Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 18 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.
“Shaina?” It was Nechama Kagan, Shaina’s cousin from Petach Tikvah. As principal of Bais Yaakov Zichron Elchanan, Shaina Rosen was a busy woman, and her cousin had caught her just as she was about to leave her office.
“Hi, Nechama, how are you?”
“Baruch Hashem, nothing special here. Tell me, we got a very strange invitation today from friends on the block… What’s the story with Stockhammer and Potolsky? Bais Yaakov Zichron Elchanan is your school, isn’t it? Since when do people make weddings in your gym?”
“It’s really just a one-time thing.”
“Is it true that Stockhammer’s son, the chassan, is sick? And he’s supposed to have surgery in another month, so they’re making the wedding early?”
Shaina switched off the light in the office. “I haven’t heard of such a thing,” she said cautiously.
“So what did they tell you?”
“That they got money from a special fund if they would make the wedding on Rosh Chodesh Teves, and being that all the regular halls were already taken, they were looking for an alternative that could work.”
“Strange. Maybe this money is just an excuse to cover up the truth… I heard that they asked a rav, and he told them not to drop the shidduch. A school gym as a wedding hall…? Who called you about it?”
“Mrs. Stockhammer herself. From what I understand, she’s the one dealing with all the details of the wedding, the band, the photographer, and all that.”
“Interesting… And are you allowed to rent out the gym in the first place? It probably belongs to the municipality, no?”
“We really aren’t allowed to.”
“We gave it to them to use for free. They promised to take care of the place, and it’s during Chanukah vacation in any case, so if it won’t hurt the school, and the chassan and kallah’s families can be helped financially because of it—well, why shouldn’t we do this chessed?”
“Are they bringing in a caterer, or organizing the food themselves?” Nechama could not imagine Bayla Stockhammer—or her daughters, for that matter—standing and cooking such quantities, and then transporting all the food to the hall—or rather, school. But she knew that many people were in dire financial situations these days. And if the rumors about the chassan were true, chalilah… Who knew what people were going through…?
“I don’t know. I asked if they needed help with anything. She told me thank you, but no.”
Eliyahu didn’t like talking on his cell phone in the street, but when Yocheved, his oldest sister, called in, he knew that he had little choice in the matter. So he stepped off the sidewalk into a small park that he was just passing. At this evening hour, the park was virtually deserted.
“What’s doing, Yocheved?”
“Baruch Hashem, everything is wonderful. How are you? How is little Shmuel?”
Eliyahu nodded absently, and a moment later remembered to say, “Baruch Hashem, excellent.” When had he last seen his grandchild? Yaakov and Miri hadn’t come for three Shabbosos already; Elisheva was just so overwhelmed and tired. And she was hardly home during the week, so he didn’t think Miri came very often then either. In any case, going out with a baby in the winter probably wasn’t such a good idea.
“Does he look like Abba, zichrono l’vrachah?”
“I think so.”
“Actually, at the bris I thought he looked very much like Yaakov’s side of the family,” Yocheved remarked.
“What do I know of these things?” her brother replied. In reality, the baby did not look much like their father at all. In his opinion, he didn’t look much like anyone in particular; he was just a baby! “I’m not very good at figuring out who babies look like.”
Yocheved chuckled. “That’s how all men are… But babies also change really fast. Well, I’ll be able to see him again myself soon enough. I heard from Elisheva that you moved the wedding up, hmm?”
“Didn’t you get an invitation?” He began to fret.
“We got it, yes, just this morning. What did people say about the fact that the wedding is in such an unusual venue?”
“No one said anything to me so far,” Eliyahu replied.
“And if people will say something? Are you planning to tell them about the guy from Australia?”
“To the extent that we can, I guess. We’re not going to publicize it, but we probably will give a brief explanation. I don’t think it’s wise to keep it a secret; people won’t understand where we suddenly had the money to afford such a big, beautiful apartment for Tzippy.”
“Yes,” Yocheved agreed. “The truth is that Yankel Feigenbaum—you know, Minna’s Yankel—asked me about it.”
“How did he hear?”
“His mechutanim live in the building on Nechemiah Street, the one where you bought Tzippy’s apartment.”
“So you can tell him briefly,” Eliyahu replied. It began to drizzle.
“Well, I figured that’s what you’d say, so I already told him. He was very happy for you.”
“Baruch Hashem.” Where was his umbrella when he needed it?
“He told me that his mother needs to have cataract surgery on both eyes, but it’s something very complicated. They want to fly her to America.”
“They want to go to America for cataract surgery?”
“Yes, it’s apparently not a simple case at all.”
“Wow, I hear. I hope she has a refuah sheleimah.” Had he forgotten his umbrella at Auerbach’s gemach?
“I’m talking about Aunt Minna. Abba’s sister.”
“I know who Yankel Feigenbaum’s mother is, Yocheved.” He didn’t know why he was irritated; perhaps it was because of his absent umbrella and the monotonous drizzle that was seeping into his hat. He took it off. If he would be buying a new hat for the wedding, and making his Shabbos hat into his weekday one, then he wouldn’t care too much about what was happening to this hat. But it had only been just over a year since Miri’s wedding, and he’d bought a new hat then. That one—unlike this one—was in excellent shape. So there really was no excuse for him to use the grant money to buy another hat…
“If you know who she is, then why are you being so cold about it? It’s your aunt.”
“I didn’t notice that I was being cold.” Eliyahu began walking back in the direction he had come from. “I wished her a refuah sheleimah, and I’ll daven for her when I find out the exact date of the surgery. What else did you want me to do?”
“Ask how they are planning to pay for such an expensive operation. I don’t need to tell you that Aunt Minna has no money, do I? And her children are in the same situation, more or less.”
The drizzle intensified just a bit. “Like all of us…”
“Right, not everyone in Klal Yisrael is penniless, baruch Hashem.”
“So you’re not going to ask how they’re planning to get the money?”
“They’re trying to go around collecting for it.”
“Hashem should help them. I hope they’re matzliach.”
“They are planning to talk to you, too, you know.”
“Yes.” Yocheved spoke in her characteristically direct style. “If you have money for such a stunning apartment for Tzippy now, won’t you have forty thousand shekel for them? How much did the apartment cost? Two or three million, huh?”
“Yocheved.” Eliyahu stopped at the entrance to Auerbach’s building, and hoped he wasn’t sounding too brusque. “Yocheved, I don’t have an extra penny! Tell them that. Not forty thousand, and not four thousand! Actually, I will have four thousand.”
“How is it possible that you don’t have money, after this whole story?”
“Yocheved, the money didn’t just land on my head one fine day!” He wiped his forehead from the raindrops that dotted it. “It was designated for a very specific purpose. We got a sum of money, as did my son-in-law Peretz’s parents, and we have to submit receipts for all of our purchases and expenses. Don’t you understand? I can’t take any money from the account that is not for the wedding!”
“So how do you have four thousand?” his sister probed.
“I got permission to take off ma’aser money from the grant.”
“Oh, and that’s the ma’aser, a tenth? Are you trying to tell me that you got only forty thousand shekel? And how much did the apartment on Nechemiah Street cost?”
“I don’t like these interrogations, Yocheved,” Eliyahu said quietly. “But I will tell you that I don’t have to take ma’aser from the money I got for the apartment. We asked a she’eilah, and that was what the rav said.”
“And how much did you get besides for that?”
“I have to go inside to someone now,” Eliyahu said, halting the conversation, “before it gets too late and I can’t knock anymore. I’ll talk to you another time, okay?”
“Fine. And I’ll tell Yankel, who’s calling in on the other line, that you can give him four thousand shekel, alright? Not that he’s going to be very excited. It’s not even going to cover a round-trip ticket. But I’ll tell him you said that this is all you can give right now.”