Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 36 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.
“Yosef? Yosef Schorr?” Dr. Tennenbaum scanned the area with his eyes, but the young man did not seem to be in the whole Emergency Room department. Dr. Tennenbaum shook his head and went back inside, to the nurses’ station. “Has anyone seen Yosef Schorr around?”
“I saw him fifteen minutes ago,” said one nurse. “He went to bring Mr. Zeivald back from radiology.”
“Zeivald is here already,” the orthopedist muttered, a bit impatiently. “And I told Schorr that I need his help!”
“It happens that someone goes out for a moment,” the nurse replied. “He’ll probably be back in a couple of minutes.”
But Yosef did not come back. He sat next to the window in the small supply room, his face tensely watching the door. He gripped a long, narrow oxygen tank with his hands, planning to throw it at the attacker, whenever he’d come in. Let him dare come in! That thin, short youth thought that he could trick him like that and chase him away from Yerushalayim, all the way to here!
It was not his imagination. He was the one who had gone to Uncle Michoel’s house! That boy had tried to irritate him then, and now he had come here. Yosef was sure of it!
Fine, he knew that sometimes, he saw things that did not exist; things that were only present in his thoughts. But this was real—very, very real. So maybe it wasn’t good that he was hiding here; it would make more sense for him to go over to the other guy, begin to yell, and show everyone the youth who was chasing him. But there was no guaranteeing that anyone would believe him. What if the boy would shout that it was all a lie? For sure, everyone would believe him, the boy, and not Yosef Schorr, the schizophrenic.
Would Ima come? Who would she believe?
It was a tough question, and Yosef fingered his small beard nervously. His mother was good. She tried so hard. But she also wasn’t on his side a lot of the times; that was the fact.
He knew that she did that for his own good, but it did not help him when he felt so alone facing the world…
Outside, beyond the closed doors of the Emergency Room at Rambam Hospital, Martin wandered around, not quite believing that he was here.
Only at dawn did the thought enter his mind to come here. It was so simple to leave, to stop a taxi, and then to board the bus to Haifa. No policeman or security officer had ordered him to join them, and, to the best of his ability to discern, no one had followed him here.
And now he was here. He was not yet sure that at the right moment he would be able to tell the niece the truth, but he had decided to at least advance in the direction of that moment.
The name and address had appeared in Perl’s telephone book, but none of the doors in that building, nor the doorbells near the mailboxes, bore the name “Schorr.”
“Schorr? Oh, you mean Vilensky. Third floor, apartment nine.” The neighbor, whose door Martin had decided to knock on, was generous with the information when Martin asked. “Very nice, refined people; a second marriage. Poor lady, she was widowed years ago. All her children live far away, and the one who still lives at home, Yosef, works at the Emergency Room of Rambam Hospital.”
Martin thanked the man for the information and climbed to the third floor. When no one opened the door after fifteen minutes of intermittent knocking and waiting, he decided to try speaking with the son at Rambam. Maybe it would be easier to convey the information about Michoel Perl’s disappearance to him, and then to simply disappear himself.
Not that he had any idea where he was going. They surely would not take him back in the dorm, and he had burned his bridges with Dan and his friends. So what should he do? Turn himself in to the police? Maybe it was an idea. Let them deport him; oh well. But where could he go? He was burned in Sudbury, too. America, perhaps?
He came to Rambam, went to the Emergency Room, and asked to see Yosef Schorr. They told him, yes, sure, he’ll be right over, but the young man did not make an appearance.
Hinda put her bags down on the welcome mat and pulled out her key. Simi had spoken to her on the phone very politely and thanked her for the invitation. She’d asked Hinda not to overextend herself, please, because she was only coming for two days, and thank you so much in advance for everything, and please, don’t do anything, really.
Well, she couldn’t do very much today anymore, because she didn’t have any extra time. But she was able to prepare a hot, filling dinner. Dov would certainly be happy, and Simi…well, Simi could choose whether to be happy or not.
The kitchen awaited her, quiet and clean. She began to peel carrots for the soup. One, two, three, and then the phone rang. She went over and picked up in the middle of the third ring.
Silence. A strange rustle, very weak. Something like a keyboard clacking. “Who is this?” a familiar voice suddenly asked tiredly.
“Michoel!” she exclaimed. She didn’t know whether to sound happy or not; she was also afraid that perhaps his strange accusations would surface again.
“Yes, Hinda, how are you?”
As if nothing had happened at his door, that same day! “Baruch Hashem. How are you?”
“I think I’m alright,” he said. “I have some problems with my hands.”
“Your hands?” she asked.
“Yes.” His voice was very heavy. “How…how are you?”
“We’re fine, baruch Hashem. I was worried about you, Uncle Michoel, and … the truth is, I’m a bit hurt by what happened when I visited you the last two times. Is everything alright?”
“Hurt…” He seemed to roll the word around his tongue, and his voice suddenly grew stronger. “Again you’re focused only on yourself, Hinda? How many times do I have to ask you to open your heart to others? You have a wonderful temperament; your mother, aleha hashalom, often told me that. So why are you so busy all the time with yourself? I’m telling you, go out a bit, visit homes. Speak to people, and see that there is life beyond the door of your house. You realize—”
His voice suddenly faded out, and the call was cut off.
Hinda didn’t know what to think about first: his slow, strange voice at the beginning of the conversation, or the mussar shmuess that she’d gotten at the end.
What had he said? He had problems with his hands? What did he mean? Without realizing it, Hinda studied her own hands; her fingers were tinged orange from the carrots. But they were her hands, not Michoel’s. Unless he meant the compliment that he often gave her, that she was his right hand in all matters of the organization.
If so, then it was only one hand; why “hands”? And what kind of problems did he have? Was it a hint of sorts to his foolish suspicions?
She put the phone back on its base and took a deep breath, trying to remember what she had to do. She peeled an onion and cut it. She got up to the sink to wash it off. Tears began to flow; it was a very fresh onion. She felt a burning, sharp sensation in her throat.
Her memories also rushed in with searing sharpness; it hurt.
It was evening when he had come and offered her work, after she’d been dismissed from the Haifa Municipality in a round of job cuts. She had been happy, because the time she had spent out of work had clarified for her how narrow and insufficient her financial foundation was.
“I need you to collect money for the organization,” he’d said, drumming his fingers on the table. “It will be good for the organization, and for you. Not only because of the salary I will pay you, but because you also need to get out of yourself a bit. When you go from family to family, be pleasant, Hinda, for goodness’ sake! You are so immersed in yourself, and since Shmuel’s passing, you’ve become even worse!”
He cautiously went back to his bed. Daddy had left him a phone, and told him that he could call. They pressed a few numbers for him before, and all he had to do was dial the zero four for Haifa, and her number, which he remembered by heart. At first, he did not remember her name, but when she answered the call, it came back to him. It was interesting to hear her live like that, as if she was here. Daddy had told him not to talk too much; he must not get excited. And he shouldn’t say where he was. He hadn’t said anything. He just wanted her to be less involved with herself.
Poor thing— it wasn’t nice to insult her. He was also very absorbed in himself a lot. He constantly thought only about his aching head and his strange hands. What right did he have to rebuke her like that?
Because he was all alone, and she had already gotten married a second time. Wait, had she gotten married yet or not? Her chassan had seemed rather nice; he had to tell her that, so she’d feel encouraged. Maybe he’d do that in their next conversation, if they would give him a phone. It wasn’t very nice of them not to give him the phone; a person needed to be able to call and speak to his family!
Maybe it wasn’t right to be thinking bad thoughts about Daddy. The thing was that for the last two days, he had been thinking that the man really was not his father. Why would he have thought it was Daddy?
But he didn’t tell them anything. Apparently, a few days ago, when he’d been feeling awful, he’d gotten confused and called that man Daddy. Everyone around him was sure that he still thought that was the case, so they also called the man Daddy. “We’ll see what your daddy will say; he’ll be happy that your blood pressure is stable.” They really thought he would always believe that this non-Jew was his father? What a joke.
His father had a long, distinguished beard, and he took him to the park. Usually, Mommy took him to the park, but sometimes, Daddy did. The other children laughed, because Daddy and Mommy were much older than their parents. His parents even had a granddaughter; her name was Hinda. But she lived in Israel. And he had no one to play with. So he went to the park alone. The problem was that the children there would laugh at him, and would tell him that he had wrinkled hands. They would say he had the hands of an old man, and that he had caught his old parents’ old age.