belly laugh is like a fun-house statue. 
Forced to view distortions from curved mirrors, 
her grip with illusion is studied. 
 
# 
 
THE FORTUNE HUNTER 
 
The husband hunter, 
her thumb green after the kill 
stands with gutted man 
astride her hood. 
 
Seeing a richer one coming, 
her belly rolls in waves. 
She stands erect, 
straightens her tunnel, 
her eyes water, 
legs go stiff. 
 
Quickly she empties his wallet 
and gulps the cash 
like air. 
 
But her joy 
is the seed 
of her misery. 
 
So she wraps him in paper 
 
 
 
like potato skins 
 
and tosses her garbage 
 
where colleagues will connect to feast. 
 
 
 
# 
 
 
 
TRAVEL 
 
Nightingales by the dozen 
swarm to pick grapes. 
Darkness falls in twenty coils 
like a fat snake. 
 
An American wife screams 
for custody of her kids 
but with no supportive family 
she goes crazy. 
 
The King, eagle of eagles, 
squats in his suite picking at fleas. 
His ursine lips 
feel the thrill of mocha. 
 
Oh, those traveling gals with cameras, 
rise over deserted streets. 
And swallow the bay of petrified homes 
that watch oil wells flame money. 
 
The rollaway moon splits whitely open 
 
and nightfalls abruptly 
 
on tense and tedious eyelids. 
 
# 
 
DISHPAN ALLEY GRANNY 
 
A tee vee set's my only companion 
dividing my days faultlessly between 
the pit of moldy dreams 
and the moment when 
 
 
 
cold sweat curls my thin hair as I 
settle behind dish pans. 
 
# 
 
THE PROGRAMMER AND THE CODE 
 
Something was terribly wrong. 
 
At three A.M. Overhead lights 
 
in the main machine room were off. 
 
But the console blinked a green glow. 
 
There was an ambient hum 
from the disk drives 
masking all noise to the point 
where existence ceases at its exits. 
 
Obsolete tapes jerked crazily to my command. 
I moved so slowly 
until spheres of light 
exploded on its black screen. 
 
I turned the length of my thigh 
contracted myself, porpoise-bellied, 
afraid of change. 
 
The stress of change leaped into my eyes. 
 
Under my out-flung arm 
 
Soon I would be not as much 
 
as a crushed flower in time's path. 
 
For the flower at least, 
 
there is regret for its ended beauty. 
 
For me, one genogram's code, 
 
a random leap across square-jowled stalls. 
 
 
 
# 
 
 
 
GRAY LADY 
 
I dreamed I am a doctor's wife, 
And it is no bed of roses. 
Deep within those pudding eyes 
 
a baby's face grows old, 
 
head to chest and knees updrawn, 
 
snared in the barbed wire of time. 
 
Light perishes the buds. 
 
At seventy-five, she goes balder, 
 
but has her tummy tucked 
 
with the skin they removed from her face. 
 
Like a dry rock 
 
in a weedy garden 
 
she holds steadfast 
 
and seas of silver crash 
 
(never moving her an inch 
 
From her plushy-furnished home. 
 
I dreamed I am a doctor's wife. 
 
And then I dreamed I am the doctor. 
 
And didn't need a grocery allowance. 
 
And wasn't married to a miser. 
 
And could cool or heat the house without permission. 
 
But then I woke up. 
 
# 
 
OLD FANNY 
 
The first of the month 
all the old ladies 
sat on their stoops 
waiting for the mailman; 
that monthly check 
was all they got. 
 
Despite her coat, 
 
 
 
Fannie shivered. 
A thin patina of snow 
connected the street 
with the same mutuality — 
poverty and cold. 
 
Fannie moved her pocketed pennies 
 
bacl< and forth over her trombone to shal
 
She clicl
 
open and closed, 
 
grinning v^'ith a toothless, red slash. 
 
 
 
HEY, CAESAR, BRAY FERROUS NOW 
 
Hi, Caesar, full efface. Bray ferrous nov>/. 
The lore is witty. 
 
Placid art. Dow, Hmong whim, and 
Placid is the root of Thai-loom, cheeses. 
Stay ferrous winners, now, and at the hour of 
our wealth. 
 
Hour fodder, which art in hair pin? 
 
Halloween be Thai name. 
 
Thai kinked dome gong. 
 
Thai well being, fun 
 
On mirth, as it does in airborne. 
 
Give us disdain, our tallied breadth 
 
And forget us our tresses past 
 
As we forget those whose tresses past us. 
 
For dime art's the tower and the story-lore, ever. 
 
 
 
CHICKENIZATON 
 
Have you ever noticed hov^ often women investors are referred to as poultry? 
Young v^'omen are brov^'-plucl^ing chicles. Married women ruffle feathers. They 
egg men on at worl< and clucl< kids off to school. Mothers watch their broods. 
 
Child rearing ends with the empty-nest syndrome. Their wives henpecl< 
husbands at home. Runaway wives have flown the coop, while stay-at-home 
husbands feel 'fowl' cooped up. 
 
The object of W.C. Fields' affection was "My little Chickadee." Married 
women feather their nests. She squawks her alimony is birdseed, but her ex 
calls her a vulture. "Wait 'till that poulet digs her talons in your wallet," grooms 
are warned. "She'll watch you like a hawk." 
 
She scratches for a raise like a hen dancing on a turntable, going in circles to 
get visibility and recognition. Long experience makes her the sharp-beaked 
mother hen that trains younger males for her dream job. 
 
In Arabic, a beautiful woman is a 'fistoo,' a piece of chicken thigh. Women are 
elder biddies, old crows, or Ladybirds. "She's no spring chicken," say men 
about mature women. 
 
A sorority is called the "hen house." A woman alone is a sitting duck. Either 
her goose is cooked, or she gets goosed in a crowded elevator. An Amazon 
parrots the old toy's network. When her husband uses anger to get power, 
she walks on eggshells. To be feminine is to be chicken. Is it any coincidence 
that so many women's wages are chickenfeed? 
 
# 
 
EXTREME ULTRAVIOLET RIDES THE e-BEAM 
 
To snap the lithography force field. 
 
Extreme ultraviolet rides the e-beam. 
 
Suspending ranks of molecules between electrodes. 
 
She lets quantum particles compute in multi-universes. 
 
She teleports matter, unleashing IBM on quantum mirages. 
And Lucent works e-beams on code-name Scalpel. 
Intel, AMD, and Motorola, and every other CPU maker, 
 
 
 
Joins the parade of purses marching to EUV. 
 
It's the end of the Silicon Cycle. Long live the smallest package. 
Spin-up and Spin-down as the binary and 1 . 
Quantum particles live in two places at once, 
So my job as a retiree is to determine a value. 
 
Wow! I am needed again after old age to decide 
Which super-positioned state begets the logic. 
What fun it is to be more than a molecular-scaled granny 
With an MA in English and a shelf of unpublished novels. 
 
# 
 
One Book-End Cat of a Pair 
 
A library cat, in double-knit sand, 
 
The blue-eyed Bestetwith Siamese slant, 
 
One papyrus-wracked puff with cross- stitched mane, 
 
Yav^'ned Mary-v^'ide 'neath a fall-away moon. 
 
The day my financial security arched catly, 
 
I saw and painted a clarinet chord as indigo velvet 
 
And tasted a violin note as lemon chiffon meringue. 
 
It sparked a peaceful pride like folklore. 
 
An organ's chord snared the barbs of change. 
 
Through tides of time purple velvet music pounds against 
 
The blueberry mint silence of the dark. 
 
With frozen gaze, caramelized onions in chocolate 
 
Become the human condition with a touch of fennel. 
 
Mice become cats. 
 
Cats become men. 
 
Men become mice. 
 
And the cycle repeats in a circle. 
 
'Till atoms no longer stick together. 
 
Run home, optimistic book-end to craft 
 
Your malachite mate from molten mire. 
 
On guard to moods before a stage of hawks 
 
Cats ascend the pyramids of chance. 
 
 
 
Not knowing choice's planned out at the start. 
 
# 
 
SO WE MEET GENERATIONS LATER AS POETS 
 
Hey, now Caesar with putty face 
What did you do to earn your place? 
And if you chose race over grace 
Guess who took your parl
 
Hey, now Caesar, sharp as glass 
Want to fix your social class? 
You have a chance to start a school. 
With breeze enough to keep you cool. 
 
Are you anybody in the Wadi 
 
Spiced as a toddy? 
 
Why be naughty? 
 
What do you think when you smell a cross? 
 
Why remorse? 
 
Don't misread sacrifice for sacred dice. 
In your world, evil comes disguised. 
And it's wrong to run from joy of life. 
 
You don't have to be the Granite Messiah 
 
To dance with your lyre. 
 
Lead yourself into salvation 
 
By the tune of invention's station 
 
# 
 
The Time that Land Forgot 
 
The time that Land forgot, 
He tomcatted his paws to 
Gentle Lynx Lamotta, a 
Courtly orange tabby, 
Fourteen weeks old. 
 
 
 
The cat who loved Christmas 
 
also loved Ramadan, Hanukkah, 
 
and the festival of Vishnu, the Creator. 
 
All fluff and fur, on dov^ri-padded sills, 
 
Meovi'ing like finger zills. 
 
To the tune of megham-seekah. 
 
Lynx had a routine for everything. 
 
Blinking in surprise, he meov^^ed his 
 
Way to becoming a Library cat. 
 
A cat in every bookstore... 
 
Curled up in the sun, beaming out the windov^', 
 
Tv^'o copper eyes, Himalyan fur, 
 
and the face of a Ragdoll to ring in the readers. 
 
# 
 
TRADING ONLINE IS NEITHER POSITIVE NOR DIMENSION LESS 
 
Trading online is like dancing on the moon. 
Your only enemy is gravity. 
No matter what I buy, I'll play a tech tune. 
My friend is speech recognition concavity. 
 
I bought the wireless way to play 
When the Web was a spinning bubble. 
Higher interest rates are here to stay. 
Mice in the seams of time spells trouble. 
 
How many dollars have I to snare 
Before barbing the biz-wire of strength? 
With too much time and too little care. 
My savings are points of zero length. 
 
I've outlived my stash and can't "fine" the cash to get me past moments 
 
without duration. 
 
I've paid my homage to the clock 
 
And teethed on a narrow ration. 
 
 
 
A bag lady I am, am I? A bag lady in debonair shorts- 
Buying stocks with charisma to sell to this Ma while broadcasting sports in 
food mall courts. 
 
# 
 
YOU NEOLITHIC FARMER, YOU! 
 
You neolithic farmer, you. 
 
How dare the twenty-six percent of you 
 
Pinch my paleolithic peace proportionally, 
 
Reducing my six-foot height with your polished grain. 
 
To five-feet; turning my whippet-wiry O-negative blood 
 
Into your barley-thickened A-positive agglutinated sludge? 
 
How dare you expand from your lion-wracked pedestals 
Planting my beech forests with your carbs? 
A mitrochondrial cluster adding lustre? 
And your speech, so nostratic, its demotic. 
 
Adding more haplotypes, what a demic diffusion. 
My diet of salmon and berries produces less insulin 
Than your pot-belly forming candy infusion. 
Genetic drift has caused a rift in my shift. 
 
We're temporary containers and strand strainers. 
So together lets map our clades in shades of grades. 
Can I keep my own menu, please, you eaters of cheese? 
 
# 
 
 
 
Khazars 
 
Not since Sarkel set on fire. 
 
Not since Samandar moved to Spire. 
 
Not since Khatun called Khagan,"Cutie." 
 
Not Since Khazaria went to Kievan booty. 
 
Not since Bulan turned from pagan. 
 
Lit the candles, and became the Khagan. 
 
Not since Svyatoslav went to hire 
 
Pechenegs from his transpire. 
 
Not since yarmaq coins were minted. 
 
Not since isinglass trade was hinted. 
 
Not since Khazars fought oppression. 
 
Not since Atil sank in depression. 
 
Not since Samandar went underwater. 
 
Not since Byzantines married Khagan's daughter. 
 
Not since Ha-Sangari converted the people. 
 
Not since Balanjar became a steeple. 
 
Not since the steppes stepped lively to a tune. 
 
Not since Khazaria, did the sky ride the moon. 
 
# 
 
The Day My Whole Country Turned INFP* 
 
The day my whole country turned INFP, 
the abstract optimists leapt. 
The concrete sensors slept. 
The sky rode the moon 
Like an idealist on a novel. 
 
The day my whole country turned INFP 
 
The heavens crept 
 
With the spark 
 
Of the introverted feeling word, 
 
The lark, the chord, 
 
The Light in the dark. 
 
The photon and the quark. 
 
The day my whole country turned INFP*, 
 
Twas a day of creative expression 
 
 
 
And a moment of extroverted intuition. 
 
'INFP= Introverted Intuitive Feeling Perceiver on the MBTI (registered), 
one of the world's most popular indicators of personality types. 
 
# 
 
The Webmaster Says Creativity Is Peristalsis in a Time Capsule. 
 
Creative writing is peristalsis: a progressive wave of contraction 
And relaxation by which contents are forced onward. 
Writing full time from home is a horizontal expression 
Of the vertical desire to move up by reaching across time. 
Creativity is peristalsis in a time capsule. 
 
The Webmaster says, all tucked sleepless in his chair. 
Counting DVDs skipping crazily to commands. 
 
What if every writer asked, "Are We Still Number One?" 
Existence ceases at my computer's exits. 
Push technology came to slough, a midlist. 
When this writer needs escape as entertainment. 
 
Panopticons know all, so writers panopticon 
Personal broadcasting networks as social security, 
and something strolls wonderfully right. 
 
# 
 
TOTEMS OF LIGHT: OH, I WISH I WERE A TRADER IN CHICAGO'S 
BOND PITS 
 
Oh, I wish I were a trader in Chicago's bond pits 
Skateboarding Cats of the Dow by candle might. 
Pencil-sharp drum sticks would tattoo comic novels. 
When the Fed dangles interest rates like silver earrings. 
 
See Shell's yellowed rose gap down on each Lochness Monster. 
When oil drillers bloom, a plastic world flies to quality CDs. 
Quan Yin, who can't reincarnate 'til we all return, 
 
 
 
writes covered call options. 
 
Picture- postcards caricature mind-mates beneath a rollaway moon. 
 
Photos of kids transient as ticket stubs bank time capsules, 
Only to be spent later on totems of light for bronzed chimps. 
Collected poems evolve to panopticons of memory. 
Mis-education stores righteousness in opal rings. 
 
The Internet is Wall Street with Convictions 
The Internet is Wall Street with convictions. 
Where have we improved? 
 
Push technology came to slough, a midlist 
when we need a bestseller, and so we found 
Escape as entertainment, 
learning as fun, panopticons as all-seeing eyes 
that broadcasted social security as personal theater. 
Something scrolled wonderfully right. 
 
An ambient hum from the modems 
masked all noise to the point 
where existence ceased at its exits. 
 
# 
THE BUSINESS OF BONDS 
 
There's trading room on the Web, even for a bond. 
 
Still it huddles half-afraid, its eyes Wall Street-wide, competing 
 
for less leisure loaned. 
 
Bring on your stockbrokers, unparagoned. 
 
Drive in the economists, impelled and unowned. 
 
Let rational traders plan throngs of the wise 
 
To bulbous investors unafraid to upclimb. 
 
Our Dow-cloistered voices peal macabre guise. 
 
Bonds peaking too early snare on the barbed wire of time. 
 
To sell your stocks online, first animate pregnant ads 
Disguised as direct response sales letters. 
Under your security's current fads. 
 
 
 
Sound will crush text in its path, a ballet leap across square-jowled betters. 
 
To sell stocks as entertainment, sell mutuality chapters. 
Bonds sell environmental histories of property risk. 
Midlist brokers need super sequels as time captors. 
Showbiz, let it be, and forever, temerity. So runs the disc. 
 
# 
 
THE BUSINESS OF FICTION WITHIN THE FICTION OF BUSINESS 
 
There's room on the Web for the business of fiction. 
 
Still it huddles half-afraid; 
 
Its eyes Mary-wide, competing for less leisure loaned. 
 
Faction seized control of sweeping buzz appeal 
 
To hawk memoirs as entertainment, 
 
And sell mutuality, fiction must play "Whafs My Conduit?" 
 
Bring on your scriptwriters, full of face. 
 
Drive in the novelists, impelled by supernal mind. 
 
Let the romance writers arc their throng of shoals 
 
To bulbous avatars not afraid of change. 
 
Our Web cloistered voices in macabre guise. 
 
Stories peaking too early snare on the barbed wire of time. 
 
To sell your fiction online, first animate pregnant ads 
 
Disguised as direct response sales letters. 
 
Under your Web channel's outflung arm, 
 
Sound will crush the text in its path, 
 
A ballet leap across square-jowled screens of time. 
 
Juggle moments without duration. 
 
Behold the flowering of universal mind. 
 
Showbiz, let it be, and forever, temerity. So runs the Web. 
 
 
 
THE STORIES 
 
Five Multicultural Short Stories for Female Freethinkers 
By: Anne Hart. 
 
© By Anne Hart. 2007. 
 
For further Information, read Anne Hart's books of short stories and 
instruction In short story writing titled, Who's Buying which popular 
short fiction now, and what are they paying? How to write, customize, 
and sell tales online or on paper. ISBN number 978-0-595-47252-9. 
Published 2007 by eye universe incorporated. See the Web site 
www.lunlverse.com . 
 
Or read Anne Hart's novel titled, DOGS WITH CAREERS. This book 
contains an entire novel under one cover as well as numerous short 
stories. Published 2007 by eye universe Incorporated. See the Web site 
www.lunlverse.com . 
 
The author's web site Is at: http://annehart.trlpod.com . See also: 
http://eptd.blogspot.com and Storyteller's Resource site at; 
http://talesforholidavs.blogspot.com/ . 
 
And now, here are Anne Hart's five multicultural and/or historical short 
stories. 
 
1. The Incendiary Client. 
 
"Every wife is a mirror of her own liusband's failures, and every 
husband a victim of his wife's success." 
 
 
 
The Incendiary Client 
 
Beirut's winding alleys led me to the Antlochian Orthodox quarter to 
make a documentary video with client #9 on teenage rebellion faced by 
grandparents raising grandchildren in war-torn Lebanon. My client's issue 
focused on being a rebellious on/y grandson. We agreed not to use any 
names — only client numbers to communicate with one another. 
 
 
 
As a traveling documentarian, finding creative solutions to problems of 
war focused nov^' on incendiary star-crossed soul mates from past lives that 
married again in this life. I'm a videographer acting as a catalyst, bringing 
people together v^'ith the goal of obtaining measurable results for couples and 
families in distress. 
 
My first documentary production experience in Beirut dealt with Client 
#9. "Do you want to know how violent groups infiltrated the international UFO 
scene?" Client #9 complained in her loudest Aramaic accent as she pushed a 
publication under my nose. I noticed she didn't speak to me in the vernacular 
Arabic but resorted to Syriac/Aramaic dialects to see whether I neatly fitted into 
her private circle of friends that had migrated to a place in Michigan that 
probably has more first to fourth generation Lebanese immigrants than urban 
Beirut. 
 
Client #9 slowly opened the door. I peaked inside. She beckoned me to 
follow. 
 
"I'm not deaf," I laughed in her rare dialect of Christian Syriac/Aramaic 
as I blocked her flying spittle with my business card. "If you hired the hate 
squad, habeeby (dearest), this time you're looking at the love squad, and the 
camera is rolling." 
 
"No," she said emphatically as she handed me a mignonette of jasmine. 
"I wanted you to document on video my son's connections." 
 
The men who came to strangle Client #9 were shrinking her world like 
the most delicately tinted of bubbles, shrinking in ever narrowing circles from 
the upward gush of her own infancy. Her room was empty. Client #9 sat on the 
unmade bed, a wreckage of blankets. 
 
"You've got to be crazy to see a psychiatrist," I told Client #9. Why on 
Earth did you call a 70-year old recluse with an expensive video camera and 
zero connections when you could have called my son, the psychiatrist? Well, 
you probably asked for me because you're a retired chef. So you must have 
good taste. But don't call me if you're gnawing on a bad day or caught fava 
bean fever, and all you want to do is have a discussion over a bowl of fatoush. 
I'll call you." 
 
"Girgis's room..." she puffed on a cigarette. "Like I told you on the 
phone, curiosity skilled the cat but turned the rat into kibbee nea {chopped 
meat). 
 
Client #9 yanked a pair of electrical outlets from the wall. "Anyone can 
buy these from surveillance stores in your country's shopping malls. But here in 
Beirut, we need contacts in the American media, like you. Missus American 
Greek lady. Your doctor friends ought to use the media wisely to prevent 
malpractice suits or accusations." She plugged an appliance into the socket to 
 
 
 
show me how her own "spy camera" camera is built to operate from the tiny 
hole in the middle, even when the socl
 
"I know." I laughed nervously. "I'll show you my night goggles if you 
show me yours." Client #9 showed me how her own tiny camera was built at 
the back of the electrical socket so it could video record or photograph anyone 
in the room from any angle, like a third eye. It fit inconspicuously into the wall in 
the center of an aquatic mural, hidden by an angel fish. 
 
"Only in black and white for now," she said. "My husband, Client* 10 
has spy cameras imbedded in the electrical outlet sockets of every room in our 
house. He's keeping an eye on my grandson, Girgis." 
 
On top of Girgis's bed were European 'girlie' magazines with nearly 
nude centerfolds. She picked up her grandson's magazines and peered. Client 
#9 shook her head, annoyed. Then she tossed the magazines neatly into one 
of her twenty-two-year-old grandson's dresser drawers. 
 
Client #9 asked me to follow her downstairs, where she grabbed an 
electric drill from the utility room. She ran back upstairs to her own bedroom. 
Client #9 tossed an old family portrait from her bedroom wall. Her room 
adjoined her grandson's. She drilled a hole and then stuck a darkly painted 
camouflage band-aid over it. Client #9 peered through the hole, blowing away 
the powdered plaster and drywall. 
 
"What'd you do thatfor?" 
 
"You want to observe Girgis, don't you?" 
 
"No, not that way. You're the one who wants to spy on your grandson. 
How come his mother and father are in America and he's living with you and 
your husband, here in Beirut?" 
 
"His parents are trying to establish their medical practice — to save 
money and bring him over. They can't have any more children. It's difficult for 
immigrant doctors to pass those state exams in a new land. 
 
Was the woman a victim of elder abuse? I wondered. At that moment, 
Girgis did walk through the front door downstairs. We heard him come in alone. 
 
Client #9 rushed downstairs, frantic. "Where the hell were you last 
night? You weren't in your room this morning." 
 
"Why do you always want to get your own way?" Girgis yelled back. 
 
"What sacrifices a grandmother has to make for her grandson's 
education," she whined. "He's twenty-two and should be finished with college 
by now." 
 
I asked Client #9, widowed only two years prior, why she recently 
married Client* 10, her second husband. Before she could reply. Client* 10 
walked in. "My wife marries men for their shock value," he answered for her. 
 
 
 
"All my children immigrated to Michigan," she said timorously. "In Beirut, 
an invisible woman can get desperately lonely for conversation at my age." 
 
"Client* 10, you're my dad reincarnated," Client #9 shot bacl<. "You're 
not my Client* 10. Some shaytani, some devil's got into you. No, you're not the 
Teddy Bear I married." 
 
"Maybe you tv^'o are just incompatible personality types," I interjected as 
I v^'atched Girgis run up the stairs to his room and bang the door shut. 
 
Client #9 shuddered at the noise. "If the neighbors hear you howling, 
bitch, I'm going to give it to you upstairs," Client* 10 said. 
 
"In front of the documentarian?" 
 
"How does she know what I'm going to give you?" 
 
Client *9 blushed. "You are my father reincarnated. When I was born, 
the doctor phoned my dad at two in the morning to tell him my mom had a girl. 
He told the doctor to look twice. 'Are you sure its not a boy?' he asked." 
 
"Shaddup, shaddup, you slut, you sharmutter. The neighbors will hear 
you." Client* 10 barked. "You're going to make me kill you." 
 
Client *9 ignored him and looked me straight in the eye for sympathy. 
The more sympathy she could get from me, the more she manipulated him with 
 
pity- 
Client #9 tried to force even more pity on each family member so I'd 
give her a ride someplace or offer a job referral. She said she wanted financial 
independence so she could leave, but did nothing to create it saying she was 
alone and nobody wanted to hire her. 
 
"Why do you speak to me only in commands," Client *9 sobbed. 
"How else can I get work out of you?" Client* 10 usually answered a 
question by asking one. 
 
"Isn't it funny how our marriages always turn out to be like our parents 
no matter how far we travel in space or time and try to be different?" I said. 
Client* 10 went upstairs to the bedroom he shared with his son. It 
takes quite a man to give up the marriage bed to his son, and quite a woman to 
give it up to her absent niece's daughter. 
 
The home was strictly sex segregated. Client* 10 and Girgis shared 
twin beds placed at opposite walls in one room that adjoined the room Client #9 
shared with her widowed niece's nine-year old daughter. Her niece had left the 
country hoping to bring her daughter to America when that niece's older brother 
in Michigan could find steady work, save up, and afford it. No matter how bad 
client #9's new marriage went, those two types — her and her new husband. 
Client* 10, would be hardest to separate. In their mood swings, they could kill 
each other. 
 
 
 
My reclusive clients as a couple were so star-crossed in personality 
preferences that they behaved like photographic plates, stamping each other 
with a compelling tattoo of put downs to pick themselves up, fault-findings, and 
criticisms. 
 
"Timid men make the most violent wife beaters," Client #9 whispered in 
my ear, away from both of our rolling video cameras. Every member of this 
family had a video camera, and each recorded every word and movement of 
every other family member when they could. Not only had the phone been 
tapped, but the walls had holes with spy cameras in every room, even the room 
with the Turkish toilet — two painted footprints on the floor with a hole in the 
center of the floor. 
 
They observed everything and turned it inwards, putting themselves 
down, calling the partner a loser, and finally, bursting with violence when they 
cycled into a depression. 
 
When bored, the royal game of Ur circa 3,000 BCE came into play, a 
chip off the ancient Egyptian game of Senet. Girgis marched down and joined 
us in the largest room. "How come tonight is backgammon? Why can't we go 
bowling anymore?" Girgis asked. 
 
"Because my next door neighbor says she too old to bowl," Client #9 
said sarcastically. 
 
"If it isn't backgammon with the elderly widows from your do-good club, 
it smells like fried onions for dinner with your old lady friends," Girgis added. 
 
"They make me feel so young sitting next to them." 
 
"Why can't we go to America? Why can't I play computer games?" 
 
"You're needed to help us carry the heavy packages." 
 
It was obvious Client #9 controlled Client* 10 with an iron hand inside 
of a velvet glove. When he was free of her a few hours a day, he went way 
over the limit. 
 
"I like you Girgis," I said meekly. 
 
He exploded. "I hate this big, book lined room where you play. I hate 
the big, cold fireplace, and your stupid potted plant I hate everything in this 
room. I want to go to America so I can become a television newsman." 
 
"Girgis. Don't do this," I said with conviction. "You're coming to live with 
me and my documentary production staff to see how it works out. After all, I'm 
paying for your film school training so you can learn travel video production 
from my team. What else can I do to help people after I've reached this 
decade?" 
 
"I hate everything in this room, from the copper cauldron that holds the 
kindling you never use to the dumb statue of a cat that has a history I've heard 
a thousand times." 
 
 
 
Girgis ran to the mantelpiece and tossed everything to the carpet. He 
took a vase v^'ith a candle in it and threw it in Client #9's head. 
 
Client #9 duelled, but the vase flev^' through the window. 
 
"He's being ugly," she whined to me. 
 
Girgis ranted on in his own dialect. "Last time it was the two deaf ladies 
from the senior club with whom I had to play cards. I'm so lonely; I could die if 
anything comes between me and my goal of being a highly-paid television 
journalist — an international correspondent working around the world." Suddenly 
he was ashamed of what he'd blurted out. 
 
Girgis looked at me shocked that I'd see inside him. Client #9 poured 
some orange juice into several glasses and handed me and him a glass. 
"Please, let's all cool it," I sighed. 
 
The juice stood on the table untouched. "I hate the two, long, watery 
juice drinks that have to last through the night," Girgis teased, twisting his 
mouth. "I hate the phony smiles in this room. You're all laughing at me. I'm sick 
of the fake formality you go through after every backgammon game." 
 
"You've done pretty well tonight helping him to talk, to open up like a 
woman," Client #9 complained. Everyone's camera stilled rolled and recorded 
every nuance of foresight, insight, or hindsight. "Here are some pitfalls to 
avoid," I began. But Girgis cut me off in mid-sentence. 
 
"All I see are phony, stapled smiles, like costumed belly dancing dolls," 
Girgis continued. "Two red dots on each cheek." 
 
Client #9 couldn't show anger. "Maybe if you had to go out and work for 
a living instead of living for the moment," she admonished her grandson. 
 
"What about you— smoking five packs a day?" He shot back 
sarcastically. 
 
"You worry me so, I have to smoke," Client #9 cried. "It's a stimulus 
barrier to the pain you cause me." 
 
Girgis took up his orange juice glass. "Shove your guilt trip. I want 
something of my own." 
 
That was the first faint surge of triumph he'd felt all evening. "Nothing 
makes a grandmother angrier than to have her teenage grandson argue like an 
old hen," Client #9 said. 
 
"Tonight I'm ready for a fight," he said. 
 
"You control every facet of his life. Why doesn't he date girls his own 
age?" I asked Client #9. 
 
"That's your American way. Here in Beirut, we don't date the same way 
as you folks do in America," she replied. 
 
"The little bastard's ruined my whole evening," Client #9 said. "Why 
won't he allow me a life?" 
 
 
 
"Allow?" I hesitated. 
 
Client #9 broke out in tears. "Does he expect me to say 'My dear little 
baby, don't grow up?'" 
 
"Client #9," I said. "Girgis is asking what abused children always ask." 
 
"What's that?" 
 
Girgis walked toward his grandmother. She put her arms around him. 
 
"If I die, then will you love me, mommy?" He whispered to her, and then 
repeated himself facing the rolling video camera, my camera, not hers. 
 
Girgis broke down in tears. "Tell her. Client #9. Tell her." 
 
Client #9 blew a long sigh through the serrations of her lower teeth. "We 
just found out today. Girgis has been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis-M.S." 
 
His face wrinkled, squeezing his eyes shut as he crumbled, sobbing at 
my feet. "I don't want to hop off the railroad at this stop," he sobbed. 'Til never 
be a man." 
 
Client #9 poured the glass of juice over the back of his neck. "You 
wimp, you mamhoul, get up. Thousands of people run businesses with M.S. 
You must be a man." 
 
"I'm going to end up in a wheelchair." 
 
"How would you like to make me a list of international Presidents who 
ruled from wheelchairs?" 
 
"My brother has been in a wheelchair since birth, and he's working on 
his life-long learning and careerjustfine," client #10 interrupted. 
 
"It must take a lot of doing to win all that strength over into your own 
corner and then go on eating at the same table, living normally day to day," 
Client #9 told me. 
 
Girgis rose and looked at me. "You're too damned good at everything, 
like my grandma is-hitting a tennis ball or running a documentary production 
company or cooking dinner for twelve." 
 
"You should be proud of everything like that. Tell me about your mom in 
America, Girgis. When I was your age, talking wasn't an option," I said. 
 
Like a thorough bred horse, Girgis couldn't resist the challenge. Before 
Girgis could open up to me in front of Client #9, she interrupted and cut him off 
in the middle again just as Client # 10 did the same to her. 
 
"You're emotionally absent just like your old man, the sonofobitch." 
 
Girgis shut down. "Where's daddy, Where's the sonofobitch?" 
 
"The sonofobitch is gone." Client #9 laughed. 
 
"What are you thinking. Client #9?" I asked. 
 
"About my father who always chased me yelling, if I catch you, I'll 
cripple you. Now I got a crippled grandson." 
 
 
 
I tucked my business card into her top pocl
into the same grin Girgis used. The cameras l
 
"You notice that crooked smile on your new husband?" I pointed it out 
to Client #9. She giggled. "Oh, that. Girgis taught him that. He saw it on Tony 
Perkins in 'Psycho' in the dubbed rerun over here at the theater. It's so weird, 
that its funny. You don't get those foreign movies here in Beirut very often." 
 
Client #9 motioned with her head to leave the room. She followed me 
downstairs to Girgis, who had fallen asleep on the sofa. "I got another bomb to 
lay on you, besides finding out about Girgis's M.S.," she announced in the tiny, 
threadbare kitchen. "You have to save your own life." 
 
How could I tell her that she had to really love herself and respect 
herself to deal with all the stress? How could I treat this war on a family level 
when a bigger war was going on outside the door, a war of hatred between the 
haves and the have-nots, the culturally different, and even the planets? As 
much as war stank, it was responsible for the evolution of technology. That 
bothered me a lot. 
 
The last time Client #9 and I did lunch at a posh hotel at my expense, 
with the camera rolling of course, an old lady got ahead of her in line as we 
waited in the hot sun for a seat. It was in one of those fancy business lunch 
places in Beirut where men in black suits closing deals are given preference 
over two mature ladies in wide-brimmed hats made of wheat stalks. 
 
Client #9 grabbed the lady who cut in front of her and screeched, "Get 
out of my way before I push in your face." All that inner rage exploded. At 
home. Client #9 was incapable of showing anger. Instead, she'd make you feel 
guilty by prying your sympathy at how sick she was. With a total stranger whom 
she was sure of never seeing again. Client #9 pinched, shoved and stepped 
hard on toes. 
 
All the anger she banked for years was suddenly spent on a stranger. 
Client #9 lighted a cigarette, and I pulled it out of her mouth. 
 
"Quit now." 
 
She changed the subject. "We're placing power in sick hands. Half the 
men I know who earn a lot of money have slapped their wives around or worse. 
The poor half does the same sometimes, but the wives don't speak up. The 
wives of the powerful men speak up to me." 
 
"Architects create domestic violence by creating cages too small for a 
couple to hide in. Everybody knows two monkeys in a cage bite each other. So 
do two people in a 600-square foot residence," I said sheepishly. 
 
Client #9 was a little doll face with blood-red lips. "Do I have to drive a 
stake through his heart to stop him from bothering me?" She always asked me 
this kind of a question. Then she answered it herself with a 'but' 
 
 
 
"Would you want to have your daughter marry a man exactly like the 
man you married?" 1 added. "Just walk out with your own kids and don't turn 
back. Girgis wants to come live with me and learn the television journalism and 
documentary production ropes." 
 
Client #9 choked on her ice water laughing so loud, so strained, and so 
fake. She pleaded with me to spend the night. "I'm afraid of Girgis," she 
sobbed. "He's cruel-like my first husband, and just as penny-pinching. No 
matter how far I travel to find a nourishing, slow-to anger man who's different, I 
end up marrying a disgruntled cheap skate just like my own wife-beating step 
father." 
 
The guest wing provided me with Client* 10's movie studio affects. 
There was that gaping hole in the wall covered by a portrait or mural between 
Client #9's bedroom and Girgis's. And in my room, the same hole had been 
filled by the lens of an industrial-quality video camera. Whoever inserted the 
camera had mass duplication on his or her mind. They wanted me to see, and 
probably, the public, most likely the international news networks. 
 
Late that night, all was quiet. I awoke around 3:00 in the morning from 
too much sugary pomegranate juice and curiosity on the brain, and peered 
through the lens into Client #9's room. 
 
That cat woman of a 75-year old invisible grandma undressed slowly in 
front of the camera, knowing t could be watching, perhaps hoping. I wasn't 
quite sure yet of her motive. I could only assume she wanted me to watch and 
video record how Girgis treated a lady, his grandmother. 
 
Client #9 was made up to look like a cheap, aging whore. Her black 
satin pushup bra and lace bikini panties dug deeply into her flabby, cottage 
cheese textured thighs. She looked like a comic caricature of her grandson's 
foreign girlie magazine centerfold. 
 
The makeup she slapped on her mature face looked like a clown, like 
the character. Sweet Charlotte in a 1964 American Betty Davis film about a 
child star grown mature. Her brassy pink and orange-hennaed white hair 
flopped under the mirror lights. Black eyeliner ran down her lower eyelids into 
the creases in the bags under her eyes. ! pressed my finger on the red 'record' 
button, and the camera rolled feverishly under the blaring light bulbs capturing 
the eye liner melting into the creviced bags under her eyes. 
 
Across the wall was a second camera. I ran to peer through that 
camera, and started it, also, when Client #9 left her room and began banging 
loudly on Girgis's bedroom door. The second camera's wide, fish-eye lens 
peered through a hole in the wall in Girgis's bedroom. Most certainly Girgis 
knew I was here, and the cameras were here, and 1 would edit the video. Client 
 
 
 
#10 tapped every wall, every room, every place in the tiny, decrepit flat; 
cameras rolled everywhere, except inside the toilet. 
 
I wondered why the heil each adult family member wanted me to tape 
him or her in each person's room for an obvious network news broadcast? 
There was no sign of Client* 10, who shared the twin bed on the opposite wall 
with Girgis. The niece had been sent to spend the night with other relative and 
their same-age children. 
 
I noticed none of the bedrooms or the bathrooms had locks. The video 
tape rolled as Client #9 pushed open Girgis's unlocked door. He growled. 
"What the hell do you want?" 
 
Client #9 touched him on his bare shoulder. He looked up and ran to 
close his night stand drawer. As I peered through the lens, taping his 
grandmother's communication attempt (we had discussed in therapy), 
something went chaotic. Nothing can be planned to go a certain way. There 
are always the laws of chance, the unforeseen, or the unstable. There's always 
something going awry on the fractal curve of life's number game. 
 
Girgis had a packed suitcase on the bed. Girlie magazines lay sprawled 
and open across his comforter. Client #9 looked down at the centerfolds. The 
camera picked up one magazine whose cover depicted a bruised, nude, 
beaten-down girl chained eagle spread to four bedposts wearing a Swastika 
armband and a nipple ring. The image of torture sent chills of revulsion up my 
spine. What's so sexy about pain? I thought. Love isn't supposed to hurt, but 
this wasn't love. 
 
Client #9 grabbed the girlie magazines from Girgis's hands. She quickly 
thumbed through the photo layouts. "Girgis, this is sick. Why don't you get 
yourself a real girlfriend, a best friend?" 
 
He moved backwards, tearing the magazine from her grip, and flinging 
the pulps into his dresser drawer. He slammed the draw shut with vengeance. 
 
"Do you honestly think these pictures will give you back your 
manhood?" Client #9 laughed at him. 
 
"Only my disability stands between me and my manhood." 
 
He reached out to touch her, but she jumped away. Girgis took her in 
his arms and shoved her against the wall, forcing her bony, frail body back as if 
she were a crumpled, rag doll. She had some feistiness in her yet and pushed 
him away. 
 
"It's wrong. So terribly wrong," she said sarcastically. 
 
Hopelessly, raised his fist to belt her in the kisser, but decided to push 
her away. She bounced on the bed and backed out his door. "You're a bitter, 
old bag," he ranted. 
 
The words "old bag" ticked her off. Client #9 exploded in anger. 
 
 
 
"What have you been doing with those hate groups? And now you buy 
that foreign garbage that puts women in chains and gets off on their pain. The 
price of that magazine could have been spent on your college education during 
these past four years." 
 
'Tm without any money of my own," he yelled, turning to leave the 
room, but she blocked his path and grabbed his shoulders. "Why can't you look 
me in the eye? Why can't we talk anymore? You're not my husband. You're my 
little baby grandson. We can talk. We can be friends," she demanded and 
manipulated with a dominant tone in her voice. 
 
He began to wash his hands in his bathroom sink. "You forgot to use 
soap," she snapped. 
 
That mothering command pushed his fury icon. He flung her into the 
wall, and her head knocked a portrait to the carpet. He looked up in surprise to 
see the hole she had drilled in his wall leading to hers. Girgis ran over and 
poked his finger through. 
 
"You old bitch," he ranted. "You spied on me all this time. You were 
always watching me." 
 
"Since my new husband and I were married, I drilled holes to watch 
you—and him. I watched you howl with pleasure over those magazines, and 
when you were away, I watched my new husband and you together, looking at 
the girlie pictures. My husband wouldn't look at me if I stood naked in front of 
him, of course. He told me my fat stomach squeezed into lace corsets made 
him want to puke." She sobbed loudly. 
 
"Shut up. Shut up you filthy sharmutter." 
 
"You wasted yourself on those paper dolls just like my new husband 
throws himself at his sickening whores and flicks. He only wanted the little 
money my first husband left me. And to think I went under the knife for him. I 
had two facelifts to look twenty-eight forever, and none of them worked. I look 
worse at seventy-five than before I spent my old age savings to look young for 
my husband. Don't you ever marry for money." 
 
She put her arms around him, but Girgis wrenched her wrist, twisting it 
so she dropped one of his girlie magazines. She grabbed another from his 
drawer and backed further away from him, laughing, teasing, and poking fun. 
 
Sobs convulsed Girgis's shivering body. "Your irritability," he whined. 
"It's the first sign of dementia." 
 
"My husband calls me a loser. Look at you, both of you." 
 
"You're full of the old timer's diseases in your own head." 
 
She retreated at his words, but he followed her, unaware of the sash 
weight lying on top of a magazine he had taken from his open drawer. The 
back of Client #9's knees brushed the side of his bed. 
 
 
 
Client #9 crouched there, cowering beside his bed, her eyes wide with 
fright. Drunl
lips. The sounds angered him. She wiped the white foam from the corners of 
her mouth. 
 
She lifted her leg toward the sash weight to high kick it from his hands, 
and missed. He stalked her. 
 
"I hate the way women smell," Girgis hollered, "like rotten fish." 
 
"You want to know how women smell, you bastard," Client #9 
screeched. "Weii get a load of this." She ripped off her sanitary napkin and 
dragged the bloody rag under his nose. "Smell what estrogen and 
progesterone hormone replacement therapy does to a seventy-five year-old 
woman. You never stop your period after menopause. Why do I have to do this 
routine to look young for my new husband?" 
 
"You're crazy with elder rage," the young man shouted. 
 
Anger fired from his brain. Girgis lunged at her like a wounded 
carnivore. Client #9 sidled away, and tripped, tumbling across his bed. She 
struggled upward, clawing at his face with razor-sharp acrylic nails. 
 
She pushed past him, and he grabbed her by the shoulders and 
squeezed her head between his knee and the wall. His thigh was crushing. In 
the wide, fish-eye view camera lens, Girgis's face looked like a moon in black 
water. 
 
I got a close-up shot of Client #9's wedding ring. Cold light clung to her 
arms like fireflies. No way was I going to interfere in this network news shot. No 
way was I going to open that door at this wee hour and announce I've been 
taping for public broadcast in a future court room. 
 
Client #9's leg shot out, and Girgis kicked her at the base of the spine. 
"Scum," he shouted, and she flew fon/vard. It could have happened in a public 
train or a bus. No one would looked up in a public place nine times out of ten. I 
held my ground behind the video camera like the objective observer of nature. 
Survival of the fittest. Let nature take its course. 
 
He yanked off her pink and orange hennaed with white hair frosted wig 
and rubbed her face along the white comforter so the dark eyeliner and gray 
shadow smeared off. "Stop trying to look like a movie star, grandma" he 
begged in a loud, shaky voice. 
 
Girgis pinned her down across his bed. She slapped him hard across 
the cheek. Without conscious volition, I guessed, the sash weight plunged 
harder and harder across her skuil. Girgis was unable to stop. 
 
He dropped the sash weight on the bed. Then he fell across his 
stepmother's body, crying and begging forgiveness. He looked at her a long 
while, and soon realized she was beginning to stir. Girgis rose, and put the 
 
 
 
pillow over her face. That's when I stopped the rolling tape, and flew into his 
room with a 22. caliber revolver hidden in my purse. 
 
Girgis cringed next to the bed, unable to look at her. I walked over to 
the bed and removed the pillow. She groaned and began to cough. Thank 
goodness she survived. 
 
Girgis ran past me into the bathroom and turned on the water so I 
couldn't hear him sobbing and retching loudly, but I heard him. He locked 
himself in the bathroom and became silent. 
 
I dialed an ambulance and asked Client #9 to let me examine her. "Do 
you believe me now that he'll kill you if Client* 10 won't? Will you get out 
now?" I asked. 
 
Client #9 groaned. "Do you have it all on tape? Is the evidence 
admissible in court? Can we get Client* 10 to give me back all my money he 
lost and took from me when he managed my income and the little money my 
first husband left me?" 
 
"Yes. I'm here to help, but I can't understand why you required me to 
wait this long. I almost let him kill you to get this tape. And only because you 
insisted I record you this way." 
 
"I don't care," Client #9 sobbed. "Client* 10 stole all my money. I'm 
broke and I can't pay you anymore as my documentarian. My grandson is a 
parasite living off my inheritance. I want him to get an education, a job, a wife, 
and his own place." 
 
"He's not fit to marry and raise a family. He'll beat them and start the 
cycle all over again.... just like your first husband and your second husband. He 
needs help. ..to understand that in a family, no one hits a woman, and a woman 
doesn't hit anyone either. Don't you think I care about the future?" 
 
"Yes you care — about your network news broadcast as a foreign 
correspondent. You wanted the scoop, but I keep the rights to my life story as a 
film in international cinema," she insisted. 
 
"When you start to respect yourself again, you'll call me again." I said. "I 
can show what makes your whole family tick in a sound bite." 
 
"I bet you can." 
 
I wondered what I was going to do about Girgis. What's next for him? 
 
"I want to come with you alone to America," Client #9 demanded. "I 
want to live in a luxury condominium where the weather is mild in the winter 
among other people my own age. I don't want to be married to a man who is 
not slow to anger. My grandson can go live on his own or with his mother in 
America, but in another city from where I will be enjoying the serenity of my 
golden years. Why not? I speak seven languages. Now's my chance to use 
those words... Inshallah," she added. "Khallas," (Finished!). I've raised my 
 
 
 
children. Now is my time for travel, fun and games. Give me my camera. I also 
want to be a documentarian," said Client #9. 1 handed her my best video 
recording devices and headed home to Berkeley, where I belonged. 
 
We all marry our mirrors, someone who reflects how we feel about 
ourselves at the moment. My auntie always told me that, "Every wife is a mirror 
of her own husband's failures, and every husband a victim of his wife's 
success." 
 
# 
 
2. Time Traveling the Ancient Mediterranean with Paul of Patmos 
and his Dog, Xanthe 
 
The Antikythera Device: The Day St. Paul of Patmos Taught Me to Pray for 
the Gift of Being Able to Trust in a Power Higher Than Human Who Doesn't 
Think of Me as a Snack 
 
More than two-thousand years ago my present mitochondrial DNA inhabited 
a woman named Calliope of Patmos, whose family invented, owned, and 
gave up to the sea, one of the rare, Greek Antikythera celestial navigation 
gears used for nearly three thousand years by Greek and later, Roman 
sailors. The antikythera device served as a mechanism of complicated gears 
physically representing the Callippic and Saros astronomical cycles. 
 
It's not only gears I wanted to mesh. So let me take you back there again for 
a few hours to peruse the human condition. Some of my distant Greek family 
members still carry the ancient Greek name of Photiades. For clarityPhotia, 
could mean "source of light" as in "light an oil lamp and walk out of the 
darkness," or the enlightened' one. Intimate glimpses of the human condition 
may be found in numerous art galleries. 
 
In the many incarnations of my ancient DNA, the molecules lived in many 
bodies of generations well before the "common era" on the small Greek 
island of Patmos, , surrounded by the Aegean Sea at the time white-haired 
Paul of Tarsus once sought a bowl of broth at my family tavern of sustenance 
serving food for the sensibilities. 
 
My beliefs there on Patmos emphasized good deeds rather than complex 
creeds. I had been a builder of dreams seeking practical applications, but so 
far ahead of my century, that I actually found time-travel a gift of destiny. 
 
 
 
For me back then, the daughter of a proper Greek widow who could write 
well. My mother copied numerous scrolls and letters that Paul of Tarsus on 
Patmos brought into the tavern. As a follower, mother would give me copies 
of some letters. My windowed mother, Xanthe committed herself to faith, 
keeping the family together in spite of all odds, and putting bread on the 
table. 
 
Here on Patmos, the family goal focused solely on commitment. We all 
followed Paul's when he came near our tavern for his bowl of broth and a 
listened to the whisperings of his talks and writings. And yet I longed to be an 
explorer and observer of comparative thought in faraway places and future 
times. 
 
As girl of sixteen alone in the world, and having arrived as the new tutor in a 
wealthy Roman household villa in the far westNeapolis, the only way I could 
study the human condition consisted of gawking at works of art where I could 
reflect. I kept a treasure hidden with methe prized antikythera navigation 
gears. 
 
For it is written: Five hundred years before that time of Paul, my father's 
father-fourteen generations removed, invented the antikythera celestial 
navigation device, and in those years, it served well as my treasure. 
 
Not only had I been granted Roman citizenship because of the treasured 
Greek family name appearing in writing in three languages as the ceiestial 
navigation gear's inventor, but now, on my first job as Greek language, poetry 
writing, and history tutor to a child in the wealthiest Roman family in Neapolis, 
where many people also spoke Greek. 
 
The older child had a separate mathematics tutor, and a tutor for engineering 
and building bridges. But I was assigned to teach the five-year old to read, 
speak, and write poetry as a healing tool in Greek. 
 
So begins my proper passage at sixteen from adolescence to womanhood as 
a tutor in ancient Rome, the last outpost of civilization to my senses. See any 
similarity in this holistic adventure to a timeless search for the perfect 
nurturing mother? 
 
Look at your deeds, I heard my mother once say to Paul of Tarsus when he 
lived and wrote on Patmos, the island of my birth. I told Paul that our art 
shows us the human condition. And peace in the home feeds the growth of  
consciousness. Now, I found myself in Rome, Inidclen in villa gardens so far 
from my family. Yet my letters to Paul where still sent as often as my letters 
to my own mother whose life focused on commitment to family and faith. 
 
Often, I were that plain iron ring and carried the scrolls that set me apart from 
the denizens of slaves who also served as tutors. Because of my citizen-ring  
and the signed papers, none of my father had ever been slaves of the 
Romans. Look at me at sixteen, a Roman citizen with signed deeds to my antikythera  
invention attributed to my family and me as the only heir. 
 
Yet as a proper Greek girl, and not a slave, invitations abounded to dine as 
the daughter of the long missing-at-sea Apollodorus. There were no more 
men left in my family to work as well-paid Greek architects contracted to draft 
the plans for villas in Neapolis for the wealthiest aristocrats as there had 
been for generations. I passed the precious time writing letters to Paul of 
Tarsus on Patmos as he wrote letters of his own that one day I would read. 
 
And I, never really alone at sixteen with my mother's copies of Paul's letters 
nearby, spent a few nights on special feast days at the house of Salonius, a 
wealthy Roman and distant relative of the prosperous Cornelius family. His 
vast fortunes came from building many summer villas for still wealthier 
Romans in Neapolis overlooking the sea. Salonius, with wife and children 
shared this large villa. 
 
At those times of my first few days on trial for employment as a tutor to my 
five-year-old playmate, Octavia, I lied awake, well protected, I thought, close 
to Octavia and to her rotund mother, Velia, an Etruscan who married into the 
old Latium family of Salonius Cornelius. As chaperoned children, we slept in 
the roped, rutted wool and feathered torus next to Velia. 
 
"What's that you're holding?" Velia asked me. 
 
"My Antikythera device," I said timorously. "It's a navigational tool for Greek 
sailors." 
 
"Give me that!" Velia quickly removed it from my tiny fingers and pocketed 
the device.  
 
"But it belongs to my father. It's been in our family for four hundred years." I 
quickly grabbed it bacl< from her hands and placed it inside my goatskin 
purse. 
 
"Well, now it's mine. Give it here." Pursy Velia huffed, pulling the gears from 
the sack strung around my waist. 
 
"Go ahead keep it then," I sighed. "If you don't know how to use it right, 
there's the danger that any ship that misuses it might sink. I must not lose 
this. It's all that stands between my freedom and slavery. My Roman 
citizenship scrolls would be worthless without proof that my family line 
invented the device." 
 
"Then I'll sell it so you won't envy this evil eye in front of me," Velia teased. 
I used my own family members as models by memorizing the fruits of our 
family slogan of deeds, not creeds. I jostled the words to Velia without 
understanding their impact. 
 
"Our Greek family travels only to study and understand the human condition 
for inner peace. And you can only learn about the human condition by 
studying what is in the art galleries of all peoples. Our goal is peace in the 
home. 
 
You have to practice it in every room if you ever want to grow world peace. 
That's why you must return the antikythera to me or my mother or our friend, 
Paul of Tarsus who is now living on Patmos. The gears point the celestial 
direction of navigation. It belongs on a ship. Our family invented it for the 
purpose of growing peace." 
 
"You grow peace, like a vine or a tree?" Velia looked up in surprise, grinning 
crookedly, but not smiling with her eyes. 
 
"That's right," I told her eagerly. "You heal yourself into peace in an art 
gallery, not in a pantheon. Otherwise you're talking to yourself. Don't you 
know that the purpose of life is to understand the human condition?" 
 
"You certainly can't do anything about it." Velia squealed with impatience. 
"You're just a crupper, a strap holding a riding saddle steady," Velia said 
impatiently. "I've heard about Paul of Tarsus. And i know all about your poor, 
widowed mother. You know what you are? You're trying to steady yourself on 
what Paul has taught you. I heard him speak on Patmos."  
 
"So you know his followers." 
 
"I've heard more than you understand about the oral traditions," Velia 
smirked as she retraced the sign of the fish by dipping her ring finger into a 
goblet of wine and tracing the x-tailed fish on the shiny edge of a platter of 
black figs." 
 
"You're only a sixteen-year old girl a very wealthy and smart girl for a 
foreigner," Velia continued. "Luckily, you are not the slave of our oldest son's 
tutor. He's from Attica. Maybe you can fix some of the broken furniture 
around this house. What's more of a human condition than that torus I sleep 
on arriving back from repair full of vermin?" 
 
"My friend, Paul of Tarsus told me and my mother ten years ago that the 
purpose of life is to take care of one another. That's why Paul of Patmos 
gave me his little dog, Xanthe as a present when I sailed west." 
 
"So that's how you repair what's broken," Velia laughed, admonishing me. 
"You take care of that filthy wolf cub. Romans prefer cats in the kitchen, not 
predators. Keep that dangerous wolf-dog in the atrium." 
 
"My half dog half wolf puppy will guard me well. I'll put her in the garden 
house for now, but she is loyal and bonded to me. Look how beautiful her 
brushed fur is, like the silver rays of the moon." 
 
"That's a lot of strange information about she wolves and dogs from a Greek 
young woman. Learning architecture might not be a useless plan after all for 
a Greek woman nowadays. Times are changing for women here in Neapolis. 
Women have more freedom here than in Rome. Have you heard about the 
new changes in property inheritance laws for women? Probably noti bet all 
you can teach my five-year old daughter is the purpose of life. Well, what is 
the purpose of life? I suppose all you can do is spout ideas that can't be 
applied to real work around my house." 
 
"My own tutors from Alexandria told me the purpose of life is to repair. But I 
wished Paul would have been my tutor." 
 
"Paul is busy with more important things than being your tutor. So what did 
your tutors from Alexandria teach you about repairing the stench of life? My 
solution is to give the world our most practical Roman giftflush toilets and 
underground pipes for warm baths."  
 
"We had flush toilets and pipes underground to warm water before you did."  
 
"Why don't you repair your own world with those healing unguents or spices 
your tutor brought you from Alexandria? I l
Neapolis with you. What's in that sack?" 
 
I opened the bags with the air holes first. This first day with my new employer 
as a tutor began to feel as grey, tense, and tedious. "Watch how the she wolf 
dog stretches her body in a dance." 
 
Paul's gift of Xanthe, the wolf-dog puppy that I pulled from a perforated 
goatskin pack leaped from my hands, scattering across the mosaic floor. 
"Your five-year old daughter, Octavia will find that puppy is a good listener. 
The wolf dog is nearly twelve weeks old and is tame because Paul and I 
have cuddled and nourished the animal since she was five days old. Even 
her woif mother was tamed. And this dog's father is a Roman army Mastiff 
that served well on ships with the centurions." 
 
I watched the slaves overstuff Velia's torus with swans down. They placed it 
upon the lectus so it would be high enough from the flagstones to be free 
from vermin and covered it with goat hide. 
 
Velia had coarse, yellowed linens that scratched my arms and made me itch, 
and her bleached wool coverings reeked of the urine used to bleach it. The 
stench of sweat, roses, and myrrh still couldn't mask the bleaching with stale 
urine, no matter how many times the slaves beat the fabric underwater. Even 
when dried in the sun, the damp coverings smelled rancid. Fresh air couldn't 
erase what secrets those covers witnessed. 
 
I watched in Salonius's villa as the carpenters made the first woodcut on the 
sopha and applied its moldings to match the room. Above, the ceiling murals 
of clouds on faded blue-green skies lulled me to sleep. I had my sixteenth 
birthday the day Octavia had her fifth, and we celebrated so that I was invited 
to sleep in the house of Salonius-Cornelius, chaperoned by Velia so that little 
Octavia, skinny me, and rotund Velia all shared and slept upon the same, 
soft torus on this enormous lectus full of wormholes. Velia even allowed 
Octavia to hold the kitten in the folds of her tunic. 
 
Salonius, in the next bedroom slept with his 20-year old son in two separate 
lectus and torus far apart at opposite ends of the room. In the darkest hours  
of the early morning pouring rain chilled the room yet soothed the scraping of 
the crickets like nails on dry pumice stone and the erudite screams of the 
night. 
 
"Remember when we played Suffering'? And I'd rub your belly, and your doll 
would be delivered like a baby?" Velia laughed and whooped her perpetual 
hacking cough from years of inhaling the dust of granite in her father's 
sculpture and stone mason industry. I rolled over, pulling my short dark hair 
from my eyes. Next to me five-year old Octavia soundly slept. 
 
My mouth and nose felt paper-thin and raw as I trembled against the roar of 
thunder and the wintry rain pounding the roof tiles. Salonius tiptoed out of his 
sleeping chamber and crawled into bed with his wife. "What are you doing 
here?" i provoked him. 
 
Salonius shed his tunic at the foot of the too-soft torus and climbed under the 
covers to have coitus with his wife. I knew about those acts at ten from 
enough spying through billowy curtains on Salonius's older son and one of 
the kitchen slaves. 
 
Octavia woke with a start, rubbing her eyes. "Get out!" She raged in her five- 
year old, screeching voice. "Are you kicking me out?" Salonius stared at 
Octavia. His dark eyes bulged with unbridled anger. 
 
"Look what you did," "frightened, beaten-down Velia interrupted with a whine. 
"You woke dragon dumpling." 
 
"Shut up, you Etruscan whore." 
 
"Don't call my little girl a whore." 
 
"Better you should be crippled. You should have been born a boy. I'll kill you, 
you red-haired piece of garbage." 
 
Salonius hurried his tunic back on and stormed out looking for something to 
smash. He found a hammer in the living room and began to smash Octavia's 
musical instrumentsfirst her turtle lyre. Octavia's birthday and mine todayl 
had almost forgotten. 
 
Velia had saved a few sesterces from the pittance she told me that Salonius 
gave her each morning and bought Octavia two stringed musical instruments 
for her fifth birthday. I hadn't been home to look at the presents my loving  
 
father bought me, but that surprise could wait. I spent the night after 
Octavia's birthday party simply because Cornelius was close friends with his 
most important scribe, Salonius, and my father had work to discuss with 
Cornelius. We all spent the night in the house of Salonius. 
 
And now rage overtook Salonius as if possessed by an angry bull. "We 
Romans don't worship animals, nor do we let them pollute our households. 
Once in a while our Egyptian slaves let their kittens ransack the kitchens to 
scare off rats and buzzing insects." 
 
Yet the look on Salonius's face was that of a mad, starved animal charging 
his prey. Normally he was a charming man to Cornelius, or in public, but at 
home, I've seen him change in an instant before the eyes of his wife and 
children. And an hour later, he denied anything was amiss. 
 
When Salonius finished smashing the smaller turtle lyres, he went for 
Octavia's wooden kithera with its special echoing sound box, and then for her 
larger, barbitos lyres. These were presents my father brought Octavia for her 
birthday. Then Salonius shouted in pain as he kicked his bare foot through 
the thick and solid arms of the eleven-stringed phorminx lyre and the array of 
extra sheep-gut strings that Velia purchased for her older son's seventh 
birthday. 
 
After a year or two of lessons, he gave it up. For years it had stood among 
her son's undusted toys, forgotten, until Velia asked me if I wanted it and told 
me the story of how Hermes invented the lyre and how many years it 
remained in her family. 
 
I did want it at first, until I realized that Octavia wanted it more. So I made 
sure it stayed with Velia's family. I told my father not to bring it to our house, 
even if Velia offered it to us once more. 
 
Salonius put his foot through the paintings and other instruments brought for 
Octavia's birthday. Finally, he grabbed the Egyptian kitchen slave's striped 
kitten that lost its way and wandered into Velia's room and held its belly 
against the hot pipes being installed in the new indoor bathhouse, until it 
stopped meowing. 
 
I looked in on Octavia's mother, but Velia didn't move or respond to my 
presence. She laid there, one arm over the sobbing Octavia crouching 
against her mother. Velia gazed unblinking at the ceiling, and Octavia had 
told me many times that her mother said she had given up all effort.  
 
I would never give up trying to find a life, an identity, a self, or a sense of 
belonging. I ran into the peristyle and Octavia jumped up and fol(ov'ed me, 
clinging to me for protection, a protection Velia didn't try to give to Octavia or 
to me as a guest in Salonius's home. 
 
"Not my birthday presents. Don't smash my presents." Octavia cried, but now 
Salonius had spent his rage and returned, exhausted to his own room, but 
the respite didn't last for long. 
 
The louder the sounds of her voice grew, the more angry Salonius became. 
He began to chase Octavia first and then both of us all over his house waving 
this fasces a set of rods bound in the form of a bundle which contained an 
axe. Salonius's cousin, the bodyguard of a magistrate, carried the fasces. 
 
He must have left it with Salonius for safekeeping when he went to visit his 
son's new baby in the countryside. Now he separated the axe from the rods 
and swung the axe over his head like a madman. 
 
"If I catch you, I'll cripple you." Heads will roll before you'll become a tramp." 
He went for the axe in his private closet, putting the hammer away. Octavia 
and I scampered under a table and crouched there, sobbing. I didn't know 
how to defend myself or protect Octavia, being a scrawny boy scared beyond 
uttering a sound. Salonius seemed like a raging giant, a belching volcano 
spewing his poisonous gases at me and waving an axe. 
 
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry, daddy," Octavia cried. 
 
"Better you should be crippled than to be born a girl and make trouble for me. 
I should have flushed her out into the Tiber. Better she wasn't made or born," 
Salonius ranted. 
 
I sneaked back into Velia's sleeping quarters dragging Octavia by the hand. 
And we saw that Octavia's mother began to stir and shout to Salonius who 
still hunted us down from the next room. 
 
"If I have to get up you two fighting make me sicker." She began to cough 
again. "Leave my baby alone." I shoved Octavia under the lectus and sidled 
under it myself. As children, even I at sixteen and she at five could crouch 
there, but a giant like Salonius would never be able to squeeze in that space.  
 
Salonius, now angrier with Velia, tool< a swing at Octavia and me with tine 
hammer, and missed because we moved deeper into the dark under the 
lectus. Salonius ran out of the room to retrieve his axe and in the instant of 
time I had to flee, Octavia and I darted from the l
the atrium into the garden. 
 
There was a deep hole dug for an outdoor as well as an indoor privy and also 
a partially built storage room under construction. The workers had left for the 
night, and the hole in the garden soil was deep enough with enough dirt to 
cover us. 
 
In the darkness, Salonius chased his daughter and me, gaining on me as I 
disappeared into the hole in the garden. We squeezed our small bodies into 
a partially filled dung pit, hiding inside back of an old barrel left there as it was 
still too new and unfinished to be used by anyone. 
 
We covered ourselves with garden soil. I had a small space for air there in 
the barrel, and there was enough sawed out of it for me to see the lamp 
Salonius held high as he looked around for a few seconds, wild-eyed, wiping 
the beaded sweat on his upper lip on his forearm. "If I catch you, I'll kill you," 
he shouted in a tremulous tone. I brought my puppy, Xanthe with me and 
held her snugly. She protected me, and 1 protected her and brought 
nourishment to the 12-week old canls-lupus. This animal friend given to me 
by Paul of Patmos must be protected from other beasts. 
 
From between the wide slats of the broken barrel, I watched as he swung his 
axe overhead. As he passed a work table, Salonius slapped the ax against 
his thigh a couple of times. Then he sighed and left it on the table. Finally, 
exhausted, he plodded back into the atrium. I petted the puppy and covered 
her with my stola. We kept silent, and the silence tangled us together with 
one fate like a fisherman's net as the full moon watched over us. 
 
The next afternoon, Salonius denied anything happened out of the ordinary 
the night beforeat least in front of my father, his architect and physician 
friends, and the construction workers in Salonius's garden. In fact my father 
had paid for the new addition as Cornelius was noted for his thriftiness and 
Salonius for his dutiful long hours as Cornelius's scribe. 
 
i had to stay another day while my father finalized business ledgers with 
poorly paid Salonius, Cornelius and the architects. Salonius kept grumbling  
about me eating him out of house and home as I sat eating some cheese and 
figs from the l
 
I watched Salonius stall< into the l
who l
the kitten as I sneaked after him trying to hide in the room where the pipes 
heated the new pool. Suddenly, Velia, in her best shrill, let him have her 
words as if they were daggers. 
 
"No sooner did I put the baby on your lap then you told me to take her off 
because she gave you a stiff ache between your thighs." 
 
"You keep hounding me just because your step father came into your room to 
ask you whether or not you wanted to copulate with him when you went to 
visit your mother." 
 
"I told him don't even think of it and ordered him to get out. He's your rich 
brother and insisted I couldn't tell him what room to go to in his own house." 
"You could have told your mother." 
 
"I didn't want to upset her. She had enough meeting me for the first time as a  
grown woman after giving me away to my father and step mother when I was  
two." 
 
"What was wrong with you that your own mother kept the boys and gave  
away the only girl? When she married for the second time, she kept the girl 
 
she had then and gave her all the inheritance, didn't she?" 
 
"Yes. She said because I made her look old." 
 
"Why did your father divorce your mother?" 
 
"He wanted to marry that Thracian redhead." 
 
"So why didn't you kick your stepfather out of your room?" 
 
"I did. I insisted he get out. Then I told him I expected to be treated as a 
guest while visiting my own mother. Don't you understand or believe me?" 
 
Velia pleaded. "I threw him out, but you don't see him grabbing an axe or a 
hammer and chasing innocent children, scaring them for life. Would you want 
your daughter to marry a man exactly like you?"  
 
"Girls only make trouble. You know how many times I asked the that Delphi 
hag who delivered you to check to make suremaybe she made a 
mistakemaybe Octavia was a boy?" 
 
"Is that why you never held a conversation with your daughter or even smiled 
at her? Why do you distance yourself from your daughter? Not once in your 
whole life did you ever talk to the girl or show her that she's more than human 
garbage in your eyes." 
 
"What about you going into your grown son's room to massage his feet every 
morning and comb the lice out of his hair? 
 
"I'm a mother." 
 
"He's twenty, and he tells me you're overbearing, you Etruscan harlot." 
"I married you as a virgin. Don't you ever brand me with that word!" 
"There was no blood." 
 
"My skin stretches. I'm going back to bed." 
 
"You have an answer for everything. I've run out of words, something I'll 
never do as Cornelius's scribe, but for speaking, you have to have the last 
word, just like a woman. And one of these days, you'll pay for that run-on 
mouth of yours with your life. Heads will roll. Where is Octavia?" 
 
"In the garden again." 
 
"Let her rot down there. Lower your voice. We have guests." 
 
Salonius didn't even notice I sat at the back of the kitchen in a corner eating 
my figs and cheese, watching him, following him as he staggered back to 
bed. Velia spent the rest of the day at her distaff spinning wool and following 
the slaves around, envying them. My bodyguard finished his business with 
Salonius. 
 
By the next day the litter arrived for me to leave, and I felt a droopy feeling at 
letting Octavia go back to that ambiance while I returned to Patmos, utterly 
rejected as the new language tutor. My bodyguard soon revealed that Velia 
had hired a boy with dreams of studying architecture. 
 
If only I could take my little friend with me. I wanted to leave so much, and 
yet, reluctantly, I sat one more afternoon alone and watched tiny Octavia, 
much too young for me to play with as a friend.  
 
I turned to bid farewell to wealthy Velia who wore the same stained and 
disheveled dark stola she wore the day before. But it covered her shortness 
and rotundity, her flapping ham-hock upper arms and her enormous la banza 
belly. Velia had revealed Octavia's older brother by fourteen years had a 
short temper like his father's. 
 
"My older son had a fight with me over you and Octavia making too much 
noise," Velia said. 
 
"Me?" I shouted. "I didn't do anything to spoil Octavia's fifth birthday party." 
 
"If you think Salonius shouted and smashed all of Octavia's birthday 
presentsfine musical lyres, some of them gifts from your father, my oldest son 
broke an amphora over my arm. I dared him to do it. Octavia saw everything. 
She crouched under the table to hide. She was whining, complaining for her 
brother to show her how to play trigon with the boys. He told her to go away, 
and she cried." 
 
"Does Salonius know your son broke an amphora over your arm?" 
 
"I had to tell him. So now he smashed Octavia's brother's learning tools and 
tore up his scrolls he needed to study to become an advocate." 
 
"I'm too tired to begin my travel back to Patmos today." I shuffled into the 
 
atrium passing the dead bird in the green cage. Velia and Octavia followed  
me. 
 
"It caught too much heat." You'll have to take it down to the garden, make a  
pyre and burn it. Octavia is too young to light fires, and the kitchen slaves  
have their hands busy with food." 
 
I ran, sobbing, into the bedroom. "Listen, you little mouse. Want to take 
Octavia to see the Neapolis market before you go back to Patmos? I'll be 
with your retinue today." Velia took a plate of pickled eggs from the kitchen 
slave and offered me a heel of bread. 
 
Businesses opened their shutters. Bankers seemed to pose like gossiping 
statues on the steps of the temples. Beggars hid in the recesses and 
shadows in back of the doors of open shops. 
 
I wondered what all the trade gossip meant and realized that only 
accomplishments, benefits, and advantages were pondered. At the end of  
the day, everyone would probably do the same thing as the sun drowned. At 
least the fragrant jasmine of Neapolis masked the pungent garum fish sauce 
stench of Rome's sweltering rooms in the heat of summer. 
 
Velia, Octavia, and I walked through the dusty shops looking at the baubles 
and silken wisps of cloth, the sweet, sickly stench of distinctive odors, spices, 
incense, and unguents. On her way I watched Octavia watch her mother, 
Velia steal from the vendors and shops lapis broaches, Scythian wolf 
earrings, a white stola so small it could never fit her rotundity, and tunics 
already woven and sewn for babies. When no one looked, she'd stuff clothing 
under her stola. 
 
"I don't want any of the beads or perfume," Octavia whispered from the 
communal public privy. "They're cursed. You'll get bad luck." 
 
Velia banged the shutter of each bakery we passed. "Your wealthy father 
only gives me grain for bread and a few lentils. How else can I live? He 
rewards the kitchen slaves with more than he's ever given me for spending. 
Can't you see he's in charge of who selects all the food in this house? I get a 
few asses for spending, but not enough even for a moldy dried fig." 
 
I passed no judgment. Instead, I blurted out, "I'll pay for everything. Eat what 
you wish. I must repay you for inviting me to Octavia's birthday feast. Why 
don't you come back to Patmos with me and follow Paul of Tarsus while he is 
there? My mother can raise the funds needed to keep him in food and shelter 
while he writes and speaks to all who listen on Patmos." My body blocked the 
view of the litter. 
 
"I don't want to wear that evil bracelet, "Octavia cried. Velia, the Etruscan, 
would lay that green-eyed curse on Octavia when she misbehaved, at least 
in my presence, and then Octavia would punish me by having an accident. It 
seemed the tiny girl had lifted herself up so she could fall as a release of the 
tension and terror. 
 
Laying the fear on Octavia with Velia's palms caused the fear, Octavia told 
me that day, and later Octavia sought relief by getting hurt, getting the 
accident over with. Only the curse, the evil eye stood forth, and the 
punishment the child inflicted on herself fired from deep within her like a cold 
well of truth. 
 
"Here, stuff this stola in the belt of your tunic and put this outer tunic over it." 
  
"No! I won't." 
 
Here in the market place, cheap tunics fluttered in the breeze I the midst of a 
sunlit square. Veiia dragged whining me into a dimly lit shop. The old couple 
who ran the shop brought out some fabric remnants, and when their backs 
turned for a moment, the longer of the remnant ended up inside Velia's stola. 
She waddled into the street to see the shoemaker. Velia and daughter sat 
down on a cushion before the shoemaker's shop. 
 
"Give me that skinny foot," said the shopkeeper, trying to shove one of the 
new little sandals on Octavia's dirt-caked foot. 
 
"The soles are too thin," Velia complained. 
 
"Leave me alone!" Octavia whined, storming out of the shoe section. Octavia 
shouted a horrible obscenity at the shop keeper, the same word I heard her 
father call her last night as I looked over my shoulder at the shopkeeper's 
expression. 
 
"That filthy rat," he stammered. 
 
Breathless Velia caught up to her daughter in front of the public cistern where  
a line of slaves and poor citizens, all women, waited their turn to bring water  
into the small rooms they occupied around the market district called the  
Subura. 
 
"Please, Velia, as an Etruscan, come back with me to Patmos where as a  
foreigner you'll be freer than you are here." 
 
"I can't give up the villa." 
 
The Subura, a place to shop here in Neapolis, is just like the same-named 
Subura in Rome. Both became a stench of dried blood, moldy fruit, rotting 
meat, sweat, urine, and manure. In Rome when I was ten, our family took me 
to see it. To find the Subura in Rome, you enter the valley between the 
southern end of the Viminal and the western end of the Esquiline, or Oppius. 
Rome's Subura is connected with the forum by the Argiietum. It continues 
eastward between the Oppius and the Cispius by the Clivus Suburanus, 
ending at the Porta Esquilina. This Subura had the same look.  
 
Now our litter ended up in the bal
shade. Velia chastised Octavia with a pointed finger. "Horse face, why by 
Jupiter did you say that?" 
 
"He didn't have to call me skinny like in ugly," Octavia insisted, standing up  
for her reason for shouting an obscenity at the shoemaker. Velia threw her  
hands in the air out of frustration, or maybe she wanted to give up at that  
moment. 
 
"Why did you have to wear that torn article of clothing outside the house?  
You're beginning to stink just like your father who's never taken a bath in  
years even with three pools. 
 
The old stinker washes the bottom of his feet, his face and hands so  
Cornelius will think he's clean. He's afraid of water, says it makes his legs  
itch." 
 
I listened in silence, then blurted. "Why doesn't he rub some oil on his skin if  
water makes it itch?" 
 
Velia shook her head. While I observed but did not participate, she spent the 
day teaching Octavia how to steal clothing none of us needed from poor, old 
merchants who were ovenA^helmed with business or had no customers at all. 
 
These merchants were too poor to own a slave to help them in their little 
shops, and most had sons who were killed in the wars. I felt sorry for them, 
but Velia only wanted this sensation she must have received from taking 
anything that didn't belong to her, and mostly nothing her size or Octavia's 
that she could use at home. 
 
Everything anyone can buy from a shop could be found here. My eyes 
feasted on the sweets from the shops, but I had no coins with me. 
 
I knew at any time my father left me a bag of coins I could have my 
bodyguards arrange for a litter and slaves to do the shopping for me. I knew 
Cornelius was a miser, as my father always joked, but I never realized that 
his wife had to stoop to stealing to get a thrill or a variety of raisin cake, or a 
bolt of fabric to sew Octavia her basic clothing. 
 
"Where's your father, Where's the bastard?" Velia whispered to Octavia. 
"Probably doing scribe work for Cornelius. Or maybe Cornelius treated him to 
one of his flower shows."  
 
"How brilliant of you to use grown-up words, Octavia," I said. Velia had to get 
her words in. "Some men go straight home after worl
flower shows. Did you know he caught a brothel disease when Octavia's 
brother was five?" 
"What's a brothel disease?" I asked Velia. 
 
"Caught it from a Cappadocian harlot, he confessed to his Egyptian kitchen 
slave. I overheard them. He told me it came back from his soldiering days. 
He thinks I have my mother's head." 
 
"See this scar on my face?" Octavia grimaced. 
 
"So?" I said. "It's ugly. Now no man will want to marry you with that wide, red 
scar on your face." 
 
"That's because you cursed me last year." Octavia cried as she looked up at 
Velia's frowning face. "Did you think your curse would give me this?" 
 
"Where by Hercules is your father? He's never home, the bastard." 
 
Tears ran down Octavia's sallow cheeks. "I told you that stuff you steal brings 
me the evil eye." 
 
"Shut up! The markets crowded with gossip. You'll be overhead, and it will 
get back to Salonius or Cornelius." 
 
"Everybody calls me crazy," Octavia sobbed, taking great gasps of air. 
"When I grow up nobody nice will marry me." 
 
"Just ask anyone you want to marry," I teased. "If you wait for someone to 
ask, no one will. Ha, ha. But you'd better have a lot of money to bribe them." 
Perhaps I teased Octavia too much that day when she was five. It stopped 
when I returned to Patmos, and we saw little of each other. 
 
I sighed and pulled out her drawing tablet and stylus from the litter. She 
began to draw a grotesque face with pointy fingers on her small art tablet. 
Poor Octavia Her entire world found solace in music and art, painting, playing 
the lyre, and sculpting. Now I watched the face she drew with her childish, 
but skilled fingers. The face was contorted with gaping month and reptilian. 
"What kind of happy face is that?" 
 
"I don't know. But it makes me happy to do it."  
 
Velia watched her daughter draw as she whispered to me. "Last week my 
oldest son took Octavia on a trip. She told me that as they strolled together 
on a path, her brother stopped at the highest point on the bridge to gaze at 
the view. Suddenly my son gave his sister a shove and then pulled her back 
to safety before she could let out a wail. But the five-year old heard the 
whisper. 
 
"That's right," Octavia squealed. "He has no right to scare me like that." 
Velia scratched her head. "He denied it just like his father denies doing cruel 
acts. He started to sing to her. Then he lifted and dangled her as If to throw 
Octavia in the Tiber. She told me that she lashed out, flailing, screaming in 
terror. A passerby saw them horsing around, and she said he put her down 
harshly." 
 
"I asked him why he did that," Octavia said, tossing her curls back like a rag 
doll. "And he said it was because I was his baby sister." 
 
I vowed to find a way to help Octavia to a better life without adding more  
problems. 
 
I felt the responsibility to help Velia and Octavia in any way I could. "I will talk 
 
to Paul when I get back to Patmos." 
 
This became a heavy burden for my widowed, aging mother back in Patmos. 
But I would do my best as a family friend for this family that had rejected me 
as tutor because I happened to be a sixteen-year old woman seeking a man 
who would be slow to anger. And what they wanted focused on a boy that 
could inherit my family's generations of engineers, navigation inventors, and 
architects. 
 
Kindness and peace in the home brings out a healthy glow and sweetness in 
any woman wherever she may be present In a way, I felt responsible to do a 
good deed for Octavia and her mother. I feel now at a loss that Velia 
succumbed, eaten by her resentment, and Octavia quickly had been signed 
away by Salonius, now years later, honored by miserly Cornelius's insistence 
of having Octavia's hand in marriage. 
 
Some cannot help themselves. I thought about the striped silvery kitten. 
Nearly ten years had passed, and today I gazed fondly at the spitfire bride, 
Octavia, forged in the fires of her father's perpetual pool of anger, her 
mother's weak, hacking cough, persistent complaints of resentment, and 
growing frailty.  
 
I'm back on Patmos with my friendly wolf-dog, far from Rome or Neapolis. I'm 
reading copies of Paul's letters, and he still savors the broth in my mother's 
sweet tavern and cares to gently pet the tavern's official greeter, our canis- 
lupus, protector of commitment to family, faith, and friends. With a dog in the 
home, there is harmony. 
 
When in Rome, trust the volcano nearby as a better protector of Greek 
women than a slave rebellion on the loose. But here in Patmos, we sit in a 
circle and listen to Paul of Tarsus and those who follow. 
 
In this village we are welcome to freely question, seek answers, and think for 
ourselves. Our symbols, like our gears, are our antlkythera (from the Greek 
island of Antlkythera long before we arrived on Patmos). They stand for 
exploration by celestial navigation. Our destiny is beyond the stars. 
 
# 
 
3. Commitment 
 
965 of the Common Era, Kiev 
 
"Deliver these Torah Scrolls by Rosh Hashanah," the rabbi eagerly 
committed. "You must ride from Kiev to Jerusalem on the back of an ass. Do 
you commit your values to this purpose in the name of the lost tribe of 
Simeon?" 
 
"Surely, only an ass would attempt to ride to Jerusalem in these timorous 
times," laughed Bihar of Balanjar, a great horseman of the steppes who now 
dwelled in Kiev. "But being a man of a thousand disguises, I will take to those 
roads in the ways that I trade along my Silk Road, as a healer of men and a 
repairer of the world. And I promise that by Rosh Hashanah, the Torah 
Scrolls will be in the hands of the great rabbi from Toledo whom I am to meet 
at Jerusalem and deliver the scrolls." 
 
"By Rosh Hashanah, you promise?" The rabbi arched one eyebrow 
 
feverishly. 
 
"Yes By the sweetness of Rosh Hashanah By the harvest For the sake of a  
new year and the chance to be at one with commitment to what repairs the  
world."  
 
Bihar of Balanjar, a great healer who used acupuncture needles acquired on 
the Sill< Road from a wise one of Cathay, Bihar, the great grandson of a 
former Tengri shaman, accepted his son's rites of passage into Judaism on 
the same day that the Rus Prince, Svyatoslav conquered the Khazar white 
fortress atSarkel. 
 
The people scattered in the midst of a war that continued to escalate. Khazari 
widows whose husbands had died in the war accepted the little pillows to 
catch their tears. Bihar's soldiers carried into battle the Khazar Kagan's 
standard as a round, polished silver mirror on a long pole, hung with 
variously colored horsetails and other ornaments. 
 
Bihar, now all dressed up as a Khazarian Kagan with no place to go, raised 
his skullcap over his wife's oil lamps and stared through his tattered hat. His 
voice had a cold, slick quiver of peace. He turned to the wise rabbi who 
traveled all the way from Persia. Bihar's voice grew louder. "Baruch Atah 
Adonai Eloheinu Melech ha'olam oseh ma'aseh vereshit." We praise You, 
Eternal God, Sovereign of the universe, Source of creation and its wonders. 
 
"None beneath the Kagan of the Khazars and his fine horses can take this 
Torah to Jerusalem," decreed the Persian rabbi, opening the ark to show 
Bihar sacred scrolls safely hidden in the walls above a chest of frayed 
skullcaps. "Yet I don't think you're going to Jerusalem in a straight line as you 
are. If I know you, you'll find your way to Jerusalem in the garb of what, this 
time, my Kagan of a thousand disguises?" 
 
Inside the shattered white fortress of the Khazars at Sarkel, by the Don River, 
the Kagan, Bihar began to daven to and fro, praying as the Persian rabbi 
guided a pointer at the letters Bihar long before had copied into his own 
language. 
 
The Rus princes entered and asked Bihar, Kagan of the Khazari who he was 
now and where he wanted to go. A multilingual Kievan cousin of the Rus 
prince gave Bihar the triple circled hand sign, addressing him in his Turkic 
dialect as the Khaz Khan. 
 
He returned Bihar's brother's shield with the large Magen David six-pointed 
star. The Rus soldiers took Bihar outside and let him go. Each time he was 
stopped, someone would say, "Let the Khazari king do what he wants."  
 
He carried babies, newly born and laid back into his arms, dead. One with 
ice-blonde hair, but with glassy gray eyes and a small cut on the belly. Bihar 
kissed him and found a soldier to help him lay the baby on a bench. 
 
Three minutes later, his five-year old brother, already stiffened, came to join 
him. The coppery smell of blood ripped through the forest. Bihar had opened 
a door to the brick fortress at Sarkel along the Don River that its Byzantine 
Greek chief engineer, Petronas Kamateros, had built a century before when 
summoned by Bihar's great grandfather. Now Bihar drew back in familiar 
horror: a mountain of corpses lying amid the ruins. He closed the shattered 
door, and waited. 
 
Sarkel and Atil had fallen to Rus Prince Svyatoslav, and Bihar now found 
himself slamming the same words into people who passed by: He shouted to 
the Khatun (Queen), "The babies as well, wanted war?" She turned to a 
Kievan Rus soldier who shrugged. The soldiers had gone without sleep eight 
nights in order to destroy the Khazari fortress at Sarkel. Their ships came by 
sea in the night. 
 
The chain-mail swathed Khazar horsemen in pointy helmets had settled the 
steppes by then and had great orchards, but the sea? To a Khazar, who 
boasts finer horsemanship than anyone, riding alongside the horse upside 
down, and invisible to weapons, it was not to their advantage to be attacked 
by sea. 
 
Music of the nyes, harps, and kanouns in the Persian style of taksim wafted 
in quarter tones from the children's room where the families of the rabbinical 
scholars from Persia and Baghdad came to teach the difference between 
torah and tumah. No war could stop the harps. 
 
Horizontal rain lashed Bihar's face like a thousand thongs. The quiet village 
was carpeted with cloud-whipped birch trees. Farmers scythed their crop and 
burnt it, turning the air a teal blue. Judaized by rabbis from Constantinople, 
Khazar soldiers that fled along the Don River valley and beyond to the Silk 
Road were humane and decent. 
 
One of them even came back in the battle to lead the collapsing bier bearers 
who had joined those of two Byzantine Fathers of the monastery hospice. 
The soldiers had a sorrowful expression.  
 
"Come on, for Hashem's sake, there are seriously injured people here," Bihar 
cried. 
 
The Khazar soldiers guided Bihar, at the risk of his life, as the war with Rus 
Prince Svyatoslav was at its peak. A Byzantine merchant, traders from 
Khwarizm (Azerbaijan and parts of northwest Uzbekistan), Volga Bulgaria, 
and Persia had perished. Their inn was crushed by the prince's catapult, and 
in three vaulted rooms laid a dozen traveling merchants-wounded, burnt, 
their stomachs open, and their arms torn away. 
 
Bihar and some Khazar soldiers, the two Byzantine Fathers, and the Khatun 
all joined in, but they were not enough to carry the wounded across the 
alleys. The remains of a fortress had attracted Prince Svyatoslav's warriors. 
 
Three visiting families bringing a newTorah scroll from Baghdad to Sarkel 
were wounded. A woman's arm had to be amputated and cauterized. All their 
faces were riddled with black-holed burns. They said nothing, not even a 
moan. But they kept their large eyes wide and thought of the place where the 
Volga flows into the Caspian (Sea of Meotis), the Sea of the Khazari. 
 
The Turkic and Circassian allies of the Khazars came from the Caucasus 
Mountains like soft dragons face to face with the Rus silver bears sailing 
down the Don to many Black Sea ports. 
 
The place of wooden synagogues, the Jewish quarter, stretched like a tough, 
earth-toned skin of stones. The prince's warriors struck the holy places, the 
ruins, while the children of Khazars, fought, davened (divined/prayed) to and 
fro in prayer, and scattered in the streets. 
 
A reflection of Bihar's face in the polished silver mirror of his standard 
revealed a tall, muscular young man with the honey-colored complexion of 
one who spent his days riding in the sun. His short-clipped hair was curly and 
dark as an Egyptian in front, yet long in the back, where a thick braid flowed 
from beneath his helmet over his right shoulder and was tied at the end by 
three bands of malachite beads. 
 
Bihar's lips were pulled over his teeth, giving him a look of confusion. He 
staggered in the distance to a ruined Byzantine monastery. "Am I in the right 
place?" Bihar's voice was tense as he walked up to visiting Byzantine and 
Armenian priests standing far enough from their ruined church.  
 
"Courage is not in tine young people," the Father responded. 
 
"Go out and pick up tine wounded," the priest called to two young men. 
 
"You're having a hard time getting people to do that," Bihar reassured him. 
Serakh, a woman from Baghdad, who had just given birth, sat on the stairs 
with the baby in her lap, still attached to the cord. Bihar remembered her. He 
had bought ewes from her when she arrived in Khazaria before the prince 
waged his war. Her husband copied scrolls and bound special books for the 
children. 
 
"Please take me back home," she begged Bihar. 
 
"You have no home now," Bihar scowled over his shoulder in a voice dark as 
 
lava. 
 
"But where shall I go?" She cried. 
 
"Over there." He pointed northwest to the grasslands of the steppe. The Rus 
soJdiers asked him to do so. 
 
Bihar carried her and the baby into the back of his donkey cart, and then 
swooped up her little daughter who sat beside her. "Idillah, idillah," she 
gasped, thanking him, taking his hand and calling it the hand of God. 
 
"Atil?" He asked. He thought she pointed the way to the Khazar city of Atil. 
"Atil is wasted on this Rosh Hashanah, but not on the next or the next after 
that when I shall bring this Torah to the rabbis in Jerusalem," he said sadly. 
 
"Idillah," she repeated in her own tongue. "Yes, idillah," at last he responded 
in her own language. Hashem will provide for the rabbis in Jerusalem until I 
can deliver this scroll. If it survived from Baghdad to Kiev in the last 
generation, it will survive in this generation to be returned to Jerusalem." 
 
"I have learned Arabic long ago from rabbis in your great center of learning. 
When Baghdad is done with her wars against my people, I shall return there 
to study, speaking your tongue as well as any emir. From a priest in 
Damascus, I have learned Aramaic. And from those like you in my Khazaria, 
I have learned Hebrew."  
 
"Who will light a candle in memory of my language, after this Rosh Hashanah 
tonight?" Bihar retorted, narrowing his eyes. "What Mishnah will I write at 
Javneh for my people? And where will I celebrate next Rosh Hashanah?" 
 
She covered Bihar with blessings. He slowly drove the donkey cart toward 
the monastery that had a resting place open to all. A visiting Armenian priest 
provided from his own to help the villagers when the Byzantine priest's well 
ran dry. The Rus prince's soldiers had destroyed all the Khazar places of 
sanctuary. 
 
At the end of the narrow, dark streeta little boy was limping, his hands 
waving wildly. "Go away, get back!" The Rus soldiers were shouting at him in 
languages he did not understand. Bihar stopped and leaped toward the boy 
who scratched at the slivers in his bare feet. 
 
"Where is your mommy?" Bihar asked. 
 
"Where do you come from?" The boy said and repeated with glassy eyes. 
"Where is mummy?" 
 
He had lost his mind. Bihar carried him off to the monastery's room of  
hospice. With his hand extended, Bihar stopped cold as he stared at its golden door  
knocker made in the image of a human hand. 
 
"Hashem," Bihar whispered. "The hand of the Creator..." Outside the  
monastery there was another cart. Bihar turned to look inside, thinking it was  
empty. 
 
He jumped back. Five iittle children, one a baby of two weeks, lay there, as  
white as if they were made of alabaster, and covered with blood. 
 
One by one Bihar took them out. They were put on the plank with their 
mother and covered up. They were those who had been left in the ruins, in 
order to take care of the wounded children who were still alive. 
 
The father, arrested by soldiers, was unable to take his family further. Gently, 
Bihar picked up from the bottom of the cart a baby's sandal and put it in his 
pocket. 
 
As soon as the rain stopped, nightingales by the dozens swarmed to pick 
grapes. Darkness fell like a fat snake in twenty coils amid the naked glory of  
a blizzard of stars. The crescent moon rose over the deserted fortress at 
Sarkel. Bihar's donkey cart slid over a few feet between the mountains of the 
two halos, a snow-capped barren peak where Bihar knew he could spend the 
Day of Atonement that comes after Rosh Hashanah. 
 
Bihar had returned to the monastery's sanctuary for the wounded. A Rus 
soldier was still there, dead against the wall with an ax and a small rivulet of 
blood running from his head. The Khazari donkey carts with many family's 
possessions were slowly burning against the blackish red sky. 
 
"Where will you go?" An Armenian priest asked. He offered Bihar a plate of 
chickpeas and olives. "You can spend this Rosh Hashanah here with us. Our 
people and your people once lived together where the four rivers flowed out 
of the Garden of Eden. We were one people with you. Today your soldiers 
told me you perform miracles for your people. Maybe you should change 
your name to Nissim. In Hebrew it means miracles, he said. Your rabbi told 
me that. Why don't you eat?" He persisted. "I'm Ter Manuelian." 
 
"I can't," Bihar shuddered. "I can't stand the smell of my own hands." 
 
The Father went down to the flagstones where three hundred Khazar refugees slept on the ground at the foot of a red lantern by the consecrated 
bread. 
 
"Take this body for your sake." The Byzantine church service went on. "We  
share the church," the Armenian priest said. "The Greek in the morning....  
The Armenian in the afternoon." 
 
"Are you sure I'm really in the right place?" Bihar asked. The Armenian priest 
touched him gently on the shoulder. "You're a Jew now, and so is he." The 
priest pointed to an icon on the wall of the Armenian church. 
 
Mothers taking refuge in the basement had no water to wash their babies. 
Children cried for food, and there was no more bread. The Father briefed the 
monks on what to say to Rus and Khazar soldiers. What do you say when 
two opposing sides fighting in a war have to share the same healing room 
day after day? 
 
Suddenly a great healer entered the room. Bihar ran to meet him and thrust a 
document in front of the healer's face. 
 
"What are you?" The healer asked, looking at Bihar's deeply-tanned face.  
 
"I'm from Atil, a Jew." 
 
"When you were Khazarian, you had a country, and you had the Caspian 
Sea. Now that you're a Jew, you belong to the caravans of the Silk Road." 
 
"I have a country," Bihar announced. "When I pray, what direction do I turn 
to, Constantinople, Rome, or Jerusalem? Maybe the direction I should turn to 
when I pray should be straight upwards? In what direction do you pray?" 
 
"Take it easy. I'm Jewish myself, from Kiev." 
 
"This order has the royal Rus seal," said the healer. 
 
"Why do I need a Rus seal, if I'm Kagan of the Khazars?" The order granted 
permission to bury the bodies that were piling up at the entrance of the 
monastery. 
 
"We have no more carts or wagons," Bihar said. "I will follow the loyalty of my 
pet wolf-dog. We will walk together with my prized ass, better than any horse 
of the steppes from where I've traveled." 
 
The heat of the next dawn brought the stench in waves, and the whole 
monastery had to burn all their incense in large gold lamps that swung on 
heavy chains from one end of the building to the other. The priest did the 
hardest work. Bihar handed covers to him, walking in the blood with worms 
wriggling in it. 
 
A Khazar Tarkhan rode up, a commander with no one to lead. "I'm coming to 
claim the body of Khatir, a dead Khazar." 
 
"He's here," said the Armenian priest. "The rabbi will be taking him in a 
moment." 
 
"His family paid to have him buried as a Jew," he added. 
 
The Tarkhan left with the rabbi and one body in a wagon. Bihar stopped the 
wagon. "Can't you give aid to anyone else?" The dead were piled up outside. 
"How many can you fit in this wagon?" The rabbi said. Bihar watched the 
wagon driving away filled with occupants.  
 
One by one, Bihar carried the bodies off. The limbs easily became detached 
from the bodies. Bihar carried once again the cart with the mother and her 
five children. Just as he was arriving with the people at a Jewish cemetery, 
the soldiers of the Rus prince rode up on their horses. 
 
Prince Svyatoslav was there with his tall silver helmet on his head, and his 
soldiers who came in the great long ships they built in the style of the western 
Vikings. He didn't see the bodies. A long line of horsemen rode toward the 
burial fields. 
 
Bihar swept off the cover from the bodies so Svyatoslav would take a look. 
The Khazari women saw it, and a Rus soldier shrank back. 
 
"Cover it, cover it!" a Khazar craftsman shouted, jumping between Bihar and 
the Rus prince. "Cover it or you'll go blind as in the epic of Krotu of the 
Oghuz." Bihar obeyed. 
 
Bihar and the rabbis entered the cemetery where a man was burying his wife 
and daughter. He strutted to the communal pit through the pestilential odor. 
 
Bihar had passed over, one by one, the babies whose heads were opening 
up. "Baby sandals of blood," he muttered. "Would we be welcomed and 
treated this way in Jerusalem?" He stared through his hands. 
 
"Do you think you can turn Jewish in four generations and deserve to be 
buried in Jerusalem?" The Rus prince shouted to Bihar. "I should first be in 
Jerusalem before you." 
 
"Why? Is it important to you?" Bihar answered Svyatoslav. 
 
"To be baptized in the River Jordan," the prince told him. "The war is not over 
for me. My mother has become a Christian and joined with Byzantium. But I 
always will be a pagan. And for you, royal Kagan of the Sea of the Khazari?" 
 
"You will absorb my people, and you shall become us." Bihar replied. 
 
Later Bihar staggered out of the cemetery, past two Khazar women. "1 am 
that I am," one told him. "So to whom do you belong?" 
 
A line of Khazarian youths with side curls wearing the lamb's wool hats of the 
Circassians hurried to see what a Byzantine church looked like. They walked  
behind the donkey carts and fine steppe horses. The healers from Abkhazia 
and Chechnya taught them their warrior sticl< dance, the Sufi Zikr. When the 
Rus prince saw the dance, he forbade it forever. 
 
"I'll never give up my Sufi Zikr dance," the Chechen healer told the Kievan 
and Abkhazian healers nearby. They all came, like wise men, drawn to war to 
heal or kneel. 
 
Bihar met Chorpan, a Khazarian Jewish traveling scholar and merchant from 
Kiev whom he hadn't seen since he left his work teaching Bihar, years 
before. Old Chorpan had brought him itakh, puppies, when he was a boy. 
 
"Come back with me to Kiev," Chorpan admonished the Kagan. "I have a 
great vi!la in Odessa and a house in Kiev that welcomes you." 
 
Bihar felt comfortable with Chorpan, his regent and tutor for many years. 
"Where will I go? What will happen? I'm a Jew now. Nothing's the same. 
When I travel, people think I'm a Moslem from Persia on a pilgrimage." 
 
"Who?" 
 
"The Arabs. The Rus. The Byzantines. The Persians. The Turkic tribes." 
 
"The Kagan is the last to know when the whole of Khazaria has been taken." 
 
"Must I lose who I am? Is that the only recourse?" 
 
"You have to belong to something," Chorpan said, slapping him on the back. 
 
"Go; go along to help the others. In them you'll find out what side you belong 
on and where you are." 
 
Near Sarkel a horse rolled into a ditch crushing new trees. A wagon driven by 
the son of a rich Persian merchant stopped. 
 
"Are you headed for Kiev?" The young man said. 
 
"Why are you riding in royal Khazar wagon?" Bihar asked. 
 
"It's a Rus wagon now." 
 
"That's my son's wagon." 
 
Bihar's son crawled out from under a blanket in the wagon. "It's all right, 
father. The merchant is taking me away from this place." The Queen peered 
out from under a canopy. "We're going to stay with my sister in Kiev. A family 
of Jews from Prague married into another from Cologne. They came to Kiev 
to find a bride for their son." 
 
Bihar nodded. "I'll send for you." 
 
The wagon stopped in front of a burned-out village bakery. Rus soldiers 
looted loaves of bread. 
 
"Stop it," cried the Armenian and Byzantine priests. 
 
"Rabbi, rabbi, the priest called out. "Order this place closed." 
 
The rabbi from Baghdad had the shop closed. Bihar went on the road again. 
The royal wagon passed a dead woman lying in a ditch. 
 
"We're not going to Kiev," Bihar said. "Proceed west." 
 
"Why?" Chorpan asked. 
 
"Because I'm a no-man's land physician, a healer for all oppressed peoples 
of the world. I also have people I trust who have made a place for me in 
Polin, the land of rest. No one in Polin knows I'm Jewish. The Rus are 
ordering all Khazars to return to Kiev. Whom do the Rus fear most? Not the 
Khazars, not the Oghuz Turkic tribes, not the famine in the land of the 
Mongols, not their brothers in Byzantium, not Rome, but the sword of Islam. 
 
"Where do I stand as Kagan of the Khazari? If not for me, the entire world 
would have one religion, and guess what that one religion would be? Where 
shall I stand without a land? It is we, the Khazari, who allowed the prince's 
Slavs freedom from war and famine. And how does he thank us? By 
destroying Khazaria." 
 
"People covet their neighbor's herd when their own bread basket is full," 
Chorpan wailed sadly in a minor key. 
 
He strummed the strings of his instrument, tipped his three-corned cap, the tymakh, and whistled to 
the clickata of his horse's steps. Soldiers of Prince Svyatoslav rode in front of 
the Khazari caravan, arrows pointing toward them and their cities. Voices ed across the steppes while wild horses and swift running asses from 
Persia whined. 
 
"You must leave now for Kiev or go back where you came from. If you don't, 
your houses will be destroyed." 
 
"Go back where? Do you see us living in yurts or homes? We are many from 
different places," Bihar told the soldiers. "Khazaria is not only a seasonal 
grazing field for wandering Turkic tribes. Jewish refugees from Byzantium, 
Persia, Mesopotamia, and all the lands of Europe have flooded into our realm 
for at least the past two hundred years." 
 
Bihar rocked back and forth. "These refugees gave us their Hebrew heritage. 
Send us to Jerusalem. In what direction do you turn when you pray?" 
 
Bihar jumped out of his bier. "Where are you going to send them, back to 
Baghdad? What about those from Constantinople or Kiev?" 
 
A dead woman carrying two loaves of bread lay in the same ditch for two 
days. Bihar dug a hole under a rock and buried her with the bread. 
 
"Go find two rabbis," Bihar shouted to Chorpan. "Go!" He repeated. A burial 
party was quickly formed. Bihar prayed with them, according to ritual. 
!n the monastery, Bihar passed by two wounded children who had gone mad. 
A Jewish healer came in leaving his weapons of war outside. 
 
"What are you doing?" Bihar asked, watching the healer work. 
 
"I'm pinning a name to each of the wounded. It is because as different as 
people may be, everyone in battle now reminds me of Prince Svyatoslav's 
soldiers far away back home. So many warriors are coming even to the ends 
of the Earth or here." 
 
The priest nodded to the healer, and then quickly pulled Bihar aside. "You're 
in a monastery of healers and priests from Armenia who are here to meet 
with the Byzantine monks in their outpost. During this war their healers saved 
hundreds of Khazari Jews by hiding them. It's not good for Prince 
Svyatoslav's men to come here." 
 
Bihar carried back the wounded from the villages to the monastery. Horses 
ran wild, and most of the carts and wagons were stolen. Soldiers from both 
sides lay unburied in the wheat fields. 
 
Bihar's mind went back to another war in which he fought as an ally, in the 
Caucasus. The people he had been hiding out with, the Adyghe, Shopsugs, 
and Abkhazian Circassians were accused of welcoming the Imams of Islam 
as liberators from the threat of the Slavic princes. Svyatoslav was ruthless in 
hunting down the collaborators who had welcomed Bihar posing as a fellow 
Moslem from the Caspian. The dead looked the same as those on the 
steppes of the Caucasus. 
 
"I've played double agent and spy too long. I have to take a side. Now that 
my son has accepted the Jewish faith like his father, I can't risk staying a 
King of a thousand disguises any longer," Bihar told Chorpan. 
 
The next day a tense and tedious grey tone rose Inside Bihar like a 
madhouse. Back in his makeshift dwelling, camped on a field of dry grass, he 
checked his weapons see whether they were ready for battle. 
 
His contact from Atll was the Khazar Tarkhan, Baghatur, whose name meant 
brave warrior. Bihar's last hope, his infinity of mirrors, his new leader, must 
live. He was a rubber stamp in the hands of his rulers. Baghatur watched two 
cockroaches running across the lush Persian carpet. 
 
"Books don't break. Books are better than people," he told Bihar. A cool 
breeze from the shadowed lattice rushed over his wet body. 
 
On the horizon a taupe slit swallowed a blue bay battle tents. In the distance, 
Bihar watched the light above the gates of one home below; he saw the 
carvings and wondered whether the crescent above the door stood for Islam 
or the old Moablte moon god that came from Ur? The old crescent 
represented the downward curves of the Tree of Life. He had the same Cow 
symbol on the doors of palace at Sarkel. 
 
# 
 
Baghatur's crude weapon again jutted from the shadowed lattice. "Give me a 
better reason for this," Bihar whispered. Baghatur remained silent; only his 
green-gold eyes were alive.  
 
"You can get away with anything because you are more a Inealer than a 
Kagan," Baghatur toid him. "You can't go to Kiev. They will find you there. 
Where will you go, to Byzantium? They will find you there, too, and also in 
Armenia. Persia is not the right place. Do we go east or west, my Kagan?" 
 
"I'll send for the Khatun and my son in the one place they won't find me. Let 
everyone else think I went where I can be the healer at the Caliph's court in 
Egypt or Cordoba." 
 
When he finally left the area, Bihar felt so well again. He had donned the 
swaddling robes of an Imam. "No one stops a religious teacher on his most 
holy pilgrimage to Mecca. Look at my face. Is this not the face of a pilgrim 
from Samarkand or a Pharaoh of the Nile?" 
 
Bihar was a nomad again forgetting his isinglass trade and his apple 
orchards where the Volga flows into the Caspian (the Sea of Meotis). Now 
Bihar's animal plodded against the hot winds of the open roads. "Cordoba is 
a lifetime away," he told his new traveling companions. "Maybe we should go 
to the great synagogue in Prague?" 
 
"No, I hear the Jews are walled into that city," Baghatur roared. "Who knows 
when they will be allowed to mingle with the other citizens as a free people. It 
may take centuries." 
 
"Who will dare forget Jerusalem?" Bihar's eyes shone as he spoke in a quiet 
voice. 
 
"You have no blood ties to the Jews of King David's Jerusalem." 
 
"Neither did Ruth, the Moabitess." 
 
"Ruth was a woman of the Syrian deserts." 
 
"My Caspian deserts share the same sunshine." 
 
"Why are we going to Jerusalem?" One companion asked as he rode beside 
Bihar. "Cordoba is our new Jerusalem." 
 
"No, not now. Two hundred years ago, it was. But I hear now the Visigoths' 
descendants are fighting the Moors there. What nation today wants us to be  
a citizen of their lands? Tell me, and I shall pray Hashem to inscribe it for all 
time in the Book of Life." 
 
"All in good time. To get to Jerusalem, I must first create the right seals and 
parchments to become the healer to the royal court of the Caliph. Before I 
can do that, I must learn more about who really rules Jerusalem from behind 
the latticed shutters. 1 must enter Jerusalem only when I've first met my 
destiny in Egypt." 
 
"I'm taking my family north by west," Baghatur said. "I need land to farm." 
 
"And I seek people to heal," said Bihar. "Perhaps I can make miracles 
happen again." 
 
# 
 
On his way throngs of people under the olive trees were sleeping in the open 
air. They came from all directions "What's happening here?" Bihar asked. 
 
"We're not allowed to go back to the town," a priest told him. "They're burning 
the town." 
 
"Who?" 
 
"The children." 
 
Two Khazari rabbis walked down the road carrying prayer books. One of 
them put a finger on his Cherkessk (Circassian) kindshall, a fine blade, as 
Bihar smiled to him. "Is it heavy?" 
 
They stood face to face. The other Khazar asked him where he was going. 
"The new Jerusalem, Bihar replied." 
 
"Don't go to Cordoba," the old man answered. "There are too many healers 
and rabbis there already, and the Caliph is sending them to Egypt." 
 
"Go directly to Jerusalem," the younger added, putting down his heavy sacks. 
"I'm a healer with the wisdom of Cathay and all the Silk Road from here to 
Baghdad, a man of a thousand disguises," Bihar sighed. "I speak the words 
of many prophets."  
 
"In Jerusalem you'll end up as a soldier in the army of Islam, if you disguise 
yourself as a pilgrim from Persia." 
 
"I'm not going to go as a pilgrim from Persia. The Arabs will not know what to 
expect from a nomad of the Gobi deserts, perhaps from Samarkand and 
further east. Look at my fine cheekbones and the way my eyes slant down at 
the corners. You can't tell how many people along the Silk Road are parts of 
me now. The herbs of the world and these energy meridian needles of 
Cathay with which I heal come from the great walled road. And look at these 
needles so fine, the light passes through them. With these, I can heal you at 
points where your energy radiates." 
 
"The medicines are used up everywhere. Go north. You will be needed in the 
northern countries." 
 
"Go to Karelia," the younger man interjected. "No Finnish man one will know 
you there, or care. But you always will be welcome there. Travel until you 
reach the western edge of the Urals. You will be needed there more than 
anywhere else." The two men turned around and left. 
 
Twenty Years Later: 
 
Nazareth, June 985 of the Common Era 
 
The Khazari Kagan's fine acupuncture needles from along the Silk Road's 
gateway to China earned him the reputation of a miracle healer. Twenty 
years passed, and Bihar found himself far from the caravans of his Silk Road, 
in Nazareth, amidst Christian Arabs who welcomed his skills as a healer. 
Again, he was in disguise. He found Baghatur sitting on his own rooftop, 
drinking lemon tea from tiny cups and playing backgammon. 
 
"The Christian Arab dwellers of Nazareth were relieved to see us," said the 
Bihar, the spy. Baghatur long ago had joined Bihar in the Caucasus and went 
with him to the Holy Land to seek a new trade and a serene life. 
 
"This is no land for warriors," Baghatur insisted. "All I want in my elder years 
is peace." 
 
"The soldiers of Islam have always won." Bihar reminded him. "Maybe we 
didn't want to fight any more for whats outside ourselves when the courage 
we must fight for most lies inside us."  
 
"I would have fought for a free Caucasus (Kafkas), for the twelve tribes of the 
Cherkessk," Baghatur said. 
 
"And what of the twelve tribes of Israel?" 
 
"Are we really Levites, descendants of the lost tribe of Simeon?" Baghatur 
asked. "Or did our rabbis invent that story so we could all become priests in 
the synagogues of the world?" 
 
"Why is it important to you? What difference would it make? If you go back to 
a world before Abraham, we are all in the same boat together. Can't you see 
we come from and go back to the same place? The whole world is in that 
same boat together this moment-and forever." 
 
"We'd be judged as traitors if we think that," Baghatur said as he scratched a 
twig along the earth-top roof. 
 
"Why? Isn't Khazaria a state of mind today?" Bihar looked at Baghatur 
sharply. "Your own son doesn't even remember Atil. His children will never 
hear of it." 
 
Bihar's son. Mart climbed the stairs to join the two older men on the rooftop 
garden. "How would the Moslems here treat you if someday the other 
sidemaybe Jews, maybe Christians, maybe outlanderswin this land in 
battle?" Bihar asked. "It has been won before by many, and all have had their 
turn. What place will last forever?" 
 
"Well, Islam won, and we Khazari Jews will be left in peace as always during 
these wars, as long as we pay our taxes for protection," said Marot. 
 
"See all these Christians here and Moslems over there?" Bihar smiled. 
 
"So?" Mart stretched his neck to hear his father's answer. 
 
"Some of them could be Jews who lived here in the time of King David. And 
when the land changed owners, they took the religion of whoever held the 
power of that century. Not all of them left for Spain, Loire, or Cologne. Only 
those who kept their beliefs or wanted land or a different life left. Many were 
forced to leave, of course, but not all."  
 
Bihar shrugged and ate bread with his grown son, dipping his crust in 
crushed garlic and olive oil. "This land was not emptied when the Romans 
left. There were those who stayed here because they wanted to, and other 
Jews from Damascus or Antioch came to live here as well as Christians and 
later Moslems. 
 
"You see? Bihar sighed. "We come from everywhere here. So why not from 
Khazaria, too? Do you really think because we left Khazaria that Khazaria left 
us? Who lives in Khazaria today? The same people alongside other people 
who came in later. And they live next to those who were in Khazaria long 
before we came. Who knows from where we began to roll our wagons?" 
 
"Maybe the steppes or maybe the deserts, or maybe the highest peaks of the 
mountains. That's the way it is everywhere when lands change hands." 
Baghatur sipped his lemon tea. Bihar drank from his water skins as they 
made a fleshy sound slapping against the ruined stones." 
 
"It's a small place to hide so many people who want to live near the sacred 
places. Too bad the places that have few people don't have more of these 
holy places that attract worship and trade. For where there's worship, there's 
more trade," Baghatur added. 
 
The next morning was another hot day in July, and Bihar went along the road 
between the fields of wheat. Women were starting to work the fields again. 
The children carried sheaves on their heads. Everything had to be done by 
hand.  
 
Nablus 
 
In Nablus, life went with no work. The food was gone. And not enough 
healers had arrived yet. There, the people welcomed Bihar to mix his herbs 
and alchemy and use his acupuncture needles on their energy points, They 
wondered whether he made miracles.  
 
He passed an old farmer wearing a large Greek cross. "Keev Halik?" How 
are you? Bihar in his finest Arabic asked the man-how he was. 
 
"Forget me," the farmer waved back. 
 
"Your crops are still rotting?" Bihar asked. 
 
"I had to sell my farm cheap." The farmer laughed tensely. 
 
"So did my forefathers in the Kafkaz, the Caucasus," Bihar answered, and 
also in the delta where the Volga flows into the Caspian. My apple orchards 
grew there for generations." He waved to the north with a pointed finger. 
 
"Are you Circassianfrom Mount Elbrus or from the mountains of Dagestan or 
from the steppes?" 
 
"Cherkessk? What difference would it make to you from where in the 
Caucasus I dwelled? Does the left side of the Black Sea mean more to you 
than the right side of it? There's enough fish at both ends to feed the world." 
 
"Where are you going?" The farmer shielded his eyes from the sun with his 
 
hands. 
 
"I'm going to Jerusalem." 
 
"Jerusalem? You see the thefts? That's the road to Jerusalem. So much is 
passing through the villages." The farmer spat. "Watch your gold." 
 
"Highway robbers?" 
 
"Many," the farmer nodded. "From everywhere in the world. That place is the 
crossroads of the universe." 
 
"Better for good trade, then and warmer winters." On the road to Jerusalem 
Bihar passed returned inhabitants and flattened mud brick houses. Children 
were sleeping in the rubble. 
 
"No water." Bihar told the farmer. 
 
Many had come back to the ancient village, returning to a wreck. "There's 
nothing to eat. Go to Nablus," the farmer told Bihar.  
 
When he arrived, Bihar found the children pounding on doors to beg food. 
Older people were beginning to move back to the ruins. The inhabitants were 
refugees of another war, and Mart helped them rebuild small houses, now 
demolished again. 
Bihar stood in front of the homes of the village elders. 
 
"I need bread-three loaves per family," he demanded. 
 
"Go home, Circassian. Life has returned to normal," the elders told him. 
 
"I'm not Circassian-Cherkessk" he said in Arabic to the Christians. "Why is it 
important to you what I am if I come as a healer with these instruments of 
health?" His son motioned to him to be silent. 
 
"Go, Armenian," someone shouted to him. "Find us bread to feed the 
 
children." 
 
The road again ... past Ramallah. Bihar saw three villages go to the bread 
 
kneaders. The houses were burned or flattened, but this time, he didn't know 
 
by whose soldiers. "What side am I on now?" Marot asked Bihar. 
 
"The side that God chooses you to be," Bihar said sadly. 
 
"What if the divine will is that decisions are mine to make?" 
 
"Father, we should have gone to Djerba. On that island, Jews live in peace." 
"We are not welcome in Djerba because there's a rumor I've heard that they 
believe Levites have been cursed." 
 
"But we are Levites because we ourselves decided that we are Levites." Mart 
walked beside his father. "Can't we decide as well that we are Cohens and 
go to Djerba as Cohens? After all, we have married for generations with Jews 
coming from everywhere from Persia and Baghdad to Toledo and Prague- 
only to ask us to come to their rescue when they were under oppression in 
many lands." 
 
"Don't tell me what I already know," said Bihar. "There are Jews in 
Constantinople who need us. We must send our Khazari there where we are 
needed most. Don't you know that the Jews in Constantinople have been 
walled in next to the leper colony near Parma? We must set them free so 
they can live anywhere. And we must start by healing those in Jerusalem. 
That's how the word gets out along the trade routes."  
 
Alone in the dead silence, donkeys scratched the ruins. Furniture was 
abandoned in the middle of the road. -Pots were strewn about. There was no 
time to take anything. 
 
Bihar stopped by an adjoining farm to watch the women and children 
cultivate fields that stretched beyond borders that changed each day.
 
# 
 
Bethlehem, July 985 of the Common Era-Well ahead by years of the First 
Crusade from Europe that would arrive close to Rosh Hashanah of those 
times...a century later. 
 
Bihar roamed the streets to watch the feverish selling. Who could succeed in 
selling a plate, a scarf, a trinket? Buyers bargained for the lowest price. 
 
Each year on Rosh Hashanah, a new army with a different belief tried to 
conquer the sacred land, in the way of too many cross roads of time and 
trade, its nation's coins became worthless. Bihar threw away his. 
 
Boys dressed in white robes ran from one street vendor to the next. When 
the merchandise and foods on the Christian side were empty, the boys had 
to buy their bread and lentils in the many more Moslem shops at three times 
the price. 
 
The few Jewish bazaars remained hidden in houses behind shutters, houses 
along dark and winding streets that one could not find without knowing whom 
to visit. And there were still fewer stalls that served the Armenians, the 
Greeks, the Circassians, and European traders. Every nationality had its 
niche from whom it bought food and trinkets. 
 
Bihar thought as he looked at the array of diversity. Would he drink their 
coffee or herbal teas? Would he eat their food? Did they mix meat and milk at 
the same meal? Would he betray his many disguises? He healed all of them. 
"I am the miracle worker here," he told Mart. 
 
Mart laughed back at his father. "All this change only means nothing will ever 
change on the inside." 
 
# 
 
Hebron  
 
Bihar, in still another disguise and different robes came to a tiny village and  
counted twelve flattened houses. "I wonder who is settling the accounts this  
time?" 
 
Soldiers of the Caliph rode up to him. "Leave your houses if you want to save  
your lives." 
 
"Salamoo Aleikum." Peace be with you. I am El Hajj, on a pilgrimage to 
Mecca from Samarkand." Bihar argued in a sing-song voice of Central Asia. 
He squinted at the corners of his dark eyes. This time destiny had disguised 
him in white robes as an Imam. 
 
The last soldiers he met learned he was an Imam from Bokhara. He knew 
more merchant's watering holes along the Silk Road, their names, customs 
and dialects than the Emperor of Cathay. Four Arab-speaking soldiers turned 
their horses. "Then be on your way, quickly." 
 
He walked through the village looking for fresh horses of his own. But no one 
was around except the old people pouring out of the crumbling village. 
An old woman tried to get Bihar's attention. "I think we're both in the wrong 
place today." He found himself wandering aimlessly. The woman asked Bihar 
whether he was a Jew. Bihar nodded. 
 
"A man didn't leave quickly enough because his wife went into labor. He was 
killed." 
 
"You would have seen worse in my Khazar city of Atil." 
The woman touched the back of her hand to her chin. "And where I came 
from, if they thought you walked by their wells. It was even worse than that, 
and I'm far from your homeland." 
 
"And where do I belong?" 
 
Glances of hatred from below and above-glances of contempt... Bihar 
passed through the crowds, his contorted face glistening. Leaves swept past 
him to the river as rootless as himself, and ropes of smoke curled around his 
white and gold robes. 
 
A woman carrying a calabash on her head closed one eye and cursed, "May 
the earth belly dance so their houses fall on their heads." 
 
"Once you leave, you can't go back," a soldier shouted to Bihar.  
 
He took the road to Jerusalem. "I'm an Imam on a pilgrimage to Mecca, he 
told the soldier. I have permission to go everywhere," Bihar told the soldier. 
He gestured back speaking in Arabic. "Wa' Aleikamoo Salam" Peace be 
upon you. 
 
"Be careful," Marot said. "Messages betv^'een separated families are 
forbidden." 
 
"How many days to Jerusalem?" 
 
The soldier held up his hand. Again, Bihar changed his disguise to that of an 
Azeri-speaking healer, resorting to Arabic when he met the Caliph's soldiers. 
Doors opened. It was dawn when Bihar awoke in Jerusalem. The sounds 
were maddening. He eagerly sat by the gate. Bihar waited for fighting 
soldiers in the streets to pass by. 
 
"Where did you learn Arabic?" A soldier asked Bihar. 
 
"Baghdad. The Silk Road winds through many lands, all of whom need those 
who heal the lame." 
 
He held up a bag of herbs, a sack of za'atr, the black seeds from Egypt that 
heal, and his fine acupuncture needles given to him by a merchant of the 
Emperor of Cathay along the Silk Road when he was a young prince of the 
Khazars. The needles had healed for thousands of years at the eastern end 
of the Silk Road. They had bought him his life and fortune wherever he 
traveled. 
 
They went on. A priest arrived with three dying children on a bier. Bihar 
carried them into a sanctuary of shadowed arches, a place where in the 
lands he had seen, a Khan would have hidden wives behind silent, dark 
lattices. He heard the sound of cool fountains on fragrant jasmine petals. 
 
All at once Bihar's freedom of action in a moment had become meaningless. 
A little trail of saliva left his lips. "Why am I afraid to tell anyone who 1 am? No 
place is safer than the desert. It's only in cities that there is danger." 
Bihar's son grabbed his father's forearm. "When I marry, what should I tell my 
children?" 
 
"The truth," Bihar said sharply.  
 
"And if I forget thee, O' Khazaria will my right hand forget its healing?" Mart 
teased. 
 
"My respect for Khazaria is growing as deep as the calluses grow on my 
hands." Bihar went inside to guard the hospital window. 
 
Bihar's throat clicked in tight knots. He rubbed his bag of herbs against his 
cheek, to make the fear go away. Bihar's eyelids fluttered and he dropped 
back, away from the latticed shutters. 
 
He gazed at the empty street. The walls around him seemed to evaporate. 
Terrible, silent tears dropped to his shoulder. 
 
Exiled kings were not welcomed anywhere, he thought, but in Jerusalem, 
there was always an open door for a healer whose potions worked well with 
the poor and the rich. Bihar covered his mouth with his forearm, as if to hide 
his own darkness. 
 
Memories of a youth riding white stallions alongside his beloved pet grey 
wolves in Atil returned. Then the memories flooded his vision, memories of 
years he spent in Mashad, Persia, from the days he sailed from one end of 
the Caspian Sea to the other and up the Volga to his homeland. 
 
Mart nudged him from his dream. "So this is Jerusalem," he said, nodding as 
he looked around. 
 
"It should have felt different," Bihar sighed. "I feel a sense of exclusion in an 
off-limits city." 
 
"What do you say we don our Islamic robes?" Marot asked. 
 
"Yes," he answered twisting a fresh Imam's turban around his head. "Infidels 
are often assaulted in the bazaars. They are refused lodging in pilgrims' 
hostels and haircuts by barbers." 
 
"What about Jewish life here? Are there any others like us, from Khazaria?" 
Mart whispered. 
 
"There must be some," Bihar replied. It reminds me of the year I spent with 
your mother's family in Mashad. But that's Persia, not Khazaria. Jewish life in 
Mashad officially came to an end on the tenth of Muharram.  
 
"Your mother reminded me that her family had no hope other than the grace 
of the Almighty, the coming of the Messiah, or the arrival of the Khazars. 
They got the Khazars to protect them from oppression from the outside 
world." 
 
"The arrival of the Khazars?" Mart laughed. "Since when would a Jewish 
woman of Persia marry a Khazar?" 
 
"When none beneath the royal Kagan, our spiritual leader, could have this 
 
woman..." 
 
He remembered how he had been forced into the Caucasus. Jewish Hajjis 
 
had long been detouring through Mecca, leaving other pilgrims in Egypt and 
 
taking a boat to Jaffa. 
 
Secret Jews. In Jerusalem they prayed at both Moslem and Jewish holy 
places: the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall. Bihar joined other 
secret Jewish hajji, one of a band of secret Mashadi Jews from Persia who 
came back to Persia from Mecca by way of Khazaria to bring other secret 
Jews the news of Jerusalem's growing Jewish settlement. 
 
"My soul will not be flushed out into the bay through my father's anger," Bihar 
told himself. Now, aware of the wafting incense, the smells of Jerusalem, 
Bihar focused his thoughts on the present. 
 
Music of the kanoun with its 86 strings wailed in nuances of delight in a 
distant room, and the spicy scents of cinnamon and cloves crossed his 
senses. A bowl of fava beans was hurled from a window to join the garbage 
below. 
 
In war without a family, you go crazy, he surmised. This was Bihar's third 
 
war. 
 
"It almost never rains in July." Bihar was startled by the feminine voice. He 
 
whirled around to see the silhouette of a young woman standing behind him. 
 
"The rain. It's pouring again. It never rains in July." 
 
Bihar cleared his throat. "Khatun, how did you get here without me?" 
 
"I grew tired of waiting to grow, my husband. For years I've watched how you 
heal the sick, the tortured, and the old. I've learned much from you, as much 
as you learned from my peoples. It's time I helped you finish what you came  
here to realize." Khatun leaned against the window sill. Bihar looked up at her 
broad face. Dark ash brown curls spun out from under her white robes. 
 
"I'll show you where I have been, where no one knows I'm the Khatun, the 
Queen of the Khazars, if you don't mind a place where the rain comes in." He 
led his horses, walking beside her. 
 
"Rain," Khatun sighed. "In Mashad, my home in Persia, it was forbidden for a 
Jew to go outside in the rain, for fear of contaminating rainwater which might 
then touch a non-Jew." 
 
"I played many roles to get here," Bihar told her as she embraced him and 
her grown son to welcome them home. "I was a good Circassian Moslem 
from Dagestan whose family went to Persia. I played Imam from Tashkent on 
a pilgrimage. The Silk Road is an open book of many peoples. All you had to 
play was a mother of nations. Could this only happen in Khazaria, my 
queen?" 
 
"Or in Mashad?" She looked at him like a dove. 
 
Mart and Khatun sat beside Bihar. It was an eternity ago that he talked like 
this with a woman, that the healer no longer had to disguise himself as a king 
without a country. 
 
"Jerusalem is the only city to which kings without their lands return. Tell that 
to the scholars who visit us from Spain." 
 
"It's where everyone crosses paths with everyone else." Mart concluded. 
 
"So where do we go from here?" Bihar looked wide-eyed at his wife and only 
son. 
 
"Listen." Bihar interrupted. 
 
"I don't hear anything." 
 
"That's it. The silence Not even a bird is singing. 
 
"The fighting has stopped." 
 
"For how long?" Khatun asked.  
 
Khatun, Bihar, and Mart listened to the energy in one another. Metal became 
flesh and human turned machine. 
 
"You were right that the more things change, the more they.." Khatun was 
interrupted by a rabbi walking down the cobbled stones with a crooked sticl
 
"They say you can heal. Please come. I need you to help my children." Bihar 
and Khatun brought Marotwith them. 
 
"Yes, all of us will be with you. This is my husband, Bihar, but here you may 
call him Nissim, for it is said Hashem has performed miracles of survival all 
these years for him and his animal companions so that we may be here with 
you for Rosh Hashanah after so many years of traveling. We are healers. We 
must go and help. Our duty is to repair the world if we are told somewhere it 
is in need of repair, give charity, and care for one another." 
 
"Nissim?" The rabbi said as he nodded, smiling. He greeted a Greek Father 
passing beside him. He nodded, smiled and greeted the local Imam passing 
on his other side. "Nissim?" He repeated to Bihar. "The name means 
miracles. We need your touch everywhere. And where are the Torah Scrolls 
you were to restore to Jerusalem by Rosh Hashanah so many years ago? 
We all have grown up or old waiting for you and those scrolls from Kiev." 
 
"Perhaps we, the people are the scrolls," said Bihar. Here," Bihar sang out 
with delight, as he quickly gave them to the rabbi standing next to him. "I've 
been waiting for your scrolls since you left Kiev. My hair has turned white 
while waiting." Have a joyous Rosh Hashanah, even if it took you several 
years to ride here on the back of that ass." The rabbi pointed to his animal 
companion. 
 
"Better than all the horses of the steppes that I have trained," laughed Bihar 
as he patted his loyal friend. 
 
"And here's one who has never left my side, even when my children doubted 
their father's word. My dog and the ass I have rode upon, by the hand of 
Hashem, have survived all these years when they were only supposed to live 
but fourteen years after I left Kiev. Yet they are here today. What a miracle. 
 
"That your name now be Nissim, a man of miracles," said the rabbi with awe. 
A tame wolf dog reared its silver head from its hiding place, eagerly licking  
 
the hand that fed it along the trodden paths to the great crossroads of all 
trade and all holy. 
 
"This Rosh Hashanah, we welcome all our friends and animal companions 
that have stood by our side welcoming the New Year," Bihar said. 
 
"Ah yes," the rabbi nodded. "These scrolls have been passed from hand to 
hand all the way from Baghdad to Kiev, and from Kiev to Jerusalem where 
they will serve for our Rosh Hashanah. "Come, now, lets dine on the 
sweetest fruits of this year's harvest." 
 
"And what would that be?" Bihar asked. "Tell me how your acupuncture 
needles repair the world and how they give charity. I want to see what you 
have brought from the Silk Road to Kiev and from Kiev to Jerusalem that 
harvests righteousness for the New Year with atonement." 
 
"Atonement, yes, that comes next," Bihar said. But he added. "Let's also call 
atonement a day of at-one-ment' as well. After all, we are at one with the 
fruits of the Earth one week and that which is higher than ourselves ten days 
later." 
 
"Spoken like a great learned scholar," the rabbi said as he led the family to 
the place where they would spend Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur in 
Jerusalem in the year 986 of the Common Era. 
 
"And how is everyone back in Kiev? The rabbi asked. 
 
"The scribes are busy with their books." Bihar reported. 
 
# 
 
Song Lyrics of the Silk Road Healers 
 
Copyright 2007 by Anne Hart
 
Not since Sarkel set on fire. 
 
Not since Samandar moved to Spire. 
 
Not since Khatun called Khagan,"Cutie." 
 
Not Since Khazaria went to Kievan booty. 
 
Not since Bulan turned from pagan. 
 
Lit the candles, and became the Khagan.  
 
Not since Svyatoslav went to hire 
 
Pechenegs from his transpire. 
 
Not since yarmaq coins were minted. 
 
Not since isinglass trade was hinted. 
 
Not since Khazars fought oppression. 
 
Not since Atil sank in depression. 
 
Not since Samandar went underwater. 
 
Not since Byzantines married Khagan's daughter. 
 
Not since Ha-Sangari converted the people. 
 
Not since Balanjar became a steeple. 
 
Not since the steppes stepped lively to a tune. 
 
Not since Khazaria, did the sky ride the moon. 
 
# 
 
Directory of Sources for Khazar names in this story: 
 
1. Bihar* 1. Armenian version of the Life of Saint Stephen of 
Sugdaia, cited in Gero p. 22. 
 
2. Tarkhan* means commander or general of the Khazari 
(Khazars from Khazaria) 
 
3. Itakh* means young dog: puppy. Tabari, Ibn al-Athir, and Ibn 
Khallikan, cited In Marcel Erdal's article "Ein umbemerkter 
chasarischer Eigenname" in Turk Dilleri, Aratirmalari 1 (1991), 
pp. 31-36. Aiso to be discussed in a study by Marcel Erdal. 
 
4. Woman's Name: Khatun, means Queen or Lady. 58. Lewond, 
cited in Golden p. 196-197; Ibn Atham al-Kufi, cited in Golden p. 
196-197. 
 
5. Marot* Anonymous, cited in Douglas Dunlop's article "The 
Khazars" in The Dark Ages: Jews in Christian Europe, 71 1-1096 
(1966), p. 348. 
 
These sources for Khazarian first names for males and females 
cited and 62 more cited resources researched by Christian 
Settipani and Kevin Alan Brook are listed at the Khazarian Names 
Web site at http://www.khazaria.com/khazar-names.html . The 
story above is fiction by novelist Anne Hart and only five of the  
Khazarian first names included in the resource list are mentioned 
in this story.  
 
#
 
4. "So Let's Have The Story," The Baghdad Reporter Asked 
Impatiently. 
 
Sunday Morning in Baghdad 
 
"Where did you learn to use a gun like a sewing machine?" The eager 
TV reporter imbedded in the special squad asked impatiently and sagely but 
not mockingly. 
 
Dr. Tanya, diplomat, fourth generation Red Army Faction exobiologist 
in Iraq, checked her rifle— a Kalashnikov, for firing. Using gravitons — gravity 
waves as radio waves to communicate the reporter's news as entertainment 
with extraterrestrial life in the parallel universe next door fascinated the young 
doctor. 
 
She wanted to savor the aura and appearance of it. Connection meant 
tunneling. Communication became the life force. But her goal remained 
barred by an eleventh dimension barrier humans could not yet breach — 
except by sending TV news using gravitons because only gravity could pass 
between parallel universes where radio waves were weak. 
 
She threw the plastic replica of her own head (with the bullet-hole 
between the eyes) down the incinerator, along with the meager belongings of 
the deceased look-a-like actor she paid to play her ex-partner, Kyzyl. "So 
you're a descendant of Genghis Khan, are you?" The flamboyant reporter 
smirked. "Funny," he smiled, trying to distract himself. "You don't look like 
John Wayne." 
 
She ignored him. Soldiers strolled below her high-rise apartment 
window, the evening after the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Dr. Tanya had the 
Kalashnikov trained on a group of teenage women, below as they rocked 
their baby carriages. 
 
The last recalcitrant rays of August sunlight washed Baghdad's 
crowded streets. A caravan of military tanks slid over a few feet between the 
Mountains of the Two Horns, a yellow barren stone and stopped beside the 
Tigris.  
 
The TV reporter watched two cockroaches running across the carpet, 
onto the tile. "Machines don't break. Machines are better than people," he 
told Tanya. A cool breeze rushed over his damp chest. 
 
On the horizon, a salmon slit swallowed a blue bay of petrified houses. 
In the distance the gas-burning oil wells presented an eternal flame of 
money. Hours passed. 
 
Tanya watched the light above the gates of a mud-brick house below. 
She saw the carvings and wondered whether the crescent above the door 
stood for the downward curves of the Tree of Life. 
 
Tanya bought a similar ancient, Sumerian relic in Basra, dated 3,800 
B.C. She hung the same horned symbol on the doors above her office in the 
Russian Consulate in Los Angeles. 
 
Fiction can truly design one's personality, she thought. Who am I this 
month? A player in the theatre of war, she pondered. To have diplomatic 
immunity, to commit diplomatic crime~as a mercenary and a research 
scientist—that is my life, but who am I tomorrow morning? 
 
Governments made sure she found everything ready and at her 
disposal for each new exquisite fantasy. And the most dramatic of fantasies 
was not playing soldier of fortune in Iraq tonight, but war inside an intimate 
relationship. 
 
Who am I this moment? Tanya studied her reflection in the mirrored 
window shutters. Soldiers of fortune are absolute suckers for dramatic 
solutions to a war, she thought 
 
The reporter swallowed a handful of fava beans and washed it down 
with tea. "What are you doing?" 
 
"Watching someone give birth." 
 
Across the courtyard, Tanya lifted her binoculars toward a window with 
a half-drawn shade. Inside, a heavy, naked woman squatted on a birth chair. 
Her ten children encircled her, until her husband led them out of the room. 
 
The woman bore down to push out the baby, twisting a prayer rug 
between her teeth and making animal noises. The guttural sounds grew so 
loud that the reporter shouted, "Who's making love with such emotion? It's 
very arousing." 
 
Tanya laughed like a witch. "There's a woman having a baby across 
the street not making one, darling!" 
 
"Well, it's unmanning me. I'd rather produce a travel show." 
 
"Let the sword decide." 
 
"Decide on politics or money?"  
 
"It's an ancient Fertile Crescent proverb. The sword gives life in the 
form of the ancient sign of the umbilical cord cutter— the Sumerian written 
symbol for woman. Think of it-woman symbolized by the l<nife!" 
 
"Like a sharp tongue that cuts with nagging words?" 
 
"Shut up, Mr. TV Reporter. I'm paid well to finish this rotten job." 
 
Her Kalashnil
the tenements that rose above the mud-brick rectangles, her Iraqi contact 
watched her apartment complex and prepared to signal her at the right 
moment. 
 
The new controller, the man who sat second in line to the power in Iraq, 
stood near his car and dabbed at the tears in his eyes. He began a speech of 
hope for his people, promising more free education, more free medical care, 
and more free housing. His voice grew angrier when he spoke of the downfall 
of those in office who kill those who criticize the one opinion in control. 
 
Around the bend of buildings, at a forty-five degree angle from Tanya's 
window, a circle of young mothers stood rocking their baby carriages. They 
listened to the speech. 
 
One young mother was the potential assassin. Tanya glanced at the 
suitcase of money she received. One Russian working for one American 
expatriate hiding in Central America paid her two million American dollars for 
taking out the potential killer of the new and secret strong boss— not yet in 
office. 
 
Below, the teenage mother, covered in her black abaya, chatted on 
high key to other teenage mothers. The male relatives who escorted them to 
the souk to buy vegetables laughed loudly. The women straightened their 
babies' blankets. 
 
On a nearby high-rise rooftop, a pulse of light bounced off a mirror. 
Inside the room, Tanya froze with fear. She fought it, bearing down on the 
fear like a woman bears down to push her womb empty. Tanya took aim with 
her arms slightly parted. She hugged the ledge. The walls evaporated. 
 
Tanya emptied the clip into the woman. The teenage mother, who 
rocked her two-year old, now clutched her pregnant belly as the rounds 
passed through her navel, keeping her upright and driving her back against 
Tawil's bakery window and then through the glass. 
 
The other women and their male escorts whirled around by the impact. 
The noise stopped, and the newest one in control never knew his life 
depended solely on Tanya. 
 
Tanya peered through high power infra-red binoculars as the woman 
below tore at her belly. White flashes whammed across the woman's eyes.  
 
Tanya turned up the high power and stared at the tattoo of three blue dots in 
the cleft of the woman's chin. 
 
The full-lipped woman, a Mrs. Abdul Azziz Hamrah, also known as Om 
Ahmed (Ahmed's mother) fell. Her last scene before the final curtain turned 
the ancient Babylonian street again into a place where the air reel
and manure. 
 
The joy of directing and producing the scene was almost unbearable for 
Tanya. The power in her pornographic gun instantly catapulted her to 
stardom. "Capture it on film, Mister Tee Vee Foreign Correspondent!" She 
commanded with a silent hand signal. 
 
Instantly, the TV reporter crouched at the window ledge with his video 
camera. She found the ambient hum distracting. 
 
"I hate video tape," she whispered. "If only we had 35 millimeter film 
and a solid camera. It's not going to be broadcast quality in Moscow." 
 
"Try getting a field camera on the midnight flight out of Iraq with a 
forged passport in the middle of an invasion," the reporter complained. 
 
"Go away. Leave me alone. I can't function with you breathing down the 
back of my neck." 
 
"You want this on tape or not?" The reporter argued. She pointed to the 
window. The reporter angled the camera, focused the long-distance lens for 
a close-up on the teenage mother's face in the street below. He checked the 
sound system. And the video tape whirred. 
 
From Om Ahmed's body came a long, loud burr.. .of stinking bowel gas, 
like rotten eggs. Her mouth twisted like rubber, dropping open loosely with a 
little broken groan. 
 
Bloody vomit gushed from her lips down the side of her cheek into her 
collar. Her honey-colored doe eyes rolled up, so only the whites showed, red- 
veined and dirty. 
 
The new strong boss to be and not yet in control, heard nothing of the 
incident. His car moved several blocks away now, and he found a new 
audience to listen to his speech. 
 
The woman's whole frame sank from her own sight along with 
surrounding objects, leaving the pain standing forth as distinctly as a 
mountain peak, as if it were a separate bodily member. At last her agony also 
vanished. The Iraqi contact went on amidst crackling, dusty applaud of his 
people. 
 
I sculptured a Sphinx, Tanya thought. Why do they call it the Theatre Of 
War unless there's drama to be enacted?  
 
The woman's kohl-lined eyes, long-lashed, like an Egyptian queen, 
stared. Her tongue dropped to one side. The one knee that bent up when she 
fell now flapped open wide apart. 
 
Her baby's bottle broke and spilled juice in a winding stream to the 
banks of the muddy Tigris. The little boy slept in his carriage through the 
lightning grooves that marked his mother. 
 
An old woman pulled off Om Ahmed's black abaya and edged her 
maternity blouse over her pale, oval face. A wrinkled face brushed her cheek. 
She unbarred Om Ahmed. The woman's fat thighs flapped apart, haram- 
forbidden, for anyone to see in public. 
 
Om Ahmed's shaved, pubic region shone through transparent, nylon 
panties. Her heaped-wheat belly rose like the dome of the Rock. As she gave 
birth, Tanya took notes. And the camera rolled. 
 
A midwife squatted on one knee and ripped open the dead woman's 
belly with a razor blade. Twin boys rolled out like pink basket balls, wailing 
loudly. 
 
"I ought to get a medal for the accuracy of my target," Tanya urged. 
"Clean through the navel, between the bouncing twin boys without even 
grazing them." 
 
"With a Kalashnikov? It's incredible. What if you used your Browning 9 
millimeter instead?" 
 
"From this height? Are you mad?" 
 
The reporter quirked timorously, "Where'd you learn to use a gun like 
an International Harvester machine?" 
 
"In medical school," she replied. "In Samarkand we use cadavers for 
target practice. That's why I left medicine for exobiology. I worked for so 
many years as a theoretical particle physicist that medical school seemed 
like an explorer's dream. I'm hungry for more adventure." 
 
"So am I." The TV reporter gazed down at Om Ahmed's firm, wide 
breasts bared by every man's hands. Each nipple slowly sank from a brown 
bud into a shriveled flatness, like two deflated balloons. 
 
"Boy, you really knocked the wind out of her," the reporter sputtered, 
choking on the smoky air. 
 
"A second later, and the new hope for Iraq and our contact would be 
swimming in that pool." All that prolific motherhood flew out of the cow- 
goddess while Tanya's Kalashnikov far above smoked a curl of sulfuric stink. 
 
Om Ahmed played artist at this moment. She captured the strong 
boss's audience. A crowd of painted dolls with babies, and mustached men, 
mouths filled with pignola (pine) nuts and 'palace bread' came running from 
the bakery. The men carried towels over their arms.  
 
Tanya didn't see the entire canvas that caught the artists painting. "To 
a surgeon, assassination is a fine art," Tanya said dreamily. 
 
"You never practiced medicine, v^^hy?" The reporter asked. "What drew 
you into exobiology?" 
 
"Science shapes politics genetically. Besides, I get to create the 
science news and broadcast it in my own way. 
 
Tanya's thudding heart swelled until her longs no longer had room to 
expand. "It's the ultimate healing tool." She kissed the opening of her 
Kalashnikov and began to clean it. 
 
"In Moscow someone gave me a Bible once. I opened it at random and 
read Isaac's blessing of Esau: 'By the sword you will live, and you will serve 
your brother. And it will be, when you are brought down, that you will break 
his yoke from your shoulders.' There's a message for me in it. I never forgot it 
when I left Russia. Even there, being from Samarkand felt strange, since I'm 
of Ukrainian descent, and thank goodness, now a free woman devoted to 
science and world peace." 
 
The reporter's staccato laughter echoed in the room. "I never heard a 
Russian scientist trained both as a physicist and exobiologist quoting the 
Bible before, especially not after a hit. The world is changing, isn't it? Do you 
belong to one of those Russian or Ukrainian evangelical sects that sought 
refuge in America?" 
 
"I belong to my career as a scientist and to the world" said Tanya. 
 
"Then what will you do when your employers force you to retire in old 
age?" 
 
"Needlework." She leaped to her feet and pulled the reporter toward 
the window. They looked down as Om Ahmed disappeared into an 
ambulance. Far away now, the one in control resumed his speech as the 
television cameras rolled. 
 
Tanya repeated by rote what she memorized from the Old Testament. 
"'And Yahweh will send you back to Egypt.. .in the road that I had told you that 
you would never see again; and you will sell yourselves there to your 
enemies as slaves, and no one will buy.'" 
 
"What did you do, in Moscow, memorize the whole Bible?" She patted 
the reporter dominantly on his shoulder. Tanya pulled away from the heat of 
his palms on her shoulder. 
 
"Samarkand and Moscow have little in common," Tanya said. Kurdistan 
is another story." She closed the shutters. '"Despoiled daughter of Babylon, 
happy is he who pays you back your payment as you paid us. Happy is he 
who takes hold and smashes your suckling babies against a rock.'"  
 
The reporter shook his head violently. "Stop quoting the Bible. Stop it. 
You're ranting like a hallucinating savage panting after a territorial god." 
 
Tanya took a deep breath. Something clicked inside her. She ran her 
fingers along the tense and tedious grey walls. 
 
"That man whose life I saved is a rubber stamp in the hands of his 
rulers. He's Iraq's only hope. He must live. Iran's foreign soldiers of fortune 
must not take over Iraq today." 
 
"Crap, I've heard he's nothing but a slimy drug dealer and antiquities 
smuggler," the reporter slurred. "And he's going to be the next President. The 
question is-of v^'hich nation — Iran, Iraq, or his own country somewhere in the 
Caucasus Mountains? 
 
"Who v^'ill they make him next time? I'm not talking about the Russians. 
I'm talking about the secret government in the United States above the 
President v^'ho pays us to make and break Presidents all overthe Middle 
East, Asia, Latin America, and inside Russia." 
 
She placed her Kalashnikov in an oblong luggage piece and slid it 
under the bed. "It's time to go." 
 
The reporter put his American passport inside his shoe and took a 
forged Russian diplomatic pouch out of his suitcase. "It's amazing how far 
genuine birth certificates of dead American or Russian infants will go here." 
 
"Who am I tonight?" The reporter asked. 
 
"Vladimir of Tbilisi, a diplomat from the Abkhaz region of Georgia. Use 
the Russian name, not the Georgian passport." 
 
"And you?" 
 
"Another fictive personality, another American dollar.. .I'm Dr. Delores 
from Guatemala-a tropical diseases specialist. Does it matter? What's more 
important, is who I am next time. All identities can change in war. I speak 
seven languages, like Cleopatra did." 
 
"You took money from the Arab oil leaders, the American billionaires, 
the Japanese, the Russians. Don't you have any scruples?" 
 
"Yes. I'm a doctor on a mission to hea! the world, and my healing tools 
are my weapons and my acupuncture needles for healing. I'll always be a 
surgeon. It's just that now there are more things that need surgical shaping." 
 
"So that's how you shape your world." The reporter said impatiently. 
"Did you ever read the poem called "If" by Rudyard Kipling? 
 
"Yes." She began to recite it rapidly. "If you can keep your head when 
all about you are losing theirs and blaming it on you..." 
 
"I've memorized it in grade school," the reporter replied. They recited it 
together to pass time on the plane.  
 
"You're the first person I've met who has memorized that poem, let 
alone heard of it," she told the reporter. "Where did you read it first?" 
 
"At a Boston prep school," he replied. 
 
"So your family had the money to send you to prep school?" 
 
"My dad practiced veterinary surgery," the reporter sighed. 
 
"And he didn't force you to go to med school?" 
 
"I majored in English. Then I lucked out in my TV journalism internship. 
They actually picked me up when I finished my graduate degree in 
broadcasting and documentary videography." 
 
Tanya smirked at the reporter. "So that's the real reason why they 
paired a new, young traveler with me instead of someone from CIA or MI5 
with experience. So you've had your only experience with that Baghdad TV 
assignment for the past year? 
 
He grinned with exhaustion. "The American News Network could have 
sent me anywhere after my first nine months. I guess after that gestation, 
being born again here in Baghdad is the best training for being a news 
fountain, after ail." 
 
In an hour, they made the last flight to Moscow. By the next afternoon, 
Tanya and the reporter sat in on the final session of a week-long international 
medical conference on tropical diseases. 
 
During the flight from Moscow to London, the reporter sprawled across 
two seats. Tanya watched the young man with beige, Panama hat snore, 
open-mouthed for hours. 
 
Tanya wondered why men always spread their knees so wide apart to 
take up the maximum volume of space. She kept her legs crossed, trying to 
squeeze into the tiny space he allowed her. Finally, she nudged his elbow 
from the seat's armrest. 
 
Tanya hated herself for a moment until she remembered her brother 
looked like this fetid-mouthed reporter. Only Sergei's rat-blue eyes squirmed 
in a row of subtractions, dashes, horizontal worms. She visualized little 
equations inching up the pages of her diary. 
 
She slipped the empty diary into her purse. Tanya studied the 
reporter's baby-face twenty-five year-old features. His eyes weren't round. 
They were downturned, narrow dashes, bats eyes seen sideways as 
transparent drops. 
 
Doctor Tanya, exobiologist and theoretical particle physicist, studied 
her spiked poison ring that twinkled like a blizzard of gold. She designed a 
sunburst in reverse. 
 
She suddenly remembered monitoring the reporter's, well, foreign 
correspondent's TV news show the last week of June. What incredible  
wisdom did that young anchorman at large impart on the air waves that 
night? Tanya laughed. Her mind drifted to that particular broadcast. 
 
Doctor Tanya suddenly realized in the broadcast on the air that her soul 
couldn't flush into the bay through her father's kidneys as he had told her at 
the age of nine. The reporter resembled a young photo of her own father. 
 
She imagined what it would like to be on his boss's TV news program 
in an interview telling millions of midnight listeners round the world Dr. 
Tanya's own childhood secret: Doctor Tanya's father had announced to his 
daughter when she was nine years old, that he wished he had flushed her 
down the toilet with the condom if he could buy one, only it would stuff up the 
plumbing. 
 
Unfortunately, a conception took place, Tanya surmised, and from that 
day on the doctor would be trouble. She was born a girl. He asked the 
midwife to check twice. Maybe there was a mistake. Maybe Tanya had been 
born a boy, after all. He had no such luck. 
 
Tanya merged with the image of the reporter on TV at the moment. 
We're so much alike, she thought, and yet so different. She spat feverishly 
with foaming white-lined lips. Her career hacked away at her. 
 
Her salary as a prominent scientist in her own nation was equal to what 
that TV reporter's secretary earned. The idea of unequal pay for equal work 
burned a hole right through Dr. Tanya. Would the reporter feel the same 
way? Tanya thought. 
 
Tanya killed the foreign young woman who was about to assassinate 
the new leader of a new, Western Democratic regime in the Arab world. She 
tasted the joy of being a soldier of fortune. She wondered why she loved the 
feeling so much. After all, she bet the new leader would turn out to be one 
more historic dictator given time. 
 
Her mind wandered to startling statistics. What am I passionate about? 
Tanya thought. How many other female soldiers of fortune could there be? 
The pay is more than a doctor could earn anywhere in Central Asia, 
Kurdistan, or in Russia. Travel and luxury hotels are always free. And 
research on tropical poisons are a life-long intellectual pursuit. It's good to be 
an exobiologist, Tanya believed. Her mind drifted to a future in Brazil. 
 
She held the sleeping reporter's hand. Hers was leathery and calloused 
from use, and very strong, as if all her frustrated power found expression 
through her fingers. In contrast, his reporter's hands were soft and pink like 
those of an eternal boy. She looked down at him while he slept and 
visualized him dressed as Peter Pan or Robin Hood, in medieval tights. It 
made her laugh nervously.  
 
She held the reporter's hand a bit tighter and thought of him as almost 
her double. The two personalities could easily merge— except for one crucial 
difference. She is woman, and he is man and at least twenty years younger 
than her. 
 
He clowned. Tanya talked dead serious. Her cauterized heart had no 
room for play if adventure struck. Yet work for him had to be play and new 
surprises. 
 
His passion is play. If it isn't fun, he wouldn't do it. The reporter took 
his play so seriously, Tanya imagined, that she saw him reading scholarly 
journals on the psychology of fun. That journal had been lying in his lap for 
reading on the plane. She stared at the magazine. If only she could play at 
her job. But her assignment took life seriously. His did not. 
 
She smirked as she thought the reporter could be what her grandma in 
Kiev called a Bbirofla, cafe-skilled, single, and smart. As a reporter with a 
foreign correspondent's staff job in television, he could be in demand for the 
next thirty years. He wouldn't be asked to get a face lift at forty-five as a 
woman TV reporter might be hinted at — to remove bags under the eyes. No, 
he would be given plenty of bags to carry abroad as a foreign correspondent. 
As a pathologist, she could hide behind the wrinkled mask of a respectable 
profession. There was such a shortage of princes in Kiev or Saint Petersburg 
or even her parent's land of exploration-Samarkand. 
 
While he slept. Dr. Tanya mulled in her mind the way the reporter had 
told her upon first meeting that he had moved to Beverly Hills when his first 
wife mysteriously drowned on a separate vacation after a year of marriage. 
At twenty-five, he said he felt too young to have children. "After forty, I'd 
consider it, if I ever married again by that time," the reporter had said 
emphatically. 
 
Dr. Tanya wondered whether in Beverly Hills, New York, or Atlanta, the 
reporter would find other jy local news princes of graviton waves or there, in 
Baghdad, other foreign news correspondents imbedded with troops or on 
secret missions or with contractors, or soldiers of other leaders' fortunes that 
challenged him. Finally, he failed at his toughest challenge: the ownership 
and control of his own career as a salaried reporter. 
 
Tanya held the sleeping reporter's hand all through the long flight. She 
waited and listened, listened and waited. Her heart stretched a molecule at a 
time over a kettle drum probing for one shattering boom. Suddenly the old 
memories danced before her. 
 
Once again, she was back in the villages outside Samarkand. She was 
sixteen years old. Tanya and her Eastern European parents moved from  
being foreigners in Kurdistan eastwards to the dry mountains to escape the 
hunger. Snow glistened in the high deserts. 
 
One day her Ul
cheeks, and eyes the color of tan potato skins, sneaked up behind Tanya's 
sister-in-law with an ax. As she hung clothes on the line, that ax thudded with 
fury on her head. When she turned in surprise, he caught her on the chin. 
 
In a tiny village in Samarkand, surrounded by crystal lakes shaped like 
skulls, the bottomless lakes filled with monsters. Tanya saw her father's face 
in every man. 
 
Her sister-in-law's blood trickled down the broken cobblestones and 
froze in tear-shaped droplets. Tanya watched the neighbors crawl down the 
winding streets to cover the sister-in-law with horse blankets. 
 
Neighbors gawked at her father filled with elder rage, and Tanya filled 
with fear and shame. They pinned her father to a wooden bench. Tanya 
threw a scarf over the woman's face out of modesty and watched her leg 
twitch like a freshly slaughtered chicken. 
 
Then the mother-in-law wielded a hammer and beat Tanya's father on 
the head to the drumming of one-and-uh, two-and-uh, one, two three. The 
village police took her father to a Samarkand prison. 
 
The sister-in-law survived. For the rest of her life she fingered the scars 
of six stitches in her jaw and another six in the back of her head. 
 
"Heads will roll," was Dr. Tanya's nana, daddy's oreq, father's last 
words as they led him away. That night he died in prison of a stroke amidst 
the vomiting drunks, mostly foreigners and Russian workers, inside the same 
cell. 
 
Six weeks later her mother shoplifted a dress from the main market 
place. A security guard tackled her. She died of fright on the way to prison. 
Tanya returned to Kurdistan and then to Moscow to study tropical poisons. 
 
Outside her room, waves of snow lapped at the shores of her 
mountains. Wind-whipped sculpture stood below contemplating nature's 
dappling. Once Tanya sought scientific proof in the aristocracy of museums. 
Now she gazed on it in the simplicity of clay and the stone folk. 
 
To be a paid mercenary, a soldier of fortune, in the armies of oil 
smugglers, battlefield robotics architects, and arms dealers pays a thinking 
woman what she deserves, Tanya reasoned. 
 
At first her weapons were chemical. Tanya officially dealed in tropical 
poisons, herbs, and medicines for individual hits arranged by a coterie of 
selective governments and selected media. She picked up a copy of the 
reporter's first book and thumbed through the pages. Confessions of a 
Foreign Correspondent.  
 
And what was Tanya's first book? Her empty diary. ..Instead, tinere were 
cans of unedited videotape stored in Moscow. She thought about Iraq and 
wondered whether her thinking was quintessential. Should she rely, instead 
on her life purpose of world peace? Maybe she made decisions too quickly, 
before all the information came in, Dr. Tanya thought. 
 
Her mind drifted back to Baghdad. She wondered what the inside of an 
Iraqi brothel looked like— the sounds, smells, textures, colors and emotions. 
She imagined what the inside of an Egyptian prison was like, then a 
Guatemalan prison, a Brazilian brothel. She dozed off. 
 
She daydreamed. Men chipped away at their old gods shielding 
themselves by the stomping of women's wombs. Golden fingers hammered 
golden notes into symbols to be worn around the throat so music could be 
frozen in time. 
 
Men feared women's evil eye. The old curse was unfeeling. The family 
was more important than a woman's individual rights. Tanya remembered 
once asking her father the question 'why.' That was challenge enough to 
provoke him to beat her into pleasing him. 
 
He tried to beat her into becoming a feeling woman. She continued to 
ask 'why' instead of pleasing him in silence. She remained a thinking woman. 
He died in prison. 
 
When the divorce came, the children, house, car, and money would all 
go to the husband in Iraq. Without parents or siblings, a divorced woman 
went crazy. In Samarkand, one could always appeal to the Russians and 
other foreign workers, Tanya thought. 
 
An angry spit exploded on the floor. The reporter stirred and stretched. 
He studied Tanya through glazed-over eyes. She tried everything-a tummy 
tuck, a breast implant, an eyelid lift. And she never even worked for a 
television network. Nor did she ever get asked by her employers to defer to 
men or to bleach her medium dark ash brown hair or to get cheek implants. 
No one told Dr. Tanya, "You look so old. Get those eyelid lifts like yesterday." 
 
All at once Tanya's freedom became meaningless. A little trail of grape 
juice left her purplish lips. 
 
"Hi, chief," the reporter whispered behind his spectacles, like a Clark 
Kent manikin as he stretched and yawned a vapor of fetid breath in her face. 
 
"How do I look as a paid soldier of fortune?" She feverishly kicked the 
words. Tanya's throat clicked in tight knots. 
 
The reporter rubbed his fingers along his face scars. "You didn't pay 
attention to a detail. Doctor, he said respectfully." 
 
"What?" 
 
"You know, doctor, you're getting a moustache," he told her.  
 
Tanya glanced at him sharply, narrowing her black eyes to slits. "A lot 
of Mediterranean and Central Asian women have this problem. I'll call my 
electrologist when we get to Los Angeles." 
 
"Doctor Tanya, it's more than a moustache. I hate to be the good friend 
who tells you, but you have one long, black hair on your chin. At your age, 
that's an estrogen imbalance." 
 
"All right... .That's enough. I'll check it out with my gynecologist." 
 
"You're too old for the pill." 
 
She whipped out a compact mirror and looked at it. In a moment, 
Tanya fished for a pair of tweezers in her make-up pouch and yanked out the 
hair. 
 
"A news man notices every detail," he said. 
 
"So do exobiologists, surgeons, and theoretical particle physicists. Did 
you know that many years ago that I had been accepted at MIT as a math 
and physics major, but never had been able to go there because of other 
nosey people's politics?" 
 
She thought to herself: The men who came to strangle me were 
shrinking my world like the most delicately tinted of bubbles, shrinking in ever 
narrowing circles from the upward gush of my own infancy. 
 
Tanya closed her eyes and leaned back lost in thought. The hum of the 
plane's engine soon lulled the loud-voiced reporter back into a restless sleep. 
 
Why and how did I teach him to insult me? Tanya thought. Why did my 
body shrink inwardly instead of shoot out? Why did I relinquish power over 
myself to a television foreign correspondent with network news anchorman 
ambitions? 
 
Chase me through dark cellars as a child. Catch me as a mistress with 
an ax coming down on my head. Within this body, within the wrinkling tissues 
that rock gently in my sea of misery is the source of a trillion lives. 
 
Rock me quietly, nosey newsman, Tanya thought. "You extrovert filled 
with curiosity," she raged. Hold me in your arms. I'm the last born of an old 
cycle and the first born of the new. 
 
I'm a thinking woman. Mister Foreign Correspondent. Metal shall 
become flesh, human become machine. You shall not drink more power from 
my body. 
 
There was a taint of decay in him. In this spotty spin effusion, I shall 
bury you, my controller, Tanya thought. Her mind swept past the small details 
to focus on how gravitons could be used as radio waves for communication 
beyond the universe's theoretical membrane barrier to talk with beings in 
other universes with different laws of physics.  
 
The reporter awoke. He moved sluggishly and opened his moth-wing- 
textured ego to her. Tanya trembled in his arms as he held her through the 
plane's turbulence. 
 
She strung out those last few days in Moscow with him, but he grew 
worse. The reporter began to change from a moth into a butterfly. His 
descent started from a once serious reporter to a tortured beast with multiple 
personalities. She wondered whether a tumor pressed on his right lobe. 
 
He grew more violent, consuming her. At last they arrived back in Los 
Angeles. Once inside his new condo, his patterns grew familiar. 
 
"You can't tolerate responsibility, can you?" Tanya chastised him. 
 
The reporter barked. "Don't start treating me like my mother did. She's 
a man-hater. I can't stand her criticism." 
 
"A man hater, eh? So that's what they call a feeling woman in America. 
My motto is never fall in love with a man who is angry at his own mother. We 
are so much alike we can only be arch enemies. Me and my angry father, 
and you and your angry mother... two peas in a pod. I bet your mother only 
wanted affection from her husband." 
 
The reporter turned around, bent down, and shoved his butt in her face. 
"See any tail up there?" He taunted. "I'm a man, not an animal." 
 
"My dog is loyal and protective. I feel safe with my wolf-dog," she 
stammered. "I don't feel safe around you." 
 
The reporter's evolving into the boot in the face, fist in the stomach kind 
of daddy figure so described in Sylvia Plath's poetry, Tanya thought. I'm 
going to be happy to get rid of such a bad egg once I've cracked his macho 
shell, she pondered. 
 
"You should see a neurologist. Mister Reporter. You had a seizure on 
the plane. Don't you remember?" Tanya begged him, but he ignored her. 
 
"If something was growing on my brain, I'd have headaches." 
 
"Don't you remember when you get violent?" 
 
"Violent? Me? I'm a pussy cat on your work evaluation chart, doctor." 
 
"What type of man's good for a thinking woman?" 
 
Tanya asked the question 'why' again while she brushed her teeth the 
next morning. 
 
If the reporter had been anything like her father, the wall would come 
up and cut her off in mid-sentence. The persistent reporter never cut her off. 
He listened. In fact, he rarely said anything at all. 
 
"Why do so many men cut women off in mid-sentence? Why do they 
spread their knees so far apart in a plane or bus seat and unfold their arms 
across the top back of the seat to take up most of the room, while women 
crouch in a tiny space, knees together? Is it all done because a man is trying  
to deny space to a woman and punish her because he thinks allowing seat 
space means she is trying to control him?" Tanya probed further. There was 
stony silence from the garrulous reporter's direction. He sat at the breakfast 
nook and laced his Reeboks. 
 
In the days that followed, the network news foreign correspondent from 
Los Angeles and New York sat in silence. She had decided he kept his 
silence to drink more of Tanya's power. The reporter's patterns were growing. 
Tanya's world shrank to the threshold of the door. She wondered whether her 
fear had amplified because he came from an upscale family, a veterinary 
surgeon father who owned an animal hospital and hired other vets and an 
animal technician mother who shelled out tuition for prep schools. 
 
Tanya thought about how her achievements had been judged on merit 
only, not family money. She compared her own dad's janitorial work with the 
reporter's surgical veterinarian father. Yet both met and worked together on 
the same 'brane' of meritocracy. 
 
That night she couldn't sleep. She listened attentively to an outrageous 
audio recording of the reporter's style. Yes, he's anchorman material, Tanya 
thought. His voice of resilience radiated confidence. His life is an open phone 
line. Mine is a shrinking agoraphobic world. Yet he's the one with hormone 
imbalances. She longed for his open phone line. 
 
The reporter drank more of her power. Tanya only moved in with him 
the week before-when his latest female roommate tossed him out, right after 
he returned from overseas. 
 
He tried to catch her in the act of thinking for herself. His body a sheet 
of light, a subtle electric fire, tried to peak hers. Tanya intellectually taunted 
him. Her 185 IQ over his 120 IQ. He extended his extroverted reporter's ego 
on metal legs closer to her introverted particle physicist and exobiologist's 
reflective panorama. Metal became flesh in a sea that was no longer the cold 
salty well of sanity she found soothing in the 1963 poems of Sylvia Plath. 
Two career professionals at their peak of work and buzz appeal in 
competition or coopetition could never be two equals in love, Tanya thought. 
 
When the reporter had picked Doctor Tanya's mind clean and judged 
her unable to draw any more power from her words or deeds, he plugged into 
a new foreign correspondence assignment. In his newest assignment in the 
field, he glowed up in a burst of color. He flailed out on his own note. Inside, 
there was utter silence. 
 
She remained year after year in her same career. He moved around 
the globe. Tanya's work life became all pulses of strong light and textures. 
Inside her were foreign nations of all the textures, moods, and music of the 
rainbow. But she called her rainbow the drainbow. Each area of color moved  
and concentrated and throbbed for life. And every color was a nation that 
voted to be its own ruler. !t was as if every cell in Tanya's body was a nation 
unto itself. 
 
Only seven days together passed between them. The reporter told her 
to plan a quick, succinct dinner. Simplicity is what she made for dinner with a 
phone call to the caterer. 
 
The reporter slurped his borscht and Smetana (sour cream). "You call 
this fun?" 
 
"You can't stand to see me happy," Tanya whined. "Every time you 
come back from one of your soldier of fortune jags with a suitcase full of 
money, you turn into a beast" Tanya's eyes widened. "I thought you were a 
loyal foreign correspondent for that network news station." 
 
"What should I do? Go back to Boston or Los Angeles, and teach 
bonehead English?" 
 
The television reporter swung his arm across the table and sent the 
fruits flying to the carpet. 
 
"You clean up this mess!" Tanya shouted a stream of epithets in 
Ukrainian and again in Russian. "This is why I left Kiev in the first place." 
 
"Mess?" the reporter shouted. "What mess? I'll show you what a mess 
is, you mail-order whore." He picked up the food and dumped it on the 
Persian carpet. Then he opened the freezer and pushed out the contents and 
threw everything on the floor. 
 
He shoved out the newly peeled apples, bobbing in water, and dumped 
them on the carpet. He lifted the milk, the tomatoes, the cold cuts-eve rything 
that the caterer's truck delivered, and threw them on the floor. 
 
Tanya watched in torturous belief. She tried to analyze the man who 
only last month thought he would ask her to be his on-air expert in her 
physician and scientist's roles. But he only wanted a brief on-air interview. 
 
He chose, instead, a young woman theoretical physicist from a prestige 
university to interview for a half-hour. Tanya memorized this reporter's style, 
but had to look up his personality style over cambric tea in an English 
language thesaurus. 
 
That's when she mentally labeled him a take-away, charismatic man at 
home with every stranger, but a stranger at home who shunned responsibility 
unless it involved reporting the news from a unique location overseas." 
 
She looked straight down his heart. She felt the shudder of shrinking 
caves of powerlessness beneath her feet. He would never grow up. And she 
wanted a man who could be responsible, slow to anger, and the potential 
father of her children, should she adopt them from orphanages where they 
remained in dark caves of critical thinking.  
 
The reporter backhanded her, and Tanya jerked her head away almost 
robot-like in the direction of the slap. An ellipse of color formed on her cheek. 
 
Gazing into the reporter's face was like looking into the glossy side of a 
toppling wave and seeing herself a failure. His square-jawed face extended 
so close to hers, she could smell the herpes-infected translucent membranes 
of his red-veined eyes. 
 
In his pale eyes, Tanya saw herself as a child. For a split second she 
recalled her own mother telling her that she wrote in her diary on her 
honeymoon, 'today I died.' 
 
"You're not supposed to hit me. It could kill the baby. The doctor said 
you're not..." Tanya controlled her emotions. 
 
"You told the doctor I hit you? I don't give a rat's sass about your baby. 
It's certainly not mine. You and your high IQ sperm bank.... Where did you 
implant that frozen embryo, in London? 
 
"My doctor saw the purplish heei marks around my navel." Tanya 
stared at his feet. 
 
"Those are reeking recoil marks from your automatic weapon." The 
reporter blasted. "Who are you? If you're so successful as a paid soldier of 
fortune and a world-renowned scientist, how come you went to a sperm bank 
and purchased number 1357911?" 
 
"He's a popular donor. No genetic defects for nine generations back, a 
genius IQ, and a medical student." 
 
"He donated sperm to more than 500 other women. What's going to 
happen when those kids grow up and marry one another without knowing 
they all had the same sperm donor for a dad? Why did you choose to get 
pregnant in the first place? You're probably only a few months away from 
menopause." 
 
"The women all know one another online. There's this club..." 
 
"How come you're willing to live here? And how come you told the 
doctor I hit you and then return here for more? You're free and single. You're 
a doctor. If you don't like our relationship, the door's open." 
 
"You have some lethal obsession with me?" Tanya whispered. 
 
"I'll never let either of you go alive." 
 
"I know what you have in store for me if I tried to leave." 
 
Tanya's head sunk back into the muscles of her neck. She felt a 
turbulence around the bend of an artery. 
 
"Get rid of it. I want you unencumbered. You heard what I said. Or do I 
have to perform it on you myself?"  
 
"No. I'll see you promoted first. Then you won't want me. You'll let me 
move on." Tanya sobbed. She asked herself in silence: Why do smart 
women like me who skipped two grades make such dumb choices in love? 
Tanya reasoned to herself, I won't sound angry. He'll calm down. Then I'll 
sneak out where he can't track me down again and hold me prisoner of his 
mind. 
 
"Get rid of that child." He spat at her, mouthing the word, accusing her. 
The silent, infantile threat of her shadow overwhelmed him. 
 
She thought for a moment. Thank goodness he never asked me to 
marry him. 
 
While he mumbled under his breath, the TV news reporter slowly 
unbuckled his belt and slipped it off. He wrapped one end around the 
knuckles of his right hand several times. He began slapping the heavy buckle 
against his left thigh. 
 
Slowly, he inched closer to her. "You old biddy! You forty-eight-year old 
discarded tissue!" His words ran together, rhyming each lash of the buckle 
across Tanya's face, giving birth to a terrifying cadence. 
 
"You..." 
 
Crunch. 
 
"Told..." 
 
Thud. 
 
"Doctor" 
 
Slap 
 
"I hit..." 
 
Like batman, elongated man, aquaman, spiderman, superman, captain 
marvel, the green hornet of his childhood fictions, the thuds, punches, 
groans, and oomphs rained on Tanya's petite body. 
 
They both breathed as one, breathed the lint of hate. When he closed 
in, he finished his sentence by whipping his buckle across her cheek. The 
metal smashed across her teeth, and Tanya sang out with pain. She flailed, 
clawing his face with her talons. 
 
She ran toward the door, and another blow stung her spine, almost 
paralyzing her. Tanya managed to creep across the room. 
 
"Come here, you Slavic dominatrix," he slurred. "Mama, I'm going to 
train you to be a real, American doctor." 
 
The reporter stood above her, swinging his belt, patiently stalking her. 
"Bubetchka! You're going to lose that baby! What's your real name, 
Tanya... It's Bubetchka Bratislava, isn't it... not Tanya? Why can't you tell me 
your real name? What secret are you trying to hide? I know your 
kind... moving around from government to government with your little poison  
pin on the end of an umbrella waiting to pierce some innocent reporter's thigh 
when he's on an assignment. You're a scopolamine spy, a truth-serum tease. 
Aren't you the poised poisoner?" 
 
Tanya screamed for help. Only silence echoed back. The reporter's 
face shimmered in a web of fluid. Tension linked them. Singing light flooded 
into his whole being. 
 
He went for Doctor Tanya's little black bag and sorted through the 
unsterilized instruments. A flash of light glinted off the surgical vacuum 
extractor. 
 
"This worked fine on my dad's dogs when I watched him practice 
veterinary spaying." 
 
He unzipped her surgeon's bag and kneed her in the small of her back. 
As she screamed and begged for help, he choked her until she passed out. 
 
The reporter tried six instruments before he found the right surgical 
vacuum extractor to lose her six-week fetus. A cutting pain seared through 
her, bringing her into full consciousness. It was all over. As she looked up 
she saw the reporter bending over her, wiping her with a towel. 
 
"How do you like a taste of your own medicine, doctor?" 
 
She screamed, crawled across the carpet, and doubled over. A spike of 
adrenalin surged through the pain and dulled it. 
 
When it was over, the reporter's pulsing patterns rose and slid like 
colored lights. He couldn't be human, she thought. Inside had to be an 
electric grid that made him run. Then she realized that the reporter could only 
be human. Or a type of space alien that thought of humans as fuel. She'd be 
better off with a robot working partner programmed only to do no harm, 
Tanya thought. 
 
The media man was human, all right... too human. He took her pulse 
before he opened the door. She ran out into the hall of the high rise Los 
Angeles condominium half-naked, but he threw the bloody towel in her face, 
and then her purse, and finally her dress and shoes. 
 
He followed her into the dark, empty hallway. "Make sure you see your 
gynecologist now. If you complain, I'll say you did this to yourself. You're the 
doctor. I'm just a reporter of news, an observer. I wouldn't want you to have 
any malpractice suits. Don't worry. Your own patients never complain. Why 
should they? They're all dead." 
 
"Stay away from me," she screamed. Tanya ran blindly and bumped 
into the wall. He handed her the dress, shoes and purse over the towel. The 
reporter held open the stairwell door for her.  
 
I must stay calm, she thought as she stumbled down the steps. At the 
top of the stairs, the reporter's staccato bass voice echoed down the dark 
stainweil. "You'll be back a tougher soldier than ever, Doctor Tanya." 
 
"Only for cold revenge," Tanya thought as she disappeared into the 
street and looked back at his window. She visualized the reporter as a man 
of tautology, on television consistently using needless repetition of the same 
idea in different words. 
 
Dr. Tanya saw him descend into a beast pacing inside his kitchen 
window as he poured drinks. She could even hear him from the pavement 
below loudly reporting to himself, talking to Tanya as if she were still in the 
room. "You're a thinking woman, a mean and lean man-eating machine. And 
machines don't break, people do. You'll be back for more. You'll always be a 
mom to me. Take two aliens in the morning, Tanya, and call a robot." 
 
A moment later, she hailed a taxi and sped to the hospital, her cover, 
where she worked that season. "Why do driven women like me make dumb 
choices in men?" Tanya nervously barked a compelling tattoo at the cab 
driver as she handed him the fare and tip. He shrugged. "I probably let the 
sword decide, as the proverb asserts," Doctor Tanya prattled powerfully.  
 
5. Folklore of Wisdom 
 
The North Caucasus Mountains, 1942 
 
"A Tatar has to be wise, or else how would you have conquered 
Byzantium and Rome with all her book learning?" said the Mars-wracked 
Nazi general. "You have the tales of Dede Korkut and the Epic of Koroglu. 
We are not looking for sons of Allah, neither the Adyge nor the Tatar... not 
yet at this time," he said with a knowing smile. The general nervously 
snapped his fingers. 
 
We Caucasus Mountaineers hid, but tracked the Nazis going from 
village to village, that were fanning the hate of private feuds, widening the 
breach between the two hostile religious sects of Islam, we learned from the 
speakers of the Adyge language among us. Their North Caucasus language 
hadn't changed that much from our different Tatar folklore of the Altai in this 
hidden place so high in the mountains. 
 
We heard what sounded like the language of the Russians coming in 
from the front, chasing the speakers of the Germanic dialects from the  
 
mountains of the Kafkas, and the Moslem tribes were marching against them. 
We hid in the empty, burned out huts of the Mountaineer tribes. 
 
"Von Liebnitz," someone shouted the name of one of the Germanic 
commanders whom we learned was from Bavaria. Our mountaineer friends 
translated, as we heard their language had not changed enough to lose all 
understanding in this new time Into which we were hurled. 
 
"Send this request to Arslan, khan of the Kasi-Kamucks, in whose 
territory was Jarash that he should seize upon the person of the Mollah." 
 
Then the Mountain Men translated that "Arslan, afraid to lay his hands 
upon a teacher so holy to the people, took the Mollah to the adjacent city of 
Avaria." 
 
So that's where we were, near Avaria. The word went out across the 
birch trees and into all the small wooden homes: "Believers forget your 
sectarian differences. Members of different tribes, mountain men of every 
warring tribe, Tatars, join together and lay aside your animosities. All lovers 
of your country rise In arms and drive back the dogs who had dared Invade 
the sanctity of the mountains." 
 
The Bavarian Genera) frothed at the mouth, glad the crowd undertook 
the Cherkessk dialect. Our leader, Atokay walked right in like he had been 
living here in these times. "No mountaineer shall ever be a slave!" The word 
went out. But how many of their women had been sold into slavery by the 
warring tribes on different sides? But they were a new faith now. 
 
"The first law of our prophet is the law of freedom. No Moslem shall be 
a slave." The word went out. Hmm. Something to ponder. But we Persian 
Jews living in the Caucasus Mountains have been here since 700 years 
before the Common Era. The Mountain Men also are people of the book. 
Their cheers rose all night. Now, where do we stand? I don't see the 
difference between peoples. 
 
Our Mountaineer friends led us Into the homes of other Mountain Men, 
and we Judaic Persians of these Caucasus Mountains blended In with the 
rest of the mountain people of the Kafkas. They hid us well and didn't ask 
where we came from, only warned us that there was a war. 
 
Yes, we had the good fortune to have papers saying we were Tatars. 
We had been given these papers by a few Tatars who saved us. And luckily 
Our Persian, Tat, and Turkic dialects, they didn't understand, but the different 
North Kafkas speech of the leader of the Caucasus Mountaineers who also 
saved us named Atokay was still barely distinguishable, and they might have 
thought we had come out of Central Asia or somewhere by the Caspian, that 
ancient Sea of Meotis far away and had joined to help them.  
 
For the moment we kept our mouths shut and let them care for us until 
we could find our way back to the cave and get back to the glory of our own 
times and the orchards of our own Khazaria. The Ciracassians had a leader 
they called Murat. He came home from his long ride to Jarash and greeted us 
as fellow mountaineers, obviously in hiding from the men in the big metal 
elephants. 
 
Our clothes had not changed much, with the exception of the chain 
maile and helmets that were stared down and laughed at until we removed 
them — or at least the men. "Actors," Atokay smiled in his dialect. "Theatre of 
the mountain men," he nodded. 
 
The silence became unnatural. It was a silence that swallowed all 
sound and smothered it, a silence vibrating like a drum skin. Atokay stared at 
his bare feet and slowly moved the toes. They looked uncanny, as though his 
feet led a life of their own. He felt the fur of his blanket and the pressure of a 
servant girl's hand under his neck. 
 
"You're a mountain man, and we are all going to be liquidated," Murat 
warned Atokay and our Kagan, who still pretended to be a man from the 
Caucasus. 
 
Where was the "physical liquidation" to take place? Murat pointed out of 
the window to a Germanic commander a few feet away. Look what we 
walked into in another time. Murat called them Germans and reminded us 
that in 1 942 the Germans were here in the Caucasus, and we would be 
liquidated. 
 
"Why?" 
 
"Ask him," M urat laughed. "Smell the leather of Von Liebnitz's revolver 
belt and listen to the crackling of his uniform." 
 
"What's a revolver?" All of us asked at the same time. Father smelled 
the pork stink on the breath of the German soldiers. What did will he say to 
his victims? 
We decided to be survivors. "The Russians are coming." Murat added. 
 
"Rus? Is that who you mean?" 
 
How would the Russians look? Would they call us ancient Khazar 
enemies when they came? 
 
Murat, Atokay, and the Kagan all looked at their fingers. It was so quiet 
that we heard the crackling of the burning embers in the small fire pit. 
 
"Do you feel ill, Murat?" His wife, Tanya's quivering whispers broke the 
silence with a shock. 
 
All Murat's muscles contracted at once. Fear was beginning to seep 
into the hero. He blinked at her.  
 
"Please, some water?" A Caucasus Mountains woman sat up and 
extended her hand praying to receive a tender touch. But he just stared 
blanl
the mountain. 
 
I watched my father, in hiding, posing as a Tatar as Murat, another 
Mountaineer leader made his speech in front of the gathering tribes. Then I 
wandered about the small cabin waiting for dawn, waiting until those around 
me woke for prayers. 
 
Someone motioned to Raziet the little Adyge girl in my care. She 
helped the older men take down the red-gold and green-blue prayer rugs and 
brushed them clean, laying them down facing east. The women had washed 
and stood still, listening to the silence between the white-washed walls. 
 
The rain had stopped as suddenly as it began, and the new silence hit 
all of us as a new color. The dawn had now come to meet me from the deep 
well of sanity. Gradually the people of Himri had to take refuge behind the 
village's triple walls. During the retreat, the warriors who had been compelled 
to fight with the Germans gradually fell off, one by one Murat told Atokay. 
 
Their chieftain's deserted them as they saw the superiority of the forces 
of the enemy. Even the principal Murid, Hamid Bey we were told was 
deceived, by forged proclamations issued in the name of the prophet 
separated himself from a leader whose fortunes were on the wane. 
 
And when October's fallen leaves were still covering the hills of Himri, 
the Russian bayonets arrived to add their gleam to the tired mood of autumn, 
brown leaves choking a stream. We marked the cave in the Kafkas. How, oh, 
how were we going to go back through that opening in the dark rock? 
 
How are we to go back to our own times? Back to a time when 
Khazaria was at peace and was in the midst of that excitement and joy of just 
having turned Jewish, and dancing and song were everywhere? 
 
"The Mountaineer dream will be rolling up aou I (village) Himri behind 
the roll of drums," I whispered before I began to pray. 
 
"One bullet will be mightier than a million forced votes when freedom is 
gunned down," said Murat. 
 
"What's a bullet?" I Joked. Is it like a pullet? The crowd of men showed 
us how time had changed, but everything remained the same. 
 
"Would you rather be paid in a handful of flour or in knowledge?" M urat 
asked their leader, Atokay, who translated for my father. 
 
"Our mountains are being used as a shield," Murat said sharply. 
 
The story passed along to me was that The Russians are at war with 
the Mountain Men, the peoples of the Kafkas, but the Mountain Men only go 
to war with their own rulers.  
 
So nothing has changed the mighty mountains. Why did the people 
even come here eons ago from the Middle East? 
 
"You have to rise above the lav^'," Murat announced. 
 
"No, you have to bring love and peace to all these people," my father 
said. 
 
"How, by joining hands in death so others may live? 
 
"No v^'ay," I insisted. 
 
My mother's large green eyes v^'idened. She began to speak and 
Atokay translated the North Kafkas dialect that hadn't changed much in a 
thousand years. 
 
The Russians were holding their chief men as hostages in Andrejev^'a. 
Atokay v^'atched Murat smoke his chibbuk, a Mountaineer pipe. 
 
"Bide your time," my father put his v^'ord in through the translator. "Are 
you so child-like as to believe that invaders from one land or time are any 
better than invaders from another?" 
 
In Avaria v^'as an Amazon-like v^'oman v^'ho called herself a "Khatun" 
and re-named herself Pashu Bikay, a direct descendant of the she-khan who 
ruled in the winter of 1 830. Pashu Bikay approached us and unveiled herself 
before the circle. 
 
She cried out, "Go home you who came from Chunsash, and tie your 
rifles to your wives' corsets." 
 
Amazingly, the men followed Pashu as their leader just as the Pashu 
who came before her. The crowd of men told me that eight thousand men 
followed this female, Pashu. 
 
In the morning, a Nazi general. Von Liebnetz appeared, and I was told 
through the translator what this so-called second world war was all about. 
Oh, no, not in the midst of another war! I want to go home, back to the peace 
of my mountains. The streets of Tarku were all torn up by war. 
 
Gradually, each resident of Himri had to take refuge behind the villages' 
triple walls. So we were still in Himri, in the place of our summer home far 
from Atil, but thrown a thousand years into a future not our own and not by 
choice. I had to find out why. That's why the time-travels of the Silk Road 
continue. 
 
Our hosts briefed us on what artillery was and the weapons of modern 
warfare, and I'd rather dance with the Buigars than be here. And when the 
fallen leaves covered Himri, the Rus arrived to add their gleam to the mood 
of the end of summer. 
 
Artillery soon brought down the towers of loose stones over the 
devoted heads. By that time, all of us found a common language, classical 
Arabic. We all spoke it, since the days when the great rabbis of Baghdad  
went forth into Persia with their Torah scrolls, and from Persia on Purim, 
came to the high Caucasus mountains. When we wrote in Hebrew, we also 
had to translate from the Arabic for the scholars and rabbis from Toledo, so 
we learned many languages. And our houses of worship were built facing 
south as we had built them in Persia. 
 
Pachu Bikay met the Queen of the Steppes, but Pachu stiil wanted to 
take up arms against the Rus like the Khatun had a thousand years before. "I 
was born laughing," Pachu said through the translator. I watched as her face 
marred by the pox caught the rain in small pockets that glistened in the sun 
when the rain stopped. Our rainbow Kaganate also glistened. She lived by 
the art of war. We Mountaineers vowed now to live by the art of Hebrew 
script, even If it meant learning four host languages and cultures. 
 
I sensed a lack of unity among these tribes. We followed the men as 
they rode from aoul to aoul calling upon warriors to follow them. Each looked 
for a hero to lead him. The tribes of the Eastern and Western Kafkas seemed 
to be different. They sang the praises of heroes. My father told them to sing a 
little less and make more charts, but the chorus of voices sang louder and 
without ending. 
 
Everyone still rode horses over a narrow, rugged path that winded over 
the mountains picking its way along the rocky bed of the torrent. Our horses 
dived into forests tangled with brambles. The horse of a Khazar or a 
Mountaineer is conscious that it is going to meet armed men. 
 
# 
 
We came cut of the past and met men living in our past, men on 
horseback with no big elephants, or tanks as they told us, in an age of tanks. 
Each warrior dressed as if time had not passed, wearing their shaggy 
bourkas that covered the entire rider and the back of his steed. 
 
We had arrows, but they had what they said were "rifles." And the 
barrels of their rifles protruded from their long bourkas. Below dangled the 
horse-tails braided with bullets, just like the steppe warriors who carried their 
arrow heads that way. So nothing really changes in the mountains or in the 
steppes like it would have if we were at the crossroads of the world. We are 
not. Those of the steppes soon take to the eagle's nests. 
 
We stopped for the night. Murat seized his son and rode on a raid. He 
lived by the art of war. We lived by the book. I sensed these tribes needed a 
hero, but fast. What they had was the running fire of the guerilla as a power 
game. 
 
Murat's son. Lam, rode from aoulXo aou/ calling upon warriors to follow 
him. We rode with the villagers to a spot chosen to hold an assembly — in a 
vale shaded by trees.  
 
Instead of making war charts, they sang praises of heroes. Murat 
determined his plans by a chorus of voices. A moonless sl
us as we sprang into saddles of sheep's wool. 
 
A narrow, rugged path winded over the mountains picking its way along 
the rocky bed of the torrent. Stopping to rest, the greenish tea passed before 
our noses. Murat cool
wheat and barley cal
over dried fruits. 
 
The war would have to stop when it was time for cooking. Mountain 
men passed bowls of skhone, or mead with a little seasoned sour mill< and a 
few honey and millet cal
 
Murat's son was silent, and so was my brother. They were both boys of 
the same age, that special ritual of transition that began in the future when a 
child turned thirteen and became responsible... when you dress as a warrior, 
but are still a little boy with a big job to save your family and your homeland 
while learning great wisdom. 
 
The food eaten, every man took to cleaning his weapons while uttering 
a short prayer for protection. No speaking to one another. The sentinels were 
set. Each man knew that if he fell down in battle, he would only be a sleeping 
baby, the sky his crib's curtain. 
 
I cut branches for them and covered the branches with mats and felts. 
It began to rain. And a wind rose up. The boughs furnished us a place to nap. 
The men couldn't sleep well. They kept the watch fire burning out of the rain. 
Fires lighted up the whole mountainside making the granite glow with eerie 
colors. 
 
Rocks snuggled against one another. The radiance warmed our faces. 
The enemy's fire, still the same old enemy, diffused a glow. Where were we 
now? The Kuban River still flowed as it had in my time. Whoever made the 
war, set fire to the reeds on the Kuban and Terek rivers meant to destroy the 
huts of our mountaineers. Shadows threw a dull red tint on the horizon. 
 
There's the moon, a thin line of silver, rippling the blackness, outlining 
the sides of tanks hidden in a dark forest. "Never take an enemy's life in cold 
blood," Murat whispered to my brother. He did not answer, but moved to kiss 
my father's hand, touching it to his forehead, and kissing it again before 
letting the Kagan's strong hand drop slowly to his side. 
 
The Mountaineer's leader looked us over. "If you do not fear, there is 
nothing that can harm you. The horse's head will be turned toward the 
mountains." 
 
Murat's son paced back and forth. "You tell me what tanks do?"  
 
My father answered them all, a stranger in a strange land. "The Creator 
of all of us must help your enemies. We can do without outside help when it 
comes to fighting the enemy of our brothers in the mountains." 
 
"Ah, but we have outside help," Murat grinned. 
 
"Might they be the Russian hirelings? The free men of the mountain 
have spies along the border. Everywhere there are souls which can be 
bought for gold." 
 
"War is not hell, son," Murat told his boy. "It's a poet's paradise, a 
theater that fertilizes the crops." 
 
"It is too, hell," I responded quickly. 
 
"I'd rather be listening to the music of my water wheels." 
 
"A poet fights better because he has read or written the romance of 
war," Murat said. 
 
"Romance?" My father laughed. 
 
"Yes," said the Mountaineer leader. "Our enemies, like the Roman 
legions cut off in the woods of Germany, will be left with no one to bury them. 
Each foreigner who comes in here to make war thinks more of his hut in his 
own land. Then one of us, unable to rest, rides down from the mountains and 
hides for a day in the reeds of the Kuban River." 
 
Murats son continued the vision, "We creep at night like a wolf from his 
lair. We glide unseen by the guard post of the enemy as the war-makers take 
their final pull on a vodka bottle. We crawl up within sight of him, and pick him 
off." 
 
"And who is this enemy you speak of?" My father asked. 
 
"Those whose goals are not to repair the world with charity," I said. 
 
"Where have you been? Don't you know there's a World War on?" 
 
"You are not thinking real," said my father. 
 
"You'll all perish. I haven't received any invitation to a war." 
 
"You're in it now," Murat scowled. 
 
We were all in this together, people from different times and different 
lands. Here and there small parties appeared in the distance. The method of 
warfare up here in the mountains hadn't changed since my times. 
 
The men rolled stones on the heads of the enemy below the same as 
they probably did twenty thousand years before. At Gogate!, a small fort 
situated south of the Andian range that runs parallel with the Andian branch 
of the Koissu, Murat and Atokay joined a tribe of mountain men. 
 
Now, we all pitched in like two ends of one candle. We helped those 
around us to establish a depot of such provisions and munitions of war. This 
place, I'm told is a single day's journey from Dargo. M usiim and Jew worked  
side by side for a free Caucasus, a Inidden place where each cave became a 
womb of great critical thinking. 
 
The soldiers, lightly laden, set off at dawn full of cheer and energy. 
Before they tired, the men had crossed the pass of Retchel into the beech 
woods of itchkeria. I am the only teenage female in this pack of wolves, dear 
diary. And then the fight began. 
 
Hostile tribes of the region were up in arms and waiting for the enemy. 
The woods are deep here. As Murat's vanguard reached the first narrow 
ledge, a murderous fire from behind broke loose from behind the trunks of a 
thousand trees. 
 
Lost in time. Lost in the woods. We scattered, not knowing what 
monstrous machines these men of the future had. Again, in the Kafkas, the 
more things changed, the more they didn't. 
 
The mountain men fell across the path, serving as a shield for one 
party and obstacles to their enemy. They never explained who the enemy 
was, but they were fighting the Rus or what they later told us were the 
Russians on one side and the Germans on the other and also other enemies 
of the tribes of the Kafkas. 
 
We had barricades — natural vines and flower creepers. The paths were 
narrow and steep like in our summer palace away from the river flies. The 
winding path made the march so difficult that both us and whomever the 
enemy happened to be at the moment, none of us could march more than a 
few steps in a day. 
 
Why were we fighting people we had never met? They told us about 
the war against the Jews and their war for a free Kafkas and the world war, 
and it all rang together like a giant gold bell. 
 
Fighting went on into the night. Murat brought us close to Dargo. 
Flames and fire consumed this aoul, and the burning lighted up our path. 
Murat had set on fire every bit of wood, straw, and grain that could not be 
taken away. He left the enemy only the blackened stone walls of the mud 
houses. 
 
"So you want to be a mountain man, eh?" I said to my brother, Marot. 
Our Mountaineer friends cooked their meals on the bivouac fires. We slept 
under the open sky. The next day more fighting came to us on wild horses. 
 
Murat had found a force of six thousand warriors of the Kafkas to 
anonymously join up with this village called an aoul. The warriors opened fire 
on the Russians who were supposed to save the mountain men from 
Teutonic lands. We finally learned the name of those on each side. 
 
An arrow wasn't good enough, or a stone. We had to learn the guns. 
And the guns consumed too much ammunition to be fired with any rapid  
movement. When the mountaineers took the weapons, they could not 
operate the Russian equipment they had taken. Someone took Dargo, but it 
wasn't Murat. 
 
"In Medieval times," it has been said, 'when the Jews of Eastern 
Europe had no hope other than the grace of the Almighty, the coming of the 
Meshiach (Messiah), or the arrival of the Khazari,' guess who showed up on 
white steeds carrying wolf and horse tamgas and silver standards? The 
Khazari, the Kosarin... . They alone saved the battle for those we defended," 
said my father. 
 
"Things don't get any better for us." 
 
"It will," my father answered. "We have a specific life purpose — the 
repair what's broken in the world." 
 
The Russians sent half of their force back to Gogatel to grab a supply 
of provisions. They had to push through the woods to regain their line by the 
north route. This move on Gogatel gave our brothers, the mountaineers 
another chance at their 
 
enemies. But who were our enemies — those who were now called the 
Russians or the Germans? 
 
"You're Jews. What do you think?" Murat assured us. 
 
"And we're also Mountaineers for nearly three thousand years, I 
answered. "And what do you think?" 
 
"We certainly remember tales of the Mountain Jews from Azerbaijan 
and Persia." Murat nodded. "But we learned of them through books written by 
the Russians." 
 
The mountain men speaking thirty-four different languages of the North 
Caucasus had given themselves no rest Not satisfied with the slow work of 
the rifle, they now rushed in on the battalion tanks with only knives and 
expected to fight hand to hand. I still had to learn all about tanks and rifles, 
but with Murat at their head and strengthened by reinforcements, they 
attacked the escort party both going and returning. 
 
Rain made the battle muddier. Along came a general named Klucke. 
He was a German deserter who still fought the Russians in vain. Now he 
asked to join the Mountain Men. When he arrived at Dargo, he had left 
thirteen hundred of his men, together with two captured Russian generals 
behind in the woods. 
 
Three hundred mules with packs and wagons overflowing with grain 
stood next to cannons. And the mules and wagons fell into the hands of the 
Russians as all of us watched still hidden deep in the woods. 
 
Soldiers were put on half rations as they called their nomadic meals, 
and the horses at the grass. Through the valley of the Aksai, a battle left  
scars on the earth. Murat's mountain men fought the battalions step by step s 
they retreated. Wherever the mountain of pain stood forth to the banks of the 
Al<sai, only a narrow passage was left for their troops. Barricades blocked the 
way. 
 
The mountain men took aim from behind the rocks and the beech trees 
as they brought down so many that the Russians took to their tanks. Murat 
sent for reinforcements so his men wouldn't fall into enemy hands. 
Fortunately for the mountain men, a band of our friends, the Tatars carried 
messages to the fortress of Girsel. 
 
The Tatars got through the barricades and brought the news of what 
was happening to the Mountain Men. Then three thousand infantry and three 
hundred Cossacks under a German named Freitag ran to their relief. The joy 
of the famished battalions could be painted in a portrait. 
 
So nothing has ready changed except the shape of the metal and the 
reach of the weapons. We still didn't know who we were fighting and for 
what. All we knew is that there is a war against the Jews and the Nazis 
wouldn't want us to survive. And when the Russians found out we were 
Caucasus Mountaineers, they, too would be the enemy of the Mountain 
people. 
 
Everyone thought the impenetrable mountains would stop the columns 
of soldiers. If it didn't stop the mountaineers with arrows, why would it stop 
anyone else with elephant tanks? 
 
What were we doing here, trying to liberate Kabarda? The fall of Dargo 
was a gray tedium that went through everyone, regardless of his tribe. These 
are the mountains. The Kabardas, great and small, lie on the northern side of 
the Kafkas range halfway between the two seas, northwest of the Lesghi and 
Chechen highlands. 
 
If only there wasn't war. The green valleys, the broken, dappled 
mountains would undulate in the center like Khadife velvet on a Altai horse. 
Army after army crawled out of the north, fresh from the tomb of men, and 
inexhaustible. Bulwarks circled the free homes of the highlanders. The Pagan 
days seemed to live on, even though the mountaineers are Moslem now. 
 
Yet these mountains are as tree-spirit worshiping as the ghosts that live 
in the rocks and the witches who live in the trees. So we were in the 
Mountaineer Militia now. A bunch of Mizrahi Mountain Jews speaking Tat and 
Judeo-Persian, Azeri and the languages of the North Caucasus. We were 
now imbedded with friends in the middle of a Moslem militia. 
 
We were drafted to be among the warriors, the hot young bloods who 
simply liked to fight. Every man wanted to through off his yoke. 
Independence was the word now as in our homeland and time. Finally, Murat  
had sent his zealous partisan, Ibrahim to lead an armed force that hoped to 
compel the Kabardians to take sides with him. Was there no other choice 
than war or to be a zealot? 
 
Fearing the Russian tanks and the German tanks, the Kabardians 
preferred to stay neutral. No matter how much Murat asked them to riot 
against the Russians, they preferred to perfume their beards. Then the 
deportations started. Many of the mountain men were marched village by 
village to the deserts of Kazakhstan. Murat made a speech, "The enemy has 
conquered Cherkei and taken Akhulgo, and murdered the women of Avaria. 
 
When lightning strikes one tree, does every other tree in the forest bow 
down to the storm and cast itself down should the lightning also strike them?" 
My brother watched M urat closely. The speech went on in front of the 
Kabardins. 
 
"You think for a moment they think of you as Russians? Is not your 
passports stamped Tatar' or stamped with your religion?" 
 
"Words won't work any longer. Now deeds will." 
 
Everybody likes the idea of fighting for your faith, but there are so many 
types of faith, and just who is the enemy? No, this war thing won't due at all. I 
watched Murat walk away to his quarters. 
 
On a pole a breeze trembled through a proclamation sign put up by the 
Russians. My Mountaineer friend translated and told me it read, "The 
commotions and bloodshed that have taken place among the Caucasian 
Mountaineers have attracted the most serious attention of Stalin." 
 
Now who in the world is Stalin? Sounds like the name of a type of 
horse. Stalin the stallion, i had to find out. Troops already had arrived. I 
sensed a lot of people in this insane war had lost hope. We say when you 
lose hope you lose all fear. 
 
What's good about that? I met a young lady my age that was from one 
of the Mountaineer tribes, the Adyge. She began to teach me her language 
and I followed her through these neutral fields of Kabardia. Her name is 
Raziet. We had run out of time in this place. 
 
"Let's ride in the apple truck," Raziet motioned to me with hand signs 
and her words that I quickly learned. "In this year your destiny will be 
decided," she told me. 
 
I decided everyone around me was no match for a war of this size. "My 
father has a plan for raising a troop for the crossing of the Kuban," Raziet 
explained. 
 
"Sheik Mansourfrom the Eastern Kafkas will give my father three 
thousand men."  
 
"I still don't know who you are fighting. Is it the whole world against the 
Kafkas? I thought this was the war against the Jews." 
 
"And everyone else," she told me. I began to understand her language. 
 
"Raziet, my friend. Are you talking three thousand men against the 
whole Russia? Or is it Germany you're fighting now?" 
 
Nothing was clear to me anymore. Not only had I to deal with a time 
leap, but now sizing up who was fighting who and for what kind of freedom 
and independence. All I saw were messengers riding from one end of the 
mountains to the other. 
 
And they were using the same horses we used, and it seemed 
everyone else was riding in those big tanks. I looked around. Peaceful 
highlands to my right and (eft. All I saw were the blossoms. 
 
A steed cropped the first tender blades in the vale. A Lesghi sat listless 
at the door of his sakli basking without a thought of war. He watched the 
wooden beams of his home. The birds chirped, and I saw a turtle moving 
slowly In peace, ha!f-asleep. 
 
Then came the shouting. "Drag him down. He is the alien. He will kill us 
all by pulling us into a useless fight against an unseen enemy. Pull him down 
with ropes." 
 
All of the men of Himri, Akhulgo, and Dargo, the riders of Arrakan and 
Gumbet, Avaria and Koissubui, Itchkeria, and Salatan, the people of the four 
branches of the Koissu, the bloodstained banks of the Aksai — all of them 
gathered here. 
 
Lesghi, Chechens, warriors of Dagestan. Tribes of mixed Khazar and 
mountain origin, freemen all, speaking a basket of dialects sat in stirrups 
when they couldn't find jeeps. Guns and rifles rode at their side where 
medieval arrows had gone before them. 
 
Their leather bags were filled with cracked wheat. Few could afford 
what they showed me were called "cars." "Pull him down," the men shouted 
at Murat. No one had to pull him. He stepped down to meet the crowd who 
cheered. 
 
Raziet and I, like stick figures, were pushed into the crowd. I found out 
the men here were Sufis. Murat explained to father and me when I brought 
Raziet home to take a meal with us. She explained with translators through 
two different dialects so we could barely understand the words sent from 
Turkic to Adyge, a language of the North Kafkas. I also spoke the Kievan 
dialect and some of the languages of the mountain people we lived with in 
the summer from my own time. 
 
"Our enemy is common," Raziet told us.  
 
"Don't tell me you still have the same enemy over all these years? Why 
do people have to have enemies?" I asked her. I'm not sure she understood 
Vi^here v^'e belonged and when. 
 
You'd be surprised at how many different faiths have leaders v^'ho say 
they hold direct communication with heaven, seeing their prophet, leader, or 
savior in the form of a dove who gives divine commands. Of all the places I 
traveled to and in all the times, almost everyone from everywhere sees a 
dove and gets divine commands from that dove. I wonder why and what that 
means... and why a dove? Does it mean freedom to everyone all over the 
world? Or does it mean peace? 
 
Freedom and peace should be the same, but you rarely see one 
without the other. Some force crammed the mountaineers. The state was 
spreading like plague. "We go home and wait to die because your leader 
thinks the Mountaineer mode of warfare is not good enough for him now," 
said one man at our table. 
 
"Fighting is useless without tanks," said one warrior. 
 
I stared out of the window watching horses clopping down the stone 
streets of the aoul. The streets were almost empty. Rain washed bits of 
colored paper from an empty market place. Flies buzzed in the sun, and 
doors remained bolted waiting for some word. 
 
They showed me what a radio was, but all I heard was a blank noise. In 
the distance, the boom echoed across the hills. Fire and smoke and the 
sound of war closed in. 
 
Therefore, the more things change, the more they change back to what 
they were in the first place. "What will happen to us?" I asked my new friend, 
the lady, Raziet. 
 
Outside a dear friend, a Sufi Imam preached from a goat stand. "My 
words came to pass." Inside this cabin, small tablets were placed around the 
room inscribed with verses. 
 
Raziet explained it wouldn't be proper for a man to question his wife. 
Great wooden pegs and tables filled the women's rooms where they knitted 
their silver lace in an obscurity illumined by scanty rays of sunlight from an 
opening in the roof. 
 
Raziet and her mother showed me where they live, in their own set of 
rooms. The walls of the women's quarters were hung with dresses and fabric, 
not with weapons. Yet perhaps clothes also are passive weapons. 
 
In the corners were large boxes filled with the bedding for her house. 
Strung on lines across the room were embroidered napkins, scarves, silk 
bodices glittering with gold threads and silver flowers. The shelves were filled  
with copper and crass, china and glass ware, pottery, and the wooden bowls 
and spoons used for eating. Raziet showed me her loom. 
 
I was offered a pottage of millet. Raziet drank from leather bottles filled 
with sour milk and honey and some barley. I ate the wheat loaf with honey 
and wild thyme. Outside was a shaggy steed. In walked the Kalmyk 
Mongolian women that tinted their hair red with henna. We went with these 
women to their hut half buried in the sand on the shore. 
 
A boy ran to meet us with a falcon on his wrist. Then we saw him — the 
Bavarian, General Neid. The women told us through a translator, but we 
understood the Tatar women that lived near the Cherkessk peoples. 
 
I learned new words — that the Nazis were all over the mountains. Who 
are the Nazis? Oh, yes. M urat told me what had happened. Then he told me 
about the soldiers who deserted their Nazi ranks and were hiding and 
creeping in the mountains. All over the mountains the men searched for 
deserters from the Nazi ranks. 
 
"He was sent into the Kafkas to carry out a system of defense and 
conquest," they warned me. Raziet pointed to the older Tatar woman. "Murat 
uses German and Polish deserters to make Dargo their headquarters. 
 
He collects stores of ammunition and provisions." 
 
"What side is that man on?" I asked. 
 
"We can't be too sure." The Tatar woman grinned. "He uses the zeal of 
the tribes all over this part of the Kafkas. He's defensive. Watch out, but he 
isn't making any progress in stepping on us highlanders. He's been here two 
years, and is losing ground." 
 
"How do you know all this?" 
 
The Tatar woman laughed. "I listen to the men talk. I sleep with one eye 
open. The men around here say he has the power of life and death over the 
mountain people. He'll put anyone he wants on trial for offences, and he 
appoints the civil workers. Someone hired him to put down us few rude tribes 
in the mountains. We women of the mountains marry young." 
 
"Who hired him?" I looked at the women. "Don't tell me you mountain 
men are still battling the Russians for independence after more than a 
thousand years. What did you expect — the Nazis to set you free? What about 
us steppe and mountain Jews? Whose side are you on anyway, my friends?" 
 
"Nothing short of the capture of Dargo would kick the Germans out and 
restore Russian rule of the twelve tribes of the Caucasus Mountains." The 
Tatar whispered to me. 
 
"Is that what you want, more Russian rule over your people?" 
 
"We want independence," the Tatar shouted.  
 
"Here, have a bite of this cake." She shoved her honey cal
mouth to shut me up. Itv^'as toasty and sv^^eet. 
 
I studied Neid's face from a few paces away later that day. The 
blackness beneath his eyes told me he wasn't eating well. What I didn't l
wouldn't harm me, yet. 
 
Murat left his meal with the mountaineer men and my father and went 
to see the Tatar woman's men folk. 
 
"I have a plan," he told his followers at the Tatar's place. "With a force 
often thousand infantry and a few hundred Cossacks, I'll set out for Dargo, 
taking the northern track, the route by the river Koissu and through the district 
of Andi." 
 
The Tatar males agreed. "The mountaineers will watch all the 
enemies." 
 
"Only small parties are to show themselves. The villages will be left 
without police indefinitely." 
 
Women were afraid they'd be molded by grief, but suddenly the latest 
infantry rifles came into the hands of the mountaineers. Their world was 
smelted together into a unity for an undetermined goal. If one mountaineer 
fed the enemy a spoon of yogurt, the Russians would take their revenge on 
the Sufi Mountain Men. Nazis had just exterminated thousands of Russians 
on the front, and they were ready for revenge on any mountaineer who 
thought for one instant that the Nazis would promise the mountaineers a 
homeland free from the Russians. 
 
Enemies boxed in the hills from all sides. Neid, the German general 
who had run away from his Nazi army walked into the house of the Tatars. 
"You work in a factory?" He asked the woman's old husband. 
 
"I'm a machinist," said the Tatar. 
 
"That's the myth of the happy worker," the deserter grinned. 
 
"And what about you?" He looked right through me. 
 
"I'm getting married." I didn't know what else to say. 
 
"So? If you're not in school, then you belong in the factory." 
 
What could I say, that I'm Jewish living among the friendly Sufi? 
Luckily, the Tatar man spoke up. "From whom do you get your soldier's pay?" 
 
"What?" Neid said sharply. 
 
"We don't depend on the fifth of the booty taken from the enemy or the 
fines imposed for violations of the shariat." 
 
The Tatar moved closer to Neid. "We have a system of taxation. A poll 
tax to the amount of the ruble is levied on every family. One tenth of the 
produce of the land goes into the public treasury. If you die without heirs,  
your money goes to the government. And wealth is accumulated in the 
mosques. 
 
"The Sufi dervishes living on voluntary contributions have been 
absorbed into our army or driven out of the land. Our general lives as simply 
as we do. The Imam is rich and deposits money in secret places in the 
Vi'oods of Ani and Itchkeria — great treasures of gold, diamonds, and other 
valuables." 
 
As Neid scrambled to his feet the Tatar man laughed. He looked at me 
or through me as if I v^'ere invisible, assuming from my gaudy Khazar 
clothing, straight brown hair, and high cheekbones that I was a Tatar. 
 
"Riches are a strong ally," Neid grumbled. 
 
"But simple living makes us outlast you." The Tatar walked around him. 
"We number only a million and a half, maybe less now. The Russians are 
returning to the front by way of Transcaucasia and Cis. Better watch out. 
General Neid." 
 
"Large expenditure for such a small result," the General said. 
 
"Where do you stand? I know you're a deserter, but what side are you 
really on, or did they plant you here?" 
 
"They?" 
 
"Someone set you up in the mountains. I don't believe you're hiding out 
here." 
 
"This damned Kismet of yours," Neid scowled. 
 
"You see us through foreign eyes," the Tatar man added. "I heard 
there's a wedding." 
 
"No wedding in wartime," Raziet said. 
 
"Then what?" Neid paced the floor. "I know the trap will close on 
Berlin." 
 
"Whom can we trust?" Raziet whispered to me. 
 
"Only yourselves." I told her. "Always be prepared." 
 
A whistle made us jump from the smoking breach in the front line. Not 
hands, but two would do just fine. Ahead lay a long journey, and we had no 
chance to return to that cave and trace our footsteps and markers placed to 
get back to our own homeland and time. We weren't in a hurry. 
 
"Foreign workers!" The cry went up from the Nazis we saw. "Workers 
from the Caucasus." Only now we were in the West Kafkas and we had come 
from the East Kafkas. 
 
Mountain men were being brought into Germany to work in large 
numbers as the people were shouting why are their own commanders doing 
that when the war was in part about expelling large amounts of people 
considered foreign.  
 
The Nazi's war was about excluding, segregating, and expelling people 
they didn't like, and made up labels and names that these people were not as 
good as themselves. That was an excuse to get them out so boundaries 
could be established, racial, land, and political. Once boundaries were in 
place like neat little lists, more living space would be provided for their own 
people, so the line went. 
 
Tribesmen told me that a quarter of their labor force was made up of 
foreign workers and those who worked by force with no pay. The farms were 
"manned" by foreign workers supervised by farm women, old men, and boys. 
As more foreign workers, usually unpaid, were dragged into their country, the 
Nazi fears gave way to terror. And all along they started the whole thing by 
wanting to cleanse their country of foreign workers. 
 
There's always a type of man — or woman, who had a need to wage 
war. It was as if his or her visual space or pattern of brain electricity radiated 
as so under stimulated to begin with — in mind and pulse, that only to bring up 
the person to the level of well-being or normal, that individual had to wage 
combat. 
 
The whole lot of us except my father, mother, and brother, stayed 
behind. Everyone else finally landed in one of the 22,000 camps in Germany. 
All the tribesmen we had camped with landed in Ohrdruf, a concentration 
camp for Russian and Mountain men and other minority groups. 
 
Word got back to us that several days before the arrival of the troops of 
liberation. The Nazis brought out all their inmates of the camp to the square 
in the center of the camp and had killed them. 
 
You can look this up for yourself, whatever time zone you're in now. It 
was reported by Vernon Kennedy, UNRRA Liaison Officer to the 12th Army 
Group in a memorandum detailing an inspection trip made from April 15 to 
21 , 1 945. There were about 4,000 killed and 1 ,000 who survived this 
massacre, mostly people from the Kafkas or Rus. 
 
So war is not what anyone would want to return to in any time zone. 
Well what happened was eerie. When it came to the Mountain men, some 
people had the idea that if they didn't want to return to Russia, then they 
must have collaborated with the Nazis. 
 
Actually, they were afraid of being under the thumb of the Communists 
where they were treated badly. So one group of Mountain men refused to 
return to Russia and began to fight the liberating troops who only wanted to 
pick them up and free them so they could return to Russia. They wanted their 
own familiar mountains as a homeland. 
 
Then word got around that a few distinguished Mountaineer generals 
who had fought on the side of the White Russians in the old Russian Civil  
 
War had emigrated and held Austrian or German citizenslnip from the years 
before this war. These generals tried to intervene with the authorities. 
 
They failed, and voluntarily returned with the others. As leading White 
"Russian" officers, automatic execution awaited these generals in Russia, but 
they voluntarily returned anyway. Then I heard what happened, all about the 
Mountaineer suicide rite, the 'adaf or unwritten law of the mountains that 
took hold. Their honor would not be defaced. 
 
Well, we don't have any suicide rite of the mountains or the steppes. 
We have the Torah. The Sufis have their Zikr dance and writings. And they 
are our friends. That's what we answer to. So just after breakfast, Atokay 
raised a nervous fist and began to hammer on the door of the International 
Refugee Organization. 
 
"Let me in, I tell you." He growled at the clerks. 
 
"Stop that banging." The door opened a bit and Atokay put his foot in it. 
We stood behind him. 
 
"War criminals, quislings, traitors!" We heard the shout go up around 
us. 
 
The voices began, "Any other persons who assisted the enemy in 
persecuting civil populations or voluntarily assisted the enemy forces, 
ordinary criminals, and persons of German ethnic origins, whether German 
minorities in other countries, who have been transferred, evacuated, or have 
fled into Germany...." 
 
"We are Jews with forged Tatar passports because the Germans aren't 
interested in Tatars." Nobody believed us in this time zone or in this 
longitude. We spoke too many languages and dialects. 
 
"When they have acquired a new nationality, they become otherwise 
firmly established. When they have unreasonably refused to accept the 
proposals of the Organization for their resettlement or repatriation, or..." 
 
The one in authority kept on reading, "When they are making no 
substantial effort toward earning their living when it is possible for them to do 
so, or when they are exploiting the assistance of the Organization." 
 
Atokay sat next to his wife. The clerk warned him, "The main object of 
the Organization is to bring about a rapid and positive solution of the problem 
which will be just and equitable to all concerned. 
 
The main task is t encourage and assist in every way possible early 
return to their countries of origin. No international assistance should be given 
to traitors, quislings, and war criminals, and nothing should be done to 
prevent in any way their surrender and punishment." 
 
Atokay confronted the International Refugee Organization officer 
reading his constitution and explaining it to the others. "Stalin is exterminating 
the Mountain Men in Russia because someone told him that a few sided with 
the Germans to get out from communism. Do you believe that story?" 
 
The clerl< cleared his throat. "The constitution provides for individual 
freedom of choice. We handle valid objections to repatriation." 
 
A shuddering silence filled the room. Atokay v^^atched the blue veins in 
his bare feet grow fat. "Persecution or fear based on grounds of persecution 
because of nationality provided these are not in conflict with the principles of 
the United Nations as laid down," the clerk continued to speak in a flat tone. 
 
"Objections of a political nature judged by the Organization to be valid." 
 
"What do you mean — valid?" Atokay questioned him. 
 
"Do you believe the entire peoples of the North Kafkas or the emigres 
who fled to Austria and Germany sided with the Germans to escape Russia's 
treatment of mountain people and Communism?" 
 
"What should I believe when a see a few Mountaineer generals trying 
to help your people, Generals who had fled to Austria and Germany who 
were not judged to be of such an inferior "race" as the Nazis put it, that they 
were promoted to generals? What should I think?" The clerk's faced blushed 
as he spoke to Atokay. 
 
"We want the Kafkas to be free, that's all. We are not traitors, and we 
didn't fight for the Germans." 
 
"Well, Turkey didn't exactly go with the allies either at the start of the 
war," the clerk answered. 
 
"We're not Turks. We are Mountain Jews speaking Tat. And we came 
from Persia to the Mountains twenty-seven hundred years ago, through 
Azerbaijan." 
 
"Some of the tribes of the North Caucasus do speak a Turkic 
language, but most speak one of the North Caucasus Mountains dialects." 
 
"I know," the clerk said. "I also know you people sought independence 
under the protection of England and Turkey. That's the real reason Stalin 
killed 800,000 North Caucasus Mountains people and sent the remainder to 
prisons in Kazakhstan." 
 
"There can be no religion under Stalin." Atokay bowed his head and 
pounded on the clerk's desk. 
 
"Stalin is our ally," the clerk answered defiantly. 
 
"Are you doing this to me to save your own face for the Soviet bloc?" 
Atokay turned and left. 
 
"Wait," the clerk shouted. "We have responsibility for the care of more 
than seven hundred thousand refugees and displaced persons. We have a 
problem in France to take care of."  
 
The clerk sat back uneasily. "Do you need medical services?" His blue 
eyes stared at Atokay and the rest of us standing behind him. What do you 
need? Blankets? A place to sleep? Name it." 
 
"I'll name it," Atokay said in a shaky voice. 
 
"You gave people like us to the highest bidder. Why are you treating us 
like next-to-nothings?" 
 
"Don't tell me you have a sense of entitlement. You're like anyone else 
here. We're all equal." The clerk rubbed a spot in his shirt. 
 
"Why are you blaming me?" Atokay paced restlessly as he spoke. "Why 
don't you blame it on the Cossacks?" 
 
"Blame what?" 
 
"Being traitors." 
 
"The Cossacks aren't traitors." 
 
"You know v^'hat I mean," Atokay said to him. 
 
"How come you distribute cash grants and furnish legal assistance to 
the White Russians and others with Nansen passports and to the Spanish 
Republicans, but Mountain Men you treat like dirt?" 
 
"Where did you learn that?" The clerk squinted at Atokay. 
 
"From books and travels. You're not educated unless you have traveled 
like I have — everywhere." 
 
Well, he hadn't traveled in time — the ultimate education. And I have. 
Atokay stared at the fluttering eyelids of the IRO officer. The officer poured 
eye drops into his eyes while the clerk shuffled papers in a file cabinet. 
"We're cutting costs to the bone," the IRO officer said, looking at the clerk 
instead of Atokay who was talking to him. 
 
"What does that mean for me? I'm interested in being resettled. I don't 
want to be repatriated. Little necessities like dental treatment and washrooms 
are for those not facing death as a traitor in Moscow. Where shall I go? What 
shall I do?" 
 
The IRO officer yawned. "Maybe you should keep trying to settle in 
New York. My sister's American husband lives near Atlantic Avenue in 
Brooklyn, with all those M iddle Eastern spice stores nearby." 
 
"Mumtaz Allahr Atokay raised his voice an octave. "I want my people's 
old flag back. It was the flag of a free Kafkas, symbol of unity. Our flag of 
1830 was green with three crossed arrows and twelve stars, representing the 
twelve tribes and districts of the Northern Caucasus. Long live the valley of 
the apple trees, our capitol." 
 
"Is that the city of Maikop?" The officer surmised. 
 
The clerk intervened. "You should have thought of your beautiful valley 
of the apple trees that before you ran over to the Germans to be liberated  
from them from Russia, our ally. You're always talking about the mountains, 
but now you want the valley of the apple trees as well? What's wrong with 
going back to Russia? You'll be repatriated to where you came from." 
 
"I'm not Russian," Atokay shouted. "I'm a Mountaineer, a Moslem. 
Stalin wants to kill my people. Mikoyan and Molotov signed the secret orders 
to kill all of my people." 
 
And what about my family I thought. There was a pause and then a 
bell. 
 
"Calm down," the clerk sighed. "Don't act like you are going to kill 
yourself in front of our building. No employment is available, except with the 
Germans, and refugees are not required to accept such work." 
 
"We are good men doing good deeds." Atokay begged and pleaded. 
"There's no sense in bad men doing evil. The charges are false that we sided 
with the Germans. We just came from fighting them in the mountains. 
Besides, there's a deserter from the German army hiding with us and helping 
us. We are not helping the men he deserted." 
 
"You ran from communism to the first road to what you thought was 
freedom," the IRO officer added. "I understand. When the Nazis found you, 
they put you in work camps as their slaves. That's how they freed you from 
the Russians. " 
 
Atokay looked at his people and took a vote. They sure didn't want to 
be repatriated back to Russia, and they didn't want the Nazis in their 
homeland, not with all the slave labor and the camps for their war machine. 
That was not their idea of a free Kafkas and free mountain nations — free from 
the communists. Not their idea of freedom at all. ...Darkness began to creep 
along the valley. You call this peace? With a country this peaceful, who 
needs war? 
 
Deportees marched into empty cattle cars filled to overflowing, locked, 
and sealed. Most of the Crimean Turks we followed went to concentration 
camps in Sverdlosk Raion in the Urals. Most died of the hunger and disease 
brought on by slave labor. A small minority fled to Turkestan. 
 
So many tribes were loaded up and deported. They were the Chechen, 
Ingush, Karachay, Balkars, Tatars, and Mountain men. Then of course, there 
were millions of Jewish people from al! over Eastern Europe that 
outnumbered all the tribes of the Caucasus, but the Russians did not deport 
Jews in huge numbers at that moment. 
 
The Nazis did. Russians deported peoples of the Caucasus, and they 
used the excuse to deport them that a few had been traitors, looking up to 
the Nazis to rescue them from the Russians' Communist rules. 
 
Life cannot be contained in a small space. It's the old nomadic reach 
fighting against the need of the settled farmer to grow orchards and put down 
deep roots instead of far-reaching branches. You become the horizontal 
expression of your vertical wish to move up the ladder. 
 
The earth has become too small to reach sideways. One stretch and 
you've squashed your palm into the face of the person next to you. Life on 
the Silk Road as a nomad has become too complex. 
 
Dear Diary, even now, I feel the closing in of compartments, the 
containment of life in small spaces. I have only the personal space of my own 
limited to what I can carry in my pockets. We formed a human chain, hand in 
hand and tied a rope around each of our waists to keep together in a line. As 
darkness fell, we were back in the cave where I had tied my silver lace in little 
pieces of fabric all along the route. I knew where the road split in two and had 
tied a bouquet of flowers on a post to mark the route back home to my own 
time and place. 
 
We trekked through the winding paths, beyond the stalagmites and 
stalactites. I checked each tiny piece of silver lace to keep on the trail. 
Finally, we came to the dark opening in the cave. There were old paintings 
there as we lighted a torch of twisted reeds to see our way and feel for the 
sharp wind and the pulse in the fabric of time at the opening of the time travel 
entrance. We and they are steppe sisters. 
 
The torchlight threw eerie shadows on the walls. Someone had painted 
horses and bison on those caves, and part of the cave was under water. We 
walked for hours until the waterline and the rock that I marked to show the 
opening into time began to pulse in the opposite direction from the edges 
where it closed when we whirled out. I took a leap of faith, and I was in first, 
and then my brother tied in back of me, and all the rest. 
 
So around we went, and through the maze of time. We floated and 
swam as if in a pond, a salty well of all beginnings. And we again where 
swirled through time. 
 
In an instant the pulsing light and the walls of the cave closed in and 
expelled us beyond all time and space through a whirlwind. And faster and 
faster we spun like dreidles (Festival of Lights tops) on Channukah. 
 
We were great spinning tops and floating kites of the children of the Silk 
road with our healing acupuncture needles with which we travel the world. 
We spun and spun until we were almost fabric woven into the cloth of time 
ourselves, this long chain of human longing. We wove ourselves through the 
fabric of time not like in the 1 940s, but more like futuristic nonstick frying-pan 
crystals retreating from a frying egg. Yes, as I look at this pan decades later, 
we also had to have a nonstick future in a flypaper universe. 
 
Out we leaped, rolling like boulders onto the soft summer petals. 
Daylight soothed us now, early morning with the rollaway sun's rays firing 
from our fingertips. And mist on the meadows showed us that we were 
reborn. 
 
                                    #                                                                             
 
 
Anne Hart