Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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The Deal Breaker on Becoming Jewish

December 10, 2012

Now that it’s Hanukkah I’m reposting a story from my memoir The Kid In the Kaleidoscope, a true tale about my decision to become Jewish when I was ten, and how I questioned my decision when I found out about the deal breaker….

 

Jonathan Khorman lived three houses down from me. One day while perched in the sycamore tree in his front yard he turned to me and made a startling declaration. “I’m one of the chosen people,” he said.

 

“Chosen for what?” I asked.

 

He shifted his weight on the branch he was sitting on. “Chosen to be special.”

 

“Who chose you?”

 

“God did.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Says so in the Bible. Jews are God’s chosen people.”

 

I liked Jonathan, but it was hard to imagine God personally selecting him for anything. When it came to team sports at school, Jonathan and I alternated being chosen last.

 

Later, I asked my mother about it.

 

“The Khormans are Jewish,” she said. “Jews consider themselves God’s chosen people.”           

 

I knew the Khormans were Jewish because they celebrated Hanukkah instead of Christmas. Jonathan and his little sister Ruthie received gifts for eight days instead of one. I didn’t know much about Jews, but they were light years ahead of everyone else when it came to gift-giving.

 

Then my mother blew my mind with three words: “Jesus was Jewish.”

 

Even though I was an altar boy, I was surprised to discover that Jesus wasn’t Christian.

 

“So who was responsible for the crucifixion,” I asked, “the Romans or the Jews?”

 

“People have been squabbling about that for centuries,” she said. “Opinions vary, depending on who you ask.”

 

I liked the Khormans and chose to blame the Romans, since I didn’t know any.

 

The Khorman home wasn’t a popular hangout with us kids, but I remember the time Mrs. Khorman rang up my mother to invite me to a backyard sleepover to celebrate Jonathan’s eleventh birthday. Permission was granted.

 

Dinner at Jonathan’s house was strange, much of it not to my liking, but I learned a new word—Kosher.

 

Jonathan opened his presents, most of which were educational toys. We looked at bugs and strands of our hair under Jonathan’s new microscope for awhile, and then we attacked Jonathan’s bright green birthday cake—I’d never had green frosting before.

 

Then it was time to settle down in the backyard for the night. Just as we were zipping ourselves into our sleeping bags,

Mrs. Khorman came to kiss Jonathan goodnight…and hear our prayers.

 

Jonathan rattled something off that sounded like a record being played backwards. I couldn’t understand a word but I kept my mouth shut about it. When it was my turn I recited The Lord’s Prayer.

 

When we were alone I asked Jonathan, “What kinda prayer was that you recited? I couldn’t make heads or tails out of it.”

 

“I was speaking Hebrew. It’s the ancient language of the Jewish people.”

 

As I lay on the grass in Jonathan Khorman’s backyard watching wispy clouds pass in front of a full moon, I realized that this Jewish thing was sounding pretty darn cool: interesting food, eight days of gifts in December, their own secret language. Catholicism was starting to pale in comparison. I considered giving Judaism a try.

 

“Can anyone become a Jew?” I asked Jonathan.

 

“I think so. You’d have to go to Hebrew school. In two years I’ll celebrate my Bar Mitzvah, coming of age. I get gifts.”

 

It sounded a lot like First Holy Communion, which I’d received two years earlier.

 

“If you became Jewish we could study together.”

 

And if I celebrated a Bar Mitzvah I could expect more presents. “Is that all there is to becoming a Jew?”

 

“There is one more thing, the most important of all.”

 

“What?”

 

“You need to be circumcised.”

 

I frowned at him. “What’s that?”

 

“It’s a ceremony commanded in the Bible as a sign of participation in Israel’s convent with God.”

 

Confusing. “Say again?”

 

“It means you get the tip of your penis cut off while friends and family stand around and watch. This is usually done when a male baby is eight days old, but you’d have to go through it now.”

 

I was determined to become one of God’s chosen people, but this was a deal breaker if

ever there was one.

 

I’ve never been known for my poker face and the next evening my brother David asked, “Not that I care, but what are you moping about?”

 

“I was just wondering how much it would hurt to have the tip of my penis cut off.”

 

He looked at me with more disgust than usual. “You’ve asked some crazy questions in the past, but this tops them all. Here’s the answer: IT WOULD HURT LIKE HELL!”

 

“That’s what I thought.”

 

 “Why would you ask such a thing?”

 

“I’m considering becoming Jewish and Jonathan said I’d have to get circumcised before they’d let me in.”

 

David rolled his eyes. “Have you talked to Mom about this? I’m sure she’d have

something interesting to say on the subject.”

 

“Why? She doesn’t go to church much, only on Christmas and Easter. I doubt she’d care.”

 

“You’re wrong. Trust me; she’ll care. As for being circumcised, you’re too stupid to know, but you’ve already been circumcised. Boys are supposed to look like their fathers, and you and I were both circumcised at the hospital before Mom and Dad brought us home.”    

 

“So, Dad was in on this, too?”

 

“Yep.”

 

I shrugged off the fact that everyone seemed to have kept this a secret. I felt elated, like I’d dodged a bullet. I didn’t need to go through a painful penis whittling ceremony after all. And if circumcision was the most important part of becoming Jewish—as Jonathan claimed—then Jewish or not, I must already be one of God’s chosen people.


I was glad I couldn’t remember the feel of that hospital knife between my legs, but knowing what had happened to me before I was brought home from the hospital made me feel…special, until I found out every boy on our street shared the same “specialness”—except for Ramon Guzman, who’d been born in Guatemala.

 

When I told Jonathan I’d decided not to become Jewish after all, he looked disappointed.

 

“Look at the bright side,” I said, trying to cheer him up. “At school during PE class when everyone breaks into teams, nobody wants us. This time we’ve both been chosen.”

 

Happy Hanukkah



Comments

24 Comments
The circumcision thing definitely is a big drawback. But they do get those cool little hats that would help cover my baldness, so that would be cool. I found out the other day one of the picture books I got my nieces free from Amazon is actually a Jewish one. If I read that to them, will they become Jewish? They at least wouldn't have to worry about being circumcised...
By: PT Dilloway on December 10, 2012
I'm thinking that might be a deal breaker for most men...
By: Shelly on December 10, 2012
Just as good (and making me squeeze my legs together) as the first time I read it.
By: Suldog on December 10, 2012
Well you certainly had good reasons to become Jewish. Lots of presents. You're pretty transparent sometimes. I'm guessing you already know that. Have a terrific day. :)
By: Comedy Plus on December 10, 2012
I really object to males being circumcised in our society. I consider it mutilation. And every religion considers themselves "chosen". Why would you make up something where you weren't the top dog (I know I know I'm atheist so all religions just seem to be crazy to me). But I have this one question to ask...why do any religions even try and define heaven. Why not just say "heaven is whatever i frickin want period. Everything." That at least seems logical and covers all the bases.
By: Michael Offutt on December 10, 2012
My sons got the best of both worlds. Their dad (my ex) is Christian and I'm Jewish. We have always celebrated both Christmas and Hanuakkah together. Our family Hanukkah party was yesterday. That having been said, I can't help but look at circumcision as wrong and neither of my boys have been surgically altered, much to the dismay of many of my relatives.
By: Hilary on December 10, 2012
Oh my gosh LMBO!! You do have a way of telling a story. LOve it. http://arewethereyettravelblog.blogspot.com/
By: Are We There Yet!! on December 10, 2012
As always you tell an entertaining story. Seems you have started a debate on the merits (or lack thereof) of circumcision I would guess that your brother was correct though. If you mother was a Roman Catholic...even a non-participating RC, she would of had an opinion about you becoming Jewish. I would like to think we have become more tolerant of religious differences...not entirely certain. I was a Lutheran that married a Dutch Reformed and you would of thought I was going to pollute the entire Dutch race. As it turned out the same Dutch church that said I couldn't touch my children within their church (my children were considered Dutch which I can only attribute to his sperm must know the Irish right out of my eggs) has now decided I can be buried in their cemetery. I should of told them "over my dead body but actually that is where I will be buried.
By: Cheryl P. on December 10, 2012
oh that was just a riot. i love the innocence and curiosity and that both you rmom and your friend gave good answers. that said, the phrase i will take away from this post.....penis whittling. bwahahahaha!!!
By: lime on December 10, 2012
I can't imagine going through that as an adult. I read that and....well, let's just say your couldn't drive a straight pin up my ass with a sledge hammer. No sir! Great story! S
By: scott park on December 10, 2012
Just thought I'd let you know I was here. Whether I'll ever be able to come back is another story!!
By: fishducky on December 10, 2012
A story to make everyone smile. Except maybe a newborn boy.
By: messymimi on December 10, 2012
Another great read! Makes me so glad I am female. ;) I'm trying the follow via email and we'll see how that works. :)
By: Rita McGregor on December 10, 2012
My doctor told me I should have Favorite Young Man circumcised so he'd look the same as his father, but I find it difficult to believe that FYM's dick is that tiny. Anyway, I didn't know what I was getting my baby into, and he was screaming in agony when the nurse brought him to me after it was done. I felt like shit, and I've always been sorry I didn't investigate the procedure. I think I would have said NO. I was young and dumb. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on December 10, 2012
I am so happy we have that done when we are so young we won't remember it.
By: Brett Minor on December 10, 2012
Oh wow! The innocence of a child... great story!
By: Anne on December 11, 2012
This is so funny. Kids are prone to be religious, I think. When I was young I wanted to be Catholic so I could be a nun. I envied the Balestrino family and sometimes went to Mass with them. I loved wearing the hanky on my head, thought it was a precursor to my nun's habit.
By: Diane Laney Fitzpatrick on December 11, 2012
Great tale, my eyes were watering.
By: John on December 11, 2012
what's great about the story is the way you capture the decision making process of yourself as a kid - kids can get swayed by all sorts of things - i remember my first kiss, aged 5, because the girl told me that this meant we had to get married - and i felt a moment of sheer panic because it was way too early to make that kinda commitment and no - i never married her :)
By: dont feed the pixies on December 11, 2012
Stephen: It's amazing to think back at the adventures and views we had as kids. When a song came on the radio with lyrics we couldn't understand, we made up one's that sounded as closely to what we heard as possible. The outcome was hilarity!
By: Michael Manning on December 11, 2012
Speaking as a non-Jew who has been circumcised, I have to laugh at people who express outrage at the so-called mutilation issue. The real reason for circumcision is health and hygiene, and ya know, they do use a local anesthetic these days. That being said, fun story. But I have to disagree about something else. Maybe Jews get presents for eight days, but you gotta admit they don't hold a "candle" to the commercial excess brought to us by Christmas. Although I have to admit the Bar Mitzvah puts First Communion to shame when it comes to presents -- so I guess it all evens out in the end.)
By: Tom Sightings on December 11, 2012
Well. I really don't have much to contribute on the subjects of Judaism or circumcision. But I COULD recognize my own son's cries from the nursery when the doctor circumcised that batch of newborn boys.
By: Val on December 11, 2012
Such a great story, and at the exact right time of year. All I can remember from my circumcision is the awful smell (ether like) in the surgical theatre. And looking through the port hole window of the clinic where I could see my dad looking in with the strangest look on his face. He knew what was about to befall his first born. I was about 3, my memory is only partial, thank heavens!
By: Tom Cochrun on December 11, 2012
Stephen- I am not able to see all of the text- is it me or my server my pc or? Phooey.
By: Kathe W. on December 13, 2012

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