“I did the speed dating nightmare,” Sharon said. “The last one was in the basement of the synagogue. The rabbi was acting like he was a combination of yenta and football ref. He was encouraging us to talk truly and then he blew his whistle when the time was up. Have you done it?”
Mish laughed, “Yeah. The thing with speed dating is that it does exactly what it promises, you learn the true nature of a lot of men in a brief moment. The problem is that what I learned is that most guys are shallow, useless monsters who can only remember how much cleavage you had showing when the time was up.”
“Or they talk so much you realize that they have nothing to say. On the other hand, the greasy guys who will stop and go, but enough about me, tell me about you. I am sure all they are thinking is…”
Mish jumped in and said, “Cleavage. That’s all. You know, I gave up all that. I gave it up like bad luggage. I joined another service.and its not going to get you a nice husband, it ain’t even going to get you a nice soul mate to look forward. They promise company. It works for me.”
Sharon put down her glass, “That sounds a little escorty to me Mish. I don’t think I’m going to be looking for Richard Gere in American Gigolo. Though if I ever did, he’s the guy I’d order from the menu.”
Mish smiled. “It’s not like that. Blondie is singing Call Me on the soundtrack. It’s a company I heard about from a speed dating night. This woman told me about it. It’s Shem Dating Service.”
“Shem. The names of God? They are not a modest service, are they?” Sharon pushed her glasses back on the ridge of her nose. which was the thing she did when she found herself uncomfortable and interested all at once, though not sure why she was feeling that..
“Is that what shem means? I wish I knew things. Oh well, they are a nice little group. They set you up with, hold on, I can say it. They set you up with simulacrums.”
“Okay, Mish, you got me. I know what shem means, but you go big latin words, I’m out.”
“Simple word then. Golems. They make golems. It’s clay, but they look good. They set you up with a good Jewish golem and they are everything you need them to be. I think I got their card.”
Linda El was dressed in a good charcoal suit and spread out the brochures in front of Sharon. “First, you must forget about all you saw in the old movies or maybe in the stories you bubbe might have told. The giant slab of clay wrecking Poland. That’s not what we do with Shem. We use special glazes and these golems are handsome, lifelike companions. They talk, tell tales, listen and are pleasant to be with. This is not a torrid service. We believe that we free the modern woman from struggling with dating, and always having to worry about the man they are seeing. We create good men.”
Sharon shook her head slowly. “So they aren’t hulking walking ceramic bowls with hebrew letters written on their foreheads.”
“Not anymore.We put the written shem, the name of god that brings life, in a slit in the back of their neck. The shem actually transforms the glazed surface into something like skin. They are supplied with good teeth and hair. These are not husbands, they are someone who can have dinner. watch television with, be warm and companionable. Think of our gentle golems as the best of dating and solitude combined. Just a reminder. They become inactive on the sabbath, so Friday night and Saturday day, they do not move or interact, But think of that as a time to expand yourself, do things for you. See friends, read a book.”
Sharon stacked the brochures into a pile and then pushed her glasses up her nose. “This is crazy. I can’t believe what you are saying. And I also can’t believe that I am going to ask you how much the subscription is.”
“Before we talk the membership fees to access all our services, let me give you a free sample. You can have a complimentary date of up to eight hours with one of our standard golem models.”
He was to be called Joseph. He was tall and slender and spoke in a quiet lilt. It was an accent that Sharon could not place. She thought, this is how clay and dirt speaks, soft and grounded. They had dinner at a Thai place, though Joseph seemed to push the food around instead of eating. They strolled down to the movie and saw something she picked. He laughed at the right places, he seemed sad at the deathbed scene.
They kissed near midnight at the town gazebo and she was almost disappointed that it didn’t taste of clay or dirt. It tasted more of moonlight and antique words from an old language. He did not ask to be let upstairs or worried about her number or her email. He just smiled contentedly like a cherub statue and walked her home in the peaceful knowledge there was no inherent need or insistence, only a nice night out with someone pleasant.
She called up Linda El and had her send over the papers to sign up for the deluxe membership. She was going to have a pick of available golems. All golems in all forms for her disposal, though she was not quite sure..
The golem Noah was in her bed, sleeping soundly. He snored like gentle rocks, she thought. She had been his pick for the past several weeks. He felt warm and solid next to her. She was never afraid. He slept like he was formed in the bed, part of the landscape. Sharon asked him to tell her a story earlier and he did. It was about the trickster Joha and his family. He laughed at the punchline, but Sharon just smiled. There were lessons in old stories that she had a hard time finding.
The moonlight hit his back and he looked like he was from a black and white movie. He continued his tectonic breathing, she felt safe. Sharon got up, found her glasses, and went behind the sleeping form of Noah. She ran her finger up and down the back of his neck and then found it. She found a seam about an inch long at the bottom of his neck. She pushed two fingers in and felt the piece of paper. She pinched it between her fingers and removed it from the golem in her bed. There was a slight twitch from Noah and then he broke down into dust. It was all that remained, dust.
It took her two hours to clean up the mess that he left behind. When all the dust was cleaned up, she examined the sheets. They were not worth saving, so Sharon tossed them into the trash. She put on a clean set of sheets and slept well and comfortably.
Linda El, from the dating service, was not happy. “Of course the package you purchased allows from the golem to be destroyed. But you removed the shem, you did this on purpose. Why did you do that? Noah couldn’t have done anything untoward or incorrect?”
Sharon said, “No, not at all, he was perfect. It couldn’t get any more perfect, which is why I did it. I wanted to finish the feeling, the moment I was having.”
Linda El paused, began to speak and stopped. After another span of time she said, “The reason you do such things is, of course, your choice, whether it makes sense or not. I will not be sending any additional golems to you, though you will still have to fulfill your contractual obligation of seven more monthly payments.”
“I was going to cancel anyway. I feel satisfied.”
Linda El said again, “You do have seven more monthly payments on your contract.”
Sharon smiled at a distant thought, “That’s fine.”
Sharon and Nic met at the grocers. It was too cute to even admit to. They were awkward for the entire first date. She tripped while walking to the restaurant. He spilled a water pitcher over the entire table. It was that kind of date. His hands were clammy, he stuttered when he was nervous.
Sharon pushed her glasses up and said, “Sold.”
But almost every evening, before she would kiss him goodnight, Sharon ran her finger around the back of his neck. Only when feeling nothing like a seam or scar or obvious flaw, she would surrender and close her eyes and touch his lips with hers.
David Macpherson lives in Central Massachusetts. He has published short work in Every Day Fiction, Linguistic Erosion, Haggard and Halloo, 365 Tommorrows, among other publications.