Victory Gardens – Chapter 109

Novel

Mima Faiga and her children are amazed by the vegetables growing in Esther’s victory garden. In Yerushalayim, Manny checks the garden that Esther planted in their backyard and is impressed by it.

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Mama and Mutty were sitting in the kitchen at the table, with Mutty peeling and Mama chopping the potatoes, as they often did. The silence in the room as they worked was companionable. The radio was on softly in the background, as they waited for the news broadcast to start.

Mutty was thinking about the strange meeting he and his father had with Mr. Hearst. If he hadn’t been there himself, he’d never have believed it happened. Since then, Papa had only grown stronger, and the moment of confusion he’d experienced there hadn’t repeated itself. Mutty thought back to the conversation, trying to recall what had triggered the change in Papa, and he suddenly realized something that made him sit up suddenly.

“What is it?” said Mama. “Are you all right?”

“I’m fine,” said Mutty. “Fine, Mama.” His mind was racing frantically. He realized that he had neglected to follow up on crucial information gleaned then. The only question was whether Hearst was to be believed. He was a newspaperman with staff all over the world, but how far did his influence really extend? How much could he be trusted? Everyone knew that the headlines on his newspapers were  sensational and unreliable. How reliable would he be when it came to people he knew not at all but was trying to intimidate?

“Mama,” he began.

“Yes, dear?” said Mama.

“Have you heard from Manny or Esther recently?” he said.

“Why yes,” said Mama. “You know we received a letter from them just the other day. I gave it to you to read.”

Mutty nodded. “You did, and I read it. But does Esther ever write to you or Mima Faige privately?”

“Well, I don’t know whether she writes to Mima Faiga. I see her when she comes for Shabbos or when I go over to the apartment for one reason or the other. I suppose that Esther does write to her, but Mima Faiga doesn’t discuss it with me. Is there something specific you need to know?” said Mama, slanting her gaze toward him without moving her head. Mutty knew this expression well. It meant that Mama realized there was more to Mutty’s words than what he was expressing.

“Tell you what, Mama,” Mutty suggested. “I’m going to take some stuff over to Manny and Esther’s apartment to give to the Taubenfelds. Would you like to come along?”

“I can’t. I’m not ready to leave Papa alone in the house.”

“All right then, I’ll make a quick visit, and be back before you know it. You’ll save some potatoes for me, I’m sure.”

“You can bet on that, young man.” Mama was nothing if not patient, and if she had to wait for whatever was on his mind to play out, she would. She could wait a lot longer than he could. Eventually, he would tell her what was going on in that mind of his. She continued to placidly chop potatoes, waiting for Mutty to go and come back.

Mima Faiga wiped her hands on her apron when she heard the knock on the door. She still did not feel fully comfortable that her family was living in the apartment previously occupied by Esther and Manny. Of course Esther had assured her it was perfectly fine. The apartment was large, warm and clean, and the children had barely coughed at all this winter. For that alone, Faiga was grateful. Zalmy was faring no better in the sanatorium, and sometimes the anxiety she felt was unbearable. She blessed Manny and Esther every day in her prayers, especially since Esther’s last letter had arrived.

She looked through the peephole and was surprised to see Esther’s brother-in-law at the door. To her recollection, he’d come a few times to fix things around the apartment, but mostly when she wasn’t there.

She opened the door and greeted Mutty with a puzzled expression. Her heart suddenly filled with fear — had there been bad news?

“Everyone is fine, Mrs. Taubenfeld,” said Mutty, holding out his hands in front of him as though he were warding off an attack. “I’m sorry to have startled you.”

“If everyone is fine,” she said, narrowing her eyes at him, “then why are you here?”

 

To be continued . . .