| Encore |

Encore: Chapter 13

This was the guy who told people when they had dandruff on their collar; subtlety wasn’t his strong point

S

huey Portman was headed back to Lakewood, his first time back since the zeman started. It wasn’t Shabbos yet, but he needed the break. He had called Henny around eleven o’clock in the morning, making the decision even before he’d worked out the details.

“Hen, hope to see you guys tonight,” he’d said, delivering this information crisply, like a CEO issuing instructions to his scheduling team. Henny had caught the assertiveness too. “Oh, Shuey,” was all she managed, saying it three more times, “Oh, Shuey.”

The trip was long, close to three hours, but it was enjoyable.

It felt good to call friends he used to schmooze with every single night after Maariv and reconnect.

“Shuey, you fell off the map man,” Korngold’s voice filled his car, “busy with your new yeshivah and leaving us in the dust.”

Shuey was quiet, a little cloud of happiness settling over him as he imagined the guys forming a circle around him after Maariv. For so long, it had been Duvy chasing deals in Arizona — it’s supposed to be a very hot market now! — and Karp back in Hong Kong for the second month in a row, while he, Shuey Portman, was always there, ready and waiting for their stories. Now he would be the guest, back home for the night, dropping the “making sure my kids still recognize me” like a pro.

“You know how it is, trying to build something new… as soon as you solve one problem, you have three more. Baruch Hashem, it’s been a great week, the yeshivah is up and running, but not much sleep,” Shuey spoke breezily, picking up speed and passing a dawdling SUV as he did.

“Hearing nice things,” Korngold said. “We’re all rooting for Modena.”

Shuey could tell that Korngold was hesitating, that there was a question he wanted to ask.

He knew Korngold and knew that there was no chance that Korngold wouldn’t ask it. This was the guy who told people when they had dandruff on their collar; subtlety wasn’t his strong point.

“Shuey, can I ask you a question, maybe it’s a bit weird, but is Wasser really rosh yeshivah material? He taught my nephew, I know he’s a great guy and means it, ernst and all that, but does he have what it takes?”

Shuey was quiet, processing the question, but Korngold misinterpreted the silence and explained what he was asking. “I’m not chas v’shalom saying that Sholom Wasser isn’t a tachshit of a guy, he is, but I’m worried for you, Shuey, I know you’re giving heart and soul to this and I want to make sure that you’re covered, you know?”

Shuey’s happiness evaporated. They were worried about him. The guys were probably meeting after Maariv and sharing updates about Modena: “Oh, no, Shuey bet on the wrong horse, looks like. What’s next? Poor guy.” He could imagine it: Korngold, Karp, Duvy with a furrowed brow and his askanus face, promising to “speak to some people and find out what the deal is with Wasser.”

(Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 796)

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