GI Joe
Heck No!'s handsome Joe Kallender


                                           

                                        Heck No!

Screenplay and teleplay by Jody Weiner

Heck No! is the coming-of-age tale of handsome Joe Kallender, a slightly selfish septuagenarian forced to reconnect with his two grown children when his conniving wife Ethel dies, mid-scheme, leaving Joe clueless how to survive on his own

Along Joe’s hilarious journey of self-discovery and new-found love in the unlikeliest places, the ensemble of memorable characters in Joe’s dysfunctional family touches something recognizable in all of us.

 



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CRIME THERAPY
a new novel
by
JODY WEINER

Book 2 in the Duology
The Krafters: An Inevitable Love Story

Summary in Progress


Archie and Lora Krafter return with exciting new adventures in the summer of 2023, following Donald Trump’s indictments for conspiring to obstruct certification of the 2020 election results. When famous sitcom star Leonardo “the psychic beagle” suffers a career interrupting brain injury in a collision with a cable car while filming a Super Bowl commercial, Archie is called upon to pursue the multi-million-dollar injury claim. In the cannabis farm murder case, a young woofer named Rye kills a suspected poacher he encountered trespassing too close to one of the grow houses on the vast, forested property.  Archie declines taking on Rye’s defense until he learns that the wife of the couple running the cannabis operation is Carla Miller, Archie pre-Lora girlfriend, who Archie hasn’t seen or heard from in twenty-five years. Archie can’t say no to Carla and husband Nate, and ends up traveling back and forth to Eureka, sleeping apart from Lora more than a week for the first time in their twenty plus years together. Tensions between them heighten as Archie reconnects with Carla. Lora finally stages her autobiographical musical monology the Turnip Princess at Kraftworks, while her brother Dominic Dellacozzi once again finds himself in legal trouble when his North Beach restaurant is raided for importing banned exotic fish. Lora is concerned that her brother’s latest screw-up will only make matters worse with her husband, knowing that Archie is the best man to defend Dominic, while it is the last thing in the world he wants to do.


Crime Therapy digs deeply into the making, care and feeding of the Krafters’ long-standing love affair, while taking the reader on a suspenseful, often hilarious roller coaster ride through the criminal justice system. Did Rye act in self-defense? Has Leonardo recovered his astounding gift of interspecies communication? Will Dominic manage to turn his life around or does his journey end badly? Along the way, institutions are skewered, and Trump remains at large during a period of the worst social unrest in America since the Vietnam War.

STAY TUNED  AS CRIME THERAPY EVOLVES.




            
                                           THE RABBI WHO WASN'T
                                                    by Jody Weiner

(4228 words)


            Howard Shiner was finally alone, sitting at his desk in the basement Hebrew school classroom of the B'nai Briss Temple. His stainless steel Timex wristwatch beeped three times, reminding him to call in his wager on the inaugural Monday Night Football game between the Bears and the Vikings from Soldier Field in Chicago. “Mar Shiner”— as the students addressed him in Hebrew—looked weathered and stained with grief over his beloved son Leo's senseless and violent death only two months ago.

            As head rabbi of this struggling neighborhood House of Worship, Howard was also the tiny school's Principal. Along with his staff of two Talmudic scholars, they covered the afternoon pre-yeshiva education program in two rotating basement classrooms. There they transformed wide-eyed tweens in skull caps—who'd already suffered a full day of grammar school and didn't want to be there—into pro-Israeli Judaic students, prepared to proudly read from the Torah at their Bar Mitzvah upstairs in the decorous synagogue. Moreover, several aspiring Bat Mitzvahs attended the school. These days, even Conservative rabbis were permitting girls to participate in this ancient ritual “to become a man.”

            “This one's been trouble from the start,” Rabbi Shiner fretted silently over raven-haired Joan Zucker, thirteen, going on twenty-one. Menstruating, boobs exploding, she's tortured most of the boys who have grown up alongside her during the last four years. Shiner rubbed his own temple in dismay. Just twenty minutes earlier, after he’d dismissed his lot for the day, “Pinky” Singer had returned to confess that Joan had hiked up her skirt in the second stall of the temple men's room, then pulled aside the elastic on her white cotton panties and showed her peach fuzz to Marty Kraft. What's worse, she'd apparently done so in exchange for Kraft's solemn promise to exhibit his “humongous boner.” When it was Pinky’s turn to show, things had gone awry. For the little snitch admitted he resembled a hairless mole rat and could not yet achieve skyrocket status. Thus, humiliated, Pinky had decided to consult Rabbi Shiner over the accuracy of Joan's cruel remark that “you can’t even crank it right until you have pubes.” Howard wanted to say, “Go ahead, son. Crank away.” He refrained. After all, he was a rabbi.    

            Instead Pinky Singer was advised to be patient and remember that the Tribes of Israel waited forty years in the desert before Moses led them to the Promised Land. Then Howard counseled him to revisit “Exodus,” the pre-selected section of the Old Testament comprising Pinky's haftorah at his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. This traditional recital piece would appear as Hebrew text printed on a large papyrus double scroll laid out on the bema (pulpit) for Pinky to chant before the entire congregation. The rolled up scrolls slid inside a purple velvet and gold-embroidered sheath, resembling a golf-bag cover, and were ceremoniously kept in a free-standing mahogany cabinet with elaborately carved doors replicating the Ark of the Covenant. On that stage in just two short months Pinky will hopefully soar; so he slunk away without further comment, having been rudely reminded of his approaching day of reckoning.

            Howard turned off the lights in his classroom and briskly ascended the tiled stairs to the temple lobby. He made a beeline for the public phone, its push-button numbers nestled inside a plastic and metal pod hanging on the wall between the bathrooms.

            “Saul? … Is the line on the Bears still two and a half? … I want five thousand to cover.”

            “You sure? That's a big ticket. You're into us for ten large already.”

            “You're right. Make it ten grand, Saul. Even … Steven. My angels are behind me this time.”

            As soon as Shiner hung up and stepped into the lobby, Martin Kraft was in his face. Handsome and lanky, with dark curly hair cascading over his concave shoulders, Marty had been the smartest kid in class since the first day. And he knew it. In some little way, Kraft reminded Shiner of himself. When Howard was a smart-alecky teenager growing up in Williamsburg,  he'd coaxed Rosemary Bush into the back seat of his older brother's `39 Buick, the first time they'd ever progressed from a dry hump to a wet dream. That's where the comparison ended, however, as Howard had had to marry Rosemary Bush after she got pregnant, while Martin Kraft, barely thirteen, always carried a lubricated 4X in his wallet.

            “Hey, Mar Shiner, what's the latest spread on tonight's game?” 

            “Am I that obvious Martin?”

              “I keep tellin' ya to bet on the trotters. Last week, in the clubhouse at Sportsman's Park with my parents, my Uncle Warren, who works in the fifty-dollar ticket window, got a tip on a boat race but my father refused to bet on the horse for moral reasons. Naturally, it paid eight to one. … Eight to one? Are you kidding me? Mar Shiner, you should be down on a sure thing instead of watching Bobby Douglas run for his life every week.”

            Shiner wanted to say, “Hey, Marty, the line is two-and-a-half points. There's a TV in my office. Let's watch the game together and you can tell me more about these boat races.”  He refrained. After all, he was a rabbi.

             Mar Shiner reminded Martin about Leviticus 19:13, when Moses told the Israelites: “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour.” Shiner assumed that Kraft would only be his pupil for two weeks more, tops, considering his Bar Mitzvah was happening this coming Saturday.  Like the vast majority of students before him, Martin would not likely return to complete his final year of Yeshiva prep. It would be quite enough for Marty Kraft to successfully accomplish his haftorah recitation in front of the congregation, followed by the inevitable banquet room reception; where he'll have to endure the spectacle of his hungry relatives taking a Ritz cracker to the neck of the chopped liver swan. So Shiner hit him with King Solomon's Proverbs 13:11: “Wealth from gambling quickly disappears, as wealth from hard work grows. Desire of the slothful killeth him!”  Howard's voice rose as he had begun to work himself up, and he finished by paraphrasing Proverb 21:25: “All the day long, he coveteth greedily; a little folding of the hand, a little rolling of the dice, and poverty will come on like a tiger!”

            “Jeezus,  Mar Shiner.  How much do you owe?”

            “Pray for the underdog at home, Martin.”

            How much did he owe? Good question, Howard Shiner silently mused, exiting through the temple's main entrance doors and descending its wide stone steps across the manicured lawn. It was too hard keeping track of what he owed and, anyway, his creditors and his angels kept track for him. He'd left it to his angels ever since PFC Howard Shiner had marched out of the Hürtgen Forest in Bavaria, overwhelmed by the piles of human bones haphazardly stacked in trenches dug near the road, and the foulest stench of burned and decaying flesh imbedded in his brain forever.        

            When Howard was nineteen years old, he'd been conscripted into the Army's 9th Infantry Division. Plucked from selling socks on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and attending Brooklyn College at night, he'd been sent to join the Battle of the Bulge raging in Europe. The largest surge of US troops in history fueled this bloody, five-week-long campaign that halted the German Army's last major advance, turning the tide of WWII, and facilitating the Allies triumphant march into Berlin. Not long before Howard had left for basic training at Fort Dix, he'd finally convinced Rosemary Bush to go all the way, and much to his surprise, three months later, he'd learned from none other than Sergeant Jerome D. Salinger that he was going to be a father.

            Having landed in Belgium, in frigid January `45, Pvt. Howard Shiner was shuffled into a convoy of covered trucks with no idea he was being sent to re-supply regiments suffering the heaviest casualties. Converging allied armies had begun retaking German occupied cities, towns and villages along the great march to Hitler's house. After bouncing around all night, and the next day, on the cold metal floor, Howard and “Joe the Greek” ended up sharing a foxhole four meters long—obviously dug earlier by the enemy—while shelling from canons boomed in the distance, growing nearer like thunder in an approaching storm. Missiles whistled loudly in response, as sudden explosions of light and sound filled the sky from all directions. It went on and off like this for nearly three weeks as his division advanced through the freezing winter.

             At first, their convoy had remained intact, delivering essential supplies to liberated towns, where they were greeted affectionately and afforded accommodations inside abandoned hotels and villas.  When the munitions and the supplies had mostly been distributed, the trucks dispersed and Pvt. Shiner marched with the rest of his unit into Germany across the Ruhr River.  The good news was that the fighting was over by the time he'd reached the Hürtgen Forest. The bad news was that fleeing Nazi soldiers had jammed open the Ruhr Dam's floodgates, leaving the entire valley flooded, so it was frozen over when Howard had trekked through the bitter cold and damp muck toward their rendezvous with the 7th Armored Division at the Rhine River.  

            Moisture had seeped into the worn-out toes of Howard's water-logged boots, through his long johns and several pairs of socks, causing frostbite in three toes on his right foot and two on the left.  Pvt. Shiner had painfully soldiered on until the first field hospital.  In a clean bed for the next fifteen nights, warmed by several propane gas heaters and nurses applying salves and massages; despite feeling sorry for himself, he declined the option to go home. Howard rejoined his unit instead and soon learned that Joe and his other foxhole mates had been blown up in a roadside booby trap less than forty eight hours after Howard had been left behind.        

            Consequently, as Pvt. Shiner marched on the aforementioned road lined with piles of human remains, for the first time in his life he had experienced the existence of angels who were watching over him. It had occurred to him that some of his Lithuanian relatives' might actually be among the smoldering heaps around him.  Howard had then and there determined to leave the serious matters of his life and death to this magnificently divine force appearing under wings of wrath. In a strange and wonderful way Howard was at peace, no longer afraid; he had heard his angels calling on the horn of Faith.

            The next day, while Pvt. Shiner sat by himself in the makeshift mess tent trying to remember his last conversation with Joe the Greek, J.D. Salinger suddenly approached him. Tall and imposing in his CIG fatigues, Sergeant Salinger had dark wavy hair, his cap in one hand and a letter from Rosemary Bush in the other.  

            “Don't get up, Pvt.. You Shiner?”

            “Yes, Sergeant.”

            “This letter is for you. I've been in camp a week, so I guess they decided to give me the Jewish mail.”

            “Thanks, Sergeant.”

            “More mass graves were reported down in Kaufering, where I'm headed next. If you're searching for someone in particular, or you're interested in helping expose their extermination plan for all of us, let me know.”

            “Yeah, I just might do that, Sergeant.”         

            And that was the extent of Howard's encounter with the famous writer before anybody knew who he was. Salinger had been in the Counterintelligence Group, investigating recently liberated concentration camps. Something that Howard in his despair would have certainly pursued, if not for the serendipitous delivery of Rosemary's letter informing him she was pregnant with his child. “I'm wondering what you'll think about being a father when you come home?” she'd written. Consequently, Howard Shiner walked most of the way on to Berlin. He was promoted to Private First Class, awarded a Purple Heart, and PFC Shiner came home to meet Leo, their seven-month-old son. Nevertheless, Howard's spiritual revelation in the forest lasted longer than his marriage to Rosemary Bush.  

            Both were barely twenty-one when Leo was born. They'd lived with Rosemary's parents until Howard had finished his BS on the GI Bill and gone back to socks, having graduated from selling them on Orchard Street to manufacturer's “rep” in the Empire State Building.  During the ensuing decade, Leo had become a querulous kid with ceaseless questions about God, his doubts having grown acute once the Russians obtained nuclear missiles.  While Howard had tried hard to be a good father, the war had left him with night sweats, insomnia, and migraines that the VA doctors treated with barbiturates and other narcotic painkillers.  When Leo had mocked his father's service and deep faith, abruptly denouncing all religions as hypocritical warmongering, Howard had erupted, angrily slapping Leo across the face. Then Howard had gone too far, violating the sacred Commandment to Honor thy Father and Mother, for he also struck Rosemary as she intervened on their son's behalf.    

            Within weeks Howard had moved out of their marital home to a basement apartment in Greenwich Village, where he'd further descended into a depressive state of self-loathing that eventually cost him his job and threatened his parental rights. One especially dire evening, Howard sat cross-legged atop the rumpled covers on his lonely bed, accompanied by his mother’s ceremonial ceramic Seder platter allotted him in the separation, its six compartments filled with a colorful mix of hoarded tranquilizers, while a bottle of Mateus rested half-empty on the nightstand.  In Howard's delirious haze, two angels had suddenly appeared and directed him not to swallow the pills but to read instead an advertisement laying on the bed from the Jewish Daily Forward newspaper in which Rosemary had angrily wrapped the Seder plate. The newly established Yeshiva in Chicago was offering enrollment in a Second Talmudic Degree program for obtaining  rabbinic ordination.  Named after the Lithuanian town, Telšiai, from whence his clan had originated, this program had grabbed Howard's attention.  His self-destructive behavior had been disarmed, while he was somehow called to account for abandoning Joe the Greek and leaving his cousins to rot on the side of the road.

            It wasn't always that heavy during Howard's transition to life on Chicago's Near North Side.  He'd rented a sunny flat in a repurposed Edwardian, with a landscaped backyard and a flower garden meticulously maintained by his finicky landlord.  Six mornings a week, over the next four and a half years, he rode the Ravenswood L to the Telshe Yeshiva graduate school campus where he'd immersed himself in the curriculum: Talmud and the conservative response, pastoral care and psychology, biblical criticism,  oral interpretation of early scriptures,  Jewish ethics, and all tenets of the Code of Jewish Law.  It had also dawned on Howard that by bartending at night he’d be required to engage people and listen to their stories, not unlike a rabbi—a paid internship with a pulpit for advancing the “meaning of life” subjects he studied during the day. 

            Having readily taken to the discipline of ordination, by the time Howard had completed the oral exams for his degree, he was well-respected by faculty elders who had declared him a yadin yadin semikhah—only a small percentage of rabbis earn this distinction.  Howard's headaches had gone away, he'd stopped taking downers and begun exchanging letters with Leo, then a sophomore in college, and a former New Jersey state high school wrestling champion (130 lb division) who had nearly made the US team at the Tokyo Olympics. Based on the glowing recommendation of the Telshe Yeshiva cognoscente, Howard Shiner had promptly been hired at B'nai Briss Temple by Elder Rabbi, Simon Garfinkel, another yadin yadin, impressed with Howard's credentials.

            Rabbi Garfinkel had eagerly mentored Howard along for several years, teaching him to preside over the neighborhood faithful and manage synagogue business, while imparting his secrets to preserving Hebrew school grants. Howard genuinely believed his angels had turned his life around by bringing him back to God's House; eventually he proved to be a dedicated and compassionate rabbi before the congregation and the temple elders. Last year, Leo had finally promised to visit and Rabbi Garfinkel decided to retire, making Howard Shiner the youngest head rabbi of any Conservative synagogue in town. Then forty-nine days ago one of history’s cruelest moments inexorably washed away every bit of redemption when Palestinians in Munich brutally murdered his only child.

            Leo had been selected as an honorary assistant coach on the American wrestling team at the XXth Summer Games in Germany. He happened to be returning to the Olympic Village dormitories with several Israeli team members after attending a performance of Fiddler on the Roof in the Munich City Center. At that moment, eight armed assassins from “Black September”—an offshoot of Yasser Arafat's PLO—had been dispatched to storm the residence and hold the Israeli athletes hostage.  Two unarmed Israeli wrestlers had been shot dead bravely trying to stop the hooded assailants in tracksuits from entering the athletes' compound.  Leo was a bystander, simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, who had also died in the spray of bullets from Kalashnikov assault rifles.

            As the world had watched in horror, the drama inside the Olympic Village unfolded on live TV.  Black September demanded the release of two hundred and thirty four Arab prisoners, jailed in Israel, and a plane taking the terrorists to freedom, all in exchange for letting the hostages go unharmed.  Having finally negotiated safe transport to the airport, the terrorists ushered the nine remaining Jewish athletes onto two helicopters waiting outside the compound. But as soon as they both landed at the airport, German authorities launched an incredibly ill-advised rescue attempt. During the ensuing exchange of gunfire all nine hostages were slaughtered, one police officer and five assassins were dead, the other three were captured on the tarmac.  A parent's worst nightmare had come true.

            Howard Shiner presently found himself walking down the carpeted center aisle of the deserted temple, between the rows of polished maple benches, still lit by streaks of fading Fall sunlight shining through the tall stained-glass windows. Leo was still gone and Howard had nothing left inside. Heading for the Torah cabinet (Aron Kodesh) at the rear of the stage, Howard desperately lamented being deprived of seeing his beloved son again. He had missed most of Leo's accomplishments: the high school state wrestling championship, his graduation from Rutgers with honors, eventually becoming a coach and teacher like his old man.  For Godsakes! No more!! . . . Not after abandoning his unit and his Lithuanian cousins in Germany. He could never leave his only heir to this horrific death at the hands of monsters cut from the same cloth.  Howard strode onto the wide empty stage and advanced to the carved mahogany cabinet, built along the wall that most-closely faced Jerusalem.  He carefully removed the embroidered velvet Torah cover, usually containing the double scroll of holy papyrus, and extracted instead a loaded AKM assault rifle that he'd stored in the case for three days. Ever since Howard's angels had sent him to the South Side of Chicago.

            Elijah Muhammad, head of the Nation of Islam of Detroit, with three million dollars from Muammar Gaddafi, Dictator of Libya, had just purchased the Greek Orthodox church on 73rd and Stony Island, and transformed it into the Mosque Maryam. Many news sources had reported that Black Muslims congratulated the PLO on the Munich Massacre, and Howard had decided to investigate how Islamists prayed. Why did they rely on a religious war for their salvation? he wondered seriously. Especially when it sanctioned the killing of innocent bystanders?

            While Howard had waited across the street from the mosque for the next call to Adhan (traditional Muslims pray five times a day), a purple Cadillac cruised by him, twice, and finally stopped at the curb.  A twenty-something, skinny Black man in a black suit, white shirt and bowtie had emerged and asked him what a white man was doing on the corner of 73rd and Stony Island? Howard explained he was considering the importance of the call to prayer, and “Yusef” asked him if he needed anything to help him get there?  When Howard replied he might be looking for a self-defense weapon,  Yusef exposed a gold tooth smile, walked around to the rear of his Eldorado and directed Howard to examine the arsenal on display inside the huge trunk. Yusef had pointed to the updated Russian AK47 and told Howard: “That's just like what the Brothers used in Munich.”  

            Howard had paid him a hundred and eighty dollars, after Yusef had wrapped it in a blanket and duct tape so Howard could take it home on the bus.  Howard was not crazy, and this was not anarchy inspired by The Catcher In The Rye.  However unspeakable it may have seemed, the mercy of Howard's angels, having saved him so many times before, had vanished, replaced by a lone archangel of vengeance named Leo, approved by his Lithuanian cousins and Joe the Greek. 

            It was time to act. Howard slid the AKM under his trench coat and descended from the warm pulpit into the cold, empty congregation. At scarcely seven pounds, and thirty-six inches long, the rifle barely bulged under Howard's buttoned up Mac, as he bolted up the aisle toward a taxi taking him to the Mosque Maryam for the evening call to prayer. With thirty rounds in the magazine, he'd get one for Leo, one for Joe the Greek and one for all the others he'd left behind. What could be better justice than this?  Howard grimly chuckled at the irony, passing through the swinging temple doors into the deserted lobby. Then he descended the rear exit stairs through the Hebrew school and ran smack into Martin Kraft.

            “Mar Shiner,” Martin exclaimed excitedly, on his own way out following the last haftorah lesson before his upcoming Bar Mitzvah. “I'm so happy to run into you. `Cause I'm a little nervous about messing up on Saturday, after I carry the Torah over to the bema; so I wanted to ask you something.”

            “Not now, Master Kraft. I've got to catch a taxi.”

            “It'll only take a minute, I promise. Y' see, I'm right-handed.  I don't want to drag my arm across the sacred scroll when I'm reading, so you'll have to move the pointer from left to right.”

            “Butterflies are natural before such an important event in your life, Martin. I'm betting Jesus had shpilkes on the Road to Cavalry. You'll do great. You're a special kid and I'm sure Rabbi Weisberg will accommodate you.”

            “Wait a minute, Mar Shiner. Aren't you doing my Bar Mitzvah?”

            “I don't think I'll be here on Saturday.”

            “Where are you going?”

            “I'm committed . . . on my way,” Howard’s throat closed up and he started to choke. “. . . I don't . . . I have to . . .”  

            Howard was forced to sit down clumsily on the bottom step in the confined stairwell. He unbuttoned his coat to breathe and the AKM clanked on the hard stone surface. Howard must've passed out. For he looked around with no idea where he was, or how he'd gotten there. He focused on Martin, leaning in towards him with concern, as the indignities of Howard’s misbegotten life suddenly came flooding back in a wave of derision at what exactly? . . . At the very existence of any motherfucking GOD to believe in! Howard broke down irretrievably, wailing, crying louder and louder, with waterworks, reaching a peak after at least a full minute, until eventually he tapered off to an exhausted whimper.

            Martin Kraft waited him out with one wary eye on the automatic weapon that had just fallen out of his rabbi's overcoat. Everyone knew about Mar Shiner's son and the sad, solemn way in which their teacher had been acting since his murder. Marty surmised that Mar Shiner probably wasn't going to kill himself with that thing. When Howard finally slumped in silent surrender, Marty reached out and hugged him compassionately. He wasn't scared. He 'd known since the age of nine that he was built for these situations. An old soul in young skin, defining moments were safe in his charge.

            “Hey, Mar Shiner,” Marty finally said, trying to cheer him up. “The Bears won by three points Monday night. Great game, wasn't it?”

            “They did? . . . Oh, Jeez. I won?”

            “I hope you bet a bundle.  Maybe you can relax a little?”

            “How am I supposed to relax?”

            “Ever tried this?”  Martin reached into the breast pocket of his jean jacket,  removed a tiny piece of paper and handed it to Howard. “It's blotter acid . . . LSD,” Martin continued in earnest. “My older brother turned me on. . . . I know everybody says this, but I swear, it blew my mind!  Mar Shiner, I experienced things in completely different dimensions. I finally figured out my haftorah, fer Chrissakes! So I clipped a couple doses from my brother's stash. . . . You really should take these. It will definitely chill that angel of vengeance thing you obviously got going on.”   










 

 

Crime Therapy
Projects in Play

Heck No!
screenplay & teleplay
by Jody Weiner
Stories and Such

The Rabbi Who Wasn’t
previously unpublished