Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Mark Of Zero


Today, I introduce to this blog a new short-story writer, Simcha Wasserman; we met when his wife invited my wife and I to a Shabbat meal a few weeks ago. We immediately hit it off, discovering that we are from the same generation and had much in common, including experiencing a similar kind of world (he in Toronto; I in Montreal), and sharing a love for writing and story-telling. Mr. Wasserman describes himself as a Lubavitcher chosid, which is a term used to describe orthodox Jews of a particular sect of Judaism, Hasids, among other things, believe that life, although serious, ought to be enjoyed—at least within the bounds of Torah Judaism. My hope is that you will enjoy these short stories—four in all, which will post weekly on Wednesdays; they all focus on Count Zero, conveying in their telling the kind of hopefulness and wonderment in humanity, with a touch of humility, that we all seek at one time or another.

by Simcha Wasserman

Shir l’maalos esah anai el harim m’ayin yavoh ezrie
Ps 121:1

One day in the supermarket, Count Zero was eyeing the labels on many items, checking for kosher products, when he noted an elderly man swaying strangely on his feet by a ten-foot high pyramid display of canned corn. Unless the man was praying to this display, which might be possible if he were an Egyptian, the man looked like he soon would be entering this “pyramid” in a no entry zone, as no entrance way, in fact, existed.

In a flash, the Count understood the grave consequences that lay moments ahead for this poor old man. And not just the physical repercussions but, in some ways even more grave, the emotional trauma and embarrassment that would accompany such an unfortunate mishap.

So with great agility and tenderness, the Count darted toward the old man, throwing his arms around him, as would the gentlest mother bear embrace her newborn cub.

A picture of grace, perhaps, in a perfect world. But not so in this world, the world of rectification, and so down came this metal pyramid, and not as silently as it would have, had the floor been composed of silent desert sand.

Two managers and a few stock boys came running after the thunder, and there stood the Count hugging the old man. The Count looked pleased. The old man did not.

“What exactly happened here?” asked one manager.

“This young ox tried to tackle me to the ground!” said the old man. All eyes turned to Count

“I saw you swaying and I was afraid you were going to fall into these stacked cans and hurt yourself....” explained the Count.

“I was NOT going to the fall!” shouted the old man. “Just because I forget my pills this morning doesn’t mean I’m going to fall!”

The supermarket staff immediately understood, and the same manager who asked what had happened, looked at the Count and said, “Sir, we would like to thank –”

The Count interrupted, and turning to the old man began to apologize, “Please forgive my misunderstanding and clumsiness. I have made a dreadful mistake.”

The old man’s demeanor softened, “Young man, I forgive you. But next time, think before you
leap! Somebody could really get hurt!” The old man walked away, checking his pockets until he
found his pill box, and then continued on his way in search of a drink to help wash down his

The manager quietly thanked Count Zero, who answered in his usual self-effacing way, “It was
nothing, really, nothing at all.”

As the Count left the store, one manager said to the other, “Strange, isn’t it? He didn’t even buy

“Yeah, you’re right! Maybe that wasn’t why he came here?” They looked at each other with the
same thought, and darted outside to find the Count, but he had vanished.

Next week, “The Final Score.”

Simcha Wasserman is a Lubavitcher chossid living with his family in Toronto.

Copyright ©2015. Simcha Wasserman. All Rights Reserved. The story is published here with the author’s permission.

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