The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 3

April 22, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 3 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. 

 

“You’re asking why, Abba?” He ate while she spoke and folded his napkin over and over. “We’re asking the same thing… I know that there are people for whom it is accepted that the parents of the couple pay for the first bris, but we’d never even thought about that. Then, a month before Miri had the baby, I went to a bris that the mechutanim made. Yaakov’s younger sister had a baby and they invited us.” Elisheva’s eyes stared almost blankly at the fish on her father’s plate.

“The mechuteiniste made me feel very good. She’s a very warm woman; I’m happy for Miri that she is her mother-in-law. As we were talking, she casually mentioned that they had ordered the hall and chosen the menu and made all the arrangements with the head waiter. And then she said, ‘Of course, if my Sarah would have wanted to decide about these things, I would have left it to her. But she said that if we’re paying, then we get the right to choose.’” Elisheva smiled. “The mechuteiniste quickly added that the other side had paid half, but because they live far away, she was left to arrange it all. And I’ve been worrying about it ever since.”

She filled Abba’s cup with seltzer. “Almost all of Miri’s salary goes to paying their mortgage on that tiny apartment. I really don’t think they can pay for a bris right now. But we can’t either! Part of my salary goes to the mortgage also, and to pay up debts from her wedding, not to mention what I have to give for Tzippy now… And even though people say that you can make a bris on a much smaller scale, something at home, it will still cost something. Where am I getting that money from? Another loan? What’s this expense going to come in place of? Devoiry’s root canal that we’ve waited nearly half a year to take care of? And anyway, where exactly am I supposed to make a bris in my house?”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 2

April 15, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 2 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 5704/1944

 

The woman who had materialized shook her head from side to side. “I’m not your mother, child,” she said hoarsely. Gustav gaped, fascinated, at the pathways that the tears forged on her face. “I’m…” she murmured, and lowered her eyes to the large bundle in her arms.

“You have the wrong address, ma’am,” Theodore said. “And I suggest that you get away from here before I summon our guards.”

“No,” the woman choked out. “No. They told me that here, at the orphanage of Lucius Jan, they will agree to take my child. Who can I speak to?” She pulled a small fabric sachet out of somewhere.

“With me,” Theodore said. “Only with me. And you have the wrong address. This place cannot take in another Jewish child. The problems we have with Gustav are far more than we can manage. Get lost.”

The woman ignored him and held the little sachet between her fingers. “There is payment here for you, please…” Gustav gaped wide-eyed as the woman continued to cry. “Take him, sir, and take care of him. At least he should survive…”

Theodore looked at the proffered sachet but didn’t take it.

Gustav tugged at the man’s arm.

“What?” Theodore asked.

“Theodore, Theodore, please…” he whispered. “Please! I promise to behave and not to make any more problems. Please, just take this boy. I’m ready to help you take care of him. His mother is such a poor, miserable lady. And she’s crying so much.”

“It’s not your mother.” Theodore raised Gustav’s chin with his finger. “It’s a different woman, and we cannot accept her child. He’s too young. Look.” He pointed to the large bundle. “How old is he?” he snapped.

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 1

April 8, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 1 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. 

 

“I’m going to warm up the bottles. Should I make you a cup of tea, Elisheva?”

Elisheva stopped rocking the playpen for a moment. “Yes, Gitty, thanks.”

“In a minute she’ll fall asleep, and then we’ll be able to sit down for a few minutes together,” Gitty, her coworker, said. “How much sugar in your tea?”

“One teaspoon.” Elisheva flashed her friend a grateful smile, which did not convey the fact that she didn’t have too much patience today to sit and chat about this and that.

Gitty had been right. After another minute of Elisheva rocking the playpen, she began to hear deep breathing sounds coming from it, indicating that Ruchie, the fifth baby under her care, had fallen asleep.

In the second row, where Gitty’s charges lay, it had been quiet for more than five minutes already. Only she, Elisheva, was still running around, putting in a pacifier here, picking up a baby for a hug there, rocking lightly, or tucking in a blanket. It wasn’t so pleasant, taking into account that Gitty was at least seventeen years younger than her and had only one little boy of her own, while she, the mother of thirteen children, was having trouble coping with the multitude of tasks that were part and parcel of taking care of several little ones at the same time.

“It’s all a matter of getting used to it,” Mrs. Gottlieb, the day-care center director, had told her when she’d hired her. “You have the experience, baruch Hashem, but dealing with several little babies at once is something that even experienced mothers find difficult. Ask anyone who has triplets…and I’m talking about a group of five babies here!”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Prologue

April 1, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents 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. 

Prologue

 

Bratislava, 5704/1944

 

With a hungry look in his eyes, he looked out to the distance, gripping the wrought iron bars. His cheek already had a reddened imprint of a leaf, left there by the metal carvings, but he didn’t feel anything. His eyes gazed into the night in an effort to see something.

But, like every night, nothing happened.

He shook the gate and wept quietly, tearlessly and soundlessly. The gate responded with thin wails of its own. Perhaps that was why he didn’t hear the footsteps approaching from behind him.

“Gustav, what is going to be with you?”

The child shrugged but didn’t respond.

“Again you’re out here, shaking in your pajamas? Are you waiting for the soldiers to come and kill you, or do you prefer to die from pneumonia?” The man behind him laughed at his usual joke. “Maybe I need to try and leave you outside one night,” he said. “Come.” And he stuck his big hand into the boy’s small hand.

“No!” the boy objected. As usual.

“Don’t tell me no. Come!” Theodore gripped Gustav’s shoulders forcefully, and the boy writhed away, flailing his arms and legs every which way. He closed his eyes, waiting for the blow. But remarkably, it did not come.

Theodore left him alone.

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Night Flower – Chapter 63

March 11, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 63 of a new online serial novel, Night Flower, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Today we went swimming in camp, and the house is all decorated! Did you see the massive sign hanging on the door outside?” Naomi swung her legs, looking around wide-eyed. “All these good things, happening at the same time! Oh, I can’t wait to have a piece of that cake!”

“You’re so funny,” Dovi said. He waved a rattle in front of Yisrael Meir’s face. “The main thing is not that the house is all decorated, or that so many people brought over fancy cakes. The main thing is that Abba is coming home!”

“You’re funny yourself. He’s not even coming home.” Naomi continued to look hungrily at the cake, adorned with blue and pink flowers, courtesy of Yehudis Pesserman’s baking. “He’s coming on a plane, and he’s going straight to prison, without even coming home. So what’s it worth anyway?”

“Of course it’s worth it; you don’t even understand!” Dovi said scornfully. “Didn’t you hear Ima say that he will be able to come home sometimes for Shabbos? And besides, it doesn’t matter—we’re going to see him today!”

“I think you two should stop arguing like this. And besides,” Chaiky abandoned the refrigerator, where she was trying to organize all the boxes and containers of food so they could fit inside, and lifted her scowling daughter’s chin, “it’s only for three months that he’ll be in prison here. Three months is not a long time.”

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Night Flower – Chapter 62

March 4, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 62 of a new online serial novel, Night Flower, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

“Chaiky? Anna called me. Noa.” Mira’s voice sounded a bit strange, and Chaiky, who could not see her face through the phone, couldn’t quite place what she was hearing. Was it excitement? A complaint? Sometimes the two of those could sound quite similar.

“She called? What for?”

“To tell me that she’s living in Basel, Switzerland. She found a good job and is renting an apartment. She just wanted me to tell you again that she is very sorry and hopes everything works out.”

“Nice that she hopes that. I also hope the same thing.”

Mira smiled. “I almost said something similar myself, but in the end I just kept quiet. She said that she has neighbors across the hall from her who are frum, and they have told her she’s invited to them for all Shabbos meals. There’s a beautiful kehillah of ba’alei chessed in Basel; I’ve heard about it.”

“Maybe we should warn them,” Chaiky muttered.

“I’m not sure about that,” Mira replied quietly.

“Why? Would you be ready to invite her to be your regular Shabbos guest at this point?”

“Me?” Mira smiled and sighed at the same time. “I’ll have to deal with my past issues with her somehow; we’ll find a way b’ezras Hashem. But Noa sounds very sincere. She told me that she totally cut off ties with her grandfather, and paid a heavy price for it, and that she wants to start a new life now.”

***

They emerged from the assistant principal’s office just as the bell rang. Doors opened, and girls began to stream out. Chaiky glanced at Rachel, wearing a light blue shirt and navy skirt, even though she was not yet officially accepted as a student, and thought about how she looked just like one of the girls.

They made their way to the entrance of the building in silence, clearly aware of the girls observing them with curiosity. Some girls nodded politely at them.

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Night Flower – Chapter 61

February 25, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 61 of a new online serial novel, Night Flower, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week.  Click here for previous chapters.

Copyright © Israel Bookshop Publications. 

For the fifth time, Pavel passed by the opening between the glass partitions and rubbed his chin. Josef Podernik had been sitting at his desk for more than half an hour already, in the same position. He was providing no entertainment or anything of interest for Pavel.

Josef was indeed sitting, wrapped in his thoughts, and he knew that something here was not right. Every mystery has two ends that eventually tie in to one another, while here, there were two seemingly separate issues. Yesterday once again, the hearing regarding Struk had ended with nothing. The Jew was being presented as having been tricked, while on the other hand, there were remarkable pieces of evidence linking him to the Mafia—pieces of evidence which he did not deny. Rather, he disputed their significance.
The problem was that it was impossible to prove that he wasn’t right, because not one piece of evidence that they had was one hundred percent airtight. It had taken a long time for him to figure out the real objectives of the regular informer, Ilya Antonovich. He was ostensibly a Mafia personality, but being that his brother, a journalist, had been struck down by the Mafia, he sought revenge and had became an informer on them. He’d been summoned to the CKP twice for a conversation; they’d spoken openly, and Podernik had questioned him, promising him maximum immunity. The man refused to testify at the trial, of course, but here, he’d said everything.
Josef suddenly shook himself out of his thoughts and then languidly pulled over the pages on which he’d taken notes during their conversation. Why was all the evidence that Ilya had found against the Mafia relating to the Jew Struk? Was it only because he hated Jews? Why wasn’t he able to do a complete job, once he was doing the job already? And where was the correspondence between Struk and Rosenberg that he had talked about so much? Of course, he had logically explained that this was all very risky business for him, and even what he had extracted had been at great effort. That was all true and clear and understandable.
And yet, why was it that Antonovich had failed to produce the juiciest pieces of evidence that Josef so badly needed?

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