| Jr. Fiction |

Holiday in Gibraltar: Part 8

Danny swallowed. What should he tell the boy? It seemed that his life depended on the knowledge that she would recover.


He must have slept for a while, for when he awoke, the sun was lower in the sky, and a cool wind was playing about his face, comforting him like a prayer.

He sat up. Someone was saying Tehillim. B’shalom yachdav eshkevah vishan ki atah Hashem l’vadad lavetach toshiveini. The voice was young and strong yet beseeching and broken.

He looked around. No one was there. No sign of the monkey. Only the box remained, right next to him on the sand, and his fist was throbbing where he had smashed it.

He must get back to Yitz and Zvi. But the thought of being alone in those huge echoing caves filled him with dread.

Hakshiva lekol shav’i malki Veilokai….

Who was that? Was someone there or was it his imagination?

Despite his doubts, he felt a strange new confidence as he stepped into the cave. There was no confusion now; the direction was clear to him, and within a minute or two, he had found the small patch of sand with the spring of water and the flowers. His heart was light as he opened the box and filled the goblet. The water was exquisitely cold and clear and seemed to rush to meet the vessel, where it bubbled and frothed almost joyously.

He found himself singing as he made his way through the tunnel, thanking Hashem. How strange to have confidence when he was in such danger!

Yitz was waiting for him, a vein on his forehead bulging with the strain of pent-up panic and fear.

“Where have you been?” he yelled.

“I’m so sorry Yitz… I got lost.”

“Lost! What have you been doing? Sightseeing? I’ve been going crazy taking care of Zvi all by myself! He’s delirious. He keeps throwing himself about and crying for his mother. It’s really scary.”

Danny stared at Yitz. It seemed that some of the old anger had returned.

“I’m sorry, Yitz,” he said again.

Danny’s apology seemed to appease him. Yitz glanced down at Danny’s hands. “What’s that goblet you’re holding?”

‘It’s — I found it in a box in the tunnel.”

“Ah, the intrepid explorer—”

“No, Yitz, it wasn’t that at all. I—”

“What’s in it?”

“Just water. Have a look.”

There was a strange expression on Yitz’s face as he held the goblet and stared at the water still bubbling and frothing at the surface.

“Where did you say you found this?” he said.

“In the cave, Yitz.”

“Someone told you about it?”

“No. I just came upon it. Actually, it was the monkey who led me to it.”

A harsh laugh broke from Yitz’s throat.

“You’re such a liar.” He looked more closely at the goblet. “I suppose you think it’s yours. Right?”

“No, not at all,” said Danny. He wasn’t the only one having trouble controlling himself. This anger of Yitz was taking things to another level. There was a menace in it that spoke absolute hatred. Well, Yitz might think he could bully him into submission. Yitz may howl and bellow, but he could roar. Even now he could feel himself tremble with the power of it.

“The water is for Zvi. It might revive him,” he said quietly. “Maybe you want to give it to him?”

“I don’t,” said Yitz. “The honor is entirely yours.”

“Perhaps you can give me the goblet then?” said Danny.

Staring straight at Danny, Yitz tipped the goblet so that a slow trickle of water began to spill to the ground.

The anger that had been just below the surface now burst out of Danny. “I warn you, Yitz—”

To his surprise, Yitz stopped and handed the goblet to Danny. Then, with a snarl more animal-like than human, he walked away.

Danny found Zvi lying in the same position as he had left him, shivering and bathed in sweat. His breathing was labored and rasping, and he was clearly much worse than he had been only a few hours earlier.

Danny sat down and held the goblet to Zvi’s mouth. The water dribbled onto his face. Zvi’s eyes fluttered, and he let out a great sigh.

“Drink,” said Danny. He raised Zvi’s head and watched as each sip seemed to restore him. “Rest now,” said Danny.

“My mother,” said Zvi. “Is she alive?”

Danny swallowed. What should he tell the boy? It seemed that his life depended on the knowledge that she would recover.

He remembered then the sound of a woman crying in pain. It had seemed so real, as if he had stepped into Zvi’s feverish nightmares. But that was impossible. It must have been his imagination.

“We’re davening for her,” he said.

“It doesn’t help,” said Zvi. “I davened and davened, and she got sicker and sicker.”

Danny took a deep breath. “She’s going to get better,” he said. “You’ll see.”

Zvi smiled and his face relaxed. “Thank you,” he said. Then he fell asleep.

Heavyhearted, Danny stood up and looked around. Where was Yitz?

He left the cave and found him on the sand, staring out to sea.

“Zvi seems a little better,” he said.

“You can keep your box,” said Yitz.

The box with the strange document! He had forgotten all about it.

“Where did you find it?” said Danny.

“In your magic cave, where’d you think?” said Yitz.

The birthmark on Danny’s neck itched.

“Where’ve you put it?”

“Up there.” Danny looked up at the great craggy rock behind them.

“You climbed all the way up there just to make sure I shouldn’t have it?”

“If you’re such a great man, you’ll be able to get it. Go on, try.”

Danny turned away. He didn’t need the box.

“There’s something in it that you should see,” said Yitz.

It was an uncomfortable feeling knowing that he was being watched; Danny’s birthmark itched again as he began to climb. The first part of the ascent was quite easy. There were plenty of footholds. But soon, the rocks grew slippery, and he realized there was no way he was going to reach the top. He began to descend, but going down seemed to be even harder, and he had to find new things to hold onto. It was then that he noticed the splintered pieces of wood scattered around. So Yitz had smashed the box. Great.

Yitz was waiting for him on the sand, a strange smile on his face.

“What do you think tzaddik’l?” he said.

“I can’t believe you,” said Danny. “We’re lost with a sick boy to take care of. We may never be found. What’s the point of this jealousy?”

“You think I’m jealous! Of you!” said Yitz, lunging at him. He was taller than Danny, and he had been waiting for him. Danny didn’t stand a chance. But at that moment the monkey, appearing out of nowhere, landed very hard on Yitz’s shoulder, almost knocking him down.

“Get off of me,” shouted Yitz, but the monkey wouldn’t let go. The more Yitz tried to throw it off, the tighter it clung on, until almost triumphantly, it found what it was looking for under Yitz’s shirt and hopped from his shoulder onto Danny’s. Chattering excitedly, it handed him a yellowing envelope sealed with wax. Someone had broken the seal, and it could only be Yitz. Something inside that envelope must have enraged him.

The sound of a helicopter in the distance caught them unawares. Forgetting everything that had just happened, Danny shouted to Yitz.

“Get up the cliff and wave!”

With a strength born of desperation, both boys charged up the rocky crag. Waving and shouting frantically, they watched as the helicopter chugged overhead and turned away.

“Don’t go! Please — don’t go!” screamed Yitz.

To their surprise and relief, the helicopter turned round and began circling, searching for a place to land. Out of the corner of his eye, Danny saw that Yitz was crying.

Later, much later, back in camp, in the quiet of the night, with Zvi safely on the mend and the joyful news that his mother’s condition was improving, Daniel opened the envelope.

He stared at the closely written script in Lashon Hakodesh:

‘’Tzava’ah of Harav Hagaon Doniel ben Michoel of the kingly family of Yesurun. Bearer of the mark of the tablets of stone.

Sons and daughters of Jacob! Let not your heart grow faint or your courage fail you. Even as the enemy surrounds you, cling to your G-d. Even as your loved ones grow sick, your G-d performs wonders.

Let not your eyes stray from the law of truth nor your feet from the path of righteousness.

Kavei el Hashem, chazak veye’ematz libecha vekavei el Hashem.

From the caves of Gibraltar, July 1492, Tammuz 5252.”

“What’s that you’re looking at?” said Yanky. “Not your grandmother’s old atlas?”

Danny blushed. “Just something… I found.”

“Along with the goblet, right? You just happened to dig up treasure?”

Yanky stared at the manuscript. “Look,” he said. “Look at that mark.”

“It’s just water,” said Danny.

“No it isn’t. It’s done in some kind of brownish paint.”

“It’s a picture of the Luchos.”

“Of course… but compare it to the mark on your neck.”

Danny stared at the two splotches of paint rounded at the top.

“I don’t believe it,” he said.

“Well you should,” said Yanky. “You’re always telling me about that birthmark of yours. How it runs in the family. And the name Yesurun goes back to the time of the first Beis Hamikdash. I told you Danny. You have greatness in you. I feel sure that you must be descended from kings.”

Danny went red and shook his head. “No, Yanky,” he said. “That’s ridiculous.”

But Yanky looked at him mysteriously, an odd mixture of seriousness and humor in his eyes.

“Who knows, Danny, perhaps one day you will be recognized.” Then, with a half-smile on his face, he bent down to Danny. “I give honor to you, Doniel, of the princely family Yesurun.”

The End


(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 953)

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