Moses paced, played with the edges of the fringed garment protruding from his white shirt, adjusted his yarmulke, and clenched his fists. He was a big man. Joe Fischer watched him from a sitting position, hands and feet bound, unable to wipe the sweat that dripped unabated like hot wax. On the wooden table in front of him, next to half-eaten pastrami and corned beef sandwiches were photos of Synagogue Sinai, its walls desecrated with spray painted swastikas.
“I swear to you, I didn’t do it. I was no where near the place,” spat Fischer.
Pincus stood behind Fischer and rapped him across the side of the head. “Shut up!”
“I swear it,” the prisoner pleaded. “I can prove it. Shit. I was working. I was driving a truck for the Temple Cartage Company when you say this was done. My boss was with me! You’ve got the wrong guy. “I’ve got an alibi. Air fucking tight.”
“Watch your language. Who do you think you are talking to here? We have witnesses. And, we’ve got you on surveillance video,” chimed Moses. His cheeks twitched.
Shmuel, elderly and with slow movements, appeared from behind a closed door. He nodded.
Fischer futilely struggled to free his wrists. He breathed hard, as if having just run wind sprints. Moses stood in front of Fischer. “Stick your tongue out!”
“If I don’t?”
Pincus pulled a pair of pliers from his back pocket and grabbed a handful of Fischer’s hair. He yanked the truck driver’s head back as if he was some sort of demon dentist readying a patient for an extraction.
“I highly recommend you stick your tongue out, Mr. Fischer. My kid brother is very handy with pliers,” said Moses. “It’ll save everyone a lot of trouble.”
Fischer never took his eyes off Moses. His tongue was barely out of his mouth when Moses, with an alacrity that belied his size, extracted a box cutter from an ankle holster and with one fierce downward stroke into pinkish flesh, sliced the prisoner’s tongue into a lizard-like bloody mess. Fischer’s non-human guttural screech sounded hollow. The room filled with an ethereal cry, long-tentacle vibrations of millions in gas chambers from pulp times. He tried to say something, but the tips of his tongue flapped uncontrollably.
Shmuel, the boys’ father, stroked his long gray beard and moved with baby steps toward Fischer. He picked up the remains of the now blood stained pastrami and corned beef sandwiches, brought them close to his nose and inhaled. “So nice, so very nice. Smell these.” He placed the deli meats near Fischer. His voice barely a whisper, “When I was your age, I could eat three sandwiches like these. Now? Oy vey, my doctor says I should stay away from sodium, so I stay away. My Bessie, she says you shouldn’t always listen to a doctor. Smart woman, my Bessie.” Shmuel rolled up his sleeve, revealing a faded tattoo on his forearm. “Number 046578. That was me,” he said. His eyes moved back and forth over each of the synagogue photos. Still in disbelief, he looked Fischer in the eye. “That synagogue was built by my grandfather. Our family has been a part of it for many decades. It belongs to our city, our community. Who would do such a thing?”
Fischer shook his shoulders and his head as if to say he didn’t know and that it wasn’t him. Fresh blood stained his cheeks.
“We know it wasn’t you, Joe. Relax. You didn’t do that awful thing to those walls. You didn’t paint those disgusting symbols of hatred. You‘re a hard working stiff just like the rest of us. You didn’t deserve this. But, you know what? My twin brother didn’t deserve the treatment Dr. Mengele doled out at Auschwitz. Do you know what the good doctor did to poor Aaron’s eyes? Never mind. Really. It hurts too much to remember. Wait until your tongue heals. Then, do something I haven’t been able to do in over 60 years. Have a man-to-man with your twin brother. You know, Pincus and Moses here are just itching to pay your brother a visit. If they do, well, let’s just say won’t be a festive Chanukah party. Please, save them, and especially your brother the trouble. Never again, tell him. Okay, Bubbe?”