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  • Short Story

     MH updated 1 month, 1 week ago 5 Members · 11 Posts
  • Rochel Solomon

    Member
    October 18, 2020 at 12:38 am

    Hey guys I wrote this story for teenagers. I sent it in to publish, and they accepted it, but haven’t published it for a while. Thinking of pulling it and sending it somewhere else but before I do, I really want feedback on it. Is there anything about it that should be changed? Is it too confusing? Long? Should I take out the car scene? Should I take out the musing in the beginning? Is the grammar ok? Let me know. Thanks all!Links Maybe he wasn’t looking Maybe he was distracted But that will never clear his sentence That will never bring him back And when I sit by the wheel and put the key in the ignition I sometimes think About how it must have felt to have your whole life downward dogThat through all the crushed metal and stained upholstery Somewhere a heart was still beating A window, a chance I could almost picture him witnessing his motionless body strapped onto a gurneyHim seeing the wreckage in the wreckagePraying, praying Please dear G-d don’t let it be because of me *****************The first thing I noticed were the tinted mirrors. Actually that’s not true, Yali was first to point it out to me on our way in. Why she mouthed. I shrugged my shoulders. The truth is that Rabbi Kalish told me the reason a long time ago. But I willed it in my mind to forget. Dodging Yali’s raised brow I scanned the room for the furthest two chairs and took a seat behind a lady from the community. Yali came after me, though her sneakers took less eager steps on the parquetry. She sat down ram rod straight, hands clung tightly to her coat pockets eyes skittering from Mrs. Launder to everyone in the room. I envied her discomfort. The space was a campestral to her. Honestly, the mourner always feels in another world yet paradoxically cleaving to this one. We stayed in that bare room for about twenty minutes or so. Mrs. Launder spoke about Ruchy in a voice that was firm yet somehow still shattered. I remember Mrs. Launder from kindergarten carpool but she looked more youthful then. Now, crumples and folds marginalized her face. They were only a side effect of grief, but those grinning green eyes were incontestable. They were Ruchy’s. Shuddering I took a picture being passed around. It was Ruchy with her friends on the way to the Mishmeres convention. They all were wearing the sweatshirts and sitting on each other’s suitcases with hats and scarves giving the thumbs up. Yali had so desperately wanted to go on that trip but she wasn’t chosen. She cried to me about it for months. I handed Yali the picture, she carefully cherished it between her hands taking a long hard look at it, then with watery eyes passed it on. The lady next to me was about to hand me the second picture but stopped. “Adira Trachtenberg?” she was a small older lady with a short blond lob. I had no clue what her name was but that never mattered, everyone in this community knows who I am without me knowing the slightest bit about them. “Yes?” “Go to the front mamele.” She cajoled me, “you belong there.” It was then that I wanted to leave. My face flushed from her absurd, insensitive comment. “You would be a great comfort to Mrs. Launder.” She tried to repair herself but the damage was already done. My fists clenched, I was seething. She made way for me and once she did everyone else scooted their chairs for me too like kriyas yam suf, but I am no Moshe Rabbenui. Girls from my grade who have never spoken to me gave me rueful looks as I passed, and the chairs turned in my direction. There is always a seat directly by the mourner that people are either too sheepish, too scared, or too humbled to sit in. I was being ushered into that seat. Mrs. Launder was mid story when I pushed in my chair. “…just a random stranger, a non-Jew, who came all the way from the other side of town to tell us what it meant to her to have Ruchy smile at her. She said that smile made her every day.” Mrs. Launder let out an exhausted smile of her own at the memory as some women to her left stared at her in consternation. “She broke down in tears when she heard about the accident. She knew something was wrong the whole time because her whole week was off but she didn’t want to believe it. She came all this way to tell me.” Mrs. Launder grabbed her tissues and let out a phlegmy sob. I leaned in and nodded because that’s what you do if you aren’t brave enough to speak and it was then that she grabbed my hand. Her cracked nails covered my skin. Her thumb grazed my lifelines. “When you see somebody in the street Adira, especially me, smile. Don’t be afraid.” She said tightening her grip. I felt the chairs close in on me. Mrs. Launder and I have no filial feelings. Her daughter and I weren’t friends. We weren’t even acquaintances, she was too popular and I was too broken. What linked me and this woman was tragedy, and I would rather have not known her at all. But then she said those words, those words that were a covenant, a lineage. “Smile for Ruchy.”May G-d comfort you among the other mourners of Zion.I had nothing else to offer. ******************“Do you want to talk about it?” This is the conversation that always follows death for me. Yiechiel, Ruchy, my bunny Bongo that I had until sixth grade. My mom reasoned that I have never been able to fully mourn the death of my older brother Yeichel. He died when I was thirteen. Car accident. The bad ones that end up in smoke just like Ruchys. Only when they found him, Yechiel was still breathing. Did I want to talk about it? Not really. “Not really.” I had visually shut my bedroom door, but when I looked up my mother was still there.She played with the strings on her tichel. “Rebbitzen Kalish called, she said you can talk to her too if you want. She saw you when you went to sit shiva. She said some lady made you sit in the front.”“Some crazy lady, who told me that I belonged there. What kind of sick comment is that?” My face got hot knowing that Rebbitzen Kalish heard it too. Did everyone in the community need to know that I was a freak?“That was very wrong of her Adira.” My mother resolved that this was a good enough segue as any for her to come sit on my bed. “But you know, it’s so hard in those uncomfortable situations…maybe she thought that she was doing something good for you…”“I am perfectly aware of those ‘uncomfortable situations’ thank you.” I snapped reaching for my pillow for consolation, “And it wasn’t just wrong it was a sin. She embarrassed me in front of everyone!” “Did you talk to Mrs. Launder at least?” I flipped the pillow twice before answering. “She told me to smile at her if I ever saw her, or anyone really. Like Ruchy used to.”“She did.” My mother said pensively then nodded in agreement. “I remember seeing Ruchy at your production. She was singing and smiling so hard. I imagined she’s been like that her whole life.”I rolled my eyes. “Why do adults do that?” “Do what?” “Martyrize the dead. Like they were malachim even before death when they really were just…people. People who had bad days. People who cried. And Ruchy couldn’t have always been happy. And she probably wasn’t happy in her final moments. She was probably scared.” And there it was. A crack. A breakthrough. 18 years my mom chiseled that wall and now a part of me was chipping. My mother reached out and stroked my tawny tresses. I put my head in her lap like I did when Yechiel died, even when I found out she couldn’t bring him back and I realized parents weren’t superheroes and couldn’t save us from incoming danger any more than they could save themselves. “You know when Yichiel died, that’s all I thought about. His final moments. The pain he must have been in physically.” My mother stopped stroking my hair and twisted her wedding ring around. “I thought about it all shiva. I thought about it until there was nothing else I was willing to think about. And then Tatty told me that I should see somebody. Which like you, I vehemently objected to. I felt as though I was the adult and I was supposed to keep my children safe. And there was still You, Zev, and Aliza to tend to. I had to be the pillar. But I was so hollow on the inside.” She shook her head, “I would wake up screaming that my son was still submerged in flames. And after a while of this Tatty and I had a long talk. I told him the truth about how upset I was about Yichiels final seconds. Tatty understood. But he reminded me something that I’m now going to remind you Adira. Yechiel lived much longer than his final moments. He had a full 21 years. And he championed each day, even the hard ones. And we, as a family, were blessed with so many incredible moments with Yichiel, as I’m sure Mrs. Lander had with Ruchy.”I nodded though it wasn’t just that, it was so much more but I was too tired and I wasn’t feeling any better. “Thanks mommy, I needed to hear that. I feel a little better.”I sat up and threw the pillow near the headboard.“Tell Rebbitzen Kalish that it was nice of her to think of me, but I’m ok. Really.” “Ok,” My mother said doubtfully. Then, “there’s supper downstairs if you want any.”“No thanks, Yali and I stopped for Chinese so I’m good.” I managed to contrive a thin smile. “I know you are.” My mother reached over and gave me a kiss. When Yiechiel passed away she used to sit and talk to me for hours. She never let me get away with curt replies. She hasn’t given up on me no matter how contentious I get, she just has allowed time to take its course and it has. But when tragedy happens again, especially in such a small close knit community, it’s like time stops again and rewinds. I pulled the covers over all the words I didn’t say and shut the lights. That was 10:30. I woke up at 12:45 from a nightmare and ran into the bathroom. Unable to keep the night’s dinner down I cradled myself on my bed and didn’t fall asleep until the stars disappeared and the moon morphed into the sun. Only then was it safe for me to close my eyes. ************************************** “Tesla model 3.” Yali hit me hard on my shoulder. “Ow!” I winced, “Yali! I’m driving!” My words must have hit the windshield because Yali seemed the least bit fazed. “How do you even know that,” I asked astounded. Yali shrugged her shoulders. “Brothers.” Switching into the right lane I checked Waze. “What time does it say we’ll be home?” Yali asked reading my thoughts. “Forty minutes on Waze.” I declared. The way back to Brooklyn from Monsey had always been a challenge with traffic so I was happy I had someone in the car with me. Yali took off her drooping earrings. “These things are like fish hanging from your ears.” I laughed. “Then why do you wear them?” I wondered. “They are perfect for weddings.” Yali said in an obvious tone. I rolled my eyes and yawned. I knew once I got home that I would be exhausted. I Hadn’t gotten a decent sleep in months I was hoping at some point I’d break out of it. At least the vomiting had somewhat receded. Yali put on some Shwecky and the car turned into a recording studio of just the two of us. Time flitted through our fingers. Before we knew it we were five minutes’ home. “You can shut off Waze now Yali.” I instructed, “I don’t need it anymore.” Yali reached for my phone. “It’s locked” she surmised. I took it from her and put my finger on the home button. “Adira!” For a moment there I got lost in the headlights. I was completely submerged, I felt as though I had jumped into Jell-O. And then I saw them, and everything sped up. A frum Jewish man with his hand passionately pushing the horn. Above the ruckus I saw the visage of a young boy. His son. His eyes were wide, petrified. His curly peyos were flying. We were as close as one could be to a collusion. Then I slammed the pedal. I hurled back into my lane in a highball. I didn’t stop until I pulled over safely to the side. I got out of the car and watched the world spin around me. Yali got out too and came around. “Adira it was a mistake. Nobody got hurt. Relax.” Those wide eyes, I almost rammed into them. My whole body was shaking; my breath was oscillating like a pendulum. I grabbed onto the car door with both hands. I almost killed a father and his son. I almost killed Yali. This man would never see his son turn Bar mitzvah. I would never be able to see Yali walk down the aisle, at worst! At best we would all have been paralyzed! And it would have been my fault. Hashem would have made me the shaliach of such an unspeakable thing. Why would He ever tease me in such a way? Why would He ever make me capable? I felt my nerves turn from steel to Styrofoam. Yali reached out. I had no clue what for. Until I saw my fingers slip away from the car door. My legs buckled in and my eyes rolled back. Though Yali’s lips were moving I couldn’t decipher what she was trying to say. The last thing I heard was the lyricism of a darkening night. Sleep had come to take me at last. ********************************************** The Kalish repository of sefarim was famous. When Yiechiel was alive he used to go to Rabbi Kalish and borrow anything he could get his hands on. When he died, Rabbi Kalish brought my family and I hilchos avelius. I never opened mine, I relied on my parents to tell me everything. I found the book lying asunder on the book shelf. Apparently, out of all the other books and sefarim, this one was least popular. Mrs. Kalish walked in the room nursing a tray. I stood up and the chair scooted from under me and made a loud noise. Mrs. Kalish hardly noticed and sat down behind a dark desk with a damask cloth on top. Steam rose out of a china kettle that had flowers and leaves painted to look like they were flying in the wind. “You don’t have to drink it if you don’t want to. I just feel like it’s good for you in this weather. I drink tea at least five times a day.” I nodded but refused her. I shifted around in my seat then uncomfortably pulled my skirt down. The clock chiming got louder. Rebbitzen kalish took a long sip. The tapping of my foot seemed to make a difference so I stopped. It was getting to be a bit ridiculous and Rebbitzen Kalish was waiting for me to start. “I can’t fall asleep.” I blurted. I didn’t look at Rebbitzen kalish. I rambled at my shoes, “When Ruchy Lander died it was like my brother had died all over again and I didn’t know how to cope. I used to just think that if I were worthy enough Hashem wouldn’t take me, or my family, or my friends so I tried all my life to be worthy. And then He took somebody from me, so I decided to be reclusive. I decided to do as little as possible and not care as much, that way Hashem wouldn’t pay so much attention to me. I wanted Him to leave me alone. After a year of that I realized that I hated being left alone. I just wanted to be like everybody else.” Rebbitzen Kalish leaned back in her chair. “And now I can’t look at Hashem as anything but a taker. And I keep wondering when and how He’s going to take me, in some fiery explosion? And what’s worse than me being taken is me being the one Hashem sends to take. Every nightmare I have I am either the one in the back of the car or the one in the driver’s seat. But all I want right now, all I really want, is to go to sleep at night. I am so tired.” Tears started falling from my eyes. “It’s like I don’t ever get a rest from being afraid.”Rebbitzen Kalish closed her eyes and clasped her hands together. “Accidents, Adira, they happen. But they are few and far apart. Tragedy happens. We can’t understand why, but we are a tenacious nation. We have outlasted, will outlast every nation. We must believe that there is an afterlife and a techias hameisim, otherwise what will is there to live in a world as lowly as this. We must strengthen ourselves as a nation.”“But what about us individually?” I cried unsatisfied with her answer. “What exactly was Ruchys tafkid, to suffer? She died so young, she was even younger than me. I’ve done nothing in this world. What if I drop dead right now? What do I have to show for myself?” “Sometimes, Adira,” she started, “we are not meant to make a huge impact. Why are mothers burying their babies? What impression did that infant make? How do you go be Menachem avel a family like that? There are no memories, there is nothing to go on about.”“What do you say then when it comes to that?” I challenged.“You don’t talk Adira, you listen. Unfortunately, I had to go be meachem avel in situations like these. It gave me no chizuk to hear myself talking. I get chizuk from hearing the mother talk about holding her child and watching his neshama float all the way up to the kiesei hakavod. I get chizuk by hearing these incredible women talk about Hashem, the giver, give over His precious son or daughter for these parents to watch over, even for a few moments. And then I get even more chizuk a year or so later when I hear that that same mother is pregnant again. I have met with a young girl who had six miscarriages before I attended the bris of her healthy bay boy. Who would ever want to have children after such a trauma? Who in their right mind would go through the trouble of possibly loosing something all over again? Think about it Adira, it’s easier to just give up.”Rebbizen Kalish took another sip and with a gentle smile continued.“But a Jew never gives up Adira. Not everyone lives extravagant lives. Sometimes our tafkid is just to be. To pass on Jewish blood. To exist in a degenerate world, waving Hakadosh Baruch Hu’s flag just by walking out of your house. Maybe you don’t see it, but everyone around you does. They despise you for it, but they also conceal their marvel. They don’t know how we go on.” Mrs. Kalish delightfully clapped her hands together. “Poor souls, they’ll never know the secret. And it will be their undoing. If you mess with a Jew, you mess with G-d. And we all know how that plays out.”It was true that I did feel a part of something as a Jew. But I had never looked at it as a desire, or reason to be. I had never looked at that as being good enough. But Rebbitzen Kalish was telling me that it was and that appeased me to some extent. “About your sleep troubles,” Rebbizen kalish pulled out an artscroll siddur. She put her glasses on and flipped the pages. “Do you say Hamapil?” “I was told to,” I admitted “but after a while it didn’t help me and I got annoyed by not being able to talk.” Rebbitzen Kalish peered up from her siddur. “Do you want to at least know what it means?” I came to her side and we began to read the translation together. She pointed at each word and I read. Within minutes we both were crying on each other’s shoulders. Hashem our G-d, king of the universe, who casts the bonds of sleep on my eyes and slumber upon my eyelids…lay me down to sleep in peace and raise me up in peace. May I not be confounded by my ideas, or dreams that are bad…My sleep that night was like a soft lullaby. A kiss from Hashem. I was able to awake in peace. ******************************* When I was thirteen they had to tint the mirror in my dining room. “Why?” I asked Rabbi Kalish as soon as he walked through the door. “I don’t understand.” Rabbi Kalish came to the front where I sat. All my friends had come but I had nothing to say to them. Ladies from all over the community tried to talk to me, but I was curt in answering. I didn’t want their condolences, I wanted my brother. Now I didn’t have him to tell me if my hair looked like a flying net (as he used to call it) catching random things as it grew in its knots, and I didn’t have a mirror to affirm this for me. “There are many reasons, Adira” he told me. “but perhaps you would resonate with this one best; Every Jewish soul is an image of the Creator. The very death of any Jew, diminishes Hashem’s very presence in the world itself. Therefore, when there is a piece of Hashem’s image that is missing, so to speak, it wouldn’t be fair to look at our own image, our own piece of Hashem.” My brother had such a reflection, as did Ruchy. Without even trying, without even being spectacular, they just were an image of the Creator living His ideals, Lishma. They were another link in the chain as I am and we all are, making a difference by simply being. By adding our flame to Klall Yisroel’s blazing torch. I think of Ruchy every time I meet someone on my way – new or old. I smile.

    I think of Yechiel every time that’s convenient, and I force myself to even when it seems like it isn’t. I allow myself to exist.

  • Fiction Fangirl

    Member
    October 18, 2020 at 2:09 am

    <p>Oy yoy yoy! Formatting issues again. Is it possible to attach the story as a Word doc? I would love to read and comment on your story!</p>

  • Rochel Solomon

    Member
    October 18, 2020 at 2:47 am

    ooooh good call. Trying that now!

  • Rochel Solomon

    Member
    October 18, 2020 at 2:48 am
  • Anagrammer

    Member
    October 18, 2020 at 3:52 am

    <p>Woah, Rochel. This is gorgeous. My heart literally froze by that part… I felt along with Adira the whole time. This story is powerful, pulling… an absolute masterpiece.</p><p>And if you’re asking my opinion, I do think you should take out the musing in the beginning. I think the first sentence is intriguing.</p><p>Wow, just wow. Give me more!!</p>

  • Rochel Solomon

    Member
    October 18, 2020 at 10:34 pm

    Thanks Anagramar! I’m going to re-send it to get more feedback. But I’m going to heed your advice and take out the beginning musings! You rock!

  • Anagrammer

    Member
    October 19, 2020 at 1:36 am

    <p>Attention whoever didn’t read this story yet: Read it now!! It’s good!</p>

  • Rochel Solomon

    Member
    October 19, 2020 at 5:32 am

    Thanks anagrammer! That’s really sweet. More feedback would be great actually. I’m still debating if I should take out the car scene….

  • HappiWriter

    Member
    October 19, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    <p>Wow! Great story!</p><p>I don’t think you need the beginning.</p>

  • Rochel Solomon

    Member
    October 19, 2020 at 10:33 pm

    Perfect! Thanks guys!

  • MH

    Member
    October 19, 2020 at 11:48 pm

    Rochel it was beautiful! Ah, so sad and hopeful too…

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