Kohlrabi Soup
"Maybe it was your lunch, eh? Something didn't agree with you."

"Rosa, the cream of kohlrabi nearly killed me, but I'm dandy now. Just tired."

Rosa came over and actually sat next to him. Ike knew he must look bad. The pretty ones never sit beside you unless you're on death's door. She patted his hand. "I'm going inside to tell Mr. Shapiro you're not feeling too well, okay? Maybe he'll want to call the doctor for you."

As Rosa started to get up, Ike reached for her hand. He pulled her gently back and she sat again. He didn't want management getting involved in this one, thank you very much. But he wouldn't mind trying to get something clear in his mind, now that he had an objective observer to work with.

"Let me ask you something, Rosa." He pointed toward the ocean. "'What do you see out there?"

"You mean the water?"

"That, and beyond."

She studied lke's face for a moment and then came to a decision. What a sweet woman, Ike thought.

"'Well, starting here, I see people on the boardwalk, and bicycles, and a girl running. Mrs. Astroth is by the rail feeding the gulls her leftovers from lunch. Then I see the beach, the empty lifeguard stand, the jetties. How am I doing, Ike?"

"Great. What else?"

"Then the waves, and out a ways the water gets smooth. A boat going by. Then the sky, a few clouds that look like maybe cauliflower." She turned to look at lke. "l've got to go back inside, okay?"

He nodded. "You know what I see, Rosa? I see a haze, mostly. The color of bones, or maybe ashes. Some movement here and there, but mostly haze."

"Well, l know that sometimes happens when you get on in years."

Ike nodded again. "Except everything looked more or less like that to me for the last sixty-some years. Ashes and bones. All right, you go back to your desk, Rosa dear. I'm sorry I kept you away. But listen, don't say anything to Mr. Shapiro. I'm all right."

Rosa shook her head and Ike didn't know if that meant she wouldn't mention his little spell or she didn't think he was all right. But then she was gone. He had overstated things there, but not by much. Couldn't see squat anymore. What, he should go for some of this Nazi money and get his eyes fixed? A kind of reverse Nazi medical procedure. That would be ironic, use their money to clear up his vision as though it could correct what he saw in memory now? What did Ike want with money anyway? He had all he needed to continue living at The Golden Sands; Sheldon was fine, and childless; there was nothing Ike wanted to do anymore. Well, maybe he could finance two or three years worth of lunches here so he didn't have to look at any more cream of kohlrabi. Or get in touch with Cantor Bloom's people.

Were the camps just about money, then? Was this some kind of absurd tort settlement? A little moral lapse, we apologize, here's the money we confiscated, with interest, and now we're even, goodbye. It hurt Ike's head to think about this. Right between the eyes, as a matter of fact, and he hated that. But if he didn't go ahead and claim his money, and with most of the survivors dying off now, everybody half-dead all over again, suppose the money just sat there in Switzerland?

Ike sensed a sudden darkening and figured that the cauliflower clouds had thickened to cover the sun. Time to go inside and see what was happening in the Red Room. Or go upstairs and lie down for a while. It was good to have the freedom to decide things like this. Ike would at least acknowledge that much. He still had his wits about him, unlike what's-her-name.

He entered the lobby and headed for the elevator. When he passed the garbage can near Rosa's desk, he reached into his pocket for the letter. Then he stopped. He remembered the look on his brother-in-law's face that time lke told him about being an alien in England. Or Molly when she asked about the camps and he refused to talk to her. It was the source of their only real conflict in all those golden fifty years together. Then he remembered, in a terrible rush, face after gaunt face: Mordecai Solly Moishe David Max Zvi Abie Charles Bella Kate Howard, and the sight of bones and ashes, and he took his hands from his pockets, walked to the elevator and pressed the button. He would think of something to do with the money. Even if all he could imagine now was to burn it.

--- From Cream of Kohlrabi
Floyd Skloot
Tupelo Press
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