Yehuda turns up at the home of his Uncle Emanuel and Aunt Esther. He reveals that he has seen Kalonymous; also that he has left home without his parents’ knowledge.
* * *
By the time his Uncle Emanuel finished grilling him, Yehuda was exhausted. He fell asleep on the floor of the salon while Zayit waited outside, unwilling to intrude on family matters unless requested to do so.
“Where did you see him?” Emanuel asked. “Who was he with? What was he doing?” Unlike his wife, he believed that Yehuda had found Kalonymous. He regretted his willingness to take Reb Leib’s advice and leave Kalonymous alone, but the emunas chachamim he had been raised with was too ingrained for him to have done otherwise. If Yehuda hadn’t so effortlessly located him, Emanuel would have continued applauding his decision to follow the directive of the Rav.
Emanuel rubbed his eyes at the end of the interrogation, lifted up the boy and brought him out to Zayit’s wagon. They placed him in the back and covered him well, as the night had grown chilly.
“No worries, my friend,” said Zayit. “These things have a way of working themselves out. Your boys are still young — teenage boys are an entirely separate parashah.”
“I suppose. Wait, your children are still young as well. What makes you an expert?”
Zayit chuckled. “I am the oldest of a large family, mostly boys. It was my job to keep everyone in line, and it was no easy task. The first and most important requirement is a healthy sense of humor. Once you can laugh, everything seems a little less daunting.”
“Maybe,” said Emanuel, clearly lacking in the humor department. That raw truth stood between the two men. Now Emanuel pulled something out of his pocket and handed it to Zayit.
“Do me a favor, please, and give this to my brother.” It was the telegram he’d received from Gassner, still unopened.
* * *
It took several hours for Breindl to recover from the shame of not even realizing Yehuda was gone until he returned with Zayit. She had noticed, throughout the day and from the corner of her eye, that Yehuda wasn’t around, but she didn’t give it a second thought, telling herself he could be anywhere. He often disappeared for hours on end, roaming the fields, playing with friends or taking care of the animals, showing up for dinner.
When she heard Zayit pull up in front of her house she wondered what he wanted — he didn’t usually show up unannounced. She stepped outside and was shocked to find Zayit holding the very distinct shape of a sleeping Yehuda in his arms.
“He’s way too big to be carried,” Zayit quipped. “I just didn’t want to wake him. The poor kid is exhausted.”
Breindl was at a loss. “Did you find him somewhere on the road?” she asked. “Did he ask you for a ride?”
Now it was Zayit’s turn to be confused. “No, actually. He stowed away in my wagon and came with me to Yerushalayim. I was surprised when you didn’t mention that he would be joining me today.”
She felt her breath go out of her in one gulp, a verbal punch in the stomach. “I had no idea he was with you. I didn’t even know he was gone! Did he say why he went?”
“He did,” said Zayit, reluctant to be the bearer of the strange news, but suspecting that Emanuel wouldn’t tell them what happened. “He was looking for Kalonymous. He said he couldn’t bear the tension in the house anymore, and he was going to bring Kalonymous home if he had to drag him.” This much Zayit understood from Yehuda in the hail of tears he was greeted with when he first found him at Emanuel’s house.
“Did… did he? Find him?”
“Apparently he did. Yehuda said Kalonymous was dressed up like a Purim costume as a Chassid. He’s staying somewhere in Meah Shearim. They saw him with another boy.”
“What did he say?” asked Breindl.
“From what I was able to gather, he asked Kalonymous to come home and Kalonymous said no.”
Breindl held her head in her hands.
“Are you all right?” asked Zayit. “Should I send my wife over to sit with you?”
“Maybe,” said Breindl. “At least until Motti comes home.”
Zayit turned to leave and then remembered the envelope in his pocket. “Your brother-in-law asked me to deliver this to you,” he said casually, leaving the envelope on the table. “Good day to you. My wife will be over shortly.”
“Thank you Mr. Zayit,” said Breindl, already distracted by the telegram from Copenhagen. She debated whether to wait for Motti to return, but found that she couldn’t restrain herself.
When she read its contents, it all came to a head: the pressure of nurturing these fragile boys, the fight between Yehuda and Kalonymous, her disastrous mistake of sending Kalonymous away, his escape, Yehuda’s disappearance, and now, on top of it all, the mythical Berl and Fisch, who she wasn’t even sure actually existed, had miraculously come back to life.
To be continued . . .