By Esther Rapaport
Be happy? Chaiky took the tray with the little bowls of salads and dips and walked to the table. She looked at her children. Dovi was sitting on his grandfather’s lap, as his zeidy jiggled him on his right knee, and Naomi stood near her cousin Racheli’s chair, giggling with delight. Yes, she had to admit. The children looked much happier here than they did during their Shabbos meals at home these days.
Happy or not, though, by the time the first course was over and it was time for the soup, even their grandfather had lost his patience one and a half times. Once, he really scolded Dovi, and the half time was when he knitted his eyebrows and was about to chide him again — but then Bubby said something to him in Yiddish, so he held himself back.
It was a good thing Chaiky didn’t understand Yiddish, because she had no strength to deal with whatever her mother-in-law had said about her or her kids. She could only imagine what it was: “Leave him alone, poor child whose mother can’t control him,” or “Enough; they’ll be going soon! Let’s just get through the next hour,” or maybe, “That’s how it is when our son isn’t around; you can see he’s the figure of authority at home, and without him …”
Chaiky rose from her seat. “Dovi! Come! Bubby made soup just the way you like it!”
“But I’m not hungry,” the boy protested. “You gave us lots of chocolate before Shabbos, and also cornflakes and milk. Soon my stomach is going to start hurting! Ow!” Then he climbed onto the sofa, and stretched out in a reclining position.
“I’ll bring him to the table,” Yisrael volunteered, and went over to Dovi. “Come here, escaped prisoner!”
But the “prisoner” jumped up and scooted to the edge of the couch. “You think you can catch me so easily, like the policemen in Russia caught my father?” he taunted and climbed up onto the back of the couch. “I’m escaping!” And he jumped off … right into the corner of the carved coffee table that Chaiky had always so disliked.
Chaiky had never heard Dovi shriek like this, and she panicked; but when she helped him up and saw the ugly swelling beginning over his ear, she panicked even more.
“Come, let’s put some ice on that,” Dina Struck said. She was no less alarmed than her daughter-in-law, but as the older of the two women, she tried to put on a brave front. “Sit on the couch, Dovi’le. Chaiky, sit with him and calm him. B’ezras Hashem he’ll be fine. It’s a localized bruise, not more; look, it’s hardly even bleeding.”
Chaiky sat Dovi down on her lap as he continued to wail. “Poor thing,” she murmured soothingly as she tried not to burst into her own sobs. The area of the bruise didn’t look good at all, even though, as her mother-in-law had noted, it wasn’t really bleeding. There was a small surface scrape down the middle of the frightening bruise, with just one drop of blood oozing from it. “The boo-boo hurts you so much, I know… Soon we’ll put ice on, and daven to Hashem that it should make the pain go away.”
Her mother-in-law came in with ice cubes from the kitchen. “One minute, let me bring a clean towel or something,” she said hastily. “They say it isn’t good to put ice directly on the skin; it might stick.”
Dovi continued to scream as Chaiky pressed the wrapped ice to his head, and Naomi cried in fear in the far corner of the dining room. Her cousin, two years older than her, tried to soothe her, without much success.
After a few minutes, Chaiky withdrew the ice.
“Did it help the swelling go down a bit?” her mother-in-law asked nervously.
“No.” Chaiky studied the bruise. It only looked worse.
Her father-in-law inspected it. “It doesn’t look good,” he said. “It’s in a very sensitive spot, on the head. I would call Mr. Kovner from building number 21. He’s a licensed paramedic. I think a professional should see this bruise.”
The twins were sent to call Kovner, and less than seven minutes later, they were back with him. He examined the swelling, which was now turning blue, on the side of Dovi’s head. Then he turned to Chaiky’s father-in-law, who was standing near the wall.
“Go straight to the hospital, immediately,” he said quietly. “It looks to me like a fracture of the skull in a very delicate spot.”
“The hospital?” Shlomo’s father glanced in alarm at his crying grandson. “Now?”
“Now. We have to check what’s going on inside.”
“Rambam. Order an ambulance and go.”
Esther Rapaport is a prolific author whose novels include “Diamond in the Rough,” “Divided Attention,” “Behind the Scenes,” “Without a Trace,” “Dance of the Puppet,” “Blood Brothers,” and “The Kenya Conspiracy.” She resides in Israel.