Yesterday featured an excerpt from the grand prize winner here.
Today check out the first runner-up with a smart fantasy approach to the angelic world:
Judah Maccabee spat a curse, reached out to slam the laptop shut, and threw both hands in the air instead. Rivka kept telling him it was a waste of time watching World Jews Tonight. Why do you want to raise your blood pressure with all that bad news, she would ask. Earth’s a billion miles away on a whole other plane of existence, for cat’s sake.
“Because it matters,” he grumbled in response to her imaginary carping. “I didn’t die watching my own guts spill out on the hills of Elasa so Jews could put up Hanukkah bushes in December. They might as well burn offerings to Apollo.”
Rivka called out from the kitchen, “Did you say something, dear?”
Shaking his head as much to clear it as deny he’d spoken, he replied, “Ah, no, honey. Just watching the news.”
“Well, dinner’s almost ready. Florence and Chaim’ll be here in five minutes.”
He fumbled around the surface of the desk, frowning. Where did I–
“Your sunglasses’re in the top right drawer,” Rivka supplied helpfully.
As Judah helped himself to another square of kugel, Rivka said, “So, Chaim, I hear you’re in for a promotion. Moving into, what did your uncle call it? Qantas tunnels? So you’ll be stopping plane crashes?”
“Quantum tunneling,” Chaim said with a smile. “I’ll be an assistant project manager on Heisenberg’s team.”
“Excuse me. Quantum tunneling.” Rivka winked at Judah, who had dipped his kugel into the last remnants of brisket gravy on his plate. “Why assistant? Shouldn’t you be a full manager by now?”
Chaim turned to smile at Florence. “I could, but then I’d have to go up the Ladder. Take on a new form. Florence and I talked about it, and I’d rather stay here for another century.”
Beaming quite literally, Florence squeezed Chaim’s arm. She taught souls in the Guf everything they needed to know before conception, and the joy of her work manifested itself in a glow that rivaled the Sun.
“Ach. Such lovebirds,” Rivka said, somewhat wistfully.
It occurred to Judah that in his life and youth, he might have given Rivka a mouth-bruising kiss at this point, something promising a night of lovemaking that would make Solomon himself add a Parental Advisory sticker to his Song of Songs had it been described therein. He still could; after all, they were both in youthful, beautiful bodies of spirit made flesh, and the way she’d bent over to take the brisket out of the oven had reminded him why he’d married her 1093 years ago.
But he was still so damned mad.
What in Sheol is happening down there? Is it the fat guy with the beard? A realHanukkah celebration would have a ceremonial Greek getting his head caved in with a hammer–
“What’s wrong, Judah? You’re a million miles away,” Rivka said.
“Sorry,” he muttered, put a fake smile on his face, and asked Chaim, “How did you celebrate Hanukkah? In your life. It’s getting to be that time of year down there.”
Grimacing thoughtfully, Chaim replied, “Well, I didn’t spend a lot of time alive, but from what I remember, we lit the menorah, ate latkes, and got presents every day for eight days. Water pistols, action figures, that kind of thing.” Something in Judah’s expression must have concerned him, because he added, quickly, “We said the brucha, of course, Uncle Judah. If you want, I can bring over the DVDs. Most of them are still in the packaging.”
Judah shook his head. Chaim was a nice kid, but he’d been part of the problem.
Rivka waited until the credits rolled on The Will & Oscar Comedy Hour to say, “So. Are you going to tell me what’s wrong, or are we playing Twenty Questions?” She put the TV on mute.
Judah started to shrug, thought better of it, and said, “Just the time of year. You know.”
“Ach. Every year we do this,” she said. “Does Mattathias brood every Hanukkah? No.”
Scowling, he leaned toward her in his Barcalounger and said, “Mattathias doesn’t care about what happens to our people anymore. He’s up in Tiferet somewhere making cat souls.”
“Exactly!” she exclaimed. “He’s moved on. Like you should.”
“So you want to go up the Ladder? Move out and start, I don’t know, as thought-forms in some crystal matrix in an antimatter galaxy? Or making cat souls with my brother?”
“It’s better than this…this sulking!” she flared.
God, she was beautiful, with her dark, angry eyes and her brown hands fisted in her lap. Without another word, he rose, pulled her into his arms, and carried her to the bedroom.
But it wasn’t as good as he’d hoped. His mind was still elsewhere.