| Second Dance |

Second Dance: Chapter 19

This whole neighborhood, he believed, had the making of a success, but there was something missing, some element that wasn’t there yet


Even if Shea Helberg wasn’t aware of the whispers, his father-in-law was. They were davening at the second table from the front right, Akiva Putterman’s regular place, and the tables near them were occupied by equally respectful people.

But Berger had two sons-in-law there and Jacoby had his teenage son, so there was a bit of buzz just the same. The bochur’s yeshivah had honored Shea Helberg, he said, and one of the sons-in-law had gone collecting at his house on Purim, and l’maaseh, for a gvir, he maintained, Helberg was a pretty big mensch.

“One of the chevreh passed out k’pshuto on the couch, and they moved him to one of the guest rooms and put him to sleep, someone found his phone and called his wife and told her. She let him stay there takeh till the next morning. Was mamush epic.”

They were in middle of Kabbalas Shabbos, but Krasninsky, who was a big no-talking-in-shul-campaigner, was already coughing, and that meant he was a minute away from shuffling over and staring them down. The other son-in-law knew that and warned the whole table to quiet down.

The talking in shul was also a mild issue, Akiva Putterman thought. Alameda being an older, more mature crowd, no one thought it would be a problem. Even though the shul did not yet have a rav or anyone to enforce that sort of thing, they were all past it, it was assumed. But guests did come every week, and no one wants to tell their own son-in-law that it’s a no-talking shul, and many of the members were still too new to assert themselves. So then you had Krasninsky taking it too far, in Akiva’s opinion, by making it his own holy war.

Krasninsky didn’t care about wearing a hat to Minchah during the week, Akiva noticed, but if someone greeted their friend during Pesukei D’zimra, he was out of his seat and scowling at them from across the room.

This whole neighborhood, he believed, had the making of a success, but there was something missing, some element that wasn’t there yet. In Monsey, Akiva had many neighbors with whom he had little relationship, but even with them, there was a sense of shared purpose.

The noise from the fireworks at the college. The traffic on the Palisades. The rebbe who opened a shtibel at the corner. There was always something to unite them.

This place had families who lived side by side, but the common thread holding them together wasn’t there yet.

It would come, he assumed.

He never knew how to act when Shea and Hindy came. Their house was the size of a full block in this development, but they seemed to enjoy coming just the same. Hindy was a good daughter, and Shea, even if he was a bit distracted, was nice enough, even though Akiva didn’t have much to discuss with him anymore.

Once, Shea and Hindy had talked to them about chinuch. When Benzion had that problem with the bullying, Shea and Hindy wanted to hire a karate teacher, but Akiva said he had a much better way of dealing with the problem. He acted out the scene with his grandson again and again, teaching him how to ignore the bully, give a disdainful stare, and even when the bully would inevitably punch him, to hold in the pain and coolly walk away. He promised much better results.

Later, he quietly told Hindy that the karate teacher wasn’t a crazy idea, but only because it would give Benzion the confidence to do what he was suggesting. Engagement was always a last resort.

His approach had worked wonders, but these days, the chinuch questions went to the mekubal in Acco, or whoever this year’s gadol was.

Shea liked to come, Akiva suspected, because he was good friends with the developer and he wanted to get a feel for what it was like, how the project was working.

Akiva had once said this to Rina. Her face had darkened and she told him it was a horrible thing to say, so now, he kept the thought to himself.


On Shabbos day Shea ended up davening at the hashkamah minyan, which Hindy thought was strange — but Akiva had understood. Clearly, his son-in-law was aware of the little buzz that surrounded him, and the hashkamah minyan — 12 men spread out across a large beis medrash, no greetings expected — suited him fine.

Later, before the seudah, Shea and Hindy went for a walk, but Hindy came back alone, laughing about how Brucker’s Yerushalmi son had managed to shlep Shea into his kiddush, promising herring like he’d never tasted in his life.

They all thought that was cute, but 20 minutes later, when Shea still wasn’t home, Hindy and her mother went out to find him. The streets were already quiet, the families of Alameda Gardens eating their seudahs, but Shea Helberg sat alone in the corner of Bruckers’ backyard, deep in conversation with the Brucker boy.

Rina expected her daughter to call, “Shea Helberg, there you are, we were about to send a search party for you,” or “Shea, you know my parents are old people who need their schedules a certain way,” something like that. But Hindy said nothing.

She studied the scene, then looked at her mother and shrugged.

Were things different with rich people, and you couldn’t make jokes to your husband?


Shaindy Brucker was trying to listen, but she could only make out every second sentence.

“It’s a bit like being drunk, you know? Like first you’re not, and then you’re not sure, and when you chap that you are, it’s too late, you’re already there,” Shea said, and Heshy nodded seriously.

“You know how when you’re drunk, people can’t really touch you, there’s this sense that you can do whatever you want and it won’t hurt?” Shea went on. “It’s scary, but that’s what happens. I remember the feeling when I had a million dollars in the bank for the first time. I would walk in to shul and look around and think, ‘You know, you’re really not like me, none of you are. We’re just different.’ So you try to remember that everyone is the same as you, but hey, if you have to tell yourself that they’re just like you, then that itself makes you different.”

He was quiet and he took a long sip of tequila.

“That last vort, wow,” Heshy said, lifting up his own glass. “Very deep. Trying to be one of the guys means you’re not one of the guys. But listen, everyone is an outsider in their own way.”

Shea opened his mouth to say something, and from the expression on his face, it looked like he was going to share something even more personal, but at that moment, Shaindy Brucker poked her head out the back door and said, “I’m just letting the choshuve rabbanim here know that it’s already almost 12.”

So Shea drained the last of his cup and said, “This was amazing, great conversation. You were right about the herring. That’s something we should talk about, what your secret ingredient is, it can be the next big thing. The oilam is looking for something else already.”

Heshy Brucker sighed and nodded. Whatever it was, it was lost now.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 897)

Oops! We could not locate your form.