C ome evening, Kaylie Zoberman liked her Formica counters cleared of mitzvah notes, leftovers, stray headbands, or anything at all, and the grout between her blue-and-gray tiles bleach-white.

Her husband Binyamin liked the easy carelessness of knocking back a cup of seltzer and leaving the cup on the counter.

“...so we struck a deal and set up the soda machine near the back exit instead of in the lobby, far enough from the old people and still close enough for the rest of us.” Binyamin waved his hands as he spoke, pink-cheeked and satisfied. “The soda machine was a great idea, Kaylie! Thanks.”

Kaylie nodded. Binyamin was a tzaddik — encouraging his kollel to take up residence in a spare room in a nursing home.

“But still... I feel like it shouldn’t just be about compromising. There are so many sweet old men, many of them lonely, and we should... engage them, somehow, don’t you think? It feels wrong just coming in, nodding hello, saying good night.”

Kaylie nodded.

When he stopped for a refill, Kaylie said quickly, “Binyamin. That construction place, you know, across from the restaurant? They put up a sign. New fleishig eatery. Coming soon.” She paused, satisfied at the way his eyes widened. “And it’s a good sign. Big and trendy. Cool designs.” She stopped abruptly.

Binyamin shrugged, but she could tell by the way he blinked and looked away, that he had heard everything she hadn’t said. Cool designs... and nothing old-fashioned, slapdash, Zoberman-style. She dug her fingernails into her palms, watching his face. The pine scent of floor cleanser drifted up; Kaylie’s pet peeve was a post-dinner kitchen still full of the smells of frying chicken and roasting vegetables. But she couldn’t feel good tonight, fresh scent or not.

“Well,” he said finally, “what do you think we should do?”

“A whole lot of things, actually,” Kaylie replied, sitting up straight. “We need to develop a strategy. If there’s competition, we need to best it.”

Binyamin rubbed his eyes. “I hate this stuff. But I suppose. Though I can’t see Daddy and you and Mommy and Mimi agreeing on anything.” He chuckled, then stopped. “Come to think of it, this doesn’t sound... uh, wise.”

Kaylie frowned. “Huh?”

Binyamin removed his glasses, cleaned them thoroughly. Kaylie thought she was going to pop. Finally, he said, “If you’ll listen to me, Kaylie. Stay out of this.”

Kaylie blinked. “Excuse me?”

Binyamin crushed the plastic cup in his fingers. “I mean it.”

“But...” Kaylie licked her lips. “Why?”

“Because... because even though it would be great for Zoberman’s if you get involved, I’m sure it would. It’s just... if you get in there and start shaking things up…” He swallowed. “I can’t see this ending well.”

Kaylie folded her arms. “Really?”

“Mimi is the manager. Let her and Daddy deal with this.” He blinked. “Kaylie, you know how delicate Mimi is around Daddy. And you and Mimi see things so differently. If you go join that mess, things will just be... volcanic.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 578)