Kalonymous follows Chilik throughout his day, to shul, then cheder, then back to the house. Chilik’s father gets him a pair of tzitzis and accepts his staying with the family.
* * *
Zayit rarely visited in the evening. Even after running such an important errand for them, bringing Kalonymous to Yerushalayim, they did not expect to see him until at least the following morning. So when he tapped lightly on the door and stepped in, Motti and Breindl understood that whatever news he was bringing would not wait.
Rarely was Zayit at a loss for words, but watching stand in the doorway, his hand over his mouth, filled the younger couple with dread.
“What is it?” said Motti. “Is it my father? My mother?”
Zayit shook his head.
“Come in, sit down. Please,” Breindl urged. “Tell us what’s happened.”
Zayit sighed heavily. “I would of course prefer that you speak to your brother and sister-in-law, but they were afraid a messenger would not arrive here until late tomorrow and they wanted to make sure you knew what happened. I did not want to be the one to say the news, but they pleaded with me and I could not say no.”
Motti’s heart was pounding. “Nu? What?”
“Kalonymous ran away.”
Motti drew a sigh of relief. “That’s it? Kalonymous ran away? Kalonymous always runs away. He’s probably already back at my brother’s house.”
But Breindl suspected there was more to the story than Zayit was letting on. “Tell us what happened,” she asked gently. “Did he run from you, or were you already in Yerushalayim?”
“We were there. He was inside with your sister-in-law and the kids. Maybe he ate something, I’m not sure. He was really upset on the way over, and he was very shaky when I dropped him off.”
“Did something set him off?” asked Breindl.
Zayit recalled the sight of Kalonymous shooting out of the house and tearing down the road before anyone could even register the fact that he was gone. A few moments later Mrs. Rothstein came running out as well.
“Esther,” Emanuel had said, “what’s going on? Where is Kalonymous going?”
“I don’t know!” she cried. “I was showing him the library and then before I knew it he was running away.”
“I’m not sure,” said Zayit in reply to Breindl’s question. “It was hard to figure out what happened. Everyone was too busy trying to find him to wonder why he left. I drove back and forth through the yishuv twenty times, and Emanuel and some others up covered every inch on foot. There was no sign of Kalonymous, except that, if it was actually him, he had knocked over a pail of fish. From that point, he disappeared. We have no idea where he went.”
“My brother is overreacting, as usual,” said Motti. “I’m sure Kalonymous will be huddled like a ketzeleh in the doorway tomorrow morning. He doesn’t like new places. Everything will be fine.” He tried to sound nonchalant, but he wasn’t sure he was fooling anyone.
“I don’t know, Motti,” said Breindl. “This sounds a little more serious. Zayit, are they going to continue to search for him tomorrow?” she asked.
“I’m sure they will,” he said. “But Kalonymous hadn’t been there long enough for anyone to get to know him, so no one knows what he looks like. I’m sure they’ll keep looking, but like Motti said, the best thing would be for him to come back on his own.”
Zayit recalled the bitter tears the boy shed as they traveled to Yerushalayim, and would have been very surprised to hear that Kalonymous returned. The only thing that had kept him close was his brothers. Once they separated him from his brothers, he had no reason to continue to obey them.
Sensing the tension rising between Motti and Breindl, he stood up and bid them both good night. “Everything will look better in the morning,” he said. “It always does. Meanwhile, get some sleep. I’m sure there will be a message with good news from Emanuel tomorrow.”
“Good night,” said Breindl.
“I’ll walk you out,” said Motti.
The two men strolled out into the moonless night. “How bad does it look?” said Motti.
“Very bad,” said Zayit. “I saw the look on his face as he ran. It didn’t look to me like he’d be back anytime soon. He’s very hurt. I can’t imagine what set him off, but whatever it was, it seemed more like the makkah b’patish than anything really damaging.”
Motti rubbed his face with his hands, lifting his glasses and rubbing each eye with his fingers. “I can’t say you didn’t try to warn me,” he said.
“No, you can’t say that, can you,” Zayit answered. “But neither can you blame yourself. The boys are in your care, and you must do what’s best for them and for your own family as well. You were very sure you were doing the right thing, so perhaps that was part of the hashgachah. You are usually much more…”
“Reasonable?” Motti filled in.
“Yes. You usually listen, either to me or to your wife, but this time you wouldn’t. It sounds like you were a small part of a much bigger plan.”
To be continued . . .