| Second Dance |

Second Dance: Chapter 24

“But then I’ll never know what a Leil Shishi is,” she said playfully, but he missed that it was a joke and got all serious


The second Lauer son was invited to the same private tzedakah function as Shea Helberg, and he waited for a quiet moment.

The crowd wasn’t large and the Lauer son didn’t have to wait long. There was a very short speech, a few songs played by a string quartet in tuxedos, and then it was networking time, waiters rolling out trays of marinated strips of meat and hot stones to grill them.

This earned a moment of focus from the crowd, but then the people moved on.

Near the couches in the backyard, at which fresh cigars were being rolled, Helberg was checking his phone, seemingly annoyed at whatever he was seeing, so Lauer figured he had nothing to lose.

“Hey,” he said lightly, and Helberg looked up and smiled. It was the rich guy look, polite and vacant and how can I help you.

Whatever, he would take it. “Shloimy Lauer,” he introduced himself. “We met a few months ago, from Second Stage Living.”

“Sure, of course I know you guys,” Helberg said. “My in-laws live in your development, we talked a while back, I remember well. You guys built something great, when you going for Phase Two?”

“We want to,” Lauer said. “We have the land and we have the permits, but we’re waiting for the right time, you know?”

“Yeah, I chap, you want Phase One to be super-hot and then you’ll launch.” Helberg put down his phone. “But from what I’m hearing, you’re well on the way. It’s working nicely.”

“Oh?” It intrigued Shloimy Lauer that someone like Shea Helberg could be aware of something as mundane as how his in-laws were faring, whether or not they had friends, and if the pipes made noise or not.

“Yeah, the guy you put in there, from Queens, he’s my shver’s neighbor, and he’s working overtime to get the place running well. He’s good. Give it a bit more time and that development will be so well run it will be the envy of the whole Lakewood.”

“Amen,” Shloimy Lauer said, then smiled broadly, unsure how to end the conversation and feeling silly, like someone who had just stopped a celebrity to take a picture.

Hatzlachah,” Helberg said, back to being the gracious, polite gvir again.

Heshy was making a Leil Shishi.

That’s what he said. Shaindy had no idea what that meant, what a Leil Shishi was or what happened there. She knew what the words meant literally, of course, but beyond that, she was clueless. Heshy assured her that she had nothing to worry about, it was on him. She could go to sleep as usual and when she woke up Friday morning, she wouldn’t even know anything had happened.

“But then I’ll never know what a Leil Shishi is,” she said playfully, but he missed that it was a joke and got all serious and explained that it was just like a regular farbrengen, but already with Erev Shabbos energy, so it had a more uplifting vibe than stam sitting around.

“So like you sing Shabbos songs and stuff? That’s so nice,” she said with what she hoped was enthusiasm even though she couldn’t ever imagine Chaim singing Shabbos songs not on Shabbos.

“Yeah, that too,” he said, but it looked to her like he had been planning to say something else, then decided against it.

After Maariv on Thursday night, Chaim came home and went to sleep at his usual time, but she lingered for a bit, eager to see what it was all about. (“It’s my house,” she said to Brachi, “and I think I’m entitled to hang around if I want to.” “Ma, of course you’re entitled, but I don’t think you should,” Brachi said. “You know how Heshy rolls, I don’t know that you’ll enjoy it.” This had made Shaindy feel bad, because it bothered her that her other children didn’t appreciate Heshy or realize his effect on other people. He was special, and seeing how popular he was here, in a neighborhood where everyone was twice his age, was a reminder of that. If only they realized.)

She wandered back toward the kitchen, which smelled like a barrel of vinegar had exploded.

Heshy was humming as he worked. He turned to her as she came in, speaking as if they had been in middle of a conversation. “Look, I did the regular meat board, and I made Yerushalmi kugel too, tradition and all that, but I think the oilam will appreciate the other stuff too. You see what we have going on here?”

He indicated the peppercorns and jars and slices of onion.

“Look here, pickled cauliflower, turnips, cucumbers, all the good stuff. Onion jam. Real ma’atamim, the guys will appreciate it. I don’t think they’ve ever seen stuff like this, you know? And now”—his voice was filled with energy—“now the whole meat board is a different experience, right?”

She nodded, unsure of what to say. That she didn’t understand what onion jam had to do with Leil Shishi? That she didn’t understand how her clean white Lakewood house had been overtaken and how come it smelled like a fish factory? That she didn’t understand anything at all anymore?

She smiled, as she’d been doing for the last two months, and told him how amazing he was and that she was going to sleep.

Better safe than sorry.


Reuven Stagler thought he heard the sound of singing, but it didn’t make much sense. It was 11:15 p.m. in Alameda Gardens, where the streets were dark and silent. He had just finished up a meeting and he was wound up. Jerry Elsinger from Dublin Court had come to complain that his neighbor, Backman, was using his own gardener and planning to build Botanical Gardens, making all the other houses on the block look silly, and he wanted the neighborhood council to step in.

“I’m sure it’s a violation of some kind of bylaw and if it isn’t, then it should be. That’s why they put you there,” Elsinger had said, “for stuff like this. I hope you can figure this out. There are nine houses that look one way and then he comes in and starts planting orchards. No way, Jose.”

Reuven had promised to figure out a solution and he was still downstairs, pacing back and forth when the music came filtering in.

He went out to the porch, and realized that there was singing going on in Brucker’s house.

He walked down the path between the two homes, and stood still, trying to peer into the narrow strip between the shades and the window.

Heshy Brucker was sitting in the middle of the table, a group of people around him. It looked like men, Reuven thought, not bochurim, which was interesting. He thought he recognized Lichtenstein and Bloom from Canterbury, two people he had been trying to engage in the neighborhood council. Herzbach was there too, and then a few backs visible on the other side of the table. Reuven repositioned his body, hoisting himself a bit higher by holding on to the drainpipe, and looked from the other side.

The front door to Brucker’s house opened at that moment, and Heshy, wearing a Yerushalmi beketshe, came out and looked around.

“Ah,” he said, his face brightening as he saw Reuven, still holding on to the pipe and standing on tiptoes, “kumt arein, didn’t think the Queens oilam was mechunach in Leil Shishi, but if you’re up, you must come in and join us.”

Later that night, when Reuven Stagler would replay that moment, he would feel shame coursing throughout his entire body, like an injection. It was a decidedly unleaderly moment.

to be continued…


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 902)

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