By on Jul 10, 2017 in Humor

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Meditation class, with overlaid sunset

Lucy Schmaltz was still talking, now about how the question of the existence of God was not germane to “an understanding, or, more accurately, an acceptance of Buddhism.”

“So,” she said, “why don’t we try a little meditation?”

Chairs scraped the floor. People stretched and sat up straight. Harold’s eyes opened.

“Sit straight, feet flat on the floor but don’t tense up,” Lucy was saying.

I backed my chair away from the table like everybody else was doing.

“Eyes forward, open, and down,” Lucy said, “softly focused on a spot about four feet in front of you.”

That gave me a view of everybody’s feet under the table. It was not an especially appealing view, dirty sneakers, sandals, and toes, but my chair wouldn’t go back far enough to open any space in front of me.

“Pay attention to your breath… the inhalation… the exhalation. If you have a thought… or a feeling or emotion… notice it… and let it go…”

If I have a thought? Ya, I have a thought. I’d like to rub my chin against Helene’s neck and chest. How’s that thought?

“The thoughts come… the thoughts go… The breath comes… the breath goes…”

My softly focusing eyes were crossing. How long would we be doing this? She hadn’t said.

“Remember, heads up straight. Try not to shift your position. The discomfort will come… the discomfort will go…”

Then… silence… Well, not exactly silence. Someone sniffled. Someone sighed. Someone coughed. But Lucy had stopped talking. No more pleasant calm voice to pay attention to…

Instead, there was nothing… A vacuum. A silent room with eight or ten Jewish idiots looking at their feet.

The fluorescent lights buzzed faintly. Someone tried once again to push a chair back just a little farther. I tried to look at my watch without moving noticeably but I couldn’t. My left leg and butt were starting to hurt. All right, I’m supposed to notice it.

Yup, there I was, noticing it. Noticing it. Noticing how it didn’t go away. Boy did I feel antsy. Of course, I could move any time I wanted, but I wasn’t supposed to. My left leg was going numb. I’ve always had trouble sitting in a hard chair for any length of time, like at ballgames, conferences, Hebrew school…

It was a pain sort of like two ends of a piece of rope twisted over and over again so that eventually the rope, formerly pulled taut, begins to warp and turn backwards against itself, tendons effectively severing any connection they might have had with my now loosely floating foot.

My right eyebrow was starting to itch.

How this experience was going to solve anything was not exactly clear to me. To try to deal with the itch, I raised my right eyebrow, I frowned, I closed my right eye, my left eye, then both eyes. Then it occurred to me I probably wasn’t supposed to be doing these things. I tried to think of something else. My left leg had gone senseless, unless you count the dull ache extending from my left butt area down to my knee. I tried to lift myself subtly off the left butt cheek just for some muscular stimulation, some blood flow. Then I realized that, of course, I was not supposed to do that either.

Don’t do this, don’t do that. If this was Buddhism, I’d already gotten it from my mother while growing up. Don’t go out in the rain. Don’t do that with your face. Take your jacket. Wear your rubbers. Don’t you dare do that. Jackie Mason must have stolen all his material from my mother. How old was he now? Eighty? Eighty-five? Ninety? My mother, well, she would have been seventy-nine in February. Ay, what are you gonna do? Sit up straight. Don’t slouch your shoulders. Eat your kishkes.

When would Lucy let us stop? Before or after the mites had colonized my right eyebrow? Before or after the left leg, which I was only assuming was still there, needed amputation?

There was a rap on the conference room door. Everybody looked up. An old, hunched over, balding, white-haired man stepped in. Without really looking at anyone, he announced, “Okay, you kids gotta go. I’m closing up the building in ten minutes.” He turned to go.

You kids. Did he even notice that we weren’t the typical Hebrew school students? Wait a minute. I knew that guy. It was Mr. Fafafnik. He’d been the janitor here thirty years ago. He used to let me and Milton Splofkes in the side door when we’d been out playing catch instead of being inside for the first twenty minutes of class.

Mr. Fafafnik paused at the door. I looked at Lucy Schmaltz. She was smiling, apparently unperturbed.

“Okay, sir,” she said. “We’ll be on our way in a moment. I promise.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Fafafnik said, and he let the door bang shut behind him as he left.

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After receiving degrees in psychology from Wesleyan and Duquesne Universities, and since completing Naropa University’s Creative Writing Program in Prague, Czech Republic, in 2005, Laurence Levey has had short stories published in Cezanne’s Carrot, Art Times, Versal, Ellipsis, The Barcelona Review and The Manhattanville Review; book reviews published in Drunken Boat and Word Riot; and poetry accepted for publication in Fulcrum. He was a semi-finalist in the Summer Literary Seminars-2010 Unified Literary Contest, a runner-up in the Summer Literary Seminars 2017 Contest, a finalist in the 2016 Breakwater Review Fiction Contest, and he writes for The Review Review.