I haven’t written in a while, because I made a new friend, and we’ve been spending a lot of time together. She’s my first real girlfriend since Yolanda from Father Panik, who I haven’t seen since we left White Street.
A couple of weeks ago, a bunch of us kids were hanging out in the Success Park playground near Court B when we noticed a plain, black-haired girl watching us from a distance. My friends said it was Naomi, a Jew girl, and chased after her, calling out, “Beat it, dirty Jew, Jesus killer.” One of them threw a rock that just missed her head.
Their hatred reminded me of the cruelty against Rebecca, the Jewish girl, in Ivanhoe, one of the books I just finished in Adam’s classic collection.
Naomi tried to run away, but she was slow, and when my friends caught up to her, they formed a circle around her and screamed, “Go back to your Jew house and never show your ugly Jew face around here again.”
I got into the middle of the circle with Naomi and loudly shouted that they were acting like horrible monsters. That stopped them long enough for me to take this poor whimpering girl by the arm.
Then Chris jumped in and ordered them all to leave. Ever since I plunged out of his dad’s car, we’ve become close. But I refuse to kiss him again until he breaks up with Juliette because I listened loud and clear to Mem’s words about “the chase.”
And just so you know, I’m still limping around from that horrible nosedive. And I still haven’t told my family about what happened — and probably never will.
“I’ll take you home,” I told Naomi while yelling at all my friends except Chris to “Get lost.” Chris moved everyone out of our way like he was a cattleman straight out of Gunsmoke. I was impressed.
A woman was running in our direction, terrified. As soon as she reached us, she hugged and thanked me for “my courage.” She also said that I must have extraordinary parents.
Naomi asked if I wanted to come to their apartment for a snack. Her mom served up some delicious pastries called rugelach, which, by the way, is pronounced nothing like it’s spelled. I met her father and two brothers; they seemed kind and moral, just like the Jews in Ivanhoe.
I didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but I asked one of Naomi’s brothers if the Jews killed Jesus, as my friends said. He answered that Jesus was Jewish, which I didn’t know, and that Pontius Pilate ordered him crucified, which I did learn at St. Ambrose.
Naomi and I have become very close friends, and I have a ton of respect for her family, who are wonderful people. And since Jesus was Jewish, I’m sure God is okay that we’re friends, even though the rest of my gang refuses to speak to me when Naomi’s around. Well, everyone except Chris, who I’m still playing “chase” with.
One of the girls accused me of being a Jew lover, and I put my fists up and yelled for her to come closer to me and say it to my face, but she didn’t dare. They all know I might be skinny and scrawny, but I’m tough as nails.
One of the best stories I can tell you about being friends with Naomi is that her father, Mr. Grulnik, took us to a place called McDonald’s on Main Street in Bridgeport, not far from where Mem used to work at Woolworths.
And in case you’re wondering, I stayed in the middle of the back seat, nowhere near the car doors. And I planted both feet firmly against the front seats just in case Mr. Grulnik made a sharp turn.
Everyone was talking about this burger joint with towering golden arches and delicious hamburgers and fries for hardly any money and served up in under one minute.
You could get a delicious and affordable all-American meal in this McDonald’s place for just 45 cents.
When we pulled up, there was a line, but it went fast — and all the food was waiting for us under hot lights. I had a vanilla milkshake, cheeseburger, and fries. From the first bite, I told Mr. Grulnik that I had never eaten anything so delicious and that McDonald’s was my new favorite place. He laughed and said, “You and every other American.”
Mr. Grulnik also told us not to tell her mother where we had eaten because it wasn’t kosher.
On the way home, Naomi told me all about what keeping kosher meant, what foods she could and couldn’t eat, and explained that being Jewish meant having to follow a whole lot of rules.
I felt horribly sorry for Naomi, not because she was Jewish, but because I could never survive in life without bacon, and I told her so.
Stay tuned for Chapter 30: Mom’s Engagement