Motti, Breindl, Zayit and Orna discuss their next steps, and conclude that Hershel and Dovid’l are the main priority at present.
* * *
“Hi Mr. Zayit,” said Dovid’l, waving to their neighbor.
Dovid’l was a tiny little package of opposing forces. He was very much under the influence of his brothers and their moods, and he often mimicked emotions he didn’t really understand. There was another part of this small child, though, that was irrepressible. He was a jack-in-the-box: the more he was pressed down, the higher he leaped when given the chance.
Breindl had sent the boys out to the front of the house at the appointed time with a bag of snacks, ostensibly to set out water for the goats, and once they had finished, they settled themselves down on the ground with their backs leaning up against the building’s cool stones.
Zayit approached slowly and squatted down to face the two boys. “How are you doing today?” he asked mildly. Dovid’l was already hopping up and down but Hershel remained silent and grim.
“Hershel?” he asked. “Do you feel all right?”
“I’m fine, Mr. Zayit. Baruch Hashem.”
“Good! I was wondering, maybe you would like to take a short walk with me? I want to show you something nice,” Zayit offered.
“No, thank you,” said Hershel. “We’ll stay here.”
In a startling display of rebellion, Dovid’l spoke up. “I’ll come,” he said, planting himself at Zayit’s side. Hershel looked at his brother, horrified by his betrayal but still feeling responsible for him.
“Fine,” said Hershel. “Let’s go.”
“Wonderful!” said Zayit. He kept a steady pace as Dovid’l gamboled in front of him and Hershel lagged behind.
“Where are we going?” asked Dovid’l.
Hershel was watching where they were going very carefully and at a certain point he stopped walking and refused to go further.
“What’s wrong?” asked Zayit, turning around to talk to Hershel.
“I know where you are taking us!” he cried, tears splashing down his face. “You are taking us to the dream field! I don’t want to go there without Kalonymous!”
Dovid’l stopped prancing and came to stand by his brother’s side. Even the normally stalwart Zayit could not help be moved by the boy’s piercing cry, and for a moment he felt himself at a loss.
He stood between the two boys and held their hands as they walked. “I was wondering,” he said, “If we could do a chessed for Kalonymous.”
“What kind of chessed?” said Hershel, his voice low and hoarse.
“Well, the field is empty, and Kalonymous isn’t here to fill it up. Maybe, while he’s gone, we can think of things he might like to put there, some of his favorite things, and we can get it ready for him for when he comes back. Can you think of some things Kalonymous likes that he may want in his dream field?” Zayit held his breath, hoping his approach would work.
Hershel looked up at Zayit, his eyes so large they seemed to extend from his forehead to his cheekbones. He blinked a few times, and little teardrops balanced on the tips of his eyelashes yet somewhere in that deep well of sadness, Zayit spotted a flicker of hope.
There was a long silence, as Zayit and Dovid’l waited for Hershel to reply. When he did, the words rolled slowly off his tongue, each one a well-worn stone.
“He likes apples,” said Hershel.
“Apples?” said Zayit, surprised at the simplicity of the reply.
“Kalonymous loves apples!” Dovid’l shouted. “He really does!”
A smile was struggling to break through Hershel’s tight little mouth, and Zayit feared that if it didn’t succeed, it would only become harder for Hershel in the future. Uncharacteristic fury blazed through Zayit, that a small boy such as this one should lose his childishness in the winds of war. Out of the three boys, it seemed that Hershel had suffered the most. Dovid’l was young enough that his natural joy was unaffected. He’d recover. Kalonymous was old enough that he could escape the bitterness of the past and forge a new life for himself. Hershel was stuck in a no-man’s-land, unable to go forward and unable to go back. Zayit vowed that he would use all his strength to unlock this child’s soul and let it roam free.
“Very good. It would not be so hard to plant an apple tree here. Should we plant only one?” He looked directly at Hershel for a reply. “Or should we plant one for each of you in case Kalonymous wants to share? What do you think, Hershel?”
Unaccustomed to being asked for his opinion, Hershel’s mouth opened into a little “o”. His eyes rolled up slightly in thought, and he put his hand on his head as though to massage his thoughts. Tiny little payos lay behind his ears like leaves from an olive branch. “Yes,” he said finally. “Three trees. One for each of us. I think Kalonymous would like that.”
“Okay then,” said Zayit. “Three it is.”
“Wait!” said Hershel. “We’ll need one each for Berl and Fisch, for when they come back.”
To be continued . . .