Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

Short Story: Assessment of a Lifetime

Riva Pomerantz

There is a candy wrapper and a broken drum to the right of the building entrance. How typical. He steps over the garbage derisively and moves his finger toward the doorbell but hesitates and knocks instead. It would take a protracted length of time before someone answers, never mind the fact that he called to remind them about the appointment. Twice. Footsteps. He looks for the telltale eye in the peephole, but the door opens immediately with the intriguing suggestion of expansive hospitality. “Hi!”

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

“Oh — you must be the insurance assessor. Please come right in.” She waves him into the house and he enters gingerly. There is a tension in his features, a bitterness in the way his mouth is set, and his eyes are hard.

“We will go through everything together,” he says, brisk and businesslike. “We will start in the kitchen.”

“Can I get you a drink?” she asks, smiling.

He is again caught off guard, but he catches himself quickly and nods with a brusque motion. A millisecond later he realizes his mistake. Accepting a drink is potentially the first chink in the armor. It is too late — she pours him a cup of fresh, cold water and serves it gracefully. In an attempt to repair the damage he deliberately refrains from thanking her.

“Appliances?” he asks.

A man — presumably the husband — comes down the steps.

“Ah — you must be from the insurance company!” he exclaims through a heavy beard, extending a hand.

He takes the hand gingerly, as though it is unclean, and gives it a perfunctory shake.

The husband’s eyes quickly whip over him, taking in the absence of a head-covering, the shirt casually unbuttoned to mid-chest. He waits with a kind of dark delight for the telltale, unconscious frown, but his hopes are dashed.

“We really appreciate you coming out here today. We want to get our policy up and running already,” the husband says breezily. “Insurance is one of those things that you never actually want to use but it’s good to have. You know what I mean?”

There is an awkward pause when no answer is forthcoming.

“Appliances?” he asks again, keeping the tone aloof. He is determined to rebuff the friendliness.


To read the rest of this story, please buy this issue of Mishpacha or sign up for a weekly subscription.

Share this page with a friend. Fill in the information below, and we'll email your friend a link to this page on your behalf.

Your name
Your email address
You friend's name
Your friend's email address
Please type the characters you see in the image into the box provided.

Evolution vs. Revolution
Shoshana Friedman I call it the “what happened to my magazine?” response
Up, Up, and Away
Rabbi Moshe Grylak What a fraught subject Eretz Yisrael is, to this day
Where Do You Come From?
Yonoson Rosenblum Could they be IDF officers with no Jewish knowledge?
Heaven Help Us
Eytan Kobre Writing about anti-Semitism should rouse, not soothe
Work/Life Solutions with Chedva Kleinhandler
Moe Mernick “Failures are our compass to success”
An Un-Scientific Survey
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Are Jerusalemites unfriendly? Not necessarily
Out of Anger
Jacob L. Freedman How Angry Lawyer was finally able to calm down
5 Things You Didn’t Know about…Yitzy Bald
Riki Goldstein He composed his first melody at eight years old
When the Floodgates of Song Open, You’re Never Too Old
Riki Goldstein Chazzan Pinchas Wolf was unknown until three years ago
Who Helped Advance These Popular Entertainers?
Riki Goldstein Unsung deeds that boosted performers into the limelight
Your Task? Ask
Faigy Peritzman A tangible legacy I want to pass on to my children
Are You There?
Sarah Chana Radcliffe Emotional withdrawal makes others feel lonely, abandoned
A Peace of a Whole
Rebbetzin Debbie Greenblatt Love shalom more than you love being right
Seminary Applications
Rabbi Zecharya Greenwald, as told to Ariella Schiller It’s just as hard for seminaries to reject you