Pain Relief Chapter 23

Miriam calls her father to say she is worried about Ima’s behavior. Then she hurries to return the car. After a long wait, Hindy calls Miriam’s home. Miriam’s husband, Zalman, informs her that Miriam left a while ago. 

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“Listen, Zalman,” Hindy continued, “Is your car fixed yet?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “I need a big favor. Please pick me up right now and take me shopping. I’m running very late.”

“I’m sorry but I can’t. I have to drive car pool today,” said Zalman. “But I’m sure Miriam will be there any minute. She probably stopped to give someone a ride.”

Hindy exhaled in frustration. “Zalman.” She was speaking slowly now, trying to remain in control. “Call up somebody from carpool and tell them you can’t make it today, would they please fill in for you. Then please come pick me up. Now.”

Zalman was alarmed. “Ima, is everything all right? You don’t sound like yourself.”

“I just need you to get here as soon as you can. I’ll see you in five minutes.”

Hindy reached into her bag for the Tylenol and pulled open the cap. A small gasp escaped her: there was only one left. She stuck her finger into the bottle, as though looking for a trap door  that she could press for more pills to magically appear. But while she was deciding whether to run back inside to get the dose she needed, Zalman pulled up in his rundown old Subaru.

“Thank you for coming,” said Hindy as she got into the car.

“Sorry I took so long,” Zalman said. “There was an accident. I saw it just at the turnoff so I took a longer way.”

“It’s all right, but let’s just get going, please. I’m going to Meichel Master.”

Zalman backed out of the driveway slowly and the car rattled down the street. They could see police cars , as well as two Hatzolah SUVs. Hindy remembered hearing the sirens but had somehow not paid much attentiom to them.

“Drive by,” she instructed Zalman. “I want to see what’s doing there.”

“I thought you were in a hurry, Ima?” asked Zalman.

“I am, but could you please just drive by?”

Zalman slowed down as they approached the intersection, keeping his eyes on the road as Hindy stuck her head out the window to see what was happening.

“It’s the same make as my car,” she said, closing the car window. “Now I’m glad I drive that boat around. I see it can take a hit.”

As they were passing, Zalman glanced to the right and took in the accident scene. He slammed on the brakes and threw open the car door. Hindy still hadn’t caught on, rolling her eyes, wondering what it was now, seriously considering the possibility that she’d have to cancel all her company at the last minute. Or better, they’d all go to her mother’s for Shabbos. Hindy’s eyes lit up. Finally, a solution. Her parents would love it. She turned her head idly to see what was keeping Zalman and then she, too, tore out of the car.

“Miriam! Miriam!” Hindy couldn’t stop shouting her daughter’s name. “What happened!”

Miriam was sobbing quietly at the side of the road while Zalman clutched the baby to him like a precious treasure. He was kissing his head over and over again, murmuring, “Baruch Hashem you’re both all right. Baruch Hashem.”

Hindy stopped as she reached them, as though she’d run into an invisible wall. She’d been prepared to pull Miriam into her arms and comfort her, but found that she and Zalman and the baby had formed their own little circle. They needed each other right now.

She approached cautiously. “Miriam? Are you all right?”

She broke into fresh tears. “Ima, I’m sorry. I smashed up your car. I’m so sorry.”

“Forget about the car. Was anyone hurt?” Hindy was whispering, terrified to hear the answer. “From the other car?”

“No, baruch Hashem. No one was hurt,” said Zalman. “Just very shook up.” He moved out to stand in front of her, like a guard.

Hindy was struggling to process the chain of events that had led to this terrible accident. “Miriam,” she said, talking over Zalman’s shoulder. “Do you think I care about my car? You are so much more important.”

“Ima, you were so angry. I got so frightened I wasn’t paying attention to what I was doing. You kept ringing the phone and the baby was crying and I saw the stop sign. I saw it but I just couldn’t stop. I was scared to stop… to keep you waiting.”

Zalman’s eyes narrowed as he listened to Miriam’s account. “What’s this about?” he said. “What happened?”

Hindy looked at her daughter, wet and bedraggled, and did not know what to say. Their eyes met, Miriam’s red and swollen with tears and rain; Hindy’s pleading and wide, and a message was sent and received. Hindy held her breath, waiting for Miriam to respond.

Miriam wiped her eyes and tried to smile. “It was nothing, Zalman. Just mother and daughter stuff.” Zalman blinked, aware that she was hiding something but unable to say exactly what it was. “Obviously I can’t take you shopping now,” he said absently to Hindy.

Hindy stood still, not sure what to do. She wondered if she could catch a ride home with one of the Hatzolah volunteers, or if she should stay there with Miriam, even though it was clear that Zalman would prefer that she leave. She leaned back against Zalman’s car and looked up at the ominous sky, as if the answer to her dilemma was written up there. She had no idea what to do, so she just stood, looking up, as the minutes ticked by.

To be continued . . .