Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 1 of a new online serial novel, Divided Attention, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every Thursday or Friday.
Copyright © 2010 by Israel Bookshop Publications
The large bag contained just a few garments; too few.
“When it gets full, you’ll take it down to Mrs. Brown, the neighbor, alright?” Sarah would say every time she visited. Once, a long time ago, perhaps even a year ago, Ima would wash the clothes herself. But she didn’t do that anymore. Now she only washed clothes for herself and for Shira. She had completely forgotten about Rafi.
Mrs. Brown would take the full bag from him and after a day, sometimes two, he would find it waiting outside the door when he came home from school. She never asked for money, but he knew that Sarah gave her lots of money. Sometimes the woman from the social services would come and arrange the closet, checking whether he had enough clean clothes. But neither she nor Sarah understood why the bag filled so slowly, while the shelves in the closet looked almost the same every time.
Only Rafi knew, as did the children in his class.
“You’ve been wearing that shirt for a whole week already!” Avi Gelbart had sneered just yesterday, pinching his nose closed. “What a smell! Ugh! Like fish!”
Everyone standing around Avi had laughed, but Rafi knew that Avi was lying. Fish? Nonsense. There wasn’t any fish in their house, nor was there chicken. Rafi thought that Ima must have long forgotten how to cook. Sometimes Sarah or the other lady brought a bit of food, but that was it.
Rafi didn’t tell Avi that he was a liar, though; he didn’t tell him anything at all. All the kids could laugh all they wanted at Avi’s words—but they wouldn’t dare laugh at Rafi’s fists. And that’s what Rafi used now to answer Avi. He didn’t care that Avi limped around until lunchtime; Rafi knew it was just a show so that their teacher, Mrs. Davidi, would have pity on Avi and send him, Rafi, the “big, bad bully,” to the principal. This time, however, Mrs. Davidi didn’t send him to the principal. Instead, she just announced in that horrible voice of hers what a shame it was that they had such a boy in their class.
And, as usual, everyone laughed.
They had been laughing at him since first grade, when he would come to school with his clothes on backwards. He wondered if they knew how to dress themselves at that age, the spoiled brats! But that didn’t happen anymore. He knew exactly how to check if his clothes were on right, and if he could see the stitching on the outside, he knew he had to turn the garment inside-out.
Rafi had learned to do lots of things himself. Still, Sarah said that a boy of eight-and-a-half can’t do everything himself. She also said that he wasn’t eating properly, and that it was important for a growing boy to eat healthy food. She wanted to take him somewhere else, where he would have a different Abba and Ima, who would take care of him and prepare healthy meals for him to eat. But he didn’t want to go. Maybe Ima would suddenly decide that she loved him as much as she loved Shira? Perhaps she would suddenly have an urge to cook something especially for him? It would be such a shame if he wouldn’t be home just then.
But he didn’t explain all that to Sarah. She wouldn’t understand anyway. Keep Reading…