Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 12 of a new online serial novel, Divided Attention, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every Thursday or Friday. Click here for previous chapters.
Copyright © 2010 by Israel Bookshop Publications
Rafi’s eyes fluttered open. It wasn’t dark anymore and he heard voices from outside. He lay silently and listened to the distant noises, and, deciding that the coast was clear, he clambered out from behind the piles of junk and ran down the path leading to the street. Now he had to find the way home. Maybe Ima would prepare soup for him today…
Teeth chattering, he ran in the direction that seemed most probable to him. A group of well dressed people stood waiting at the nearby bus stop. The boy observed them all for a moment and chose an elderly woman who looked nicer than the rest. He walked over to her and stopped, waiting for her to notice him.
“Oh, my!” she suddenly exclaimed. “Why aren’t you wearing a coat on a day like this?”
Rafi saw no reason to answer the question. “How do I get from here to Kiryat Yovel?” he asked, blinking rapidly. His entire body trembled.
“You’re shaking all over!” she reprimanded. “What mother sends her child out like this on such a day?” A bus pulled up. “I think this bus will take you there; let’s ask the driver.” She tried to take Rafi’s hand but he evaded her grip.
The driver confirmed that indeed, he was headed for Kiryat Yovel. “You getting on, kid?” he asked Rafi.
“Yes, of course,” the woman said, patting Rafi’s shoulder. “You need this bus, right, dearie?”
“I have no money,” he mumbled. “Ronny left and didn’t give me…” He didn’t care that he was mentioning the older boy’s name. Nothing mattered anymore.
“Oy vey, vey,” the woman clucked. “Poor girl! Tell this Ronny that that’s no way to behave!” She boarded the bus and Rafi followed her. “Punch once here for the girl,” she instructed the driver, proffering her bus card. “Wait, don’t go. I’m not coming with you.” She waved at Rafi and got off. Rafi wanted to tell her goodbye and to point out that he was a boy, not a girl, but his throat hurt so much that he just couldn’t get a single syllable out.
He sat huddled in his seat, leaning his head on the window. A truck rumbled along in the next lane. Rafi was unaware that by the time he’d awoken it was already ten o’clock a.m. and that now it was almost eleven. He also didn’t know that he had fever, and only felt a burning sensation rising in his neck and spreading to his cheeks.
When the bus reached the familiar stop on his street, he rose and debarked carefully, holding onto the handrail. The entire street danced around him and he didn’t understand why the cars were driving crookedly. He walked slowly along the sidewalk, goaded along by the knowledge that he had to get home fast so those people wouldn’t catch him.
Suddenly he saw the silver corrugated fence on his right side; despite his blurred vision he recognized it. It was the empty lot behind his house. That’s where he had played until a year ago, when the tractors came and began to dig there. Rafi, like most children, liked to sneak in behind the fence and watch the Arab construction workers—until he’d be discovered and chased away with threats and shouts.
Drops began spattering down from the sky and Rafi found an opening between two of the aluminum fence sections. He knew that he could get home from here, and even if he wouldn’t have the strength to climb on the mounds of dirt that separated the lot from his house, he could at least find shelter from the rain in the unfinished building. The Arab workers probably hadn’t come to work in this weather; they hadn’t been coming for at least two days already.
He began to descend into the lot, the wet mud sticking to his new shoes.
Ayala added the conversation with Pessy to the list of points she had written on the inside cover of her green journal. That was also related to school, wasn’t it? The problem was that their walk had taken place the night before, while in the journal, she was holding in the middle of Cheshvan, a month behind. Keep Reading…