Recap: Kalman is partnered with Ezra for reading, and when Ezra suggests that Kalman should take a turn to read, Kalman pours his water bottle all over the book and then starts crying and claims Ezra did it. Ezra gets marched to the principal’s office for something he didn’t do.
Mr. Rabinowitz left, shaking his head. The menahel finished a phone call and then he looked at me with one of those stern menahel glares. “Ezra, you’ve been in our school for so many years. I’ve never had any problem with you. What is the meaning of this? How could you do this to a new student?”
How could this be happening to me? I stared down at my hands. My knees were trembling. If I said it wasn’t true, would he even believe me, and then was I going to be forced to snitch on that Kalman? I didn’t like him, that was for sure, but I wasn’t going to be a tattler. That wasn’t my way.
“Now tell me why you did it, young man. I want an explanation now.” He rose, and when he stood, he looked like a giant. He’s very tall, our menahel, like 6 feet 5 inches. Danny and I always wondered if he played basketball when he was younger.
Why was I thinking about basketball now? “I can’t ttttell you,” I mumbled.
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“You can’t tell my why you poured water on a new boy, and all over his desk, and ruined a brand-new book?”
I felt a lump rising in my throat. I was not going to cry. Seventh graders do not cry.
“I’m sssorry, sir,” I heard myself whisper. “I just can’t tell you.”
“Bullying a new student and destroying school property. You will have to pay for the book.”
I hadn’t done any of those things and Hashem knew the truth.
The principal paced around the room a few times. “Very well. You are suspended. I will call your father to pick you up. He sat down. “What’s your father’s number?”
I choked out the numbers. Suspended me?
I sat in that office staring at the photos of great rabbanim on the walls. Rabbi Kleiner had photos of his family on his desk. I saw a boy a little older than me and four girls who looked younger. They would never get in trouble. They would never be suspended. A clock on the wall ticked the minutes. Just tell him you didn’t do it. Why can’t you tell him what happened? How I hated the sound of my stammering when he’d asked me to explain. I hated this school. I was never coming back here! After what seemed like forever, sitting in the menahel’s office, my father finally came and picked me up.
He didn’t say anything to me as I followed him into the car.
When I’d closed the car door, he turned to me. “Ezra, what’s going on. This is not like you. What happened, son?”
“I was accused of something I didn’t do. This school is awful. I don’t want to go here anymore. They aren’t fair.”
“Can you tell me what happened?”
“I’d rather not.”
“Okay, look. I understand this is pretty upsetting for you. Let’s drop it until later. If you say you didn’t do it, whatever it is, I believe you.”
We drove home past the park and the post office. We headed down Main Street. There weren’t any school kids anywhere in sight. Everyone else was in school. We drove on towards home in silence. For a second, I wished I was someone else, someone living in Alaska or Hawaii or Australia – far, far away from here.
When I got home, I rushed up to my room. Now, not only was I dumber than my star big brother Betzalel. Now, I was suspended as a troublemaker.
I wanted to tell Aba what happened, but I still wondered about the tattling part of it.
I started toying with one of my broken model airplanes. Working with my hands always distracted me from any problems.
I had just attached the wing when I sensed someone watching. I looked up and there was Mickey.
“Hi, Mickey. How was school?”
Mickey shrugged. “I didn’t go. Mommy took me shopping for clothes.”
“Can I help you with that?” he asked.
I was about to say no, but I saw the eagerness in his eyes. I was about his age when Betzalel first let me help him with his model airplane.
“Sure, I could use your help.” I showed him the box that it came from. It had a picture of how the plane would look when it was assembled. “See, that’s what I use for my guideline.”
Mickey stared at the picture. “Your plane is almost like it.”
“Yes, I’m just adding the propellers and the pilot seat. Hey, you can go down to the basement and find a menchie for me. We’ll use him for the pilot.”
Mickey raced out of the room. He was back in a flash with a dog menchie. “I couldn’t find any people. I think Tori took them all into his crib.”
“Okay, we’ll just put a dog in our pilot seat.”
When it was all glued, I let Mickey hold it and then we placed it on the windowsill to dry.
“What are you gonna do now?” he asked.
“Well, I was going to read from this old book.” I pointed to the journal on my desk.
“Is it a good story?”
“It’s a long story from a long time ago.”
“Can you read it to me?”
“I don’t know if you’ll under––”
“Please. I love long-ago stories.”
I pulled the journal down and, with Mickey sitting close to me on my bed, I began to read Sender’s journal to him.
To be continued…
By Susie Garber