Fivkkld Aaron watches the bird. He is astonished. The blue jay with the broken wing his focal point. The bird hops over to a jagged glass bottle partially filled with water. A few worms floats therein. The jay pecks at the glass to get at it – failing. Its robust chest innately proud, made its way back to the ticket of trees. Nevertheless, at night Aaron hears it sing. The following two mornings, the blue jay returns only to fail again. Today, it acknowledges the pebbles beneath its feet. Instead of pecking at the glass, it picks up a pebble; drops it in the water. Repeating the action. Aaron wonders why.
“Dad come see the blue jay.” Aaron points at the little bird as both watch with amazement.
“Son ... it’s reasoning … see the water is rising … the jay finds a way.
“Yes!” Aaron says then giggles.
With great effort, the blue jay hops closer dragging its broken wing. Its beak breeches the water devouring the water-logged worms.
Six years later….
“No, Papa. No! I don’t want to go there ever again. I hate Mr. Lapinski.”
“You’ve been going there since you were seven. What’s the big deal?”
“Take me to another barber, then.”
“Son, let’s reason this out like the blue jay did, remember. Look at the time … Mr. Lapinki has offered to do it … on such short notice. Besides I’ve allowed you two months without one – come on now. After this visit, I promise well find another barber, okay!”
Aaron kicks and screams as he’s pulled out the car. At the barber shop’s entrance, he holds onto the side frames – stalemating for dear, dear life.
“Get in and on the chair now. It’s not the first time you’ve been here. Stop being such a baby.” His father scolds. It’s your brother’s bar mitzvah tomorrow.”
“I’m sick Papa. I can’t go in there ... not again!” Aaron screams. “It sickens me. Papa. Besides why am I always the only one in the shop whenever I have a cut?” His son complains. “You don’t think it strange?”
“Listen didn’t I tell you, why. He made the time for us, always. Best be nice to Mr. Lapinski, he’s a good friend and the esteem Rabbi at synagogue. You must behave. I will keep my promise … I always do.”
The family barber made his way over to where they are arguing. He tousles the boy’s long black locks and giving him ‘the-you-better-not’ glare. In the process, he knocks off his kippah. His father retrieves it pocketing. “I’ll be back before the hour for you.”
In the barber’s seat, instantly, Aaron eyes finds the clock in the church’s steeple tower across the street. He’s in his safe place -- nothing could or would ever harm him there. He will be perfectly still until it is done with. Aaron heart pounds brutally in his chest; so hard it could explode. His hand clenches the handrails of the barber’s chair – knuckles taunt.
Mr. Lapinski cranks the foot rail elevating the barber’s chair to the desired height. Aaron is rigid in his seat. He concentrates on the flicker of a movement of the second hand. It seems like one million hours to him. He listens hard for a tick practically hears then it grows louder and louder with his anticipation of the act. Now a booming inside his head; drowns out the barber’s buzzing electric razor. Mr. Lapinski returns it to its rack next to the scissor, the brush, combs all in disarray.
After the shock and surprise, comes the shame of his self-blame associated with each haircut, he has endured it for years. Lapinski’s stifling burnt musk aftershave, talc and rubbing alcohol a memory of everything wrong in this world. The smell of him I could not block. It sickens me – disgusts me. I’m a caged bird and broken. I dared not cry out he would call me weak and become more advantageous. Father will call me a baby but I dare not tell. My secret, my shame will be unbearable if voiced. It would magnify its reality.
My haircut finish; same style nothing changes. The chair drops a notch and lower again. I think of the blue jay, it found a way.
He’s not done with me yet. The chair lower once more so does my stomach, yet again to his desired height. I don’t hear it snaking down its metal track anymore as he stands behind me, but I know. The ticking clock is at maximum now. He is before me. The stench of him profound. My eyes still frozen and attentive to the clock. The ticking blows out my inner ears.
Mr. Lapinski incessant groans peters to a meek whimper while exploding with pleasure as he collapses forward and on me. I do not finch. The invisible wall real for I don’t feel flesh nor bone.
“My sweet, sweet boy! Thank you!” Abruptly, he turns; walks away while zipping his trousers. He makes his way into the rear bathroom.
No more, never again. I wipe his splatter from my face with the towel that lays across my chest. At the counter, I took it – silver, cold and slick in the palm of my hand. I am standing behind him as he washes his face and splashes on cologne. He cleanses away the act, the sin, the guilt and the evidence. What about me? I’m just eleven years old and I am wronged, guilt-ridden, betrayed, afraid and confused. My tears flow freely. I am breaking inside but I cannot cry out. Suddenly, I am numb; completely and face to face with Rabbi Lapinski, community monarch and child abuser.
“Why you standing there … mashugana ... get back. I’m done with until next time. He snaps and turns to rack the towel.
Turning again, I step into him. I am a mechanical toy jabbing him repeatedly. Quickly stepping away as Lapinski collapses headlong. I close the bathroom door but not before I discard the bloody barber’s gown over his face.
Confusion and pain remains but not fear. I feel less but not worthless. The blue jay found a way and so did I.
Standing before the door, I look to the clock just as father appears.
“Where’s Rabbi Lapinski?”
“Not here … says to lock up.”
They drove off merging with the flow of traffic.
“Dad, I know why the blue jay sang so sweetly.”
“Hope, although broken ... hope kept it.” His father replies. Aaron is grateful to hear his father’s words.
Aaron along with a few of his classmates kept abreast of the case via the New York Times but mostly through their close knit community. No one had a clue as to who would want to harm much less murder the respected and loved Rabbi Lapinski. The shock and surprise of his murder like everything else in this demented world had become a passed memory. The monstrosity, as they labeled it, no longer smeared across the tabloids, like a whisk of smoke dissipating in the atmosphere.
Behind the walls of the synagogue, they sit behind a row of eight foot Lombardi Poplar trees that formed a fence -- their hideaway in the garden. The smallest and the oldest in their group stands while the others sit around Aaron quiet tone, “we should be proud of ourselves. No one would have believed us if we had told. Look! We did it on our own ... didn’t we? Had Aaron not come to me, I would not have not known there were others ... abused and afraid. Jehovah will forgive us, Aaron for our silence in this death. I believe he already has.”
“No more murders ... silence ... never again. We got rid of one. There are others who think nothing about preying on the innocent. We must be mindful. We know the signs, the behavior patterns for we all have experienced it. With this knowledge we must expose them -- catch them in the act. We owe it to our community to expose those who think they can -- No more!” Aaron stands tall and robust. The intensity mixed with tears brims over. “No more! This is my charge. I will make them listen.”
"Yes." They all respond.
"Did you do as I said?" Aaron asks them.
"We made a few copies."
"They will have no choice but to listen once watched ... see what he did to us. Destroy the barber shop video, we wouldn't want to implicate ourselves."