The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 28

November 11, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 28 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. 

The man who left the airport of the M.R. Stefanik Airport in Bratislava shifted his small valise to his right hand. Even its relatively little weight was heavy for him.  Either his age was catching up to him, or this trip was just not doing him very much good.

But he was the one responsible for the fact that he had come here, so he had no one else to blame.

“Mr. Joe Ludmir?” A taxi driver leaning on his car stood up when he approached. “That’s you, right?”

“Right.” The man nodded at him. “I see that you recognized me, despite the years that have passed.”

“Sure,” the driver, a local, replied. “You’ve hardly changed.”

Sure, only fifteen years had been added to his age since his last visit here, but giving compliments to a tourist who hires you as a driver for his entire trip is surely very profitable. Joe’s lips curved into a half smile, and he let the driver put his valise into the trunk. “Is that all?” the driver asked in surprise. “Like then?”

“You remember well; I don’t like traveling with too many things.” He ran his fingers through his gray-white hair and straightened the little yarmulke. “If I lack for something, I’m sure you’ll be very happy to buy it for me.”

The streets hadn’t changed much in the last fifteen years, and Joe couldn’t decide if he remembered them so well from his wandering around during that visit, or from the many photos he had taken then to capture every single corner of the city of his birth. He leaned back and looked out the window in silence. Every so often, between the buildings, he could see the glistening waterline of the Danube, with the Bratislava Castle rising up behind it.

“Did you visit it last time?” the driver asked when he saw his guest gazing at the castle’s famous turrets.

Joe nodded. He didn’t know what it was, but something about this city enveloped him in a cloak of depression.

“We’re going to Mamaison, right?” the driver confirmed. “You reserved a room in that hotel, yes?”

“Yes, I have a confirmed reservation,” the tourist answered heavily.

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 27

October 28, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 27 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. 

“That’s right,” the nurse agreed with Ulush. “I wanted to check if you knew what you were talking about, or if you were just disoriented. The child that you are looking for is here, near the window.”

Ulush’s eyes turned to the bed the nurse was pointing to. She gazed at Gustav’s white face and his half-closed eyes. “Yes,” she said, a lump in her throat. “Yes, that’s him.”

“What’s his name?” the nurse asked.

“Gustav,” Ulush said. She bent over the child. “Gustav? Gustav, it’s Ulush. Do you hear me?” The boy’s eyelids flickered a bit, but didn’t rise. She studied the tiny part of his pupils that she could see. It was hard to figure out what he was looking at, but it certainly wasn’t her.

“Gustav?” she whispered a third time.

He coughed in response.

She turned to the nurse who was standing behind her. “Can he speak?”

“Until now he hasn’t said a word.”

“And…what is his condition?”

The nurse shrugged. “Not good,” she said, and lowered her voice. “If he comes out of this, it will be a big miracle.”

Ulush turned back to the bed, fearfully looking at Gustav’s white face. “Do you know how worried I was about you, Gustav?” she whispered. “Where did you go? Why didn’t you come home that day? Janek went to look for you, and other people did, too… Edo was so sad that you disappeared on him. Do you know how much he loves you?” She blinked.

“Then Edo also left. Do you know where he is? He’s sailing on a ship now to Eretz Yisrael. You will also get well and go to Eretz Yisrael, right? Maybe you will come with us, with me and Janek. And there we will meet Edo and lots of other good Jews. You want to go, don’t you?”

The boy coughed again, deeper this time than before.

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 26

October 23, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 26 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. 

 

Bratislava 5708/1948 

“Mazel tov, Ulush!” Tessa Lieber kissed her on both cheeks. “Show her to me! Oh, she’s so adorable and chubby!”

“Yes…” Ulush Cohen smiled and gazed at her two-day-old daughter who was sleeping in the cradle next to her bed.

“When are you coming back?”

“Four more days, I think, if everything is alright.”

“Everything is alright, yes?” Tessa studied her face closely.

“I hope so.”

“Because you look like something is not.”

Ulush burst into tears again, which she’d been doing a lot lately. “I didn’t manage to see Edo before he left.”

“Left?”

“Yes, the orphanage we’re connected to suddenly received certificates, and they decided that because he is in danger, he would join the others going. He left yesterday, and as much as Janek tried to arrange for him to visit here first, it didn’t work out.”

“Don’t worry, in another few months you’ll also get to Eretz Yisrael, b’ezras Hashem, and you’ll meet him there.”

“First of all, I’m not so sure we’ll be able to leave. It’s becoming more complicated from week to week. And besides, what will be with him until then?”

“There’s Someone Who is worrying about him more than you, Ulush, dear.” Tessa pulled over a chair and sat down, remembering belatedly to lower her voice. Besides Ulush, there were six other women lying in beds in the room.

Ulush nodded and wiped her tears with her sleeve.

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 25

October 7, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 25 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. 

“Binyamin?” Shabsi stuck his head into the room just as Binyamin’s balled-up socks landed in the laundry bag.

“What?” Binyamin yawned in response as he fluffed up his pillow.

“Oh, you’re on the way to bed already? Okay, I’ll find someone else. I came to you because you once asked me to offer you these types of jobs, remember?”

“Sure!” Binyamin jumped up. “They called you now?”

Shabsi nodded seriously. “You’re not supposed to be so excited,” he chastised Binyamin, whose hands were now deep in the laundry bag. “I know, after tonight you’ll be able to buy two good shirts, and start saving for a new hat, and maybe you’ll even have enough money left over for a bottle of Coke, but it would be nice to remember where we are going…” He concluded the sentence with a well-known singsong intonation.

“We have to remember that all our lives,” Binyamin agreed, ignoring the tingling at the back of his neck. It was a quarter to twelve at night. True, he was the one who had asked Shabsi if he could join him for these jobs. But that didn’t mean that the first time would be easy. “Oh, well, looks like all the socks in this bag are not really wearable. I’ll just take clean ones from my drawer.”

They walked together down the street, the streetlights casting macabre shadows of their figures every which way. But Binyamin just stared straight ahead. “What do I have to know?” he asked. His muscles were tense, and his shoulders felt pinched.

“Nothing special. With Tehillim and Mishnayos it’s one rate, and without them it’s another rate. But I’ll tell you that I always say Tehillim or learn. When it’s two of us, we can take shifts, with one of us going out to doze and the other staying in the room.”

“Where is it?” Binyamin remembered to ask.

“Rashi Street. The levayah is supposed to be tomorrow morning.”

“And they leave him in the house like that, for all these hours?”

“What does ‘like that’ mean? Can you think of something better for him now than having two yeshivah bachurim saying Tehillim at his side all night?”

“Um…I don’t know. Whatever.”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 24

September 16, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 24 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. 

Perhaps it is irritating to see a young woman who is still on cloud nine from her wedding, and forgets that somewhere there, down on earth, other people still exist. She talks only about herself, thinks only about herself, and is sure that aside for her and her new spouse, the world has stopped in its tracks. But it is far less pleasant to see that same woman shedding copious tears, blowing her nose over and over, and unable to utter a single word.

And to know that you’re to blame for it all.

With remarkable timing, Shmully woke up just then with a piercing wail, and Miri, who was so embarrassed she didn’t know where to put herself, forgot for a moment what to do with him. Pacifier? Bottle? Pick him up? She began to rock the carriage mechanically, peeking at Tzippy from the corner of her eye. Tzippy slid the album into a shiny bag that matched the leather cover. Her hands were shaking so violently that she could not grasp the zipper to close it.

What should Miri say now? “Tzippy, I want to invite you for Shabbos. Come, it will be nice; we’ll remember that we really are sisters who get along”? Tzippy would just glare at her with hard eyes. And besides, they were going to Yaakov’s parents this Shabbos. She couldn’t suddenly inform her mother-in-law that they were not coming.

Maybe, “Tzippy, I’m sorry…I didn’t mean to make you cry”? So what did you mean to do? Insult, scream, and say whatever you want to her, and then expect her to just keep on smiling?

Miri continued to rock the carriage vigorously, and soon the anger inside her—or perhaps it was the envy again—mounted and overpowered the resonant voice of her guilty conscience. Why should she have to pay rich Tzippy the measly one and a half shekels for a photo, when she lived in a hole in Pardes Katz, wracking her brains to figure out how to finish the month, while Tzippy—who had just been handed an above-standard wedding and all of sheva brachos on a silver platter—owned an amazing apartment in central Bnei Brak and was also receiving a monthly stipend, without her doing anything but sitting with her hands folded?! And all this simply because she happened to have been named Tziporah Genendel?!

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 23

September 16, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 23 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. 

 

The rain continued to fall outside, but that wasn’t why Gustav was trembling. He stood at the top of the stairs and stared at the knife peeling a long strip off the apple.

“I see that you’re dressed well.” The knife stopped. “The Jews are taking care of you, huh?”

Gustav nodded wordlessly as he scanned the last two stairs that remained and evaluated if he could break into a run, dash past Theodore, and continue outside.

“What’s his name? Walkin, huh? Where did he hide you when I came with the policeman?”

“You didn’t come there with a policeman,” Gustav whispered. “You didn’t come there at all.”

“I don’t know where they hid you that morning, but I came to the Jewish orphanage the morning after they abducted you. They didn’t tell you?”

“I’m not in a Jewish orphanage.” Gustav cautiously ascended one step.

“So where are you?”

“In a house.”

“With Edo?”

“Yes.”

“Emil kidnapped you, didn’t he? Is he a Jew?”

Gustav looked at the opening to the black void outside and remained silent.

Theodore assiduously chewed the piece of apple, swallowed it, and sliced off another piece. He offered it to Gustav. “Want?”

“No.”

“So what do you want?”

“To go.” The boy’s voice was low, but Theodore heard it.

“To go…” he repeated slowly. “You left here once already, right? I guess I only imagined that I once saved your life. But forget that; let’s not talk about it now. You left here already. So why did you come back?”

“I wanted to take something with me.”

“What?”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 22

September 9, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 22 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. 

 

“Good morning, Saba.” Miri pushed the carriage into the small room and entered. The carpet swallowed her footsteps, but Saba raised his head at the sound of her voice and smiled.

“Oh, Miri, hi, good morning!” Tzippy chirped. “You haven’t seen my album yet. We just got it last night, and we took it over to show Ima. So, what do you say about the layout design?”

“Design?” Miri took a step closer, parking the carriage in the corner. Ohhh, it was a digitally enhanced album, not an album with clear pockets that you slide the pictures in one by one, like hers. The tome was elegantly bound, made of glossy, gold-edged pages, and each photo was cleverly designed with various techniques.

“Here, look, there you are.” Tzippy hastily turned back a few pages. “Here are all the family photos from the beginning. And look how cute Shmully came out. It’s a good thing you brought him for the pictures!”

“Right.” Miri couldn’t help but smile as she looked at her son’s large eyes sparkling at her from the pages of the album.

“What do you say, Saba? The photographer did a great job, didn’t he? Look, he took the curtain that was in the hall and turned it into a background on all these pages. Then, for the pictures at the seudah, he played the same game with the centerpieces. See how it looks like they’re actually behind the photos? And he also used this feature to make a shadow effect.”

Saba nodded solemnly.

“You think he’s really interested?” Miri muttered as she bent over from behind them to look at the album.

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