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Rocking Horse: Chapter 6

Felix obscures the visitor, but when Hannah peers around she sees an old-time Jew

The letter arrives a day before the visitors. It’s written by Shneur’s wife, and she has beautiful writing; too bad the autumn rain has soaked the envelope, which is mud smeared, and the ink has smudged so the page is a series of blue trees, bare arms spiking across the page.
Hannah stares at the postal mark, tears open the letter, makes sense of the blotted words.
They are coming.
She runs into Emmy’s room. Emmy is still sleeping, but Hannah puts a hand on her arm and shakes her awake. “Shneur is coming, with Becca.”
Emmy blinks, rubs her eye. “What, Mama?”
“Shneur. Uncle Shneur. He’s coming and he’s bringing Becca with him. Remember my sister, Becca?”
Emmy stretches and lifts herself up higher onto the pillows. Her dark blonde hair is all over the place: She didn’t put it in curling paper last night, which means that she must not have plans for this evening. Good. Emmy can help her prepare the house.
“Becca. With the terrible handwriting, whose letters always incur endless excitement and lengthy deciphering.”
“You met her. She was here, you don’t remember?”
“Just running through my calendar, Mama.”
“Four years ago, maybe five, on her way to Paris. You’ll love her, Emmy. You’ll see.”
The energy that for so long eluded her returns, as Hannah checks the linen cabinet, contemplates washing the sets all over again, so they will be extra fresh. She looks outside: The rain is pounding the streets, which means it will take at least a day to dry, and besides, she will need Gertrude for tasks other than extra ironing. She opens the larder: She will roast a chicken and bake a fruit cake in honor of their arrival.

The very next day, there is a bang at the door. Felix opens it.
A blast of cold wind and rain sweeps through into the sitting room, and Hannah looks up in annoyance. She pulls her shawl around her shoulders and goes to see who is there.
Felix obscures the visitor, but when Hannah peers around she sees an old-time Jew. Heavy boots, heavy beard, long black coat open to reveal yellowing tzitzis sitting atop a white shirt, high, large black kupel…
“Shneur!”
“I thought you’d never answer the door.”
He comes inside, throws down his battered leather traveling bag, and wraps Felix in an embrace. Felix looks around and winks at her. Hannah laughs. Shneur was never one for pretenses. In Prague, gentlemen shake hands, perhaps they kiss, they do not hug. Shneur hugs.
(Excerpted from Family First, Issue 675)

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