Short Fiction: Dreams of Welding

Ever since he was a young boy, Ernie Stamp dreamed of being a welder. To him, they were mysterious, intimidating, both medieval and futuristic. Faceless men who wielded flame and commanded steel. Welders were the ultimate union of skilful precision and brute power. A man could always hold his head high who could weld.

So determined was Ernie to become a welder, he converted to Judaism at age twelve—circumcision and all—so that he could have a bar mitzvah. With the cash gifts he received in celebration of his coming of age, Ernie bought himself his very own welding mask and torch. His mother did not approve. She was still inconsolable over Ernie’s religious conversion, and avenged her dashed hopes by confiscating Ernie’s new welding equipment. “But mum,” he pleaded, “I’m not really Jewish, I just needed the bar mitzvah money. I’ve hardly opened the Torah since the ceremony. I can convert back, no big deal.”

“No big deal?” his mother cried. “You sold your soul for a damn welding mask! Oh Ernie, all I ever wanted was for you to settle down and marry a nice Hindu girl, but now look at you—wearing that cap on your head. I bought you baseball cap like all the other kids wear, but you insist on wearing that little round thing. What good does such a tiny hat do?”

“I told you, it’s not for sun protection, it’s for showing reverence to God.”

“Reverence? Aren’t Hindus reverent to God?”

“Mum, you’re not even Hindu. Why do you keep going on about it?”

“Because they dress nice! Okay? The Hindu girls all dress so pretty, without flaunting their bodies. And the men are all so polite. Is it such a crime to want that for my son?”

“What do you mean, all of them? Are you talking about the Hindu family down the street?”

Ernie’s mother sniffed and shrugged.

“Mum, that’s one family. The Sharmas are nice people, but you don’t know if all Hindus are like them. That’s… silly.”

“Well… I’ve seen them on T.V. as well.”

“You mean that movie about the brothers in India?”

“They were Hindu.”

“Yeah, but…” Ernie sighed and looked at his mother. “Look, I don’t know what to say, Mum. I’m going to be a welder. I just have to. I can’t explain it. And I’d like to pursue Judaism too, to be honest. The rabbi is a good guy. I’d like to learn more about it.”

His mother wiped the tears from her cheeks and huffed. “Then you have broken your mother’s heart.”

Ernie shoved his hands in his pockets and looked out the window. After a minute, he turned to his mother. “How about this?” he said. “If you give me back my welding mask and torch, I’ll go down the street right now and ask Saanvi Sharma out on a date.”

His mother’s face beamed with a wide smile. She pulled him toward her, planted a kiss on his forehead, then squeezed him tightly. “My boy! Going out with a nice Hindu girl. Oh, you’ll make a fine welder.”

© 2021 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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