Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 1 of a new online serial novel, Outside the Bubble, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week. Click here for previous chapters.
Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications.
Dov shrugged out of his faded suit jacket and placed a pile of mail on the table. “Hi,” he said warmly. “How was your day, Hinda?”
“Baruch Hashem, yom yom,” Hinda replied, giving the same response she had given for the last seven weeks.
“Your uncle sent a fat envelope, almost a package. I wonder how it came in the regular mail.”
“Oh, yes. He always sends envelopes that size, and it always comes in the regular mail.”
“The postmark is from more than two weeks ago, though.”
“He must have sent it quite some time ago, then. I was actually surprised that he had forgotten all this time; I was beginning to feel uncomfortable with some people.” She carefully glanced at the air conditioner she had switched on a few minutes before, ahead of his arrival. Her Baruch had made an amateur repair two and a half months ago, and if the electricity would short, a technician would no doubt disapprove of the unprofessional intervention.
Baruch Hashem, everything was working fine, at least on the surface of things.
It wasn’t like Dov didn’t know about things that creaked beneath the surface. She had not concealed anything at any point in the shidduch. She’d told him briefly about Yosef, she’d even mentioned Mali, and he’d been to her house twice between the engagement and the wedding. He wanted to do a few small renovations, he’d said, but in the meantime, nothing seemed too urgent to him.
“I’m sure that people are relaxed as long as it is you who is handling their money,” Dov said, walking into the kitchen. She followed him, and turned on the flame under the tomato sauce. “There is time until the end of the tax year anyway, so it’s fine.”
“Yes.” She took the bread out. “I’ll take care of it after we eat, b’ezras Hashem. So, tell me, how is Penina?”
“I hope she’ll like the gift I bought.”
“Oh, I actually told her about it already; I hope you don’t mind. She told me that the baby hasn’t gotten a blanket yet from anyone, so your choice is excellent. I’m thinking of popping over to visit tomorrow after work. You’ll come with me, right?”
“Is it…do you think it’s my place to come?” Hinda shifted from foot to foot. All she had meant to do was change the subject, so she wouldn’t have to expound on “Ohr Naftali and Leah,” Michoel’s organization. Since Michoel had not come to her wedding, and had chosen not to answer her calls, she felt uncomfortable mentioning him. She was also afraid that Dov would be offended that he was not being offered the job of accountant for the organization, especially as there was no one filling that position on a permanent basis.
So she’d changed the subject—and collided with something no less sensitive. Dov expected her to go with him tomorrow to Ma’ayanei Hayeshuah Hospital in Bnei Brak to visit his daughter who had just had a baby.
Although it was likely that the subject would have come up anyway.
“Of course it’s your place,” Dov said as he filled the washing cup. “You are my wife. And it is clear to Penina that when I come, you come with me.”
Hinda didn’t answer. She mentally pictured Dov’s five daughters. They were all so similar, and she couldn’t conjure the exact image of Penina. How much had she seen them already? Once at the introductory meeting right before their engagement, another time on Shabbos a few weeks later, and the third time was the Shabbos after their wedding, which they had spent at the home of Rabbi Wagner. The girls had surprised the new couple and come with their husbands for dessert on Friday night. They were all friendly, smiley, and pleasant—yet very distant.
Hinda shook her head and poured the hot tomato sauce into the serving bowl. Dov ate everything with tomato sauce. He dipped his bread and his cut-up vegetables into it, and poured it over his every omelet or hard-boiled egg. Last week she had even caught him munching on a red-coated cookie!
After they ate, Dov settled into the new black armchair in the dining room with his Gemara and his MP3 player, and tuned into the Daf Yomi. Hinda, who preferred the kitchen, cleared the table, and put the thick envelope from Michoel down next to her blue notebook.
She moved the chair quietly, not realizing that when those ear-buds were in Dov’s ears, he heard nothing around him.
She opened the brown paper. Aside for the four thick receipt books, there was also a regular piece of paper with Michoel’s handwriting, reminding her to check her own direct debit order to the organization and see if it needed to be renewed under her new name and bank account.
Did he really think she’d shut down her personal account in favor of only a joint account?
Hinda sighed. She personally had no issue with having just one joint account, but she needed to leave her personal account intact. At this age and stage, there were some things that stayed the exclusive domain of each individual. What did Uncle Michoel think, that Dov was supposed to pay for Yosef’s medications? Or for Baruch’s hats and suits?
She glanced at the first receipt book, but didn’t open it. Maybe she should speak to Michoel about it. Before her engagement, she’d spoken to him about the subject a few times, and felt that although he didn’t have experience with this kind of thing, he did have a grasp of it.
She would, of course, need to explain all the details very well. That Dov’s salary was deposited regularly into their joint account, and her national insurance stipend was not. That she paid for her children’s expenses, but had paid for Dov’s daughter’s gift from their joint account. There was a certain division here, which they were trying to keep logical, but one cannot enter a joint life and expect it to be matched dollar for dollar. And she hoped Michoel would understand that, because with these types of things, it was impossible for everything to be clear down to the most minute detail.
Money was supposed to make life easier, wasn’t it? Too bad it sometimes just made things more complicated…
Chaim, his guidance counselor, stood near the door of the room, which opened with no advance notice, and studied him carefully. A policeman stood behind Chaim, and he also glared at Martin reproachfully. The four eyes together were too much.
“What now?” he asked in English, and turned his gaze to a pigeon that had chosen to rest on the window bars. Heavy, dark, curved. What a place to have found itself.
“That’s what I need to ask,” Chaim retorted angrily, walking into the room. “A second time is too much for us, Martin. Why did the principal devote an hour and a half to you after last time? Why did I waste another twenty minutes on you? Didn’t we make our position clear enough?!”
“You did,” Martin said, clearly bored. “But the situation also makes itself clear. Things happen in this country, and if it’s not clear to certain people, that’s their problem. I, personally, cannot keep quiet in this kind of situation.”
“If you can’t keep quiet—” The policemen followed Chaim into the room. Only now did Martin notice the rank on his epaulets. “If you can’t keep quiet, you will find yourself back in Canada very quickly. As far as we are concerned, foreign-made troublemakers have only one place: on a plane, outta here.”
“I did nothing illegal.” Martin looked at the pigeon, pecking mockingly with its beak at the dirty plastic pane. It had no boundaries, that bird. But no one had any plans to arrest it.
“And that ‘nothing’ was still too much.” Chaim drew closer. “You came here to learn, and you are asked to do only that. Don’t stick your nose into politics. Is that clear?”
Martin turned his head slowly. “I don’t like being spoken to as if I’m a twelve-year-old boy.”
“So don’t behave like one,” the policeman snapped, and pointed to the desk outside the room. “Sign here for me, please, and you can go. But this is the last time—let me make it clear. The fact that you are a foreign citizen will not help you next time. It will help us. And all of your guidance counselors who will come to speak on your behalf will not influence us or convince us to let you stay here, got it?”
Six minutes later, he was outside. Another policeman escorted Chaim and him to the gate, and the guard opened it for them. They went out to the fresh air, and Chaim swung his hand with the remote from his car, still quiet. Martin followed him slowly, trying to read the man’s thoughts. But even after they got into the car, the counselor’s face was totally inscrutable.
Martin settled into his seat and put on his seatbelt. Last time he’d been arrested, it had not been Chaim who came down to the police station on his behalf; it had been the director, and he’d been panicked. He had promised the police repeatedly that there was no illegal political activity taking place in his institution, and Martin’s participation in this nonsense was solely of his own initiative. “This is the first and last time you get into trouble!” he’d scolded Martin when they’d gotten back. “Is that clear?”
Martin had nodded, wondering how the director could make such an emphatic declaration. Didn’t he realize that it was a complete lie?
Because he, Martin, would continue doing what he was doing. Not that he was in favor of arrests, but they would not scare him. That was why he was not at all sure “that this was the last time” he would get himself into trouble.
The question was how the director did not know that this was not his first time, either. Who had brought him to Israel without letting on about his criminal record at all?
The image of Rabbi Eisenthal rose in his mind.
“It’s not right,” the good man had argued heatedly with whoever he felt was in a position to “pull strings” for Martin’s benefit. “A fourteen-year-old boy is not a criminal! Do you understand? We shouldn’t even think in those terms about him!”
Most of those whom the rabbi had spoken with had been persuaded right away, but the authorities in Canada had been harder to influence.
True, he’d never been a criminal, not only because on that black night he had been exactly fourteen years and one month old. He wasn’t a criminal because even then, he had done nothing wrong!
But he didn’t dare say that, even to Rabbi Eisenthal.