| Treeo Serial |

Remember Me: Chapter 4

I just stare at her. How can she — how can any of them — be thinking about regular life?

The house is echoing and silent,

somehow dim and foreboding even though it’s the middle of the day, and my mother and sisters are here, too. Which makes the eerie, deafening silence so… loud.

I’m itching to get back into Abba’s study, to see for myself whether the men have been here. What they’ve done, taken. Was there even anything left to take?

But Ima’s here, and even as I wonder if I’d be able to get the keys and get into the study without her noticing, she turns to me with a small smile that seems painfully stretched over her face, and says, “Well, Yair, do you want to go to yeshivah?”

Go to yeshivah. Now?

No,” I say, without thinking. Seriously? Abba dies, shivah’s over, and that’s it? Slide back into ballgames and yeshivah hock and guys going crazy over farhers and stuff like that?

I can’t imagine going back to school. Not today. Not tomorrow. Not ever.

Yeah, right.

I know that’s not happening, but… not today.

“Tomorrow, then,” Ima says, sounding too hopeful.

I just stare at her. How can she — how can any of them — be thinking about regular life?

“Rikki and Tehillah are going back to school now,” Ima says. “And then Zaidy and Bubby will be coming over. So I figured if you wanted to go, I can drop you off, too.”

“No,” I say again. It’s like it’s the only word I have left, a visceral, instinctive response to the will of the world that we just pick up and restart life.

It’s funny but even though I hated it some of the time, now I just want to sit in the dining room again and have people file in, strangers and older men and even my awkward, stammering classmates. So there were far too many murmured platitudes and people saying nothing in particular, the occasional inquisitive guest who asked too many questions about what happened, as if I even understood it myself (A heart attack? But Abba was so young!).

But even with all the annoying parts… it was something, proclaiming to the whole world that something big and terrible has happened and life will never be the same. A week just to sit and talk about Abba, because that’s what we were supposed to do.

Now that’s all over, and no one is going to want to mention Abba to me anymore. I know that, just like I know the men slipping out from between the houses had been inside our home, had come to finish the job they started last night.

You know how during a shivah, all these stories come out? Like the secret chesed that the man did, without even his family knowing? So, no. We didn’t get any of those. Everyone had the same things to say, reciting the lines as if they were scripted — always nice, menschlich, always on time to shiur, such hasmadah when he learned.

It was like no one really knew Abba, but still, it was something.

So no, I’m in no rush to get back to school… and also, I realize, if Ima’s driving Rikki and Tehillah… I have time to do what I need to do.

Which is to assess the damage done by the shadowy figures I just saw coming out from behind the house.


They did the job well. These guys, whoever they are, are clearly professionals.

I can see they’ve been here. The desk chair is pushed in all the way, and I remember for a fact that I left it pulled out from behind the desk. A few of the seforim were obviously removed and replaced one shelf higher up than they should’ve been.

But nothing seems to be missing.

Except, of course, for everything that had already been taken before I even got here.


I open the study door to leave and freeze.

There are voices in the hallway, footsteps coming closer….

“Esther? Children? Anyone home?”

Esther. Only my grandparents call Ima by that name; she goes by “Estelle” everywhere else. So they’re here already… but Ima isn’t back yet.

They can’t know I’ve been hunting in Abba’s study. They can’t.

Slowly, carefully, holding my breath, I pull the door closed. And then I tiptoe down the stairs to the basement, and whew in relief when I make it safely.

The basement is the girls’ haven. There are toys scattered far and wide, dolls and strollers and dollhouses and books and a full-on tea party set up by a mini table and chair set. No one’s cleaned up in here for a week, and you can tell.

I slide down to the floor, pushing a curly-haired doll and two teddy bears out of the way first.

“Anyone hooooome?” Bubby calls again.

I get to my feet.

“Bubby? Is that you?”

Looking plausibly surprised — like I’ve been in the basement all morning — I head upstairs.


So then, of course, I need to play host until Ima gets back. I offer my grandparents drinks, and Bubby waves it away like she should be the one offering me a hot drink or something, but Zaidy gives a firm nod and requests a tea, no sugar, and just a splash of milk.

Okay, then.

I’m not exactly sure I know how to make tea, but I dump in the tea bag and pour hot water over it and hope it turns out like it’s supposed to. Then I sit down opposite my grandparents at the Formica-topped kitchen table and wonder what we can possibly make conversation about.

If that sounds weird to you, let me just give a little background info — one sentence should do it.

My grandparents never entered this house until last week.

Funny, right? But not really. They live a couple hours’ drive away, and while we went to visit them occasionally, they never schlepped out to us. We never seemed to see them all that much, actually.

Now, of course, it’s different. Everything’s different.

I’m just awkwardly clearing my throat to make a comment about the weather — yes, the silence is that bad — when the front door opens. Ima is home, yes, yes, yes!!!!

“Ima? Zaidy and Bubby are here,” I say, scraping my chair back. “Um, I’m just going to… check all my homework is done. For tomorrow.”

And I escape the room before anyone can wonder what, exactly, I mean by homework, when I haven’t been to school in a week.

My bedroom is a welcome haven, familiar organized mess in my Clutter Corner (see, my room is neat. There’s just one little corner that isn’t, but I know exactly what’s there, so it’s not really called a mess, right?), bed neatly made.


My bed was not neatly made when I left it.

I mean, it wasn’t bad, but I distinctly remember taking a look around the room this morning before heading downstairs to Shacharis, and I know I’d left the pillow haphazard, and the blanket sticking up a little….

Someone has been to my room. Those men… they searched my bedroom, as well.

Suddenly frantic, I make a dash for my closet. The notebooks, Abba’s notebooks, the ones I managed to get from his study — are they there? I’d left them on the shelf, piled on my old school notebooks… and yes, they’re still there, exactly where I left them.

The men didn’t get them.

Sagging with relief, I sit down at my desk.

And then I notice that something is missing.

The notebooks are there, but the scraps of paper I’d found, some with single words, phrases, strings of numbers, one with an intricate diagram, some sort of flowchart; those I’d left on my desk to examine later. And now they are gone.

To be continued…


(Originally featured in Treeo, Issue 999)

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