Victory Gardens – Chapter 69

Novel

Manny sends a telegram to his parents asking whether he and Mutty should stay, and to Esther asking if she sold the stocks before the crash.

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TO: MANNY ROTHSTEIN

 

Manny hoped Mutty wouldn’t be insulted that his parents didn’t address the telegram to him as well.

 

ALL FINE

LEARN SHTARK

PAPA

 

Manny didn’t know why he expected to read something different than what was written in front of him. Surely Papa had not become less terse since he had been gone, and certainly the fact that he had to pay for each letter ensured its brevity. Even so, the message did not ring true. He showed it to Mutty, who took the news at face value and broke into a smile.

“We’re staying! Baruch Hashem!”

“Not so fast. We still haven’t heard from Esther.”

“What could she say that Papa wouldn’t? All she has to do is let you know when she is arriving.”

Manny remained skeptical, and his fears were realized when he finally received Esther’s reply three days later.

 

TO: MANNY ROTHSTEIN

PAPA AND MAMA DEVASTATED. BROKE.

B”H I SOLD. ALL IS WELL WITH US.

PLEASE ADVISE.

ESTHER

 

Manny was not happy that his suspicions had been correct, but here was the proof. Devastated! Broke! Esther would never use that type of language if the situation were not dire. He tried to think about what his options were, but he found that he could not think straight. His mind was a mixture of relief for himself and Esther, and deep sorrow for his parents. He knew that if he were there in New York, his father would tell him not to worry, that he and Mama had managed all these years without Manny’s help and they would continue to manage perfectly well.

But if what he had read in the paper was accurate, this crash was unlike anything Papa had ever experienced. It had hit anyone and everyone in its path like a tornado. People had no time to adapt, and were more than likely in a state of shock.

Papa and Mama were no strangers to hardship, but everyone had their breaking point and perhaps this was theirs. Then he thought about the heavy gold bullion waiting for him at home — he hoped — if Esther had indeed followed all his instructions. There was more than enough there for all of them to live comfortably, and he would have to figure out a way to make sure that Papa and Mama were well cared for. He had, in any case, planned to provide for them when the time came. He thought he would have more time in which to prepare, but he could still manage it. The problem would be getting them to accept his help.

He felt the crushing weight settle on his shoulders, his mind still foggy and grey. For all his problem-solving abilities, he did not know how to proceed. Logic dictated that he return home immediately, with or without Mutty. He needed to go home, take the reins, and get everyone back on track as quickly as possible.

But there was something else nagging at him, a voice he could not quiet inside himself. Even though he had been sent on this trip by his father — against his will — to find his brother and bring him home, returning now was not going to be so simple. He had grown attached to the land, in his own Manny way. Everything about life in the old city defied him. Nothing moved quickly, or efficiently, or accurately. He was usually covered in dust and soot, and spent more time than he cared to every evening brushing out his coat and his shoes and his slacks.

He had kicked and fought on his way over to Eretz Yisrael, yet now he did not want to leave. He wanted to breathe the same air as the chachamim who walked the dusty streets here, and he felt strongly that Esther would love it too. He didn’t know exactly when the transformation had taken place, but it had. If he thought long and hard enough, perhaps he could find a way to take care of his parents and still remain here.

That was when he realized he could not solve this problem alone, that he needed someone to talk to who could advise him. He thought of the lined, concerned faces of the roshei yeshivah, who had aged so dramatically in the past two months, and he decided not to unburden himself to them. He felt the same about Rabbi Levin. It didn’t feel right taking from the rabbi; in fact, he made a note to find him so he could repay him and also contribute tzedakah to whatever cause the rabbi needed it for. When Manny had desperately needed his help, the Rav had saved his life. Baruch Hashem, he wasn’t desperate any longer, only confused. He shrugged his shoulders and gave up, hoping an idea would come to him soon.

The following morning, the landlord knocked on Manny’s door and informed him he had a visitor.

“Good morning,” said Manny, smiling at the surprise guest. “How did you find me?”

“Good morning. It’s a small town.” Zayit held out a small parcel and beckoned for Manny to take it. “My wife made you breakfast. Go. Wash your hands. Make a brachah. Then we’ll talk.”

To be continued . . .