Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 29 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week. Click here for previous chapters.
Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications.
When Binyamin opened his eyes, his roommates had already left. He leaped out of bed groggily, washed his hands, and hurried to get ready.
Somehow, he got through the morning in a hazy fog of exhaustion, though he did notice that Shabsi was nowhere to be seen.
“What’s up with you, Potolsky?” his chavrusa, Zilberman, probed after a while. “You don’t look very with-it today.”
“Exhaustion,” Binyamin said, passing a hand over his forehead. This hadn’t happened the other times. He was an energetic person by nature, not someone who needed lots of sleep, and if he missed a night or half a night of sleep, he usually managed until he was able to catch up.
“Looks like more than just exhaustion to me…” Zilberman studied him closely. “Your face is very red.”
“Could be,” Binyamin said. Suddenly, he stood up. “I’m going to get a cup of water, and then I’ll be back.”
“What’s been going on at night that’s making you so tired?”
Had he blushed because his face had somehow predicted Zilberman’s question and the discomfort it would cause him?
“At night?” Binyamin echoed. “Nothing special.”
Zilberman looked at him skeptically. Binyamin knew he’d have to tell him at one point; otherwise, Zilberman was likely to imagine all kinds of dreadful things his chavrusa was up to at night.
“Nothing special? And last night?”
“Really, nothing much.” Binyamin had already taken a step backward. “I went to learn someplace.” Let someone say that wasn’t true!
He strode out of the beis medrash. Ugh, why did he have the feeling that this was happening to him now only because Yaakov had told him that he would yet see the damage these nights were causing him? Who had asked Yaakov to get involved?
He would try to skip lunch and catch up on some sleep. Over the last month, he must have accumulated enough of a sleep deficit to make his body rebel. Energetic or not, Binyamin realized, he hadn’t slept for four nights over the past three and a half weeks, so it was probably taking its toll now.
Did that make Yaakov right?
Maybe he just needed to set some more boundaries for himself. Just as he hadn’t been embarrassed to tell Shabsi that he could only do this job when the niftar was an elderly person, he could also tell him, with the same firmness, that he could only do it once in two weeks, at most once in a week and a half. Maybe that would help him in the future.
For now, though, he really needed to sleep.