Victory Gardens – Chapter 87

Novel

Esther explores her new neighborhood. While shopping in the shuk, she encounters Jens Hopskaard and his sister, Helle Borum.

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Esther parted from the unusual pair, and tried to think what she could possibly serve for lunch when she didn’t yet know how to use the primus that Manny had proudly presented her with. She decided that nothing could go wrong if she served cold food, some cheese and bread, butter, and some sliced vegetables, and lemonade to drink. She had wisely brought along some dishes, glasses, and cutlery in her luggage, unsure of what she would find here to use. She’d set them out on her mother’s tablecloth that she’d also thought to bring along for sentiment’s sake. It would be a lovely meal. When she saw what was available in the market she was glad she thought ahead – the dishes on display were primitive in the extreme.

But the procurement of even the simple items needed to make lunch took most of the morning, and by the time she returned home she was a nervous wreck. She wondered what state she’d be in when she went to shop for Shabbos.

Manny greeted her at the door, worried and concerned over her whereabouts. “Where were you? Next time, please leave me a note where you’re going,” he’d told her.

“How?” she’d replied, still upset. “Do we have paper?”

Manny made a mental note to locate paper and pencil, and then helped her with her packages.

“It looks like you’ve bought enough for a yeshivah,” he noted.

“Well,” Esther answered, “We’re having guests.”

“Guests? Where did you find guests?”

“In the shuk,” said Esther matter-of-factly, as she tried to find a place for all her purchases.

“Well, who is it?”

“A fellow named Jens, and his sister, Helle Borum.”

Manny said nothing but his mind began to whirl. Jens? How many people named Jens could there be in the world? But surely it was just a coincidence?

“How did he look?” he asked Esther.

“How did he look? Does it make a difference?” she replied. “You’ll see him in an hour and you’ll know how he looks.”

“No reason. Just curious,” said Manny. But the truth was that he was far beyond curious. He was concerned.

And an hour later, when Jens and his sister showed up, his concern was more than justified. Standing at his doorstep was, in fact, Jens Hopskgaard.

Manny didn’t know what to do. Should he acknowledge him as an acquaintance or pretend he didn’t know him? He decided to follow Jens’ lead, and was a little surprised when the man greeted him with a warm show of friendship.

“And so we meet again!” said Jens, taking Manny’s hand and shaking it warmly.

“And so we do,” Manny replied, with far less enthusiasm.

“I’d like you to meet my sister,” he said. “Mrs. Helle Borum.” Helle stuck out her hand, which Jens quickly enfolded into his own. “Nice to meet you,” she murmured, giving her brother a sideways glare.

“Come, Helle, sit down,” Esther interjected. “I’ve got some lovely bread here, and cheese.”

Leaving Jens and Manny alone, the two women repaired to the tiny table that sat just outside the kitchen, such as it was, if you could call one sink and a shelf above it a kitchen.

“So what brings you here to Jerusalem?” Manny asked right away. He felt uncomfortable in Jens’ presence. When they’d met on the train it had been neutral territory, and here, in his home, it felt different and slightly unpleasant.

“You do, actually,” Jens replied.

“How so?” said Manny.

“I decided not to wait for you to drop me a line and let me know how things work out. I decided to search for your brother myself.”

“Have you been following me?” Manny exclaimed.

“That’s such a bald way to phrase it. Let’s say I’ve been silently accompanying you.”

“What do you want? And how did you know which woman was my wife?”

“Well, she did stand out a bit. And I knew you’d rented a home in this neighborhood. It was just a matter of time before I ran into one or the other of you.”

“Why didn’t you just come to the door instead of acting like … like a private investigator?” Manny was growing angry.

“This way is much more interesting, don’t you think?” said Jens.

“I think you and your sister had better leave,” said Manny. “And I think it’s best that you leave right now.”

“I think it would alarm the ladies,” Jens replied, pointing to the happily conversing women’s section. “And besides,” he lowered his voice. “I’m here to help you.”

“How?” asked Manny, crossing his arms across his chest.

“I’m not the only one following you,” he whispered.

Manny felt instantly alarmed. “What do you mean?”

“There were others, besides myself, who found it unusual to discover an Orthodox Jew traveling on a German airship. They thought there might be mysterious motives involved.”

“That’s ridiculous,” said Manny. “I was coming to find my brother.”

“I know that and you know that. But there are others who think differently.”

To be continued . . .