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Written by Maxwell Bauman. Maxwell is the Managing Editor of Door Is A Jar literary magazine. He is a nice Jewish boy with a collection of more than 60 different versions of the Kama Sutra spanning 9 languages. To read more of Maxwell’s writing on Jewrotica, check out his piece Shiksa Goddess and Putzes at an Exhibition.
A gravely and unfamiliar voice called out my name, “Beth.”
The morning light assaulted my eyes and I groaned. I wasn’t ready to start the day.
“Beth. Beth. Wake up.”
I thought my husband might have a cold. “Five more minutes, Keves.” I was too tired to notice that he wasn’t in bed with me. I curled up and flung the covers over my head, but the light was much stronger under the sheets. I cracked my eyes to discover bright orange flames flickering out the edges of my panties.
“Good morning, Beth,” the fire said.
I screamed and kicked off the sheets.
“What’s wrong?” Keves called from the kitchen.
“My pussy’s on fire!”
“I’ll get you some cranberry juice,” he said.
I tried to pat out the fire, but my efforts were fruitless. I ran to the bathroom, turned the shower on at full blast and jumped in. The water was freezing cold, yet the fire remained unaffected. It took me a moment to realize that my panties hadn’t burned off.
“Beth,” the fire gargled.
“I must be going crazy,” I muttered.
“Beth,” the fire said again.
“Yes?” I poked at my crotch.
“Do not come any closer,” the fire said. “Take off your undergarment, because the place where you are fingering is holy.”
I stood up and removed my soaked nightgown and pulled down my panties. My pubic hair was completely ablaze.
“I am the God of your mother, the God of Sarah, the God of Rebekah, the God of Leah, and the God of Rachel,” my burning bush said.
“This can’t be real,” I said. I hesitantly dipped my fingers into the fire, and my fingers were left unscathed.
Keves knocked on the door. “Is everything alright in there, honey?”
“It’s fine! I’m fine.”
“Ok, I got your juice ready out here. Just let me know if you need anything.”
“I’ll be out soon.” I covered my breasts to keep from shivering.
“If you follow my command, I will open your womb,” the fire said.
I had always wanted to have a child, but two years ago the doctors told me I was infertile. It had taken me a long time to come to terms with motherhood not being a part of my life. I blamed my genetics, myself, but not once did I think God was the one keeping my womb shut. As if trying to explain my burning bush to Keves wouldn’t be hard enough, now I had to tell him it spoke to me with promises of motherhood. I didn’t know if he’d understand it, but I hoped he’d at least be supportive.
I was terrified to leave the bathroom. My nightgown and panties were drenched. I went back into the bedroom and threw on Keves’s Toronto Maple Leafs hockey jersey that it reached past my knees.
Keves was in the kitchen cooking up eggs. He had left a glass of cranberry juice out for me on the counter. “Hey, hon. How you feeling?”
“Weird.” I sat down at the table. There was still a glow emanating from my groin and I put my hands in my lap. “Speaking of weird, I have something to show you that might be a little difficult for you to understand.” I stood up and flashed my fire crotch.
Keves looked over his shoulder. That would be the last time I saw any sense of serenity on his face. He dropped the pan of eggs on the floor and scrambled for the fire extinguisher under the sink. He popped back up and blasted my nether region with white foam.
“Keves! Stop!” I cried out, struggling to cover my eyes and crotch at the same time.
“You’re on fire!”
“I know! Just stop!”
“But — “
“Keves, it talks.”
“What?” He let the nozzle go limp in front of him with a shaky hand.
“Just listen.” I took off the jersey. “Go on. Tell him what you told me.”
“Again? Fine,” my burning bush said. “I am the God of your mother, the God of Sarah, the God of Rebekah, the God of Leah, and the God of Rachel, and I will direct you to the man whose seed you must take in and open your womb.”
“Ok, well Keves’s right here,” I said.
“This is not the man,” the burning bush said.
I laughed so hard I snorted a little. “What are you talking about?”
“Did I stutter? This ain’t the guy you need to lay with.”
“I’m not going to screw someone that isn’t Keves. And isn’t infidelity a sin?”
“It is the only way I will open your womb,” the fire said flatly. How could that be? My burning bush was telling me— no, commanding me — to be unfaithful to my husband for the sake of a child. “Keves?”
My husband looked up at me as if he’d be punched in the throat. I was worried he was going to cave in on himself.
“Keves, it can’t be serious.”
“Dead serious,” the fire said.
Keves got to his feet. He stared at the mess of eggs and fire retardant floor. “I should clean this up.”
“Leave it. I’ll take care of it.” I put my hand on Keves’s shoulder. “I guess it’s a good thing we don’t have a gas stove.”
He couldn’t take his eyes off my burning pubes. “I need some time to process this.”
“Yeah, me too.” I smiled, desperately needing him to match the expression, but his face was long and eyes heavy.
While this would’ve qualified as a sick day, or at the very least a mental health day, I had missed too many days of work as it was, and couldn’t afford to lose my job. I doubted they’d accept “Act of God” as a viable excuse. Keves was still in a mild state of shock and didn’t try to talk me out of it. And since the fire didn’t actually burn, I got dressed, put on her heaviest pair of jeans, longest sweatshirt and headed out.
I worked in sales for Pario Industries as a telemarketer, Toronto’s largest distributor of housewares, which supplies to retail chain stores and magazines. Unfortunately, I had to pass by my boss’s office to get to my desk. Mr. Ramm was a fitness buff with an aqua polo shirt, spray tan and tweezed eyebrows. He was obsessed with two things: being in control and his image. He was the most stubborn person I’d ever met. “Beth, nice of you to show up,” he said squeezing a squeaky handgrip. I apologized profusely but he said, “What makes this day different from all other days?”
My burning bush chirped up, “The Lord God has spoken to this woman.”
“Hush,” I said and covered my hands over my groin.
“What?” Mr. Ramm asked.
“I said I was in a rush.”
“And you still couldn’t make it in on time.”
“I will direct her to the seed she must take in,” my bush said.
“You don’t have to tell the whole world about it,” I whispered. “Wait a second. Oh God, it’s not him is it?” Mr. Ramm was such a tool, I couldn’t stomach the idea of him crawling on top of me let alone finishing inside of me without a rubber and a bucket load of spermicide. I’d gag if more than just his heart was hardened.
“He is not the one,” my burning bush said.
“Then shut up,” I hissed.
“Who are you talking to?” Mr. Ramm asked.
“Nothing. No one. I’m going to get to work,” I said and dashed off.
“You do that.” Mr. Ramm said loudly with the desperate need to get in the last word.
I took a sharp right turn into the labyrinth of cubical. Before I could make it to my desk, Josephine stopped me at the watercooler. Until I started working at Pario, I thought it was just some trope from sitcoms, and it still should’ve been if it wasn’t for Josephine loitering there to strike up conversation. She was wearing in a checkered blue pantsuit with a silk floral pattern of mandrakes tied around her neck. “Beth, we didn’t think you were coming in today,” she said and then whispered in my ear, “Sweetie, even if you’re on your period, at least try to make an effort to look nice.”
“I’ll try,” I grinned and rubbed my eyes. “It’s just been a stressful day.”
“Are your pants glowing?”
“Oh, my phone’s going off.”
“Are you going to answer it?”
“She has important work ahead of her,” my burning bush said.
She stopped sipping her water and said, “Did you hear something?”
“It’s probably someone watching something online,” I said and started to inch away.
“Are you sure? It seemed so close.” She stuck her finger in her ear to clear out the wax. As she sought out the sound, we were unaware of the contents of the watercooler shifting from clear water to murky red blood. My back tensed up, my shoulders became stiff and I couldn’t hide the look of shock plastered across my face.
“What’s wrong, Beth. Looks like you’ve seen a ghost.” Josephine drank from her paper cup and gave herself a red moustache.
“I have a lot of work to do. We’ll catch up later.”
I was finally able to get to my workspace and sat down with a thud and a sigh. The company insisted we personalize our desks and I went with frog tchotchkes. I had a nice collection of frogs made of wood, metal, some ceramic and glass. There was something about them that cute and made me smile, and they helped get me through the tedium of the job.
“What are we doing here?” My bush asked.
“The man you must find is not here.”
“I’ll deal with you later,” I said to my crotch. “Now be quiet while I make some calls.” I put on my headset and dialed the first number on the list.
“But there are more important things right now.”
“Hello? Who is this?” A man on the line asked.
“Uh, hello? This is Beth from Pario Industries.”
“You must leave this place. Let’s go find the man who will give you a child.”
“Not now,” I said.
“Excuse me?” The man asked.
“I’m sorry sir. I’m calling about a new line of stainless steel pans.”
“Beth, I have decided to answer your prayers and all you need to do is leave this place and I’ll direct you to the man you need to sleep with and, boom, you’ll be a mommy.”
“So help me I will shave you off so fast,” I warned my pubes.
And with that the man on the line hung up. When disappointed, I’d normally led my head fall, but I wasn’t interested at looking at what was in my lap. Instead I looked up to the grid of the drop ceiling. It was structured, organized and clean. It seemed perfect, but then I started thinking about what was happening behind the panels and what might be crawling around up there. It was easier not to think about it and then I heard a voice croak, “Hey, good looking.”
I spun around. Everyone else was engaged with his or her work. I turned back to my desk and there was one of my frog tchotchkes was standing on my keyboard. It was a simple green glass frog sitting in crouched position. I know I didn’t put that one there.
“Sup, cutie?” It asked.
I jumped straight up so fast I thought I might hit the ceiling.
“What’s her problem?” Another frog asked.
“She’s probably nuts,” a different one said.
All of a sudden all my knick-knacks were alive, hopping all over the desk. I tried to keep the frogs contained, but they jumped down from my workspace and spread throughout the office. They got into the cabinets, copier, into mugs and files and every tiny nook and cranky.
My coworkers panicked and swatted at the frogs, the glass and ceramic ones broke pretty easily, but the wooden and metal ones were more durable against such attacks. It was clear that they came from my desk. How could I explain this? My burning bush finally got the best of me and I ran out of the office before I had to make God’s sick mission public knowledge.
My burning bush wouldn’t shut up the whole way home. Like it hadn’t done enough damage at work. When I got home, Keves wasn’t there and his bicycle was gone. He probably needed to clear his head. My bush got even louder demanding I go out and find this specific, unknown man. I wondered if trimming the pubes would get rid of the fire, but the fire probably played by crab rules. It’s not like I could take this to a doctor. Maybe a rabbi?
Then the complaints started coming in from the neighbors and landlord. A written warning was slipped under the door threatening if I didn’t keep the noise down that I’d get kicked out of the apartment.
If that wasn’t enough, then I got a call from Mr. Ramm rattling off a list of complaints from my fellow works, those venomous snakes, about traumatizing them with my blood and frog pranks. I tried to explain that it wasn’t my fault, but he refused to listen and informed me I was fired and banned from the building.
Worst of all was the note I found from Keves, the lion of my life. I thought he went out to clear his head, but the message said he needed to straighten things out in his mind and wasn’t sure if he’d be back. I ran to bedroom and the drawers on his side of the bureau were empty. Bare hangers were scattered on the floor and the closet was half empty. It looked as if he had packed in a hurry. God had driven away the one person in the world who was always supposed to be there for me.
I couldn’t believe that things could escalate so much over just one day, but for the first time in my life I could legitimately blame God for all the grief. Yet, I’m sure his counterargument would be that if I just listened to him, then everything would be all right.
I felt so drained, I needed to recharge with some food and went to the kitchen. If my bush had its way, I’d be barefoot and pregnant. But everything in the fridge had gone bad. All the meat had rotted away, the pomegranate juice spoiled, and the bread was basically penicillin. Nothing was even remotely edible. It was God’s way of getting me out of the house.
I drove to the entertainment district south of Yorkville, but nothing was open. The restaurants in Canada always closed fairly early, but it wasn’t even 2 p.m. on a Tuesday. I knew this was more of God’s doing. “Could you send me some manna?” I asked.
“The only manna I’m interested in giving you won’t be going in your mouth,” my bush said. “But you should know that the man I want you to find is close by.”
“Go straight for three blocks and then it’ll be the second one on your left.”
Well, I could at least see who God had planned to be my baby daddy. A little peek wouldn’t hurt. So I followed God’s instructions. All the lights were green and I found a parking space right away. I was led to tall office building covered in reflective windows.
“Go inside and up to the ninth floor.”
I did as I was told and went inside. The elevator was waiting for me. I pressed the button and enjoyed the muzak for the brief ride.
“He is near,” my bush said.
The doors opened to a long hallway with baby blue walls and dark wooden doors. Most of them were shut except for one at the end of the hall. I peeked in and saw a group of men sitting in folding chairs set up in a circle. What was going on in that room was something I never thought I’d see, each of them had a chatty body part. Voices were coming out of their noses, armpits, hands, and assholes, but the one that caught my eye was the one with the talking penis. It wasn’t the biggest shtupper I’d ever seen, and Keves’s had more girth by far, but at least he was cut. Still, at that point I wouldn’t have been surprised if God was directing me a man with foreskin like saggy parachute pants.
The man had a simple, modest look. He wore a white buttoned-down shirt, a green tie and tweed slacks, and round owl framed glasses. His brown hair was a little mussed up, and he was pale with a sharp chin. The voice coming from his wang was deep and authoritative.
These men gave me hope that I wasn’t alone. “Is that him?”
This was beyond insane. A bush makes it’s own seeds, it doesn’t go out searching for it, yet there I was standing meters away from the person God said could make me a mother. Could it be so wrong if God was telling me to do it? I nudged the door open and walked inside. The man with cock hanging out covered himself.
“Oh, please don’t stop because of me,” I said. “My name is Beth, and I’ve been guided to be here. I know it sounds crazy, but let me show you.” I pulled down my jeans and unveiled my burning bush.
The men flocked to me with eyes filled with wonder and awe.
“That’s incredible!” One said
“And with fire too!” Another said.
The man with the talking dick uncovered his manhood and it said, “She’s going to bring our ventriloquists group to a whole other level!”
When I heard that word, ‘Ventriloquists’ I felt all the hope I had built up in my heart crumble into sand.
The performers offered me a chair and gave me time to regain my composure. The man using his penis as babbling puppet introduced himself as Seth. He put on some tea. My eyes were red and I blew my nose into the sleeves of my sweatshirt. I did my best to explain to this man that God told me to look for him, how I had lost my job, home and Keves all in the same day. He was sympathetic to everything I had to say. I clasped my hand around the mug and felt a bump on my finger. At a closer look there was a boil on my ring finger wedged up against my wedding band. I felt guilty for betraying him. Thunder cracked outside and hail slammed against the windows. It was as if the whole building shook.
“I know this can’t be easy for you,” Seth said. “I don’t know much about God, but I’d never want to be one of his prophets. They never have it easy.”
“You’re not kidding.” He wasn’t gawking at my crotch like the others were doing or like Keves did. He looked me right in the eye, smiling. Maybe it was the right thing for me to do. Maybe God was right to direct me to him. Everything I told him didn’t scare him away. And I smiled back and felt calm until I heard someone say, “Beth?”
Keves stood in the doorway. He was soaking wet from head to toe. He looked sad and scared. My thoughts swarmed like starved locust. Keves stepped into the room and world went black. The lights went out in the whole building. I expected a backup generator to kick on, but the darkness remained blanketed over us. The only light in the room came from my groin.
I reached out blindly for something to hold onto, but I was alone in the void. Then someone stroked down my right forearm and down to clasp his hand in mine hand. On the other side a trembling hand found my wrist and we interlocked our fingers, our rings clinked together.
One was familiar and one strange. Each one had its own future. If I went with the stranger, I knew the light would return, life would be easy with God’s blessing and I’d be a mother. And if I went the familiar one that I promised myself to, that I loved, it would mean God plaguing me for the rest of my life and the death of the possibility of having a firstborn. And I stood there holding my options in my hand and made the hardest choice of my life, and let go of the strange hand.
“Don’t do this,” my burning bush warned.
“Too late,” I said and flung my arms tight around Keves’s chest ready for the waves of torment to come crashing down and sweep us away.