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Authors: Naama Goldstein

The Place Will Comfort You

BOOK: The Place Will Comfort You
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SCRIBNER
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
www.SimonandSchuster.com

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2004 by Naama Goldstein
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.

SCRIBNER
and design are trademarks of
Macmillan Library Reference USA, Inc., used under license by Simon & Schuster, the publisher of this work.

Visit us on the World Wide Web:
http://www.SimonSays.com

Designed by Kyoko Watanabe

Set in Adobe Caslon

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Goldstein, Naama, date.
The place will comfort you: stories/Naama Goldstein.
p. cm.
Contents: The conduct for consoling—The verse in the margins—Pickled
sprouts—A pillar of a cloud—The Roberto touch—Anatevka tender—
Barbary apes—The worker rests under the hero trees.
1. United States—Social life and customs—Fiction.
2. Israel—Social life and customs—Fiction. 3. Jewish youth—Fiction.
4. Jews—Fiction. I. Title.

PS3607.O485P55 2004
813'.6—dc22
2003068609

ISBN-13: 978-1-4165-8739-2
ISBN-10: 1-4165-8739-X
eISBN-13: 978-1-41658-739-2

For Bobkin.

And he arrived at that place and passed the night there for the sun had gone; and he took a rock of that place and put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed, and behold, a ladder stood on the ground and its head reached skyward, and behold, angels of God ascending and descending on it.

G
ENESIS 28:11-12

CONTENTS

Part 1
 

O
LIM
(A
SCENDING
)

The Conduct for Consoling

The Verse in the Margins

Pickled Sprouts

A Pillar of a Cloud

The Roberto Touch

Part 2
 

VE
Y
ORDIM
(
AND
D
ESCENDING
)

Anatevka Tender

Barbary Apes

The Worker Rests Under the Hero Trees

*
Part 1
*

O
LIM
(A
SCENDING
)

T
he Conduct for Consoling
 

T
HE CLOCK SHAPED like a headache pill says three-eleven. For this I always look into P. Eliyahu Drugs, corner of Brenner and Kibbutz Galuyot Street. I have my places where I like to look if there is time when school is done so, halfway home, I check the drugstore clock. The breath from me grays up the window, clears, comes back and goes again. Inside a grandma argues at the counter. Legs squeezed in brown bandages, she keeps sniffing a jar of medicine, then tries to give the pharmacist a turn. Each time he shoves the jar away. He shakes his head and jabs his finger at her, makes his mouth to shout. She sniffs the jar. He should, too. No, he will not. I think he's going to win. The store is his. The clock is his. The time is three-fourteen.

Leviticus: Write and memorize each offering in chapter 9.

Math: division.

History of Our State: questions, section 3 (The Dreyfus Libel).

At five o'clock on Lebanon TV comes on
Doug Henning's World of Magic.
He only comes on once a year.

The pharmacist slaps at the register. The grandma wipes the air like there's a chalkboard in between them. In the corner of my eye somebody rushes from the sidewalk, pulls open P. Eliyahu's door.
The bell sings. Suddenly I can't see anymore what's with the argument. A face is squashed against the window from inside, blocking the view. Nose to my nose, eyes to my eyes: When I jump back the squashed face laughs. Around the twisted laugh the face is flat and white, but from that yellow hair I know exactly who it is. The long locks shift like satin ribbons with each move, except for a thick cowlick at the top, dull, stiff and blunt. The face unglues. The shop door opens out, again the bell. And it's the orphan, pushing into me, giving a small quick hug.

“Girl,” the pharmacist shouts. “Blondie! For the final time I tell you children, come in here to buy, or—”

“Make exchanges! If you call yourself a store. Adler before you for just one example, Kupelnik by Central Station, Fania Elmaleh—”The door slams on the grandma's voice, and on the bell.

“You waited for me like I knew you would,” the orphan says.

Someone tied sacks around the clusters in the date palms on this block. Across the way a street cat with a belly full of kittens crawls under the porch of Or Akiva Synagogue with the white peeling walls, the door tattered with notes announcing who has died, and who's been born, who's selling near-new things for not a lot, and who will tend children weeknights. A soldier blinking on a bus-stop bench gives up on being awake; his neck bends, his chin sinks to his chest. The orphan skips to him, touches his gun. His eyes spring open, someone's brother going far or coming back. She stands there watching him, hands linked behind her, ropy middle bulged. She's still in her school uniform. She doesn't have her book bag on. We didn't leave the school gates as a pair.

A yellow-bellied bird flies towards the swaddled dates. The soldier shuts his eyes.

We never walked together before and I was not waiting for her today.

•   •   •

I went consoling at the orphan's place a week ago. A cat gave her mother cancer, so she died. The orphan still has a father but she is orphaned from her mother and that's enough; she is an orphan. She was always something wrong and now there is a reason.

Three girls from the third grade got picked to do the shivah call. The homeroom teacher chose only top students, with top grades and clean pressed shirts, because she wanted us to represent the class. My last report card in Leviticus I got an
Almost Very Good Minus,
in History of Our State
Almost Very Good Plus,
in Math
Good Minus
which is a difficult subject for me, but English class, even though it's new this year, from the minute it ever started I was ahead. I can come up with more rhymes than anyone for Pin. They can learn all they want but I will always have more English words. I use them every day, to ask for honey on my toast, seconds of cereal, whether the socks I want are washed, who's locked up in the toilet, and to say good night, which half the time I say in Hebrew just as tired. I talk two languages without being taught. I know—I understand with the full feeling of living life—that you can be of one place and another, not at all the same. So does the Russian girl with the eyes slanted far apart, close to the surface of her Russian face. But Russian we don't have to take in school, nothing like
Doug Henning's World of Magic
comes from there, and the Russian girl did not get picked to go consoling. Only me and two more girls the homeroom teacher told the rules. There is a conduct for consoling and a conduct for the grief. We memorized our part.

BOOK: The Place Will Comfort You
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