Kalonymous, Hershel and Dovid’l are in Fisch’s and Berl’s care.
* * *
Kalonymous, standing in the middle of “his” field a few days later, thought about the two men, Fisch and Berl, who had saved their lives, and he wanted to put something there that reminded him of them.
He remembered they found him and his brothers that day they’d eaten those poison mushrooms. But it had been mushrooms that had saved them, in a way, so he thought to plant mushrooms.
When he asked Zayit about it, the older man nodded thoughtfully. “Well, Kalonymous, mushrooms are a good idea, but they don’t grow well out here in the desert. They like dark, wet places. Is there a special reason why you want to plant them first?”
Kalonymous began shyly to tell Zayit about Fisch and Berl. He hadn’t told anyone about them, not even Breindl, because he couldn’t bear to think about the last time he’d seen them. It seemed safe, though, at this moment, to speak candidly to Zayit.
Zayit listened thoughtfully. “I can see why you thought of mushrooms, because that is how you met them, and of course the mushrooms you would grow would not be poisonous!” said Zayit. “Maybe there is something else they loved that you can plant. Remember, you don’t need to do anything right away. You can dream for as long as you like.”
Kalonymous smiled. “If I dreamed for as long as I wanted to, I would never get anything done!” he said.
“That’s also true,” Zayit agreed. “So, let’s think about Fisch and Berl. What did they like best?”
Kalonymous recalled the day they’d heard an awful noise outside.
When they ran outside to see what was causing the racket, it turned out to be Fisch trying to drag a cow down the dirt path leading towards the house.
“What are you doing?” cried Berl. “What is that creature?”
Fisch rolled his eyes. “It’s an elephant. What did you think it was?”
Berl stood tall and foreboding, his hands on his hips. “Fisch, we do not need a cow. We have enough mouths to feed. Take it back to where you got it.”
“No,” said Fisch.
“What do you mean ‘no’? Am I not your older brother by seventy-four minutes?”
“I worked four hours digging potatoes for this cow. I’m not giving it back.”
“Fisch, it’s skin and bones,” said Berl. “It’s not worth even an hour of potato digging.”
“I don’t care. It’s mine. I earned it and I want it.”
“Do you see any grass for it to eat around here? What do you plan to feed it?”
Fisch looked slyly at his brother. “I have a plan.”
“Oh, no you don’t,” he warned, reading Fisch’s mind as usual. “Don’t even think of giving it the hay from the barn down the road.”
“Nobody’s ever there! They’ll never notice!” said Fisch.
“They won’t notice until they notice, and then they’ll know it’s us.”
“It’s only temporary until I figure something out.”
While they were bickering, Hershel walked up to the animal and began to pet it. Its hide was warm and prickly. He liked how it felt, so he stood with his back against the animal and pressed himself into it. The animal pressed back, then turned around to lick Hershel’s ear.
“Oh, come on,” said Fischel. “It’s precious. Let’s keep it for the boys.”
Knowing he had directly touched Berl’s soft spot, he said nothing as he tied the other end of the rope dangling from the animal’s neck loosely to a tree. “There,” said Fischel. “You’ll never know it’s here. Right, boys? We’ll take good care of it.”
Fisch named the cow Brunhilda; Berl called it the Groisse Beheima. The boys just called it Cow. Cow managed quite nicely on her own, roaming from farm to farm, and happily enjoying the leftover peels Fisch served to her. Before long she had filled out nicely.
“And the best of all!” said Fisch happily, coming in from outside one day with a grey pail banging against his leg. “Fresh milk!” He heaved the pail up and placed it on the table, then handed each of the boys a little tin cup. “Drink up!”
Berl stared at him. “The cow gave milk?” he asked. “I don’t see how this particular
Fisch answered, “I know, it seems strange. But just don’t worry about it.” The look in his eyes warned Berl not to ask too many questions right now.
Berl shook his head. “I know I sometimes underestimate you…”
“Often,” Fisch interjected. “You often underestimate me.”
“But sometimes you have good ideas,” finished Berl, then said no more on the subject.
That didn’t stop Fisch from gloating. “Oh, Kalonymous,” he said. “Have you heard? I sometimes have good ideas!” Kalonymous smiled, but Hershel and Dovid’l were doubled over in laughter.
Kalonymous finished telling Zayit the story, then looked up at the older man with a question in his eyes.
“What is it, Kalonymous?” asked Zayit. “It was a very funny story.”
“Then why does the last time I was happy feel like it was such a long time ago?”
To be continued . . .