Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 52 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’s former home was rather close to the cemetery, and when they filed out silently, Chevy looked at her sisters. “You’re coming back to me now, like we made up, right?” she asked. “Till we manage to all get together…” With two of the sisters living in Elad, and two in Bnei Brak—but each at different ends of the city—they didn’t often have a chance to get together with each other.
“Sure,” Simi replied, with the responsibility of the oldest sister. “Did you think we’d leave you with that mess after the siyum and everything?”
Chevy shook her head. “Not because of that!” She glanced at her father, standing on the side and talking with two of his sons-in-law. That boy with the heavy American accent was standing with them, too. As Chevy watched, Penina’s husband Zevi gave the boy his phone, despite the large device peeking out from the latter’s pants pocket. The boy took the phone and moved a few steps away.
“I don’t know how much longer my neighbor can watch my kids,” Yael hedged. “I told her it would take some time, because you asked us to come over afterward. But…is this going to take a long time, Chevy?”
“It’s…it’s the white chest of drawers in the spare bedroom,” Chevy said with a sigh. “I know that in theory I can lock it and throw the key into the sea, but the lock is broken, and has been for years. And I, masochist that I am, feel like I have to open it every few months. I end up reading all the papers inside it: the hospital documents and doctor visit summaries, and blood test and CT scans and MRI results, and Ima’s correspondence with the physiotherapist when she couldn’t talk, and…and it’s destroying me.” She shook her head. “Abba says there’s no real reason to keep it all, but I can’t just throw it out. I want you to go over it all with me…”
“Chevy!” Aunt Nechama, their mother’s sister, wagged her finger at her niece. “You mustn’t do that! As soon as I heard you were going to live in the house, I thought that this wouldn’t be good for you.”
Chevy gave a wry smile. “Actually, other things that I thought would bother me hardly do. Like Ima’s clothes. But right away Abba either gave them away or threw them out. And the master bedroom—we just use another room for our bedroom. And the kitchen—baruch Hashem I got over my hesitation to cook in it pretty quickly, and at this point, I hardly remember that it was once my mother’s kitchen. But the documents… We have to deal with those.”
“Not me,” Penina said, shaking her head decisively. “I can’t. Do me a favor, Chevy. It took me so long to get back to myself…I don’t want to go through it all again. Please, you’ll let me off the hook from this, right? As your youngest sister?”
“Fine, you’re released.” Chevy managed a half smile and looked at the others.
“No problem,” Yael said. “But I’m telling you right now how I plan to deal with it—by asking you for a big black garbage bag, and then grabbing everything that’s there and throwing it out. I won’t even pause to tear each paper into shreds.”
“And what if a cat rips the bag downstairs in the dumpster? Are you okay with Ima’s suffering being exposed to whoever passes by?”
Yael folded her arms. “I’m ready to spill some milk on it, if you’ll donate a cup or so.” A small smile tugged at the corners of her lips. “Everything will get sour in there, and turn moldy in no time. No one will get close to those papers.”
“Bleach is better, once we’re at it,” Simi said, and Yael tittered. “Shall we? We’ll tell our husbands to come and get us in another…half an hour?”
“Forty-five minutes, please,” Chevy said. “There are also the thank-you letters that Abba wrote after it was all over, and we can’t throw those out without looking at them at all.”
“Fifteen minutes is enough, I’m telling you,” Yael said. “Using my method, it will go fast.”
But she was wrong, because her method didn’t work.
“Penina’s idea was best, believe me,” Yael said with sigh, after scanning the first MRI result with tears in her eyes. “And to think that… Look at the date. Ima got this four days before Penina’s wedding, and she didn’t say a thing to anyone! Remember that wedding? She was so normal, and happy…”
“She cried tons at the chuppah,” Chevy whispered. “I thought it was because her youngest was leaving the house, and you know, empty nest and all that, a different stage in life… Little did I know that it was really a different stage…”
Simi stared out the window. “Just to think of the deathly fear she must have been feeling…”
Chevy was quiet for a long moment. “Maybe we can give ourselves chizuk by thinking of the fact that every minute of fear that she had then, makes her happy now.”
“Who was the one who said that sometimes, we also think about ourselves and not only about Ima’s neshamah?” Yael needled with a faint smile.
They threw all the discs and files into the garbage. The depressing hospital papers, the doctor visit summaries, and the conclusions of the exceptions committee at the HMO that refused to approve an expensive drug for Ima, because, as they said, the situation was hopeless anyway. The sisters kept the results of one early CT scan that was a bit encouraging, and the drawings of the older grandchildren, and a few cute messages that Ima had written with some hope and good cheer. Everything else they tore up and threw into the garbage. They poured milk and bleach into the bag, and some toilet cleaner for good measure, and remembered that real life is so much greater and bigger than they could possibly define with their narrow view and with their ability to grasp.
“Rudy?” Martin noticed a playground, and walked in to it. Zevy walked next to him. At this afternoon hour, it was packed with children, despite the heavy Bnei Brak heat.
“Yes, who is this?”
Zevi sat down on a bench and observed Martin, leaning on a lamppost. Zevi didn’t understand English, so he couldn’t pick up a word of the conversation, but he tried to listen to the tone.
“Martin Posner. How are you?”
“Me? I’m fine, baruch Hashem.” Rudy’s voice was slow; the cadence was different from what Martin remembered.
“I haven’t spoken to you since that night when we drove together.”
“You know, I got into big trouble because of that ride.”
“More than me?” Rudy snickered.
Martin hesitated for a minute. “I don’t know what happened to you, but they were sure that I had done it on purpose. I ran away that night, and since then I’m afraid that they’re going to press charges against me.”
“They didn’t do it in the meantime?”
Rudy chuckled. “And you think that for nearly three months you managed to run away from them, and they are such oafs that they can’t put their hands on the elusive mercury? You don’t interest them, Marin—get the point. Otherwise, they would have long arrested you.”
“You think so?” Martin swallowed. “They came to me at one point and tried to offer me a deal. I refused.” His voice dropped. “And I ran away again, and changed my phone.” He squinted. Two men entered the park, and they didn’t look like the religious guys in Bnei Brak. He turned to the bench that Zevi was sitting on and sat down next to him. If they were coming here for him, at least he wouldn’t give them the pleasure of catching him so fast.
They headed straight for the lamppost he had been leaning on a moment ago and stopped about five feet from it. One of them glanced up, at the bulb that was apparently burnt out. He said something, and the second one wrote it down. Then they continued to the next lamppost.
“I’m not going to ask what kind of deal they offered you,” Rudy said. “But again, I believe that if they really wanted to get to you, they would have done it a long time ago.”
“So in your opinion, I don’t have to worry anymore?”
“In my opinion? No.”
“In any case, if I get messed up with them…” Martin sighed, “would you agree to testify on my behalf?”
“On your behalf? That what?”
“That I wasn’t the one who sped up to hit the Arabs. That I grabbed the wheel to stop the car and not to turn it toward the sidewalk.”
“You’re forgetting one thing, Martin,” Rudy said. “The fact that I was exhausted, and that I fell asleep for a few seconds. That’s the truth, and that’s what I already told them. So if I fell asleep, how can I know what you did in those seconds?”
“But do you believe me?”
“In theory, yes. But I can’t come and tell them that I know what you were doing at that time, you get it? It’s enough that I’m still up to my ears in this story.”
Martin stood up. “I understand what you’re saying. Rudy, what are you being accused of?”
“At least not intentional, attempted murder. The prosecution tried very hard in that direction; it’s a miracle for me that they didn’t succeed. As it is, I will probably go to prison for at least half a year, or I’ll have to do community service, or I don’t know what. But I’m saying again,” his voice rose, “that I don’t think you have what to worry about.”
“Thanks, Rudy. Thanks for everything.”
Martin gave the phone back to Zevi, and they walked back out onto the street. From the whole family, only Dov was left there, with another older man and another son-in-law.
“Are you done?” Dov asked, as he shook hands with the white-haired man and then hurried toward his car. “Let’s go. Zevi, shkoyach!”
“Sure.” Zevy grinned and waved to them both.
Martin closed the car door, his eyes fixed on the cemetery gate. “So you believe that all those here will rise up again, right?”
“Absolutely.” He started the car. “Those who will merit it.”
“Who do you think will merit it?”
Dov hesitated and then said, “Those who wanted to be good Jews.”
“Can I ask you a slightly tactless question?”
Dov chuckled. “Try. And I imagine I know what you want to ask.”
“Let’s try you. What do you want to answer me?”
“I can tell you that yes, in fact, a man can have two wives. But that’s not the answer.”
“Of course, because your wife’s late husband will also come back to life.”
Dov smiled. “The real answer is that we have no idea what will be then. We only know that it will be good.”
“What kind of good?”
“Real good. Perfect good. Not something that we can comprehend right now. Our earthly senses are limited, and we just have to remember that the true reality that Hashem created is beyond what we can comprehend now. It’s something that we, in This World, cannot grasp.”
“But it is good.”
“Yes. Very, very good.”