Join The Conversation With Mishpacha's Weekly Newsletter

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.…

Related Stories

Sign Up!

Sarah Buzaglo

Signs are everywhere. Who designs them, who makes them, and who puts them up? Behind the signs you s...

The Mighty Kite

S. Levi

Flying high through the sky in a rainbow of colors, kites are one of the world’s oldest and best bel...

Teen Fiction: Of Dentists and Diets

Hadassi Shachar

One day I looked around the classroom and finally faced reality. That’s when my weight started to bo...

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.

What’s in a Name?
Shoshana Friedman “What does Writer X have to say this week?”
Atonement — Fake and Real
Yonoson Rosenblum White confessionals and faux rituals
Four Walls Coming Full Circle
Eytan Kobre All the while, there’s been a relationship in the offing...
And Yet We Smile
Yisroel Besser We are the nation that toils to be happy at all costs
Out of This World
Rabbi Henoch Plotnick Dirshu Hashem b’himatzo — we are in Hashem’s company now...
Steven and Jonathan Litton
Rachel Bachrach The co-owners of Litton Sukkah, based in Lawrence, NY
Tali Messing
Moe Mernick Tali Messing, engineering manager at Facebook Tel Aviv
Sick Note
Jacob L. Freedman “Of course, Dr. Freedman. Machul, machul, machul”
Avoiding Health Columns Can Be Good for You
Rabbi Emanuel Feldman Only one reliable guide for good health: our Torah
Endnote: Side Notes
Riki Goldstein Most Jewish music industry entertainers have side profes...
Me, Myself, and Why
Faigy Peritzman Where there’s no heart and no love, there’s no point
Can’t Do It Without You
Sarah Chana Radcliffe When you step up to the plate, you build your home team
Eternal Joy
Mrs. Elana Moskowitz The joy of Succos is the fruit of spiritual victory
The Appraiser: Part III
D. Himy, M.S. CCC-SLP and Zivia Reischer Make sure your child knows his strengths
Hidden Special Needs
Rena Shechter You won’t see his special needs, but don’t deny them
Dear Wealthy Friend
Anonymous There’s no need for guilt. I am truly happy for you