My Most Happy Life- Autobiography of a Climbing Tree Chapter 32

Updated 35 weeks ago By Shelly Reuben
My Most Happy Life- Autobiography of a Climbing Tree Chapter 32

Illustrations by Ruth McGraw

Mike Hurwitz, the city’s reluctant acting mayor, was a man of peace.

Sort of.

When I spoke about him earlier, I said that he had two great secrets. The first was revealed to everybody when he enrolled in agricultural college. Mike loved plants. The second, which he never discussed, arose out of his admiration for a man he had never met.

Our Michael Moses Hurwitz was born thirty years after the other man’s death. Mike was his great nephew, and was named after him.

The original Moses “Moe” Hurwitz was a Sergeant in the 22nd Armored Regiment of the Canadian Grenadier Guards. He was loved by his men, admired by his superior officers, feared by his enemies, and killed in Holland after leading a tank command against the Nazis in October of 1944.

  When I spoke about him earlier, I said that he had two great secrets. The first was revealed to everybody when he enrolled in agricultural college. Mike loved plants. The second, which he never discussed, arose out of his admiration for a man he had never met.   Our Michael Moses Hurwitz was born thirty years after the other man’s death. Mike was his great nephew, and was named after him.      The original Moses “Moe” Hurwitz was a Sergeant in the 22nd Armored Regiment of the Canadian Grenadier Guards. He was loved by his men, admired by his superior officers, feared by his enemies, and killed in Holland after leading a tank command against the Nazis in October of 1944.    

Sgt. Hurwitz was the most decorated noncommissioned Canadian officer in World War II, and he was Mike’s great uncle.

Mike looked exactly like him.

Both had penetrating hazel eyes, fierce eyebrows, a brick block of a jaw, and a deep clef in their chins.

This uncanny resemblance either contributed to or created Mike’s second great secret, which had been gnawing at him since he was ten-years-old.

Mike doubted himself.

He doubted that he would have measured up to the standards set by his gallant Uncle Moe, if he, too, had been a soldier during the Second World War.

Would he have done the barest minimum on a battlefield to survive? Or would he have done his best? Would he have hidden in a trench the whole time, and hoped that the war would pass him by? Or, armed only with a pistol like Sgt. Hurwitz, would he have attacked two German machine guns, helped to knock out an 88 mm anti-tank gun, and then captured 150 prisoners? All in the same day.

“Would I have been a hero or a heel?” Mike continually asked himself.

Sometimes he would take a step back from his daily routine and muse, “I am a man who loves nature, and I have a job that allows me to work with plants; I am a man who adores women, and I married the only woman in the world who, after twenty years, still makes my heart go weak at the knees; I am a man who loves children, and I have five adorable daughters. And I am a man whose best friend not only deserves my respect, but is also the only person alive who can make me laugh so hard, I choke on my pizza crusts.”

Even though Mike’s ruminations always ended on a high note of gratitude for what he had, they never resolved the nagging uncertainties about his courage. He almost felt as if his life had been too happy. Too safe. Too perfect.

“What if,” he still wondered at age forty, “beneath the façade of capable administrator, adoring husband, and loving father, I am really a despicable coward?”

Although interesting from a psychological standpoint, Mike Hurwitz’s self-doubts would have nothing to do with our story except for three things.

One: They were unfounded.

Two: He did, eventually, do something heroic.

Three: Since he was still despairing for the people who had been killed in the airplane crash, he desperately tried to avoid the spotlight.

Tried, but failed.

And because his brave act attracted so much media hoopla, Mike was unable to re-focus his attention on the events unfolding in the Samuel Swerling Park. This inattention, to our great regret, enabled Jarvis Larchmont to proceed further and faster with his plans.

For the first seven days of Chris Angel’s hospitalization, Acting Mayor Michael Hurwitz worked twenty-four-hour days in and around the site of the catastrophic jetliner crash on West Barkley Street. During every minute of those days, he was followed by reporters, cameramen, photographers, and news crews.

During Mayor Angel’s second week in the hospital, Mike spent every hour going to wakes, funerals, and hospitals, and consoling victims’ families in their homes.

Again everywhere he went, he was accompanied by the press.

When the first day of the third week rolled around, the airplane disaster had become old news, and most of the reporters dogging his footsteps had faded away. A single cameraman, however, just out of college and new to his job, was still assigned to the story and followed Mike to the home of Antoinette and Bruno Constantini, whose eighteen-year-old son Aldo had died in the smaller of the two planes. The one that fell in the river.

By the time our acting mayor had climbed four flights of stairs to the Constantini’s apartment, he was so drained by other people’s grief that he did not know if he was still capable of compassion, or if he was just mimicking mindless words of consolation.

All he knew was that he was numb.

 

And that he had to go through the motions.

 

Mike listened as the Antoinette and Bruno Constantinis described their son’s intellect, charm, and sweet disposition. When Antoinette showed him Aldo’s baby pictures, he murmured appropriate words of admiration, and when she offered him crostatas and a small cup of espresso coffee, he ate and drank, if not with gusto, with apparent appreciation. After half an hour, he hugged Antoinette, shook Bruno hand, invited them to call on him if they needed anything, and said goodbye. As he was making his way down the tenement stairs, Mike’s mind rebelled against the indifferent fate that had dealt such a terrible blow to two kind and gentle people.

He was still absorbed in these thoughts as he pushed open the door leading from the lobby to Peppermill Road.

Once outside, he looked up, and his eyes drifted across the street.

His response to what he saw next would forever banished the acting mayor’s doubts about whether or not he could measure up to his valiant Uncle Moe.

A young couple was walking along the sidewalk.

The woman, attractive and petite, was wearing a pretty summer dress and high heels.

The man, half-a-head taller and of a slight build, was wearing a suit and tie.

Newspaper accounts later reported that they were on a first date, and were returning to her apartment after dining at a restaurant nearby.

The couple looked affluent. They talked as they walked, absorbed in their conversation, and oblivious to the two men who were rapidly approaching from behind.

One of these men had a shaved head and swastikas tattooed above each ear. The other had a black ski cap pulled low over his forehead, with two runic SS bolts tattooed on his neck.

Both were thin and wiry. Both wore dark clothes.

Shaved Head rammed into the woman, and tried to yank her purse off her shoulder. She clutching it tightly against her chest, and resisted. He pushed her to the ground, straddled her hips, and started to slap her.

She screamed and clawed at his face.

Ski Cap threw a forearm around the neck of her date, kneed him from behind, and drove him down on the sidewalk. The thug began to pound with a brass-knuckled fist on the male companion’s face, while groping his body for a wallet.

Had Mike Hurwitz thought about the scenario playing out before him – more innocent people being terrorized in a world gone awry – his one word response would have been, “Enough.”

But he did not think.

He ran across the street and grabbed Ski Cap by the left arm. He wrenched him off the male victim, swung him hard against an adjacent brick wall, and right-punched the left side of his head.

When Ski Cap began to sag forward, Mike delivered a left punch to his right thigh, temporarily paralyzing his leg.

Ski Cap tumbled to the sidewalk.

Shaved Head, realizing that his buddy was down, slapped the woman one last time, swiveled away from her, and crouched to attack. But the acting mayor had already tucked in his shoulders, and he began to pummel Shaved Head with a series of short, fast jabs to his face, neck, shoulders, ribs, and stomach.

Shaved Head lowered his left hand and reached for his switchblade knife.

Mike delivered a last solid punch – fast fierce, and powerful – to the groin.

Shaved Head screamed.

Then he, too, was down. 

My Most Happy Life- Autobiography of a Climbing Tree Chapter 32

 

Mike dragged the two of them over to a wall, took out his cell phone, and called 911.

In less than a minute, two patrol cars pulled up.

The officers from the first car cuffed the assailants.

The officers from the second car recognized and approached the acting mayor.

Mike Hurwitz turned to a figure hiding in the shadows and shouted, “Hey, kid. Come over here.”

The cameraman, surprised that his presence had been noticed, lowered his video recorder and moved into the light.

The acting mayor said, “Who do you work for?”

The kid named a major news service.

Mike pointed to the thugs on the sidewalk; then he pointed to the reporter’s camera. “Did you get that?”

The kid nodded.

“All of it?”

 

“Yes, sir. From when you walked into the building until just now when you called me over.”

“Good. Share what you have with these nice police officers.”

 

Mike did not wait for a response.

 

He returned his attention to the patrolmen.

 

“Officers,” he said, “this no-doubt talented young man will provide you with video footage of the altercation. You can take my statement about what happened first thing tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, I’m dead on my feet. I’m going home.”

Copyright © 2017, Shelly Reuben

Shelly Reuben’s books have been nominated for Edgar, Prometheus, and Falcon awards. For more about her work, visit www.shellyreuben.com

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