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Thursday, January 19, 2006 

Chapter 2

Tuesday evening, Mr. Flopstein came home to a Shlomie cannonball even more powerful than Monday’s. He staggered backwards, stopping himself from falling only by grabbing hold of the doorknob just in time.

“TottyTottyTottyTottyTottyTottyTottyTotty!” yelled Shlomie.

“Shlomie Shlomie Shlomie Shlomie Shlomie Shlomie Shlomie Shlomie!” replied Mr. Flopstein in kind. “How is my big boy?”

“BORUCH HASHEM!” shouted Shlomie loud enough for most of the neighborhood to hear.

“Boruch Hashem good or –“

“GOOOOOOOOOOOD!”

“Good!”

“GOOOOOOOOOOOD!”

“Good!”

“GOOOO-“

“OK, that’s enough for tonight, Shlomie! You ought to sell aspirin, you are so good at giving me a headache!”

“Headache? Let me kiss!”

Mr. Flopstein obligingly leaned down so Shlomie could kiss him on the head.

“Better?”

“Yes, much better, thanks!”

Shlomie rushed into the kitchen, happily screaming “I kissed Totty’s headache! It’s better!” to his mother.

Mr. Flopstein followed him to the kitchen where Mrs. Flopstein was making dinner, being helped tonight by Shaindy. “Hel-lo everybody!” he sang out. Shaindy answered in the same voice, “Hel-lo Totty! How was your day?”

“Boruch Hashem, not so good. The company announced that it lost more money than expected this quarter. Looks like I will have to work harder, but I hope I won’t have to work late too often.”

Mrs. Flopstein asked, “Chezky, what does this mean?”

“Nothing yet, Devorah. But I will be keeping my eyes and ears open.”

“Better than bumping into your desk,” quipped Shaindy. Mr. Flopstein gave her a disapproving look for a moment, but then his expression relaxed. “Nu, everything is from shomayim anyway. Hashem has taken care of us so far, boruch Hashem, and I’m sure He will continue to.”

“Emunah is great but it doesn’t put food on the table, Chezky.”

He smiled at his wife. “With all due respect to my aishes chayil, I disagree. But that doesn’t mean we don’t try hard anyway.”

“Please don’t lose your job, Chezky.”

“I am not planning to, Devorah. At least not until I have something better.”

“What’s up?” Pinny came into the kitchen, with his best friend Shimmy. The pair of Pinny and Shimmy were well known throughout the neighborhood as two of a kind.

“Hey there, Pinny! Hi Shimmy!” greeted Mr. Flopstein.

“Good evening, Mr. Flopstein, Mrs. Flopstein!” said Shimmy, nodding at each.

Mr. Flopstein regarded Shimmy. “That was a bit more polite than normal. Either you learned some mussar today or you want something from us. Which is it?”

Shimmy seemed a little embarrassed but Pinny spoke up. “Shimmy is making a social studies project with me; could he stay for dinner?”

“You know who to ask such an important question to, Pinny” said his father.

“Mommy?”

“Of course Shimmy can eat here any time he wants, Pinny.”

“Thanks Mommy!”

“Thank you Mrs. Flopstein,” added Shimmy.

“Isn’t it a nice change to hear someone with manners around here, Chezky?” smiled Mrs. Flopstein.

“Ahem!” said Shaindy.

Pinny didn’t seem quite as insulted as his sister.

“What is your project, boys?” asked Mr. Flopstein.

“The water cycle,” answered Pinny.

Mr. Flopstein looked conspiratorially at Shlomie. “Did he just say ‘motorcycle,’ Shlomie?”

“VROOM! VROOM! VROOM!” yelled Shlomie, running out of the room.

“Works every time!” said Mr. Flopstein.

“That will give us about twenty seconds of quiet,” said Shaindy

“I just hope he doesn’t join a motorcycle gang when he grows up” said Mrs. Flopstein.

“And what exactly is wrong with motorcycles? Maybe he will be the leader of a heimishe gang. The Sefer Cyclists! The Gemara Gang! The Bikur Cholim Boys!”

“Oh, please, Chezky. At times I don’t know who the kids are around here. Somehow I can’t think of a way that people on motorcycles can do mitzvos any better than anyone else.”

Malky came in, steering Shlomie in front of her while he was still vrooming his engine. “Hi Totty! Look what I found in the hallway! What’s up?”

“Mommy can’t think of any motorcycle mitzvos.”

“VROOM!”

“You mean, like tefillas haderech?”

“No, no…she is asking, I think, what mitzvos can be done better on a motorcycle than in any other way?”

“Weren’t we talking about the water cycle?” asked Shimmy to Pinny.

“Motorcycles might be a more fun report,” answered Pinny. “Too bad we aren’t learning about them in social studies.”

“Set the table, Malky, and we can discuss this important topic over dinner. It’s getting pretty crowded in here anyway,” said Mrs. Flopstein.

“I have the answer!” exclaimed Malky. “I know a mitzvah that can be done better on a motorcycle!”

“You do?” asked Mr. Flopstein. “I thought I was joking, but I’m all ears.”

“DURING DINNER” repeated Mrs. Flopstein.

“OK, I’ll try to hide my curiosity until then. And I think it is a good idea to leave the kitchen, boys.”

Mr. Flopstein, Pinny and Shimmy obeyed and went to the dining room. Pinny asked his father if there was still time to use the dining room table to start working on the project before dinner, but before he could answer Malky started to set the table.

Before they knew it Shlomie had stopped vrooming around the house and everyone was seated. Mr. Flopstein peered at Shaindy.

“May I help you, Totty?”

“Wow, Shimmy, it seems that your good manners are catching!” Mr. Flopstein smiled at Pinny’s friend. Turning back to Shaindy, he asked “Nu, what did you get on your Cold War essay?”

Shaindy’s face fell. “Only a B-, Totty. I mixed up Brezhnev and Khrushchev.”

Mr. Flopstein clicked his tongue. “Khrushchev was the one who banged his shoe, Brezhnev was the one with one eyebrow.”

Mrs. Flopstein giggled while the kids looked at him quizzically.

“Never mind. You should have had me proofread your essay, though.”

“Next time I will, Totty!”

“I hope so!” He now turned to Malky. “Nu, number two daughter, have you managed to bring any amphibians to life yet?”

“Not yet, Totty” smiled Malky. “The nine-volt battery doesn’t seem to be powerful enough, though. I might have to connect a few together.”

“Well, please don’t fry little Tzefardi. Anything else happen in school today?”

“Pop quiz in Navi. I’m pretty sure I got everything right, though.”

Shlomie, oblivious to everything else, was staring in fascination at his straw that he placed in his glass of ginger ale. He kept pushing it down but the straw kept popping up. “Stay down!” he commanded the straw, but it wouldn’t listen. He sipped a little from it, it went down for a minute, but slowly it would rise like magic away from the bottom of the glass.

“How about you, Pinny? Anything interesting in school today?”

“Not really, Totty. You know about the water cycle project already.”

Shlomie’s ears perked up. “Motorcycle?” he asked.

“NO!” said everyone else at once.

“Shimmy, as our guest it is your job to keep Pinny honest,” Mr. Flopstein said with a twinkle in his eye. “Did anything else happen today in school?”

“Well, no tests or anything like that, Mr. Flopstein. Rebbe told us a story.”

“I love stories!” said Malky. “What was it?”

Pinny said “I already knew this one. It was about a king who dressed up as a normal person and visited a Jewish home on a Shabbos pretending to be lost. The food was so delicious that he sent spies to find out how the mother made it taste so yummy. The answer was that Shabbos made the food taste good.”

“Yummy” said Shlomie absentmindedly as he worked on putting the straw down for good.

“You said that very well, Pinny” said Mrs. Flopstein. “Even if you skipped a few parts.”

Shimmy said skeptically, “I like the story too but is it true?”

“You mean, did a king really visit a Jew on Shabbos?” asked Mr. Flopstein.

“No, I mean the part about Shabbos making things taste good. Wouldn’t cholent taste just as good today?”

Mr. Flopstein smiled. “Let me tell you a story, Shimmy, and this is a true one. And it will answer your question.

“When I was 14, I went away to stay in a yeshiva far from my home. So of course I spent Shabbos there along with most of the other bochurim.

“Every Shabbos, the food was the same, and it was quite good. Even though we all complained about the weekday food and how it tasted, no one hated the Shabbos food made by the same cooks. We all looked forward to Friday night dinner after a week of ‘slabs’ and ‘bombs’ and the other disgusting stuff that we had to eat during the week.”

“Slabs and bombs? What are those?” asked Shimmy.

“Trust me, you don’t want to know. In fact, I’m not sure I know what they were supposed to be to this very day!” laughed Mr. Flopstein. “I was a pretty skinny teenager, let me tell you.” He patted his tummy. “Believe it or not.”

Everyone laughed as he continued, “Anyway, most of the Shabbos food was normal food – chicken soup, chicken, some side dishes, cholent, chopped liver. But there was one food that I was introduced to there that I had never eaten before, and even though it sounded strange, I loved it.”

“What food was that?” asked Shimmy, now very caught up in the story.

“Challah with mayonnaise spread on top.”

“Yecch!” said Shimmy. “Just mayonnaise?”

“Yes, Shimmy. Everyone would fight to get the most mayo so they could slather it on challah. It was not unusual to eat eight slices of challah with mayonnaise, besides the challah eaten with liver.”

Shimmy looked at Pinny as if to ask if Mr. Flopstein was serious. Pinny nodded back. “It’s true, Totty still sometimes eats challah with mayonnaise on Shabbos. I tried it and it was OK but I like other stuff on challah.”

Mr. Flopstein went on. “Well, one day, I think it was a Monday, the dining room was serving some sort of yucky dry mystery-meatballs with hardened gravy on top. I thought, instead of eating this garbage, why not just take some mayonnaise and put it on leftover challah or white bread? At least I’ll be eating something I like!”

Shlomie finished his glass of ginger ale, saw the straw on the bottom, and asked “Mommy! More ginger ale!”

“What do you say?” prompted Mrs. Flopstein.

“Pleeeeeeeeease?” Shlomie sang.

“OK” she answered as she started pouring into Shlomie’s glass. Shlomie watched with interest what would happen to the straw as Mr. Flopstein kept speaking.

“So, I asked the cook if she had any mayonnaise and leftover challah. She looked at me like I was meshuggeneh. In fact, I just realized that Mommy often looks at me in exactly the same way.”

“Only a couple of times a day,” said Mrs. Flopstein.

“Well, boruch Hashem you are the normal one in this family!” answered Mr. Flopstein.

“Ahem!” coughed Shaindy.

“Hmm… I’m sorry, Shaindy, it seems I have accidentally insulted you twice today. How can I make up for it?”

“Maybe…some Tofutti for dessert? For everyone?” said Shaindy with a wink.

“It’s the least you can do for her” said Malky quickly.

“And for us!” added Pinny.

“Tofutti! Tofutti! Tofutti!” chanted Shlomie, forgetting about his straw.

Looking at his wife, Mr. Flopstein asked, “Nu, do we have any Tofutti?”

Mrs. Flopstein smiled and said “I have some but I was saving it for a special occasion.”

“This is special!” shouted Pinny.

“Okay, quiet down everyone. Yes, I think this is an important reason to have some. But not too much – we don’t want to spoil your appetites for Shabbos.”

“YAY!” said all of the kids.

“Speaking of Shabbos, Mr. Flopstein, can you please finish your story?”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Shimmy. Where was I? Ah, I had just asked the cook for challah and mayonnaise. Well, after we argued a bit, she went back in the kitchen and came back with a bowlful of mayonnaise and two slices of challah.

“I went to the table and spread the mayo on the challah. It didn’t look right and it didn’t feel right – the whole Shabbos atmosphere was missing. But it was still food and I was still hungry, so I took a big bite.”

At this, Mr. Flopstein grimaced.

“It was gross! I couldn’t even swallow the first mouthful; I had to spit it back into a napkin. The other bochurim that were at my table all started laughing. They thought the mayonnaise was bad or something. But it was fresh, regular mayonnaise and the challah was not bad at all. But together? Yecccch!”

Pinny, Shimmy and Shlomie started laughing at the face that Mr. Flopstein made when he said “Yecccch!”

He continued, “The next Shabbos, I didn’t want to have anything to do with challah and mayonnaise. But everyone at my Shabbos table were eating it like normal, so I spread a tiny bit on, and, of course, it was as delicious as it had been the Shabbos before.

“So, yes, I think I can say for sure that Shabbos adds a great deal to the flavor of food! But if you don’t believe me, I think we have some mayonnaise in the fridge – you can experiment yourself.”

Shimmy shuddered. “No thanks, Mr. Flopstein, I think I’ll save room for the Tofutti!”

Please let me know what you think. If no one likes it, I won't bother posting the other chapters I have so far.

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