Emanuel tells Motti what he knows about Kalonymous’s whereabouts and about Rav Leib. Motti asks if he can send a message to him. The Rav’s grandson brings Kalonymous to see the Rav.
* * *
Hershel and Dovid’l had conflicting reactions to the departure of Kalonymous. In one way it felt like a limb had been detached — not exactly painful, but rather the odd sensation of something essential gone missing. The other reaction was unavoidable: Without their brother there to depend on, they were forced to place their trust elsewhere.
Hershel grew closer to Motti, joining him on his teaching rounds and absorbing all the lessons. He loved all the arguing back and forth and the stories Motti would tell, and sometimes he was allowed to stay a little longer and play with the other boys. Everyone in the family adored him, and over time he grew to love them as well. His nature was so pure and clear, and he was so generous with it, that everyone loved to be around him.
Dovid’l was different. Although he turned to Breindl for all his needs, instead of growing softer like Hershel he grew tougher. He tended to fight and kick, and he would instigate a fight with anyone around just to be able to spar with them. Occasionally he got in over his head and came out much the worse for it, but he remained undaunted. Because of his age and size people would make the mistake of trying to baby him, and they were soon sorry. The only one for whom he remained tender was Hershel.
Their favorite thing to do together was walk over to the Field of Dreams. They would lie on the grass Zayit planted, roll around and stare for hours at the sky. Hershel was always able to coax some cake out of Breindl, and they would eat until they were full. They were still suffering from their severe malnutrition almost a year later, and as a result they rarely felt sated.
On their way back from a lovely hour spent in the field, they spotted Yehudah standing under a tree, laying in wait for them. Hershel hesitated, wary of Yehudah since Kalonymous was sent away, but Dovid’l charged ahead, prepared to take on the battle despite the comical difference in size.
“Tironim!” Yehudah jeered. “Hey, greenhorns!”
Hershel struggled to hold Dovid’l back from doing something foolish, but Yehudah only laughed.
“Come on, gamadi,” he called. “Try to hit me, you little midget.”
“What do you want, Yehudah?” asked Hershel.
“I wanted to tell you something important. I have news.”
“What kind of news?” said Hershel.
“Your big dumb Berl and Fisch who I thought you made up are on their way here, to Eretz Yisrael.”
The Sperling brothers froze, until Dovid’l shouted, “You’re a liar. Berl and Fisch are dead!”
Hershel joined in, nodding fervently. “They are. We saw them.”
“No they aren’t,” Yehudah taunted. “Ask my ima. They’re alive, and my abba is buying them a ship ticket.”
Overwhelmed with grief, for despite the resiliency of youth they could not let go of their memories of Berl and Fisch, by unspoken agreement both boys threw themselves at Yehudah. They had the advantage of surprise, and within moments they had toppled him to the ground. Dovid’l sat on Yehudah’s stomach while Hershel pummeled him again and again, tears pouring down his face. “You’re lying, you’re lying, you’re lying.”
He finally exhausted his tears and rolled off Yehudah into Dovid’l’s arms, but there was one more ounce of grief he had to express. “Kalonymous! Kalonymous, come back!”
Yehudah sat up and smirked at Hershel. “I saw him. I saw Kalonymous, and I know where he is.”
It took a long time for Breindl to calm Hershel down. He sat next to her, crying and babbling incoherently until she could finally understand what happened. Dovid’l had retreated into a corner, silent with rage.
Yehudah stood nearby, enjoying the tumult until his mother glared at him. “Yehudah, what have you done? How did you know about Berl and Fisch?”
“Oznai hakotel, Ima,” he replied. “The walls have ears.”
“Koch lefl,” she murmured. “You stirred up trouble.”
“I didn’t. I was just saying the truth,” Yehudah protested. “You always tell me to tell the truth.”
“Not when it will hurt someone, and not when you’ve overheard a discussion you had no business listening to in the first place. And what is this nonsense that you saw Kalonymous? Do you know where he is?”
“Not exactly. Someone took me there. I spoke to him, and he said he doesn’t want to come back.”
Before she could reply, Hershel, unable to hold himself back, turned and placed both of his small hands on Breindl’s cheeks and looked directly into her eyes, their noses touching.
“Is it true, Tanta Breindl?” he whispered. “Are Berl and Fisch really alive?”
To be continued . . .