Kalonymous, trying to prevent a serious fire that would result from Yehuda’s carelessness, gets into a fight with Motti and Breindl’s son.
* * *
Kalonymous and Dovid’l had been sent to the Zayits, pending Kalonymous’s imminent exile to Yerushalayim along with Zayit on the latter’s next trip. Dovid’l would be sent back to the Rothsteins, but they felt it would be best for Kalonymous to have Dovid’l with him until he left.
Breindl had come rushing over with the boys in tow, garbling a story about a fight and a fire in the courtyard. Orna Zayit knew better than to try to wrest details from an uncharacteristically flustered Breindl. There would be time for that. The job at hand was to minister to the burn on Kalonymous’s leg and provide solace and comfort.
After Motti and Hershel had returned from the teaching rounds, Breindl pulled her husband outside and walked him a distance from the house before she started speaking. She could tell Yehuda was monitoring their every move, and as far away as they were from him, she was still unsure whether or not he could overhear their conversation, so she whispered just in case. She described the horrific scene she had come upon, and Yehuda’s terse explanations. Kalonymous was, as usual, monosyllabic, his face contorted both with pain and the effort to conceal it.
Later on that evening, Motti and Breindl came to pick up Dovid’l, who was curled up fast asleep on a large cushion, and to discuss the situation with their older and wiser neighbors. Both listened carefully as Breindl described the situation, relying on the Zayits’ reassurance that Kalonymous was out of earshot.
“Has anything like this happened between Yehuda and Kalonymous before? Have there been any flare-ups?” asked Zayit.
The Rothsteins shook their heads in unison, both with a hint of doubt in their reply. Had there been problems between them that they were simply unaware of? Suddenly they weren’t sure. “Either way,” said Breindl, “something must be done.” They all knew Yehuda to be a hothead, but none of the four really knew what sort of personality Kalonymous had hidden under his prickly exterior.
Of them all, Zayit knew the most. He had shared with Motti some of the conversations he’d had with the boy, saying just enough to alert him but not enough that he would betray the boy’s trust. Trust, at times, was more important than anything else, and he wanted to preserve that. He knew that as much as he would come to trust Motti and Breindl, his fate always rested in their hands, and what Motti had in mind was proof of that.
“I think we should send him to my brother until things calm down somewhat,” said Motti. “We can’t send away Yehuda.”
Zayit bit his tongue, the question of “why not?” burning on his tongue. Yehuda was a hothead — they all knew it, and even if the Rothsteins didn’t want to admit it, it was more than likely that Yehuda had started the fight and that Kalonymous, who had learned to defend himself because his life and that of his brothers depended on it, fought back. A short foray to Yerushalayim to stay with his grandparents, his uncle and his doting Doda Esther wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world for him, whereas it could be catastrophic for Kalonymous.
“My sister-in-law is still harboring disappointment that she didn’t get to take in the children, even though she knew that Breindl and I were the right choice to take them in,” Motti was saying. “This might be a good opportunity to bring her into the picture without putting too much on her at once.”
Zayit nodded a few times, stroked his beard, and tapped the table with his fingertips in a light tattoo. It was full dark, and shadows from the oil lamps threw oddly shaped shadows on the walls. Finally he leaned forward. “I can’t say I agree with you, my friend. My choice would be to negotiate a ceasefire.”
But Motti was surprisingly intractable. “No,” he said, resolute. “This is the way it will have to be, and it will only be temporary. If I could trouble you to host him here, and then bring him to my brother’s home in Yerushalayim the next time you go?”
Zayit nodded, but he was troubled and he wasn’t the only one. Had Motti bothered to look at his wife’s face, he’d have seen the utter devastation there. Temporary was never temporary, and she’d grown attached to Kalonymous as though he were her own. She’d have much preferred to keep Kalonymous with her and send Yehuda — he would certainly come back, and in better shape than when he left — but her husband had made up his mind, leaving no room for argument or dissent.
The only thing left to do was break the news to Kalonymous.
To be continued . . .