Hans is my first Goy. He has thick dirty hands and white teeth and skin the color of dead maple leaves. There have been other goyim, with names like Bastian Balthazar Bux and Pippi Longstocking, but Hans is a real goy, the first goy that is more than words on a page or a face in a window. I am nine and very short and Hans is visiting his grandparents next door for one summer.
We live in a town that is quiet, full of Yiddin in black and white and Hans is a goy that runs around a yard howling at air and kicking up clumps of grass. Sometimes he chases rabbits, barking at them in the woods behind our house. He spends an afternoon on the sidewalk, looking at an old baseball card. Hans is always alone.
One Sunday, I’m on the swing set, all my siblings elsewhere, and I hear a click-click by the garden. Hans has a pair of garden shears and he is snipping our cucumber plants. Hans is wearing a banana colored bathing suit and a green baseball cap with no brim. I protest and he looks up and his face twists into something between a grimace and a grin and he comes at me, shears aimed at my eyes.
He chases me and I run and he chases me and I run and I feel the joyous thrill of the hunted, keen and cold in my veins.
Fear the goyim, they tell us in school. Be wary of their attempts to claim you, to tempt you, to drown you. Remember this, they say, lest you forget it. Remember this, lest you forget. The words swirl and dance with me around the cucumber garden, on a hot evening in August, with Hans and the pointy garden shears just one step behind.