His neshomo was complete for Boj by the time he was seven years old. He lived in those early years, the only child of a timid father and a forceful mother in the home of his great grandfather, Abram.
"Ab means father," Abram constantly told Boj. "And ram means elevated. I am Abram, the High Father. No one in this house is higher than me."
"He's high, yes, if he believes that nonsense," Boj's mother would say each time great grandfather announced his exalted status. She rolled her large brown eyes to the ceiling and Boj laughed to see her expression.
"I am the Exalted Father," great grandfather would say.
Mother's eyes sought the stratosphere.
And Boj laughed. He was never sure if Abram knew why he laughed.
"The immaterial, unsubstantial moved across the material, substantial," Abram often told Boj, who was transfixed by this speech each time. "The immaterial, unsubstantial spirit moved on the deep and the deep concepted the Ideal in the idea."
"Above this," great grandfather said, "there is no higher."
Of course, great grandfather was correct.
When he was but a baby, Boj would cuddle in his great grandfather's arms, cackling at the old man's expressions. His great grandfather kissed him on the ear. With each kiss, Boj laughed and bobbed his head down onto Abram's great barrel chest. When Abram paused, Boj drew his head back up for another kiss, announcing his pleasure with a horse laugh. When Abram grew weary of the game, Boj, a baby, would throw his ear against great grandfather's head, cackle again and drop his head onto Abram's chest, holding it there until Abram drew a loud, long breath. Then, the game began again.
No one ever played with Boj the way great grandfather played with him.
One day great grandfather set an old shoe on the formal dining table in the family's front room. Abram laid it on the table and left it there. This should not have been a terrible problem for the family was very small; just the four of them. They took their meals in the kitchen, mostly, since father refused to allow television during dinner. The four of them had plenty of room in the kitchen, five steps across, from sink to table to refrigerator.
Still, Mother was appalled when she first beheld grandfather's old black shoe, sitting on its side, holey sole facing the kitchen, down in the heels, black laces torn, in dire need of a trip to the cobbler. This was great grandfather's plan: he would take his shoe to the cobbler and he would do so immediately upon finding its mate, the sinister, absent left shoe.
God, great grandfather was certain, had hidden his missing left shoe for some reason. Great grandfather could not fathom the complexity of the divine plan for hiding one shoe and leaving the other when both needed repair.
"Perhaps God knows I cannot wear one without the other," he was heard to say. "So, God takes the one and leaves the other; a divine economy of energy, the immaterial, unsubstantial moving in the material realm."
"Vey is mir," he was heard to say.
This was odd, for great grandfather was, by background, a Baptist.
After a week of watching the shoe sit on her dining room table, accusing her domesticity, Mother began to furtively remove the shoe from her table and put it on the floor. The very act disgusted Mother, for the old shoe was smelly and reeked of the various foot powders great grandfather had poured in it over the years. There was also more than a faint whiff of various analgesic ointments for great grandfather had made his living as a salesman in those shoes and, like all salesman before computers, his feet hurt often.
"He is your grandfather," Mother told Father. "Keep his dirty shoes off my dining table."
"This is his house," Father said with irreproachable logic, "and the table actually belongs to him, as does the shoe."
"If I have to clean it up, it is mine," Mother ended the argument with her own rational statement. "Keep the shoe off the table."
When Father proved unwilling to disturb great grandfather's ancient footwear, Mother began to drop it on the floor every time she walked by the table. She was adamant.
"Five times today I put that old shoe on the floor," she told Father one evening. "Six times he put it back."
"If this keeps up, I will throw it away," she added, "just like I did the other one. He has a million dollars. Let him get new shoes."
She was roaring when she said this for Mother had one of those deeper womanly voices. She could not be said to shriek or moan. Her voice was low and commanding, until it was suddenly loud and demanding. Father did not seem to mind much.
She was roaring now, hoping the old man with one shoe would hear. He could not hear much any more at any time and nothing could he hear just then.
At least, Abram could hear nothing in the house. He had taken himself down to the local diner, there to idle away an hour, so the little family that lived with him could have some time to themselves. He loved them, Frank and Greta and the little boy, Boj. He knew that Greta reverenced him as the exalted father of the house. This he could tell by her expressions, for she looked to the heavens whenever he taught Boj about his name.
He loved his little diner as well.
The name of the diner was The Owl, because it was open all night. The Owl was one of those neighborhood greasy spoons, from yesteryear, a Mom and Pop operation, before franchises pushed out all the little things. This one had survived though there were signs it would not operate forever. The customers were fewer, poorer, older. Where families once sat now sat couples and where couples once dined now ate widows and widowers, mourning their loss and cursing their doctors.
"They make us live too long," the widows were heard to say. And smiled, sadly, or tried to smile, so as not to appear ungrateful.
The red cushioned seats were faded and cracked. The white porcelain coffee cups could not survive the new dishwashers, so mugs were gone and Styrofoam cups took their place. Great grandfather carried his own cup with him to The Owl. He would not from a paper cup drink hot coffee.
Still, The Owl gave great grandfather a place out of the house when he wanted. He could watch the other old men drink coffee. He felt a dreadful pang of loneliness when they had their women with them, fussing over them, as old women fuss over old men, fearing the coming darkness when their decrepit old roosters crow no more and they would have to focus entirely on themselves.
For a woman to focus on herself is anathema. She is by nature a giver even as she receives. If she has no one to dress but herself, what is a woman?
So, amid the fried foods and the clogging arteries, great grandfather sat for an hour, amiably lost in his memories. He was genial among the mournful, for Abram was a genial man, refusing to persist in his loss.
Sadie he had lost, now it was two years, and he could not bear to think of her or even visit her grave. He had given their big old bed away to the Salvation Army, bought a small single bed for himself and put a rocker next to it.
His nights did not much include sleep, the two years since she was gone. He sat in his rocker all night some nights, most nights, and rocked and prayed and read the Hebrew Bible.
He was determined to find whatever he had lost. He was convinced God played tricks on him.
For instance, he was sure God had his other shoe, the match to the one he placed on the dining table. He put it there, the old man, believing he could not forget it in such an odd place, for he was no fool. Of course he knew old shoes did not fit on dining tables. He put it there so he could not possibly forget where it sat. He would leave it there until God returned the left shoe, the sinister one he could not find. Then he would take both of them down to the cobbler, pay a small fee and have two shoes like new.
"This is a test," he told Boj. "God wants to see if I will persist. If I persevere, God will bring me back my shoe he took from me. These are the shoes to your great grandmother's funeral ceremony I wore. I will get everything back if I just hold on."
As evidence of divine trickery, great grandfather cited the fact God was continually moving his one remaining shoe from its resting place.
"Six times I put the shoe on the table," he said to his Bible that night. "Seven times God takes it off the table."
"I put it back again," he confided to Eli in the Samuel books.
Great grandfather took to leaving his bedroom door open so that he could see God go down the hall. He knew he could not actually look on God, he knew from Exodus, but he thought he could see God's aftermath and perhaps snag his shoe.
He also wanted to ask God why it was Sadie was taken, when he, Abram Morris, was always the sick one in their marriage. For years his wife had lavished love on him, bringing him back from the brink of the grave repeatedly. Then, she died, she of robust health and hearty laugh. How could this be? What trick was this?
"God is a trickster," Abram told Boj, smiling and waggling his finger as he rocked. "I will tell you, he makes a good case for prayer, with all his tricks."
"You would want to keep this God on your side," Abram said. "Find out what to do and do it right."
"Else you could lose a shoe," he added, "and more."
One late night, sadly, Abram told him, "The secret of religion, its genius, it is not the miracles or the magic. It is when the deep calls to the deep. That is what is good for religion. It is the elliptical that fascinates; not what God says but what God hides. That is what good is religion. Remember."
Boj remembered. When his love was gone, his final love, gone for the final time, he remembered what great grandfather said about his old lost shoe, the sinister left shoe and he bobbed his head in repeatedly at the thought.
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