The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 31

December 2, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 31 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. 

At 6:40 a.m., when Binyamin was awakened by the tumult around him, he still felt quite ill. But when he opened his eyes a second time an hour later, he felt somewhat better.

“Ima?” he croaked, half asleep—and then suddenly blushed into his pillow. Why was he calling his mother like a little boy?

He washed his hands into the basin that someone had placed near his bed, and got up. Yes, he was more steady on his feet than yesterday. No, actually not. He sat down again quickly.

The morning noises that he loved, and which he’d almost forgotten, wafted into the dining room. Dishes clinking in the kitchen, and cries of, “Where’s my brush?” and, “Who’s helping me find Nati’s other shoe?” and, “Ima tell him to stop; he’s touching my chocolate milk!” Rapid footsteps, a falling chair, a giggle, a whiny wail, and Devoiry’s voice asking Itzik to please tell her already what he wanted in his sandwich.

“Binyamin?” Ima walked into the room. “How are you? How was your night?”

Baruch Hashem, I think I feel a little better.”

“Really?” She looked at him doubtfully. “Because you don’t look better. I’m leaving to work in a few minutes. I made you some tea in a thermos. I want you to make sure to drink a lot, okay? Do you want another blanket?”

“No, if I get cold I’ll take one of the blankets from the other boys’ beds.”

“Fine, they’re folded up in Nati’s crib.”

“Thanks.” He tried to smile, but his facial muscles ached. He must really have the flu or something.

Little heads kept popping in from behind the accordion door.

“Bye, Binyamin!”

Refuah sheleimah!”

“Get well soon!”

“Don’t leave before we get back, okay?”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 30

November 25, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 30 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 leaped off the couch, disoriented. Something had hit him, he was sure.

He looked left and right, and then caught Meir’s eye. His eight-and-a-half-year-old brother was blushing, his hand on the handle of the closed door. “Sorry,” Meir muttered. “It was my ball. You’re not angry, are you?”

“Your ball?” Binyamin picked up the round object that was resting near his hand. “Wait, what time is it?”

“Five fifteen. The little kids are eating supper in the kitchen, and Ima closed the door to the dining room. She said not to bother you because she thinks you have fever.”

“Fever?” Yes, maybe that was it. His head was pounding, and his whole body ached.

Meir nodded. “But I like playing here when the room is empty. I go in and close the door. I didn’t mean for the ball to land on you.” He came over to take his ball, gazing at his older brother. “I forgot that you were sleeping here on the couch. You said after lunch that you were going to sit down for a few minutes because you were dizzy, and suddenly we saw that you were sleeping really deeply.”

“It’s five fifteen already…” Binyamin murmured. “Oh, no. I’m missing seder!” He got up to get his jacket, which had been tossed onto the end of the table.

The dining room door opened, and Elisheva peeked in. “Is everything alright, Binyamin?” she asked worriedly. “You’re very flushed. Sit down; I’m making you a tea.”

“No, Ima, thanks, but I have to get back to yeshivah. I didn’t mean to fall asleep; I just sat down for a minute…”

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The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 29

November 18, 2019

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 29 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. 

When Binyamin opened his eyes, his roommates had already left. He leaped out of bed groggily, washed his hands, and hurried to get ready.

Somehow, he got through the morning in a hazy fog of exhaustion, though he did notice that Shabsi was nowhere to be seen.

“What’s up with you, Potolsky?” his chavrusa, Zilberman, probed after a while. “You don’t look very with-it today.”

“Exhaustion,” Binyamin said, passing a hand over his forehead. This hadn’t happened the other times. He was an energetic person by nature, not someone who needed lots of sleep, and if he missed a night or half a night of sleep, he usually managed until he was able to catch up.

“Looks like more than just exhaustion to me…” Zilberman studied him closely. “Your face is very red.”

“Could be,” Binyamin said. Suddenly, he stood up. “I’m going to get a cup of water, and then I’ll be back.”

“What’s been going on at night that’s making you so tired?”

Had he blushed because his face had somehow predicted Zilberman’s question and the discomfort it would cause him?

“At night?” Binyamin echoed. “Nothing special.”

Zilberman looked at him skeptically. Binyamin knew he’d have to tell him at one point; otherwise, Zilberman was likely to imagine all kinds of dreadful things his chavrusa was up to at night.

“Nothing special? And last night?”

“Really, nothing much.” Binyamin had already taken a step backward. “I went to learn someplace.” Let someone say that wasn’t true!

He strode out of the beis medrash. Ugh, why did he have the feeling that this was happening to him now only because Yaakov had told him that he would yet see the damage these nights were causing him? Who had asked Yaakov to get involved?

He would try to skip lunch and catch up on some sleep. Over the last month, he must have accumulated enough of a sleep deficit to make his body rebel. Energetic or not, Binyamin realized, he hadn’t slept for four nights over the past three and a half weeks, so it was probably taking its toll now.

Did that make Yaakov right?

Wrong?

Maybe he just needed to set some more boundaries for himself. Just as he hadn’t been embarrassed to tell Shabsi that he could only do this job when the niftar was an elderly person, he could also tell him, with the same firmness, that he could only do it once in two weeks, at most once in a week and a half. Maybe that would help him in the future.

For now, though, he really needed to sleep.

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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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