The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 62

July 20, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 62 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. 

“After kollel? You went to the nursing home to find him?”

“Yes.” Eliyahu patted the head of the child closest to him. Meir was standing there, taking a drink before returning to cheder for the afternoon.

“But why?”

“I think he’s our key figure here. He is the one who sold the raffle tickets to your father, and Jalib blurted out his name to me on the phone when I tried to question him further about his delusional dream.”

“He said that because you asked him about the renovation work he did at the nursing home. I know that Emmanuel was very involved then; I saw him talking to the workers and the foremen.”

“Could be, but in any case, when I pressed Jalib to try and remember why he dreamed specifically about us, and how he was so sure that it was us, he mentioned the nursing home and Emmanuel.”

“Maybe,” Elisheva froze for a second, “maybe my father is doing it all?”

Eliyahu smiled. “If you know that your father has this kind of money hidden away in some secret bank accounts, then it really is possible that it is him. Now we only need to figure out why he is choosing such a convoluted way to give his daughter these gifts.”

“And himself.”

“What?”

“This renovation is actually for him.”

“That’s true.”

They were both quiet.

“Well, of course this is just a wild guess, because it really doesn’t make sense that it is my father.”

“And my strongest suspicion of Emmanuel is based on the fact that he disappeared the minute he caught sight of me.” Eliyahu was pacing up and down the large kitchen.

Elisheva took two sandwich bags out of the drawer, and put some cookies in one and a fistful of cereal in the other, for Meir and Yitzy’s afternoon snacks. “It really is strange,” she mused.

“I don’t intend to run after him all day and all night, Elisheva, okay? I tried, I called, I asked about him at the office, and I asked your father to tell him we’re looking for him, whenever he sees him next. But that’s it. For now, I’m leaving him alone…”

Elisheva nodded slowly. “You know, I asked my father a few weeks ago to try and find out what Emmanuel’s connection with U’shemartem is, but my father couldn’t really engage him in conversation.”

“Maybe you should talk to your friend, and see if she spoke to the director of U’shemartem again. Find out what happened with that.”

“I spoke to her briefly this morning. You saw how the day started here… I’ll call her again this evening.”

“Did you tell her about the Arab contractor’s proposal?”

Keep Reading…


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 61

July 13, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 61 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. 

In the old house, Elisheva could hear every time someone turned over in his sleep. In this huge apartment, the children had to shout, “Ima!” for her to wake up. But perhaps she had been especially tired today, and that’s why she didn’t hear the first few cries. Whoever it was, though, seemed quite hysterical.

Six steps separated her bed from the hallway, and in that time, thoughts of fire, a gas leak, a robbery, appendicitis flashed through her mind. Perhaps the phone had rang, and one of the children who had woken up had been asked to tell one of her parents to get to the nursing home pronto?

Her fingers trembled as she rushed into the living room, to find a bleary-eyed figure leaning against the wall. “Devorah!” she cried to her high-school-age daughter. “What happened?”

“The Arab!” the girl gasped, looking very unfocused. “He came to me in a dream, Ima, and he said that if we don’t do what he asked, it will be…” She paused. “It will be bad.”

“Sit,” Elisheva instructed. When was the last time she had dealt with Devorah’s nightmares? Something like nine or ten years ago? Devorah was already fifteen years old! She gently steered her daughter to the couch, without realizing that what’s-his-name had sat there just a few hours earlier.

“Not here!” Devorah shuddered. “He sat here in my dream also, and it was so scary! Ima…” She seemed to be waking up more. “Ima, what is he planning? What does he want from us?”

“To give us a free renovation.” Elisheva smiled placidly.

“But it’s so strange!”

“You’re absolutely right about that,” Elisheva replied. “Wait a minute, sweetie, let me just wash negel vasser. I’ll be right back.” She washed her hands, and then put two slices of cake onto a plate, poured a cup of juice, and returned to the living room. “Did you wash negel vasser?” she asked Devorah. Rustling from the direction of the bedrooms indicated that she’d better lower her voice quickly, or she’d find herself with a parade of children asking for cake and juice.

Keep Reading…


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 60

July 6, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 60 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. 

“Grew up happy?” Eliyahu did not understand the question. Only when evening fell did she have time to tell him about her worries. Even then, she only shared the basic idea, because she knew that she could not possibly put all of her detailed thoughts into words, and there was only an infinitesimal chance that he would fully understand her anyway.

“Happy? One minute. Shloimy!” he raised his voice.

Pajama-clad Shloimy came running out to the big porch.

“Shloimy, are you happy?”

“Huh?”

“Are you happy?” Eliyahu repeated.

Elisheva smiled from her vantage point on the side.

“Sure,” Shloimy said.

“Why?” Eliyahu probed.

“Because…I don’t know why. Abba, do you let me play with Nati for a little longer before we fall asleep?”

“Five more minutes. But one more second; tell me, please, were you happy in the old house also?”

“Sure.”

“But it was so crowded there.”

“So what? It was annoying sometimes, but what does that have to do with it?”

They didn’t get a chance to ask him what didn’t have to do with what, because he was gone with the wind.

“Abba, you called me?” Meir stepped out onto the porch a few moments later, rattling the box of apricot pits that he held between his palms. “You know, this morning I had 186 of them, but I became a partner with Motty Rozinsky from the other class, and now we have 346!”

“A recipe for trouble,” Elisheva muttered.

“Tell me, Meir, are you content?” his father asked him.

“Content?” He smiled, a confused type of smile. “Is content happy?”

“Yes.”

“Then yes. Tell me, Abba, if I play a game with these pits, and I lose some of them, does my loss have to get split between me and Rozinsky?”

“Depends what you made up with him beforehand,” Eliyahu replied, glancing at Elisheva.

“Call Esty,” she said with a smile. “If you’re doing a sample survey here, then you need to have both genders represented.”

Esty arrived. “Usually, yes,” she answered the question solemnly.

“Usually?”

“Yes.”

“And today, for example?”

Keep Reading…


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 59

June 29, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 59 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. 

Yisrael followed two-and-a-half-year-old Nati with his eyes as the child ran. Nati laughed in the direction of his grandfather and then went back to chasing a butterfly.

“The sun here on the roof is divine,” Elisheva said, closing her eyes for a moment. “But on my porch, it’s even better.”

Her father looked at her tenderly and smiled.

“It was nice the other day, wasn’t it?”

“Very nice,” he agreed. “Did you get pictures?”

“The shul promised to send us some as soon as they get them. I’m most interested in seeing a photo of the dedication, of course.” Her father’s eyes were fixed on a far-off point in the sky, and she pictured the words floating on the clouds there, in the same font and size that they appeared on the wooden sefer Torah case, filling the entire frame: In eternal commemoration of the family members of Reb Yisrael Bentzion, who were killed during the Holocaust, and whose names, dates of death, and place of burial are not known to anyone.

“We all enjoyed, and now the children will play “hachnassas sefer Torah” for the next two months. Right, Yitzy?”

“Right,” her son answered eagerly. “Ima, will you let us use the orange blanket for the chuppah tomorrow?” The orange blanket was a velvety, shiny blanket that the children especially liked. It had been an integral part of their game the day before, until Elisheva noticed how they stuck the broom and mop sticks into it to use as poles for the “chuppah,” and she’d told them they couldn’t use it anymore.

“We’ll see,” she said.

Keep Reading…


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 58

June 22, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 58 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? Is this U’shemartem? This is Mrs. Hartstein from London calling again. May I speak to Rabbi Weil? He’s busy again? Honestly, young lady, I’m beginning to think you are being evasive.”

Elisheva, who was holding Nati in her right hand, and keeping an eye on Bentzy as he looked for his father among the people dancing on the street, did not understand how Blumi could possibly conduct a conversation with the thundering drums of the band in the background.

Indeed, she really did not seem to be able to.

“I’ll call again tomorrow. And please let him know that I expect him not to be busy, and to be able to answer my phone call. Perhaps my husband will call instead of me. Have a good day.” She stuck the phone into her designer pocketbook and turned to Elisheva. “If my husband calls, you can be sure that Weil will answer him. Do you see how they’re being evasive when I call?”

“Yes,” Elisheva said. “They are being a bit evasive, for sure.”

“A bit? This is not a bit. I’m not used to having to call four times and still not being answered. I called them four times—can you believe it? The first time was when I was in your house last week. The second time was on Friday, the third was on Sunday, and now is the fourth time. Something here is very strange.”

“Yes,” Elisheva agreed. “It is a bit strange.”

Where was Devorah? Perhaps she could see if Meir and Itzik were next to Eliyahu. From where she was standing, she could not see into the circles of dancers, and she couldn’t ask her new friend to move along a bit, just like she couldn’t ask her to stop investigating this matter of the U’shemartem raffle.

Interestingly enough, as soon as Blumi began digging into the issue, Elisheva realized how much she did not want to discover that these events had been orchestrated by people. Talking about how it was interesting and strange and perhaps someone had done it all on purpose—yes. But to discover that these musings were actually anchored in reality? To realize that someone had decided to take them on as his life project and support them in any way possible, some of them more delusional than others?

No.

Keep Reading…


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 57

June 15, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 57 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. 

Gustav’s counselor looked at the trembling boy standing in front of him. “I am very surprised at you…” he said quietly. “To disappear like that for a whole day? Do you have any idea how much we searched for you yesterday?”

“I had to,” Gustav whispered. “I knew you wouldn’t let me go.”

“And we do let you leave without permission?” the counselor asked logically.

Gustav was quiet. His eyes glistened, and the counselor didn’t know if he was about to let loose. That’s what it looked like, even though until then Gustav had always been a refined, obedient boy.

But Gustav remained silent; only his eyelids trembled a bit.

“Where did you go?”

“I rode…” Gustav said.

“You rode? On a bus?”

A nod.

“Where to?”

“Bnei Brak.”

“Where did you have money from?”

“From Friday’s candy money.”

“So you needed to save up for three weeks.”

“No, I asked four boys for their money.”

The counselor’s eyes narrowed. “You just asked them? And they just agreed to give it to you?”

“I promised to do all kinds of things for them in exchange.”

“Like what?”

“Washing dishes for them, cleaning their rooms, taking notes for them in class…”

“That is not alright at all, but let’s leave that for a moment. What did you go for? What were you looking for in Bnei Brak?”

The sheen in the boy’s eyes dimmed somewhat, and Gustav leaned on the wall. Suddenly he looked a bit pale, almost white.

“Do you feel okay?” the counselor asked, even as he suspected it was a charade.

“No.” The boy was shaking violently now. “I’m terribly cold.”

Keep Reading…


The Cuckoo Clock – Chapter 56

June 8, 2020

Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 56 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. 

 “Where is Ima?” Miri closed the door of her parents’ house behind her, and smiled as her younger brothers fell upon their nephew. “You don’t even look at me, so I want Ima.”

“Ima’s on the phone with her millionaire,” Chani said, calmly rescuing the baby from her younger brothers’ hands.

“With who?”

“She has a new friend from England,” Esti explained. “She calls here like twice a day. Don’t ask. They realized that they both went to school in Zichron Meir as girls, but that this Blumi was a grade older than Ima. But they still share childhood memories of Bnei Brak, of school and all kinds of ancient contests they had back then, and that type of thing. As if Ima is bored and needs a new way to fill her time.”

“Twice a day?” The description amused Miri.

“About. Okay, maybe there are days when it’s only once. But trust me, they speak often enough!”

“What does she call Ima about? She’s the one from the silver yad, right?”

“Yes. They are sponsoring the seudah for the hachnassas sefer Torah, and pekelach for the kids. She calls Ima to ask her about every little thing—first course, dessert, what to put in the pekelach, what kind of torches they will distribute to the kids, and what kind of van they should rent for the parade.”

“Van?” Miri opened the fridge, looking for something cold to drink.

“Yes, a van with lights! And a crown!” Yitzy bounced around her, and Bentzy and Shloimy started dancing around the table.

“Shmully also wants to dance!” Uncle Yitzy suggested.

“He will watch you from here,” Miri said, smiling at her son who was still being firmly held by his responsible aunt. “Nu, sing some hachnassas sefer Torah songs so he should get familiar with them already!” Under the cover of the singing-cum-shrieking, as the little ones began dancing boisterously in front of Shmully, she leaned over to Chani and asked, “Is this millionaire lady connected somehow to the millionaire man from Australia? Or this apartment? Or both?”

Keep Reading…


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?”

Keep Reading…


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.

Keep Reading…


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.”

Keep Reading…