instagram pinterest linkedin facebook twitter goodreads facebook circle twitter circle linkedin circle instagram circle goodreads circle pinterest circle

author's blog 

A top pulp mystery writer's father tries to get his son to say Kaddish for him

Here is a true story about a son who would not let his father control his way of expressing himself, even if it meant that, from beyond the grave, his father would keep his son in scalp tingling fear.

"Henry Kane was in his early fifties when I [fellow mystery writer, the great Lawrence Block] got to know him, and some years previously his father had died. And ever since then, Kane had heard footsteps.

Not all the time, to be sure. But every now and then he would hear someone pacing the floor overhead, walking back and forth, back and forth. At first he’d thought there was in fact someone up there, but it even happened when he was on the top floor, or sitting home in an otherwise empty house. It became clear that he was hearing these footsteps, and there were no feet responsible.

He also discovered that other people didn’t hear them. He most often heard them when he was alone, but sometimes there would be other people present, and they couldn’t hear the footsteps, not even after he’d called them to their attention.

He spoke about this to a woman who asked him a few questions, established that Kane was a Jew and the son of a Jewish father, and that he’d never heard the footsteps until after his father’s death. “Well, the footsteps are your father,” she told him. “His soul can’t rest until someone says Kaddish for him. You haven’t done that, have you?”

No, Kane said. He hadn’t. He didn’t believe in any of that mumbo-jumbo.

“Fine,” she said, “You don’t have to believe in it. Just get your ass to a synagogue and say the prayer when the time comes. It’s in Hebrew—well, Aramaic, actually—but it’s transliterated, so you just read it.”

“And if I do that?”

“Then the footsteps will stop.”

“That’s ridiculous.”

“So try it. What have you got to lose?”

But he wouldn’t.

His was a curious sort of obstinacy. It’s not that he didn’t believe her suggestion would work. He was the one telling the story, and it was evident to me that he figured she was right, that he could get the footsteps to stop by spending a few minutes muttering something incomprehensible in a dead language. And he did indeed want those footsteps to stop.

But not enough to part with his own principles, whatever exactly they may have been. If he did it, and if it worked, well, then where would he be? So the elder Kane went on pacing, and Henry went on hearing him.
Be the first to comment