A Carnival World

The kitten is so small, you can hold him in one hand. The collar which had been cutting into its neck to the point of drawing blood. It had been made from cheap twine. You had carefully untied the knot and thrown it away. A ratty yellowed slip of paper attached to the twine had said, Horatio.

The color of the shower water turns red as it streams down past your fingers. You don’t feel your hands. You feel the soft paws of the kitten as it stands on your palm, you can feel its now clean white fur beginning to rise with the air. The heat and the steaming air is bringing the animal back to life. You hold it up to eye level.

You look at him.

He looks at you.

Your father isn’t in the room anymore. You left him behind as you ran. It’s just you and the cat.

You don’t know what to do anymore.

His eyes are a light blue, the pupils have shrunk down to pinpricks in the yellow hotel light. Behind one of those black dots at the center of the sky-blue eyes, you can see the store manager beginning to shout as you come in wearing the mask. You can see him underneath you. You can feel the gun in your hand where the kitten is now.

You don’t know what to be.

Behind the other eye, you can see your uncle. The ghost of your father settles on his identical face, the laugh lines that were never there. You can feel the gun in his hand like it was in your hand. You can feel your father’s ring on his finger. What do you think he said as he pointed the black piece at his brother’s face?

“Shalom,” he says to you in the hospital, his lip turning in the half smile with all the awkwardness of your own and none of your father’s.

Shalom, he says in the cat’s eye as the bullet destroys your father’s face.

You close your eyes. In your hand, the kitten’s tail hangs down through your open fingers. Your bloody knuckles ache where the bruises of violence have begun to form.

They ache and ache.

You are what I made you, your father says from the door. He is rotting away in the dark.

You are what you have to be.


The map tells you it is the oldest synagogue in the mountains. A historic site of your people. To you, it’s just walls. You can’t see the way the stained glass windows might shine in the grey light of the evening. You can’t read the Hebrew making a rainbow over the door.

You haven’t come to pray. You haven’t come to beg forgiveness.

You put one hand on the old wood of the door. Your father’s hand, massive and calloused and matching your own is against the chipped paint with you. You’re both holding the gun so tightly.

He is there, as you knew he would be, at the front of the room, his head bowed. You can see the ashes next to him. He is praying. You do not understand the words. It doesn’t matter to you at all.

A break in the clouds lets light creep in through the high windows. You can see yourself in the Star of David in his hands. You can see yourself in his mismatched eyes.

Your uncle turns to look at you. He doesn’t look surprised to see you. He is holding your father’s ashes in his hands.

“Are you here to bury your father?” he asks.

“I’m here to bury you,” you say.

You raise the gun you fought so hard for.


“Do you know what dying is, boy?”

Your Uncle is on his knees. His temple is pressed against the mouth of the gun, holding him up. He isn’t wearing his kippah anymore. You’d shattered the urn during the fight. You are both standing in the ashes that paint the ground around you, between the rows of seats and the scattered copies of Torah. There is blood in the ashes.

Your father is everywhere.

Your Uncle licks his lips. They are very red.

“Dying is the end of the world.”

You can feel yourself shaking, and you don’t want to. You want it to stop. You want all of this to stop. You want it to be over. Beside you, your father opens his mouth.

Your uncle cranes his neck, pressing himself into the butt of the gun.

“Do you think you can do that?”

Through a cracked mouth, your father has a shark’s teeth. He raises his huge, callused hands into the air and begins to sing. You sway along the Hebrew melody, your Uncle’s tone dripping from the skeleton of your father’s lips.

“Do you think you can destroy the world?”

Blood is running through the ashes. You can feel yourself shaking. You hold the gun tighter

“Think you can live with the end of the world?” your Uncle asks.