Hot Springs

A Story

by David Guterson

Eleven months out of twelve the judge ignored being Jewish. Then Christmas slid into view, and for a while he was reminded of it. People who knew he was Jewish would say “Happy Hanukkah” in lieu of “Merry Christmas,” and though he wanted to retort with, “You don’t understand; I’m an areligious agnostic who has no more to do with Hanukkah than you do,” he never answered anything of the kind. But still, Christmas forced his subdued Jewish hand to the extent that December was his default vacation window. He and his wife, yearly, went somewhere balmy to wait out the season. Each November they called their grown children—who had children of their own, Christmas trees, and colored lights—to repeat that December was a low-fare month for flights to sunny climes, and that it conduced to the judge’s court schedule to mark off vacation time with annual consistency. Then, a few weeks later, away they went until just after New Year’s, by which time Seattle had returned to normal in the sense that a nominal Jew like the judge could go for weeks without thinking about his birth religion.

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