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Indian Lake (1997)

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Rafi had been married to Segal for six months when the whining about wanting to go to the Adirondacks became a little too loud. Segal was a big fan of the naturalist and writer Anne LaBastille, author of Woodswoman, about her experiences living in a log cabin with no utilities in the forest at an undisclosed location, somewhere outside of Old Forge. Readers of the book thought they could identify the locale as on Six Mile Lake; even though they were wrong, the specter of a throng of hero-seekers drove LaBastille into the forest on whatever body of water allowed her to receive her mail by motorboat.  Segal was as fired up about spending time in the woods as she had been about making aliyah, emigrating to Israel.
Not satisfied with the student’s year abroad, or even finding a job through an agency, Segal had lived on a kibbutz. No, make that two kibbutzim.She went once out of a Jewish nationalist fervor, with the intention of returning. The second time, she had made aliyah. This second time, she joined the governing body of the kibbutz, drove a tractor, became fluent at Hebrew, and even dated Orientals. Not Chinese pilgrims, learning about the triumph of the New Socialist Woman. In Israel, the term referred to Jews from Arab lands. This guy was an Iranian, an irooni. She liked him because he was shy. Rafi was a little like the irooni. She couldn’t tell why she found his social clumsiness attractive. Why do some women prefer facial hair, some prefer clean-shaven men, and some like three days’ worth of stubble?
“I don’t think we’re ever going to do something unless I do it myself, are we? ARE WE?”
“You said that, not me. Why are you saying this now? We talk about this over Pesach; I agreed we’ll do it this summer.”
“But it’s JUNE!” Segal raised her voice. It was reaching the level of annoyance that it had when he had just dumped Margie six weeks before and then he turned down a request for a dinner party so that he could attend a stargazing party at the Cricket Club. Strictly secret; a friend of a friend worked there, and he would unlock the gates if everyone could get there at the same time. Late arrivals would have to climb an eight-foot-high fence. The lights on Willow Grove Avenue didn’t stay on past 1 am, so it was very dark, suitably flat for telescopes, and manicured beyond the possibility of tripping and damaging valuable equipment. By the end of the fight that ensued when Rafi was demonstrating that he would not meet Segal’s every demand, she half-yelled, “I think this relationship has gone on long enough, don’t you?!” Rafi did not. He had fallen madly in love, and as far as he could tell, so had Segal. Best news? It was with each other. So ma yesh?
Rafi tried to defuse the current situation.  “Let’s walk up to Borders, get some coffee, and buy a Lonely Planet guide. We can make our reservations when we get back.”
Borders, to the annoyance of all their Mt. Airy clientele, closed at 6 on Sundays. Mt. Airyites always laid the blame for that one on the twenty society ladies who ran Chestnut Hill. Rafi and Segal were renting a house right next to Jenks School. Segal, who worked mostly from home, would lug her laptop on some days, or just take a tablet more often, to the Borders three blocks away at the top of Chestnut Hill. It was Rafi’s job, when he would let their Norwegian Elkhound Jezebel (the name was Rafi’s idea) out to pee, to toss the basketballs, footballs, soccer balls, and Nerf balls back to the kids waiting at the picket fence. Conveniently, it was 4:30 on a Sunday, so the school yard carried the usual weekend variety of basketballers, kids playing dodge ball, a young woman pounding tennis balls against the wall, and a few kids on bikes, several with training wheels, riding in circles while one parent watched. Jezebel relieved herself; Rafi had taken her running earlier in the day. No basketballs to worry about; the players were too old to control the play that poorly. Segal shut down the computer. Jez came in. Rafi gave her a biscuit. Rafi slipped on his Birkenstocks and Segal tied her shoes. Up the hill they walked. Rafi surged ahead, and remembering himself, slowed down and let Segal pull even. Rafi held the door open at the big bookstore. Segal started, by habit, to the magazine section. Rafi, heading off to the back of the store, shot off, “I get the guidebooks. See you in the coffeeshop in ten minutes.” Rafi felt Segal’s glower on the nape of his neck. She makes the money, she makes the decisions. But she would make his year hell if they did not go, not to mention that the whole marriage might be endangered.
Rafi knew not to order until Segal was on the way up the steps. He started browsing The Adirondack Book. History of the region. Boring. Geography. Lo ichpat li. Guide boats. Blorcz. Okay, okay, the index. Here we go. Camping – she’d never go for it. Bed and breakfast – too nice for me. I’d rather let her stay at a hotel and I’d camp on top of Mt. Marcy. Well, maybe Blue Mountain Lake – half as high. Well…
Segal materialized with her normal array of writing and tech magazines. She asked for Rafi’s coffee order.
“I’ll take a café mocha, cold, no ice. Would you like to stay at a bed and breakfast, a campgrounds, a motel, or some combination of the two?”
Ma yesh, Rafi, anachnu y’cholim livkhor acharei she’anachnu osim kamah zayin kri’ah! Maduah chayav l’cha ish rutzi-rutzi? Ben kamah atah, hamesh? (WTF, Rafi, we can make that decision after we do some fucking reading! Why do you have to be Mister Hurry-Hurry? How old are you, anyway, five?)”
Breathe, Rafi. “I will look at the books. I will make some lists. You order the coffee. Rak anachnu tz’richim la’asot mashehu b’itim k’rovot (Only we have to do something soon).
That evening, Rafi made lists of high-end, middle-range, and low-budget choices for each of the five geographic regions in the Adirondack State Park. He knew that Segal would make the decision in any case, but he would damn sure not take the blame. Segal was not going to work Monday without the decision being made.
* * *
The first stop was a detour to Cooperstown. Actually, below Cooperstown, on I-9, at the Viking Kennel, specialty breeder and boarder of Norwegian Elkhounds.  Jezebel was the first Elkhound that either Rafi or Segal had ever met; now, as she bounded out of the Saturn to meet the permanent residents of Viking Kennel, she was surrounded by silver doggie butts with tightly curled white, silver, and seal-tipped tails, wagging like icy circus hoops, the front ends being spade-shaped noses all sniffing her rectal cavity for a personal postcard.  The breeder remarked that Jez was a “stunning exemplar of the breed, clearly the work of a master breeder and a miracle of Nature.” Rafi and Segal would laugh at this on the way into the historic baseball village. Jezebel came from the Montgomery SPCA, Conshohocken Branch.
Rafi was not much of a baseball player. The game was not popular on the kibbutz. But Madonna had just costarred in the movie A League of Their Own, which told the story of the All American Girls’ Baseball League, and Segal wanted to come back with a Negro League souvenir for her boss. Plus, Segal, who had grown up Anastasia, was from the town that was “first in war, first in peace, and last in the National League.” Neither spouse had any illusion that Cooperstown was going to be the highlight of their trip, but as Segal had discovered the Viking Kennel, both thought that it would have been a shame to pass up on the opportunity for a pilgrimage. Neither one thought that the sun would be setting by the time they retrieved Jezebel and headed north to Indian Lake. As New York Route 10 droned on and on, and the sun dipped lower and lower, Segal grew testier and testier, and finally exploded with the phrase that serves as the ultimate rejection of a man,
Eizeh GEVER!What a (stupid, worthless, arrogant, ignorant, brazen, morally suspect) man!”
Rafi jutted his jaw against the barrage of buyer’s remorse as well as against the treacherous winding and lack of illumination on Rt. 30. Whenever Segal got too loud, Jezebel would trumpet her disapproval. Otherwise, the dog nuzzled the back of her parents’ necks, first Rafi, then Segal.
Finally, Rafi dragged the car into the Indian Lake Motel. The host’s cabin was dark, except for a clip-on flashlight that illumined a paper ripped out of a spiral notebook. On the paper was scrawled, “Rafi, Segal, Jezebel.” When Segal lifted it out of the pitted aluminum screen door, a dog biscuit fell out.
Suite 6 sported a double bed, a bunk bed, a TV with cable (this fact, advertised prominently in a laminated card with 1” stenciled letters reading, “CABLE GUIDE,” convinced Segal that she shouldn’t go with the cabins), a kitchenette, and a dining table. In short, a palace by Manhattan standards. Sadly for Rafi, Segal had never lived in Manhattan, and she didn’t grow up on the kibbutz, either. These were the Adirondacks, for heaven’s sake, thought Segal. She resolved to have a miserable time. She did not tell Rafi that she was planning to fall back to CNN instead of springing forward into her adventure. Rafi was already planning the first day’s hike up Sawyer Mountain, a little “stretch-your-legs” outing to make sure that everyone was adjusting to the altitude. “Everyone” included Jezebel. Elkhounds were bred from before the Dark Ages to be vanguards. Rafi had trained Jezebel to run at an 8:30 pace for five or six miles, but neither they nor Segal were much adapted to hills.
Segal threw her backpack into the lower bunk and began directing Rafi.
“Get the crate.”
“Where’s Jez’s bag?”
“Do you have your meds?’
“Where’s the ID? Where’s my purse?”
Ma yesh? Al tid’f’ki alai!
D’fok alai” is a cognate, roughly speaking. Very roughly speaking.
It was all that Rafi could do to keep from moving Segal’s backpack and curling up with Jezebel in the lower bunk to go to sleep.

About Ronald FIschman

I am a public school teacher who had a prior career as a cantor, opera singer, and composer. My greatest notoriety comes from my settings of Dylan Thomas's "Vision and Prayer" and Percy Byssshe Shelley's "Ozymandias" for singers and large instrumental ensemble. My first poetry collection, "Generations," honors the roles of son, husband, and father, and is available at

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