Enjoy this beautiful short story by Carla Sarett, an exclusive for Lost in Romance!
The Rabbi’s Lesson
Rabbi Lev Singer was a young man, only recently married and not that happily. But as he addressed his Marriage Preparation Course, he put his own domestic woes aside. Today he had thought of an inventive, even amusing, game to complete the term.
“Marriage is a special thing,” he said in the sing-song tone that is peculiar to rabbis. “Tell me, if I gave you a coin to flip and said heads you get married, tails you break up, would you accept my bet?” He held up a shiny copper penny to an audience consisting of three couples, sitting behind wooden desks.
The first couple was a pair of fresh-faced philosophers-in-training, Ph.D. candidates at University of California at Berkeley. Index finger on chin, the woman sagely declared, “I believe that marriage is, above all, an act of faith. We need faith that we’re destined to be together or we can never handle the stress of marriage. So, yes, I would accept.” Her partner nodded at his future wife’s clarity.
The second couple, stock brokers with natty designer suits, pounced on his suggestion. “Hey,” said the man, “I’m all about betting and I’d pick my marriage any day. This one’s a winner.” He slapped his bride-to-be on the back as if sealing the deal, and she blew him a mock-kiss, not wishing to disturb her lipstick.
Satisfied, Rabbi Lev addressed the third, more worrisome, pair. Aaron was an out-of-work actor and Sophie had a dead-end marketing job. They fidgeted during class, and at times, seemed to be texting one another (although the Rabbi lacked proof of this.)
Aaron yawned. “It seems stupid. I’d never break up with Sophie unless she left me or I died.”
Sophie rolled her eyes, and shrugged. She said, “Aaron, don’t be so morbid.”
The rabbi said, “Before we meet again, I want you to flip the coin. There are no rules whatsoever. What happens is completely up to you.” He beamed and handed out three shiny pennies as if to grateful children.
The three couples returned to their respective homes. As the rabbi knew well, all of his pupils lived together as man and wife, minus a license. On this point, he reserved judgment. These were, after all, modern times.
The budding philosophers flipped their coin over dinner. It promptly landed in a plate of quinoa, kale and tofu. “Tails,” remarked the woman as she delicately extracted it from her small pile of grain. Her partner observed the sad outcome and said, “Tails it is, then.” The meal progressed as both quoted, too often, from Plato and Aristotle. They went to bed early without a good-night kiss.
The stockbrokers could not wait for their chance. On the drive home, in their new red BMW, the male of the duo flipped the penny with such abandon that it hit the light and fell underneath the leather seats. After much hunting, the coin was found, tails up. “Marriage isn’t a sure-fire bet,” grunted the stock-broker. His partner regarded him with new and hooded eyes. She said, “Apparently not.”
As for Aaron and Sophie, they delayed their flip until the night before the final session. It wasn’t top of mind. Sophie had failed to win a promotion and Aaron, once again, had failed to find any work of a thespian nature. Money was tight and both were in low spirits. After a bottle of wine and a supermarket pizza, Sophie flipped the coin.
“It’s tails, but that’s just one flip. I don’t think one flip counts,” she said.
Aaron agreed, “No one gets heads all the time, that’s impossible.”
“Exactly right,” said Sophie. She flipped the coin ten times in a row. “Ten flips, ten tails, go figure? I say we keep going, OK? Let’s open another bottle of wine.”
Next morning came the final Marriage Preparation Session. After an half an hour, the seats were empty. Rabbi Lev paced back and forth, fearing the worst. Even for a popular rabbi, break-ups were bad publicity, not to mention the lost income. He imagined his wife’s raised eyebrows when he told her of his coin flipping debacle, which had been a whim on his part. “You’re a fool, Lev,” she would say. “Who bets on marriage these days? It’s easier to bet on divorce.”
To his relief, Aaron and Sophie flew in, clutching knapsacks and bottled water, and plopped themselves down. “Sorry we’re late!” Sophie laughed. “Mind if I have an energy bar? I’m seriously starved. Hey where is everyone?”
Rabbi Lev pointed to the empty seats. “We are alone today. You are my only pupils.”
“Go figure,” said Aaron.
“Please tell me about your test. Did it go as you expected?” asked Rabbi Lev, sing-song style.
Aaron said, “Well, not exactly. We got like a thousand tails. It went on for hours and hours. It was freaky, like one of the curses you read about, maybe not in the Bible though.”
“No, not in the Old Testament,” said the Rabbi patiently. “We forbid the use of spells.”
“Long story short, I swallowed it,” explained Sophie as she nibbled on her energy bar. “Who knows how, but I almost choked to death.”
Rabbi Lev was taken aback. “I am sorry,” he said. “That is horrible luck.”
“Exactly what I said,” answered Aaron. “But I hit her back hard and up it came! So, it could have been much worse in the luck department.”
“I understand if you couldn’t flip it again after such an ordeal,” said the Rabbi, exhaling.
Sophie laughed. “You don’t know Aaron. That’s why we’re late. We kept trying all night. And finally, on the drive here, after all those flips, we got a heads. That’s how you get lucky– you keep going, I guess.”
“So, love isn’t about fate, it’s about…faith,” said Aaron taking Sophie’s hand. “That was your point, right? That’s why you gave us the coin?”
He nodded to let them know his answer, and then he said, “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like that penny back. I think I might need it.”
Info about the author:
Carla Sarett’s story collections Nine Romantic Stories and Crazy Lovebirds: Five Super-Short Stories can be found on Amazon and Smashwords; and her story “Career Girl” appears in the romantic comedy anthology, Love Hurts! Her essay, “Sam’s Will,” which appeared in Blue Lyra Review, was nominated for Best American Essay. Find her blog at https://carlasarett.blogspot.com.