A Chelm Story from Jewish Folklore
Retold by S.E. Schlosser
Shmul was on his way to the market in Chelm one afternoon when he saw his good friend Bein on the street.
“Sholom aleichem,” called Shmul to his friend.
“Go to blazes,” Bein said without missing a beat.
Shmul was indignant. Falling into step with Bein he cried: “Why are you so impolite to me, your best friend? I speak kindly to you and you tell me to go to blazes! Where is the sense in that?”
Bein turned to face Shmul. “Listen, Shmul, I am just trying to save time. We have been friends since we were babies, and I know that if I tell you I am going to the baths on Seventh Street, you will tell me that the baths on Avenue A are preferable. Then I will say: ‘No Shmul, for I have tried them both and the baths on Seventh Street are better.’ You will say to me: ‘Bein, you are a fool.’ And I will tell you: ‘Go to blazes.’”
Bein threw up his hands and rolled his eyes for emphasis. “So you see, Shmul,” he continued, “my way is better. If, as soon as I see you, I tell you to go to blazes, the matter is finished without any time wasted.”
So saying, Bein marched off in the direction of Seventh Street.
“Old fool!” Shmul shouted after him.
“I knew you’d say that,” Bein retorted over his shoulder.
“Well, the Avenue A baths are better,” grumbled Shmul, turning back toward the market place.
And Bein shouted back: “Go to blazes!”