WARNING: Contains Disturbing Imagery and Language. Discretion is advised.
Newark, New Jersey
“Emmit,” called his manager, Paul. “Go restock the Cokes. We just sold the last one.” Emmit turned and nodded. He pressed the button labeled “BREW” and walked away from the line of three-gallon coffee makers. He passed by the short aisles of brightly packaged snacks and candy and went through the backroom door next to the bathrooms. In a normal room, he had to hunch his thick neck and broad shoulders to avoid bumping his head. Here, he had to nearly arch his back and almost double over to fit in the low ceiling cooler room.
Whiny pop music played through the speakers as he got to work. He grabbed red labeled soda bottles and slid them into the correct slanted racks. Each movement took great thought and intention, so Emmit moved quite slowly. Paul hated how slow Emmit was, but put up with him since Emmit never complained about the work. Emmit never said anything, actually. He just did what he was told. So, his supervisor went to calling him names like “dumbass” and “retard” when customers wouldn’t hear. Still, Emmit didn’t say anything.
His breath rose in great clouds of steam as Emmit restocked the beverages. He finished the Coca-Colas and proceeded to fill the rest of the openings. He’d been told to fill everything he could whenever he was back here. Most of his coworkers avoided going back here, and the ones that didn’t wore jackets or coats when working in the cooler. Emmit liked the cold. It reminded him of his life in Europe. The “winters” in this part of the new world didn’t get cold enough to call them truly winter. As Emmit picked up a case of Budweiser and stocked the shelves at the end, his mind drifted back.
“In this new world,” the master said to his companion as they stood on the deck, watching the giant bronze statue draw closer as they approached the bay. “We can finally escape the fear. Our people have promise and freedom here. We will finally live well.” The master wiped his eyes with a black handkerchief. His companion stood there silently, staring out with a black face. The master looked up from his wide-brimmed velvet hat. “Come, my son. Let us sit and wait.” He led his companion through the deck’s crow of immigrants and they found an empty bench. The companion’s skin was dark brown like freshly turned Polish soil. He stood two feet taller than everyone and his extremely broad body gave him his nickname from the other passengers: The African Giant. He’d never been to Africa - hardly seen south of Salzburg. But most insisted on calling him African, and he was unable to correct them.
The ship docked and hundreds of men, women, and children of every European country flooded down the gangway. They made their way to the large building with huge gaping doors, soon turning their crowded mass into tangled single file lines. The sun was setting when the master with the curls at his temples and the massive companion got to a podium. Immensely tall, vaulted ceilings trapped in the heat from the hundreds of people and the humidity of the shore. It created a hot, sticky, sweaty smell. The man behind the podium was in a dark uniform and glared at the two men as they approached.
“Name,” he said loudly to be heard over the building’s noise. When neither man answered immediately, he rolled his eyes and barked, “NAME.”
“Josef Gormanch,” the bearded master said quickly.
“And you?” barked the officer, pointing at the large man.
“He…” the master stuttered, “He...no...uh...speak. He...uh...emet.” The officer rolled his eyes and scribbled on the ledge.
“Country of origin,” he said, then impatiently, “WHERE.”
“Ah, Osterreich,” the master said. The man wrote on the ledger and pointed at it.
Joseph Gorman, Austria
Emmit Gorman, Austria
The master opened his mouth with confusion, but quickly closed it, seeing the glare from the official. He scribbled his signature in the box next to their new names. The official took the pen back and scribbled their names and some information on some documents. He smashed a stamp on each and handed them over. He yelled, “NEXT,” and the two men walked forward into the less dense crowd. After several shuffling moments, they stepped into the New World.
The alleys they wandered through in Brooklyn looked no different from the ghetto they had escaped from in Austria. Eyes filled with suspicion and hatred followed them. People wearing crosses around their necks looked angrily at the bearded hebrew and his dark skinned companion. The master, who had been a prominent rabbi back in their home community, could only find work at a delicatessen; his companion could not speak and so no one wished to hire him.
One night, the master Joseph and his companion Emmit were sitting at the street corner bar. The man behind the bar eyed them with suspicion, but when Joseph passed over some bills, he allowed them to stay. As the bartender walked away, Joseph scoffed to Emmit, “Money. That’s the only Messiah we’ll ever see in this world, my friend.” The bartender came back with a pair of amber filled glasses and set them down. The two men took them and drank silently. A few days before, the Great War with Germany and the Axis Powers had been declared ended, and the streets, parks, and bars filled with every citizen in celebration. But as victory was reported to the world, the jews knew the true loss. When Joseph Gorman read of the camps and mass graves found throughout central Europe, he threw down the paper and led Emmit to the bar. Joseph grumbled as he took large gulps of the beer and Emmit drank his in one, silent swallow. When they put their glasses down, Joseph raised his hand for another round. Instead, the bartender slammed down a handful of change.
“Hey,” Joseph said, “what is this? I’m paying to drink. Give me and my friend our drinks.” The balding bartender folded his arms and glared.
“I decided I don’t like the two-a-yous. You’ve had your drink, now get outta my bar.”
“My money is just as good as any,” Joseph said.
“Not here, it ain’t. If you think it is, take it to some other big-nose and drink with him. You and your negro get out.” He pointed to the door with a fat finger. Around them, the bar was silent.
“Haven’t my people suffered enough,” Joseph cried. “Now, get me and my friend our drinks!” Two large men rose in the back and came up to the bar. They stood on either side of the rabbi.
“Donny. Lip. Get this wetback and eggplant outta here.” The two men grabbed Joseph by the arms and lifted him from the barstool. Joseph yelled and flailed, trying to get free and fight. The men squeezed harder and Joseph cried out in pain. At that, Emmit stood.
“Come on, boy,” one of the men said to Emmit. “You’re both leaving.” He kicked Emmit, and when Emmit didn’t move, the man shook Joseph. “You retarded or somethin’? I said m-.” his voice became a squelch as one of Emmit’s massive hands wrapped around the man’s throat. The other man let go of the rabbi and beat at Emmit’s hand and arm.
“Fuckin’ let him go! Get off him you gorilla! You’re killing him!” Emmit’s other hand shot out and grabbed the man’s face. The man screamed as Emmit’s fingers tightened. Another man came from behind and yelled as he smashed a bottle on the back of Emmit’s bald head. Emmit didn’t even flinch as he squeezed his hands. Cracking sounds came from underneath his hands and blood spurted out from between his fingers as each man fell: one’s head severed, the other’s face ripped off.
Screams filled the bar as people scrambled for the doors. The bartender lifted a large shotgun and a blast went off. No blood exploded from the hole the shell made in Emmit’s chest. Instead, there was a cloud of dirt and flying chunks of broken clay.
“Jesus Christ,” screamed the bartender. He fired again, but his hands were shaking and the recoil of the blast kicked him back. The shot missed Emmit but there was an explosion of blood and tissue. Emmit’s eyes of burning red flame looked down. Joseph lay on the floor, half of his head a mess of broken bone, blood, and shredded tissue. If Emmit had a voice, he would have screamed in mourning for his master. He looked up at the bartender backed up into a corner of the bar. Emmit marched forward, through the bar, shattering it, and grabbed the bartender’s throat. He squeezed and shoved the man into the wall, lifting him off his feet. Emmit smashed the man’s head into the bottles on the wall. Blood, bone, and brain exploded against the wall. The screams of the fleeing patrons doubled and soon the bar was an empty mess of broken glass and overturned tables and stools.
Emmit went back and picked up the body of his dead master. Blood dripped from the head and Emmit’s hands. The sound of approaching sirens jolted him into action, and he carried his master out the back door and through the alleys.
“Emmit,” Paul’s voice snapped. “Retard. Come on. Someone exploded the shitter. You’re cleaning it. Put that down and let’s go.” Paul rolled his eyes and closed the cooler door. It made a rubbery thump as Emmit put the case of Budweiser down. He walked out of the fridge and collected the cleaning supplies. As he walked silently to the bathroom, he thought of the night he buried his master. And of the piece of paper his master would never remove from under the golem’s tongue.