By Esther Rapaport
Margalit called just as Elka and Noa were sitting down to eat supper on Elka’s porch. A cool breeze was blowing, and Noa leaned back and looked at the plate in front of her, which was full of pretty, thin slices of radish, cabbage, and lettuce in garlic dressing. She slowly speared a piece of radish with her fork and raised her gaze to Elka.
Just then Elka’s phone rang.
Elka glanced at the screen. “My sister from Tel Aviv,” she said apologetically. “You don’t mind if I pick up for her, do you?”
Noa shook her head, and continued eating, gazing at the stars twinkling over the Carmel Mountains in the distance. Elka’s house offered pretty scenic views.
“Hi, Margalit,” Elka said. “What’s doing?”
“Baruch Hashem, things are great. How is it going by you?”
“As usual, working hard. You really have to come visit. Our community center has really come a long way since you last saw it.”
“You’re still there, this late in the evening?” Margalit sounded shocked.
“No, of course not!”
“Oh, it’s just that by the way you are speaking, it sounds like she’s next to you or something.”
“You’re right about that.”
“Oh, you invited her to your house?”
“For the fifth time already.”
“Very nice. Maybe we should talk about something else now, so she doesn’t figure out that your short, ambiguous sentences have anything to do with her.”
“Right again. How was Shabbos by you?”
“Really beautiful. My two youngest married couples came, and it was lots of fun. Who was by you?”
“Dovi and Sara’le.”
“And how is their little one?”
“Oh, a real sweetie pie.”
“Wasn’t it hard for them with all the traveling?”
“No. And then they had a very restful Shabbos. True, they needed to travel with two little children, but Sara’le said it was worth it for her. No cooking, no cleaning up, and here I don’t let her lift a finger.”
“What a shvigger, really! It’s not like that by me. My daughters and daughters-in-law know that if they don’t help me, I don’t invite them.”
“Well, to each her own.” Elka was losing her patience. “Even if we’re sisters, Margalit, we’re allowed to have differences of opinion here and there.”
“True,” her sister agreed. “Anyway, now that we’ve hopefully distracted her, I can get to the point, Elka.”
Without noticing it, Elka’s eyes turned to Noa, who was sitting on the white plastic chair and deeply inhaling the cool evening air. “Nu?”
“I understand that they are hearing from her wonderful things about your community center, but it’s very competitive and they are also getting good reports about the other places.”
“So what do you suggest I do?”
“I don’t really understand your line of work, but I’m sure you know how you can impress her more. Think about something major, maybe promote her or something.”
“I see …” Elka said thoughtfully.
“I think that the fact that I got this information is a miracle for you, Elka’le. You should utilize it to your benefit.”
Elka took a deep breath. Then she scratched at her snood. “Right,” she said slowly. “But it’s getting more complicated. Ummm … Do you know how much apples have gone up in price, Margalit? Here, by us, they cost 12 shekel a kilo! The fruit stores are really going over the top this time.”
“Apples,” her older sister echoed with commendable patience. “Nu?”
“The only reassurance I have is that they probably won’t raise prices anymore after this. It can’t go up more than it has already. How high will they go? I’m telling you—you can’t take more than this.”
“Well, regarding the apples, I hope you won’t be disappointed to discover one day that it’s possible for the stores to charge 15 shekel a kilo, too,” Margalit answered placidly. “And as for what you’re hinting at — there’s always more that can be done.”
“There isn’t, except for being very nice.”
“Oh, for sure you need to continue being ultra nice to her—on that point I trust you 100 percent! But I think you should also consider giving her a promotion, or some kind of important project. You’ll please her with that. Give her reasons to give good recommendations about your community center!”
“I don’t think there is.”
“You don’t think there is what? Reasons for her to give good recommendations?”
“No,” Elka said cautiously. “More to give her.”
“Why can’t you give her a promotion? Has your manager been working full-time lately? It doesn’t sound like it, poor thing. I think you should explain to your manager nicely that you are releasing her for a short vacation so she can focus on the technical arrangements relating to her husband. And then — give Noa her job.”
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.