“Shh! Not so loud. Oy, Nomes, you poor thing, you walked right into the chaos”
MA’Snot talking about the Great Cellphone Crime of 2023. Not to me, not to my siblings, not even to Tatty. I know, because I mentioned something and he looked genuinely shocked. “You were the cell phone bandit?” were his exact words.
Which was an issue, because I have never been able to lie to Tatty. Not, chas v’shalom, that I walk around lying. But even the occasional exaggeration has me blushing.
But here I had Debbi in mind and was able to keep a straighter face than usual.
Debbi’s not talking about it either. She thinks I’m insane, but she’s also overflowing with gratitude, and it’s getting to be a bit annoying.
The class is trying to speculate why Ma has stopped lecturing about derech eretz and accountability before each lesson. Faigy even called out at recess, “Naomi, if you told your mom it was getting to be a lot, then thanks so much.”
Which is like ridiculously rude, but whatever.
The only real ramification is that the family cell phone has mysteriously disappeared from my room. Which is a bummer. Especially since I’m not the idiot who left her phone on in class.
I go downstairs to check the phone. Ma has left it on the kitchen counter, obviously so that I can use it but shouldn’t move it. Which all makes sense, but again, not really fair. Oh well, I signed up for it, I guess.
Hmmm, a text message from Zeesy.
I heard what you did for Debbi. You’re a really good friend, Naomi.
Hmm, suddenly I’m a good friend. Interesting, Zeesy. You didn’t think I was such a good friend when you were giving me mussar in the gazebo in camp, did you? But I go out on a limb for Debbi, so I’m suddenly a good friend.
I feel bad for my judgmental thoughts.
Thanks for that, Zeesy. I appreciate it.
Then I turn off the phone because it’s stressing me out and honestly, the last thing I need in my life right now is stress.
Apparently, no one got that memo, because when I get home from school the next day, there are around seven cars in the driveway, including one police car.
Everyone’s dead. That’s the only explanation. Never mind the fact that all the cars mean that people have driven them over.
My heart is beating a mile a minute; I’m not breathing as I race down the driveway. The house is teeming with people, and all of them are surrounding Yocheved, who is sobbing.
“He was right there. And then he wasn’t.”
Omigosh. Who? Who was right where?! Hello??!
I look around wildly, Libby is balancing two teas, her face somber. She sets them down in front of Yocheved and the police officer interviewing her. Yocheved wraps her fingers around the mug and inhales the steam.
I rush over to Libby and pinch her.
“Libby! What is going on? Who’s missing? Why is Yocheved crying? Hello, what on earth?”
Libby shushes me and pulls me out of the kitchen.
“Shh! Not so loud. Oy, Nomes, you poor thing, you walked right into the chaos.”
Okay, I’m about to start screaming. “Libby—”
“Okay. Okay! Yocheved was watching Levi out back, and she fell asleep for like a minute on the hammock, and when she woke up, Levi wasn’t on the swing set anymore. She thought he went inside, but everyone’s searched and screamed for him and he isn’t there.”
Omigosh. Omigosh, this is not happening. My gorgeous nephew is not missing.
No, I am not mekabel.
I think about how I hadn’t wanted to babysit him the other day, and my heart breaks. Poor, misunderstood kid….
Libby sends me to the living room, where Ma is sitting with the family murmuring Tehillim. Ta is white-faced around his beard, lips moving, eyes blinking rapidly.
I squeeze onto the couch between Miri and Ma and squeeze both of their hands. Ma pats me clumsily on the cheek; Miri tucks a strand of my hair behind my ear.
And that’s when we hear it. The wail of a siren, a commotion at the door, and then Yocheved shrieking, “Levi! Levi!” over and over. We all scream and laugh and jump up and down, and no one can really get the gist of what happened until much later, but it seems he crossed the street to follow a dragonfly, and then he got totally lost and wandered around town alone until a passing police car scooped him up and brought him home.
Later, when we’ve all buried our stress in cookie dough ice cream, I turn to Libby.
“I though the police car was for me.”
She grins and tightens her ponytail. “Actually? Why?”
I look around; Ma’s not here.
“Because I told Ma it was my cell phone. I took the blame for Debbi.”
Libby looks disturbed. “On purpose?”
I snort. “Of course on purpose.”
Libby shakes her head. “Ohhhh, Ma is going to teach you a lessooooon.”
I mimic her singsong. “Whaaaaat are you talking abouuuut?”
Libby grins. “Just wait and see. I can assure you, you fooled no one.”
Squinting, I think about this. Ma hasn’t said anything…. “I don’t know. Libs. I think I really convinced her.”
Libby just grins peacefully. “Just you wait, hun. Just you wait.”
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 978)
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