Excerpts for Debba : A Novel
It was in Toronto in 1977, seven years after I had last seen him, that I learned of my fatherâ€™s murder. When the phone rang I half expected to hear Aunt Rinaâ€™s
voice, inviting me to the Passover seder. Instead I heard the line crackle and a
faint voice said, â€œStarkman? David Starkman?â€
In an instant I knew. â€œKen?â€ I croaked in Hebrewâ€"yes.
â€œThis is Yaâ€™akov Gelber. I am an attorney in Tel Avivâ€"â€
â€œMy father,â€ I said.
â€œI am afraid so.â€Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â
Â Â Â Perspiration broke out on my chin as Mr. Gelber said without preliminaries that my father had died. â€œYou of course have my most profound sympathies,â€ he said in Hebrew, â€œbut there are someâ€¦urgent matters to discuss, else I would not call you on the holiday.â€
Â Â Â It was only April but the Toronto weather was freakishly hot and my cheap one-room apartment on Spadina Avenue was baking in the heat. My sole white shirt, which I had put on for an evening out with Jenny, was soaking with sweat, as Jenny kept massaging my neck, the back of my head, the veins at my temples.Â I again had a migraine after last nightâ€™s black dreams. It often hit me when evening fell, and so we rarely went out. I had hoped tonight would be better, but it wasnâ€™t. I dabbed at my face with a dish towel and tried to concentrate on Mr. Gelberâ€™s voice, which was explaining in my ear how someone had broken into my fatherâ€™s shoe store the previous night while he was taking inventory, and following the robbery (an unsuccessful attempt, really, since nothing of value was taken), my father was stabbed in the heart with one of his own knivesâ€"the one used for cutting soles. â€œIt was probably an Arab robber,â€ Mr. Gelber said, his voice neutral, â€œbecause the body was also mutilated.â€