The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 55

June 1, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 55 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Elisheva?”

“Yes?”

“Hi, it’s Blumi Hartstein.”

“Oh, hi, Blumi. How are you?”

“Great, baruch Hashem. Listen, how many children do you think are going to be attending the hachnasas sefer Torah?”

“We don’t really know.” Elisheva set down the basket of wet laundry on the windowsill and adjusted the phone that was wedged between her ear and her shoulder. “We have to ask the gabbaim in the shul, and then add our own children to whatever he says.”

“Oh, the procession won’t begin in Bnei Brak? Won’t it be leaving from your house?”

“We would want it to, but it’s a bit too much of a mess to divide a hachnasas sefer Torah between two cities, you know?” Elisheva chuckled. “It will leave from Rav Tawil’s home; he’s the rav of the shul. They’ll finish writing the letters there.”

“I’m asking because we want to donate pekalach. I hope you don’t mind that I feel like I have a part in this hachnasas sefer Torah.”

“You really do have a big part,” Elisheva said warmly. “You are giving the seudah. Tell me, do you have any idea, once we’re talking, if there is room to inscribe a l’illui nishmas on the outside of the sefer Torah?

“It’s not a velvet mantle, you know,” Blumi said. “It’s made of wood. Unless you ordered one with silver as well?”

“No,” Elisheva said, “but my husband got the phone number of an expert wood craftsman, and he’ll speak to him. I want to write that it should be l’illui nishmas my father’s family, but I’m not sure if it’s funny to ask for such a thing, if there’s no room.”

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Blumi said. “But I’ll ask my husband, or my mother-in-law, if I don’t catch him. Both of them should know the answer to that. Do you need a lot of space? Was it a big family?”

“It’s sad.” Elisheva’s laugh was hollow, and lacked any mirth. “There’s nothing to write. My father knows nothing about his family.”

“He knows nothing? What does that mean?”

“He was a little boy during the war, and he was in a Christian orphanage in Bratislava, in Slovakia. When the war ended, he was handed over to Jewish people, but no one had any information about his background. And then he came to Israel, grew up here, and that’s it…”

Oy, it’s scary to think about it.” Blumi rocked slowly back and forth in her rocking chair. “And that’s how you grew up? Without any family on your father’s side?”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 54

May 25, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 54 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Tomorrow, Abba’s going to take us to the sofer, and we’re going to see the almost-finished sefer Torah,” seven-year-old Yitzy informed his brother, who had come home from yeshivah for Shabbos. “Do you want to come with?”

“I’ll see it at the hachnasas sefer Torah, b’ezras Hashem.” Binyamin smiled and parked his wheelie suitcase near one of the beds in the large boys’ room. It was the first time he was coming home for Shabbos since the new furniture had arrived and the final arrangements of the rooms had been made.

“You’ll sleep with Shuey, Meir, and Yitzy,” his mother had told him a few minutes earlier when he came home. “Put your things in the second room—the big one, and then come back here to have a drink.”

Something about her voice was a bit loaded, and he looked at her quizzically. Then he went to put his things down.

“This is the room with the most kids!” Yitzy explained to him proudly. “We’re four. Ima gave the little kids a different room. And the girls got the really tiny rooms—Riki and Devoiry in one room, and Esty and Chani in another. Poor girls. It’s so boring to be with just two people in the room.”

While Yitzy was talking, Meir, who was older than him, stood there and gazed at Binyamin.

Binyamin stared back. “Is everything okay, Meir?” he asked.

“Yes. Just that Ima said that if you don’t want to sleep in the room with us because it’s too crowded, then she’ll give you the last room, near the one that will be Saba’s. It’s empty now; we just dump stuff in there.”

Nu?” Binyamin asked.

“So, do you want to move to there?” Meir’s lips protruded in a pout; he already seemed offended.

“No,” his eighteen-year-old brother soothed. “I’m sure I’ll enjoy it here with you very much.”

“And you won’t feel too crowded?” Shloimy, who suddenly burst into the room, asked. Binyamin chuckled. “If we all slept together in the old dining room, and it was just fine, why should it suddenly be crowded for me now?”

“I heard a neighbor here saying that she heard that before we moved here, we had a ‘miserably tiny house.’ She was talking to another neighbor.” Shloimy rubbed his chin. “I’m not sure what that means, but I know what ‘tiny’ is, and I know what ‘miserable’ is, right?”

“Right,” Binyamin affirmed.

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 53

May 18, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 53 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Hello?”

“Hello.” Elisheva was sitting on the porch, breathing deeply. One of the gifts Eliyahu had bought her for Pesach was a cordless phone. The cord on her regular phone had reached almost every corner of her old house, but in this apartment she could hardly stretch it from the fridge to the counter in the kitchen.
During the evening hours, Elisheva discovered just how wonderful Eliyahu’s gift was. She could make her daily calls to her daughters on the porch, seated on one of the old dining room chairs that had been banished from the dining room in favor of the new, elegant, wooden and upholstered chairs—a gift from U’shemartem.

“This porch looks like a junkyard like this,” Riki had grumbled, when she saw that only six of the old chairs were going to the garbage, and the others were being moved to the porch. But when she also discovered the wonderful experience of sitting and watching the twinkling lights in the darkening city spread out before her, she didn’t say another word about it.

But now, the porch belonged entirely to Elisheva. Riki and Devoiry were finishing with cleaning up the kitchen, and she was taking a break to hear about little Shmully’s latest antics. But the phone call was not from Miri. Instead—

“Hello? Hello?” The woman on the other end sounded impatient.

“Yes, hello, I hear you.” Elisheva replied.
“Good, good. Is this the Potolsky residence?”

“Yes, it is.”

“Are you the ones from the sefer Torah?”

“I’m sorry?” Not that Elisheva did not know what she was referring to, but the sentence was worded so strangely, and the tone was so accusing, as though she was asking, “Are you the ones from the famous robbery?” or something like that.

“Well, ‘sorry’ might be a very good thing for you to say, but we’re not up to that yet. Let’s start like this: are you the donors of the sefer Torah?”

Her syntax had improved somewhat, but the tone was the same—somewhat aggressive.

“Who is calling?” Elisheva asked as she leaned back. This chair was the only survivor of their original set of six, purchased twenty-one years ago. It was actually in excellent shape.

The caller was silent for a moment. “Why?” she asked.

“Because something about this call sounds strange to me, so I’d like to conduct it in a normal way, step by step.”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 52

May 11, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 52 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Elisheva walked through the rooms, opening and closing doors and drawers. The children would be thrilled when they’d get home from school. They really could use normal beds, dressers, and desks—all part of the package of furniture that had come with the new apartment. She had been rather taken aback by the generous standards they’d been allotted by the catalog sent to them. It was a catalog from a reputable carpentry firm, and it had been delivered by courier. Tucked into the front cover was a handwritten list of the items they could choose from. They had called the company to place their order, and today, less than two weeks later, the order had arrived. It was perfect. Beautiful. New.

“Ima?” Riki called to her. She and Devoiry had stayed home to help their mother organize the family’s possessions into the new dressers and closets. “Where should we put the boys’ winter clothes?” She used a knife to slice the tape open from one of the cartons that had been waiting patiently to be unpacked.

Elisheva opened the door at the bottom of one of the dressers. It was a high quality, pressed wood dresser in shades of blue and yellow. It had five drawers with car-shaped navy knobs, and a cabinet at the bottom with shelves in it.

“Here,” she said. “Did you finish in your room?”

“Yes.” Riki was quiet for a minute. “Ima?”

“What?”

“There’s an empty wall in our room. The one where the old homework desk will go.”

Nu?” Elisheva asked as she joined them, smoothing the stacks of clothing, and reorganizing the piles of corduroy pants that had become messy. She sorted sweaters into sizes.

“I want to paint that desk mint green, like our new dresser. Can I?”

“I don’t see why not.”

“And do you think we could order a few cubbies to hang over the desk, with the same colors, light wood and mint green? It shouldn’t be expensive—probably around a few hundred shekels.”

“It sounds like a cute idea.”

“I can do it in Chani and Esty’s room, too. We’ll buy them a small desk, and we’ll paint it maroon to match their beds and dresser.”

“You have energy to do it all? Then be my guest. I’m sure they will love it,” Elisheva said. Again, something clenched in her heart when she saw her daughter’s eyes light up with joy. She and Eliyahu, with all their love and good will, had never been able to allow themselves to spend “a few hundred shekels” so easily, with hardly any thought. And Riki and all of them knew that now everything had baruch Hashem gotten easier—but it was not because of their father or mother, but rather because someone was giving it to them. Tzedakah or not, raffle win or not. Whatever it was, it was because someone from the outside was succeeding where she and Eliyahu had failed. For all their efforts, with Eliyahu’s tea, the work she had taken on, everything—it had still always been a struggle for them.

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 51

May 4, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 51 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Will you come up to us for a cup of coffee, Abba?” Elisheva joked as they walked slowly down Chazon Ish Street. The joke was not about him actually coming up, but more about the cup of coffee, because Elisheva did not recall the last time she had seen her father drinking coffee. However, she was rather doubtful about the visit as well.

“Perhaps,” her father replied, surprising her.

“How nice! This is a route that you can walk, and the doctor recommended that you walk as much as possible.”

“And back?”

“Taxi.” Without meaning to, Elisheva found herself talking tersely, like her father. She smiled, and so did he. He must have also noticed.

“We’ll see,” he said. And they continued walking slowly.

“Everyone will be thrilled to see you, Abba, and for my part, we don’t even have to order you a taxi for the way back; you can stay with us. I think the nursing home is really wondering why you are still there. It looked like Emmanuel was really angry at me, as if—” she smiled bitterly—“as if he wants to get you out of there, so he persuaded you to buy the raffle tickets.”

“Maybe.” He smiled.

“You think so?” Her smile morphed into a laugh. “Because I simply can’t imagine that there is anyone in the world who would want to get rid of my father from anywhere! Besides, it’s one thing to persuade you to buy the tickets, but I don’t think he was also able to arrange for you to actually win.” She continued walking in silence alongside her father, watching his cautious steps.

“I…” she began again, but then fell silent. “The truth is…” She just could not organize her thoughts into a coherent sentence.

Abba continued walking patiently. He appeared to be studying the busy traffic on the road to his left, but Elisheva knew that he was listening to her every word.

“It sounds strange,” she said finally. “But what would you say, Abba, if I would tell you that I have a feeling deep down that this apartment that we won…well, it’s not really true?”

He turned to look at her.

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 50

April 20, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 50 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Should we walk around a little, before we go back to our apartment?” Blumi asked late the next afternoon, after they had paid a Chol Hamoed visit to her brother Beri. She looked at Gideon, who had taken out his keys and was about to open the door to his black car. “I don’t think I really want a full meal right now after all they prepared for us.”

“Good idea.” He stuck his keys back into his jacket pocket. “Yerushalayim is just so beautiful…I could never get enough of walking around here. What about you, Batsheva?”

“Sure! I like walking with my parents,” the sixteen-year-old declared. “It doesn’t happen often.”

Blumi smiled at her. It was a somewhat transparent smile, the type that Batsheva had learned to recognize. It was a smile that meant her mother was wrapped up in her thoughts and didn’t really mean to smile at her, like a compliment that you give someone without even seeing them.

Most of Mummy’s smiles recently, since Saba Katz had been niftar, had been of this genre. And Suri could say what she wanted, but something was definitely bothering Mummy. Not all the time—sometimes she acted normal—but often she was like this…just a bit strange. This time, for example, it began when she had returned with Daddy from the Kosel one night.

Suri had said that perhaps it had to do with her grief over Saba’s passing, but something about it was odd. Mummy didn’t look like she was mourning; she seemed preoccupied, a bit tense. Maybe she was wallowing in memories… It was hard to define what it was exactly, but the situation was pretty clear. And Suri was not a good judge here; she didn’t live at home with Mummy, like Batsheva did, so of course she could not know the nuances of Mummy’s strange behavior these days.

“Oh, are you going in here?” Mummy asked Daddy, when he stopped in front of a small door in the wall of a building. The sign read: “Beit Knesset Chanichei Hayeshivot Yotzei Halab.”

Daddy studied the door. “I donate regularly to the Beit Knesset of the Halabim,” he said with interest. “But I never heard that they had a minyan here as well.”

“So are you going in?” Batsheva wrinkled her nose. She wanted to walk, not to stand on a street waiting endlessly.

“Yes, for a few minutes,” Gideon said. “I wonder what this is, and who the gabbaim are.”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 49

April 13, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 49 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

Blumi walked backward and left the Kosel Plaza. She leaned on the gate near the stairs leading up to the Jewish Quarter and waited for Gideon to finish davening Maariv. Although they had already been in Israel this winter – albeit not for good reasons – it was already their longstanding tradition to spend Pesach in the Holy Land. They rented the same apartment in the Old City each year.

Geveret? Can you give something?”

Blumi turned her head to the outstretched hand, and her eyes opened wide. Suppressing a gasp, she quickly placed a twenty-shekel bill into the woman’s plastic fingers, and hurried away.

Chag same’ach!” she heard the call behind her. “Tizki l’mitzvos!”

There you are, her thoughts chased her. You thought that by paying your brothers for the yad that had disappeared because of your famous negligence, you’d finally be able to calm down. Really? It’s just not happening. Even the prosthetic hand of a tzedakah collector brings you right back into that rut.

“Tell them what happened, once and for all,” Gideon had said to her, once, twice, three times. “They might even be able to help you find it.”

“No,” she’d replied, voice tremulous but her resolve firm. “I already tried to ask Shmulik, indirectly, about the bachur who disappeared with the yad, without telling him why I needed to know. And he didn’t help me much.”

“It’s because you didn’t tell him why you needed to know,” was her husband’s wise answer. “I’m sure that if you would have told him why you were asking, he would have understood the importance of it, and he would have made more of an effort to help you, instead of just giving you the number of someone who also just threw a few phone numbers at you.”

“Shmulik did want to help me!” she had protested, offended on her brother’s behalf.

“Of course—I didn’t say he didn’t. But when you asked him casually about bachurim who do this kind of thing, without specifying the reason for your question, then of course there’s no reason for him to make too much of an effort to find the bachurim who were there with your father. I think that it’s worth a try…”

“No,” she’d repeated, sounding defeated. “No, no, and no.”

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