I am Gimpel the fool. I don’t think myself a fool. On the contrary. But that’s what folks call me. They gave me the name while I was still in school. I had seven names in all: imbecile, donkey, flax-head, dope, glump, ninny, and fool. The last name stuck. What did my foolishness consist of? I was easy to take in. They said, “Gimpel, you know the rabbi’s wife has been brought to childbed?” So I skipped school. Well, it turned out to be a lie. How was I supposed to know? She hadn’t had a big belly. But I never looked at her belly. Was that really so foolish? The gang laughed and hee-hawed, stomped and danced and chanted a good-night prayer. And instead of the raisins they give when a woman’s lying in, they stuffed my hand full of goat turds. I was no weakling. If I slapped someone he’d see all the way to Cracow. But I’m really not a slugger by nature. I think to myself: Let it pass. So they take advantage of me.
I was coming home from school and heard a dog barking. I’m not afraid of dogs, but of course I never want to start up with them. One of them may be mad, and if he bites there’s not a Tartar in the world who can help you. So I made tracks. Then I looked around and saw the whole market place wild with laughter. It was no dog at all but Wolf-Leib the Thief. How was I supposed to know it was he? It sounded like a howling bitch.
–by Isaac Bashevis Singer