Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 21 of a new online serial novel, The Black Sheep, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week. Click here for previous chapters.
Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications.
“What do you mean, someone was here?” Sarah stopped and looked back. “You think it was one of the boys?”
“No, it wasn’t one of the boys.” He stood in the same place, his gaze narrowing as he looked up the stairs. “Wait a minute.”
“You think someone broke into the house? Then I won’t let you go up yourself!”
“It’s fine. We can assume that the intruder—if he broke in—did not sit and wait for us to come back.” He walked past his wife and went up the stairs. For a long moment, he studied the door from top to bottom, and then pulled his key out of his pocket. “Everything is fine,” he called down to Sarah. “You can come up now. No one was in the house.”
“So where were they?” she asked as she looked around. “In the yard? Do you think someone wanted something from the carpentry shop?” She ascended the stairs as he went down to get the suitcase he’d left in the middle of the yard.
“That’s what I want to check,” he said ambiguously.
Sarah walked into the house and switched on the lights. Everything looked perfectly normal. She opened the window that faced the backyard and tried to look out into the inky darkness. Elazar was walking around, moving pieces of wood, studying the ground… After a few moments, he came back up to the house.
“Nu?” she asked.
“Yes, someone was here. There are footprints in the front yard, near the gate, and mostly in the back. The ground is a bit wet; it must have rained, so it’s very easy to see them.”
“And how do you know that those are not footprints from one of your boys, from Friday?”
“We left last, Sarah. The ground really was a little wet then, but look. Our suitcase made deep tracks, on top of everyone’s footprints. Now there are new footprints at the gate.”
“In the cops and robbers stories, the bad guys always try to camouflage their footprints so they shouldn’t be noticed,” his wife pointed out logically.
“That’s right, but when he sees that the whole yard is full of footprints anyway, from all of us, he doesn’t expect that I’ll remember exactly which ones were near the gate and which were not.”
“And these new footprints lead to the backyard?”
“Where in the backyard?”
“It looks like the person turned toward the western corner.”
“The old room?”
“Yes.” Rabbi Reiness was thoughtful. “The old room.”
“Do you think it’s…dangerous?”
“For us? No. For my plan? Maybe.” His forehead creased, but his voice sounded more encouraged when he said, a few moments later, “In any case, even if it is one of those people who I’m worried want to ruin my plans, I hope they don’t really realize the significance of all of this. I don’t know exactly who or what they are, but I’m not sure they know exactly who I am either.”
“They know that you are Reiness. And if they have an original document, they can see that your name appears there as well.”
“Yes, but it’s possible that I came back to Acco just because of the deep nostalgia I have for the place.”
Sarah filled the electric kettle with water. They were supposed to drink something hot on Motza’ei Shabbos, and they hadn’t had a chance yet, what with the tumultuous events since Shabbos had ended. “Until now I’m not sure that you gave the impression of being only nostalgic,” she pointed out. “It’s true that the whole setting with the boys and the sea and the beach and the ancient wall is very convincing, but when you tell people that right now you’re not selling, though maybe in a year you will be, that’s…” She groped for the right word.
“Suspicious?” Elazar tried to help.
“I guess so,” she said.
“So you think that from now on, I should stress to anyone who comes here that this place evokes such wonderful childhood memories for me, and I just cannot give up the sea smell, and that the dream of my life was to come back here in my old age?”
“You’re not so old!” she protested with a laugh; such emotional statements just did not match her very practical husband’s personality. “But something like that, yes.”
“And what if someone remembers that I said that perhaps in a year or two, we would consider leaving? Where did my nostalgia disappear to?”
“You’ll have to explain to the person that in two more years, we’ll be really old, b’ezras Hashem, and at that point we’ll want to live near our children.” She placed two matching mugs on the counter and yawned. “Now, let’s drink something hot and go to bed. Maybe you can get half an hour of sleep before the sun rises.”
I hung up the phone feeling annoyed with Ariella. How is it that she always asks me questions that I don’t want to answer?! But whatever, I didn’t give her too many answers anyway. There’s a beach near almost every building in Acco, so even if she comes now from Bnei Brak, which I don’t think will happen, she will have no idea where to find me.
I was happy I’d spoken with Abba and Ima yesterday. Suddenly, it was nice for me to be reminded of their voices and to hear how they’re worried about me. I don’t like it when people worry about me too much, but a little bit of it feels good. If Ima were here with me now, I actually might have liked it, what with all the chills that I was feeling… The nurse who came before to take my temperature told me it’s a side effect of the vaccine, and that there was nothing to worry about.
Shlomo was sleeping deeply. He was worse off than me. He got some stitches on his cheek, because his bite was worse. My bite was more superficial, the doctor said, and they felt it was enough to disinfect it, apply cream, and then bandage it up. It’s a good thing the treatment was simple, because everything else about this hospital stay wasn’t simple at all. Shlomo is already considered an adult, but I’m still a minor, and the doctors and nurses kept asking where my parents were. So Reb Elazar had to explain to them that I am his guest, and he spoke to Abba on the phone. I think he gave the phone over to a doctor, and then he had to sign all kinds of forms and things like that. He promised to bring my health insurance and ID cards first thing in the morning.
I closed my eyes and tried to fall asleep again, but I knew there was no chance. I felt far too awake to drift back to sleep. That’s why I’d called Ariella, to have her keep me company on the phone.
I put the phone down on the little table next to me. Reb Elazar had left me his phone so I shouldn’t be totally disconnected from the world. That’s what he’d said. Shlomo has his own phone, and Reb Elazar probably thought that I wouldn’t want to ask him to use it to make calls. At first, I didn’t really want to call my parents, but the Rav said that he was not going to give in this time, and he wasn’t even asking me. He explained that parents have to know what is happening to their children. Then he told me that legally, the Health Department could call our house in Bnei Brak to find out things about me, or to give updates. If my parents would not know what they were talking about, it would be very bad. Also, the doctors at the hospital wanted to speak to one of my parents, and so, I had to call them. But at least the Rav agreed that my calls to them could be from a private number.
The phone rang suddenly and made me jump. I looked at the screen; it wasn’t a familiar number. It wasn’t from home, or from Ariella, and neither was it from one of my parents’ cell phones. I deliberated for a minute, and then answered the call. What could be the big deal?
It was Gadi; I recognized his voice right away. “Osher?” he said. “My uncle said he left his phone with you.”
“That’s right. Why are you up so early, Gadi?”
“It’s not early for me. In order to get to cheder in Tzefas on time, I get up at this time every day. But listen to this, Osher…”
“I’m standing next to the window, and I see the fox walking around outside! Right they told you we have to try to catch it?”
“Yes, I think so… But don’t go catch it yourself!”
“Because…do you also want to end up here?!”
“Well, I would like to come visit you.”
“Visiting is one thing. Being admitted to the hospital is another. Trust me, you won’t feel good after getting these shots. It’s not worth it.”
“But how will we know if the fox has rabies or not?”
I looked at my bandaged leg. “Tell your father to call someone from the Health Department. They’ll know how to catch the fox.”
“Fine,” Gadi said. He sounded very disappointed. “I thought you’d tell me to catch him, Osher. Right if you were here, and you would be my age, you would have done it? And I think we’re pretty alike.”
I also think so, I wanted to tell him. Instead, I said, “If I would know someone who had been bitten by the fox, and he told me how horrible it all was, I think I would not go catch it myself.” Then I added, “I hope I wouldn’t.”
“Okay, so I also hope I won’t do it.” I heard him smile. “I have to go now, Osher. Bye! Refuah sheleimah!”