by Linda Rodriguez
When a group of writers decided on Twitter to put together an anthology to benefit our friend Sabrina Ogden and the Lupus Foundation, I was in on it from the start. After all, I love Sabrina, and I deal with lupus every day myself. So we called it Feeding Kate since Kate is Sabrina's blogosphere nickname.
The two main characters in my story, “Rivka’s Place,” could hardly be more different. They are a true odd couple of disparate ages and experiences and yet with great respect for one another and love. I’m a big believer in courage and in love.
One, Rivka, is an elderly Holocaust survivor, a woman who refuses to be bullied as her shop’s neighborhood becomes more and more dangerous and insists on helping everyone around her. The other, C.J., came of age many decades after World War II by killing two men as his father had trained him to do, only to learn that everything he’d been taught was a lie, a man who wants nothing more than to be left alone in peace to do his work, read, and hide from his memories and those who hunt him.
Where did this bizarre partnership of Rivka and C.J. come from?
I gave Rivka a background similar to that of a well-known Kansas City woman, who had escaped from the death camps of Nazi Germany twice as a child and had indeed insisted on continuing to run her bakery in a deteriorating neighborhood, feeding many who couldn’t afford to buy her goods. She’s dead now, and Rivka looks and sounds nothing like her. Rivka came out of the folds of my brain, but her background owes a debt to this remarkable real woman I never met. I have always found her story inspiring. As I have found the stories of so many who live with lupus an inspiration.
To my knowledge, however, there is no one anywhere remotely like C.J. He sprang full-blown into my mind and demanded to be written. I have often wondered what would happen with a young person who’d grown up in one of these cults or cult-like families, indoctrinated in fear of civilization and government, trained to defend the family against that “dangerous” government, if that young person later learned that everything he or she had been taught was a lie. C.J., I suspect, arose from these idle wonderings.
Bringing the two of them together left me in a quandary when I first tried to write this story. Where could it go? How could it end? I didn’t want to lose either of these people I had come to value as I created them, but I didn’t see any way that this could end well. These two characters were on a collision course with tragedy. Eventually, I wrote the ending scene through tears. Yet in some ways it is a happy ending because each person is true to her and his inner self.