In response to Frizz’s Flickrcomments letter T challenge I sent in this short piece I wrote maybe fifteen years ago. I’m posting it here because I like it and also because I’m too lazy to write something new today.
It’s about Isaac Bashevis Singer, who is one of my favorite writers. I suppose I tried to approximate Singer’s style. Certainly if you haven’t read Singer, you should check him out. Confining himself to the world he knew Singer creates literature that is universal.
The Transmigrations of the Soul
If when we die we go somewhere
I’ll betcha a dollar he’s ramblin’ there
(from the folksing Ramblin’ Boy by Tom Paxton circa 1965)
Although I do not consider myself a believer, or a religious Jew, I nonetheless observe a number of Jewish customs. One of my favorites is the “aruchat shlishit” or third meal of the Shabbat. The house is growing dark, and sometimes we have a little meal of sandwiches or cookies with our tea. The atmosphere is always a bit special before Shabbat departs and the new week begins with the blessing of the Havdalah.
My wife had retired to the bedroom, and I was sitting alone in the dark shadows of our living room when I noticed that Isaac Bashevis Singer was sitting in the armchair across from me. He wore a plain, charcoal suit , as I had seen him wear when he was living. His legs were crossed casually and he smiled benificently. He spoke calmly and sweetly, “Gut Shabbis.”
“Gut Shabbis,” I answered.
“Stephen, or shall I call you Shlomo? You must forgive me if I intrude. And I hope that I have not shocked you by my sudden appearance. But you were sitting there so quietly and peacefully I couldn’t resist the urge to come and sit with you and enjoy the end of the Shabbat. I always liked the “aruchat shlishit” too. I hope you don’t mind.”
At this point I tried to speak, to voice my affection and respect to the author whom I had read with such pleasure so many times. But I found no words. My mouth opened and my lips moved, but no words came out.
“Ah, do not be distressed. Perhaps you have read my books and little stories. Or perhaps you might be just a little upset to have a ghost sitting across from you,” he said.
“Oh no, oh no,” I said quickly, suddenly regaining my voice. “It’s just that I wanted to express my thanks to you, Mr. Singer. My deepest affection for your work and my thanks to you personally for having given me such wonderful reading and….”
“Oh no. There’s no personal. And there’s no need to thank me. Thank you,” he said with a nod.
I closed my eyes for a long moment. And when I opened my eyes the chair opposite me was empty. I could still sense that Mr. Singer was there in the room with me. But he could no longer be seen. The Shabbat had ended and a new week had begun.