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Time to Dance

Dov Haller

Compliments were like penicillin, Shimshy decided. After a certain point, you developed a resistance and they no longer had an effect. Now, at 1:33 a.m., he listened to an overtired, weepy machateineste, her eyes shining with that special fusion of heartbreak and joy unique to those who’ve just married off a child. “And when you sang about my father, what he did in Auschwitz, I mamesh felt his neshamah down here, at my side,” she gushed.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

microphoneSomeone who came home from work at two o’clock in the morning should have a working light bulb over his door, Shimshy thought wryly as he felt around for the key. He let himself into the basement apartment, dropping his jacket and hat on his way in. By the time he reached the tiny kitchen he was shoeless.

He looked at the crookedly hung calendar on the closet that held his clothing, books, assorted foodstuffs, and the tea-lights he used each Erev Shabbos. He had the Ungar-Teichberg wedding tomorrow night at 10:45 in Tiferes Malka, nothing until then. And by nothing, he meant nothing.

*

 

When he woke up, daylight streamed through the flimsy paper shades. It was nine o’clock. Too early. He washed and mumbled Kriyas Shema. The sun seemed to bring the depressing contours of his life into focus, highlighting the sad, the bland, the hopeless all around him.

The walls were landlord-yellow, free of décor, of pretense at creative expression. There was a lone picture on his wall — Leizer’l and Suri, a picture taken years earlier, when he was still getting pictures. First, right after his little family had broken up, there was nothing. Then, after a few years of stony silence, Shaindy had seemed to weaken, and there had been occasional pictures and notes.

And then, after he’d made the mistake of showing up at Leizer’l’s bar mitzvah, Shaindy’s parents had gotten involved and erected a wall of acrimony so high and fierce that no letters or postcard could clear it.

The final blow to Shimshy’s tenuous hopes of eventual peace was the news — delivered to him by that idiot Binsky, to the horrified glances of everyone else at the Heshy’s Shabbos table — that Shaindy was getting married again. She did, in fact, to a wealthy insurance agent named Lachowitz, a widower, and she’d gone and moved toLondonwith him. Bye, Leizer’l. Bye, Suri. Shimshy had been given ten minutes to part from them, and even that was a favor, his ex-mother-in-law’s benevolence.

His children had returned his hugs, but even as his own body shook with sobs, their eyes were dry. Then again, their grandmother, with whom they’d eaten each and every Shabbos meal since their earliest years, referred to him as the Monster.

He wasn’t a monster, though, and never had been. He’d just been immature.

 

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