Sunday, December 17th, 2017

The Rabbi's Son – Part 1
Zalman Velvel

The doorbell rang late at night.
It woke Solomon up out of a light sleep in his easy chair, while he was watching TV. He had been doing this more as he reached the age of sixty. He rubbed his tired green eyes, and looked at the clock. It was almost midnight in Sunshine, Florida, a little town west of Miami. Solomon got up slowly from the couch, straightened his thinning gray hair, and went to the front entrance of his  house. He looked out the peephole, muttered under his breath, and then opened the door.
Jacob Mendel stood there, his head lowered. He was a nice looking fifteen year old boy, even with his dark curly hair uncombed, and his brown eyes, bloodshot. Solomon looked him up and down. His black pants were wrinkled, as was his white shirt. Frayed tzitzis hung out of his shirt on both sides. There was a small suitcase sitting next to him.
"Well, what brings you to my doorstep at this time of night?" Solomon asked.
"I got kicked out of yeshiva," Jacob Mendel said, his voice breaking.
Solomon took a deep breath, sighed, and shook his head.
“Oh, Jacob,” he said.
Solomon grabbed the suitcase and brought it in the house. He turned around and Jacob Mendel was still standing outside.
"Well, come on in if you want to come in," Solomon said.
Jacob entered and Solomon closed the door gently behind them.
“Please be quiet,” Solomon whispered, putting his finger to his lips. “My wife's sleeping."
They walked quietly down the hallway, past the living room with the high vaulted ceilings, the expensive Scandinavian leather furniture and fancy Italian marble tile, to his son's room, which was now a guestroom.
Solomon put the light on, placed the suitcase next to the closet, and closed the bedroom door.
"Sit," Solomon ordered, motioning to the chair next to the bed.
Jacob Mendel complied. Solomon waited for him to talk, but he didn't.
"Just out of curiosity, how did you get here?" Solomon asked.
"I took a bus from Miami," Jacob Mendel answered.
"How did you get from the bus stop to my home?"
"I walked."
It was a three mile walk from the bus stop, Solomon thought, which probably seemed three times longer carrying a suitcase.  
"Okay … what happened?" Solomon asked.
Once again, Jacob Mendel hung his head. Solomon waited but Jacob Mendel remained silent.

"Are you going to answer me?"
More silence.
Solomon grabbed the suitcase and opened the bedroom door.
"Well, if you're not going to talk, then we're just wasting each other's time. Let's-"
Solomon stopped in mid-sentence because tears were now streaming down Jacob Mendel's cheeks and he was sobbing. Solomon closed the door and put the suitcase down. He put his hand on Jacob Mendel's shoulder.
"Okay … okay … we'll wait until you're ready."
Solomon placed the suitcase on the night table and opened it up. The socks and underwear went into the top dresser drawer, the t-shirts went into the drawer below. He hung up the black suit and extra white shirt in the closet, with the sneakers down below. The jeans were hung up beside the suit. There was one book, Catcher in the Rye, by J.D. Salinger. Solomon smiled and put the book on top of the dresser.
"I'll be right back," Solomon said.
He tiptoed down the hallway to the other side of the house, to the master  bedroom, opened the door as silently as possible, and listened to his wife sleeping soundly in their four poster bed. He found his way in the dark to his closet, which was the size of the bedroom he grew up in and shared with his younger brother, opened the closet door and shut it behind him.
He flipped on a little night light, pulled an old bathrobe of a hanger, and gently slid open a drawer and withdrew a pair of pajamas. He turned off the light, opened the closet door, tiptoed in the dark to the bedroom door, and closed it soundlessly behind him, managing not to wake his wife, one of the world’s lightest sleepers.
When Solomon returned to the guest room, Jacob Mendel hadn't moved. Solomon placed the bathrobe and pajamas on the foot of the bed, and then looked over at the boy.
"So why did you get thrown out of yeshiva this time?" Solomon asked again.
Jacob Mendel turned red.
© Copyright 2012 by Zalman Velvel Inc.
You may print this story for yourself, but not make copies without author's permission.

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