Victory Gardens – Chapter 56

Novel

Mutty informs his brother that he is not ready to return home.

*   *   *

Zayit looked over at Mutty with a question in his eyes.

“What?” said Mutty. “I’m not ready to go home yet. I — I need more time to think things over.”

“I have no problem with that. You are welcome to stay with the Zayits for as long as you need. But your brother was surprised.”

“I don’t know why he’s so angry. It’s not like I did all of this on purpose.”

“He’s not angry,” said Zayit.

“Then what?”

“He’s relieved. It’s obvious that he cares for you very much. He was letting out all of the worry that had been building up all this time. You’ll see — the next time you see him he’ll be much nicer to you.”

Zayit paused a moment. “Or maybe not, now that you’ve dropped this explosive news on him.”

The two men rose and, after paying their bill, stepped out of the café. Manny, too proud to walk back in, was waiting outside, leaning against a post.

“Finally,” he said. “Let’s go. Enough of this.”

Mutty grabbed him by the arm. “Manny, it’s me, your brother. Since when did you turn into my father all of a sudden? Talk to me. Look at me.”

“I don’t have time for this. I must return home already!”

“You can go,” said Mutty. “You accomplished what you set out to do. You found me. If the pogrom hadn’t happened in Chevron, I would be sitting and learning peacefully now. I wouldn’t be going home in the middle of Elul.”

“That’s just the thing,” said Manny. “You aren’t sitting and learning. You’re living on some farm with a stranger we don’t even know.” He gestured with his chin towards Zayit, who had wandered away from the brothers and was tending to his donkey. “You have no framework, no one looking out for you, and who knows what trouble you can get into.”

“I can go back to the yeshivah,” he said.

“I don’t think your yeshivah is in good shape right now,” said Manny. “I think,” he lowered his voice as he spoke, almost wistfully, “I think you need to come home. And I’m not turning into your father, whatever that means. I’m asking in Papa’s stead, certainly, but I’m not trying to be your parent. If Papa were here, I’m sure he would be saying the same things to you as I am.”

“Well, I think he would have been a little happier to see me than you are,” said Mutty.

“I am happy to see you. I’m thrilled to see you. You have no idea how worried we were about you. But, Mutty,” he turned and looked his brother straight into his eyes, “it is time now to go home.”

Mutty suddenly felt very weary. He could not have this discussion with Manny again. He realized they both needed some time before they spoke again.

“Listen, Manny. Why don’t you go back to your hotel and have a rest? Zayit was going to take me to see the Roshei Yeshivah and to daven at the Kosel…”

Daven at the Kosel? Didn’t you hear a word I told you? It’s too dangerous to go there. The last thing I need right now is to have to bail you out of jail.”

As he spoke, he suddenly recalled the venerable Rav, and a thought struck him. Was he the one who had paid for him to be released from jail? If so, Manny must find him and reimburse him. His head began to pound. What was supposed to be a focused mission — to find Mutty — was becoming increasingly complicated. A rest in his hotel began to sound like a marvelous idea.

“I’m sure it will be fine,” said Mutty.

“You don’t even know what you are talking about,” said Manny with a shiver, recalling the horrific living conditions in the holding cell where he’d been incarcerated.

Mutty leaned over and placed two hands on both of his brother’s shoulders. “Manny,” he said, more seriously than Manny had ever heard him, “thank you, brother.”

“For what?”

“For coming to find me. It means more to me than I can ever say. I’ll be all right. You don’t need to worry about me any more. I’ll meet you back at your hotel later on this evening. We’ll talk more then.”

“I’m still going to book passage tomorrow, Mutty. For both of us.”

Mutty smiled sadly and gave his brother a light hug. “I’ll be back later.”

He backed away from Manny and headed toward the wagon where Zayit was already perched and waiting, taking short, deep puffs from his pipe.

“Everything all right?”  he asked.

“For now,” said Mutty. “Can you take me to the yeshivah?”

“Certainly.”

Zayit stopped the wagon in front of the small building once again.

“Would you like me to go in with you?” he asked.

“Do you mind waiting? I feel like I should go alone.”

Ein baayah,” said Zayit. “It’s no problem.”

Mutty took a deep breath and walked inside. The first thing that struck him was the silence. Gone was the roar of the beis medrash that had entered his blood and filled him with awe and excitement.

Too fearful to approach, he stood by the entrance watching and waiting, until finally one of the bachurim looked up for a moment and spotted him. His face immediately turned white and he stood up so fast his hat fell to the ground.

Baruch mechayei hameisim!” he shouted. And suddenly all eyes were upon him.

 

To be continued . . .