C

haim lifted the empty suitcases and grunted. “I’m too old for this.”

He followed Shia Langsam down a steep, rocky hill. “Here, Reb Chaim, you can use this shed for storage. Your shver keeps empty suitcases and stuff like that here, too.”

The manager stopped and removed a key from an immense key ring. The door didn’t immediately open, so Langsam pushed with his shoulder, sending the metal door flying open with a loud squeal. Chaim grimaced at the musty, dank smell in the dark shed.

Langsam crouched down and moved an old sleeping bag: there was a sudden rustle and a small animal dashed out between his legs. Chaim yelled out and jumped back.

Langsam looked up with a smile. “Seriously? A groundhog can do that to you?”

Chaim tried to laugh, but it was unconvincing.

Langsam stood up and patted him on the shoulder. “Welcome, Reb Chaim. Nice to have you here. And get used to things like that. It’s camp.”

He reached down and lifted a walkie-talkie off his belt. “Jerome, we have a groundhog issue in the staff shed, I think a few of them are living there. Can you get some traps down, have the men put out some repellant or whatever? Thanks.”

 

When Chaim went back to his summer quarters — a newly constructed two-room addition to the old infirmary building — he heard Rivky talking.

“Huh? Who’s in here?” he asked.

“Shhh.” She motioned urgently. She picked up her phone again and continued talking. “Up here there’s like a crawl space, I’m not sure why, and the paint is this funny kind of green. I like it. And there’s the window, of course. Look at that sky, just look. Only in camp. It’s a Neos Deshe sky.”

“Rivky, I think the sky might extend to the end of the road, a bit past Neos Deshe,” Chaim interjected.

“Shhhh.” She motioned again, “I’m taking a video for the kids. They can’t wait to see it. Stop talking for a minute,” she said, smiling, so he could see that she was joking.

He shrugged and got to work unpacking. He’d brought some seforim, for which there was no shelf, and he noted with irritation that Rivky hadn’t yet set up the hot-water urn, so he couldn’t even have a coffee: the kids were waiting for a video, right?

There was a light tap at the door and his sisters-in-law, Zeldy and Pessy, walked in. “Hi, Chaim,” Zeldy said and continued walking straight into the small bedroom, where Rivky was still delivering her monologue. “These windows will need curtains, maybe I’ll get out to Wal-Mart today...”

“Hey, remember Jameseway?” Pessy burst out, at which Rivky pressed stop on her video.

“Yes!” she said enthusiastically, “and welcome. When did you guys get here?”

Chaim noted that she didn’t mind Pessy and Zeldy interrupting her video, even though the kids couldn’t wait to get it.

And why had they come?