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Black Lamb

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Now in its 14th year of publication, this magazine was created to offer the discerning reader a stimulating selection of excellent original writing. Black Lamb Review is a literate rather than a literary publication. Regular columns by writers in a variety of geographic locations and vocations are supplemented by features, reviews, articles on books and authors, and a selection of “departments,” including an acerbic advice column and a lamb recipe.

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A Week in Literary History

October 12th, 2002

COLUMBUS DAY

… Mr. Parkhill opened the class with these ringing words: “Tonight, let us set aside our routine tasks for a while to consider the man whose – er – historic achievement the world will commemorate tomorrow.”

Expectancy murmured its sibilant way across the room. “To this man,” Mr. Parkhill continued, “the United States – America – owes its very beginning. I’m sure you all know whom I mean, for he —”

“Jawdge Vashington!” Miss Fanny Gidwitz promptly guessed.

“No, no. Not George Washington — watch that ‘w,’ Miss Gidwitz. I refer to —”

“Paul Rewere!” cried Oscar Trabish impetuously….

Mr. Parkhill shook his head. “Not Paul ‘Rewere.’ It’s a ‘v,’ Mr. Trabish, not a ‘w’… Class, let’s not guess. What date is tomorrow?”

“Mine boitday!” an excited voice sang out.

Mr. Parkhill ignored that. “Tomorrow,” he said firmly, “is October twelfth. And on October twelfth, 1492 —” He got no further.

“Dat’s mine boitday! October tvalf! I should live so! Honist!” It was the proud, enraptured voice of Hyman Kaplan….

Stanislaus Wilkomirski growled, “Kaplan too old for to have birthday.”

“October tvalf I’m born; October tvalf I’m tsalebratink!” Mr. Kaplan retorted. “All mine life I’m hevink boitdays October tvalf. No axceptions!”

“On October twelfth, 1492 —” Mr. Parkhill’s voice rose until it brooked no irnoring — “Christopher Columbus discovered a new continent!”

The class simmered down at last, and Mr. Parkhill launched upon the deathless saga of Christopher Columbus and the brave little armada that sailed into the unknown. He spoke slowly, impressively, almost with fervor. And the thirty-odd novitiates of the beginners’ grade, caught up in the drama of that great and fearful voyage, hung upon each word. “The food ran low. Water was scarce. Rumors of doom — of disaster — raced through the sailors’ ranks….”

Goldie Pomeranz leaned forward and sighed moistly into Mr. Kaplan’s ear. “You soitinly lucky, Mr. Kaplan. Born same day Columbus did.”

Mr. Kaplan was in a world of dreams. He kept whispering to himself, “Christover Colombiss,” the name a talisman. “My!” He closed his eyes to be alone with his hero. “October tvalf I’m arrivink in de voild, an’ October tvalf Colombiss picks ot for discoverink U.S.! Dastiny!”

From The Return of H*Y*M*A*N K*A*P*L*A*N, by Leo Rosten, 1959.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: A Week in Literary History, Books and Authors | Link to this Entry

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