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Learning Curve: Chapter 21

Gila Arnold

Yael spends Shabbos at her parents’ home and makes demeaning comments about her sister-in-law. Ephraim gets angry at her, and tells her she should be more like his sister. Suri takes a phone call at the clinic from a new speech client — who specifically wants Aviva as a therapist

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Suri got off the phone and slammed it down a bit too hard on the kitchen table. Miri looked up from her math homework. “Frustrating phone call?” she asked.

Suri shrugged at her daughter. “That was Mr. Berger from the shul. There’s some kind of sewage problem in the basement. And we’re supposed to have our senior social group tonight, and now our meeting room’s out of commission.” She sat down at the table. “I hate disappointing them.” “Why don’t you just do it in our house? I’ll help you get ready.”

Suri shook her head. “Thanks, sweetie, but this isn’t like hosting a Neshei shiur. Some of these women are in wheelchairs. The venue needs to be accessible.”

“Oh.” Miri went back to her math, while Suri started chopping vegetables for a salad. She’d have to call everyone soon.

“Ma, I have it! The clinic! There are no steps to get in, and nobody’s there right now!”

Suri considered. A grin slowly broke out on her face. “How lucky am I to have such a brilliant daughter?” she said. “That’s a great idea!”

Aviva had been simmering all afternoon. She’d come home to find the living room a royal mess; Kayla had invited friends over to do a Chumash project, and somehow this project involved spreading poster board, markers, and glitter glue all over the living room carpet.

Then, Aviva entered the kitchen — and stopped short. Two-year-old Kivi was sitting on the counter, spreading a mixture of cornflakes, ketchup, and dish soap, while five-year-old Tova cheered him on. Aviva’s mouth opened in horror. “No! Kivi, no! Mommy does not let!” She scooped Kivi off the counter. “Zevi!” she called as she carried Kivi to the bathtub. “Where are you?” Wasn’t Zevi — who’d left the clinic a full hour earlier than she had — supposed to be in charge here?

Chavi emerged from her room. “Tatty’s not here,” she said.

“What? Where is he?”

Chavi shrugged elaborately. “Don’t know. I think he said something about meeting with a client.” Aviva’s hands stopped in the middle of their struggle to pull Kivi’s shirt over his wriggling head. “A client? Are you sure?” She immediately bit her lip. Why shouldn’t Zevi have clients to meet? He did run a printing business, after all.

Chavi nodded sagely. “Yeah, weird, huh? Tatty never seemed to care about his business before, and now all of a sudden I hear him on the phone asking people if they know anyone who needs printing services.”

Aviva’s eyes narrowed. It was weird. Almost as if—

“It must be because of the money he owes,” Chavi continued.

Aviva looked up sharply. Chavi sighed. “Come on, Mommy, you don’t have to keep pretending that I’m a baby. I know what’s going on around here. Tatty borrowed a whole lot of money from a gemach to pay someone back for something. I heard him talking about it on the phone.”

Money from a gemach? To pay back someone? Chavi heard him talking about it?

Why was her teenage daughter more in the know than she was?

Lips pressed, Aviva slid Kivi into the bath, and began soaping him vigorously. Back turned to Chavi, she said, “Very nice that you know how to eavesdrop, but the mitzvah of kibbud av v’eim still exists. Don’t go around spilling Tatty’s secrets that you managed to overhear.”

Aviva didn’t turn around, but she heard Chavi stomping away. Slam. Now she was sulking in her bedroom. Good. Let her think about the proper way to speak to your mother.

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