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Jewish Venus de Milo, 1959

      They don’t mind the chill autumn breeze, being well covered in their sweaters, chatting in lawn chairs on the back patio, Saul and Leah, Isaac and Naava, Ephraim as usual in his business suit and yarmulke, mixing martinis for everyone.  The talk is about the new cantor, Judah Steinberg, not a great voice but inventive in his phrasing, particularly during the ma’ariv.  The breeze blows away the smoke, from Isaac’s and Naava’s cigarettes, Ephraim’s pipe, Saul’s cigar.  During a lull they look over to Mordecai, with his artist’s stand and easel in its usual place on the lawn, in front of the now closed-up pool.

        “How’s it going?” Saul said.

        “Almost done with this pose.”  Mordecai, with his bohemian scraggly beard and smock and deliberately-out-of-place heavy work boots, is scratching some final shadows with his charcoal pencil.  He calls out into the wind.  “Half a minute more, Mitzi!”

        “Good, I’m getting stiff.”  Mitzi has been holding that fake sword above her head for five minutes.  Goose-pimpled, her stiffened nipples making her breasts seem even larger, her toes squirm with strain on top of the varnished tree stump.  The wind ruffles the lush pubic bush between the slightly-opened legs.  Now time is up and she hops down and scampers across the lawn to Ephraim who gives her another cigarette.  She holds the lighter in her cupped hands as she fights the breeze until the cigarette draws well.  Now, cigarette in hand, hand on hip, she says, “Judah tries hard.  He doesn’t have that great voice that Aaron had, but I like him.”

        “He’s good with the kids, the schul choir,” Naava says.

        Mitzi nods, puffing again.  She takes one long drag and helps herself to Ephraim’s martini.  Now, cigarette still in hand, she stretches her legs, leaning on one knee, then the other, as they talk.  With one final drag she throws the butt into the top of the tall ashtray.  She goes back onto the stump for the next pose, her back to everyone, legs together, holding her arms up so that her body makes a big letter “Y”.  Her butt twitches a little as another breeze kicks up.  Her breasts can be seen from behind, half-moons peeking out from each side of the thin torso.  She has an itch on her calf and raises the other foot to scratch it with her toenails.

        This pose lasts ten minutes, with a short break at five to shake herself loose.  Then she walks over to see Mordecai’s work.

        “You made my butt too big,” she says.

        “Let me see it again.”

        She turns her back to him and points down.

        “No I didn’t.”

        With a playful slap at him Mitzi scampers inside, to make the snacks for the meeting.

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