Watching things take off while you know it’s all about to come to a rude halt was cruel.

Davey’s rough finger moved carefully across the sheet, alef, beis, gimmel. Binyamin bent over, smoothing out the edges. The paper was rough and smooth at the same time, the wonder of those curved black letters spilling across the page. Behind him, he heard Itche, a satisfied laugh. Zeidy Perlstein grunting, nodding, the noise of a kollel. A multigenerational kollel. Binyamin blinked hard, tried to still the ache in his chest.

It was a long, hungry day; he couldn’t go to Zoberman’s for lunch, that would mean encountering another blistering ball of tension, and he had no energy. Navigating the kitchen these days was a comic tragedy. So he had pretzels from the vending machine, and soda, and hoped Kaylie would bring home one of Bea’s goodies, not a new dish that Marcy would foist on her.

Then it was night, sky gaping black through the windows, Eisner bundling up. Rabbi Neuwirth waved him over.

“Good news, and great news,” Rabbi Neuwirth said, swiping his palms on his desk.

Binyamin stilled.

“No word yet on the final decision, obviously, but I did present the drawings to them, and one of them was moved, very moved. I could tell. Enough to make me feel hopeful.”

“Oh,” Binyamin breathed. He hadn’t realized his chest had squeezed so tight.

“And even better news, I’m not sure we’ll have to worry about their decision so much either way. My chaver told me yesterday about a certain space — can’t go into details, but it’s renovated, fresh, airy. I’m hoping it’s not too pricey.” Rabbi Neuwirth stopped as Binyamin’s face sagged. Hastily, Binyamin rearranged his features. Cheeks up, smile.

“Anyway,” Rabbi Neuwirth sighed, happy, “thanks for all your help, Binyamin. Let’s see what happens.”

“Let’s see,” Binyamin echoed. He left quickly. It was so cold, the wind felt raw on his face. He cradled his cheeks in his palms. He couldn’t quite force them all to stay in these mildly noisy, overheated quarters when they had someplace big and new, all to themselves, could he?

Why did he always find himself in the middle? Tugged by both sides, trying to make things good, always trying.

He trudged home. Weariness sighed through his bones. This was his lot in life, it had always been this way. He was Daddy’s star, or maybe his sun, and he could do no wrong. But then, apparently Mommy could. And he loved Daddy, and it always stung when he was angry at Mommy. Couldn’t he see how hard she worked, how it was she who was really behind the success of Zoberman’s, behind everything?

Of course, it had always been up to him, to gather up all his charm and grace and wit, and smooth things out. Find the missing things, tell Mommy how much he loved her, promise stuff to Daddy.

And now it was all so wrecked up over there, and Mimi was being a snob, and Kaylie wasn’t saying much, and where did he come into the picture? Nowhere. He was busy navigating the mess at Crowne. The old men who needed him, his friends who were kind enough to pursue the chavrusashaft but would be eager to end it if it meant moving to nicer quarters.

He had no energy left. No energy at all. (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 596)