The Silver Bullet
by Alan Radding
Mark knew he was really in trouble this time, more trouble, far
more trouble, than he ever wanted. He had been getting into bigger
and bigger trouble all year long without even really thinking
about it. He just did things that got him into trouble, things
he didn't even particularly want to do.
(copyright 1997 Alan Radding, all rights reserved)
It all began about halfway through the last school year. He started
his bar mitzvah training at Hebrew school. It seemed that the
idea of his bar mitzvah suddenly took over his parents' entire
lives. His parents were planning this humungous bash. It was going
to be fancy beyond belief. They rented the fanciest place in town.
They hired a big band that he and his friends didn't even like.
It was embarrassing. His parents thought he should be thrilled.
"Why aren't you excited?" his mom would ask each time
she announced the latest twist. His dad was even planning to invite
his customers from his business. Mark felt like throwing up.
And it was not like he asked for any of this. He would have been
happy with a simple bar mitzvah. As far as he and his friends
went, a pizza party with a DJ from the popular radio station would
have been fine. But his parents wouldn't hear anything of it.
"This is an important event in your life, a once-in-a-lifetime
event. Make the most of it," his dad kept reminding him.
Anyway, Mark tried to simply tune it all out. Tune out everything.
His schoolwork slipped. He start skipping school with some kids
he hardly knew and didn't even really like. He joined them on
what they called adventures. This usually involved breaking windows
or spraying paint on cars or buildings. Once they even went into
a store and stole things. Mark knew it was wrong, and he felt
bad. He didn't want to do any of it, but he didn't want to be
called chicken either.
Teachers tried to talk to him. They kept asking if anything was
wrong. What could he tell them, that he hated his parents' plans
for his bar mitzvah? He guessed he was supposed to be grateful,
but he wasn't. The more he thought about it, the more he hated
it. The teachers sent him home with notes to his parents, but
he just tore them up and threw them away.
Once a teacher even called his home and talked to his parents.
Mark heard his mom tell the teacher that maybe his bar mitzvah
studies were taking him away from his work, but he'd make it up.
"Not a chance," Mark thought. At that time, his bar
mitzvah was still months away, after summer and the High Holidays
in the fall. That was another thing: he had to study for his bar
mitzvah over the summer.
But all that was nothing compared to the trouble he was in now.
This was the worst trouble he could imagine, and he didn't know
how to get out of it. It happened when he arrived at the synagogue
for his bar mitzvah lesson. The cantor had to cancel at the last
minute. Mark was left standing around, and nobody was there. The
place was deserted. Then he saw the silver ornaments for on the
Torahs. The ornaments were spread out on a table. He remembered
his mom saying that the silver was polished before the High Holidays.
He didn't want the stuff, but he grabbed a couple of the fanciest
Torah breast plates, slipped them into his backpack, jumped on
his bike, and left.
Mark didn't have the slightest idea of what to do next. He was
afraid to go back and return them because someone would likely
be around by now. His new friends had told him about some guys
who hung around by the industrial park at night and bought all
kinds of stolen stuff. Mark decided he would stash the Torah ornaments
someplace until he could take them down there. He'd give the money
to the synagogue.
The next evening Mark saw his opportunity. His parents were going
out and leaving Mark home alone, now that he was almost thirteen.
Here was his chance to get rid of the Torah ornaments. As soon
as his parents left, he hopped on his bike and headed for the
The industrial park was deserted. It was getting dark, and really
spooky by the time Mark arrived. He hid behind a trash dumpster
near the place the kids had talked about. In a little while he
saw headlights and a car pulled up. A couple of men got out. They
were just hanging around.
Mark was about to come out of his hiding place when suddenly a
man appeared from behind a building. "Police!," he shouted.
"Freeze and put your hands up."
The two men pulled out guns and started shooting at the policeman.
Mark, peering around the dumpster, saw the flashes of the guns
and heard loud noises. The policeman crouched behind some barrels
and fired back. The two men ran to their car, jumped in, and raced
off. The car tires screeched, leaving smoke and an awful smell
of burnt rubber. On the ground, even from where he was hiding,
Mark could see black tire tracks burned onto the concrete.
The policeman pulled out a walkie talkie. "This is unit 7.
They got away. They're heading north," Mark heard him say.
Then the policeman started looking around and began walking carefully
toward where Mark was hiding. Mark pulled back.
"Come out whoever you are and put your hands up," the
policeman ordered, still holding his pistol in his hand. Mark
was frightened nearly to death, but he stepped out with his hands
up, like he'd seen on TV. "You're just a kid. What are you
doing here?" the policeman asked.
"I was riding my bike and got lost. I just want to go home,"
"What's your name and where do you live?" the policeman
asked. Mark told him. The policeman put his gun back in its holster
and snapped a strap over it. In doing so, Mark saw a bullet fall
out of the policeman's holster. The policeman didn't notice.
"Were those real bad guys?" asked Mark, timidly.
"They are called fences, people who buy stolen stuff. Someone
broke into a synagogue the other day and stole some valuable items.
We expected the thief to meet up with these two. We'll get those
guys yet, and the thief too, you can bet on it," the policeman
said. Mark thought the policeman could see right inside him and
expected to be arrested on the spot. "Now get home fast,"
the policeman ordered and told him how to get there.
Mark pedaled his bike furiously, but he had one stop to make.
He rode by the synagogue. There were no cars in the parking lot.
He rode up fast and dropped the Torah breastplates
that he had stolen at the front door. Then he raced home. Mark
arrived before his parents returned and went straight to his room.
The next day Mark pored over the newspaper for the story about
the theft of the Torah breastplates or the trouble at the industrial
park, but there wasn't a word of either story. "Did you hear
any news about a theft at the synagogue or some trouble at the
industrial park?" he asked his parents at dinner. They hadn't
heard anything either. Maybe it hadn't really happened.
After supper he told his parents he was going for a bike ride
and headed back to the industrial park. Where he thought he had
seen the two guys and the policeman, there were no signs of anything.
The tire tracks that had been so clear yesterday were gone. No
marks at all, nothing. Then he saw a glint on the ground. He went
over, spotted a shiny object, and picked it up. It was a bullet,
a silver bullet. This must be the bullet the policeman dropped,
Mark thought. In his room at home, Mark hid the bullet in the
back of one of his drawers where he put his special things.
When school started, Mark, still shaken by his experience at the
industrial park, decided he would never make trouble again. He
stopped seeing the kids who led him into trouble. Instead, he
threw himself into his schoolwork and bar mitzvah study. Sometimes
he wondered if maybe he dreamed the whole thing with the policeman
at the industrial park, but then Mark would pull out the silver
bullet and he knew it really had happened.
The High Holidays arrived, and Mark sat with his parents in the
grownups' service, since he was just about to become a bar mitzvah.
The rabbi gave a sermon, yakking on and on about spiritual life
and material goods, whatever that meant. His parents seemed to
take notice, but Mark wasn't the least bit interested until the
rabbi started telling a story about a guy who did bad things and
was visited by the prophet Elijah, who appeared in many different
disguises. Elijah visited people when they least expected it and
taught them about doing good things and repentance and forgiveness.
During the rest of the service, Mark thought about the guy in
the story and felt really sorry for the bad things he himself
had done. He asked God for forgiveness and vowed to God to never
do those things again. He also thought about Elijah and his disguises.
"Did you hear what the rabbi said about material goods?"
his dad asked at dinner that night. "I guess we went a little
overboard making your bar mitzvah so fancy," his dad continued.
"That's what the rabbi meant when he talked about spiritual
values and material goods. I'm embarrassed."
His mom took his hand. "Maybe that's why you've been so unhappy
lately. It's a little late, but let's see how we can make your
bar mitzvah more spiritual," she said.
"Fine with me. I'd like that," Mark agreed. "You
know I love you both," he added. He had already forgiven
his parents. Heck, anybody could make mistakes. Mark knew that
he himself had a lot to be forgiven for. Suddenly, a funny thought
occurred to him: he was acting like the guy in the Elijah story
the rabbi had told. Then another thought crossed his mind: who
really was that policeman he met at the industrial park?
Mark excused himself and rushed to his room. He went to the place
where he kept his special things and reached for the silver bullet.
But it wasn't there. Instead, in its place was a beautiful silver
Mark's parents readily accepted the story that the mezuzah was
another of his many bar mitzvah gifts that were already pouring
in. His dad put it up on the door to Mark's room. Touching it
every day, Mark thinks about repentance and forgiveness, about
Torah and the meaning of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and about
Drop a comment to the author, Alan Radding at
Alan Radding writes Jewish stories for children and young adults. These
stories are read regularly as part of the various children's services and
programs at Temple Reyim, Newton, MA.
from the April 1999 Edition of the Jewish Magazine