Aphelion Issue 245, Volume 23
November 2019
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In the Cities of the Dead No One Cares

by Steven J. Lebow

Aren't you a little old for apples?" Said Baj, a former check out clerk at the local Food-Fair, to Dram, the former meat slicer.

"You're right," said Dram. "But when I think of what I miss the most fresh fruit is always what comes to mind."

They were quietly watching nearby children bob for apples for Halloween.

"The fruit that falls from the trees nearby is fresh," Baj agreed. "But you and I have been here a hundred years. There's not a tooth left between us."

"Both true and tragic," said Dram. "Nonetheless, I enjoy looking at something that was once alive."

"Yes, well that's what they call irony," admitted Baj.

"And you?" said Dram. What do you miss most of all?"

"That's easy," replied Baj. "Certain smells .When a customer checked out at the register and they were buying fresh flowers. I remember how that smelled."

Baj and Dram had worked at the same grocery store for over fifty years. They had been friends who went to watch the Jai Alai matches every week in Old Miami.

“Do you think they are afraid of us?” asked Dram, as he watched a couple pass by the tree he was leaning against.

“Of course,” said Baj. “And yet, strangely, I find myself repelled by them. I’m the one who’s scared of them! I see them screaming at their children and berating their elder parents. Their cars are fast. Their parties are too loud. And all of their laughter seems so forced..”

“It’s strange that they think we would come and visit their little world of desire and disappointment. Why would we ever want to haunt them?”

“Yes,” agreed Dram. “In fact, they scare me to death.”

“An apt choice of words,” smirked Baj.

“The fact of the matter is,” he continued, “It is the living who are haunted. They run around making noise and never being happy! Do you remember tears? Or pain? Or fearing death’s sweet breath?”

“That is the one thing I do remember from one hundred years ago. I always wanted to buy a new car. I always wanted to buy something that I didn’t really need. And then when I bought the new car I was only excited for a week, a day. The excitement of a new car never really satisfied me!”

“And so it goes,” said Baj. “The living should be in love with living. Instead, they love to talk about us. They call us ghosts and spirits and spooks. They imagine that we are werewolves, or vampires or zombies.”

“Please,” said Dram. “If I ever have to read another vampire or zombie story I’m going to kill myself!”

“Yes, well you always knew how to turn a phrase,” admitted Baj.

They watched the candles flickering, inside a pumpkin across the street.

“In any case, let’s you and I go sit beneath another tree, somewhere far away from the un-living,” said Dram. It depresses me to watch them. It’s they who are suffering and it’s finally we who are at peace.”

“You’re right,” Baj agreed. “Let’s walk away. After all, we’re the only ones who aren’t truly haunted. In the cities of the dead no one cares what kind of car you drive.”


2014 Steven J. Lebow

Bio:  Rabbi Steven Lebow is a congregational (Reform) Rabbi who lives outside of Atlanta, Georgia. He has fought for gay and civil rights for a quarter century, marched in dozens of protest marches and had his life threatened on many an occasion by the Klan and other racist organizations.  His life and work in the area of civil rights have been profiled in The New York Times and the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, CNN and NPR. He has published many articles in scholarly journals, in the area of semiotics and psychological symbolism. His most recent articles are "A Structural View of Ethnic Immigration, As Seen Through The Lense Of Professional Sports," and this spring "Separation/Individuation and Oedipal Motifs in the Genesis Narrative." (Journal of Reform Judaism- Spring, 2014.)

E-mail: Steven J. Lebow


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