Outside the Bubble – Chapter 41


Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 41 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. 

By 11:30 at night, the hall had emptied, and Mali called Hinda. “Ima, what should I do with the money?”

“Give it to Michoel, of course.”

“I didn’t see him here,” Mali said, sounding puzzled.

“And his worker, the one who organized it all?” Hinda was sitting in the empty kitchen, sipping from a cup of cocoa she had prepared for herself. Dov had fallen asleep on the couch, and if she was not mistaken, Simi and her husband were sitting near the window that faced the open sea, getting some fresh air. Yosef had been sleeping for almost two hours already. He had returned late, eaten dinner, and then escaped to his room. He preferred not to show his face when Simi and her husband were around.

“We didn’t see any worker. Right, Riki?”

Mali’s friend nodded.

“There were a ton of people here, and I think only the importer of the clothes is here now, with his workers. They’re packing up the stuff that’s left. But there’s no one here representing Uncle Michoel.”

“Was a lot left?” Hinda stirred the dregs of her cocoa in the nearly empty cup.

“Not much, but definitely some. The sale was really not as organized as it usually is. I think a lot of women didn’t know about it. It’s a shame, because the stuff is from Bellesie, and it’s really gorgeous.”

“Well, you’re right—the sale wasn’t as organized as usual. They had a problem with the salesgirls and the advertising. There must have been a mistake somewhere.”

“Michoel—mistakes?” Mali’s cynicism came through even as she spoke and worked at the same time, bundling the bills into a rubber band and sweeping the coins into a clear disposable, one-liter container. “Riki? Racheli? Are we going?”

Hinda was happy that Mali had changed the topic to her friends, so she did not have to respond to her comment. Michoel and mistakes. It seemed that he had been making many mistakes lately. His selection of this new assistant was one of them, albeit not the biggest one.

“Go outside, Mali, and look around—see if you can find a young guy who answers to the name Martin. He’s the one who called me, and he’s supposed to be in charge of what is left, I think.” She paused. “Although I would prefer that you give the money to Michoel himself.”

“So that he should tell me from behind the door that he can’t open up for me?”

Hinda put the empty mug in the sink. She heard the voices of the couple nearing the kitchen, but when they saw the light on, their shadows receded. “Mali, I’m going to hang up now, okay? We’ll talk soon. Simi?” She raised her voice a bit.

Simi stopped at the door to the kitchen.

“Can I offer you something? A hot drink?”

“Thank you.” Her husband was the one who piped up and walked in. “That would be great.”

He was happy to accept a coffee, while Simi murmured that she preferred tea. Hinda served the mugs together with a bowl of pretzels.

“Thanks,” Simi said, as she gnawed at a pretzel. But she remained silent beyond that.

“How do you like our view from the window?” Hinda chatted in a friendly tone, deciding that she would be a bit of a nudnik. Sometimes it was important. “Airs out the mind, doesn’t it?”

“Absolutely,” Simi agreed. “My father often talks about it.”

“Your father likes open spaces,” Hinda said, putting the milk back in the fridge. “We’ve walked down to the port a few times. It’s quite the walk, but a worthwhile experience.”

Simi didn’t react. Maybe she thought it wasn’t right of her father’s wife to take him for such far walks, or she felt that she’d exhausted her quota of politeness for the evening. It made no difference to Hinda; she was tired. She wished the couple a good night and left the kitchen.

From the hallway, she called Mali back to hear what had ended up happening with the money and the extra merchandise. Mali told her that a young guy with a big velvet yarmulke had appeared out of nowhere, ordered a taxi, and loaded in the boxes of extra clothing. But he’d left the money with her.


Rabbi Steinhaus knew nothing about what Mommy called “their tragedy.” Becky, who was peeking down at him from upstairs, could guess that by the way he entered the house, and by his gentle and kind smile.

Becky leaned her head over the railing, gazing down at the guest’s black hat and the small blue yarmulke that covered the round, bald patch that Daddy had in the middle of his head.

Guests were like Shabbos. Daddy always put on this yarmulke in their honor.

Becky sighed. It wasn’t easy being six years old. The school guidance counselor agreed with her on that. And she also agreed that it was even harder to be six years old with the intelligence of someone who was 155 years old. And the hardest thing was to be six years old, with the intelligence of a 155-year-old, and the daughter of the wealthiest man in the city.

The guidance counselor did not quite agree to that one. Becky could tell by the way the other woman had touched the tip of her nose when she said, “I hear you.”

When she had been five years old, Becky had pledged to never, ever lie. And even if she did lie from time to time, she would not touch her nose when she did, even if it was itching her badly, because books about body language said that someone who touches his nose when he speaks is probably lying. And this way, everyone knows it. So it was really strange that the guidance counselor didn’t know such a thing.

Daddy shook Rabbi Steinhaus’s hand and led him to the study. Becky could never understand what exactly went on behind those large, imposing doors, but she knew that lots of important rabbis came from Israel specially to share Torah thoughtswith her father.

Daddy loved their Torah thoughts.

He also loved the pictures they brought him, all kinds of pictures of yeshivos in Eretz Yisrael, and of shuls and nursing homes there.

But all that, he would tell Mommy late at night—after Mike had disappeared—was of no use to him.

And Becky had been trying for two weeks already to figure out why these pictures could possibly help, and if it was related to Mike, who had suddenly disappeared.

In the books that Mike loved to read, the police were always searching for boys who had disappeared. They also always found them in the end. But in this case, the police refused to help.

They said that Mike’s farewell letter proved that he had left the house of his own free will, and that there was no crime involved.

And that as much as they understood and sympathized with the parents’ pain, a boy of Mike’s age was allowed to choose his own path in life.

“I gave him everything, Rabbi Steinhaus!” Daddy had a strong voice, and it filtered out from under the door and up the stairs. “I gave him everything, anything a child could want, spiritually and materially. There was no reason, there was no logic—”


Becky jumped in alarm. But it was just the housekeeper, with her soft brown eyes.

“Mommy doesn’t let you be out of bed at this hour,” she said. “Come on, honey, you have to go to sleep.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: