The following is an excerpt from The Great Gimmelmans by Lee Matthew Goldberg. The book is set to release on Nov. 14, 2023.

When I was a little kid, like eight or so, I’d stand in front of a mirror and ask myself, “Who is Aaron Nicholas Gimmelman?” I knew I was me, of course, and that I loved basketball and the Knicks, specifically Patrick Ewing who won NBA Rookie of the Year despite his injuries. I hated milk with the passion of a thousand fiery suns after being forced to squeeze a cow’s udders on a school farm trip. I thought Hebrew school was definitely the worst, since my bar mitzvah seemed a million years and a shit ton of work away. I always had a cow lick that no amount of gel could tamper, and my ears curved out enough for my Grandma Bernice down in Florida to shame my mother into taping them back when I was a baby. I listened to my cassette of “Walk Like an Egyptian” over and over that I bought from Nobody Beats the Wiz and was gobsmacked when I learned Boy George was actually a boy. When my older sister Steph got boobs, she had a rotation of paramours I liked to call “stray cats waiting on our doorstep for scraps,” and my little sister Jenny tortured animals in her spare time. I once threw up spaghetti and meatballs and the meatballs looked like eyes and the spaghetti a smiling mouth. A goat sneezed on me at the Westchester County Fair, and I became convinced I was dying. Sometimes I touched things in threes for fear that God would strike me down if I didn’t. And my dad worked on Wall Street, making a boatload of money, and we lived in a big house in New Jersey, close enough to see New York City across the Hudson River.

But who was Aaron Nicholas Gimmelman really?

It took only one sperm to fertilize my mom’s egg, but there’d been two hundred million other competitors. Two hundred million alternate Aaron Nicholas Gimmelmans who maybe gorged themselves on milk and hated the Knicks. But somehow, I won the lottery.

I was thinking of this a few years later at the ripe age of twelve while we raced away in the RV we dubbed “The Gimmelmans’ Getaway Gas-Guzzler” with the FBI on our ass, about a million bucks stuffed in the cabinets, Steph’s Debbie Gibson tape blasting “Electric Youth” while Jenny surfed in the “living area” with a taxidermy possum she called Seymour, my mother Judith weeping like mad into her pashmina, and Barry Gimmelman, my dad and the most notorious bank robber of the 1980s, flooring the Gas-Guzzler through the Mojave Desert.

We’d taken a pivot, both with the RV off the highways, and in our lives. The 1987 Stock Market Crash left us worse than penniless, in debt to banks and loan sharks that would take multiple lifetimes to pay off, but the Gimmelmans were a resourceful bunch, descendants of Holocaust survivors that never gave into defeat. I leaned out the RV’s window with a Bren Ten stainless steel gun that had become an extension of my hand, all Sonny Crockett cool, wearing my pastel jacket and Ray-Bans that Barry gifted me after a successful bank job. I was gonna fire on those FBI fucks when my mother let out a scream so bone-shaking that I nearly dropped the gun on the road.

“This has gone too far,” she yelled, snot dripping from her nose, her face red and beating, hair in a tizzy, and her eyes dull. They used to go wide with exhilaration, now they blinked vacant like the seedy motels tucked behind interstates that we hid out in on our spree across America when the Gas-Guzzler became too tight quarters, and Mom and Barry wanted to bump uglies without abandon. I saw our faded neon-sign pasts in her sad pupils, but her throat became too sore from crying to hear over “Electric Youth.”

Zappin it to ya. The pressure’s everywhere…

Barry cackled over the dance-pop, usually blaring songs that took him back to Woodstock ’69, when he and Mom fell in muddy love over a bottle of Jameson and Janis Joplin in the air. But today he catered to Steph because she was going through a tougher time than any of us at the moment and prone to sobbing uncontrollably—he even sang along to the Debbie Gibson tune.

I idolized him, proud to be the Aaron Nicholas Gimmelman from his loins that conquered all those vying sperms. He’d been a successful stockbroker and an even more successful robber, we all were, but none as great as Barry Gimmelman, a mensch who was tan even in the winter, had black curly hair he’d try to slick back and a laugh that could pierce your heart, teeth so white and glowing you thought he was lit from within, tough but fair, and quick for a joke or a light of your smoke, as he used to say. He made us into the Bonnie and Clyde of the late eighties, our Dillinger from New Jersey, who believed in keeping us accustomed to the lifestyle we knew. The reward worth the risk. Anything but to be ordinary. His parents, Avraham and Ethel, didn’t survive Treblinka and the Nazi scum to flee to America for their offspring to eke out a paycheck-to-paycheck existence. Barry would be immortalized—we would be immortalized. Despite any misgivings creeping into my brain during those times of silence the Gimmelmans rarely experienced, I’d convince myself of our king and swear my proven loyalty.

I saw his eyes fan over to me through the rearview mirror, not dull like Mom’s, but spinning with hope, winking at me to do what I needed to do…

Who is Aaron Nicholas Gimmelman? they asked.

So, I pulled the trigger and watched a bullet spiral toward the FBI’s flashing car, the front window shattering upon impact, and a “That’s my boy!” escaping from Barry’s lips as the Gas-Guzzler flew into the sun spreading across the barren landscape.

I could feel the heat as we plunged into its burning abyss.

*****

Lee Matthew Goldberg is the author of twelve novels including The Ancestor and The Mentor along with his five-book Desire Card series. He has been published in multiple languages and nominated for the Prix du Polar. After graduating with an MFA from the New School, his writing has also appeared in CrimeReads, Pipeline Artists, LitHub, The Los Angeles Review of Books, The Millions, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, LitReactor, Mystery Tribune, The Big Idea, Monkeybicycle, Fiction Writers Review, Cagibi, Necessary Fiction, Hypertext, If My Book, Past Ten, the anthology Dirty Boulevard, (Screen)Play Press, The Montreal Review, The Adirondack Review, The New Plains Review, Maudlin House and others. He is the co-curator of The Guerrilla Lit Reading Series and lives in New York City. Follow him at LeeMatthewGoldberg.com

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