| Out of Step |

Out of Step: Chapter 11

That last jump totally jarred my leg, which is weird, because, hello! Dancer!

Shimshon’s new tzitzis bounce every time he jumps on the trampoline, and we all sigh, watching him.

“Okay, he’s like not-regular cute,” Atara declares, and we all agree.

Babby is settled in a dining room chair we’d dragged out to the yard; Zeidy is hovering protectively over her, and both of them are clutching glasses of sparkling seltzer and shepping nachas.

Benny puts Effie on the trampoline next to Shimshon and we all crack up as the little uncle bounces once, causing the baby to fall right over. He’s so wrapped up against the cold, that he’s completely immobilized, and just lays there, whimpering, while we all double over.

Benny goes to rescue him.

“He gets his grace from you, Bellka,” Benny calls. I stick my tongue out at him and shiver while everyone laughs.

It’s legit freezing, and my little suede bomber jacket isn’t exactly keeping me warm.

Mommy catches my eye. “Go put on a real coat,” she says firmly, giving me a little push toward the door. I groan as I head inside, inwardly glad that Mommy is the sort of mother who cares if I’m cold. Atara’s mother is young and fun, but I can’t imagine her noticing if Atara’s shivering.

I hop up the stairs two at a time, grab my black puffer coat, and hop back down the stairs, jumping the last three.


That last jump totally jarred my leg, which is weird, because, hello! Dancer!

I stand there for a moment, rubbing my sore muscle, and then hobble back out to the festivities before I miss anything important.


“Ah, the after-party, where the real fun happens,” I say, inhaling the steam rising from my chai tea. The guests have left, the little kids are sleeping, and we’d all gathered around the dining room table for tea and leftover scissor-shaped cake. Zeidy places a slice of cake before Babby, and she waves it away. I smirk; all the adults in my family do this thing where they turn down dessert on principle and then eat it five minutes later.

I turn my attention to my own slice, and sure enough, when I look up, Babby is licking blue frosting off her fingers.

I meet Naftoli’s eyes, we both grin and look back down at our plates.

“So, Naftoli, when are you returning to yeshivah?” Babby asks, her clear voice ringing around the room.

Oh, boy, things just got awkward.

Benny clears his throat, Mommy starts fussing with the pillow propped behind Babby’s back, and Goldie starts rehashing the guest list loudly.

“And did you see that Chevi drove in all the way from Lakewood? And Mashie from Scranton! And she works full-time, so that’s really special!”

I nod emphatically, about to add in my own who’s who, but it’s Naftoli’s voice that breaks through all the chaos.

“I wish I knew, Babby. I wish I knew.” His cheeks are bright red, and his ears resemble two ripe tomatoes — a sure sign he’s uncomfortable.

Babby takes a sip of tea. “To throw out the best bochur in the yeshivah over something he didn’t do? I’ve never heard of such a thing. Morris, have you ever heard of such a thing?” She turns to Zeidy, eyes wide and alarmed.

Zeidy shrugs. “Eh, what do I know? But it’s not right that a boy like Naftoli shouldn’t be in the beis medrash.”

Daddy shoots Naftoli a sympathetic look, raising his eyes to the ceiling with a what-are-you-gonna-do expression. Gosh, if I was Naftoli, I would’ve stormed out of the room five minutes ago.

He realy is a saint.

“Well,” says Daddy loudly, “we’re trying every avenue. Naftoli is a big boy, he makes his own decisions, and whether we agree or not, he’s decided not to name the real culprit. So, all there is to do now is wait for the hanhalah to forgive and forget. Or figure out the offender on their own.”

“And for them to remember how much Naftoli adds to the yeshivah,” Mommy says fiercely.

My poor brother’s ears burn an even deeper red. “Gonna bring some water,” he mutters, pushing his chair back.

I guess it was getting to be a bit much. Even for Super Naftoli.

Babby shakes her head. “Even that, to allow him to take the blame? I would not have stood for it, let me tell you.”

Mommy blushes; I decide to change the topic. I clear my throat. “So, Babby, Zeidy, any ideas for my winter dance recital? The theme is ‘overcoming.’ ”

Babby shifts in her chair, Zeidy adjusts the pillow until she’s comfortable.

“Bella Rena, we are so proud of you for landing the dance solo!” Babby says warmly.

Goldie cheers, Benny and Aharon drum on the table, and I’m pretty sure my ears can rival Naftoli’s. But Babby’s praise means everything to me.

“Thank you!” I say, fluttering a hand modestly. “So, we have your basic ‘overcoming the yetzer hara,’ but I wanted to do more, to go deeper, to really bring out the idea for the audience,” I say passionately. “Any ideas?”

Babby thinks. “How about picking a challenge that you face, Bella dear, and then choreographing an opposing side to it. Even if you haven’t overcome it yet in real life?” She winks at me.

Uch, boring! And, like, what challenges have I overcome exactly? Coveting Atara’s wardrobe?

“Wow, that’s such a great idea, Babby! Thank you!” I stand up and give her a kiss on her cheek, inhaling the familiar scents of Chanel and baby powder. “I’ll go help Naftoli with the water.” I make my escape, inwardly rolling my eyes.

I needed a flash of brilliance, one outstanding idea for my solo dance. But my wellsprings of creativity were running dry, and apparently, no one else had any wellsprings.


I stick my head into the kitchen; Naftoli’s nowhere to be seen.

Typical. I lift my arms, spin around the room once, pirouette, and land perfectly — OW!

There’s that twinge again. Was I landing wrong?

I’d have to consult with Shayna about it. I needed both legs in perfect working condition. After all, I was the winter soloist. I curtsy to an imaginary audience and then sashay off to bed.

(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 787)

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