S ometimes Binyamin wished he could just stop thinking. Turn off his mind. Not that it was possible; Kaylie was planted firmly in his mind’s eye, looking panicky. Zoberman’s is our home, we grew up there, he tried explaining to her. Changing things won’t be straightforward.

He slipped through the revolving doors of Crowne Assisted Living Facility, where his kollel rented their quarters.

A nurse pushed a man in a wheelchair through the lobby; the old man struck Binyamin as a wisp… a wisp of smoke, or time, curling into nothingness. His cheeks were sunken, his skin papery and white. Was Crowne home, for him? Binyamin couldn’t imagine. He thought of Zoberman’s. What was home anyway? The place you live in, the place you used to live in? Or was it something else entirely?

His phone buzzed.

Yochie.

What on earth? What time was it in Eretz Yisrael anyway?

“Hi, Binyamin!”

“Hi, Yochie. Is everything okay?”

“Can’t a sister call to say hi?”

He snorted. “How are you? The kids?”

“Good, good,” Yochie was impatient. “Listen, brother, what’s happening? What’s going on?”

If Binyamin closed his eyes, he could see The Sign across the street, glaring at the bustle of Zoberman’s. “What should be going on?”

Yochie sighed. “Every time I call, Daddy’s in an awful mood and Mommy says precisely nothing. What’s going on?”

Binyamin loosened his scarf. The place was a sauna.

“Well,” he said, suddenly impatient, “if you must know, there’s another restaurant opening up right across from us. There’s your news.”

Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed Amanda, the yellow-haired floor manager, looking at him with perky eyes.

“You’re not seriou— one sec, Eli, I said no cookies!” For a moment, Binyamin thought wistfully of the fair-haired little nephew he hardly knew. Could he ever love him the way he loved Mimi’s kids?

Then Yochie was back. “Shana will have a cow. How come nobody tells us anything?”

“That she will,” Binyamin agreed. It’s not like they’re going to come over here and help out. They’re so removed from everything.

“I can’t believe people are trying to compete with us. I mean, Zoberman’s. We built it from scratch.”

Amanda was waving. Oh, no. What did she want today? “Listen, Yochie.” Binyamin felt bad. “It’s not the end of the world. B’ezras Hashem, we’ll… best them.” That was Kaylie’s word.

“I’m sure. Now tell me what you’re going to do.”

Amanda was starting to clack toward him. She was always looking to nail down another one of the yungeleit with her endless questions. He had to get out of here, quick.

“Look, Yochie, I really gotta go now.”

“Binyamin! Don’t hang up on me!”

“Yochie, I can’t talk,” he hissed, as the floor manager came to a stop in front of him. Too late. He was cornered.

“Don’t mind me,” Amanda stage-whispered. “I’ll wait.”

“Fine,” Yochie grumbled, “but keep me updated. We’re also part of this family.” She clicked off and Binyamin looked up to face Amanda.

“Good morning, Biny-ah-min,” Amanda said chirpily. Dimly, Binyamin wondered how she knew his name. “I was waiting for one of you guys to show up, because I really need to ask you something urgent.” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 580)