Tzvi FishmanBefore making Aliyah to Israel, Tzvi Fishman was a Hollywood screenwriter....
In honor of Book Week, here’s a fun excerpt from my new novel, “Fallen Angel.” The scene starts in New York, in the elegant penthouse apartment of flamboyant Harry Walsh, world-famous author of phony spiritual bestsellers. Up until now, the angel has been explaining to Harry that he’s been sent down to Earth to warn Harry to give up his whoring, conman ways….
Just then, our conversation was interrupted by a phone call.
“Oh, no!” Harry exclaimed. “I nearly forgot!”
Quickly, he rushed back to the bedroom and ran out clutching a long white turban which he wrapped hurriedly around his head.
“I’m booked on ‘Manhattan Live’ tonight, and I’m supposed to be there in twenty minutes,” he explained, facing one of the several mirrors in the room as he adjusted the knot in the turban. “It’s been the top-rated TV talk show, coast-to-coast, for the last five years, and tonight’s appearance could mean selling another 50,000 books in one shot.”
Looking around the floor of the living room, he spotted his sandals by his desk and hurried to put them on. Then he shook out a couple of pills from a vial and gulped them down with the rest of the scotch.
“Come to the studio with me,” he said. “When we get back, you can show me whatever you want. But I want you to know - I don’t frighten easily. You can believe whatever you want to believe, but that doesn’t mean I have to agree. I’ve met all kinds of characters claiming to be angels. They’re all a lot of fakes. Me too. That’s right. Don’t think I don’t know it. As Shakespeare said, ‘All of life is a stage, and all the people are but players.’ Life’s all a big con game, dog eat dog, the survival of the fittest.”
We rode to the TV studio the stretch limousine that was waiting outside Harry’s luxury apartment building. As we were rushed into the make-up room, Harry told the show’s producer that I was an angel and that it was worthwhile to put me on the show too.
“What kind of angel?” he asked.
“A real angel,” Harry told him.
“What the hell’s a real angel?” the pressured producer inquired.
“An angel from Heaven,” Harry said.
“What can he do?” the seasoned showman asked.
“All kind of tricks,” Harry answered.
“Two minutes!” someone called out.
I closed my eyes as a scantily dressed apple bent over me and powered my forehead and cheeks. Temporarily blinded, I let Harry drag me out to the set, as a five-man band welcomed us with a lively tune. Barry Barnett, the famous host of the show, stood up to shake our hands and welcome us to the program. He was a witty and amiable personality who could turn anything into a joke. I should have known better and stayed in the apartment until Harry returned. But I guess I was tempted. Even angels like a little celebrity now and then.
The grinning host introduced Harry as America’s # 1 bestselling guru, who had brought health and happiness to millions of readers all over the world. Glancing at a note that the producer had passed him, he introduced me as Harry’s angel friend. That brought us a lot of applause. With the large spotlights shining our way, it was hard to make out the size of the audience, but there must have been at least five-hundred people out there in the glare.
Harry started out talking about the journey to India which had inspired his new bestseller, “The Guru in You.” Studying with a swami in a Himalaya forest, he had learned the ancient wisdom of the Hindu gods and their teachings on karma. Shedding all of his material comforts and desires during his six-month stay at the ashram, he had undergone a profound spiritual epiphany, he declared.
“What’s an epiphany?” the apple who was sitting next to him asked.
She was a new country and western singer, not very modestly dressed. The evening’s first guest, she had sung a few songs from her just-released disc, and now she was sitting out the rest of the show, moving this way and that, trying to look as delicious as a Mackintosh apple can be. I looked away into the spotlights which were a lot less blinding.
“An epiphany is a spiritual revelation,” Harry told her.
“It sounds wonderful,” the apple exclaimed. “Your story gives me the goose bumps.”
“I wish I gave you the goose bumps,” Barry Barnett quipped for a sure audience laugh.
“I discovered that people are unhappy in life because they simply lack love,” Harry related. “A lack of love can even bring about sickness and death. What’s the cure? The very opposite. A surplus of love. Giving others all the love that you can. But to do that, you have to first love yourself. That’s what my new book teaches in simple lessons that everyone can master.”
“It sounds groovy,” the apple commented, with a shiver of her unclothes shoulders.
“If you like, I’d be willing to try out a few of Harry’s lessons with you after the show,” the master of ceremonies told the Mackintosh with his famous, winning smile.
After a little pretend game of tug of war, he got the humble Harry to agree to demonstrate some yoga techniques onstage. After stripping down to a loin cloth, Harry twisted himself into an inverted lotus and then into a bridge.
“Pretty good,” Barry Barnett said, clapping his hands. As if on cue, the audience applauded Harry’s yoga acrobatics.
“How about you giving it a try?” the show host asked the apple with a twinkling gleam in his eyes.
“Oh no,” she giggled. “I could never do that on TV.”
Then a board with nails was dragged onto stage. “Let’s see if you can handle the hard stuff,” the talk-show celebrity said. Kicking off a shoe, he set a foot on the nails, let out a theatrical “Ouch!” and hopped around in pseudo pain to show the audience that the bed of nails was real. Of course, it had all been rehearsed. But in the glare of the stage lights, I couldn’t tell if they were really nails, or just fake rubber.
“Don’t do it!” the apple cried out in alarm.
Numbed by the super strong painkillers he had swallowed at home, Harry squatted over the board and slowly sat down. As the orchestra played a long drawn-out chord of suspense, the half-naked author lay back on the nails until his whole body was supine on his back.
“Now that’s the real thing!” Barry Barnett called out, clapping his hands once again.
The audience broke out in thunderous applause. Miss Apple clapped her hands excitedly. Stagehands hurried out, lifted the board with Harry, and carried him offstage. Sitting back down at his desk, the host held up a copy of Harry’s new book, “The Guru in You,” and urged everyone to go out and buy it.
“Wow,” he said. “That was really something!” Then, turning to me, he asked, “What can you do?”
I was caught off guard. All of the eyes in the theater stared my way.
“I’m an angel,” I stumbled.
For some reason, everyone laughed.
“I’m an angel too,” the apple said.
That brought another chorus of laughter.
“Tell us why you’ve come down to Earth,” the host said. “Have you written a book?”
“No,” I answered.
I couldn’t concentrate. I was careful not to look at the apple, who was sitting next to me now that Harry was gone, but her swinging leg kept getting into my line of vision. It got me all confused.
“To wake the world up to God,” I stuttered.
“To wake the world up to God!” the host repeated with a guffaw. “That’s hilarious!”
That brought a huge laugh and burst of applause from the audience.
“To wake the world up to God!” Barnett shouted again. He stood up, held his stomach and bent over laughing. “That’s the funniest thing I ever heard in my life!”
Encouraged by his mirth, the apple giggled along with him. The musicians in the band started to laugh too. Roars of hysterical laughter broke out in the audience. The cameramen rolled their cameras forward for close-ups.
“Can you prove you’re an angel?” Barnett asked with a challenging chuckle.
Usually, like I said, we don’t do tricks when we’re on an assignment. But the scoffing had gotten out of hand. So to teach him a lesson, I gave him the ears of a donkey. They sprouted out of his head like flowers. Then I gave him the snout of a donkey and long wide teeth. The joker was stunned, probably speechless for the first time in his TV career. The drummer was laughing so hard, he fell out of his seat. The audience screamed out with folly. Lady Apple stood up and backed away from the stage, not knowing whether it was a gag or real. Then I gave the startled host a coat of fur on his hands and a tail. Showman till the end, he pranced around the stage like a donkey, then faced straight into camera, on coast-to-coast TV, and said, “Don’t go away. We’ll be back after a short break for commercials.”
Then, like a satyr, half man and half beast, he hopped off backstage.
“Get this off of me!” he snorted angrily. “Make it go away!”
I tried, but it didn’t work. The apple’s swinging legs had mixed my mind up completely. I couldn’t think straight. Angels are sensitive creatures, as delicate and high-strung as harps. After spending most of my five-thousand years in Heaven, I wasn’t prepared for a surprised guest appearance on “Manhattan Live” and the apple’s limousine-long legs.
“Now!” the comedian shouted angrily. “Get this shit off of me now!”
I tried, but I couldn’t do it. I simply forgot the code.
“One minute to air time,” a voice called out.
“Reverse it! Take it away! Reverse what you’ve done!” the show’s host demanded with a glare that would have frightened the Devil.
“I think you should leave it,” the producer said to his superstar performer. “It’s a riot. They love it out there.”
I started to head for the exit.
“Grab him!” someone yelled.
Stagehands rushed forward, but I put up an invisible shield so no one could touch me. Normally, when we’re sent on a mission, we’re allowed to use a few special effects, and I had already used up five or six. I knew the allotment wasn’t unlimited, and who could tell when I would need to resort to a little help from Heaven again? So instead of “warping” miraculously through space back to Harry’s apartment, I took a taxi.
G-d willing, my book of collected blogs “From Israel with Love,” will be appearing shortly, along with the reissue of “Tevye in the Promised Land,” probably the world’s greatest, genuine Jewish novel ever.
Those of you who care about books can read the interview INN did with me yesterday in the news section.