"L ook,” Nochum Harkin said, standing up. “I’m not the guy to make trouble, I’m a live-and-let-live sort of guy, but not when it comes to kids. This isn’t the place to keep silent.”

Nochum looked at his wife. “What, you think I’m over-reacting? You think I’m complaining for fun?”

Chaya shrugged. He actually did enjoy complaining: He had problems with the rav’s speech, the chazzan’s voice, and the gabbai’s choices. His boss was nasty, his co-workers were inept and, by the way, the new cashier at the grocery seemed to be on drugs. (Someone should really tell Hertzberg that he was about to lose every last customer — the few loyal ones who hadn’t already switched to EpicUre.)

Chaya knew that her opinion didn’t mean anything. She also knew that if he had a campaign, a new fight to occupy him, it meant he wouldn’t be focused on her lousy suppers or sloppy housekeeping or silly friends. For a bit.

Chaya got busy clearing the dishes. “I don’t know Mr. Reimer, but the wife works in Malky’s school. I think she’s a speech therapist or something. She seems very nice.”

“I know him well enough, believe me. Mr. Stuck Up sits in the corner of shul and scowls. Definitely not a man who ever said a nice word to a child, believe me,” said Nochum Harkin, a man who’d never said a nice word to a child. “Exactly the sort of guy who thinks everything is coming to him. He’s got it all figured out, believe me. He never had to deal with the stuff people like the rest us have to, all smug. And now he decided he’s a camp director. It’s outrageous.” He looked at her again, and Chaya knew he was trying to find evidence, anything — a comment, expression, even the faintest wrinkle of her nose — that indicated that she wasn’t taking him seriously. That was the ultimate sin.

He wasn’t a bad man. He was just frustrated, and Chaya felt bad for him. It hadn’t gone easy for him, not when he’d got bounced around between yeshivos as a child because his parents had no money to pay tuition, or when they’d eventually divorced. The early conclusion that everyone was out to get him had made the succeeding decades pretty rough as he took on bosses, managers, and neighbors.

This was the first child they were sending to camp. Neos Deshe was the only camp with a real scholarship program. (Chaya had dutifully filled out the paperwork for Meromim, Ari’s dream camp, and she’d personally brought it to the office well before the deadline. A bored looking eighteen-year-old girl told her that, sorry, all the scholarship slots were taken already.) Neos Deshe was the camp, Nochum said, for people like them.