PREVIOUSLY: It’s the Eighties. A pot luck was held on the Upper West Side by Naomi, Eve, and Eve’s sort of boyfriend Charles, to ask other tenants to join in finding a disappeared neighbor whose name may be Alyosha. The gathering is an exploration of whether people are willing to try. Some tenants said yes.
Mrs. Israel, ever the inner bookkeeper, brought two yellow legal pads with her, and three BIC pens. She spoke with the clarity of a bookkeeper, too. “The only way to begin,” she declared, “is to begin.” Hers was an unexpected certainty. Everyone laughed, and she actually took a small bow, bending from the waist as if she’d bowed many times before. She even did a little plié. Potluck guests all clapped for her. “I’ll take notes,” she said. “And distribute them to each of you.” she continued, “in a day or two. Now is our actual beginning, where we have the opportunity to define our intentions. Who here has some thoughts?” She stood in place, uniting the room.
Charles was the first to speak up. Small and dapper, his voice was unexpected and deep. He too knew how to project.
“We need a headline,” he bellowed.
“You mean a title,” said Naomi. She immediately wished she hadn’t said that.
“Finding Alyosha,” said Eve.
“We’ve all heard that before,” shouted Pin Ball.
“How about “Not Finding Alyosha?” “Negative implications,” said Richard. “Negative titles don’t work. I was in book publishing for a while,” he added. “Lowly, but still. Of course we will find him. What makes you think we won’t?” he asked.
“Not finding him is a bigger certainty,” Pin Ball explained. “There was a time when I read mysteries. I was truly addicted. I couldn’t sleep without a mystery.”
Pin Ball was sitting on the high kitchen stool. His legs moved vigorously back and forth, for punctuation.
“Every single one of them was the same. Someone was killed. Mysterious death. Someone else found out who the murderer was. There were false clues, and a big AHA moment. AHA,” he shouted loudly, into the room. “After a while, I wanted the mystery to be unresolved.”
“Most of us want to know,” said Eve. She opened her arms to include the room. “Let’s take a vote. How many people want to know where Alyosha or whatever his name might be actually is? Even if it’s just in Puerto Rico with his new lover?”
“But that’s why we read those books,” said Richard. “We want resolution, most of us. Pin Ball is the exception. If he doesn’t want to know, we won’t tell him.”
“Of course I want to know,” Pin Ball laughed.
“How about Finding Alyosha as our working title? Naomi asked. “That way, wherever he is, alive or dead, whatever he is doing, we will find him. It doesn’t matter if we’ve heard the word finding before. We’ve pretty much heard everything before.”
“Well said,” said Charles.
“Let’s take a vote,” Mrs. Israel declared. “All in favor of Finding Alyosha, say AYE. “ They all agreed. Even Pin Ball.
“Finding Alyosha it is, for today,” said Mrs. Israel. “How remains the next task at hand.”
To see previous installments of this serialized novel, go to our web site. Esther Cohen posts a poem a day at www.esthercohen.com