S o my mind is wandering again, trying to see a picture from the puzzle pieces I have. One piece is a little girl who is going to have a part in my life at least for the near future. Another piece is my promise to my father to befriend Shimmy Gutman, of all people. The class Mishnayos project is also a piece. Then Rebbi says, “Weiss, please summarize what I just said for the rest of the class.”

My heart does a kind of somersault. I search desperately for the line where we were holding. Chaim coughs so I’ll notice that he’s pointing at the correct place in his Gemara. I clear my throat a few times, then read through it really quickly and mumble a few words as if I know what I’m talking about. Unfortunately, Rebbi doesn’t buy the bluff. He repeats his request, adding, “Could you please speak more loudly, Weiss? I didn’t exactly understand what you said.”

My stomach feels like it’s being squeezed in a giant fist, but I give it another try. Praying that something will distract Rebbi’s attention from me, I skim through the lines like a bolt of lightning plus a few mangled sentences that nobody could understand, including me.

There is quiet in the classroom. “Weiss, I’m sorry, but I still don’t hear you clearly. Please repeat what you said.”

I hear a few smothered snickers. This is becoming a charade. It’s obvious by now that I wasn’t paying attention. Why does Rebbi persist? It’s not like him to embarrass his students, and my face feels like it’s on fire.

The third time is no better than the first two. Maybe Rebbi wants me to admit my daydreaming and ask for slichah as an example to the other kids?

Chaim raises his hand and waves it in the air. “Rebbi, I heard Meir’s answer. I’ll repeat it for the class!” I begin to breathe again as Chaim proceeds to give a really good account of what the rebbi was explaining before. I duck my head and whisper, “Shkoyach!” The rebbi continues the shiur as if nothing happened, but now I’m paying better attention.

At last it’s time for our morning break. I’m starving! At least I was until I see Shimmy Gutman standing by the sink waiting for me to come wash for bread. I walk really slowly, hoping he’ll wash first and return to class before me. No such luck.

I duck into the restroom to give him a few more minutes. It’s not a very pleasant place to wait, but it was the first idea I could think of. The hall is empty when I step out again. Or at least I think it is until I see the shadow.

The hall is lined with windows and it’s a sunny day, so when Shimmy tried to hide around the corner his shadow fell right across the floor where I have to walk to get to the sink. “Shimmy,” I say, with as much courage as I can muster, “what do you want from me?” while I’m measuring with my eyes how far I’ll have to run to get back to class and calculating the amount of time it should take.

“My father talked to yours,” he spits out in an accusing voice, as if it’s my fault. (Excerpted from Mishpacha Jr., Issue 695)