Victory Gardens – Chapter 67

Novel

Manny and Mutty are living in a boarding house. Mutty is enjoying the time he is spending with his older brother, and is amazed at how alike they are. Manny learns of the stock market crash and informs Mutty that they will have to return home.

*   *   *

“What?” Mutty cried. “No! We can’t go now!”

“I’m sorry. I don’t see how we can leave Papa and Mama alone if they’ve lost all their money.”

“You don’t know that!” replied Mutty, raising his voice and causing the other residents to turn their heads in his direction.

“Shh, shaa,” said Manny. “Calm down. I wish there was a way we could call. Then we’d know right away what was going on.” He stood up, leaving most of his food untouched. “I’ve got to at least send a telegram right away. What if they’ve been locked out of their house?”

Manny blanched, then tried to hide it. “I’m sure everything is fine — you know, ‘Tracht gut vet zein gut.’ I just can’t bear not knowing for certain.”

“Well, first of all, I advise that you say Bircas Hamazon,” said Mutty. “First things first. Then we’ll walk over to the Post Office and send a telegram. Don’t they have a service where the one who delivers the telegram waits for a reply?”

“I think so. How do you know about that?”

“A couple of the bachurim got telegrams like that in yeshivah, from their parents.”

“Papa never did that, I bet.”

“Correct. He had no problem waiting patiently for my replies to his letters.”

“Not so patiently. You could have used a little improvement in that area, if I remember correctly.”

Mutty looked sheepish. “Yeah, I guess I could have.”

“Huh,” said Manny. “But thank you for the idea. It’s a good one, and I’m going to look into it. I’d forgotten about the return option.” He picked up the small printed birchon the baal habayis had thoughtfully left out on the table for the boarders and bentched, faster than usual.

“Tsk, tsk,” said Mutty. “When did you learn to speed read?”

“Enough out of you. Let’s go.”

“Do you mind if I stay behind? I’m tired. I want to lay down for a little while.”

“Yes, I do mind.”

“Why? What difference could it make if I join you?”

“It makes no difference to me, but it might make a difference to you. If you are serious in becoming the person you say you want to be, a grown-up and responsible adult, then sometimes that means forfeiting your nap.”

It was one of those times when Mutty got a glimpse of the inner workings of his older brother’s mind. Perhaps he’d been wrong to think they were so similar — perhaps their similarities were merely external.

But Manny was correct in his assessment that Mutty was serious about changing. With that in mind, he, too, bentched expeditiously, and then pulled on his frock.

Although it was nearly winter, the sun was still very hot at midday. Its heat sometimes caused Mutty’s legs to buckle a bit, as though he were being pushed into the ground by an unseen force. It sounded irrational when he said it to himself, but he’d never realized the sun could be so hot!

They hurried along to the post office and were dismayed, upon their arrival, to find it locked and shuttered.

“What does the sign say?” Manny asked, clearly irritated.

Shaat Menuchah. Rest Hour.”

Manny slammed his fist against the iron gate. “Rest hour. How could I forget? Of course the whole city shuts down for the entire afternoon.”

For the first time, Mutty felt sorry for his brother. “Manny,” he said, taking his brother by the arm. “I know I don’t have much to teach you, but one thing I do know is that sometimes there’s just nothing to do but wait. Come on, let’s go back to the room. You’ll have a drink and rest, and by the time you relax a little, the post office will be open. Don’t forget there is an Eibershter who runs the world far better and more efficiently than Manny Rothstein,” said Mutty, pointing at the gate.

“Since when did you get so smart?” asked Manny, reluctantly allowing himself to be led by his brother.

Mutty couldn’t help but think of his friend Zayit. Had those been the older man’s words coming out of his mouth? He wondered when and if he would see him again, unsure if he could even find Zayit’s farm again.

Mutty shrugged in reply. “I don’t know. Maybe recently, or maybe I was born this way. Who knows?”

To be continued . . .