Disclaimer: This story is fictional and any
resemblance of characters to real individuals is purely coincidental and
unintended. Although a number of the locations, businesses,
institutions and residences described in the story are real, the author
in no way implies the actual behavior of the owners, managers or other
individuals at these establishments. Some of the characters in the story
may discuss or engage in homosexual acts, some of whom are underage.
Obviously, anyone uncomfortable with this should not be reading the
story, and the reader assumes responsibility for the legality of reading
this type of story where they live. Opinions expressed in the story are
those of the characters and they do not necessarily reflect those of
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A Fish Out of Water
with my writing may be aware that my inspirations for stories are
from personal experience. My first novel, Love
in a Chair, for example, was inspired by my dealings with
rehabilitation after having sustained a spinal cord injury. My Naptown Tales series was inspired
by growing up in a conservative, Midwestern city.
read A Fish Out of Water might think it
to have been inspired by the wonderful 1967 novel by Chaim Potok, The
Chosen, which tells the story of friendship between two
Jewish boys, one a
member of a Hasidic sect and the other raised in orthodox traditions,
after the Second World War. Although this story does bear a strong
to the aforementioned novel and the subsequent movie and play that
developed from the novel, both of which I can highly recommend,
neither was on
my mind when I began writing Fish Out of
Water, nor did they influence the plot significantly as should
inspiration for this tale took root one day when I was taking a walk
in the Lower
East Side of New York, an area that was once predominantly Jewish,
when I spied
an interesting sight. There across the street was a very young teenage
traditional Hasidic garb - a crisp white shirt, a black jacket,
black pants and shiny black shoes. He had flaming red hair with red
and his head was topped by a black yarmulke, the traditional skullcap
all Orthodox Jews. The most amazing thing of all was that he was
balanced on a skateboard and was rolling down the sidewalk, weaving
in, out and
around other pedestrians as if they were standing still. I have since
boy on his skateboard a few other times, but always alone.
Although I am
neither Hasidic, nor an Orthodox Jew, I have made many visits to
are Orthodox and live in Baltimore, and knowing the traditions fairly
decided to base my story's main character there, also a skater, who
meets the kid from the Lower East Side and discovers they share more
than their love of skating.
Jews, or Hasidim, are a group of very religious sects of Orthodox
Jews that are
not unlike the Amish in Christianity, but with a greater emphasis on
spirituality. Hasidim do not reject the modern way of life per se,
but the study of spiritual life, rabbinic teachings and
Jewish mysticism is considered as essential to life as is breathing.
to say, just as do their Orthodox Jewish peers, they view
homosexuality as a
grave sin and an affront to God. Every other Jewish denomination,
Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist and Humanistic branches of the
have at their international meetings adopted positions that in some
recognize homosexuality as a normal variation, and all now ordain
Among the most orthodox of Jews, including the Hasidim, boys and
girls are forbidden even to touch, let alone have sex before marriage.
result, boys often dance traditional folk dances with other boys just
dance with girls, and close physical contact among boys is not
Hasidic boys may enjoy a surprising level of physical intimacy in
public . . .
until the day they enter into their arranged marriages with a bride
not even have met before.
gratefully acknowledges the assistance of David of
Hope in editing this story this story and Alastair in proofreading
well as the support of Gay Authors, Awesome Dude and Nifty for
hosting it. I would also like to thank Rigel for correcting some of my
errors with respect to traditional Orthodox Judaism. This
story was written as part of the Gay Authors 2009
Novella Writing Contest. The version posted here, however, differs
from the one submitted to the contest in a couple of key ways. Firstly,
a small amount of material that needed to be removed from the contest
submission to preserve anonymity has been restored. Secondly, mouse-over
definitions of unfamiliar terms, as well as embedded links, neither of
which were allowed in the contest submission, have also been restored
for the benefit of the reader who would like to learn more about the
elements of the story.
A Glossary of Terms used in A Fish Out of
- Hebrew word for `father'.
- Bar Mitzvah or
- Hebrew terms that, literally, mean a son (Bar) or daughter (Bat)
of the commandments. The term is generally used to refer to the ceremony
performed at the age of thirteen to mark the transition into adulthood.
The Bar or Bat Mitzvah is responsible for leading a Sabbath prayer
service and, in particular, for reading a portion of the Torah, after
which a large celebration or party generally ensues.
- The pulpit in a Jewish Synagogue.
- Hebrew term for the wedding canopy under which a marriage is
performed, it also refers to the wedding ceremony itself.
- An organizational structure for an apartment building or complex
in which the renters own shares in the corporation that owns the
facility. Similar to a condominium, the primary difference between a cošp
and a condo is that the members of a cooperative technically
do not own their individual apartments, and that the cošp Board of
Directors must vote to accept individual tenants before they are allowed
to purchase shares and rent an apartment. In all other respects, the
two forms of owner-occupied housing are equivalent.
- Goy or Goyim
- A Yiddish term, generally derogatory, for a non-Jew or non-Jews.
- The prayer book used in conducting the Seder at Pesach.
- Hasid, Hasidic
- An ultra-religious sect of Orthodox Judaism in which members
attribute spirituality to every act of daily life.
- A concluding prayer service performed at the end of the Jewish
Sabbath and other Jewish holidays, marking the end of the holiday and
the start of the regular workweek.
- A cantor, the person who conducts the liturgical
part and sings or chants the prayers in a traditional Jewish prayer
- Hebrew word for `mother'.
- Judea and Samaria
- Hebrew names for the land within Israel and Palestine that is
generally referred to as the West Bank of the Jordan River.
- The traditional written marriage contract associated with Jewish
weddings. Ketubahs are often very ornate and framed for display;
however, the content, written in Aramaic, is generally outmoded and not
intended to be enforced except in the most Orthodox of families.
- Popular in Israel, a communal settlement in which all members
contribute to the operation and well-being of the community. Generally
agricultural in nature, Kibbutzim may also be organized around
industrial operations, or for purely religious purposes.
- An Eastern European Jewish form of song and dance, the Yiddish
term is also used to refer to a band that performs Klezmer music.
- A member of the Chabbad branch of Hasidism, which
follows the teachings of the Lubavitch Rebbi
- The National Institutes of Health - a large government run
agency for funding medical research in the United States.
- Oneg Shabbat or Shabbos
- Hebrew term for a celebration or party held to welcome the arrival
of the Jewish Sabbath.
- The holiday of Passover, which celebrates the exodus of the Jews
from Egypt and their delivery from slavery.
- Formal term for a Hasidic rabbi.
- Hebrew for `Head of the Year', it is the celebration of the Jewish
New Year. Ironically, Rosh Hashanah is celebrated, not in the spring,
when the Jewish year begins, but in the fall, after the harvest.
- A Yiddish term for a synagogue - a Jewish place of worship.
- A Yiddish term, generally derogatory, referring to black people.
It's origin is from the German word for `black'.
- Hebrew word for `order', used to denote the organized service,
celebration and meal to celebrate the Jewish Holiday of Pesach, or
Passover, marking the Jewish exodus from Egypt.
- Shabbat or Shabbos
- Hebrew word for the Jewish Sabbath, which begins on Friday at
sunset and ends on Saturday at sunset.
- Hebrew word for `peace', it is also used as a greeting to mean
both `hello' and `goodbye'.
- A Yiddish term meaning a small village, often referred to as a
ghetto. Ghetto is itself a Yiddish term, probably originating from
Italian, meaning the Jewish part of a town. Indeed in parts of Italy,
one can still find places with signs in Hebrew lettering, spelling out
the word, `Ghetto'.
- An extensive treatise on Jewish Law, with commentary from some of
the most notable scholars and rabbis of the era. The Talmud was written
over a period of nearly three hundred years, and was finished several
- Hebrew name given to the first five books of the Bible (Old
Testament), also known as the five books of Moses, which were supposedly
written down by Moses himself and dictated to him by God at Mount
- The Jewish commandment that all must give to charity. Because all
must give tzdakah, rabbis have interpreted this as meaning that people
must give enough so that even the beggar has enough to give to someone
- Hebrew for `Day of Atonement', it is the holiest day of the Jewish
Year. Beginning at sunset, all must fast and pray to God to ask for
forgiveness for one's sins. The Jewish definition of sin is much broader
than the Christian one, however, and even the act of failing to do a
good deed that one could have done is considered a sin. The act of
fasting and praying on Yom Kippur is said to only atone for one's sins
against God. To atone for one's sins against humankind, one must seek
out each and every person they have wronged and ask for their
forgiveness. Likewise, if someone asks for forgiveness in preparation
for Yom Kippur, it is incmubent upon the recipient to forgive them, no
matter how egregious the sin may have been.