Mort Laitner

Searching for Hot Chocolate

Mort Laitner is a Jewish-American short story writer

A cold April breeze bounces off of my red windbreaker.

The breeze glazes my tear-filled eyes.

I search for hot chocolate on the dark streets of Amsterdam.

To protect my face from the wind and my body from tripping,

I walk head-down — focusing in on the cobblestone pavement.

The soles of my Skechers bend on those ancient stones causing my feet to ache.

Tonight, I am the night watchman of the Red Light District.

Watching: the tourists, the patrons, the working girls and the red lights hanging over the door posts.

Glancing up, I study the red bulbs and then peer into the neon-framed windows of the working girls.

Red bulbs housed in clear glass boxes announce that these tarts are opened for business.

Red bulbs emitting a soft hue produce ghostly shadows of tourists and patrons walking the streets of Amsterdam.

It being early April, neither moths nor spiders congregate around these bulbs.

But the patron’s eyes spin fantasy webs as their sweaty palms claw the cold door knobs.

The tourist’s eyes flutter as they fantasize touching those door knobs.

Chattering tourists circling the artificial lights searching for vicarious cheap thrills.

The girls with smiling faces and curvaceous bodies are wrapped in see-through fabrics.

The tourists stop, stare and ask ancient questions:

“Do these hookers enjoy plying their trade?”

“Are they only in it for the money?”

“Why are they called hookers?”

“Were they abused as children?”

“Can love really be for sale?”

But my brain obsesses on those red light bulbs.

“Should ladies of the night hire scribes to paint text—using indelible black ink—on those red light bulbs?”

“Have they?”

“Are there quill scribblers hawking these services on Craigslist?”

“If I were a scribe, what words would I paint onto the red light bulbs?”

“May all your “Johns” treat you with love and respect.”

“May you earn enough money so that you can secure your future in a more wholesome profession.”

“May all your customers not squabble over your fees.”

“May you exit this oldest profession with your dignity and your sense of humor.”

“May you not become addicted to hard drugs, infected by disease or harmed by your patrons.”

“May this red light guard your business as a mezuzah guards the homes of the Jews.”

“May your tears fall onto the loving arms of an unconditional G-d.”

My desire for hot Dutch chocolate temporarily subsides but I manage to spend a few more seconds studying the red light bulbs — looking for inscriptions.

But I only see the letters GE.

My thumb and index finger brush against my mustache releasing the sweet aromas of sugar waffles, marijuana and lust. Smells emanating from a neighborhood filled with so-called “Coffee Houses” and “Houses of Pleasure”.

But instead of selling coffee or hot chocolate, they sell grass or weed or marijuana.

I glance into a doorway of a coffee shop and watch customers toking up.

“When will cannabis be sold in Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts?” I ask.

I laugh as my stomach continues to crave hot chocolate.

The kind of hot chocolate where the chocolate is attached to a wooden stick.

The kind of hot chocolate where I’d whip that stick into a cup of hot milk.

Finding none, I continue to stumble across the cobblestones, look at the sex workers and study the red lights.

One red bulb emits enough light for me to observe a mezuzah nailed to a doorpost.

A bronze mezuzah.
A slanted mezuzah.
An unmolested mezuzah — nailed onto the upper third of the door frame.
A simple mezuzah with only the letter “shin” carved onto its face.

Here in Amsterdam, the words of G-d are written on a Red Light District doorpost.

I cannot determine its age of the mezuzah or of the building to which it is attached to.

I kiss my index and middle finger, touch the cold metal and say a prayer.

“Hear, O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is One”.

Questions scroll across my brain.

“How long has this Mezuzah been nailed into this doorpost?”

“Was it here when Anne Frank played on these cobblestone streets?”

“Was it here when the Nazis rounded up the Frank family and sent them off to the camps?”

“Did this sign of faith, help the Nazis identify Jewish homes of Amsterdam?”

“Did Anne Frank’s tears fall on to the loving arms of an unconditional G-d.”

As I sip my hot chocolate, a final question crosses my mind,
“What items of clothing did Anne Frank wear to break the cold April winds of Amsterdam.

About the Author
Florida's Jewish short-story writer, speaker, film producer and retired attorney. He has authored, "A Hebraic Obsession", "The Hanukkah Bunny" and "The Greatest Gift." He produced an award-winning short film entitled, "The Stairs". Movie can be viewed online. ChatGPT says, Mort is known for his works that often explore themes of love, loss, and the human connection. Laitner has published several books , including “A Hebraic Obsession.” His writing style is characterized by its emotional depth and introspection. Laitner’s works have garnered praise for their heartfelt expression and keen insight into the human experience. Mort is in his third year as president of the South Florida Writers Association. He was a correspondent for the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Jewish Journal.
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