What Kind of a Name is That? Part 2

The following Monday I sprinted into biology class a minute after the bell. “Where were you?” Anders asked. Too breathless to speak, I pointed to the library book that had made me late.

“What are you reading?” Like me, Anders was a voracious reader. We often lent each other books.


“Let me see.”

I reluctantly handed him the copy of Spinoza’s Theologico-Political Treatise. Anders read Dostoevski for pleasure, but he took one look at Spinoza and shook his head. “Why are you reading this?”

“I met someone at Temple Zion who’s interested in philosophy.”

“I thought you hated those snobs at Temple Zion.”

“I wanted to meet some people.”

“Why go all the way to Temple Zion?”

“I wanted to meet some boys,” I said.

He blushed. “There were a few at Central, the last I knew.”

“Some Jewish boys,” I said, angry that he’d made me say it.

He handed me back the book. Now his face was pink with chagrin. “Obviously a better class of human being than the cretins who don’t read Spinoza.”

Needled, I said, “You can read Spinoza whenever you want.”

In biology we had been studying genetics for several weeks. Before I met Adam, the mysteries of genotypes and phenotypes, of dominant and recessive characteristics, had engrossed me. Now, as Miss Rasmussen described the day’s experiment, my attention wandered.

I whispered to Anders, “What is she talking about?”

“Fruit flies,” he whispered back. “We’re going to mate them. She’s talking about the difference between males and females.”

“Isn’t it obvious?” I asked.

“Not with fruit flies.”

I wanted to apologize. I leaned close to him and whispered, “So it’s come to this. Matchmaking for fruit flies.” He forgave me. He laughed so loud that Miss Rasmussen gave us an admonishing look.

We dazed the bugs with ether. Anders took the bottle they lived in and spilled two of them into his palm. He said, “One male and one female.”

“Any recessive characteristics?”

He looked close. “The female has white eyes.”

“A mixed marriage!” I said. “Do you think it will work?”

He put the insects back in the bottle. Blushing, he said, “Why not?”

As we waited for the bugs to revive, Anders asked me, “Are you going to see him again? Spinoza?”

My heart pounded so hard that I had to cough. “Of course. Next week when I go back.”

“What’s that Yiddish word you taught me once? It means luck?”

Mazal tov?”

“That’s it,” he said.

I looked at the fruit flies and thought of the unpredictable way that human beings sorted themselves into pairs. “Do you want to learn another Yiddish word?” I asked him. “Sure,” he teased me.

Chochem. It means wise guy.”