by Eliza Master
You wear a white taffeta flower on your head just like Billie Holliday. The wind is grabby on the way to the theater. It’s the old mean kind that yanks your umbrella inside out. The gusts tangle your hair and push coarse strands between your lips.
A small river has formed over the trolley tracks. You risk a few raindrops on your coat and close the umbrella to use it as a crutch. Getting your French leather shoes stained and ruined would be a tragedy. So, you point your toes like a dancer and leap. The umbrella slips away from under you.
You land in the flood. You are doused. Shame on that dirty Philadelphia rain! You reach for the flower clip in your hair, to set it straight. And you push up on the wet elbow, determined not to be late.
Out of nowhere a trolley is barreling toward you at high speed. You make eye contact with the driver. He stands and waves at you frantically. But your head is filled with the clattering of the trolley wheels. You hear screeching metal and smell burning. There is a gush of wind and the vehicle knocks you down into the stream. It rides across you, crushing your breast. There is a flash of pain that sears like a lightning bolt. You don’t breathe. The bones break in your neck like a shattered teacup. Your heart pumps twice and once more before the blood empties on its own. And then you feel better.
You watch the driver drag the handsome girl from under the trolley. Her head skitters along in its own rhythm, still attached to her neck by a few tendrils. You see that her face is clean, though bloodless, and the white flower is still where it should be. You see that she is you. People pick you up and bring you back home. There is no Jewish morgue in Philadelphia, so they lay you on the dinner table.
Your mother is sobbing. “Candy, Candy, my beautiful girl, how did this happen?” You hate that your name is Candy, but you don’t have a voice to tell her. She puts a rag across your neck to hide the mess, and gently swabs off your blouse.
Benjamin pulls on her apron. “Is she dead, mommy? Is she going to heaven, mommy?” Your mother cries louder and your brother matches her tenor. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!”
Soon Father comes home. He waits till Mother is gone to the latrine before choking out his own tears. He rests his forehead against what’s left of your chest. His skullcap slips off. Then he lifts his head, bellowing, “Why, God!” You think that the whole block can hear him. Mother comes running with Benjamin in her arms. You are sad and sorry, and you miss being alive. Mother makes a bed of pillows and all three spend the night on the dining room floor with your body.
Obeying Jewish law, they bury you at Mikveh Israel the following afternoon. A wood board marks your grave. It reads, candy newberg, born 1920, died 1935. The soft dirt muffles the world above and you are exhausted. So, you rest with your body underground. Which is precisely what you are doing when you hear a verse that awakens you.
You don’t want to leave the safe coffin, but the spell is so alluring you can’t resist. You rise through the fresh earth and see the Dybbuk Catcher. He holds a lit red candle in one hand and an empty matchbox in the other. His brow pinches and his eyes squint as he repeats the sugary rhyme. You fight the draw, but it overcomes you and you climb into his box. He seals the edges with melted wax, leaving only a pinhole of early morning light. You are trapped.
You bob along the road in the Dybbuk Catcher’s pocket. Shortly you feel him push open a door and recognize the entry bell of Crain’s Confectionary. You have enjoyed their butter creams and rich sipping chocolate many times.
“Morning, Mr. Crain,” says a gal as you pass. You imagine her bonnet and embroidered apron, and wish you were she. Mr. Crain bounces you up two flights of stairs and sets your box on a shelf in the corner of the room. Through the pinhole you see a wall of drawers. One drawer is labeled, Body parts; Foot, and another reads, People; Supernatural Witch.
“Daddy, Daddy!” A boy climbs up the stairs lugging a toy goat with four wheels. His cherry cheeks and pooh bear eyes shine as he rides the animal across the chocolate room. While petting the goat’s fur he accidentally drives over his father’s shoe.
“Boy! You don’t belong here!” shouts the Dybbuk Catcher angrily. He sticks out his leg and topples goat and the boy. The toy goat’s head pops off its wooden neck and rolls under the table. You remember that is what happened to your head as well. Fervently, the boy goes after the goat’s head and kisses its furry face.
Meanwhile, Mr. Crain plops your box into an open drawer, along with two slabs of unblemished lead. It is midway up the wall. You can feel other dybbuks trapped in the drawers surrounding you. They smell like horse manure and whisper old Yiddish. Their discontent itches in your soul.
The dybbuk spell from the graveyard does its work. You feel a great lurch in the bottom of your being. Then— Presto! Your soul has made a mold. There is a loud plunk and both Mr. Crain and the boy stare at your drawer. You have etched a design into the lead slabs. It is a rendition of a goat on a boy.
You realize all the drawers are filled with molds made by dybbuk souls. Now you understand why Crain’s is praised as the most original and inventive confectionary in Pennsylvania. Certainly, Hershey’s can’t compete with the intricacies of a dybbuk mind.
Mr. Crain marches over to your drawer. “By god!” he exclaims. You see that his grave digger face is transformed by a wide smile. “Son, this one is for you.”
The child trots over. “Goat’s is better?” He reaches out a hand to pet the mold.
Mr. Crain sashays over to the copper melter, brimming with molten chocolate. The boy trails after him. You feel proud as he fills the mold and places it on the marble table for cooling.
“Is it done, is it done?” asks the boy impatiently.
“No, sit!” commands his father. “I will come back when it’s ready. Don’t move.” He points to a lonely chair with its back to the room. You feel sorry for the little one. The Dybbuk Catcher stomps down the stairs.
Naturally, the boy jumps out of the chair and rushes to the warm mold. With tiny fingers he pries it open while humming a familiar song.
Here the child pauses, not sure what comes next. The mold pops apart and luscious chocolate spills onto the table. A bright smile lights up his face. He shouts “Candy!” and finishes the spell with your name.
You whisk out of the matchbox and burst out of the drawer to land on the boy’s shoulder. He laughs with abandon as though he can feel you. The melted chocolate is all over his face. The buttons of his vest are smudged. No one notices that Mr. Crain has returned.
“Bad boy!” Mr. Crain smacks his son across the cheek, leaving a bright red blemish. You have never hated anyone as much as you hate the Dybbuk Catcher. He hauls his son downstairs.
You fly out the window. And you keep flying. You leave Philadelphia, and you fly around the world. You go to the chocolate plantations in Africa and the confectionaries in Paris. Melted chocolate smells like freedom.
Eventually you return to Crain’s confectionary. Above the door is an illustration of your mold, goat and boy. Inside, the melter is on, saturating the air with rich chocolate. You see that the boy has grown into a steady gentleman. His tawny hair has turned silver. You remember your drawer and fly upstairs to see that it is ajar and empty. The other drawers are empty too, and the room is quiet. The dybbuks have gone away.
And the Dybbuk Catcher is gone, too.
Eliza Master is an enthusiastic writer and potter, and builds stoves in Guatemala. She has studied Arabic, and speaks Spanish and English. Several magazines have published her stories and Wayzgoose Press will publish her three novels; The Scarlet Cord, The Twisted Rope, and The Shibari Knot in 2018. She lives in Oregon with her Labradoodle, Samantha.