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House of Mirrors: Chapter 4

Rachael Lavon

Laylee’s father demands a plan about the shul, which Gavi ad-libs. He pledges half the sum to Gavi and Laylee if the community pays the other half

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

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G avi grabbed a rake from the shed and headed toward the fresh downfall of brightly colored leaves that languished on the grass. He raked quietly, while keeping an eye on the small group of teenagers huddled together on the other side of the yard. Planks of wood and nails lay scattered around them, as they tried to come up with a plan.

“Hey, Mr. Beloff.” Grossman walked over, pencil shoved behind his ear. “Gavi.”

“Right. Gavi. So like, we’re just wondering about the wood and whatever.” “Quality. I want this thing to last.”

“Right. So like, thing is, this is our first big job and stuff,” he said slowly, rubbing his shoe against the grass.

Gavi raised his eyebrows. “And?”

A few of the other boys meandered over, the crew of misfits Gavi had rounded up over the past year. He’d found a professional carpenter to teach them, garnering the eternal gratitude of battle-weary parents. Grossman’s father was especially thankful, which worked in his favor — he was a man Gavi wanted on his side.

“And... we aren’t so, um, so good yet. Maybe you should go with the cheaper wood. In case it comes out bad or whatever.”

Gavi summoned up his finest eye-contact skills and scanned the group intently. “You guys can do this. You’re skilled, hard workers, and I’m sure the end result will be fantastic.” And worst comes to worst, I’ll get a professional in here to fix it up.

The group wandered off with shy smiles.

Gavi grabbed a hammer and some nails, and scooped up a small piece of stray wood lying on the grass. As long as they’re busy with something. Forget alcohol or drugs — it’s the inactivity that rots the brain. He watched Cookie on the swing for a minute and then called her over.

“Come here, Cook. Let me see how tall you are.” He vividly remembered his father measuring him against the giant tree in their tiny Brooklyn backyard. Think you’ll grow taller than the tree, Gavriel? I wouldn’t put it past you…. Gavi smiled at the memory for a moment before the bitterness crept back.

Cookie ran over to Gavi, who showed her how to stand with her back against the tree. Then he made a small mark and hammered in the piece of wood. He wrote on the wood: “Perla Beloff, age 6.” “Look how tall you are already!” Gavi smiled, pinching her lightly on the cheek.

“And fat.” She spoke without emotion, a simple, honest, two-word sentence. Gavi felt his stomach drop. “Hey... hey.” He bent down so Cookie was at eye level. “Who said that?”

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