It occurs to me that we really haven’t been properly introduced; that is to say, I believe that before you read anything by your editor/publisher, you should know from whence he sprang; what his formative years were like, his young manhood, his middle years, his fast approaching dotage…
So, here, presented in all humility-the life and times of the founder of The Feder Files; Part One (of Three): A Small Village In Austria, The Legend is born.
Mike Feder was conceived, like many great men, in humble circumstances…
His mother, Francoise, was born in the small village of Grosstuchus, situated in the rolling Northern hills of Southern Austria. Francoise’s mother Rivke (Feder’s natal grandmother) was married to a struggling Halvah distributor, Mendel Schnozzdhripper. Francoise, though tall for her size, had golden yellow curls that cascaded carelessly down her back and, set in a face of pure daft porcelain, were the large moist eyes of a dachshund.
Many of the young men of Grosstuchus coveted her assiduously but when they came calling at her father’s house, she fended them off with sly looks and many a sharp kick in the veranda with her hob-nailed boots.
The young Francoise was destined by her parents to marry the village’s most prosperous merchant; Meyer Feder, a dealer in wholesale corsets. But Francoise, young and restless, found herself internally revolting-against her parent’s strict plans for her life. Even though Meyer Feder was rich, Francoise detested him. He was 73 years her senior, weighed 400 pounds, (though standing only 5″ 3″ tall), and was totally bald. Yet, despite her revulsion, Francoise had always been a dutiful daughter, and rather than do something that would break her mother’s heart she knew she would have to do the right thing marry the doddering, obese and hairless merchant.
After the betrothal ceremony, Francoise spent more time with Meyer and learned, to her surprise that, while physically repellant and a life-long morphine addict, Meyer was, near the bottom, a good-hearted and caring man. She thought to herself, while relecting inwardly: “I don’t love him, but I could learn to be a good wife to him…and at least I will finally lose my virginity which has been nothing but a fahshtinkener burden to me for lo these many years…” Thereafter, she adopted a more cheery and positive attitude and the wedding came off as planned… However, on her honeymoon night, Francoise discovered that her new husband was incapable of performing the sexual act (no-not that sexual act, THE sexual act)-having sustained a crippling injury to his gonadal region in a tragic barrel-jumping accident in his youth. Francoise, her young ardor cruelly dampened, settled down to a routine, sometimes affectionate, but completely sexless marriage.
The next winter, to help her parents who had become, in the course of things, older than they were the year before, Francoise set out on a journey to the great Halvah festival in Eastern Poland. It was on that fateful excursion that Francoise met Feder’s real father to-be.
Francoise and the love of her life met in hopelessly romantic circumstances…
Leaving the festival with her pack-mule (laden with the remaining bundles of unsold Halvah), Francoise bid adieu to sunny Poland and headed back to the rollicking hills of Austria. But no sooner had she set out than she lost her way in a howling blizzard and found herself, six weeks later, on the vast, parched Southern Steppes of Eastern Russia.
Lonely, distraught, scooping the last remnants of quickly melting Halvah into her mouth, she wondered if she would ever see the dear little streets and offal-spattered out-buildings of her beloved village of Grosstuchus again.
Just as she was about to give up hope, she heard, in the distance, a strange and compelling sound…a kind of off-key chanting, intermingled with a long deep mooing. She stood up, and there, coming toward her across the swarthy, ovulating plain, driving a vast coven of yaks before him, was the handsomest man she had ever seen. He was dressed in the traditional leather stirrups, pink burnoose and silk codpiece of the Mongolian desert. His dark black hair cascaded down his low forehead and his sharp, almond-shaped pecan-colored eyes were boring like a hawk; into Francoise’s bosom as she heaved it in his direction.
Stepping up to her, he doffed his codpiece and bowed. “Hello Miss; allow me to introduce myself. I am Genghis Cohen, chief yak-herder to the great Khan and assistant cantor at congregation Beth-Lo-Mein in Peking.
It was love at first sight…
That night, over a feast of roasted yak meat, they consummated their love; writhing through the throes of passion until the first rays of the morning sun dribbled onto the low mustard-colored clouds of the eastern horizon.
But as it dawned on them, a great feeling of melancholy and heartburn seized the two lovers. They both realized that theirs was a love for the ages, and yet it was also love that could never be. Francoise knew in her inside heart, that she must return home to her husband, the olfactorily abhorrent but fundamentally decent Meyer Feder, and Ghengis himself was pledged to the daughter of the chief Rabbi of Peking (who had promised, as a dowry, that he would finance Ghengis’s great dream-the chance to study light opera in Salzburg with the famous tenor, Gaspardino di Napoli).
And so, as it has happened a thousand times before, and will surely happen dozens of times again, the two young lovers parted, their hearts breaking, hot tears coruscating their weeping and swollen eyes…
Exactly four months later, Francoise gave birth to a beautiful baby boy-who she named Mike (after her God-father, Monsignor Mike O’herlihy, Rector of the Catholic Nunnery of The Sisters of Empathy, in the neighboring Bavararian town of Raussjuden).
But her husband, Meyer Feder, knowing, of course, that the child was not his, was secretly engorged with bitter disappointment. As he sat at his huge armoire in the large brick corsetry at the edge of town, Meyer thought inwardly to himself that though he was still desperately in love with Francoise, he was not prepared to accept her child. As the weeks went on and he saw the infant in his crib by the fireplace, Meyer became increasingly distraught…
When he was first born, it was hard to tell if little Mike looked like anybody in particular, or even everyone in general. But Meyer Feder knew, as Mike grew, that it would soon become clear that the infant’s Mongoloid facial expressions (for Meyer had wrested the truth of little Mike’s conception from a weeping Francoise) would reveal to the whole world would know that he, Meyer Feder, corset-King of Grosstuchus, was a cuckold! That could not be!
So, one cold and snowy night, when the whole village was asleep, Meyer sent Francoise and the baby away; giving her a purse of 100 Golden Schnecken and-as a last gesture of affection for the young girl who had stolen his heart many years before-a legal birth certificate bearing his name…
Wandering, frigid and uncaring atop the towering peaks of the Alpine mountains, Francoise tried to keep herself and little Mike alive by feeding him roots and berries and singing a snatch of the Mongolian love-song that Ghenghis had her taught during their one night of paradise: “…Oh my little desert chicken, come into my yurt and together we will fly to the sea…”
Weeks later, Francoise and baby Mike were found, almost frozen to death, near the top of Mt. Blanc by a climbing party headed by the international African-American-Arab-Burmese financier-adventurer, Sheik Dat Thang.
The young mother and son were brought to Paris. There, recovering 90% of the use of her limbs, Francoise served as a scullery maid the Sheik’s palatial Mansion on the Rue Des Fromages.
Little Mike, grew, over the years, to be the pet of serving staff, often helping his mother scour sculls in the k
itchen and sometimes, when his work in the kitchen was done, running out to help Vieux Pierrot, the Sheik’s gardener, to prune pear trees in the peach orchard.
Life in the huge house was not unpleasant for the young Mike. There were the great masculine suits of silver armor to polish and the dainty feminine napkins to fold, but still he had a gnawing feeling in his lower intestine that he did not fit in-that he was somehow different. The old gardener, Vieux Pierrot, smacking him affectionately on the skull with his pitchfork, saying, “Eh, mon petit mongoloid, vous avez la creme brulee, n’est-ce pas?” seemed to look at him with jaundiced eyes. And Foufou, the upstairs maid, even though she never tired of giving Mike his nightly bath (until, when he was sixteen, she was inexplicably taken away by several uniformed men), would start with alarm when she lathered his nether parts. “Mon dieux!” she exclamatated, “Quel Monstre! Comme un Cheval!” Her fear, among other things, was palpable.
When he was still a young lad, cradled in his mother’s arms, Mike would listen as Francoise told him of her carefree youth in Grosstuchus; of her parents who she missed so terribly and the happy times of her youth when the hills would bloom with hysteria and the swains would come knocking on her doorsill. And then, she would tell him of the secret of his conception-of the handsome Yak-herding cantor that she had given her heart to on the burning Steppes; Mike’s real father, Ghengis Cohen…
After Francoise had finished the last her absinthe and dropped off the bed into a deep slumber, Mike looked into the darkness, vacant and uncomprehending (a look that would later intrigue not only some of the world’s most famous psychoanalysts, but also many of the world’s most desirable women).
When he was older, alone by himself in his tiny room in the belfry of the mansion, Mike would look into the tiny, cracked mirror propped up on the dresser and wonder at the strange red eyes, and unnaturally hairy ears that stared back at him. (It wasn’t till he was almost twelve that he discovered that his mother had pasted a picture of her childhood pet, a weasel named, Fritzi, over the mirror).
But still, even after he had purchased a new mirror, he could see that he was not like the others. “What,” he reflected, as he wondered inwardly to himself, “What will be my fate? Will I ever know the beauties of my ancestral home-will I ever rest my head on the swelling hills of Grosstuchus? Will I ever get to meet my real father? What, oh what, can a Mongolian-Austrian-Jew find to make of himself in this sad and strange world?”
Mike knew somehow, though he couldn’t put his finger into it, that fate had something special, perhaps even sequential in store for him; and he swore that he would discover that fate and follow it to whereever it bid him to journey on the road to…
End of Part One. Next Week, Part Two: Paris, Istanbul, Flushing Meadows… The Years of Fire!
– Mike Feder (New York City – November 19, 2003)