Victory Gardens – Chapter 89

Novel

Esther and Manny host Jens and his sister for lunch. Jens warns Manny that there are people looking for him after his journey on the German airship.

*   *   *

Manny managed to get through the now-tense atmosphere of lunch without making a scene. Inside, his heart was pounding so loud he was afraid that everyone would hear it.

Manny was a good man, a proud man and a careful man, but what he was not was brave. The thought of endangering himself and his wife was unbearable. His instincts were screaming at him to go inside the cottage, pack up their valuables and head immediately to the port and simply wait for the first west-bound ship that was taking passage. He was that frightened.

But on the other hand, he did not want to upset Esther. He looked over at her tidying up after the luncheon. She had sacrificed so much to join him on what he was rapidly coming to consider his foolish lark.

Evening was coming and the air was cool. “Shall we take a walk?” said Esther, breaking into his thoughts. “It’s a beautiful night. You can show me around the neighborhood a little.”

Manny barely knew the neighborhood himself, but he didn’t want to tell Esther that, and suddenly, the thought of walking around, exposed and unprotected, was unappealing. Suddenly, danger lurked everywhere, and he was afraid to risk it.

“It’s a lovely idea,” he said, “But I’m a bit tired. The luncheon wore me out more than I thought. How about we sit in the garden? I’ll make the coffee. You sit and rest.”

“Well, all right. That sounds lovely too. Oh, Manny, here we are in the Holy Land. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine we would end up here. And it’s so beautiful.” Esther looked so different in the golden light — like she was lit from within. There was no way Manny could take this away from her — she’d clearly caught the spirit of life in Eretz Yisrael. And there was no way he would inform her of any danger. That was out of the question. He would just have to try to protect them both as best he could. It was just so hard, when you didn’t know from which direction the threat would come.

*   *   *

“So, what did you think of them?” asked Jens, later that evening.

“I don’t know. Nice,” said Helle. “Clueless.”

“Naïve, you mean?”
“Yeah, something like that. Jens, can we go home now?”

“What’s the matter? You’re so uncomfortable here?”

“I want to get back home to my family. Hendrik can’t wait forever.”

”Your husband will wait for you until the ends of time,” said Jens.

“Why did you never marry, Jens?” Helle asked, sitting down at the table with her brother. “It’s such a shame. You’d have made such a wonderful husband and father.”

“I highly doubt that,” Jens replied. “I’m far too selfish, I think. And I was just so curious about the world. I couldn’t sit still for a moment.”

“You know,” said Helle. “You’ve just hit on something that was bothering me about those two.”

“What’s that?” said Jens.

“How out of character it is for the fellow, Manny, to pick up and move here, and then bring his wife on. He seems far too prissy for such a big adventure.”

“I agree. Sometimes life just has to happen to people. He finally makes his big move and does something for himself, and then a hammer comes down on him without his realizing it. Who would find a way to travel on an airship to get to Europe quickly? That takes a far greater mind than this fellow has. And then he gets his picture on the front page of the newspaper!”

The two hale and hearty Danes had a good laugh over the poor, hapless Manny.

“Our work is done here in any case, in answer to your question. It was fun tracking him down, and I did my civic duty by giving him warning. My guess is that he’s not going to leave right away, because he doesn’t want to alarm his wife. I should stick around and see if he requires further assistance, but I think you’re right, sister. It is time to go home. I’ll book passage tomorrow.”

*   *   *

In the meanwhile, the “far greater mind” than Manny’s was not having an easy day. Mutty had been keeping to the schedule he had devised for Papa as though his life depended on it. Mutty was the opposite of his brother, and found it difficult to do anything the same way two days in a row. Sticking to the schedule was as difficult for him as it was for Papa in his current condition, who had, in the past, set his entire life to the ticking of his wristwatch. They were both struggling with the enormous changes that had come upon them, and occasionally there were dust-ups.

This morning, Papa had refused to put his shoes on, nor did he allow Mutty to do so. He insisted on leaving his slippers on. Normally, Mutty would have just thrown on Papa’s coat and moved forward, but the freezing rain coming down was stopping him. They went out even if it was raining or cold, but that was on the days when Papa put his shoes on. Today was not one of those, and bringing Papa out to shul, which they had finally graduated to, was unwise.

Mama looked on with sadness in her eyes, on the one hand, and bursting with pride at her son’s devotion on the other. “Try not to take it personally, Mutty.”

“I know it’s not personal. But it’s frustrating!”

“Yes, it is. Two steps forward and one step back. But as long as you move forward some of the time.”

Mutty sighed heavily, feeling far older than his twenty years. “I know Mama. I know.”

To be continued . . .