Finding Noodleman. The Real Story Behind My SFR, Captured.

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Mari never expects to find herself caged in a cargo hold on a spaceship. She quickly learns from her captors she’s headed to the meat market. When they try to return her to hypersleep, she resists. After allowing her to stay awake, Mari realizes her survival depends on connecting with the male in charge, Ekkatt. She must make him see her as a sentient being or she will end up as dinner. Ekkatt has never spoken to any human. They are valued for one thing, the money they bring at auction. The Attun race is vegetarian, but other species prize human flesh and bring in good money. Then the female with red hair speaks to him and forces him to admit she has a name. Mari throws Ekkatt’s entire life into question, the biggest question…can he watch her sold to the highest bidder?

The short version – Back in 2007 I dreamed a dream, the entire story of Captured. Wrote it down in two weeks and eventually found a publisher- a not-so-small E-Press, Siren-Bookstrand. I was shocked they were willing to take a chance on such a strange story. Doesn’t fit the straight science fiction category nor is it straight up romance. It is SFR- Science Fiction Romance. And the work is short, more of a novella. The book begins where my dream began and ends where my dream ended. I’ve added nothing more. In all honesty I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever written. It’s simple, straightforward, and the love story is beautiful.

The long version – I graduated a year early from high school, took what I had in savings and headed to Israel for a year long Hebrew intensive (Ulpan) on a kibbutz. It took some wrangling on my part, but after a number of weeks I was assigned work in the chicken ranch– the l’ul. It’s what I wanted.

It took some wrangling on my part because when I arrived in Israel I was suffering from a pretty bad eating disorder. I weighed 84 pounds and I stood 5 feet 6 inches tall.

The first thing the Ulpan coordinator did was take me to the doctor. The doctor said, and I quote, (I already knew some Hebrew), “I haven’t seen anything this bad since the refugees arrived from the concentration camps.”

The coordinator, Gerti, couldn’t conceive of an eating disorder. However, genius that she was, she determined to alter my behavior. Her tactic? I was given one job and one job only, aside from learning Hebrew. I raked rocks out from under a particular bush and then I raked them back under that same bush for four hours every single day except Saturday, Shabbat. I was told I would do this until I gained 15 pounds at which point in time, as in once I’d gained 15 pounds, I could work in the l’ul.

Let me tell you, relieved of the stress I’d lived with at home, bored to tears with raking rocks while everyone else was assigned meaningful work, and knowing full well that l’ul job dangled in front of my nose like a carrot, I gained 15 pounds in 6 weeks. (By the time I left Israel I weighed 115.)

Now just like work in the refet (the dairy) work went on in the l’ul seven days a week. Yes, even on Shabbat there were eggs to collect and chickens to be cared for. However every Shabbat the staff was pared down to two people and we rotated weekends so each of us was responsible for one Saturday a month.

I loved Noodleman. He was my very favorite co-worker. He was eighty-seven years old. His family had joined the kibbutz movement early and left Europe long before WWII. He was one of the founding members of this kibbutz. He reminded me of my grandfather – always kind, gentle, teasing, smiling. How I looked forward to working with Noodleman! We quickly became each other’s pet.

So he and I were assigned a Shabbat shift. This meant waking at 4:30 a.m. and beginning egg collection by 5. The kibbutz had somewhere between twelve and sixteen chicken houses. Some of the houses were immense, some slightly smaller than immense. The chickens were grouped by age. The older chickens were more productive, the younger chickens less so. At that time the chickens had free range of their chicken houses. They could go where they pleased.

My job entailed egg collection from the rows of nest boxes- my collection baskets either on a pull cart or held in my arms – cleaning the auto-fill water bowls and the automatic feeders in addition to filling the feeders. I also kept an eye out for sick and injured chickens. If an illness or injury was bad enough I carried the chicken to the infirmary coop. From time to time we provided mass vaccinations, which could get pretty crazy. And I always had to be alert for attack roosters. The young ‘uns could get a little aggressive, as in– I haz talons and I knows how to use ‘em, sista. Many’s the time a rooster landed on my head and dug his claws into my scalp.

But on Shabbat it was mostly about getting the eggs collected and making sure there was fresh food and water in every chicken house. Then we’d sort the eggs, disinfect the shells, and put them in storage for the next day. Most of the eggs would be sent to incubators to produce more chickens. Some were set aside for the kibbutz kitchen.

So on this particular Shabbat, here’s what happened.

I overslept.

I woke up at 7:30.

I looked at the clock. Let out a shriek and flew out of bed, grabbed my clothes and sprinted to the l’ul. I’d let Noodleman, an eighty-seven year old man, down. How could I be so irresponsible? I’d really screwed up.

I saw Noodleman as I arrived. He was just finishing up with his first house. He waved, I waved back. I grabbed my cart and decided to start collecting at the opposite end. I figured we’d meet up somewhere in the middle.

And then something strange happened. I entered the closest chicken house. I remember it was one of the newer structures and it contained younger chickens. I collected the first two rows… To this day I remember the chickens in those first two rows.

And that’s the last thing I remember.

Until I found myself standing outside a house at the opposite end– the second house, the chicken house I’d seen Noodleman preparing to enter as I arrived. He was shaking me.

I looked around. Every single cart was filled with eggs. I had no idea how they’d gotten filled with eggs or how I ended up outside the house where Noodleman had been collecting.

In less than an hour I had managed to collect eggs from maybe twelve houses and feed and water the chickens and I had no memory of how I’d done it. No recollection whatsoever. Not even a recollection of daydreaming or spacing out. All I could recollect then and now is the panic of realizing I had lost an hour of my life.

That period of time was then, and is now, a complete and total blank.

An hour of my life. Vanished.

I’d managed to do the impossible yet I didn’t know how I’d done it or even if I’d done it.

Noodleman and I went from house to house and yes, I’d completed the work in every other house in the time it had taken him to do one.

He and I stared at each other. We couldn’t believe it. Seriously. Neither of us could believe it. We grabbed hands, both shivering. What I’d done could not be done by one person in that amount of time. It was utterly impossible. But neither of us had an explanation.

Noodleman told everyone. He couldn’t stop talking about it. The event became known around the kibbutz as the Miracle of the Chickens.

Every once in a while I think about that hour and I wonder what really happened. I’d go to hypnotherapy and try to find out but to be honest I’m not entirely sure I want to know.

So… to dream Captured was, well, to say the least an interesting experience.

I’m quite fond of every book I’ve written, every story I’ve told. But of all Captured is the most dear. If I were you, I’d read it. It’s available for most devices. I’ll give you the Amazon Kindle link here.

I’m very much looking forward to next year when the rights to the story will be returned to me.

 

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11 Responses to Finding Noodleman. The Real Story Behind My SFR, Captured.

  1. VERY interesting experience. I’m not surprised you don’t really want to know what happened.

  2. Seriously, Greta. I don’t want to know.

  3. Amber Skyze says:

    Definitely interesting. :)

  4. Roberta says:

    Absolutely amazing what a adrenaline over dose will do to the body and mind! That is American B.S. for “It was a Miracle!”

    If you had done that it an earlier era Catholics [or Jews, take your pic.] would be lighting candles in front of your statue and pray for energy. Well, maybe the Jews would use this story for Hanukah instead of oil.

    OK now, that I have ticked off both Catholics and Jews, what were you smoking or drinking that day?

  5. Well, Roberta, since by that time I was opposed to drug use, at least for myself, nothing. And I never drank as a teenager. So… :) I did consider the adrenaline explanation but even then you remember that you were spacing out. You remember– Oh, gee, I should pay attention. I haven’t been paying attention… And even with the adrenaline there is no way in hell I could have done that. Each house required between 40 and 60 minutes of work. Usually the staff consisted of ten or twelve people.

  6. Roberta says:

    Well then, Julia, I go with my first thought. Miracle.

  7. anny cook says:

    What a wonderful story! You have the best stories…

  8. Thank you, Anny. It is a very weird and wonderful story. Don’t want to know the facts tho! ;)

  9. William Ockham says:

    I almost fell out of my chair when I read this sentence:

    It took some wrangling on my part, but after a number of weeks I was assigned work in the chicken ranch…

    For a split-second my understanding of Julia and the entire kibbutz movement went upside down. I live in southeast Texas and chicken ranch has very different connotations… If you don’t understand, just google “chicken ranch texas”.

  10. OMG William! Yer killin’ me! The only way I can describe l’ul is to say– chicken ranch. I was a chicken wrangler not an old timey whore. Too funny!