prompt: sign, title: here and back in "the next big thing" flash fiction

  • May 20, 2022, 9:37 p.m.
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  • Public

The Amazing Mitzi’s hesitancy to use kabbalistic practice in flashy ways, in obvious fashions, in manners that might hold her to covenants she hadn’t the capacity to keep, was not a new thing in her life. It was not something she learned as a woman surviving Hollywood, as a stage magician. She learned this from her maternal grandma, her Bubbe Sara, who’d immigrated back from Tel Aviv to San Jose when her daughter married a well-meaning rich idiot and had a kid of her own.

Sara had been born in Illinois, born Sarah Zivotofsky, her family moved to Israel when she was a girl, parents caught up in the zeal of founding a new state for their people. Sara had always been uneasy there, with its two-tiered system of life, the way the people called Palestinians were held separate and unequal, herded unruly cattle instead of treated as their neighbors. She remembered how it was like that in America too, but there was a hope it was starting to improve, while things only got worse in their promised land, more violence, more tall brutal walls. Widowed relatively young with a new granddaughter, she was more than happy to return to America. She said it was so her granddaughter would have her as back-up childcare instead of nannies, as her son-in-law’s upper-class standing would lend toward but really, it was much about returning to a place where the hope of shared peace could still mean more than ethnic or religious identity. As Sarah felt her God the ineffable Y-H-W-H intended humanity to treat each other. This was Sara’s deepest faith.

Margaret Nussbaum’s parents nicknamed her “Maggie”. Only Bubbe Sara called her “Mitzi”.

Sara had a touch of magic to her but only a touch. Her conflicted sense of religious identity, her love of her God against what she had seen that love could metastasize into, discrimination and hate and wars and rumors of wars, she didn’t follow up much upon it. She saw the sign of it too in her daughter but was relieved when she manifested that impulse toward the magic of words and codes into computer programming instead. It was a safer way, she felt, to weave worlds in letters and numbers and confusing dimly-lit rituals if you were just typing it into electric spark boxes to make Italian plumbers jump over turtles or whatever. It wasn’t the way of the zealot.

But in her granddaughter Margaret, in her Mitzi, she saw the aura of connection to divinity so much stronger than her daughter’s, much stronger than her own. The path was going open up to her eventually, it was clear, so it’d be better to help her learn divine magic while also teaching her to understand how terrible it could be if misused, overused, if depended upon.

She wanted that amazing child to know the risks that came with that kind of power and so, as a beginning, she told her the story of the Golem of Prague.

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