Victory Gardens – Chapter 105

Novel

Manny is kidnapped by Hearst’s thugs outside his home. He realizes that he has almost no hope of escape. Then he hears a familiar voice.

 

“Rabbi!” Manny cried, relief flooding through his veins like warm water. “How are you?” He was trying to sound calm, but at the sight of the tzaddik’s face, his legs had turned to jelly. “It’s wonderful to see you again.”

The two thugs at his side were nonplused at the strange encounter. They held on to Manny and made to move on with their grim task.

“If you don’t mind, I’ll take it from here,” the rabbi said to them, pleasantly but firmly. With that, he took hold of Manny, flagged down a passing wagon, and the rabbi, his companion, and Manny climbed in and drove away.

Hearst’s men stood frozen; they were unable to resist the force of the tzaddik’s personality and made no move to stop him.

“It seems you are always rescuing me,” said Manny, as they traveled in the wagon. His voice was quivering and he’d begun to perspire.

“I am only Hashem’s messenger,” said the rabbi. “Obviously you were meant to be rescued.”

The rabbi asked no questions, and for that Manny was grateful. “But I’m not sure how to avoid a repeat performance. And my wife! Perhaps they are on the way to our house right now.”

“I can assure you they are not,” said the rabbi. “They are reporting to their boss, whoever he is, and informing him of their failure.”

“I don’t know how my life got so complicated. I used to be a modestly successful businessman with the ups and downs that came along with that. Now I find myself mired in troubles I have no chance of understanding.”

B’ezras Hashem, it will work out,” said the rabbi, warmly. “Meanwhile let’s get you home so you can feel reassured of your wife’s safety.”

“Thank you, rabbi. I owe you my life.”

“Thank Hashem, not I. It is my honor to be His humble messenger.”

The men pulled up at Manny’s home. Manny went in first to inform Esther of visitors, even though she was unable to get up to greet them and serve them food. He ushered the rabbi and his companion into the house and set about making tea. He found crackers, and put those out too.

“Now,” said the rabbi, looking directly at Manny. “Let’s talk.”

Manny proceeded to tell the rabbi the events leading up to tonight’s kidnapping. The rabbi listened carefully and promised to see what he could do, and then departed, along with the driver.

“Manny?” Esther’s wan voice called out from the other room.

“Yes, Esther. Do you need something?”

“What was that all about?” she asked.

“Nothing. Just a social call.”

“Come in here and let me see your face when you say that.”

Manny tried to rearrange his features before facing Esther, but he was too unnerved. He found that he couldn’t keep his concerns to himself any longer.

Esther was a careful and considerate listener, and as Manny unburdened himself, he felt himself growing lighter. Even the room seemed more brightly lit, as though a curtain had been lifted from before his eyes.

“That’s a heavy peckel for one man to carry alone,” said Esther, after Manny had finished.

“I’m sorry Esther. I didn’t mean to place us in danger. It’s not like any of this was my idea, except that I heeded the advice of the Roshei Yeshivah and stayed on here. Perhaps I am being punished for — oh, a host of things. I have been thinking over my actions and I have much to do teshuvah for.”

Tracht gut vet zein gut. I am sure that no harm will come from your listening to the Roshei Yeshivah. We will make the best of this and it will turn out well. I think Rabbi Levin has his own ways to stop those men from harming you. Right now our task is to concentrate on two things: your learning and our future as a family. If we keep our minds in the right place, I think we will see blessing.”

“I pray that you are right, Esther.”

“Why don’t you look up that friend of yours, Mr. Zayit? You always come back with a little glow on your face after spending time with him.”

Manny thought about that for a moment. “I’d like you to meet them, too,” he said.

“That would be wonderful, but we both know I can’t travel right now,” she replied.

Manny asked, “Esther, if I prepare everything, would you allow me to invite the Zayits for Shabbos?”

“I’m afraid I’d feel foolish, being so helpless,” she replied.

“No, I think they will understand. They’re not the type to stand on ceremony, and I think you will like Mrs. Zayit.”

“Okay, then.”

“I wonder how I will find him,” mused Manny. “I can send him a note in the mail, or send a messenger to his home.”

“Do that. It will be nice to have something to look forward to.”

Manny looked a little wounded from that comment, so she immediately amended her statement. “Not that I don’t look forward to our daily routine. But even a steady diet of happiness needs some variety. You know, one day ice cream, one day chocolate…”

Manny smiled, relieved. “Thank you Esther. Do you mind if I go out to find a messenger?”

Esther looked uncomfortable. “Would you mind going in the morning? I feel so much better when you are here.”

“Okay, then. Tomorrow. Now,” he said, slapping his knees with his hands. “I’m in the mood to cook. What did you think of the eggplant dish I prepared?”

Esther looked uncertain. “If you wouldn’t mind, I think I’d prefer to stick with potatoes,” she said delicately. “They are a little more … familiar.”

To be continued . . .