Rena is delighted when the Asoulins come for a visit, but is surprised when they are accompanied by Rafi and Yedidye.
“There are Israelis everywhere,” said Rafi, laughing. “We can’t escape them.”
They asked the driver for a reasonably priced hotel, and he took them to a small, Israeli-run hotel near Rena’s apartment, where they felt right at home.
After checking in and unpacking, the two men went down to the restaurant attached to the hotel. They were happy to see it had a good hechsher, and the table soon was filled with pita, chummus, chamutzim, and all the other familiar delights. They ordered shawarma platters, and while they were waiting, Rafi regarded his cousin’s worried expression.
“Chabibi,” he said. “Don’t worry. It will all be good.”
“This was a mistake,” he said again. “A big mistake. I knew that once my mother got involved with Mrs. Barkoff it was going to get complicated. Why did you say anything to them?”
Rafi was not at all offended. “Look, the little girl really does need the treatment. It just so happens they found a good place in Florida! Hashgachah pratit! It is all going to work out so nicely. The savta will speak to the giveret, you’ll have a few meetings and voila! Mazel tov to all!”
Yedidye shook his head. “I don’t know why I listen to you. You make everything sound so good, but then, at the moment it’s happening, it’s no good.”
“Aah, here is the delicious food. Come, let’s eat. We’ll feel better. It was such a long plane ride and we need to gather up our strength.”
Yedidye had no appetite, but the food smelled so good he couldn’t resist it. He washed on the fresh pita, made a brachah, and ate until he was full. They bentched and as they stood, a wave of exhaustion came over Yedidye.
“Rafi, I think I’m going to go back upstairs and take a nap. The trip took more out of me than I thought. I’m not used to it.”
“No problem,” said Rafi. “I’m going to walk around a little. I’ll be back before Minchah.”
“Do you have the list of minyanim?” Yedidye asked.
“That I made sure not to forget.” He reached into his pocket and took out a printout, in Hebrew, of all the minyanim in Florida.
“This is great.” He looked at it a moment, then asked, “Which one is the closest?”
He pointed to one of the entries on the page. “The giveret Barkoff told me this one is where the rabbi davened, and it’s near to here.”
By the time Rafi returned to the hotel, he too felt tired. He woke up Yedidye, and was surprised to find his cousin’s face white as a sheet. “Hey,” he said. “Are you all right?”
“I’m so tired,” Yedidye mumbled.
“Let’s go to Minchah and Maariv. You can sleep again later.” He helped Yedidye off the bed, but Yedidye lost his balance and fell backwards, taking Rafi down with him. The two men were stumbling.
“It must be the heat,” said Rafi, wiping his forehead. “We’re not used to this heat.”
They dragged themselves down to the lobby, thinking they would walk to the shul, but then they looked at each other and shook their heads. Rafi approached the concierge and asked him to call a taxi, and the clerk pointed straight ahead to the parking lot outside the glass doors, where a lone cab stood waiting.
They were surprised to see it was the same driver who had driven them from the airport. He had decided to stop for a bite to eat and a rest, and had ended up staying around far longer than he had planned. He was shocked at the drastic change in appearance of the two men, but decided to say nothing. He’d seen a lot of people feel somewhat ill on arrival in Florida. The humidity was so powerful it was as though it had a life and a presence of its own. Israelis, who were used to the dry heat, took it particularly hard.
Rafi mumbled the name of the shul to the driver, then leaned back on the headrest with his eyes closed. Yedidye simply stretched out on the back seat and did not wake up until they had arrived, and even then he had to be hauled out of the cab by the driver.
“Are you boys all right?” he asked, finally. “You both look ill.”
“I don’t know,” said Rafi. “Yedidye, are you all right?”
“I don’t know,” said Yedidye, falling back down onto the seat.
“I think you both need a doctor,” said the driver, assessing the situation before him.
“Which doctor? There is no kupat cholim here,” said Rafi.
“I can take you to the emergency room,” said the driver.
“No, no. No hospital. We don’t have insurance,” Rafi replied, but his words were starting to slur.
The driver stared at the two men, who could barely keep their heads up and whose words were becoming incoherent. “Looks like we have a problem here.” He reached into his pocket and pulled out the business card given to him by the woman who had flagged him down at the airport, “just in case,” she’d said. Well, he thought, this was certainly a case of “just in case.”
To be continued . . .