It wasn’t like her husband to linger over breakfast. 

Aviva Gelber was trying to get her children ready before the school bus pulled up, but Dovi was sitting in the kitchen forlornly, schmoozing with her while she was trying to remember where Shimmy had put his shoes last night. 

“Shimmy’s haircut is so funny, he’s a bald eagle,” Chedva said. 

Shimmy gritted his teeth and kicked her. 

Chedva fell to the ground howling. As Aviva sat down on the floor, trying to comfort her daughter, she could feel Dovi sitting there in silent judgment. Is this how mornings always are? How hard can it be to control a few little children until 8:20? Do you need me to step in? 

Despite her pain — Chedva was clutching her leg, insisting it was broken — she was able to smile sweetly and say, “Shimmy flies in the sky, he’s a bald eagle, a bald, bald eagle.” She waved her hands like imaginary wings. 

Shimmy flung his backpack off and charged at her. 

“Shimmy,” Dovi cut in, standing up and slamming his mug down on the granite countertop. He grabbed his son. “Stop it. Don’t you realize that she’s teasing you just to get you mad? That you’re making her stronger when you get so angry? That it’s exactly what she wants?” 

Shimmy pouted. “She’s a rasha. I hate her.” 

He burst free of his father’s arms and tried to punch her again. 

“Baldie, baldie,” Chedva sang happily. 

Aviva looked at her husband apologetically. “It’s fine, Dovi, I’ll handle it. Have a great day.” 

She offered a tired smile as he reached for his car keys. Dovi had been hoping to have a coffee with her after the kids left and the house was quiet. For the first time since he’d started working at Merit, he wasn’t in the mood for going to work. 

Every morning, he passed a used car lot on the way to the office, its parking lot dominated by a large, blown-up mascot leering down at traffic and urging drivers to come check out the 2012 used Impalas. Inevitably, Dovi would drive by and think that Chaim Reimer had become like that in the office, a huge caricature laughing at them all, his comments and attitude too much for Dovi to handle. 

He headed to the door, feeling a fatherly responsibility to dispense one more piece of advice. “Shimmy, don’t give her the power to get under your skin.”