| Treeo Serial |

Remember Me: Chapter 2

Who could have wrested away every remnant we had of Abba — before the shivah is even over?

The first thing that hits me when I close the soundproof door and switch on the lights to Abba’s study is that everything is gone.


The desk is there, and the chair and the light fixture and the bookcases of seforim. But the computer screens and the strange, scientific-looking tools, and the papers and notebooks and assortment of pens and even the family pictures — they’re gone, vanished, disappeared, just as if they’ve never existed.

As if someone got here first.

Blood rushes to my head. How can it be? The door was locked. No one has been in here since, since…

Unless someone has? Late at night? Ima, maybe?

The idea is laughable. Ima never set foot here even when Abba was alive.

My sisters, Rikki and Tehillah, are no-goes, too. They’re six and four years old, and besides, if they’d been behind this dramatic clear out of the study, they’d have left a trail of cookie crumbs behind them.

And the thought of them cleaning up anything — let alone a room full of hundreds of different, complicated belongings — is outright laughable. They barely put away their toys.

I sink down in Abba’s chair and then wonder if I’m not supposed to do that. Does it make a difference if your parent isn’t alive anymore? I don’t know. All I know is that I want to sit here, it’s somehow the closest I can get to Abba now.

Which sounds ridiculous.

It’s just a chair.

I take in the bare, bare tabletop, the shelves neatly lined with seforim and nothing else. Who could have wrested away every remnant we had of Abba — before the shivah is even over?

Maybe Zeidy called someone in to clean up? But he wouldn’t have, not yet, and besides, I would have known.

A strange thought occurs to me: Maybe Abba cleaned up himself, before he left on the flight that would ultimately cost him his life?

But then… but then…

Abba never cleaned up like this. He organized, maybe, but this was like — like the room was never going to be used again.

Like it had never been used at all.

My breath is coming fast and hard, like I’m in the middle of an intense game of ball, which is weird because I’m barely moving. I crouch and pull at the desk drawers, one, two, three. Empty. Empty. Empty.

Everything is gone.



“This is the door.” The tall man stops, waves his partner forward. “Soundproof, bulletproof, probably heavily locked, too. Do your magic.”

The second man eyes the lock contemplatively, and then reaches for the handle.

“What are you doing? It’s locked,” the first man begins, in a harsh whisper, but the door handle turns and the door swings open and the room is brightly lit as if it’s the middle of the day —

And a boy is sitting on the swivel chair by the desk, head snapping around at the sound of the intruders entering.


Two men.

Two men dressed in black, standing in the open doorway of Abba’s study.

I open my mouth to scream.

The men step inside, the door closes behind them.

The soundproof, soundproof door.

I am trapped.


The taller man speaks first.

“What in the world,” he hisses in his own language, “is this… child… doing here?”

The second man keeps his gaze fixed on the boy’s shocked, frozen face.

“Why are you asking me? I came along to help with the locks and the search. This is your mission, not mine.”

The first man takes a long, deep breath, and then he seems to decide something.

And inexplicably, he smiles.


“You must be Yair,” the taller intruder says. “It’s nice to meet you. We’re friends of your father’s.”

My heart seems to kick itself back to life. I feel it beating, pounding blood through my body, and all the anger at finding the study empty rushes back.

Was it intruders like these who ransacked the place before we, Abba’s family, could even take the last few mementos of him that we had left?

“If this is a condolence call,” I say, because I can’t tell if these men are Jewish, and if the term “shivah visit” would mean anything to them, “we have visiting hours posted on the front door. And now is certainly not the right time.”

The second man gives a tiny snort of laughter, but the first doesn’t even crack a smile. “Yair,” he says, crouching down in front of me and adopting a slow, patient tone, as if I’m Tehillah’s age. “You’re obviously a very brave and smart boy, just like your father was. And you can probably understand that it’s important for the work that he did not to fall into the wrong hands. That’s why we’re here, to protect his work from enemies and safeguard it from causing tremendous harm.”

I have only around a thousand questions on what he is saying, but my first priority is something else.

“No,” I say, standing up so I’m towering above the first intruder, who’s still squatting in front of the chair where I was sitting. “No. If my father would have wanted you to take stuff, he would have given it to you. And if you’re coming in at three in the morning, well, clearly you’re not up to anything good, right?”

I’m not sure how I have the guts to say these things to two muscular men in black, at 3 a.m., trapped in a soundproof room. Maybe because they seem more afraid of me, somehow, than I am of them.

And they know my name. So maybe they are — were — friends of Abba’s. Or maybe not. His enemies (what enemies? How could Abba have had enemies?) might just as well have known his children’s names.

The taller man signals something, and his partner approaches the seforim shelves, removing books one by one and reaching behind them, searching for something.

I scramble over. “No!” I yelp. “This isn’t your house, these are Abba’s seforim — his books. There aren’t any secrets or harmful things here. Besides, anything you’re looking for has probably been ransacked already.”

This stops them short.

“What do you mean, ransacked?” the taller man asks sharply. He’s finally stopped talking in that slow, patronizing voice.

“This place,” I say, waving my hand in a circle. “This place is not how my father left it. His work things — computers, notebooks, papers, everything —are all gone already. Maybe it’s those enemies you keep talking about, huh?”

I say that to annoy them, but the reaction I get is more than annoyed — there’s a palpable fear in the glance that passes between them.

“Yair,” the second one says, addressing me directly for the first time, “what you’re telling us is very important. This is information that could be a matter of life and death. Tell us again, what is missing, and why do you think it was taken by enemy hands?”

I notice that this man has the faintest trace of an accent. Middle Eastern. That means…

I look at him, dark eyes, dark hair, tanned skin. Friend or foe? To trust or not to trust?

They broke in here in the middle of the night, to ransack Abba’s study. If not for me, they would be searching the place right now, while we slept. Taking seforim, papers, anything they could possibly find.

I’m not answering their questions.

I want them out.

And that desire burns deeply enough to squash any thoughts of fear.

“I have nothing to tell you,” I say flatly. “Except this: You need to leave. Now. Otherwise I’m waking my mother, and we’re calling the police.”


To be continued…


(Originally featured in Treeo, Issue 997)

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