“There is a problem with God. The Fish?”
Ivor McMuckle, a song plugger, has been summoned to Hyperion II, planet of the Last Diaspora, where all faiths mingle in a shared state of abject poverty. He sells off shares in excess of 120 percent of a bad, really bad, pop tune. His client, Maven Lipchutz, a lounge pianist with a dream, is not beyond a little interspecies hanky-panky. The Maven’s light o’ love is a singing fish. Final judgment devolves upon a Higher Power, said Higher Power being among the company of the conned.
“Sixty-forty,” said McMuckle. “And win or lose, you double the retainer. We need eight more to pray for a hit, right? I’ll get them. Is there some temple, tabernacle, whatever, where I can hustle us up a quickie quorum?”
“There’s Shlomo Bim’s ― the saloon.” Lipchutz looked discomfited. “And it’s called a Minyan. When two or more are gathered together in My name...?”
“More than two. That’s three,” says Ivor McMuckle.
“Jews need ten. A minyan,” says Heidi, the singing fish.
“This is it, the Big One.” Schmulka Weisbrod, a hanger-on at the Svartze Shikse, Shlomo Bim proprietor, clutched at his heart. “You’re gonna be one short on your minyan, McMuckle. Sorry about that. But there’s a problem with God. The fish. This fish thing with Lipchutz is unnatural; you’ll have to square it with Him.”
“And how do I do that?”
“Go ask,” Schmulka squeezed out between gasps.
“You want me to ask you how I find God.”
Weisbrod waved to attract the bartender’s attention. “No problem. He’s in a tent down by the river. Upstream. Downstream you’ll run into the camps of the Nazarenes. Poverty is big these days; everybody’s out-of-doors. And take a spotted hare. God loves bunnies.” Weisbrod gave out a mighty exhalation and slumped lifeless in McMuckle’s arms.
“Exalted and sanctified is God’s great name,” said Shlomo Bim the bartender.
“Whatever,” said McMuckle. “You got a defibrillator in this place?” read the story »
McMuckle Makes a Minyan is a farrago closer to Jim Henson’s Pigs in Space than the Septuagint—a happy borrowing, a bissel here, a bissel there. Special thanks to Ezra and Josh Feigenbaum, proprietors of the Feigenbaum and Suss saloon on New York’s Rivington Street in the 1950s, where slivovitz and scalding tea were a specialty of the house. Add a dash of McSorley’s over on Cooper Square. The bar’s name, Svartze Shikse ― which I considered changing to “The Gypsy Girl” then discarded ― is a lift from Jaroslav Hasek’s Good Soldier Schweik.
McMuckle is an homage to the author’s radio years in the salad days of Rock n’ Roll. The characters of the song plugger and the ever-hopeful piano thumper are cameos from 1010 WINS, then at New York’s Columbus Circle, where record company promotion men hovered like undertakers at a train wreck. The spotted hare appears courtesy of Warner Bros.
The ecumenical bunny-world of McMuckle Makes a Minyan was prefigured by a writing prompt. I decided to take the story in a more user-friendly direction, but still find it interesting. You are invited to read Our Last Humans.
copyright 2020 Rob Hunter