Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 62 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.
No one answered the phone at the Reiness residence, and Elazar Reiness’s phone went straight to the voicemail. Mattisyahu Kreisman bustled around the island in the kitchen, preparing an omelet for Osher on the ceramic stovetop. “Elazar,” he began to leave a message, “Osher is with me, don’t worry. Please get back to me to discuss the situation.”
Then he went back out to Osher, who was chewing on a piece of bread. He didn’t say a word to him.
Osher quickly and quietly ate the bread and eggs and a few cinnamon cookies for dessert. “Thanks,” he said finally.
“You had enough?”
“Yeah. I’ll bentch now.”
Dr. Kreisman went back to the kitchen and began to wash the dishes in the dairy sink. Osher needed a bit of time to stew in his feelings, but it was very strange that no one was answering at the Reinesses’. Had they all gone out to search for Osher? Then why didn’t Elazar charge his phone so that he could get calls?
He looked up at the sound of Osher’s voice.
“Maybe I should call the Rav,” Osher said. He was standing in the doorway of the kitchen. “I told him when I was leaving, but he might still be worried, because I didn’t tell him where I was going.”
“It’s reasonable to assume he’s worried,” Dr, Kreisman agreed.
“And if my sister comes here…”
“That’s still not a reason to keep everyone terribly worried about you.”
“So, can I call?”
“Sure.” Dr. Kreisman gave him the telephone, hoping that something had changed in the last few minutes since he’d tried to get through. “To tell you the truth, I tried a few minutes ago. But no one answered.”
Osher went back to the armchair in the living room, listening to the ringing tone that came through the line. His eyes focused on an ant that was about to cross the line between two ceramic tiles on the floor. It stood for a long moment, as if deliberating, and then quickly crossed the deep crevice. “He’s not answering,” he whispered, and put the phone down on the glass table. “Ugh. I wanted to be past this already.”
“You can try again soon.”
But twenty minutes later, there was still no answer on either line.
“I need to start working soon, Osher,” Dr. Kreisman said as he set down a bottle of cold water. “My first client this morning is at eleven-thirty. How about you tour Zichron Yaakov a bit? I’ll give you a cell phone; it’s old but still working. When Reb Elazar calls back, I’ll call you right away, okay?”
Osher stood up. “Okay,” he said in a low voice, and went to the door.
“Wait, the water. Take it with you; it’s hot!”
“Thanks.” Osher’s tone was still low.
“Or do you prefer to stay here, in the other room? Anyone who comes here doesn’t want to meet other people.”
“That’s right,” Osher agreed. “I…think I prefer to walk around. Thanks.”
He didn’t particularly enjoy his outing in the baking sun, but he certainly did not want to go back to Dr. Kreisman’s house while he was treating another youth. So there he was, forty minutes later, still wandering around aimlessly in the area.
Eventually he found a bench and sat down. His head slumped forward, and he dozed in the sun, like a homeless boy.
That’s what he was right now: a homeless boy.
No. He did have a home. In Bnei Brak.
The ringing phone woke him up. “Osher, how are you?” It was Dr. Kreisman. “It’s two o’clock already. Did you try to call Reb Elazar again?”
“No, I fell asleep. He didn’t get back to you?”
“No, and he’s still not answering.”
“Oh.” Osher rubbed his neck.
“So I wanted to suggest that you come back here now and we’ll talk about the next step. Of course, we’ll keep trying to reach him.”
“It’s really strange.” Osher stood up from the bench and wiped his face, which was wet with sweat. Was it only sweat? He wasn’t sure. “What’s the matter? Is he not worried about me?”
“I imagine that if he would be able to speak to you, he would have done so by now.”
“But maybe he decided that it’s time to teach me a lesson.” Osher suddenly felt the full impact of what that meant. “Because I’m the one who decided to go, and I’m the one who always makes problems, so who needs me anyway.” His speech was halting as he walked up a steep incline. He hoped this was the right way. He had no idea, and at moments like this, he didn’t really care.
“Let’s think more pleasant thoughts,” Dr. Kreisman said.
“You know, Dr. Kreisman, adults think that learning a lesson is a very important and pleasant thing.” Something was blocking Osher’s throat, preventing the air from getting in.
“Important? Yes. Pleasant? Not always. But I have a feeling that Reb Elazar prefers to do important things in pleasant ways, if he can. It’s true that sometimes there is no choice, and you really can’t, but from my acquaintance with him, it’s strange for me to think that he chose to treat you this way now.”
“It really is strange,” Osher said again. He closed his eyes forcefully and then opened them, to discover that he was standing right across from Dr. Kreisman’s house. “Okay, I’m here.”
“I’m opening the door, and the first thing we’ll do is try to call again.”
Actually the first thing Dr. Kreisman did was serve the red-faced, sweaty Osher a cup of juice with three ice cubes. Then he picked up his phone again. Rabbi Reiness didn’t answer on his cell, but someone finally picked up on the house line.
“Hello? Hello?” A young voice, a bit tense. Edgy.
“Is Rabbi Reiness home?” Dr. Kreisman asked.
“No, who is this?”
“A friend?” The voice changed a bit. “Which friend?”
“Mattisyahu Kreisman, from Zichron Yaakov. Can I leave him a message?”
“Okay, what’s the message?”
“That Osher is here, with me. And he wants to speak to him. Alright?”
“Osher is with you?!” The voice rose sharply. “Hey, you hear? Osher’s been found! He’s in Zichron Yaakov! Can I speak to him a minute?”
Dr. Kreisman hesitated for a second and then handed the phone to Osher. “It sounds like one of your friends there. He wants to speak to you.”
Osher took the receiver. “Hello?”
“Osher? Is that you?”
“Yes.” He was confused for a moment. Who sounded so edgy there? Dovid? Shlomo? It must be Shlomo.
“Were you kidnapped by Arabs?”
“No.” Osher emitted a short, nervous laugh. “Of course not!”
“Oh, so they were right! The police said it was probably just a joke or something. Too bad Reb Elazar didn’t think so!”
“Doesn’t matter. It was nice of you to give us a sign of life. And you should just know that Reb Elazar has disappeared because of you. He hasn’t been seen for hours, and no one knows where he is.”
“Because of me? What do you mean?”
“Yes, because of you. You had some connection to an Arab or something?”
“Me? Connection with Arabs? What type of connection?”
“No real connection, but after you put on that whole babyish production that you’re all upset and leaving, they called Rabbi Reiness and told him that they had kidnapped you; apparently they threatened him or something. He went to them to try and get you released, and that’s all while you’re on vacation in Zichron Yaakov, eh?”
“I’m not on vacation.” Osher fixed his gaze on the clock on the wall. “But I don’t know what Arabs you are talking about. What do Arabs have to do with this? Why should they threaten Reb Elazar?”
“Don’t know. Maybe you should go release him now, and ask him all your questions. What? Yes, it’s the guy who disappeared, Osher.” It seemed like Shlomo was talking to someone next to him now. “Wait a minute, Osher. Hang on the line. What is Doron saying? Yes, he’s the one who slept in the room with him!”
Suddenly Doron’s voice joined the conversation. “Osher,” he said in a somber tone. “I’m happy to hear your voice. Where are you calling from?”
“From Zichron Yaakov.”
“Where are you?”
“At my therapist’s house,” Osher answered in a dry, somewhat surprised tone.
“Who took you there?”
“I took the train myself.” Suddenly he felt angry. “What’s with you? The Rav sent me here myself once. I don’t need to be taken; I know the way just fine!”
“Yes, but did you speak to an Arab beforehand?”
“Stop asking me about Arabs! I already told Shlomo that I have no connection with any Arabs!” Osher stood up from his chair. “And what is this about the Rav disappearing? Why are you all blaming me?”
“Because he told me himself about this Arab,” Doron said, suddenly sounding far away. “What? Alright, one second. Osher, there’s a policeman here who wants to talk to you.”
Osher paled. “But I don’t want to talk to him,” he whispered, and ended the call.
Mattisyahu Kreisman looked at him. “It doesn’t sound good,” he said.
“Did you hear?” Osher asked, his tone rising. “They’re blaming me! It’s…it’s…”
“I heard a bit. Come, I’ll cancel my afternoon appointments, and we’ll drive to Acco.”
“To Acco? You want me to go back there now?” Osher’s face reddened.
“At such times, we don’t make these kinds of calculations, Osher. I think we need to be there now.”
They both sat at the Reinesses’ kitchen table. It was the first time that Ariella had entered the courtyard and ascended the stairs that Osher had gone up so many times in the last few months.
“So Osher is fine, but…” She couldn’t look Sarah in the eye.
“Osher is fine, baruch Hashem,” Sarah said. “I’m really happy for your parents.”
“And I’m so worried for you…” Ariella whispered.
Sarah nodded silently. “I hope that he’ll be back soon, too, b’ezras Hashem,” she said, after a moment of quiet. “The police say it looks criminal, not nationalistic. That’s easier to deal with, or whatever.”
“How do they know?”
“Based on what I told them.” She smiled crookedly. “He always kept it a secret, but when it explodes, everything explodes. The lawyer told me earlier on the phone that this was a complication that was ‘nearly expected.’”
“An expected complication of what?” Ariella asked.
“The whole reason my husband came to Acco was to get a certain plot of land not far from here, that used to belong to his father’s friend. It was designated as a shul.” Her voice sounded faraway, unfocused, as if she was reading text off a paper but her thoughts were on something else completely. “After the riots of 1929, the lot was transferred to Arab hands. My father-in-law, alav hashalom, and that friend met with the Arabs here, in this house, and made up that in seventy years’ time, they, or their descendants, would meet again, here, and the lot would be restored to Jewish ownership.” She looked around for a moment. “Here, in this house. After seventy years. And today is that date.”