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Yosef Chaim Fixes Things

R. Atkins

I just love fixing things. Doesn’t matter what it is — a broken table leg, my kid brother’s bike, the kitchen closet — I’ll fix anything.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016


Photo: Nechama Leibler

"Yosef Chaim!” Ima called to me from the girls’ room. “The handle came off Sara Malka’s door — could you fix it please?” 

I’m used to this kind of request. The truth is that I just love fixing things. Doesn’t matter what it is — a broken table leg, my kid brother’s bike, the kitchen closet — I’ll fix anything. Or at least I’ll give it a try. 

I fixed Sara Malka’s door handle, and then there was a knock on the front door. 

“Yossele, neshamale! You have to come and help me! I don’t know what to do!” 

A little old lady, dark-skinned, in a flowery housecoat and brightly colored head scarf, jingling with gold bracelets, stood on the doorstep. This was, of course, our Savta Miriam. She’s not really our savta, she’s our neighbor, but we’re so close to her we all call her Savta. She’s a widow and her family lives far away, and so she often comes over to our house to ask for help fixing things. As the bechor, it’s usually me who helps out. Mostly it’s just little things like changing a lightbulb or taking out the garbage, which is easy for me but hard for Savta Miriam. 

“Yosef Chaim, go see what Miriam needs please,” Ima asked me. “But don’t do anything dangerous!” 

Ima knows me too well! There are so many other things I could fix if only Ima and Abba would let me use the electric drill. But no. Though Abba says if I show I’m responsible enough to use it, he’ll let me, but not until I’m bar mitzvah.

Photo: Nechama Leibler

“What do you need, Savta Miriam?” I asked, as we walked down the alleyway to her house. 

“Oy, I’m so scared! I think there’s a mouse in my pantry! I opened the door to get some semolina to make couscous, and I heard a rustling noise and saw something move! You have to do something — I’ll never sleep at night knowing there’s a mouse in the house!” 

Now Savta Miriam, who you might have gathered is Moroccan (who else makes homemade couscous?!) tends to get a bit hysterical, but you can’t blame her, being all on her own. And to be honest, I’m not sure I’d want to spend the night alone in the house with a mouse, either. 

Mice don’t scare me though. I’m used to them. We had a family of big brown rats living in our garden not so long ago, and we had to catch and kill them all. Abba isn’t home much and Ima can’t even look at a rat without getting hysterical, so it was me who took them out of the traps and drowned them. Not a nice job, but what can you do? Rats are nasty creatures; dirty and dangerous. I hope Savta Miriam’s mouse really is a little mouse and not a big nasty rat.…

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