The Last Jew  
    Mark Budman

On October 19, 2003, after bribing a border guard, Abraham Aronski left his native country Posloppia for good. The rest of his family had emigrated to the neighboring Illustria two years before, but he refused to leave until the last possible moment.

He hadn't had much reason to stay. A low-paying job, an anti-semitic boss, an apartment in a dire need of repair. "Just being stubborn," his wife Rachel used to say.

After the bribe, Abraham hadn't have much left except a small suitcase containing a parallel-text Siddur, a pair of clean underwear, family pictures, and an empty tin can. Before crossing the border, he filled the can with Posloppian soil.

The night was clear and warm. Somewhere in the dark the frogs croaked in a crude imitation of the Posloppian language. Cicadas sang free of charge. The dogs barked in a village back east, perhaps smelling trouble, or maybe readying themselves for action. The stars stared at Abraham like the eyes of a secret policemen.

Once across the border, Abraham took out the Siddur and recited a traditional Hebrew prayer, in the Posloppian language, because he knew no other. The wind from the east blew in his face, bringing back the ancient words and the smell of boiled cabbage.

Later that night, the border guard bribed by Abraham went to the bar, and after quite a few shots of sliwowitsa told his friend about his good fortune. The next morning the friend, in his turn, told the story to journalist Janosh Koloski.

Koloski was a thoughtful man, if slow. The idea of that Jew leaving Posloppia somehow stuck in his mind. He thought about it all day. At night, after making love to his wife Helga, he went to the bathroom, dressed only in a condom. Sitting on the toilet and propping his head in a clumsy imitation of Rodin's Thinker, he thought some more.

"Shit," he said to himself, in Posloppian of course, "he might be the last one. No more Jews in Posloppia."

He came back to bed, and told Helga about his idea.

"Leave the Jews alone," Helga said. She was a peasant's daughter, and if she cared to offer advice, it was usually good.


"Because they suffered enough."

"Ha-ha-ha," Koloski said. He turned on the other side and fell asleep.

In the morning he wrote an article and brought it to his editor, Bolorski.

"You're a fool, Koloski," the editor said. "You've always been a fool and will always remain a fool."

"What makes you say that, sir?"

"Everything you wrote before. And especially this article."

"What's wrong with the article?"

"What's wrong? Look at this man! What's wrong? In your article you described the departure of the last Jew in such a cheerful voice that it could make me puke at any minute. And after all that you're asking what's wrong?"

"I'm lost, sir. Everybody knows that the Jews are the enemies of Posloppia. And when the enemy leaves--"

"You, fool! If the last Jew left, who we are going to blame? Who we are going to blame for our collapsing economy? For crime? For our marital problems? For bad breath? For ingrowing toenails? For our balding heads? For centuries we blamed the Jews. Now what? Who will be our scapegoat?"

"Sorry, sir. I didn't think about that, sir."

"Enough of that. Now, go and check if this is indeed true. And if it is, let me know right away."

Janosh Koloski checked, and found that the Aronski was indeed the last Jew to leave Posloppia. Upon learning that, Bolorski sent him away and called a special number.

The next day, the news reached the Prime Minister, who called an emergency meeting of his cabinet. The Chief Priest of the Saintly Water was also invited, but refused to come. He had publicly accused the government of rigging the last election, but was too popular to be touched yet. His ambitious second-in-command, installed to his post way back during the Communist reign, showed up instead.

He was the last one to enter the conference room, and the heavily armed guards, breathing out air that smelled of half-digested sliwowitsa and barracks' diet, closed the bullet-proofed door behind him.

The ministers grasped the problem quickly, except the Minister of Education who had a low IQ and a big mouth.

"Can't we use somebody else as the scapegoat?" he said.

"Like who?" the Prime Minister asked.

"Well... Russians?"

"Too late for that. Won't work."


"They're too powerful. Besides, they are feeding us along with the Americans. Nobody, but nobody will replace the Jews."

"We should arrest that border guard," the Minister of Public Order and Prisons said.

"The damage is done," the Prime Minister said. "The guard's arrest won't bring the Jew back. Let's concentrate on the issue."

"We should arrest the guard anyway," the Minister of Public Order and Prisons said. "And blame the Jew for tempting him."

Everybody spoke at once, soon switching to a holler, trying to outshout each other. After a few minutes of shouting, they calmed down, and then the Second-In-Command priest began to talk.

"I have an idea," the priest said, very quietly.

"Yes, your Grace," the Prime Minister said.

"Do you know the history of your country, gentlemen?" the priest said.

"Sure," the Minister of Education said.

"Then you should know what our great king Poslopp II did in the fourteenth century."

"Well, let me see--" the Minister of Education said and began to scratch his head thoughtfully.

"Whatever he's done, it's too late to arrest him anyway," the Minister of Public Order and Prisons said.

"He invited the Jews to this country. Think of it," the priest said. "Jews brought trades, commerce, prosperity."

"Do you suggest, your Grace," the Prime Minister said, his mouth slightly agape, "to invite the Jews back again?"

"Just a couple of them. I understand your feelings and sympathize with them, but think of the benefits to this country, my son. Posloppia above all."

"How we gonna do that, your Grace?" the Prime Minister said.

"That's up to you. But you better take my advise. Or else suffer the consequences."

Soon thereafter, a group of select individuals, considered by the government the cream of the crop of the country, were summoned to the presidential palace. They were locked in a room and told to come with something or else.

Helga Koloski was not invited and subsequently the possibility of doubling the collective IQ of the group was butchered.

A few days later, the President of the Jewish Community of Illustria received the following letter:

"Dear Jews,
    For the first time since the fourteenth century, we are writing to you. And for the first time since the fourteenth century we are asking you for a favor.
     Come, live with us.
     Don't come in large numbers. Two or three will suffice, preferably bankers and land owners. We will give each of you the title of Important Jew and a stipend of 3000 serebros a month, which is roughly equivalent to 30 American dollars and five cents. We solemnly promise that bells in our houses of worship will ring upon your arrival, and that every anniversary of your advent will be commemorated with 25 cannon barrages and with an elaborate editorial in our major newspaper Capitalski Journalski.
     Come, live with the friendly people of Posloppia. Our friendliness is legendary. We even have a saying 'In Every Land Poslopps have a friend.' In some countries we even have two friends.
     Please come. You will not be sorry, dear Jews.

Yours truly,
Prime Minister of Posloppia.

P.S. I personally had a Jewish neighbor when I was a kid and he was OK."

The first week at the apartment in the suburb of the Illustria's capital was like a fairy tale to Abraham Aronski. His son came to visit him twice, with his wife and kids. They were doing great. His wife Rachel lived with a butcher and didn't even bother to call, but Abraham forgave her. The only problem was that his son changed his last name to Orwell.

The second week was like a vacation on the beach. The son came to visit him.

The only problem was that Abraham found his son no longer considering himself a Jew, but a Citizen of the World.

The third week was like... Abraham couldn't quite find a good analogy for the third week.

Then he received a copy of the Prime Minister's letter.

Abraham finished reading it and came to the window. His new country lay outside like a half-naked beautiful model, well-lit, cheerful, attractive and repulsive at the same time.

He took off his glasses, and put them in his breast pocket. Far to the east Posloppia lay, the land where the generations of Jews had suffered, were murdered and humiliated. Suffered and still enjoyed life. Humiliated, but found refuge in love, family and religion. The land of his ancestors called him. Who was he to say no?

Mark Budman was born and raised in the former Soviet Union. His fiction and poetry have appeared in the Mississippi Review, Exquisite Corpse, Enterzone, Recursive Angel and many other magazines.


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