Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 25 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
The moon cast a dim glow on the dirt path, doing little to illuminate it. It was a tiny, end-of-the-month moon, trying valiantly to peek at what was going on down below, near a low building. Six figures stood at the edge of the courtyard, under a small awning.
“I hope they didn’t change the inside door,” Eddie said as he observed Shai, who was bent over working on the lock. “What will we do if the door inside is harder to break?”
“Then Rafi will climb up to the roof,” Ronny said, his hand behind his back. “How’s it going, Shai?”
“Another minute and I’ll have it open,” Shai reassured him hurriedly.
“Here’s hoping you’ll be spared the job of climbing up there, cute little religious boy,” Eddie said, looking at the short figure sitting cross-legged on the ground, leaning on the wall. “Doesn’t look like much fun.” He put a hand on the gutter that descended from the roof and raised his head. “It’s really high, Ronny!”
“Yep.” Ronny was engrossed in Shai’s efforts.
“What’s inside this room, Eddie?” Puti asked, plopping down on the floor near Rafi.
“I don’t know what they use it for. When it was ours, it was a stockroom where we stored tools, craft stuff, that kind of thing. The counselor sent me here lots of times to get things.”
A dull, splitting noise cut through the night air. Shai put pressure on the door. “The lock is broken,” he said breathlessly. “Another minute and the door will—finally—give…” The door did give, creaking open as he gasped out the last words. A quiet cheer rose from behind him, and he smiled, reddening with pleasure.
“Hey, guys, what’s with ya?” Ronny asked sternly. “Another cheer like that and we’ll have the whole block down here to watch us! Come here, Zimmer.”
Rafi rose slowly, looking at the opening in the wall. Shai was already inside, dealing with the inner door.
“Listen, we’re going back to our old way of doing things,” Ronny instructed, putting a hand on Rafi’s shoulder. “Go in, get where you can, do what you want. And this time, get me stuff from there, will ya?”
“Yes, coward. I told you we’re not going in. We can’t afford to get into such trouble.”
“Come on, Ronny!” Eddie said, looking inside. He pulled Rafi over to him. “You know that if they catch us, we’ll be in up to our ears in hot water anyway. I’ll go in with you, Rafi, but you’ll do everything yourself, okay?”
The inner door was easier and didn’t take too much time for Shai to break. “Got it,” he said, waving his hand ceremoniously in the darkened hallway. “Rafi, it’s all yours.”
They all entered the storage room, closing the broken door behind them. “Quiet,” Ronny said. “Eddie, this shouldn’t take you more than ten minutes, fifteen, max, okay?”
“Very okay,” Eddie said with a smile. “Come, Rafi, let’s go.”
Almost twenty minutes later, they were back, dragging a large white bag. “Sorry, Ronny,” Eddie said. “Rafi scribbled in the classrooms and hallways a little, but we couldn’t get into the office. There’s this little alcove outside the office that in our days was used as a supply closet. There was a bookcase there and we found this on top.”
“What is it?” Ronny asked, wrinkling his nose as he reached for the bag. “You couldn’t find anything else more valuable that you could take?”
“Nothing,” Eddie said placidly, exchanging a fleeting glance with Rafi.
Ronny turned the bag over and looked scornfully at the green books that spilled out, slapping the old faded floor tiles one by one as they fell.
Only at eleven o’clock in the morning did Sari realize that she hadn’t eaten a thing yet. With a sigh, she put her notebooks aside and stuck her feet into her slippers, heading for the kitchen. The flu she’d come down with was finally clearing up, but Ima had wanted her to stay home another day. “You don’t play around with your health,” she had said firmly. “Another day of rest will be great for you, Sari.”
So she had stayed home, and after davening, had hurried back to the warm, cozy quilt and the pile of fascinating reports which her mother’s students had written. At first, she hadn’t been at all excited about the idea of being on the judges’ panel. Why should she get involved in her mother’s school contests? But she’d felt so uncomfortable refusing; even without this, she and her mother had had enough misunderstandings of late, so she’d agreed to the idea. In the end, she found herself really enjoying the reports. There were all sorts of levels of writing, but overall, it was interesting, if not fascinating.
“The person standing behind the fence grimaced and blew his nose with a trumpet blast. ‘Hello, why are you treating those poor Blacks like that?’ he scolded the farm owner.
“‘I’m their master,’ the man with the whip said angrily, ‘and you are not my master, even if you received our land in the Vienna Congress!’
“The Englishman wiped his nose again derisively and turned to the other direction. ‘You want independence for some thirty years already,’ he said. ‘But nothing will help you.’
“The slave master just gritted his teeth, as the Brit turned southwards.”
“‘Benito,’ the Italian teacher said, ‘Perhaps you shouldn’t come to class tomorrow. Wouldn’t you prefer to go fishing? It would be very nice, for all of us.’
“The twelve-year-old lad’s friends laughed, but when Benito looked at them, they tried to look serious. They were afraid of Benito Mussolini, and even if he didn’t know how much seven tenths times three was, and his notes were full of spelling mistakes, he was sometimes very scary.
“Less than twenty years passed before they discovered that he didn’t grow up to be just a fisherman. He was something else, something much scarier—and not only sometimes.”
“Forgive me for the shaking handwriting, but the carriage is jumping all the time. We are fleeing from our village! It’s terribly cold now and I’m wearing Babushka’s coat and I miss my big bed at Babushka’s where I sleep at night. But the Czar said we have to leave before those terrifying Franks get here!
“Suddenly, just as we left the village, I saw a huge, frightening fire. I was petrified and Father told me that all the village men, himself included, had thrown burning torches at the houses and silos so that the Franks wouldn’t have food. I wept, and was very sad. But if His Majesty the Czar said so, then we have to listen to him.”
Sari jotted down a note to ask her mother if it was possible that a Russian village girl living in those times would have known how to read and write and keep a diary. Something about the idea didn’t sound realistic to her.
“Rings of smoke rose from the low, heavy armchair. Fatima, the servant, placed the wooden tray on the cushion and stepped backwards cautiously. She did not like the master’s shouts at all.
“‘They don’t believe me!’ Mohammed punched a fist into the air. In his fury, he hit the tray that had been placed on his right and quickly withdrew his hand as the scalding liquid seared his skin. ‘And it’s only getting worse, Hajija! My life is in danger! Do you think I should leave the city?’
“‘Leave?’ his wife asked fearfully. She loved Mecca.
“‘Leave!’ he howled. ‘You understood right—leave! And they will yet feel my revenge, those scornful people of Mecca!’ His eyes shot sparks of fury and he began to foam at the mouth.
“Fatima sighed. Another attack was well on its way.”
Sari’s eyes raced across the pages as she nibbled on a piece of pepper. She had her preferences; it would be interesting to see which passages Ima had chosen as possible winners. She wondered if they had the same taste.
Ita, the first to arrive, as usual, was the one who discovered the graffiti, the scribbles on the walls, the dirty doors, and her overturned desk. The tracks led to the forgotten storage room, whose two wooden doors were broken. The journals that Rikki, the secretary, had put on top of the bookcase had disappeared.
The other staff members arrived soon after and, with horror in their eyes, took in the messy scene.
“You’d left already,” Rikki said, pale-faced. “I didn’t have the key to your cupboard, so I couldn’t lock it up. I thought that no one would touch it, because everyone was gone already, and I know you come first in the morning! Who would be interested in those journals?”
“I really don’t know,” Ita said with difficulty, and looked at the chaos surrounding her on all sides with uncharacteristic helplessness.
“I don’t believe it!” some of the more hysterical teachers cried, staring in shock and dismay at the walls, which, overnight, had undergone a transformation.
The regular complainers did what they knew how to do best. “What negligence! Only in our school do they have such flimsy doors!”
“It’s not so bad; there’s no major damage,” the optimistic ones soothed, cautiously examining their siddurim, which had been left untouched on the tables.
“Maybe they hid some explosives?” Some of the alarmists panicked and refused to come inside.
And the ones who liked action took in the scene carefully, patrolling up and down the halls from one broken door to another, up the stairs and back down, touching the sticky railing cautiously, peeking if the police car had arrived yet. They kept glancing at the principal’s overturned desk. The fax machine and the printer rested calmly on the floor behind it, as though someone had taken care to remove them before turning over the desk and generously spray painting the upholstered office chair.
“Why do you keep looking in that direction?” Meir asked Rafi with a good-natured laugh. “It looks like you’re afraid there’s a lion hiding over there! Come on, the bus is here!”
Rafi silently stepped up on the metal stairs.
“You’re acting funny today,” Meir declared and ran to the back seat. “Avichai! Ehud! Yaakov! Eli! I saved seats for you guys! Come!” The six third-graders crowded into the last row of seats.
“Want one?” Avichai offered Rafi a round box. “It’s gum from America. My grandmother always brings piles of these when she comes. They’re very—”
“No,” Rafi said and continued to stare out the window. Avichai was always boasting about the stuff he got from America. Now he also had something nice and expensive to show off, but he wouldn’t show them. Not yet. He’d let a few days pass before he’d start using it.
But not at home. Mrs. Cohen and Nava knew exactly what he did and didn’t have in his pencil case. He could always say that he’d gotten it as a prize in school for one thing or another, but it would be better to just not use it at home at all. He would show it to his friends, though; maybe in a couple of days.
Ronny had probably wanted that pen for himself. He said it was an expensive one, but the minute they saw it fall out of the last book that fell to the floor, Eddie said that he, Rafi, deserved to get it. Ronny had become annoyed, but didn’t say anything about it. He just kept asking, “Is that all that was there? Are you sure?”
They were all angry and threw those green books into the large dumpster on the street, but they gave him the book with the pen stuck in it and he took it home. He liked those kinds of pages, with gold edges, that when you closed the notebook, the whole side turned gold. He could use the empty pages for all sorts of things and there were lots of empty pages left in the notebook.
After they left, Eddie had winked at him in the dark. It was good that Eddie had been so nice, and agreed, without argument, to take only those books in the bag on top of the bookcase and not the stuff from the desks. He didn’t want to take such expensive things, because that was probably considered real stealing. Just yesterday, Nava had read him such a nice story about a rav, a tzaddik, who had bought a donkey from a gentile and found a precious stone on the donkey’s neck. He gave the stone back to the gentile, because he didn’t want the gentile to think he was a thief.
It wasn’t considered stealing that he took the book and the pen, because if they wouldn’t have given it to him, Ronny would have taken it for himself anyway.
How hadn’t he noticed that the bus had arrived at his street, or rather, the Cohens’ street? Nava waved to him from the bus stop. He liked it when she waited there for him, and it almost never happened, because she finished school later than he did. She was still wearing her brown schoolbag. He jumped up, grabbed his briefcase, waved to Meir and the other boys, and ran to the door of the bus.
“I’m going to Meir Cooperman’s house today!” he called from the bottom step of the bus as he leaped onto the sidewalk. “Did you see that? I jumped three feet!”
“Fantastic!” Nava complimented him.
“Do you think that Ab—your father will let me go?”
“I think so.”
“ ’Cause Thursday is my first time at clubs, and when he came to me on Sunday we only did do-re-mi, and they already learned to play songs with five notes. What else do I have to learn to play those songs?”
“Fa and so.”
“Is it hard to play five notes? Nava, you’re not listening to me! What are you thinking about so much?”
“Something happened in school, something very um…” She could not find the right word. “Something awful, even a bit scary. There was a break-in last night.”
“A break-in?” Rafi asked, and raised his eyes to her.
“Yes. They broke the door of a storage room, and then another door in there, and that’s how they got in. They scribbled all over the walls and the doors and the boards, everywhere.”
“Whoa!” he said, kicking at the sidewalk.
“Yeah, we got there this morning and it was such a mess! They’re going to have to change the boards, paint, and I don’t know what they’re going to do about that floor. Maybe they’ll re-tile.”
“It doesn’t come off?” he asked, focusing his gaze on her.
“I think I heard the principal saying it doesn’t.”
“That’s too bad,” Rafi said he entered the building a few steps ahead of Nava.
“And did they steal anything?” Manny asked as he cut Rafi’s chicken into pieces.
“That’s the funny part here. There was a printer and fax machine that they could have easily taken if they wanted to, but they seemed to have ignored them. All they took was a bag with some journals that the teachers wrote. Morah Ayala’s journal was in there, too.”
“Journals?” Yael asked as she took her seat and set the salad bowl in the center of the table.
“Yes. I don’t know exactly what they were, but my teacher told us that it was something they had written for the teachers’ meeting tomorrow. She told us that her children will be very upset, because she had left the pen they had bought her in the journal.” Nava put down her knife.
“This all sounds pretty strange,” Manny said. “Not funny at all. There’s something weird about this break-in, or rather, about the perpetrators.”
“What could it be?” Yael asked.
Rafi’s eyes followed whoever was speaking.
Manny was pensive. “I would say that whoever it is, they were interested in the journals, but who could it be? I don’t believe there’s a girl in school who would do such a thing!”
“I’m sure there isn’t!” Nava said, staring at her father.
“It’s one thing to take the journals,” Yael said slowly. “Maybe if someone really couldn’t resist, she could have done it, but why everything else? The spray paint, the mess, all that?”
“Poor teachers whose journals were stolen,” Nava said. “Morah Ayala Dinner told us how careful she was not to write identifying details about anyone, but she’s still very nervous about where they could end up and what someone could do with those journals.”
“Maybe they’ll just throw them in the garbage,” Rafi said, swallowing his pickle with difficulty.
Nava looked at him for a minute, her eyes lingering on his cheek, where the remnants of his bruise were still visible. “Why in the garbage?”
“If they thought they were going to find something more valuable in the bag and were disappointed to only find some journals, then they’ll probably just throw them into the nearest garbage can,” Manny said, and looked at Rafi. “But if they were looking for valuables, you say there were valuables for them to take, didn’t you, Nava?”
“So then the journals are probably not in the garbage,” Yael concluded. “I hope they find these vandals quickly.”
“So do I,” Manny said and took a bentcher off the shelf.
“Me, too,” Nava said and helped herself to some more salad.
“Me, too,” Rafi echoed hurriedly, swallowing another big chunk of pickle.
Just then Meir Cooperman called to find out if Rafi would be coming over. Manny and Yael agreed, and Manny took Rafi on his way to kollel.
It was lots of fun at Meir’s house. His mother brought them cake and juice, and they played the scales “fa” and “so” over and over again on the keyboard. Meir even taught Rafi one of the songs they’d learned at the club.
But then the door opened.
“My father’s home,” Meir said. “Come, he wants to meet you. I always tell him how fun it is to sit next to you!”
Rafi followed Meir into the kitchen. And there, he spotted the greenish jacket, the light-colored eyebrows joined at the bridge of the nose, and the thick glasses.
“A new necklace?” Batya Schindler’s mother asked with a raised eyebrow. “What’s wrong with your Shabbos necklace that you have?”
“I got it for my bas mitzvah,” Batya said, averting her mother’s gaze.
“Right, and that was, if I’m not mistaken, less than three years ago.”
“But I’ve grown up in these past three years, and a necklace for a twelve-year-old is not for me anymore!”
Chavi, Batya’s older sister, raised her eyes for a moment and then lowered them again. On the table in front of her, resting on a bed of maroon velvet, were three necklaces that her chassan’s grandmother had sent for her to choose from.
“Oh, Batya,” her mother said impatiently. “If you’d really grown up, then I think you should understand us now and stop nudging. You know how many expenses we have had recently?”
Batya muttered under her breath.
“And you don’t have to feel so deprived,” her mother continued, “unless you prefer to forget about that new outfit and new shoes that you just got.” Her tone softened. “You know, Batya’le, that I love to see you dressed well and happy, but we are doing the best we can with our means. Do you know how much a gold necklace costs?”
“I don’t want a gold necklace,” Batya said morosely. “I saw a silver necklace in New Lady that’s not expensive at all and I think that it will go very well with my outfit.”
“How much is it?” her mother asked.
“Two hundred forty shekels, I think.”
Batya’s mother was quiet.
“I can give you my necklace with the rose,” Chavi said suddenly. “You remember it? I don’t need it anymore.”
“Sure you don’t,” Batya said, glowering at the velvet-lined boxes. “No, thanks; I don’t want your hand-me-downs.”
Mrs. Schindler sighed. “I’ll think about it, Batya,” she said in a tone that didn’t leave much room for hopes. “We’ll see. Which one do you like, Chavi?”
“I’m not sure,” the kallah said in a tense tone. “I like the middle one very much, but his grandmother told me that she especially likes number twenty seven, the one on the right, and she’s sure that I’m going to love it, too.”
“But it’s so not my taste!” Chavi exclaimed and perused the three pieces in front of her again. “What do you say, Ima?”
“That if she would want you to take that one, then she wouldn’t have sent you the other two to choose from.”
“Right,” Chavi said with a wan smile. “But I’m sure that she’ll be happier if I choose the one that she likes best.”
“Rich man’s problems,” Batya said dejectedly. “Maybe you can decide a bit more quietly, Chavi?”
“You’re jealous, Batya, aren’t you?” Six-year-old Naomi, who, as usual, appeared out of nowhere and inserted herself seamlessly into the conversation, remarked. “Right you’re jealous of Chavi’s jewelry?”
Batya’s face turned a deep shade of red. “You…you….” she stammered furiously. “Go to your dolls or something, and stop sticking your nose into conversations of those older than you, alright?”
“But you’re sticking your nose into conversations of those who are older than you,” Naomi sniggered triumphantly. “Ima and Chavi are both older than you, so why are you interrupting their conversation?”
“Naomi, enough,” Chavi said quietly.
Silence soon settled on the house. Chavi and her mother went for a gown fitting and to close some final details with the hall, and Naomi went down to play with some neighbors in the yard. Batya was able to sit on a chair in the kitchen and nibble her way through a chocolate bar as she wallowed in self-pity.
How much more could she take? How much?
Naomi was pretty right, in all honesty. Batya was jealous of all the attention Chavi was getting. Although as far as age Batya was among the older ones in the house, she was still treated like a little kid.
If Ima cared a bit more, and she would really pay attention to my needs, she would understand me better. But who cares about me lately, anyway?
The last square of chocolate was polished off and Batya discovered that her eyes were wet. It wasn’t the necklace as much as it was the horrible feeling that her mother was not devoting to her even half of the time she devoted to Chavi. If it would only be a recent development over the past few months, since the engagement, Batya could understand and even bear it, even though it was sometimes exaggerated. After all, how much could one fuss over one kallah? The whole house was dancing around her!
But it wasn’t only a recent thing. It had always been that way: Chavi and Shuli were the big girls, and Ima always consulted them on important things. And she? She was just a baby! Did anything she was going through interest anyone in this house? High school and tests were obviously very boring compared to bridal gowns, a diamond ring, and the Shabbosos Chavi spent at the chassan’s house, and even compared to Shuli’s kindergarten lessons.
Batya rubbed a small chocolate stain off the table and got up, heading for the phone. She wanted to talk to someone; she had to!
But Nava wasn’t home. Her mother told Bayta that she would be home in about half an hour and would call her back. Bayta hung up the phone, almost slamming it down, and her eyes fell on the fat telephone book lying on the bottom shelf. She pulled it out angrily and leafed feverishly through the pages. Her good conscience whispered to her not to do it, but she ignored her conscience’s voice and continued flipping wildly through the book. Help! So many Cohens!
She turned page after page of “Cohen,” looking for the letter shin. It was a good thing that Nava had mentioned her brother’s name in passing. Here: Cohen, Shaul; Cohen, Shabtai; Cohen, Sagi…and here it was, Cohen, Shimon. Twenty four! There were twenty-four Shimon Cohens!
But none of them lived on the street that Nava Cohen’s brother lived on.
She began to look under Cohen, Rina. There were only four, and the last one said, Cohen, Rina and Shimon. The address? Perfect fit.
Bayta placed a finger on the number and lifted the telephone, dialing slowly. But something in her fingers rebelled and dialed a two instead of a three, and she had to start dialing from scratch. Rina was so sweet and easy, and made such an empathetic, understanding impression. You could see she was a guidance counselor by profession, and she didn’t look like she could be a bad influence on her, or anything like that. There was nothing to worry about. Even Nava had mentioned that their family said it was a miracle that it was Rina and not someone else who was Shimon’s wife.
So if Nava was allowed to talk to that Rina, why shouldn’t she be allowed? Just because she wasn’t her sister-in-law?
Ugh! Another jittery finger pressed the same digit twice. With a sigh, Batya began to dial the number a third time.
Wait! The door! She hadn’t locked the door! What if Naomi would suddenly come in? She slammed the phone down, hurried to lock the door, and raced back to the phone. But when she picked up to dial the fourth time, she paused. Now she was too nervous. She was better off thinking about it for a few more minutes. She should take a drink and plan what she would say to Rina. She copied the phone number down and shoved the green slip of paper deep into her drawer, under a pile of old tests and letters. There, at least, the chance existed that Naomi wouldn’t get to it.
Although with Naomi, you could just never know.
Sari looked at her mother’s list and Ayala perused her daughter’s list. Simultaneously, they burst into laughter.
“What’s going on? Why are you laughing?” Moishy asked, casting a suspicious glance at his oldest sister.
“Just because,” Sari said, placing her paper on the table. “Did you hear about Ima’s contest?”
“And you know that I’m helping her decide who the winners will be?”
“So we decided that each one would write the names of the ten best reports. Ima wrote what she thought, and I wrote the ones I chose.”
“Nu, so what’s so funny?” Moishy pressed impatiently.
“We both wrote the exact same names,” Ayala explained to her son. “And even almost in the same order!”
“I still don’t get what’s so funny,” Moishy muttered as he headed out of the kitchen. “Why should you write something different? I could have told you that you’d write almost the same things. A mother and her daughter think the same things, don’t they?”
Ayala put her own paper down on the table. “So now we just have to figure out the order of the winners, right?” she said to her daughter, who was gazing absently at the picture of the kettle hanging on the wall. “You put Roseman third, right? I put her fourth. You think she comes before Braun?”
“Rafi, what exactly happened over at the Coopermans?” Manny asked worriedly, an undertone of accusation in his voice as the sweaty child entered the kitchen.
“I didn’t want to stay there anymore,” Rafi said with a closed expression.
“And how did you get home?” Yael asked.
“On the bus. I had the bus pass from school in my pocket.”
Yael and Manny exchanged a glance.
“Maybe you should call Meir,” Manny said slowly. “He and his father are worried about you. They don’t understand why you suddenly ran away like that.”
“I don’t want to call them,” Rafi said with a shrug. “I’ll tell Meir why tomorrow.”
Manny was silent. “Okay,” he said finally, almost at the door. “Whatever you want.”
“Is Nava home?” Rafi asked.
“No,” Yael replied. “She went downstairs to wait for you. Didn’t you bump into her?”
Rafi shook his head.
“Are you sure you don’t want to talk to me about what happened?” Yael asked gently.
“I don’t like Meir Cooperman’s father,” Rafi said and stared in concentration at the slice of cake she served him. “That’s all.”
Yael sat down. “Do you know him from somewhere?” she asked softly.
“No,” the nine-year-old replied and took a bite of cake. “I don’t know him at all, but he doesn’t look like a nice man.”
“Not nice?” Yael raised an eyebrow. “I actually think he’s a very nice man, sweetie. He called here to see if you’d come home, and he was very worried about you. Why do you think he’s not a nice man?”
“Because…well, just because,” Rafi replied, a few stray crumbs falling to his shirt. “I’m going to play on Nava’s Casio, okay? I did homework with her before I left.”
Yael looked at his receding form and bit her bottom lip. Something was niggling at her; all was not right, but she didn’t know what it was.
In the room, Rafi tried to tap out on the Casio the song Meir had taught him. He heard the front door open, and then Nava and her mother speaking quietly. He didn’t move.
“Rafi?” Nava approached him from behind. “Hey, you already know how to play a song! Great!”
“Yes.” Rafi didn’t turn his head.
“I want to see how you play. Do you let me watch? It sounds really nice.”
“I let,” he said to the milky white keys.
Nava listened to him bang at the keys for fifteen minutes. “Rafi,” she said finally. “Rafi, did you fight with Meir Cooperman?”
“No,” Rafi replied, pressing down on the keys for a long, resonating sound that grated on their ears. “No, and that’s it. Don’t get on my nerves now, okay? Nothing bad happened at Meir’s house; I just wanted to go home, okay?”
“I don’t want to upset you, Rafi,” Nava said quietly. “I just…I just want to tell you that if you have a secret, a problem or something, you…you can tell me. I won’t share any of your secrets with anyone in the world, you know that?”
“Even your parents?”
Nava swallowed. “If you tell me not to, then I think I won’t.”
“But I don’t have any secrets!”
Nava stared at the stripes on his shirt. “Then why did you ask me, Rafi?”
“I just wanted to know,” the boy said stubbornly. He firmly pressed the power button on the Casio. “Just wanted to know.”