High Holy Days (Helvetica)

Font: Helvetica

Year created: 1957

Personal experience: Used from the time I began typing my stories on the old ’84 Mac, probably around 1987 or 1988, until September 1993. I never particularly liked it, but I was too young to realize that I wasn’t bound to the default font. That, and I heard that publishers preferred something that looked like it came from a typewriter. (Yeah, that book had some outdated advice!)

Chapter: “High Holy Days”

Book: Cinnimin

Written: 7 April-14 September 2010

Handwritten

I actually have two chapters with this title, one in The Very First and the other in my magnum opus. This post is about Part LV (55) of Cinnimin. It’s set from 20 September-18 October 1998, in Israel, Hawaii, New York City, and of course Atlantic City. It’s also one of the longer Parts, possibly able to stand alone.

So much happens here. Cinni’s daughter-in-law Ophelia finally snaps regarding her spoilt twins (her youngest children and only boys out of ten kids), a family vacation to Hawaii for a bar mitzvah turns into chaos, Ophelia’s marriage heads for the rocks, typical catfighting between longtime rivals Gavrilla (Sparky’s rabbi daughter) and her cousin by marriage Leah, and Cinni’s granddaughter Mancika starts her junior year of studying abroad in Israel with her beatnik best friend Ammiel.

Some of the many highlights:

Ammiel cringed at the applause. “Why do people always applaud when an El Al plane lands? It sounds so silly. People don’t clap when their boat docks.”

“I didn’t know your mom’s family spoke Polish,” Ammiel said. “I thought they used that hideous ghetto language Yiddish.”

[Ophelia’s Yom Kippur outfit; she’s almost a size 20 at this point, a sharp contrast to how slim and sexy she was in youth] Several buttons had popped on her blouse, so she’d wrapped a white silk shawl around her midsection. Her skirt was just several yards of fabric from the crafts store, a black background with ringed planets, sewn together into a semblance of a real skirt and held together with safety pins. For footwear she had frog slippers, not even having realized she’d left the house still wearing them.

Balázs let out a very loud scream and flung himself down on the asphalt before running back towards the building. “You suck, Mommy! You know I can do whatever I want because I have a penis!” [This earns him a public spanking in front of the synagogue.]

Serop gunned the car, desperate to get away from Zeevie, only to find the cop trailing after him again. He was furious when he was handed a second ticket and told he’d lose his license if he committed another traffic violation.

“What kind of a face is that on the eve of your only child’s special day?” Gavrilla asked, full well knowing Leah hadn’t been expecting her.

“Oh, Leah, are you so cynical you can’t grasp your own child’s father doing something nice for her and even putting in a personal appearance out of his own motivation?” Gavrilla asked. “Tisk, tisk, tisk.”

“We took the liberty of looking for disposables, and instead found some stuff you hadn’t even taken out of the box,” Gavrilla said. “Who buys nice tableware and then never uses it or even unpacks it? Maybe that’s why your pre-existing dishes look so worn-out, because you keep using them over and over again.”

Ammiel ambled down wearing black gaucho pants and a Roswell 50th anniversary T-shirt. Mancika was embarrassed by his casual wear but knew he wouldn’t change it.

Ammiel held up a few shirts. “Which one, Mants? The ‘Re-elect Clinton’ one, the ‘Legalize Cannabis’ one, or the ‘Celebrating 25 Years of Roe vs. Wade’ one?”

“I bet you have a stomach ache from eating too many of those candies you stash in your room,” Shafar said. “Your bat mitzvah project should be Weight Watchers.”

Alice stared. With every step Yasmin took, a drop of blood fell on the floor. Pointing, she loudly alerted everyone, “Look, Yasmin’s having her period!”

“Oh, look!” Skye laughed. “Yasmin stuck the tampon up her butt! No wonder you can’t find it!” [And she cut off the string!]

[Praying with Nashot HaKotel, the Women of the Wall] Mancika and Raina just rolled their eyes at the ultras who started yelling, unfazed. Raina had seen the Prime Minister assassinated; a few angry, self-righteous, self-proclaimed mullahs were nothing to her. Toni tried to concentrate on her prayers and block out the noise. These people’s opinions meant nothing to her; after all, they probably wouldn’t consider her de facto Orthodox conversion in Paris ten years ago to be valid anyway. They were with people peacefully praying for peace and unity, not divisive, hate-filled bigots who didn’t live in the real world.

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Yasmin

Name: Yasmin Laurel

Date of birth: 5 March 1987

Place of birth: Honolulu

Year I created her: 2002

Role: Secondary main character, quasi-antagonist

Just as with Portia being my P entry, I had no doubt Yasmin would be my Y entry. This girl is such a spoilt princess, the prototypical (excuse my language) JAP, even though her parents never intentionally set out to create such an entitled monster, focused on appearance and fads instead of more serious things, copping an attitude to people who don’t share her looks-focused, materialistic worldview. (Even after her dad Jason realizes what he’s done and stops spoiling her, the damage has already been done.) And that’s why I love writing her, because she’s such a bitch. Many times the less-than-nice characters are the ones who are more interesting and fun to write than the good ones, the same reason it can be more inspiring to read about the lives of saints who only came to righteous lives after many years of sinning. (Several years ago I read a book called Saints Behaving Badly, on this very subject, and I’d recommend it highly.)

Yasmin is the first blood child her parents have together. Her parents are Piri Andrea Lilli Laurel and Jason Hardy. (Yes, I matched those names together on purpose!) Yasmin is raised in Honolulu, in a house on the beach, right next door to her three aunts’ houses. Her mother and aunts design and sew clothes for Four Laurels, which specializes in bridalwear and later branches out into lingerie, maternity clothes, and other pretty things. While she’s nothing but hateful to her little sister Gizella (Gizi), she’s extremely loving and protective towards her baby brother Nándor. As of now, since the storyline is only up to the fall of 1998, Yasmin is currently only eleven and a half years old, but she’s already raised plenty of Hell.

Most recently, she was humiliated in front of her entire family and their friends when public attention was called to her first period, and it was later discovered that she cut off the tampon string and put it in the wrong orifice. She deserved all that humiliation after the attitude she’s copped to everyone for years. I think she’ll finally learn her lesson and start growing up and becoming more mature and self-aware when she’s a college student.

Just a sampling of typical/favorite Yasmin lines:

Yasmin refused to be taken from her father’s arms. “Daddy always gives me a bowl of chocolate frosting topped by candied flowers before I go to bed.”

Yasmin sat on Jason’s lap as she ate her pancakes with her hands. She wiped them on the good silk tablecloth.

“I want ten million dollars to spend on the toy store,” Yasmin announced. “I prefer Madisons, Mrs. Brewster.”

(When Jason has forbidden her to buy a Barbie because of the unhealthy self-image it promotes) “You never say no to me, Daddy,” Yasmin pleaded.

The pirate restaurant was even more fun. Yasmin made the cooks go across town to get kosher meat and soy ice-cream.

“I’m Daddy’s little princess,” Yasmin said smugly.

“I’m hungry!” Yasmin screamed. “I wanted to go to the kiddy service like I do in Hawaii!”

“And why is Daddy holding that baby? I’m his little princess and favorite child!”

Yasmin was throwing a fit because it was so hot and she had also been forbidden to pick any flowers.

(Upon hearing the Deaf Clarissa speaking) “She talks like a machine!” Yasmin shouted.

“For your information, I’m not going to have a mitzvah project. I’m keeping all my future money for myself. Billy is stupid for donating most of his to the March of freaking Dimes. I don’t care about sick babies!”

“I’d rather get a rep for having tons of boyfriends than for being eighteen and untouched. I don’t even care if I don’t like any of the boys there. Only losers have their first makeout with someone they really like. You do it to get it over with.”

“Only babies collect shells, and only freaks want crabs for pets,” Yasmin scoffed. “I want a cool pet like a jaguar or a rhino.”

“You’re dressed like a baby,” Yasmin said. “You might as well wear one of those silly bathing dresses from a hundred years ago if you don’t want boys looking at you. You’ve got to shake your money-maker at them and flaunt your girls!”

Balázs grabbed the cake from Nándor’s hand as he was eating. Yasmin leapt up and pounced on him, throwing him to the floor and stepping on his crotch.

“You don’t mess with my baby brother, do you hear? I’m crazy about that little dude, and I’d do anything for him, even kill you!”

Yasmin lay sprawled out on the front-row bench for the duration of services. She didn’t care that her own family members gave her dirty looks for not standing when everyone else was. All she thought about was going home so she could lay down in bed and eat bon-bons filled with double chocolate ice-cream.

(After her cousin Skye has noticed Yasmin stuck the tampon up the wrong orifice and brought everyone’s attention to it) “I wasn’t looking! Nice girls don’t look at or touch themselves there!”

“I’m going to boarding school in Maui,” Yasmin sulked as her mother went downstairs. “I’ll never look anyone in our family in the face again after today.”

Excerpt from Part LV

Part LV of Cinnimin, “High Holy Days,” set from 20 September to 20 October 1998, was written between 7 April and 14 September 2010. To date, it’s the last completed Part, as I started Adicia’s story during the writing of Part LVI, “Crossing the Point of No Return.” I was really on a roll writing the story of the late Nineties, and I’m looking forward to getting back to finishing Saga VI in a little while. It’s all committed to memory in my head anyway, but it’ll be nice to get it down on paper.

Near the end of Part LV, a number of the characters go to Honolulu for the bar mitzvah of Billy Laurel, one of the grandchildren of original generation character Julieanna Brewster (née Malspur). Billy’s mother Tikva is one of the many sisters of Cinnimin’s daughter-in-law Ophelia (Serop’s wife), and also sister to Cinnimin’s son-in-law Herbert (Olga’s husband). During the trip, Ophelia and Serop’s youngest children, twin boys Béla and Balázs, continue misbehaving, acting like holy terrors, and being spoilt brats trying to resist the discipline Ophelia is finally laying down, with the help of her retired lieutenant father and brother-in-law Jason. Julieanna’s current youngest grandchild Alice is continuing to alarm her parents with her savant-like behavior and comments at only four years old, while Julieanna thinks it just means Alice is a genius and not that she has something wrong with her. Ophelia and Serop’s marriage, which emotionally died a long time ago, publicly starts to unravel and Ophelia announces her intentions to stay in Hawaii a little longer while their oldest child left at home, Dora, will take care of her younger sisters. Serop announces his intentions to stay in Hawaii too, and keep the twins out of school for a month while he’s continuing to spoil them. (Part LV ends not in Hawaii but back in Israel, where it started, with a Rosh Chodesh celebration with the Women of the Wall.)

And in the middle of it, Billy’s cousin Yasmin, one of the Honolulu relatives and a major spoilt brat long after her parents stopped treating her like a little princess, has been complaining of stomach cramps the entire weekend and now has one of the worst first period stories ever.

***

“Behave yourself,” Piri warned. “And sit up.”

“I feel like my insides are being ripped apart with a knife. It feels better when I lie down.”

“Are you sure you’re not having period cramps?” Piri whispered. “Because if you think you’re starting your first period, you should tell me now so you can discreetly go to the bathroom. I won’t be the only one mad at you if you bleed all over the upholstery.”

“I’m having a bad stomach ache. I don’t want a period.”

Yasmin lay sprawled out on the front-row bench for the duration of services. She didn’t care her own family members gave her dirty looks for not standing when everyone else was. All she thought about was going home so she could lay down in bed and eat bon-bons filled with double chocolate ice-cream.

As Billy was starting to read from the Torah, from the very beginning of Genesis, she felt a strong stinging sensation. It suddenly dawned on her that maybe her mother and aunts were right about what might be going on, and she became filled with a not entirely paranoid terror that a huge stream of blood was about to come gushing out.

“Is Aunt Tikva the only religious married woman here?” Alice asked. ‘No one else covers her hair.”

“It’s extremely uncommon for non-Orthodox women to do that,” Julieanna explained in a whisper.

“And how come she’s crying when it’s a happy day?”

“Your cousin Billy came into the world very early, in the sixth month of pregnancy. He was very sick and tiny, and in the hospital for months. He had to have a home nurse, your aunt Leigh Anne, for some months too.”

“How early can a baby survive?”

“Your aunt Tikva and her friend Aghavni were born near the start of the sixth month, which was the earliest survival point in those days. Today a few babies born in the fifth month survive, usually with numerous defects.”

Yasmin was in too much pain to be bored as Billy gave his speech, in which he discussed his mitzvah project for the March of Dimes. The end of the service couldn’t come fast enough. While everyone crowded around her cousin and his parents to congratulate them, she rushed to the bathroom, pushing aside anyone in her way.

“Do you think Yasmin has the runs because she ate too much junk food?” Shayna asked.

“I think she’s jealous of Billy and is trying to get attention for herself,” Shalom scoffed.

Yasmin found no blood when she pulled down the pink thong she’d bought without her parents’ knowledge, and was temporarily relieved. However, the stomach pains continued as she walked back to her family, and she ate very little at the luncheon. She wasn’t even cognizant of missing the desserts, exotic fruits, fancy cheeses and crackers, honey-roasted nuts, stuffed mushrooms, poached salmon, yogurt parfaits, and hard boiled eggs she ordinarily couldn’t get enough of.

The end of lunch couldn’t come soon enough. Yasmin led the way on the twenty-minute walk back to her house and dashed inside as soon as Jason unlocked the door. While the guests and her local relatives settled down to chat and play board games in the large living room, she made herself a huge dish of double chocolate ice-cream with hot fudge, caramel, butterscotch, cherry sauce, Oreos, the bon-bons, strawberries, colored jimmies, and banana chips.

“Come take a seat,” Piri called to her. “Maybe you can share some of that monster sundae with your little sister.”

“That little twit Gizi can make her own. I need to lay down and pig out till I feel better.”

“If Yasmin eats as many sweets as you all say she does, aren’t you afraid she’ll get diabetes?” Alice asked.

“How do you know about diabetes?” Jason asked.

“I’m not dumb just because I’m only four.”

Up in her room, Yasmin demolished her sundae as she read a romance novel. She was thinking of ordering a take-out Vermonster with her father’s credit card when she suddenly realized she was sitting in a puddle of blood. Sick to her stomach, she grabbed her pink coverlet and ran to the nearest bathroom, hoping to rinse it off before it set. Luckily, neither of her parents called upstairs to ask why she was running the water so long. That order of business done, she rummaged through the closet and found her mother’s tampons. When it wouldn’t go in, she crept off to her parents’ bedroom to borrow a bottle of Astroglide in the sex chest she’d discovered a few months ago. Once she was back in the bathroom, she squirted lube all over it, pushed it into what she assumed was the correct orifice, and cut off the string, which she assumed was only there to pull the tampon out of the applicator. Believing her secret was safe, she went downstairs to join everyone.

Alice stared. With every step Yasmin took, a drop of blood fell on the floor. Pointing, she loudly alerted everyone, “Look, Yasmin’s having her period!”

Yasmin looked down at the trail of blood she was leaving, threw her hands over her face in mortification, and ran back upstairs, Piri trailing after her.

“What’s a period?” Nora asked.

“Why is Yasmin bleeding?” Shayna asked.

“Now explain that one to me!” Domi demanded. “How can a girl who’s not quite four and a half know what a period is when a seven- and three-and-a-half-year-old are clueless? I didn’t even know what they were till I was maybe nine or ten years old!”

“Most of my friends had theirs by age eleven. I knew by seven years old, since that’s when Gayle got hers,” Julieanna said.

“This is some kind of autistic savant behavior!” Doyle said. “Open your eyes!”

“You know, I’m tired of hearing your constant wild ideas about my perfectly normal granddaughter. ‘Oh, she’s already reading Dante and history books at four years old and doesn’t keep impolite thoughts to herself, she must be psychotic or autistic.’ Kit Green’s daughter Patsy has autism, and she wasn’t nearly as advanced as Alice before her husband fixed her. And even now that his new-fangled therapy got her to a higher-functioning level, she’s still not as smart or well-spoken as my genius granddaughter!”

“Think whatever you like, Mother, but Doyle and I have strong reasons to suspect there’s more than precociousness going on. You’re probably just refusing to consider it because she’s your grandkid.”

Piri found Yasmin lying in shame on the bathroom floor. The bloody thong was in the sink.

“What did I do wrong when I put the tampon in?”

“Are you sure it didn’t fall out?”

Yasmin glowered at Skye, Brenna, Eulalia, Judi Kate, Shayna, Octavia, and Tamar as they crowded into the room.

“If your flow is really heavy, maybe you need a super-absorbent tampon. I’m surprised you even managed to put one in. I couldn’t wear them till I was fourteen.”

“I couldn’t at first, so I went and borrowed some lube from your room.”

“You found lube in my room?”

“I was snooping in there recently and found a toy chest with sex toys. I know what lube is used for, and I thought it would make the tampon slide in easier. I thought I did everything right, even cutting off the string.”

“You cut off the string?” Judi Kate asked in horror. “How did you expect to get it out?”

“You mean you’re supposed to leave it hanging there?”

“Yes! Tampons don’t just come out by themselves!”

“It feels really uncomfortable. Can I just pull it out and try again with a pad?”

“We don’t have any in this house,” Piri said. “Our guests wouldn’t have them either. Your aunt Kathi is almost at menopause, and Tamar here is too young.”

“Ew, Yasmin’s bleeding on the floor!” Shayna shouted.

“This’ll be you in about four or five years.  Hopefully you won’t become a woman under such embarrassing circumstances, though.”

“I didn’t know tampons hurt so much. It feels like I have to go to the bathroom.” Yasmin tried to pull it out but couldn’t budge it.

“Not to be gross, but are you sure you’re aiming for the right opening?” Brenna asked.

“Can a tampon get lost inside you?”

Piri looked the other way as she tried herself, while Yasmin cried in humiliation. As she was lying on her stomach, her cousins came in for a closer view. Several of them began looking for bathroom instruments that might be of service.

“Oh, look!” Skye laughed. “Yasmin stuck the tampon up her butt! No wonder you can’t find it!”

Everyone began laughing.

How could you not feel the difference?” Brenna asked. “Don’t you know which is which when you go to the bathroom?”

“I wasn’t looking! Nice girls don’t look at or touch themselves there!”

“You mean you never masturbate?” Eulalia asked.

“That’s nasty! You’re an even bigger freak and loser than I already thought!”

“Aunt Piri, will Yasmin have to go to the ER?” Shayna asked. “And why is she bleeding from there?”

“When a girl starts becoming a young woman, she loses an egg every month. When she’s old enough to have a baby, the natural cycle stops. You’re a little on the young side to have to worry about it.”

Brenna’s eyes lit up. “I know! Uncle Giorgio can help, since he’s a pediatrician!”

“What a great idea!” Piri smiled. “Guess we can avoid the ER.”

“I’m going to boarding school in Maui,” Yasmin sulked as her mother went downstairs. “I’ll never look anyone in our family in the face again after today.”

A minute later, Piri reappeared with Leigh Anne. Giorgio had been too embarrassed to deal with his own niece in that personal matter, so they’d called over Hector’s nurse wife.

“You remember your aunt Leigh Anne Harrison, Hector Holiday’s wife. She was Billy’s home nurse when he first got out of the NICU.”

“She’s my half-aunt by marriage, not a real aunt!”

Leigh Anne ignored her and knelt down. Yasmin wished someone would knock her out so she’d have no memory of the day.