| Follow Me |

Follow Me: Chapter 38

“I just wish could really shut off. It feels like borrowed time. I know that the second we return, it’ll be right back to Dizzyland”


“Lancaster,” Yochi announced as he walked through the door of their hotel room, “is the Brooklyn of Pennsylvania.”

Pessie spread avocado on a roll. “I guess we aren’t the only ones with the kids home, huh?”

Yochi had suggested this trip the day after he’d returned from Greece, when Pessie had groused that with the kids off for two whole weeks between camp and school, they’d all go crazy. “Let’s go away for a few days, it’ll break up the time,” Yochi had offered.

Not that he could afford to be away for a few days. There was so much work to do before the Succos tour, he had no time to breathe. But he wanted to do it, for Pessie, for the kids. To compensate for the Africa trip.

But when they’d actually loaded the car and sent the kids inside for one last bathroom trip, he started having doubts.

“Can you believe we’re doing this?” he’d asked Pessie as he nudged the trunk closed. “There’s so much chaos in my brain, but we’re off, escaping … I just wish could really shut off. It feels like borrowed time. I know that the second we return, it’ll be right back to Dizzyland.”

Pessie had given him a look. “Why does it have to be that way?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, why does this job have to take over your entire life? You’re not even the owner of the company. Why does everything always falls on you?”

He couldn’t read if she was being sympathetic or accusing. “Well, that’s the nature of the job, right?”

“To carry the stress for Binick? That’s nuts.”

Maybe she’d meant to validate his feelings, but the kids came skipping to the car and the conversation ended there, leaving him feeling anything but validated.

What was worse, Pessie didn’t seem too interested in this family trip. She kept worrying about getting the kids ready for school and shopping for the Succos tour, as well as getting everyone ready for his sister Suri’s wedding, which was taking place the day school started. He felt like she’d only agreed to the plan to make him feel good. Were they each going on this trip only to do the other a favor?

But now that they’d done it — booked a hotel suite, packed food, listened to eight children’s stories as they drove 70 miles on the Pennsylvania Turnpike — it was actually nice.

Hindy, Zissi, and Malkie were having a grand time with the hotel’s ice machine and the electronic door keys. Pessie was preparing sandwiches for lunch. There was the feeling of disconnect you only achieve after a night away from home.

“Bathroom, everyone,” Pessie called out, “and we’re ready to leave.”

They left the room, sneakers falling softly over the carpet in the corridor. Even the elevator ride down to the lobby had an element of exhilaration.

“All right, guys!” Yochi heralded in a tour guide’s voice as he glided out of the parking lot. “We’re gonna head about five miles north to Abe’s Buggy Rides for a really cool tour around Amish Town. Are you all set?”

The girls giggled.

When they got to the buggy ride entrance, Pessie laughed.

“Hello, Brooklyn!”

The place was teeming with Yidden.

“This is how it feels on our tours,” Yochi commented. “We’re in who-knows-where, but surrounded by Yidden. I love it.”

“Doesn’t it get to you, though? Always being surrounded by so many random people? I mean, I know I’m more introverted, but still, living like that for 10, 12 days… Isn’t it too much you?”

He gave her a bemused look and shrugged. “I guess not, I like it.”

A lot of Yidden meant a lot of waiting. There were some cattle behind fencing in the waiting area, and Yochi gave Hindy quarters to buy animal feed. Then he sat down under the shade with Pessie.

Vacation. Ah.

They’d barely sat for two minutes when Yochi’s phone rang.

“It’s Lizman,” he said. “The food influencer.”

He sensed Pessie tense. They’d made an agreement: no work calls during the day. “Don’t worry,” he whispered as he answered the call.

Yochi had been working to pair Lizman up with Eli T. to plan the table décor and she was waiting for Yochi to approve the budget. Binick had been skeptical, they’d never spent so much on décor, but Yochi had convinced him that this was important, presentation was everything.

But it would have to wait. He was on vacation with his family now. He apologized to Lizman and told her he’d call her back at night.

“Sure, no problem,” she said. “And meanwhile I saw a beautiful idea for a continental breakfast on this event planner’s feed. I’ll send you a link, tell me what you think.”

“Okay, good.” He glanced over at Pessie. She was holding Motti in one arm, fumbling in the cool pack with her other. “I’ll take a look a little later. I’m not in the office today.”

One of the buggy guides walked over to the rest area. “Fifty-four!” he hollered.

“Gotta go,” Yochi mumbled into the phone, then waved his tickets in the air. “That’s us!”

Pessie went over to the petting area to collect the girls. When they approached their horse and buggy, the horse snorted, then kicked his hoof, spraying dirt in the air. Malkie shrieked.

“I’m not going on the horse!”

“No, of course not,” Pessie said soothingly. “We’re sitting in the wagon, sweetie.”

“I’m not sitting in the wagon!” Her face was white.

Yochi lifted her up in his arms. “No, no, of course not, Malkie. You’re not sitting on the horse, you’re not sitting in the wagon. You’re sitting on Tatty’s lap!”

Malkie looked confused, but when she saw Hindy laughing, a small smile spread over her face. Still, she was trembling as Yochi lifted her into the wagon.

As the horse started galloping, Malkie slowly relaxed. She squinted hesitantly at the vast corn fields.

When the guide slowed the horse to point out the one-room schoolhouse, Yochi’s phone rang.


Well, he didn’t have to answer. He was on vacation with his family, Binick knew that.

But a moment later, Binick texted. EMERGENCY. CALL ME ASAP.

Yochi pulled at his beard. Malkie was sitting on the wagon bench now, forgetting that she was supposed to be afraid. The kids were absorbed in the passing scenery. Pessie was making conversation with the Amish driver.

He turned his head away and dialed, then spoke into the phone in a near-whisper. “What’s up?”

“We need to find a new caterer for Succos.”


“Eli T. just called me. His wife was put on bed rest, he won’t be able to travel.”

Yochi leaned his hand on the wagon rail and dug his forehead into his palm. “No way, you’re joking. That’s crazy.”


“But like, maybe she could stay with her mother over Yom Tov? I mean, he can’t cancel on us.”

Binick breathed heavily.

“What are we going to do?” said Yochi. “And the ads. This was a major selling point, I hope we won’t lose guests over this.”

“I know, I know, Hersko, I realize everything.” Binick sighed. “You’ll rescue me, right?”

Yochi rubbed his yarmulke on his head. “Okay.” He inhaled long and hard. “Okay, let’s think straight. A new caterer… do you have names from previous tours? Or anyone else? We’ll need to thoroughly research credentials, even if it’s last minute. This is the food, the heart of the tour. There’s zero room for error.”

Binick listed some names halfheartedly. Whoever they hired — if they could find someone to hire at all — it would be a second choice shidduch. Nobody could hold a spatula to T.

“I feel so bad for him,” Yochi said. “We’re in a tough spot, but I can only imagine how T. feels. It’s a major loss for him.”

“You’re good, Hersko. I didn’t think about him at all.”

“I’ll give him a call. Wow, this is crazy.”

The horse halted at a red light. Yochi craned his neck. The road looked familiar. Were they back already?

The wagon turned into the entrance, and the driver instructed them to wait for him to chain the horse.

“I need to hang up now,” Yochi told Binick as he helped Malkie out of the wagon. Then, to allay his boss’s fear — or was it his own?— he added, “I’ll take care of it. We’ll find a great caterer, everything will be all right. Stay calm.”

But when he hung up, he didn’t feel calm at all. Binick had dumped the entire problem on his head. He was in this alone — and he’d need to perform a miracle.

Yochi robotically helped the kids out of the wagon. He felt like he was choking.

Without thinking, his hand inched into his pocket. He pulled out a box of cigarettes and brought one to his lips. He lit the tip and took a slow, long drag.

An elaborate cough made him turn. Pessie’s eyes were cold and accusing. His shoulders tensed.

“It’s just one cigarette.”

Pessie shook her head, her eyes on the ground.

“Go ahead and smoke. What difference does it make?” Her voice was low and clipped. “Just tell me, is this the family trip you had in mind? Is this how I should expect the Succos tour to look?”

Yochi dropped his cigarette on the ground and stepped on it snuff it out.

“Pessie,” he snapped. “I’m trying. That’s why I’m here, right? But can you, like, also try? I’m under so much stress right now, you cannot begin to imagine. I feel like I’m going to choke from pressure. Please,” he said sharply, “can you try not to make it any harder?”

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 769)

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