Passover Story, Part Two: Escape From New York
We pick up in medias res, which, for those who don’t know their Aristotle, means in the middle of the action. It was an unholy hour, around 5AM, and not a ray of sunshine was yet in sight. All the Jewish people of the Upper West Side were being pursued through the shadowy streets by the elite commando forces of Pharaoh Corp, straight down Broadway through Times Square, and on into lower Manhattan. Schmoses’s people had enlisted hundreds if not thousands of taxicabs to flee the evil henchmen to whom Thutmose had paid blood money in order to capture the fleeing tenants and force austerity and other punishments on them.
A sea of yellow cabs rushed through the streets followed by jeeps and military vehicles that were painted black and camo. There was Thutmose, standing upright in a souped-up Jeep, in hot pursuit with binoculars dangling from his neck. The roads and side streets were eerily empty of everyone except our freedom-bound Jewish brothers and sisters fleeing from Thutmose’s hired guns. Thutmose raised the binoculars to his eyes and spied a yellow cab with a strange-looking flag planted on its trunk blowing in the air. The flag was white, but it wasn’t a flag of surrender. Thutmose couldn’t see it clearly, yet he noticed the flag contained crude blue geometric shapes and two horizontal lines at the top and bottom. Wouldn’t you know it? There was Schmoses in the backseat.
Schmoses couldn’t believe his luck as he co-ordinated this exodus-in-progress. This had to be be the first time in his life that he went from uptown to downtown in less than five minutes. It was truly miraculous. Traffic lights were green as far as the eye could see. Stores, restaurants, street vendors, and hot-dog carts blurred past him as his cab rapidly approached Chinatown, and he knew deep in his soul that G-d was on his side and would protect his people during this heated chase. It was like all the Jews had levelled up in a cosmic video game and were now armed with super speed.
Schmoses instructed his cabbie to pull over as soon as he reached the base of the Manhattan bridge. He wanted to ensure that the cab caravan crossed the bridge before Pharaoh Corp could catch up. One cab after another crossed the bridge, which was empty of any other traffic. Swoosh! Swish! Swoosh! The cars zipped past Schmoses who was standing tall like an admiral commanding his fleet. Through the windows of the passing vehicles, Schmoses could see smiling faces, and thumbs raised up in joy. Everyone was grateful to him for his leadership and Schmoses was proud of his people’s courage.
Finally, the last car crossed the bridge and Pharaoh Corp’s forces of darkness appeared on the horizon just as grey clouds began to build in the distance. The weather was quickly turning. Schmoses jumped in the cab and said, “Gun it.” As his car passed the midpoint of the bridge, he saw a beautiful sight: a constellation of yellow cabs massed on the other side of the bridge by the waterline. Thunder was rumbling overhead popping everyone’s eardrums like a tiny drummer knocking a miniature kickstand. It was a strange, eerie, sensation.
Thutmose commanded his troops to continue chasing Schmoses’ car, but there must have been radio interference scrambling the communication signals as a result of the electrical storm flashing overhead. The hybrid vehicles that were part of Pharaoh’s fleet were also malfunctioning. Their batteries were going haywire. The cars were slowing down, refusing to accelerate.
“What’s going on? Keep going!” —“This isn’t what I’m paying for!” Pharaoh was furious.
But it was too late. His luxury car was also beginning to slow while his chauffeur threw up his hands in frustration.
That’s when the big miracle (or the natural disaster) took place. If you are a New York City civil engineer you might not be as fond of the miracle appellation. A powerful lightning bolt hit one of the suspension supports of the bridge. Then another bolt fell on the bridge’s foundations. Gradually, the metal bearings of the bridge began to groan under new pressures. The intense friction of steel on steel created a sickening scream that pierced the air. The bridge was partially collapsing. Pharaoh’s army hadn’t even begun to cross over yet.
This was the most bizarre occurrence yet, even when you factor in the unexplained increase of salt water content in the Hudson River that killed most of its aquatic life, creating a temporary sea of blood that had surrounded the city just days before.
Thutmose cursed Schmoses in his heart, but also out loud because according to his Google Maps, the prospect of rush hour traffic meant he would never catch up with The Tribe, and there wasn’t any sensible alternative route to pursue and capture them either.
Freedom! Liberty! The Jewish people were safe at last. Now they would have to adapt to life in Brooklyn. It wouldn’t be easy. The apartments were far smaller on average and let’s not get started on the cockroaches. The Tribe would have to camp out for a little while to replenish their savings. Thutmose would surely have repossessed any belongings they left behind.
That night, as everyone gathered together in the parking lot of an abandoned baseball stadium, a sense of frustration was building. The people were happy to be free, but they were also hungry, tired, and in a sour mood. They had no money or food to sustain them. What was this they had heard about manna from heaven? That thunderstorm didn’t drop any magic dew on their foreheads. Schmoses turned to his brother Aaron to ask for advice. Aaron had no answers, so Schmoses prayed. Just then a swell of activity began rippling through the crowd. A young girl held up a piece of flatbread in the air. Then another hand followed. Then another. They were all holding flatbread.
The owner of a famous bagel house was among them. He was passing out hundreds if not thousands of what look liked pitas from brown paper bags. The baker had quickly grabbed what he could before escaping, and the yeast of his bagels hadn’t had time to rise. The worst outcome had been averted. They weren’t crisp Upper West Side bagels but they would do.
Now we reach the end of this year’s chapter. Next time you will learn about the 40 years The Tribe spent looking for rent-controlled apartments, and about an exploding pipe that burst when Schmoses smashed it in anger. There will also be something about The Promised Land. Will it be Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, somewhere upstate?
To be continued next year.
Jacob Stein is a filmmaker and writer who calls ‘action’ and ‘cut’ on professional film sets as a member of the Director’s Guild of Canada. Fiction has been steadily occupying more of his time during the past year along with a heavily-researched documentary film project. Stein is currently working on his debut novel “Channel Changers,” while also writing a second piece of long fiction that is more fragmentary in nature. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Toronto, and an MA from Ryerson University.