Papa Roach: the story behind Last Resort
A gecko was an idol, the kind pagans worshipped. God knew, at every second, what every Jew was doing for His name. With a jerk of its head, the gecko darted away. Esther stared at the paper, her hand in midair. She had never imagined a sin like this. Thibaux walked in from the kitchen nook, smiling. Her skin was smooth, luminous, and her brown hair uncovered, its coquettish ripples pinned by twin tortoiseshell combs.
The story behind Last Resort by Papa Roach | Louder
Quel talent! The praise reflected what Mlle. The teacher turned the page this way and that, and her eyes widened. The teacher was a shiksa, a gentile. Thibaux smiled. Esther chewed the end of her braid. In addition, the Torah pronounced that any urge must be suppressed, as it would surely lead to sinning.
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The quickening traveling through Esther again proved that what she was doing was forbidden. Yet, as Mlle.
To her astonishment, they blended as a translucent skin. A knock sent Mlle. Thibaux to the door, her back erect and proud as no woman Esther had ever known. The teacher accepted a pail from the water hauler and carried it to the kitchen while Esther collected the pencils into their tin box. Outside the window, slicing off the top of the Tower of David, a cobalt-blue sky hung low on the horizon like a wedding chupah with a ribbon of magenta underlining it.
A flock of sparrows jostled for footing in the date palm tree, then rose in a triangular lace shawl formation before settling again. In Jerusalem, only Arab men, dressed in their striped pajamas, idled on low stools in the souk and played backgammon from sunrise to sunset. Esther had never known a girl who traveled, but when she had been little, her father, her Aba, apprenticed at a bank in America. That was why Aba sent his daughters to a school so elegant that Yiddish was frowned upon. Most subjects were taught in English, and Esther mingled there with Sepharadi Jewish girls who spoke Ladino and Arabic as well as with secular girls—heretic Zionists all of them, Ima said—who spoke the sacred Hebrew.
Thibaux walked in from the kitchen nook and placed a silver tea set on a spindle table covered with a crocheted napkin. The high collar of her blouse was stiff over starched pleats running down the front to a cinched waist, but when she moved, her long skirt immodestly hinted at legs. Had she ever walked in Paris with a man, daring to loop her arm in his?
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Ima, who expected her to attend to her many chores right after classes, had been laboring alone while Esther was indolent. Ima would be furious. Thibaux pointed to a plate with slices of glazed cake sprinkled with shaved almond and cinnamon. The neighborhood gates will get locked for the night. She had never tasted a French cake; it had been ages since she had eaten any cake.
But Mlle. She ran out of the apartment, down the two flights of steps, and across the stone-paved yard to the street facing the Jaffa Gate in the Old City wall, where camels awaited pilgrims and Turkish soldiers patrolled.
Restless birds chirped in desperation to find shelter for the night. Wind rustled the tops of the tall cypresses and whipped fall leaves into a spin. Maybe it would rain soon, finally replenishing the dry cistern under her house.
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Running downhill, she turned north, her sandals pounding the cobblestones. She vaulted over foot-wide sewage channels dug in the center of the alleys. Then there was the open hill with only rocks and scattered dry bushes flanking the dirt path grooved by men, carts and beasts.
Climbing fast up the path, she listened for sounds beyond the trilling of crickets and the buzzing of mosquitoes. In the descending darkness, a Jewish girl might be dishonored by a Turkish soldier or murdered by an Arab. Just on the next hill, the grandfather she had never met had been assassinated while inspecting land he purchased for the first Jewish neighborhood outside the Old City. A scruffy black dog stood on a rock. Dogs were despicable creatures; they carried diseases that made people insane.
It growled and exposed yellow-gray teeth. When Esther swerved out of the path, it gave chase. She screamed, running faster, the dog barking behind her.
She grabbed the hem of her skirt, and her feet pounded on rocks, twisting, stumbling. Now that the Ottoman Empire was crumbling and the sultan neglected his subjects, hungry Jerusalemites ate even rotting scraps of food, and starving dogs bit people. The Turkish policemen killed dogs on sight. She gulped air. Her wet cheeks were cold in the rush of wind.
A blister burned the sole of her foot. The dog must smell her sweat, her fear. Her punishment for drawing idols had come so soon!
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To Esther, that threat had always sounded like a blessing. Cold pain sliced her rib cage, and her lungs burned. She could run no more. She stopped. To her amazement, the beast halted. She flailed her arms again, and the dog tucked its tail and slunk away. Her heart still struggling to escape its confinement, Esther whispered a prayer of thanks and then fumbled for the amulet in her pocket to stave off the evil eye. Her pulse drummed in her ears.
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