Victory Gardens – Chapter 52

Novel

In an effort to protect them from worry, Esther does not reveal the contents of Manny’s telegram to his parents. Papa becomes even more angry with her and refuses to wish her good night.

* * *

Almost at the same moment, Zayit and Mutty realized that too much time had gone by, and a telegram had to be sent to Mutty’s parents, regardless of the difficulty. Mutty had awoken that morning sick with guilt, telling himself that he had to get to Jerusalem that day no matter how hard it would be. Surely they were worried about him. This thought had been playing in the back of his mind since the catastrophic events in Chevron. It was like he had been in a dream, and now he was awake. He simply had to reach his parents, today. He had no idea that the yeshivah had reported him missing — he did not even know if his parents knew of the events that had taken place there. All he knew was that either way, they would be sick with worry, having not heard from him all this time.

Zayit, too, realized he had been remiss. He must reunite the boy with his yeshivah immediately. He had been exceedingly selfish, enjoying the boy’s company, wishing to give him a quiet place to recover from the horrific trauma, but now he understood that his time with Mutty must draw to a close.

They loaded up the wagon and proceeded to Jerusalem that day. They didn’t speak much. So much had transpired between them already that it seemed almost gratuitous to try to sum it up now. Mutty would be forever grateful to Zayit, but it was time to move on, to return to “real life,” and, with the rest of the bachurim, pick up the remnants of his beloved yeshivah.

Zayit wasn’t certain where they had relocated, but he hoped that once they arrived in Jerusalem he would solve the problem, and sure enough, that is what happened. He was directed to a small street in the Geulah neighborhood, where they found the remnants of what was once a thriving Torah edifice.

Mutty and Zayit spent a long time saying good-bye, most of it — unusual for Mutty, not so unusual for Zayit — without words. Mutty sat quietly in the wagon, anxious to move on into the future but reluctant to let go of Zayit’s comforting presence.

“You know where to find me,” said Zayit.

“Yes,” replied Mutty.

He had come to Zayit’s with nothing, and that is how he was now. Only Zayit insisted on pressing a pile of British pounds into his hands.

“No,” said Mutty. “I can’t. I have no way to pay it back.”

“Then help someone else, like I have helped you,” Zayit replied.

Mutty nodded. “I can do that. I’ve learned so much from you.”

Even for the short time they had been acquainted, Zayit felt he had gotten to know the young man fairly well. Looking at him now in the wagon, he found he could not concentrate on what he was saying. There was something pulling at him, trying to gain his attention in his mind, but he could not put his finger on what it was.

“You know,” he said. “I think I will go and check on the fellow I drove from the port to Jerusalem. I’d like to see how he is doing.”

Mutty chuckled. “The rich American you told me about?”

Zayit smiled too. “He tipped me very well. He’s staying at the Petra Hotel. Don’t forget to tear kriyah when you visit the Kotel Ha’maaravi while you are here. “

“I’m afraid to go,” Mutty admitted.

“I understand,” said Zayit. “You had a real scare in Chevron. But my friend, you must not let fear stop you from doing important things in your life. And davening at the Kotel is important.”

“I don’t know. I feel frightened. Perhaps spending time with the yeshivah will strengthen me again. The whole time I was with you and your family I didn’t feel afraid, and suddenly I am again.”

“It will pass,” said Zayit. “You will not still be afraid when you grow old. Keep up your emunah and you will see. You will become stronger than you were before, and you will be able to help others.”

“Amen,” said Mutty. “I hope so.” He started to climb down from the wagon, finding it suddenly difficult to part from his friend.

“Would you like to come with me to the Kotel before you rejoin your yeshivah? I will be honored to take you there, if you don’t mind stopping at the Petra first.”

“Would you? I would be grateful. Then you’ll bring me back here?”

“Of course.”

Mutty considered the offer for a few moments, and decided that he wanted to spend just a few more moments with Zayit before rejoining the yeshivah.

“And the telegram? To my family?”

“We will stop at the post office. There is an office there where we can send one.”

“Can we do that first?”

Zayit was already guilt-ridden, realizing he should have insisted on sending the telegram right away, alerting Mutty’s parents that he was alive and well. He had been greatly remiss, and he wanted to make it up to the boy and his poor parents as best he could. He had no idea what he had been thinking, but he knew he must resolve this immediately.

“Of course.”

Mutty stepped back up onto the wagon and breathed a sigh of relief. He felt, for a moment, as though he had been brought back to life.