T

he driveway was empty.

Rivky exhaled. Small favors.

It hadn’t been an easy week, with Chaim home all the time. The luxury of coming into an empty house after work was something she’d taken for granted for so long: She liked dumping her pocketbook on the floor as soon as she walked in, shedding her jacket as she moved through the house, and only straightening up later. She had her little rituals — calling her mother, then each of her sisters in order (sisters-in-law went last) — and she didn’t need Chaim grinning at her and commenting on everything she said.

Yesterday, Zeldy told her about finding towels in the right pattern for her new kitchen. “Mazel tov!” Rivky burst out.

Chaim emerged from his study. “What’s the mazel tov?”

“Nothing, just Zeldy found a good set of towels, that’s all.”

“How is that a mazel tov?”

Anyhow, she was happy to see that he wasn’t home yet. What, she wondered, would she do if he still had no job once school ended for the summer? She would daven harder, she decided, as she came in and dropped her pocketbook with a satisfying thud.

 

Chaim stood onKingston Avenue, wondering what to do next.

He felt dizzy — maybe from the heat, but just as likely because of what he’d just heard.

He’d gone into the meeting with such hope, certain that life was about to get exciting.

Avi Korman was one of the young guys in shul, part of the group that sat in the far corner. Chaim had little to do with them. Korman was the type of guy who changed his tie from Friday night to Shabbos day, who wrinkled his nose at the Johnny Walker and Chivas when there was a kiddush, and brought his own bottle of Glenmorangie.

The rav had suggested the meeting, explaining that Korman and some friends had launched a start-up — some kind of phone app that would change parking patterns in busy neighborhoods — and the rav thought they could benefit from an injection of cash and a good accountant: Chaim could provide both.

Chaim had been hesitant at first, but after reading up on the company online, he’d gotten excited. There was real potential, and he saw the role that he could play.

Korman’s office was inCrownHeights, though it didn’t look much like an office. Chaim walked around wide-eyed, wondering what Dovi Gelber would make of the ping-pong tables, bean-bag chairs, and exposed pipes and beams. He tried to imagine sitting in a glass-walled conference room.

Korman had been polite, but he’d looked apologetic from the start.

“Look,” he said, “I’ll be honest with you, the rav asked me to meet, so here we are. I don’t really know you and you’re clearly good at what you do, everyone says you’re very smart. But I don’t see it as a fit, you know — we’re very much about a can-do attitude, about headspace, about creating the right atmosphere. I asked around a bit and from what I hear, you’re not much for good vibes, you know?”