Recap: Yehudis just read in the journal that Yishai was playing catch with Dovid, and Dovid noticed a stick and picked it up. Only it wasn’t a stick, it was a poisonous snake that reared its head towards Dovid.
“We have to go now.” Aba was packing up his papers.
I looked up from the journal. “Right now?” I wanted to find out what happened to little Dovid.
“You can read it next time you come. We have to head back now. I have to go to Minchah.”
Reluctantly, I laid the journal on Aba’s desk.
On the way back to the house, we chatted about Marietta, and I told Aba about the story in the journal. We passed sycamore oaks, cedars, pines, as well as fields and farmland. As we headed towards West Virginia, we passed a small town. “I wish we could stay in town,” I said.
“The house we got is spacious and the rent was reasonable. I couldn’t find anything in town like that.”
“I don’t mean to complain,” I said.
Aba dropped me off. I plodded down the broken front walk towards the house, which still looked like a haunted house to me. I wondered if I’d ever get over that impression. Aba drove off to shul and Grandma Henny greeted me with a frown. “You’ve been gone a long time. I need help straightening everything here. Come help straighten the den and then I need you to wash the counters in the kitchen.”
I scrubbed the old cracked counters and I straightened Aba’s s’farim in the living room’s sagging bookcases. Everything in this house was old and rickety.
Just then my phone rang.
“Hi, Yehudis? It’s Sari Unger. Do you have time to come over? I have some decisions I have to make for the yearbook. I’d love your input.”
The yearbook. That sounded fun. It was so nice that she was including me in decisions.
I told her I had some chores to do and then I could come.
Grandma Henny wasn’t so happy about my going. “How long will you be there?”
“Just a little while.”
“You know where it is?”
“Yes. Remember we walked there on Shabbos.”
“Well, go ahead but come home before it gets too late.”
I strolled towards Sari’s house. The setting sun warmed my cheek and I felt warm inside knowing I had a new friend here. She ushered me in and we headed upstairs to her room. “I’m so glad you came.”
Two of her sisters were seated on the floor of her room playing with paper dolls.
“Those are so cool,” I said.
“My father got them as a gift from one of the people in his congregation.”
We chatted and I felt like we’d been friends for a long time. “So I’m working on some ideas for the girls to write about. Here’s a list. These would be in addition to the baby stories. What do you think?”
I glanced over the list. “I like the question about time and friendship, and the one about your favorite season. I think the girls will write special pieces on those topics. “
“Did you write down your baby stories yet?” she asked.
“Not yet,” I said. “Sorry.”
I hoped Aba would remember one for me, if he could…
“No worries. So far I don’t have any from anyone. You know how it is.”
I nodded, wondering if I would ever have a baby story to put in.
“It’s really fun to work on the yearbook,” she said. She smiled at me. “I’m so glad you could come and help with my decisions.”
“Yeah, me too. I’m so excited.” She circled my ideas. We went downstairs for a snack. “I just baked peanut butter cookies,” she said.
She made hot cocoa and we sat down to eat the cookies and cocoa together. We were just clearing away our plates when the doorbell rang.
Sari’s sister called from the hallway. “Chevi’s here.”
“Oh, I didn’t know she was coming now.” Sari rushed to the door. I waited in the kitchen not sure if I should follow her or not.
Sari came back and motioned me to come upstairs with her and Chevi. Chevi nodded at me.
“I brought some graphic designs for the cover and the baby story pages,” Chevi said.
I followed them into Sari’s room.
Chevi pulled out her computer and showed Sari some designs. They were busy looking at them for a while.
I stood there, not sure if I should come look at them or not.
After what seemed like forever, Sari finally looked up from the computer. “Sorry, Yehudis. Come see the designs.”
“What do you think?” Sari asked.
“They look nice,” I said.
Chevi switched the screen to some other designs. “Sari, I want your opinion on these for the back pages.”
I bit my lower lip. “I have to go home now,” I said.
Sari stood up and walked over to me. “Thanks for coming.” She walked me to the door.
“I hope you’ll come again.”
“Thanks,” I mumbled, thinking, not when Chevi is here.
I trudged back to the house alone.
That night after dinner, Aba said, “I got a flight out tonight back to Pennsylvania. Something came up at school and they need me to do some work.”
“Leaving in the middle of the night. That’s crazy,” Grandma said.
“This way I’ll be back by dinnertime tomorrow.”
I cleared the table. Aba’s cab came shortly after that. I watched him leave, wishing I could go with him. I missed our house. This dark dingy house and the darkness outside matched my mood. Grandma Henny was in a particularly bad mood, too. She made me vacuum and sweep, and she kept criticizing what I did until I felt like exploding.
I sat on my bed a long time that night, writing in my journal. I stared out at another moonless night. I opened the window. Paint peeled as I lifted it up. A soft breeze wafted in and cooled my cheek. I heard the whir of insects outside.
I started thinking of a story in my mind. That always helped me fall asleep. It was while I was tossing and turning in a restless sleep that I first heard the sound. I woke with a start. At first, I thought I was dreaming it. I listened. There was a low moaning sound that grew louder and louder. Then it stopped. I shivered.
I pulled the covers tighter around me. Maybe I was imagining it.
I tried to go back to sleep. I heard it again and then I heard a clinking noise like someone digging right near my window. I crept out of bed and peered out the window. I couldn’t see anything and the clinking noise had stopped.
I crawled back into bed. I tried to sleep. A while later, I heard the moaning noise. It grew louder and then stopped.
I put on my bathrobe and crossed the hallway to see if Grandma Henny heard it. Her door was ajar and she was sitting up in bed.
“What was that?” she asked. “It woke me up.”
I wished my father was home.
“Should we call the police?” I asked.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of A Bridge in Time (Menucha Publishing, 2021), Secrets in Disguise (Menucha Publishers, 2020), Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials, and features in various magazines. Fiction serial Jewish Press Falling Star (2019).