Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 7 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.
The phone rang. And rang. Finally, someone picked up.
“Rosenblit and Etzioni, Attorneys at Law, good afternoon.”
Lawyers? Elisheva kept a steady gaze on the cat that had sneaked up behind the large dumpster. For its part, the cat was maintaining eye contact with the strange woman who had invaded its territory.
“Yes…” Elisheva tried to focus on the conversation. “I received a call from Mr. Rosenblit, and he asked me to call him back.”
“Who is this, please?” The woman was probably a secretary.
“Potolsky? …Oh, yes. Attorney Mayer Rosenblit would like to set up a meeting with you and your husband.”
“A meeting with us?”
“Are you Tziporah Genendel’s parents?”
“That’s right.” She felt constricted. And it wasn’t because of the cat, which was approaching her step by step. Goodness; that cat was getting daring!
“So, Mr. Rosenblit wants to meet you.”
“What about?” She moved her hand. Perhaps the cat thought she was just another object that had been placed next to the garbage dumpster.
“I do not know what it’s about; I’m just the secretary.”
“Where is your office located?”
“In Tel Aviv. The address is 15 Yannai Street.”
“Tel Aviv?” Elisheva took a step to the side, glancing cautiously at the cat that was getting busy with a torn mattress lying near the fence. They needed to clean up this backyard. It really was a disaster. “What time does the lawyer see people?”
“Let’s try to make up a time. You tell me when it’s good for you, and I’ll check if he is in the office at that time.”
“Friday morning?” She didn’t work then, and Eliyahu was free. The question was only how she would manage to wait until Friday.
“No, he’ll be out of the country then.”
“So maybe another day, in the evening…but one second.” Elisheva suddenly realized that her approach to this conversation was silly. Even if this whole incident was making her feel pressured, that didn’t mean she had to stop everything and salute because of a phone call from the secretary of a lawyer they had never heard of. “I’m sure you understand that we would not want to come to a meeting without having any knowledge about what exactly the whole thing is about. Either find out and get back to me with some more information, or tell Mr. Rosenblit to be in touch with me directly and we’ll hear what it’s about.”
“I’ll let him know,” the secretary said, just as Elisheva came around the front of the building again. She glanced behind to make sure the cat wasn’t following her. When she turned back, she came face to face with her husband, who was just returning home.
He listened to Elisheva’s report about the conversation she’d just had. Then he laughed.
“Why are you laughing?”
“Nothing, I just thought about how in books, phone calls from strange lawyers are usually about a hefty inheritance that the heroes of the story somehow came into.”
“Oh, and you’re already spending this inheritance…” She smiled wryly. “It sure wouldn’t hurt us, but I’m sorry to tell you that this phone call had nothing to do with money. It was about Tzippy, or rather, her full name, Tziporah Genendel.”
He grew serious. “I’m not spending any inheritance; I just pointed out that it’s like that in books. In reality, of course, lawyers usually want to discuss much more banal things—ancient documents they’ve found, missing signatures… Tzippy didn’t have any problem with her army exemption, right?”
“Of course not. Everything was fine with that.” They were standing in the stairwell, whispering. “I’m afraid it has to do with the shidduch—you know, her and Peretz.”
“Does something seem wrong with it, chalilah?”
“I don’t know. What do we know about the Stockhammers, come to think of it? The mother is a Krohn. Who are the Krohns? We were hardly able to find out anything about them.”
“Oh, you’re afraid there’s a problem that someone wants to warn us about? But when it comes to these things, Hashem yishmor, people usually ask a rav to update the other side. Not a lawyer.”
She took a deep breath, and revealed the worst of her fears: “Maybe they don’t want us?”
“You’re taking this too far,” he said with a sigh. “Again you’re worried about the fact that your father grew up after the war as an orphan, with no knowledge about his family. You know how many people like that there were? And they went and established beautiful families, and everything was fine. Wait a minute; you spoke to Peretz’s mother two days ago, didn’t you?”
“So, what did you talk about with her?”
“Nothing major—she called to say how much she enjoyed having Tzippy over Shabbos, and she thanked me for the tray I sent.” She allowed a small smile. “It was a very classic style, and Tzippy wrapped it beautifully. You wouldn’t believe that it’s another one of those wedding gifts we got all those years ago.”
Eliyahu went back to the subject at hand. “Your conversation went well?”
“Yes, baruch Hashem, it really did.”
“Well, then it doesn’t seem likely that they sent a lawyer right afterward to tell us that they want to break the shidduch… And besides, in our circles, this is not a matter for lawyers. I really think, Elisheva,” he turned toward the stairs, “that you can stop worrying so much.”
Could she? Maybe.
They went upstairs, ate lunch, Eliyahu took a little nap, and then he returned to kollel, while the afternoon routine began at home. Miri came to visit with baby Shmuly, and she showed her mother a few things that she’d bought for him that morning, “with the gift that you gave us for the bris, Ima. The pacifier clip cost forty shekel, and this outfit cost one hundred and twenty. This one was a hundred and ten, and the blanket was sixty. If you go downstairs you can see the hook on the carriage that I also bought; that was sixty.”
“I’m happy that you are enjoying the money.” Elisheva focused on the baby’s face as he lay in her arms, oblivious to all the kissing, and cooing in his direction. “But, um…didn’t you need the money for the bris? And I thought you got lots of clothes as gifts.”
“He got only one blanket, a really thin, strange, itchy one, and the clothes were mostly Shabbos stretchies. We did get a few weekday ones too, but I really didn’t like most of them, and the few that I did like will only fit him in a few months.”
“So you paid for the bris yourselves?”
“Yaakov’s parents and grandmother gave us most of the money, and we paid for the rest with the checks we got as gifts.”
“And what about a carriage?” I thought that if you didn’t need the four hundred shekel for the bris, you’d use it for a sensible carriage at least.
The children gathered around them excitedly to see their little nephew, but right now Elisheva had eyes only for Miri’s face, which seemed to have clouded over somewhat.
“For now I’m using my sister-in-law’s carriage. Yaakov’s parents want to give something toward a new one for us, but even with that we won’t have enough money to buy a really good carriage. I don’t want the simple ones. After I get the government child allowance, hopefully we’ll be able to afford it, b’ezras Hashem.”
What’s considered a “really good carriage”? Elisheva thought, keeping her thoughts to herself. Miri was a young mother. This was her first child, and it was great that she had the energy to go out shopping. She was also allowed to want nice clothes and a good carriage and a pretty mobile and a cute pacifier clip for her baby. She was allowed to.
Especially since her monthly salary was higher than her mother’s.
The question was if she, Elisheva, shouldn’t be gently guiding Miri to lower her standards just a tiny drop… Didn’t a young couple just starting out need to be more financially aware? Were there no cheaper pacifier clips? Did the baby really need all those crystal beads? And the clothes…could she not have found cute clothes for cheaper? Elisheva and her husband had definitely meant something entirely different when they’d made the effort to give the couple this money.
Still, Elisheva pressed her lips together and didn’t say a word. She’d given a gift, and Miri had used it however she’d wanted. Perhaps someone needed to give Miri some hadrachah here, but Elisheva desperately hoped that it would not have to be her.