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For Granted: Chapter 37

Shabbos was amazing, but why in the world is Ta taking the new manager’s side over his own son’s??


Dini sat down at the kitchen table with her coffee and rubbed her eyes. Funny how the effects of an entire relaxing Shabbos can be completely erased by Sunday morning. Chaviva had stomped off to school in a rage because every single sweater that looked normal on her was in the laundry. And Shuki, who’d really seemed to unwind over Shabbos — he’d even met some old friends and organized an impromptu oneg in the hotel lobby — had muttered, “Off to get my root canal,” as he waved goodbye this morning.

Dini took a sip and opened her laptop.

How was Shabbos??

She frowned at her mother-in-law’s WhatsApp and the winking emoji next to it. As if the whole Shabbos had been an arranged joke between them.

Her fingers hovered over her keyboard as she contemplated all the things she’d love to write back.

Shabbos was amazing, but why in the world is Ta taking the new manager’s side over his own son’s??

Or, Shabbos was great, but it would’ve been even greater had Ta treated Shuki with respect to begin with, instead of placating him with a stupid hotel stay.

Dini’s outrage burned once again as she recalled Friday’s conversation. Shuki had related, scowling, how this Eric guy had steamrolled in, demanded to see every one of his billing files going back five years, and then marked them up with comments about where he’d been sloppy and why hadn’t he followed up more forcefully with this client’s late payment, and had concluded by tallying the grand figure that Shuki had cost the company by not being more on top of things.

“It wasn’t just me,” Shuki had added, perhaps sensing what Dini was holding herself back from saying — that, after all, Shuki wasn’t the most diligent worker, and maybe this new manager was right for finally calling him out on it, even if he could have done so in a more sensitive way.

“No?” she’d asked casually.

He’d sent her a quick, sharp glance. “Believe it or not, the entire department is up in arms about him. Y’know, even the guys who don’t spend their mornings shooting wastepaper shots and forwarding dumb WhatsApp memes.” His mouth twisted sardonically. “The ones who actually have to work for a living because they’re not the boss’s son.”

Dini had blushed. “I didn’t say that,” she’d said quickly, but they both knew that she had — many times — over the past years. Determined to prove her loyalty, she’d added indignantly, “And when you complained to your father, nothing happened?”

Shuki had mimicked his father’s voice.  “Eric came highly recommended. He’s done magic at other companies. Magic. Our ship badly needs tightening, and he’s the guy who can do it.”

He’d made a face. “And then Ta offered to move me to a different department, if I don’t feel comfortable working with him.”

Dini’s eyes had widened. “That’s great! You’ve always hated billing.”

Shuki’s face had darkened. “Obviously, I said no. He didn’t really mean it. Or rather, he did, but only in the sense of, if you can’t handle this like a big boy, I’ll let you go stay out of trouble somewhere else.”

Dini had never heard Shuki sound so bitter; she thought of it now, as she stared at his mother’s perky message.

Shabbos was awesome, but does Ta not realize that he’s absolutely wasting Shuki’s talents? Instead of treating him like a kvetchy little kid, maybe he should actually listen to what Shuki has to say, because his advice is always spot-on.

She chewed her lip.  Her mother-in-law wouldn’t get it any more than her own mother would.

Shabbos was amazing! she wrote. So relaxing. Thx Ma!!

Ayala paced back and forth between her dining room and kitchen, clearing the breakfast — and dinner — dishes as she checked her phone messages once more. As if her voicemail might have simply forgotten to tell her about a call from her mother.


She flung the phone down on the table. It was odd. Ma called her every night, without fail. Even before her heart attack, it had been her practice to call Ayala before she and Tatty went to bed. She’d leave her a message reassuring her that everything was fine, wish her a good night, and then laugh and say, “Oops, for you it’s good morning!” For years, the same message, the same joke. Ma was nothing if not a creature of habit.

Had something happened?

Ayala closed her eyes. She would have heard about an emergency. It was the middle of the night in the US; there was nothing she could do about it right now anyway.

Let’s focus on the things you can control, she thought. Sighing, she sat down at the table and opened her daily calendar.

She had a meeting with the Kellers at Bituach Leumi at ten and with the Markowitzes at the nephrologist at eleven thirty. Ayala blinked. For real? What had she been thinking, booking these appointments back-to-back? Even on a good day, there was no way she’d be out of the Bituach Leumi office and in a doctor’s clinic across town in an hour and a half; and with Bituach Leumi, there were rarely good days.

She stood up quickly, annoyed at herself. Ever since Ma’s heart attack, her mind had been stuck in New York. Normally, she would never have made such a stupid scheduling mistake. She rubbed her forehead.

She would have to call Bracha.

Ayala hated springing appointments on her friend at the last second, hated feeling like she was taking advantage of Bracha. Though that aspect had undeniably become more comfortable ever since Chesed Tzirel started paying Bracha a salary.

(“Your friend Mrs. Blumenfeld is quite the fundraiser,” Naftali had commented, going over the organization’s accounts one night. “Do you realize that in just a few short months, your monthly expenses have gone from less than a thousand dollars to between ten and fifteen, and she’s managed to cover it all?” Ayala didn’t know why that fact had made her so uneasy — maybe because she knew a good chunk of those expenses were going toward her salary? — but it was unquestionably that discomfort that had made her respond with a snide, “She’s probably just fundraising from her parents’ bank account,” that she’d immediately regretted.)

Ayala picked up her phone to dial, then gasped when she noted the time. Nine o’clock already?  She wasn’t even dressed! Berating herself for letting pointless worrying about her mother get in the way of her responsibilities, she raced to get ready. She’d call Bracha on the way to Yerushalayim.

Driving to Bituach Leumi, the cab driver had a lot to say about government offices, government in general, leftist protests, the Amerika’im of Ramat Beit Shemesh, and his own trip to America to visit his brother-in-law in Dallas. Feeling like she was doing something rude, Ayala surreptitiously dialed Bracha’s number as he spoke. But her friend didn’t pick up. She tried several more times, feeling increasingly anxious.

Was it time to bring in a third assistant? she thought sardonically.

Bracha called her back after she’d already helped the Kellers (fresh-off-the-boat olim who had a son with a chronic medical condition) get their appointment number and settle down in the waiting area. Judging by the crowd, it looked like they had a way to go, so Ayala stepped outside to take the call.

“Bracha! Thanks for calling back. I made a big mess-up with this morning’s schedule, and I need you to pretty, pretty please bail me out.”

“With a cherry on top?”

“Of course.” Ayala dug her nails into her palm. “Please don’t say that Leebie has a fever or you have an exercise class to go to or you need to wait for the plumber to come.”

Bracha snorted. “I’ve got all three, how do you like that?” She sighed audibly. “Seriously, it’s not the greatest time.”

“But you’ll do it anyway? You are the biggest tzadeikes!”

Bracha was silent for a moment. “What’s the story?”

Ayala closed her eyes. The story? The story was that her mother — her mother! — suffered a heart attack just two weeks ago. And Ayala, who had always been there for her mother, ever since she was a kid — who had taken care of the grocery shopping when Ma’s back was too weak and accompanied her to doctor’s appointments and kept track of medications and insisted she lie down when her heart was fluttering, while Ayala served Tatty dinner and washed the dishes and wiped down the counters — Ayala was halfway across the world, completely impotent! She was relegated to begging for news, at the mercy of phone calls and emails that might or might not be sent, while others managed her mother’s care. Others who didn’t have her decades of accumulated experience to know the right way to talk to Ma, the best way to soothe her or persuade her.

Ayala was failing her mother when she needed her most. That was the story.

She took a shuddering breath, trying to calm herself. “I’m at Bituach Leumi right now with Keller for a ten o’clock appointment that isn’t happening for at least a half hour, and I’m supposed to be at Hadassah Hospital at eleven thirty with Markowitz. Any chance you can be there instead?”


“New case from Beitar. She called me last week.  Her husband’s been experiencing symptoms of kidney disease, and they have an appointment with a nephrologist.”

The silence stretched so long that Ayala wondered if the call had dropped.  “Hello? Bracha? You still there?”

Bracha cleared her throat. “Yeah.  Listen, I’m sorry, but I don’t think I can make it.”

Ayala’s heart dropped. “No, don’t tell me that! What am I supposed to do?”

Bracha’s voice hardened slightly. “You can’t really expect me to be available at the drop of a hat.”

Ayala swallowed.  “Of course not,” she said. “I’m sorry for putting so much pressure on you.  I’m the one who messed up. It’s not your job to pick up my slack.”

Her shoulders tightened as she thought about the couple waiting for her in the doctor’s office. “I just hate to disappoint them when they were counting on me.  But… that’s also not your problem.”

Her thoughts raced as she wondered what other options she had. Maybe she could conference in by phone? Not ideal, but she’d done it in the past.

“I’m sorry,” Bracha repeated softly. “I just think it would be too… difficult for me.”

Ayala’s fingers were itching to call Markowitz, to see if this could possibly work, and then she needed to get back inside and check on where the Kellers were holding in line, and—

“Mmm,” she murmured. “Sure, no problem.”


To be continued…


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 889)

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