C haim stood by himself, about a hundred yards away from the hockey court. He could see the players: the Neos Deshe team in their new, red hockey jerseys, the Matzav guys in silver jerseys. (The other team had also come with practice jerseys, Singer had breathlessly informed him.)

Chaim inhaled deeply. There was something about this newly discovered paradise called camp, he thought, that made every evening seem like theater: the inky sky, heavy darkness, and bright lights making the hockey court look like a stage. And just like in a play, where the actors seem more alive than they do in real life, so too the characters in this play.

Chaim smiled at the thought. His family would look at him oddly if he articulated it that way. He remembered how, at Chana Leeba’s sheva brachos, he’d tried to express his emotion, how marrying off a daughter was like planting a part of your soul somewhere else, and he’d teared up. Later, Rivky had looked down into the center of her half-cantaloupe and said, “Well, that was awkward. You started a sentence and couldn’t finish it.”

The whistle rang out as someone scored a goal and the cheers rained down on the metal bleachers, which seemed to shake with excitement. Chananya Singer was in his customary place at the center of the court, his face burning with intensity as he watched the Neos Deshe team tie the game at six.

We’ve got this, Chaim thought to himself.

*

Chaim let himself gently into the bungalow, careful not to wake up Rivky.

“Hey, I’m up,” she called. “Nu? Who won the big game?”

Chaim realized he was a bit disappointed. He’d been looking forward to calling Yudi to tell him about how Yerucham, the waiter who liked Chaim, had scored with three minutes left and then flashed him a thumbs-up. The Matzav people had pulled their goalie at the end of the game and the Neos Deshe goalie, Perl, had been extraordinary, driving the campers into a frenzy. With each save, his legend grew. And when time ran out, they’d carried him on their shoulders.

Menachem Perl went to a yeshivah for boys who had a hard time learning and his parents had seemed kind of strange. Chaim knew it was a night the thin, slight boy would remember for the rest of his life, a memory he would carry in his heart and take out when he needed a boost.

“Hey,” Chaim said to Rivky, “it was great. We won, 8-7.”

“Oh, that’s good, I’m happy for you. I’m sure you’d have liked to win by more, no? Like 8-7 probably isn’t so good?”

“Actually, no. This was perfect. It doesn’t make a difference how much you win by.”

She smiled brightly. “Great. Listen, Chaim, do you mind if I go to Woodbury Commons tomorrow? There are great deals at Off 5th and Tory Burch, and I don’t want to miss them.”

He barely heard the question. “Sure, why not, I don’t need the car tomorrow.”

He dialed Yudi and stepped out. (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 660)