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Shanty and Mahmood
by Albert Russo

My uncle tells me that I’ll get a fatwa if I keep saying ‘damn’ this and ‘damn’ that, on account that there are Islamists spying on some street corners, specially in Jerusalem. What’s friggin freedom of expreshun for, damn it! I’ll cuss as much as I want and no chadored Mamluk - them bozos who adore their enslaved women to be cloaked from head to toe -, Haredim with spaghetti hair or Pigvangelists who seem to be born with a mike hooked to their tongue, will stop me. My ancestors haven’t invented the French Revolution for the dogs, coz if that were the case, we would be ruled by French poodles, chihuahas, and dobermistresses.

So here we were at the café in Ole Jaffa, me, clutched between sexy Avi and Miki and dreamy Unky Berky, sitting opposite Shanty and Mahmood, the two dragabushkins we were told about earlier, coz she, apart from all the stalactites dangling from her skinny tips, like she was a walking altar, had cheeks dabbed with torero red, so glaring that you needed sunglasses, while her Palestinian boyfriend had circles of purple day glo around his eyes and a zillion little sequins dotting his face and his fluffed-up hair, as if he’d just come out of a jacuzzi bath full of mercury or, since I’m supposed to be a powetess too, as if he’d fallen off the star-spangled firmament.

I don’t know whether it was the sight of these two which made my uncle look so stoned or whether he was fantasizing being himself a maverick, with the hope of joining them in a freak triangle, but I was getting a little worried for him. To be sure he got down back to reality, I pinched his left buttock. He squealed with a very piggish sound, so I was relieved.

“Oh, what a lovely voice you have!” said Mahmood, whistling in appreciation, and he blinked like a daft puppet. “I woudn’t be surprised if you sang professionally or that you were part of a choir. Could you give us a taste of your talent?”

Jeezette, what next! And gap-toothed Shanty who added on cue in broken, very broken French:

“Oui, oui, nous vouloir toi chanter!”

“Indeed,” Miki chimed in, “how about a Jacques Brel song, like ‘Ne me quitte pas’?”

Where had I landed, amid a bunch of screwballs, including now our two hunks? Or were these people typical of this country, once they left the army, even just for the weekend? Coz I learned that Shanty too had served a couple of years as a soldieress, under much duress. As for grinning Mahmood, being an Arab citizen, he was not allowed to join the Israeli military, on account that he might spy for the enemy and give strategic clues to the terrorists.

«Whoah ... sss ... jjj!» I whooshed. That’s what I do when I get flummoxed and can’t find my words.