Monday, May 31, 2010

Wild Week

Just back from New York, from speaking in front of the Jewish Book Council (quite enjoyable, and I made notes of which other authors' books to buy, based on their presentations), closing on an apartment, and catching up on the theater and restaurants, the former of which included taking in 8 shows in 8 days. Not as exhausting as the Telluride Marathon I participate in every Labor Day -- seeing 15 movies in 3 days, and waiting on line for each of them! -- but it can still wear you out. One trend I noticed is that shows are getting shorter. In Shakespeare's time, plays were five acts and three-and-a-half hours long if the actors spoke quickly. Then we went down to a three-act structure, which included my father's play, Kataki, which was on Broadway in 1958 (for only 42 performances because the New York Times' reviewer, Brooks Atkinson, didn't like it, and that was all that was necessary to close a show in those days). More recent shows have been two acts long, with the occasional one-act play, or more typically, two one-act plays performed together for a satisfying evening of theater.

But as evidenced by my recent experience with Broadway and Off-Broadway Theater, plays, even musicals, are getting shorter so as to match our attention span. Six out of the eight shows had no intermission, which I consider a good thing, unless the show is so horribly painful that you want to feign illness to get out of the theater. (The only show in recent memory that was that bad was the musical based on Bob Dylan's music -- I know; how could you ruin that? -- at San Diego's Old Globe Theater. Too much stuff we see in San Diego is pre-ordained to go to Broadway, which is not a good thing.)

Anyway, most shows lasted 90-100 minutes, which was the correct length of time to tell their particular stories. I particularly loved GOD OF CARNAGE, by Yasmina Reza, a French playwright with remarkably intimate knowledge of life in suburbia for two yuppie couples who take things way too seriously. From the very first line, a recitation of an informal contract that was presumably to be signed by both parties, it was clear that the playwright understood these couples who are of a type we know to exist, even if we don't know them personally. A kinder, gentler VIRGINIA WOOLF, with more alcohol and less sex.

Not proceeding chronologically, the next best were A BEHANDING IN SPOKANE, the latest by Martin McDonough who has a wicked sense of humor that is occasionally too creepy for my taste (THE PILLOWMAN, for example), but A BEHANDING, though a little grisly, was all fun. So, too, was THE ELABORATE ENTRANCE OF CHAD DEITY, which was about professional wrestling. The subject alone cues that this will be an over-the-top comedy. Well-acted, and highly entertaining (although this play would have benefited by not having an intermission, and, hence, a second act). Almost everything that needed to be said was in the first act.

Then there were the musicals. THE BURNT PART BOYS, about the reopening of a mine in West Virginia ten years after a disaster killed 4 miners, 3 of whom were parents of the principal actors in the show, was exceptionally well-directed on a barebones stage in which ladders and chairs stood for the mountain, the mine, and individual homes in the town. Oddly, though, this bluegrass musical had no 'heart.' How can you not feel for these kids who lost their fathers at a young age? I don't know, but you didn't. FELA! was based on the life of a man who tried to bring reform to a corrupt Nigeria. The theater was decorated like a nightclub, and offered the novelty of being able to bring drinks to your seat (which certain other theaters allowed for a surcharge -- the cost of a "commemorative" plastic cup for your wine). A Bill T. Jones dance show with Afrobeat music. Maybe it was too warm in the theater, but the second act dragged, for me. AMERICAN IDIOT, based on the album of the same name by Green Day, was a RENT or HAIR pretender, but was really just the album with a lot of flashing lights. Turn the music up loud and listen to it at home. I don't know about you, but I wasn't all that interested in Andrew Jackson, our seventh president, the face on our $20 bill, either before, or after, BLOODY BLOODY ANDREW JACKSON. Overhyped; inadequate voices, but a nice try. RED, about Mark Rothko. Turns out he had a ego. What a surprise.


Monday, May 24, 2010


(I know; it's a daily double; this doesn't happen often).

Just returned from the Jewish Book Fair front, where I gave my very tightly worded 2 minute presentation. Having rehearsed it repeatedly for the past month, but probably 100 times over the past two days that I've been in NY, I felt perfectly comfortable about getting up there to give my pitch -- until I saw my competition: Two stand-up comedians, one comedy screenwriter (who did an impeccable imitation of Woody Allen, who blurbed for him), the son of someone who helped bring down the Nixon administration, several NY Times and  Business Week journalists, a couple of authors whose books had been on the New York Times best-sellers lists, (as well as certain authors who were sufficiently well-known that they didn't need to present) -- you know, 'ordinary' people like that, each of whom spoke impeccably, and humorously, during his/her two minutes. In fact, I had the good fortune (if you look at it that way) to be sandwiched between a woman who was a regular on Seinfeld (as a friend of Jerry's parents), and a good-looking former bond-trader-turned-author. I didn't get as many laughs as a lot of the other speakers, but I got some sounds of hearts being warmed by the conclusion of the talk.

So I wasn't really sure how it went, until the reception following the Meet the Author event, when both other authors and the attendees representing the Jewish Book Fairs in other cities told me how much they enjoyed the presentation, and asked me questions about my grandfather, and the process of writing/finishing the book. So I hope to be invited to at least a few of the cities (actually, I hope to be invited to more than a few, but considering that each city can only invite 20 authors, and considering the marque names, that doesn't leave a lot of spaces for people like me. But I did my best. Now I have to wait, and see.

Tomorrow I'm at an independent publishing conference all day. Then, for the rest of the week--9 Broadway and off-Broadway shows; that's my reward.

AFunny Thing Happened on the Way to the Jewish Book Council

I got to NY yesterday afternoon, and had dinner with a friend at a restaurant about a mile from my hotel. This being NY, naturally I walked. I blended in well with the native New Yorkers because I, too,was murmuring to myself, but in my case, I was rehearsing my presentation for this afternoon, with a stopwatch app running on my phone at the same time. Still coming in at about 2:10 or 2:15, and though I doubt there will be others who don't make the 2:00 limit, I WANT to make the limit. So I dropped a few clauses, turned some multi-syllabic words into monosyllabic ones. If I can remember the new edits, I should make the two minute limit - - with breathing. I followed the same routine walking back to my hotel, with one difference: I popped into a little market to pick up a zero-calorie drink. That was a big mistake.

Somehow, I came out of the market and retraced my steps, ie, I headed in the wrong direction. It was only because Rockefeller Center suddenly looked so familiar (I had taken a different route on the way to dinner) that I realized I was facing the wrong way. At that point, I didn't know which way was East or West, or North or South. I knew the hotel's address: 45 W., and knew that, in Manhattan, "W" refers to west of Fifth Avenue and "E" means east of Fifth Avenue. When I was finally pointed in the right direction -- downtown, I walked from Fifth to Sixth and found 45 W., but it wasn't the hotel. (Insert Twilight Zone sound effect, here). Now I was really confused, and not a little shaken up. But I'm willing to admit my mistake, so I went over to a cab driver, told him that I had 'misplaced' my hotel and could he direct me? He didn't have a clue. I stopped someone going into a high-rise apartment building -- clearly someone who lived there because she had a key, and asked her. No clue. Finally I went into a Holiday Inn, and the woman at the desk directed me to the hotel, which was on the next block. What I still don't understand, though, is why there are two "45 W." on the same block, and why one is on the east side and one on the left.

But I think I just figured out the answer: As I Mapquested the location for the Jewish Book Council presentations, about 3 miles away, I typed the Origin as the name of the hotel, rather than the address, and it was then I discovered it is actually on the East Side. So there's no 'Mystery Spot' in Manhattan, and the world is orderly. It is just I who was confused. I think later I'll find a Compass app. on my phone to keep me pointed in the right direction.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Wish Me Luck!

I'm in Miami now, visiting my son, on the way up to New York tomorrow to speak at the Jewish Book Council on Monday afternoon. The objective will be to get as many of the coordinators of the Jewish Book Fair coordinators as possible to invite me to their cities to speak and sell books. I've also sent out  requests to a few authors to read and provide blurbs for the rear book jacket. But it turns out, and I never would have guessed it, that some agents tell their authors not to give any more quotes if they've already provided a certain number of blurbs. In fact, I got a lovely email to that effect from Gary Shteyngart (The Russian Debutante's Handbook, Absurdistan -- worth reading), and David Benioff's (City of Thieves -- also great) lawyer declined on his behalf because he's busy working on an upcoming HBO series. I have 2 other letters out to authors I respect who write 'Jewish' fiction, and have sent the book out to four publications that might review it. At least, though, I have a commitment from Elie Wiesel to provide a blurb for jacket, but I'm hoping to have a few others. I've also contacted the owners of a few independent bookstores in NY and Miami, whom I hope will read the book and consider carrying it in their stores. So this stage is, surprisingly, a little more difficult than I had expected, but I'm positive that when people read The Accidental Anarchist, they'll love it.

So wish me luck next week, and I'll update the blog afterwards.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blogging May Be Sporadic for a While

Things have gotten very hectic preparing for the book launch. I just received my advanced review copies yesterday, and am now sending them out to review publications for quotes. I'd already have half a dozen of them in the mail by now if I weren't having such a hard time writing the promotional back jacket blurb copy,but that's my problem. In the meantime, I'm also identifying independent bookstores who will read independently published books to consider carrying them in their stores. And also contacting authors (whom I don't know) and requesting that they read my book and provide a quote for the back cover. The one thing I have going for me in this last regard is that Elie Wiesel has committed to providing a quote (I sent him my proof copy, which I got about 2 weeks ago). I was planning to wait till I had his quote in hand before contacting the other authors, but my friend, Barbara, suggested that I not wait, because everyone is busy and who knows how long something can take. It may be that I publish in October with fewer quotes, and as more come in I'll update the back cover. That's one advantage of being in charge of the printing, yourself (though it may use up my ISBN numbers more quickly). That's why there is typically a 3 to 4 month lead time between the time a book is "finished" and when it's published -- you need stuff to fill out the back cover. I have a few authors in mind to contact, but if anyone would like to make a suggestion, or has a personal relationship with an author of 'Jewish' books or history books, drop me a note; it may very well help.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Process, Redux

I'm interrupting this post to add some information that I had forgotten to include yesterday,which is a continuation of last week's post on Process:

1) I attended one day of the Los Angeles book fair. There were readings and panels and signings by ‘name’ authors, few of whom I got to hear since Ticketmaster had screwed up my ticket order (and I didn’t notice until it was too late). I’m not sure what I had expected, but what I learned is that it is not worthwhile to have a booth there to sell my book as there were hundreds (maybe a slight exaggeration) of self-published authors there, and I didn’t see a lot of books flying out of their booths. Plus, I don’t know the quality of these other independent publishers or the quality of their materials, but I don’t think being among them (no offense intended) would serve me well. So knowing that saves me a lot of time. But I got to spend time with the friend with whom I went up to LA, and we got to hear Carol Burnett speak about her book and sign them. My friend, Zoe, was thrilled (so thrilled that she got a signed book for me, too).

2)I’m working on writing a variety of blurbs of different lengths to describe my book: One that a reviewer might want to use when describing the book as succinctly as possible, one that might appear on the Amazon page [NOTE TO SELF: Check on length requirement/limitation].

3)Last Saturday, I received the Proof copy of my book. It was quite cool to see it made up the correct size, and bound. Even if the back is mostly blank. That copy was supposed to be for me to proofread, etc., but instead I used it for another, important purpose: I send it to Elie Wiesel, whom I had contacted earlier and who promised a blurb for the book. Once I have that, I hope it will be easier to invite other authors to contribute quotes.

4)I posted a job on Elance, the site at which I found my book jacket designer and editor/proofreader. I'm hoping to hire someone who knows about driving traffic to a blog, as I knew I would like to have more people discover this blog and participate/comment in it. But I guess the requirements for the job were just too much, as I haven't gotten any applications. I may try to post it at UCSD, where I would imagine I can find someone skilled in this area. But if anyone has any recommendations for someone who knows how to drive target traffic to a blog (and the posting at Elance identifies the markets), please send him/her my way.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled content:
I had a very nice mother's day-- my first as an empty nester. But both boys called me (without prompting, at least by me) and talked at length. And one of them sent flowers, too. Even though we couldn't all be together, being able to talk to them without their being in a hurry to get off the phone -- for good reasons, as they're both busy, made me really happy.

So I'm a little overdue on updating the blog.

Continuing now about the Process of bringing this book to publication:
1) The past few days have been spent on research: which independent bookstores in San Diego, New York and Miami will read and consider carrying an independently published book? I want to write to each of them and schedule a time to go in and meet them and make a pitch for my book. I've also been trying to locate the email addresses of several particular authors from whom I would like to solicit a quote. I've managed to find most of the contact information, but I'm going to wait till I hear back from Elie Wiesel before I approach anyone else. Having a blurb from him will give the book the credibility it needs for me to approach the authors I'm thinking about. Plus I'm researching publications that will review independently published books. Some are more prestigious than others, though most of my focus will be on Jewish publications, as they are my primary/initial market. I may also pursue some academics, leaders in the field of knowledge about the Russo-Japanese War. Professors of Military History, Japanese History, Russian History, Jewish History and several others. I'm going to need to start building a list, and plan to send each of them a chapter (or portion of a chapter) and suggest that they might want to use the book in their classes. There's a chance that they may only want to buy excerpts, but there was a recent discussion in an online Self-Publishing group in which I participate that talks about how to price excerpts.
2) I'm also proofreading, again, the entire book, and have rewritten the opening, which I wasn't happy with, anyway, though now I am. I just have to decide whether it should stand alone as something like a Prologue (though prologues are currently out of fashion. Doesn't bother me too much, especially since I have an Epilogue describing life for my grandfather when he got to the U.S.) One unfortunately thing about proofreading is that I'm a chronic rewriter; I always think something can be said a little better, or with fewer words. Plus, I'm looking forward to getting feedback from my book club when we meet in a little over a week. They're reading my book for this month, and I hope they'll point out areas that don't make sense or are confusing, as well as typos. One friend who finished the book already expressed confusion about one of the characters, and I understand why; it's because in one part of the book my grandfather refers to him, primarily, by his first name, and much later in the book primarily by his last name. That's an easy fix, and a great catch.
3) As soon as I have the text finalized, I'm going to convert the file so that it can be downloaded. I haven't yet decided how many platforms to offer. If anyone is thinking about wanting to buy the download version, let me know what platform you use.
4) I'm working on an essay about getting to know my grandfather through the process of working on this book. I'd love it to be good enough to appear on the back page of the NY Times Sunday magazine, but that's a long shot. On the other hand, I think I have a pretty good sense of the style of article they publish, and am going to try to fit that. It would be awesome if I could get that published before the book comes out, as I need to work on ways to get attention for this book so I can sell it.
5) I need to work on some pre-marketing materials, too, such as descriptions of various lengths that can be used for different purposes, such as the rear jacket of the book (I'm writing a few versions of it, and will take it to booksellers to get their advice on what works), for Amazon to use, and for me to use in letters to booksellers, reviewers, etc. And if you think it's no big deal writing a letter, guess what: it takes forever. Writers obsess over every syllable, which is why we always ask someone else in the family to write a card to a friend. It must be performance anxiety .

So I'm putting together, and following, my (Pre-)Marketing plan, but a big part of it is something I can't do alone, and that's Getting the Word out. So, if you enjoy this blog, or ready an excerpt that you particularly enjoyed, please let other people know. Just as we've seen in even presidential elections, each vote is collected/each book is sold one person at a time.

Thank you for your support.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Fortunately, I’ve been keeping a diary of everything I do WRT publishing my book. Otherwise, I couldn’t look back to yesterday, let alone to a week or two ago, to recall the different steps involved in publishing this book.

It has been a little over two weeks since my last entry on this subject, and here is what has been happening:

1)    The most exciting thing is that, this week, I was FINALLY able to order 100 Advance Review Copies of my book (ignore the back cover; that's still a work in process) to be sent to the Jewish Book Council in advance of the presentations that will be given at the end of May. (I’ve been assigned to May 24, and hope to provide an update that night or the following day about how it went). [Advance Review Copies are what they sound like – books that are distributed to reviewers. They may not have all the obligatory information, such as the Copyright page or an Index, if relevant, and are usually marked as Not Proofread (even if it has been) because it takes multiple rounds of proofreading, by several people, to catch every typo and grammatical error. Plus, I’m reading the book now as a reader rather than the writer, and that is leading me to make a few text changes)]. Although it hadn’t occurred to me before, this is why books, on the day they are released, always have blurbs on the back cover.  Ideally, the author can afford to wait 3 months to get reviews before going to press. I hadn’t planned on having that much ‘down time’ before the October release date, but getting ready for the Jewish Book Council presentation really accelerated things. ARCs, as they’re called, are not supposed to be sold, but it’s apparent that reviewers do sell them as we have, on several occasions, bought books online that were review copies.

2)    As I will be in Miami (one of my sons lives there) prior to going to NY to speak, I researched what independent bookstores exist there. I’m going to contact the owner or buyer, introduce myself and ask him or her to read my book and consider carrying it in the store. One of our highly regarded local independent bookstores has already agreed to read and consider carrying my book, so I’m going to pursue that strategy in every city in which I find myself, including NY. [NOTE TO SELF: Add to tasks ‘contact independent bookstore owners/managers this week].

3)    I am also researching which publications review self-published (or independently published) books. The major publications, like The New York Times Book Review, would not do that, but there are other publications that will, and I need to identify them. Fortunately, I have that 3 month lead time that they say they require.

4)    I wasn’t happy with the opening to the book and I rewrote and rewrote and rewrote it. I think what I finally came up with works.

5)    I applied for a PCIP code. This stands for Publishers Cataloguing-in-Publication. It’s what you need if you want your book to be available to libraries. Large publishers’ books get CIP (stands for the same thing, minus the P) codes, but small publishers are eligible for this alternative code. Not everyone chooses to get a PCIP (of course, you need to pay for this, too), but I think there’s good reason for my book to be represented in libraries. Sooooooo, on or around October 1, I will request that each of you who read or follow my blog contact your local library and ask if they carry The Accidental Anarchist, and encourage them to get it. This is grass-roots marketing, and even if it doesn’t feel completely ‘clean,’ that’s how it’s done. Close to the time that the book becomes available, I’ll also need to register it with Bowkerlink, which is how books get listed in Books in Print. [NOTE TO SELF: Check on lead time before it appears].

6)    I haven’t done a lot of public speaking over the past few years, and I want to do good job at the Jewish Book Council event. ‘A good job’ means that I would get many invitations to participate in the Jewish Book Fairs held in many cities between late October and early December. The Jewish Book Fairs’ attendees are a critical market for me, so it’s important that I do ‘a good job.’ But how good can one be with only two minutes to speak? I wrote out what I wanted to say, the points that I thought were important to highlight, and timed myself. Over 9 minutes. Cut. Down to 7-1/2 minutes. And so on. But I also found a Speech Consultant to help me. (That may seem excessive when it comes to a two-minute speech, but that’s exactly why it’s so important). He restructured (what I thought was) my perfect, two-minute script, but I knew he was right because, when I practiced the speech based on my own script, I had difficulty making certain transitions between points. I still had some difficulty with his script, but a second meeting a week later resulted in something that I felt comfortable with and that met the time constraint (with a little left over). He also gave me a few minutes of coaching on where to pause, which words to accentuate, etc. I thought it was very worthwhile, even though it means I have to do a bit of ‘acting,’ which is not in my nature. But all I have to do is remember why ‘a good job’ is important, and I can do it. I now need to practice the speech every day until May 24 so that it feels natural to me, and so I can do it even when standing nervously in front of 100 people.

I need to stop here for today, even though I’ve only covered the activities of a few days, because I have other work to do! More about the Process of Self-Publishing in a few days.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Story Continues

Continued from here:

I awoke feeling as if I had slept on stones. Grey sunlight spilled its dust into my eyes.

The stepmother stood in the alcove boiling water in a scorched pot. Into this, she sprinkled a fistful of damp coffee grounds.

The daughter returned from the privy in the courtyard. She has barely closed the door behind her when she started to assail her stepmother. “Why is there no sugar in the house? How can our ‘guest’ drink coffee without sugar? What do you do with all the money I give you?”

Their bickering went on until the coffee was ready. As the ‘guest,’ I got to drink it out of a shallow bowl whose bottom advertised a brand of Turkish cigarettes.

The stepmother reached into a gap in the wall to take out the ruble I had given her, and announced that she would go out and try and buy food.

When the door closed, the daughter and I were flagrantly alone. I could think of nothing to say to keep us strangers. Ignoring my awkwardness, she stroked my hair and murmured mechanical words of endearment.

The stepmother tactfully knocked, and waited before coming back in. She had been able to buy a piece of hard white bread, a pinch of ground fresh coffee, ten cubes of sugar and a lump of butter, all of it wrapped in a cone of newsprint.

Huddled around their limping table, we resumed our breakfast without further wrangling. The stepmother observed how nice it was sitting here having a meal, just like a real family. Perhaps my arrival was a sign from Heaven, a signal for her daughter to start “a new life.”

I glanced toward the daughter expecting, at the very least, a grin of derision, if not an avalanche of curses at the woman for shaming her in front of a stranger. But her expression was curiously docile, almost resigned.

I wanted badly to get up and leave. But my arms and legs had turned to lead, and the floor retreated under my feet. I had not only lost a lot of blood, but still owed my body a week of sleep.

To break the silence, I asked the daughter to deliver a letter for me.

“Why? To whom?” Her eyes narrowed distrustfully.

“My brother.”

While the stepmother rummaged for something on which I could write, the girl asked, “Are you in trouble with the police? We know people who can fix that. All it takes is a little money.”

“It’s to let my parents know I'm alive.” I gave her the address, 72 Pava, of an apartment of a comrade who would know if it was safe for me to return home.

But the daughter read my eyes. “They're after you, eh?” Both women looked at me with fresh respect.

“You can stay here as long as you want,” said the stepmother. “Forever, if you want. She will go out and work for you. You won’t ever need to go outside.”

The daughter, with a proprietary smile, rested her hand on my shoulder. Her touch singed me like a furnace.

The stepmother found a scrap of paper. It happened to be an old handbill, written in Polish and Russian, for which I had helped compose the text. My “Call to Action” suddenly seemed unforgivably foolish, irresponsible, murderous, even. I wrote on the back of it, telling my comrade where I was, and asking for his advice. I sealed the letter with drops of chewed bread and saliva.

While the daughter went on her errand, her stepmother again assured me that I didn’t need to worry; the girl was a good provider.

Feeling a little bit pressured, I asked cruelly, “How does she ‘provide?’ What does she do?”

“She goes with men. I suppose that offends you. She doesn't like to do it, but what else can she do? A girl is like a silk cloth. One stain, and you can never get it clean again. But once she marries, if her husband is willing to work, I swear, you will not find a wife more virtuous, more obedient, more neat and orderly.”

She leaned toward me and dropped her voice. “While you were sleeping she confided in me. Oh, yes; she believes she has fallen in love with you. But promise you will not let on that I told you. It is well known that men pursue only the kind of women who are indifferent to them.”

Feverish with pain and unsure how to hold up my end of this terrible conversation, I looked out the window, impatient for rescue.

“I want you to promise me only one thing,” the stepmother said. “That you will also let me live in your home. I am not her true mother, and I have not always been good to her. But she has sworn not to abandon me. I'll be your maid, your cook, I will take care of your children. You will need to think of nothing but your own pleasure.”

Seeing me silent and glum, she added, “I know you’re concerned. How will you start a home, support a family? Maybe I shouldn't tell you this, but the girl has a wealthy uncle in Lemberg. He once promised he would give two hundred rubles to whichever young man she chose to marry, regardless of whether or not he approved. If I had another piece of paper, I would write to him this minute. Or I could send a telegram, if you will pay for it. Are you wanted by the police?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “What work do you do? I don’t care whether you’re a thief or whatever. I only hope you don’t deal in women. My daughter has not had good experiences with men of that sort.”

At the sound of a sharp knock on the door, I took out my revolver, forgetting it was nearly empty. The stepmother opened the door.

A neighbor wanted to borrow a rolling pin. While this was being negotiated, the daughter returned. She glanced at me as coolly as if we had been banded together in a quarrelsome marriage for many years.

Seeing that she wasn’t going to offer the information, I burst out, “Did you deliver my letter?”

“Of course.”


“He thought the police had killed you.”


“He said that for now, it would be best for you to stay where you are.”

“For how long?”

“What is your hurry?”

“He didn't give you a letter for me?”

“You think I'm lying to you?”

The glint in her eyes told me she would not be a good person to have as an enemy.

“No,” I assured her.

“But you lied to us.”

“How did I lie to you?”

“The man you sent me to was not your brother. And you are not a thief. You're a radical, an anarchist, a bomb-thrower, maybe something even worse. If the police caught you here, what would happen to us?”

“You want me to leave?” I offered, perhaps too eagerly.

“Take off your clothes,” she ordered.


“I'll exchange them with a neighbor. It will be easier for you to escape.”

I felt relieved. I didn't know what my comrade said to her, but I gathered the match was off. The uncle in Lemberg could keep his two-hundred rubles a while longer. The stepmother had also given up on me, possibly from seeing how readily I reached for my revolver.

“If you take my clothes, what will I wear?”

“Where are you going, into high society?” she sneered, and went downstairs. Shortly she returned with the clothes of someone who, I guessed, worked in the sewers. I tried on the jacket and took it off quickly. I would take my chances wearing the clothes in which I arrived.

For just one moment, it looked as if I were about to suffer the full fury of her temper. But she controlled herself and sat down, her shoulders sagging with weariness.

I left them most of the money I had in my pockets, which was little enough for having sheltered me and maybe even saved my life.

As I shut the door and limped down the stairs, I heard the stepmother say consolingly, “A dangerous man. You're well rid of him. Wanting us to think he was only a thief!”