KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 1: Fall 2014
CNF Essay: 635 words

The Bris and the Brisket

by Larry Silberfein

Two days after I was born my parents put a hit out on my penis.

The word “Bris” seems so innocent, light, and airy: like a thin wafer or colorful confetti, a delicate soufflé, sprinkles on an ice cream cone. When you open a can of soda it sounds like brissssssss! It could be a cheer from high school cheerleaders. “Give me a B, give me an R, give me an I, give me an S, what’s that spell?” But nowhere in the word is there even a remote foreshadowing of what’s coming. And what’s going.

The charade continues with an invitation. No one is going to get hurt here. Look at the baby blue ribbon. This is going to be fun! “Come join us in the celebration of the naming of our son Lawrence Martin Silberfein.” Wheeeee! It sounds like there’s going to be: a magician, a puppet show, a clown with big red floppy shoes.

Six days later the front door opens on the night and the Brisorcist enters.

No one really knows where Mohels come from and no one knows where they go. They hide amongst us. Perhaps they’re the ones in the supermarket staring at uncooked steamers longer then they should or the ones in barbershops who say, “Just take a little off the top.” There are theories. Some say they were picked last in gym at Yeshiva and they’ve come back for revenge.

The Mohel seems harmless enough: potbelly, thick glasses, a party hat that bespeaks a party-less past and skin so white it looks like cream sauce. This man’s blood runs 50% Manischewitz, 20% Kugel, 10% herring, and 20% apricot Rugelach. He knows where he can find the best food. All he has to do is perform a little covert operation and the white fish is his.

The Mohel casts a long shadow over the room. Men back away. Men who have less to lose back away even further. Women seek vengeance. Turtles go back in their shells. His breath drifts in like an uninvited guest. But no one has the nerve to offer him a breath mint.

This is going to get ugly. The baby blue ribbon hangs over me like a noose. There’s a hush over the room. You can hear the blood drain and the plastic on the couches bubble. The Mohel wields his blade. Like a hooded executioner he cuts without remorse as if to dare anyone to play a little one on one. The Mohel recites a Jewish prayer to cover his deed. Play it backwards it says, “Are you going to eat that?”

He spins like a slow motion lazy Susan and looks around. Who’s next? Everyone backs away as he moves past and grabs a bagel and lox and a handful of black olives. The night shields him as a woman pregnant with a son knows instinctively to walk quickly away. He disappears in his white 1958 Pontiac.

No one will have sex tonight. A crime has been committed but there will be no chalk outline of the foreskin; plenty of witnesses but no police reports. My uncle says “the brisket is like butter.” Within minutes the sounds of smacking lips and sliding false teeth drown out my bloodcurdling screams. Life tastes better when it’s not you.

I live in fear of impending birthdays. If this is what happens after eight days, what will they take next? My life passes before my eyes. By 50 I will be a stump.

Years later as I walk in the street I can’t help but sympathize with kosher chickens rotating on a spit in deli windows. My heart rotates right along with them.

I lost a piece of myself that day before I ever got a chance to be whole.

Larry Silberfein
Issue 1, Fall 2014

Lives and works in Manhattan. He is a creative director at an advertising agency. He has one wife, two kids and an infinite amount of olives in his refrigerator. Most recently, his work appeared in The Monarch Review.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

The Pharmacist’s Daughter, 797-word story in The Monarch Review: Seattle’s Literary and Arts Magazine (9 July 2014)

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