Please meet Robert N. Chan a new friend and fellow author. His book girl is out and doing well on Amazon.
A trusted member of her ultra-Orthodox Jewish community rapes fifteen-year-old Hannah in the back room of a Brooklyn kosher butcher shop. Unwilling to succumb to her parents’ demand that she blame a homeless black man, she runs away. Alone on unfamiliar New York City streets and armed only with an indomitable spirit, quirky sense of humor, and unyielding intolerance for hypocrisy and injustice, she confronts adversity after adversity.
Blaming herself for having been raped and bent on avoiding emotional intimacy, she becomes involved with an enforcer for a Serbian mobster and embarks on a life of prostitution and hard drugs. Then comes unexpected motherhood and a son she treasures. When he is arrested on trumped up charges and almost killed in prison, her wide-ranging client base, including hoods and feds, comes in handy. But her plan backfires, her son is forever lost, and she is banished to an Appalachian backwater as a protected witness. Depressed and alone, she rediscovers her childhood dream of tikkun olam, repairing the world, and charts a path to justice and redemption. All she has to do now is emerge from witness protection, outwit vengeful hit men, and run for Congress in Tea Party country as a New York Jewish former whore. Too bad about that quirky sense of humor and unyielding intolerance for hypocrisy and injustice.
Robert N. Chan, a founder of the New York City boutique law firm, Ferber Chan
Essner & Coller, LLP, has been litigating for forty years with appalling success. His eight prior novels—Apparitions, Axe of God, Science Fiction, Bad Memory, Painting A Burning House, Lying in Wait, and To Gain the Whole World—have been hailed as transformative underground classics of unparalleled brilliance…and people actually enjoyed them.
Excerpt of Chapter 1
Sleep Tight, Ya Morons
“Are you too busy again to come with us, Hannah?” Deborah asked as they left school.
“I’m afraid I have to pass up the thrill of going three blocks out of my way to watch the boys leaving the yeshiva,” Hannah said. “Not that I don’t enjoy seeing you and the others peek through your fingers and giggle and gossip about your marriage prospects.”
“Forgive me. I should’ve known the rebbetzin-in-training would have no time for fun.” Of course Hannah wanted to be a rebbetzin. What girl didn’t? As a rabbi’s wife, perhaps the wife of a famous one, she’d have unlimited opportunities to perform tikkun olam, helping to repair the world, an obligation she considered to be Judaism’s most sacred. Rav Moscovitz would’ve been outraged had she told him her opinion, but she’d never do that. She listened to Rav Moscowitz, didn’t speak to him.
Deborah tucked an errant hair under her headscarf and pulled up her shapeless wool coat to cover her neck. Lips moving, she swayed back and forth as if davening in prayer. Hannah didn’t mind her friends teasing her for following God’s commandments. Having recently turned fifteen, soon to be introduced to her future husband, she had every reason to hope for the best as long as her sterling reputation remained untarnished.
It seemed to her that everyone, not just her friends, made fun of her. Just this morning at breakfast, she’d said, “God must love gentiles very much, He made so many of them.” Her father called her my little philosopher, and her mother sat with her elbow on her knee, fist under her chin, mimicking a famous statue. When she played with them, Hannah’s younger sisters, Rivka, Sarah, and Rebekah and her younger brother, Isaac, enjoyed laughing at her silliness. Maybe in part because she herself came from such a small family, Hannah thought five children would be the proper number for a rebbetzin who’d need time to help the members of the community and maybe even engage with the outside world.
In spite of their teasing, Hannah knew her parents loved her and liked it when she expressed her own thoughts…as long as she didn’t go too far. While there were many unbendable rules, the basic ones were clear and simple: to follow the Torah, put the needs of the community before her own desires, and honor her father, mother, and Rav Moscovitz. Leaving Deborah, Hannah headed home through familiar streets. So far the winter of 1990 had been cold and wet. Today was no exception. She pulled her headscarf tight against the wind-driven drizzle and realized she’d been singing to herself: The morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy, a Yiddish lullaby she’d sung yesterday to Rivka as she tucked her in for her nap.
A man came from the other direction. She sensed him look at her. Lately men seemed to be staring at her all the time, probably her overactive imagination. She focused her gaze on the sidewalk, but not before noticing that, although he wore a yarmulke, the man didn’t have a full beard. Her father disliked the modern orthodox almost as much as he disliked reformed and conservative Jews, whom he called minim, heretics. The way he would spit out the word communicated that he considered them even worse than the Christian or atheist goyim. “We don’t dislike other people,” her mother had explained. “Our traditions and our community keep us safe and make us who we are. Those people who think it’s okay for men and women to touch in public or turn on lights on Shabbos compromise with the word of God.” She didn’t need to remind Hannah of God’s feelings about such compromisers and doubters.
Hannah had never had a conversation of more than a few dozen words with someone who wasn’t haredi, ultra-orthodox. But under the covers, with a flashlight, while her family slept, she would read decidedly un-orthodox books, even essays by Emma Goldman, a distant relative whom her family referred to rarely and then only in angry whispers. But what she wrote made sense: The most violent element in society is ignorance. And she could be funny: Every society has the criminals it deserves.
As she walked, Hannah delighted in the tiny droplets of rain that hit her face with cold little hellos, like angels brushing their wings against her skin. Yes, she was odd, but in a nice way. Or so she hoped.
The sky darkened and the droplets became full-fledged raindrops. The butcher, Mordechai Kaplan, stood in the doorway of his shop, looking out on the street, now deserted except for Hannah. His stomach seemed about to burst through his blood-splattered apron. Blood? Only small spots, but there shouldn’t have been any by the time the meat arrived at his store. The shochet must drain all blood from the carcass.
Although she’d known him for four years—a relative newcomer to the community, he’d arrived from upstate, when the community’s previous butcher died—Hannah averted her eyes, as she would with any man outside her home. But also, the way he always stared at her while he spoke to her mother seemed creepy. Yet another example of the overactive imagination Mother chided her about.
A puddle forced her to step closer to the shop, close enough to smell the rotten egg stink of bad chicken.
“Come in, warm up,” the butcher said.
She’d never do such a thing.
He stepped into the rain and looked up and down the street. Then he grabbed her wrist. Yanked her inside.
Hannah screamed. He slapped her.
“Shut your mouth!”
Squeezing her wrist so hard she thought he would break it, he locked the door with his free hand and shut the lights in the front. He dragged her past the counter and into the back room, her rubber heels squeaking along the floor. She squirmed but couldn’t escape his grip. He slammed the heavy wooden door, trapping her in the place where he cut the meat. A single bulb hanging from a frayed cord did little to illuminate the room. Cold mist wafted from the adjoining meat locker’s ajar steel door.
Her stomach clenched. She was too scared to scream, only a soft high-pitched mewl. Was he going to hang her on a hook like a side of beef?
Her gaze fixed on the knives and cleavers arrayed along the pitted wooden table, splattered circles, oblongs, and tears of blood everywhere. Dead eyes stared from a severed chicken head.
Everything went fuzzy.
He let go of her. His hands went to his belt.
She darted toward the door.
He grabbed her arm. Spun her around. Slapped her face.
“Wha-what are you going to—?”
“I said, shut up.”
He took a long glittery knife from the table and held it in front of her face. Would he slice her throat in a single motion like a schochet slaughtering an animal?
He touched the point of the knife to her neck. She trembled.
“Take off your coat.”
She shook her head. The knife-point cut her.
Still holding the knife to her neck, he unbuttoned her coat and pulled it open so it fell to the floor.
“Now your blouse.”
She couldn’t move except to shiver like on the coldest day ever.
He stuck the blade between her neck and the fabric. She felt its tip in her backbone, a tiny disgusting mouse running up and down her spine.
“Are you going to take it off, or should I cut it off?”
What would Mother say if she came home with her nice new shirt cut to ribbons?
Her hands shook. She couldn’t undo the buttons.
He slapped her. Her face felt as if it was on fire. She tasted blood. He hit her again. He stared into her eyes.
“I’m sorry I hit you, Hannah.” he said, voice soft like her uncle’s. “I don’t want to hurt you. Just do what I say and everything will be fine.” He brought the knife back to her neck, almost gentle now, like Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah. “Please don’t make me hurt you.”
She undid the top button, then the next.
She didn’t want to die. She whispered, “Sh'ma Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Eḥad,” Hear, O Israel: the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. The prayer a distant relative had said while being burned at the stake for refusing to renounce his religion. She took a deep breath. She had to do something, couldn’t just let him…
Hannah hit him. He laughed. She tried to scratch his face. He grabbed her hand and pushed back until her wrist started to crack. Then he punched her stomach. She doubled up. Taking a handful of her hair, he pulled her into a standing position. She shook all over.
The light from the single bulb that had seemed dim before now burned her eyes.
He held the knife an inch from her right eye.
“If you want to be able see, you’ll take your clothes off. Now!”
Tears streaming down her cheeks, she took off her blouse, then let her skirt drop to the floor. She tried to cover her chest and down there.
“Stand straight. Hands at your side. Don’t make me tell you again.”
Her teeth chattered. She had to calm herself. She tried to count the tiles on the floor, couldn’t get beyond two.
“Take off your underwear.”
She shook her head.
“Take it off!”
He nodded as if he understood, then cut her underclothes. Not all the way. Enough so they drifted to the floor like dead leaves.
“Because you’ve been good, you can leave on your shoes and knee socks.”
He untied his apron. Undid his pants.
The knives! She feinted toward the door. Pants around his ankles, he blocked her way. She darted toward the table.
He grabbed her hair, then yanked it so hard, she fell to the floor. He kicked her, knocking the air out of her. He pulled her to her feet by her hair.
“Try to run or fight me, and I’ll really hurt you.” He slapped her again.
Through tear-clouded eyes, she again looked at the knives on the table. Too far.
She didn’t move. He shoved her. She fell. Her head bonked on the floor. The butcher flopped on top of her. She bucked, not even moving him an inch. He held her shoulder and forced her legs apart. Then…