Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 49 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.
Blumi walked backward and left the Kosel Plaza. She leaned on the gate near the stairs leading up to the Jewish Quarter and waited for Gideon to finish davening Maariv. Although they had already been in Israel this winter – albeit not for good reasons – it was already their longstanding tradition to spend Pesach in the Holy Land. They rented the same apartment in the Old City each year.
“Geveret? Can you give something?”
Blumi turned her head to the outstretched hand, and her eyes opened wide. Suppressing a gasp, she quickly placed a twenty-shekel bill into the woman’s plastic fingers, and hurried away.
“Chag same’ach!” she heard the call behind her. “Tizki l’mitzvos!”
There you are, her thoughts chased her. You thought that by paying your brothers for the yad that had disappeared because of your famous negligence, you’d finally be able to calm down. Really? It’s just not happening. Even the prosthetic hand of a tzedakah collector brings you right back into that rut.
“Tell them what happened, once and for all,” Gideon had said to her, once, twice, three times. “They might even be able to help you find it.”
“No,” she’d replied, voice tremulous but her resolve firm. “I already tried to ask Shmulik, indirectly, about the bachur who disappeared with the yad, without telling him why I needed to know. And he didn’t help me much.”
“It’s because you didn’t tell him why you needed to know,” was her husband’s wise answer. “I’m sure that if you would have told him why you were asking, he would have understood the importance of it, and he would have made more of an effort to help you, instead of just giving you the number of someone who also just threw a few phone numbers at you.”
“Shmulik did want to help me!” she had protested, offended on her brother’s behalf.
“Of course—I didn’t say he didn’t. But when you asked him casually about bachurim who do this kind of thing, without specifying the reason for your question, then of course there’s no reason for him to make too much of an effort to find the bachurim who were there with your father. I think that it’s worth a try…”
“No,” she’d repeated, sounding defeated. “No, no, and no.”
“Fine, so no,” Gideon had said, for the umpteenth time. “Do whatever you like. I just wanted to help.”
He wanted to help her, but she still felt so helpless, wretched and miserable. Every little thing reminded her of her own negligence that had led to the loss of the yad which was so significant for her father. The one that would remind him that a person can learn from failure, and move on in life.
But she never seemed to learn.
Was it any wonder that her brothers were sure that Gideon’s money had turned her into a lazy, spoiled woman, who didn’t think for a moment before she did something?
Beri had once told it to her gently; the others were more forthright. A few years ago, Gavriel, Shlomo Aryeh, and Shmulik had literally laughed that she would soon forget how to clean a kitchen by herself. It had happened when she’d remarked, during one of her visits to their parents, that milk had spilled under the fridge and she had to tell the cleaning lady to clean it the next day.
As if they had ever cleaned their parents’ house! She, the only daughter, had been her mother’s right hand. But they linked everything to her pampered life.
True, as the only daughter, she had been somewhat spoiled, but then why was it that when her Kobi, who was learning in Yerushalayim, came down with pneumonia, and she automatically booked him a ticket to come home, they claimed that the money had dulled her head and taught her not to think?
She was positive that if they would hear about the story with the yad, they would wonder out loud how anyone does such a thing. How do you give such a valuable item to someone whom you don’t know, without finding out who he is? Not to mention that any one of them could also express surprise about the timing that she had chosen, and note yet again that money just seemed to get her into trouble.
Just imagining herself asking Shmulik to help her find that bachur he’d arranged…it was enough to make her shudder. Because it would not make a difference that she was married to Gideon for twenty-four years already. Shmulik would once again be her big brother, older than her by sixteen years. He would stand in front of her in that same posture as when she’d told him about the shidduch with Gideon, and would say, “So again money mixed up your mind, Blumi.” And his expression would be critical, stinging.
She felt those stings, literally. And oh, how they hurt her!
Perhaps she needed to go for therapy.
Not that she hadn’t done so over the years. She had visited several psychologists, a Bach flower remedies clinic, a life coach, and a One Brain practitioner. But none of these therapies had ever been able to help her resolve the question of, Why does everyone around me look at my money and not at me?
The third or fourth psychologist she had tried had once asked her what she was good at, and she’d replied, “Embroidery.” The psychologist had laughed, perhaps thinking it was a joke. Then she’d added, “And knitting.” The psychologist had laughed even harder. She’d taken that to mean that her situation was so sad, it was laughable. Here was a woman of—how old had she been at that point? Thirty-two?—who was so pampered that her only skill was basically being a knitting grandma.
She felt that way to this day: She was married to a highly successful, well-known businessman, yet the only thing that she was good at was embroidery and knitting.
There are women who help their husbands in business, and even serve in management positions. They come to the factories or offices and participate in the decision-making…but she was never like that. Gideon shared things with her, but he did not really need her advice. Then there are those women who, while not necessarily having business acumen, are at least amazing on the home front…but she wasn’t good at housekeeping either. True, as a girl, she’d been a good cleaner, but it would not be appropriate for a woman of her age and status to be cleaning a house. They had a cleaning lady, and the house was very well maintained.
Cooking and baking weren’t her fortes either, especially since she’d hired Miss Evelyn, the cook.
Blumi took a deep breath, fixing her gaze on a small cloud skittering across the sky toward Har Hazeisim. So her brothers claimed that money made her thick-headed and foolish. It was not true—she knew that!—and that was not the reason why she’d taken the yad that Abba had loved. But that’s exactly what they would claim, if they would hear the story. It really was a shame that Beri hadn’t taken the yad for safekeeping; too bad she’d gone and tried to do it…
Gideon. On the phone. He’d finished davening and hadn’t found his wife at the spot where they’d made up to meet. Obviously; she had fled from that prosthetic hand that had reached out to her for tzedakah, and had forgotten that she’d made up with her husband to meet at the entrance to the Kosel Plaza. It was a good thing he was so tolerant and forgiving of her dreamy nature. Shlomo Aryeh, Shmulik, and Gavriel would have claimed that this was also because of the money.
“Oh, hi, Gideon. Did you finish Maariv? I was standing where we made up to meet, but I needed to get away from there. Here, I see you.”
He didn’t ask where she’d gone and why, and she was glad about that. She couldn’t bring up the subject of the lost yad again; he was likely to totally lose patience.
He stood waiting for her near the stairs. “If you have something to take care of, or you want to daven some more, it’s fine with me,” he said, once they met. “But I didn’t take a key to the apartment with me.”
“Batsheva is there,” his wife reminded him. “Although she might have gone out—she did say she wanted to visit one of her friends. In any case, I planned to go back with you now.”
“So it’s okay?”
“It’s fine,” Blumi said, but her tone made it evident that it wasn’t fine at all.
Gideon wondered what was so bad about him forgetting to take a key, having no idea that her “fine”—or not-so-fine—state had nothing to do with him. It was all about the jumble of thoughts that were crashing around in her mind.