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Summer Job: Chapter 36

Dov Haller

Chaim hatches a plan to thwart Harkin

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

S hacharis was a dilemma for Chaim. The regular camp minyan wasn’t for him — he didn’t go for singing by Baruch She’amar or clapping by Ashrei or jumping by Aleinu — but the early-morning waiters’ minyan didn’t feel like a minyan at all. It was held in the screened-in porch off the dining room and, besides for being too fast, some of the waiters never even opened their siddurim. Chaim had told one of them about standing up by Az Yashir but the boy had only shrugged and said, “thanks bro.” That was it. And the next day he hadn’t even bothered to stand up. Another waiter came to davening in his pajamas, tzitzis over his shirt, and mismatched socks. Chaim had expected someone to protest, but no one had.

But as Chaim wrapped up his tefillin, his mind wasn’t on the waiters but on Harkin: not the father, who seemed intent on making noise and letting people know that Chaim Reimer wasn’t qualified for the job, but his son. Nochum Harkin’s campaign didn’t bother Chaim. First off, as he had explained to Rivky the night before, Harkin wasn’t wrong. Chaim was unqualified for the job. (Whether Hershel Levinsky would have allowed anyone else to take the job was another matter.) That wasn’t a big deal. But he knew Harkin’s protest wasn’t about that.

Chaim remembered Harkin: they’d once had a wordless argument over a parking spot near shul. Though Chaim had given in, even smiled and made a point of offering Harkin a warm “good morning” as they walked in to shul, he’d felt the other man’s anger piercing him like an arrow. Chaim recognized the bitterness now. He even understood it.

Which was why he desperately wanted to meet the child. He’d checked the file at the main office: Ari Harkin (Aryeh Leib/ Arnold/ 8/11/2004), Bunk Tes. Chaim wasn’t sure why he wanted to speak to the boy, and he wasn’t sure what he would say, but he felt like he needed to.

Chaim circulated in the dining room at breakfast, trying to be unobtrusive as he studied the faces of the children, but he felt distracted. Someone had to tell Labkin that there weren’t too many people in the world who enjoyed their scrambled eggs black at the edges and hard as shoe leather. Chaim had watched as one boy speared a mouthful of eggs with his fork: his entire breakfast came with it.

Meanwhile, the older boys in Bunk Chaf were singing some kind of chant demanding service from their “lazy waiter, lazy waiter, you’ll go to sleep later,” and warning him that he, “better not slip, or no tip.” Chaim thought it was in poor taste, and wasn’t sure why it was acceptable from a chinuch perspective. If this was considered a harmless joke, then when would these boys ever learn how to speak with respect? Penner had made clear to Chaim that he wasn’t there to give chinuch lessons, even understood from his tone that others were prodding him to make sure Chaim got the message.

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