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Monday, June 19, 2006 

Chapter 3

It was 6:30 in the evening at the Flopstein home and the patriarch of the clan was not yet there.
“Where’s Totty?” Malky asked her mother, as she helped make the salad – an interesting concoction of cucumbers, lettuce, red peppers and raisins.
“He called a couple of minutes ago; he had to work late but is on his way now” replied Mrs. Flopstein.
The dining room table was filled with schoolwork from Pinny and his friend Shimmy as they studied Chumash vocabulary words together. Pinny had the idea of making flash cards out of index cards so they could quiz each other. Unfortunately no one could find index cards so they cut their own out of paper, leaving little bits of leftover pieces in their wake and all over the table.
“Mommy! I’m not cleaning up Pinny’s mess for him!” complained Shaindy, whose turn it was to set the table.
“I’ll do it Mommy” called Pinny towards the kitchen.
“And I’ll help, Mrs. Flopstein” added Shimmy.
“OK boys, you have a couple of minutes before Totty comes home so you need to do it quick.”
“Shlomie!” called Pinny. ”Where are you?”
Shlomie came out of the room he shared with Pinny. “What?”
“Do you want to help me clean this up?”
“PINNY!” shouted Mrs. Flopstein from the kitchen. “Shlomie is not your slave, even if he does idolize you. You and Shimmy made a mess and you have to clean it!”
“But you clean up Shlomie’s messes for him!” retorted Pinny. Pinny couldn’t resist a good argument.
“I do your laundry too. I guess I should leave it for you to iron those warm cotton shirts you like?”
“No, all I am saying is that not everyone cleans up their own messes here. So it is not fair to ask me to.”
“We are not having this conversation through the kitchen wall. And I am in no mood for an argument now. If you want to tell this to Totty when he comes home, go ahead, but I’m warning you now – you will probably end up doing a lot more chores when the discussion is over. “
“Like setting the table on Shabbos!” added Shaindy hopefully.
“Or vacuuming the crumbs motzei Shabbos” chimed in Malky, trying to get out of her chores as well.
Pinny saw that his argument was not going to improve his life at the moment, so he said “OK, I’ll clean up,” while mentally noting that something still felt vaguely unfair.
Shlomie watched the discussion with some interest and then went into the kitchen. He started picking raisins off the salad and popping them in his mouth.
“Shlomie, no!” said Mrs. Flopstein.
“Shlomie, yes!” said Shaindy, who hated raisins in salad.
“You do not put your fingers in food everyone is eating from,” said Mrs. Flopstein to Shlomie. “Ask Malky for a box for yourself.”
Pinny heard this from the dining room. “How come I can’t eat before dinner and Shlomie can?” he whined.
Mrs. Flopstein sighed. “You can eat raisins if you want, OK? Just finish cleaning the table, your father is almost here.”
“But – “ started Pinny, stopping short as the family heard the front screen door squeak open.
A second later Mr. Flopstein came in the regular door. “Hi everyone! Sorry I’m la-“ he called out, only to be interrupted by a streaking Shlomo hitting Mr. Flopstein’s knees fill force, making him stagger against the front closet door.
“Totty!” yelled Shlomie.
“Shloimimimimimi!” answered Mr. Flopstein as he regained his balance. “How was your day?”
“Boruch Hashem! GOOOOOOOOOD!” Then he thought for a second and said “Tottitititity!”
Mr. Flopstein tossled Shlomie’s hair. “That was pretty witty, Shlomie. You’re growing up!”
“Witititititity!” Shlomie answered.
“Okay, this might get old quick,” said Mr. Flopstein half to himself. And then he asked Shlomie, who was still holding onto his leg, “May I now please go to the kitchen and say hi to Mommy?”
“O-KKKKKK” answered Shlomie.
Mr. Flopstein grimaced and walked into the kitchen. “Hi Devorah! I think I may have created a stutter-monster back there.”
Shlomie ran into the kitchen then “Mom-mimimimimy!”
Mrs Flopstein sighed again. “Why can’t we have a normal family?”
“Whose family is normal?” asked Malky.
“Who isn’t normal in our family?” added Shaindy, a little defensively.
Mr. Flopstein regarded them. “All excellent questions, and they touch on issues of philosophy, statistics, vocabulary, etymology and sociology. I think we should discuss that during dinner.”
“No, that’s OK Totty” said Shaindy quickly. “I, um, withdraw the question. You just made the answer sound very boring.”
“Boring?” Mr. Flopstein said in mock indignation. “It is a fascinating topic!”
Malky said to her father, “No offense, Totty, but you think that how they create paper is fascinating too.”
"And it is!" answered Mr. Flopstein as he placed his briefcase next to the stairs. "Everything is interesting if you know how to look at it right."
Shaindy, feeling mischievous, asked back, "What about setting the table? I wouldn't mind giving the job to someone who is more fascinated by it than I am!"
Her father smiled. "Naaseh v'nishmah is one of our family principles. Do the chores whether you like them or not, and later we can discuss the details."
Malky was smiling as Shaindy returned to the kitchen to get plates. Shaindy shrugged at her sister and said "Well, it was worth a shot!"
"Shaindy, if you ever come up with a way to get out of chores that works, please let me know!"
In no time the table was set and everyone was seated, including Shimmy.
"Why were you late, Totty?" asked Pinny.
"Just busy at work, Pinny. Sometimes you have to work extra hard just to stay where you are." Mr. Flopstein seemed a little distracted as he said this.
"What do you mean?" asked Pinny.
"Now is not a good time to discuss this" said Mrs. Flopstein, shifting her gaze from Pinny to her husband.
"To discuss what?" asked Pinny.
"You and your child-rearing philosophies," sighed Mrs. Flopstein to her mate.
"Maybe your mother is right and this is not a good time" said Mr. Flopstein to Shimmy.
"Ummm...what's going on here?" wondered Shaindy aloud.
"Nothing to worry about" answered her mother.
"This kind of talk is what is making us worried!" chimed in Malky.
"Three against two!" said Pinny.
"Oy oy oy, I see this is turning into a big deal." said Mr. Flopstein.
Sensing weakness, Pinny started chanting "Tell us! Tell us! Tell us!" and then Shlomie joined in.
Mr. Flopstein loudly said "That will be quite enough. Many years ago I told Mommy that I thought it was possible to discuss anything with our children at any age. She didn't agree. But luckily we haven't had too many chances to test my theory out."
"And today you have your chance," finished Malky.
"Go ahead and tell them, Chezky. Right now the truth is less frightening than what they are probably thinking."
Mr. Flopstein sighed. "OK, here's what's going on. And it really isn't a big deal.
"The newspaper today printed a rumor that my company is going to be bought out by a larger company. In the article, the reporter asked my company president whether it was true and he didn't say no."
Shaindy said "Boruch Hashem."
Mr. Flopstein smiled at her. "You think this is good news?"
"Oh, yes! I mean, no! I mean that the way you and Mommy were talking I thought that someone had, chas v'shalom, died."
"Ah, I see. Boruch Hashem it is nothing like that."
Malky asked hopefully, "But the company president didn't say yes to the reporter's question either, right?"
Her father smiled. "In the business world, not saying no means yes."
"So what's the big deal if your company gets bought, Totty? So you will be working for a bigger company!" asked Pinny.
"That's a good question. And it might not mean anything. But very often the bigger company ends up firing many people from the smaller company to save money.
"Also, in this case the bigger company is in Chicago, and they might ask everyone in the New York office to either move or quit."
Shaindy gasped. "So are we going to have to move to Chicago?”
Her father smiled. “No, no! Nothing is likely to happen for a few months. As I learn more about what’s going on, Mommy and I will be able to make the right decisions – whether I will keep my job, whether I will have to look for a new job, or whether something else will happen. Either way, it is all up to Hashem. But I’m not too worried, and none of you kinderlach should be worried either. Just that I might be coming home a little late sometimes.”
Shlomie had no idea what was going on but started to mimic Mr. Flopstein while playing with his mashed potatoes. “Late sometimes, late sometimes, late sometimes,” he sang while he built a mountain.
"The big company is stupid," stated Pinny.
"Why do you say that, Pinny?" asked Mr. Flopstein.
"Because last week you said your company is losing money. Why buy a company that is losing money?"
"Give the money to me instead!" said Malky.
"That's a good question, Pinny. The answer is that they think they can manage the company better and make money. "
Shaindy asked, “Mommy? How did you know about this?”
“Totty called me at lunchtime. Totty and I always talk about boring, grown-up stuff like this!”
“This doesn’t sound boring to me. It sounds scary,” said Malky.
“You shouldn’t worry. Worrying is my job and Mommy’s job. It is your job to go to school, do your chores and to be a happy kid,” answered her father.
“I don’t understand – what does this have to do with working late?” asked Pinny.
Shlomie changed songs as he added a road to his mashed potato mountain. “Tzavey, tzavey, tzavey, tzavey, tzavey yeshuos Yaakov” he sang.
“Ah, very good. I should have explained that. Since the rumors started about the future of the company, people started working late at the office so they look good and, if they do start laying people off, they won’t lose their jobs as easily. Of course, most of them don’t have kids in school that need help in Chumash homework and science projects. But I need to work harder as well just so I don’t look bad compared to them.”
“This still sounds scary to me, Totty” said Malky.
Pinny put on a brave face. “Maybe you’ll get a raise!”
Mr. Flopstein laughed. “Anything is possible, Pinny. But I somehow don’t think that’s what will happen!”
Shlomie poured some gravy down his mountain road. He switched songs again: “Gam zu le’tovah, gam zu le’tovah, gam zu le’tovah, this too is for the best.”
The Flopstein parents looked at each other and laughed along with Shaindy. Malky looked puzzled for a second and then realized what was so funny as they looked at Shlomie and joined in their laughter. Shlomie looked up, puzzled, as was Pinny.
Mr. Flopstein smiled a big smile to Shlomie and asked him “Why are you so smart?”
“Because...I'm smart!" Shlomie answered, grinning at the sudden attention.
"As usual, Shlomie is right. Everything Hashem does is for the best and all we can do is wait and see." said Mr. Flopstein.
"But would we move to Chicago?" asked Malky.
"Your mother and I had a big discussion about that. It lasted around three seconds. We like your schools, we like our neighbors, we like our little old New Jersey town, and we like our shul. And practically speaking, if I do lose my job chas ve'shalom, we like the fact that we are close to New York City because it would be easier to find a new job in the city."
Malky was relieved. "At least it sounds like you have everything planned out," she said.
"As I said, you have nothing to worry about. Besides your history test - which is tomorrow, right?"
"Oh no! I almost forgot!"
"OK, so before everyone forgets, let's find out how everyone else's day was! Shaindy?"
"OK. We spent most of the day making a skit for our Shabbaton presentation on motzei Shabbos."
"Are you acting?" asked Mrs. Flopstein.
"I'm the narrator."
"What's the skit about?" asked Malky.
Shaindy laughed. "Actually, it is about Gam Zu LeTovah, or at least having emunah! It is about a woman who loses her husband and has to raise and support her 7 kids alone. to make a little money she rents out a room in her house for travelers, but she doesn't make much because she is always cooking them expensive meals, saying that she can't send them off on empty stomachs."
"Sounds like Bubby!" said Pinny as he surreptitiously swiped a meatball off of Shaindy's plate.
"Anyway, one day a salesman came by and stayed over. After he left the woman notices that he left behind a money clip. She didn't open it and runs to town to try to find him. Finally she does and he thanks her and offers her one of the pretty vases he sells. She refuses, he insists, finally she takes it. She takes it home and puts it on the Shabbos table."
Shlomie put a meatball on top of his mashed potato mountain and was delighted when it rolled down.
"This sounds more like a whole play than a skit" said Malky.
"Yeah, a lot of the story is me narrating. Only the parts in her house are acted out."
"My baby is the star of her play!" said Mrs. Flopstein in her best exaggerated kvelling voice.
"So what happens next?" asked Shimmy.
Shaindy continued. "Well, she put the vase on the table but of course they never could afford nice flowers for Shabbos so it sat there for a bit. The next spring one of her sons finds some flowers in a field and gives them to her. She fills it with water and sees that it has a hole and is leaking. She turns it upside down to empty it back out and hears a strange sound from the vase, something rattling around. It turns out that the vase has lots of gold coins and she lives happily ever after. Can I get back to eating now?"
Pinny answered, "Wait until I take the rest of your meatballs."
"Very funny, Pinhead," said Shaindy. "I saw what you were doing."
"No namecalling at my table, and no stealing others' food either," said Mrs. Flopstein to Shaindy and Pinny. "We have plenty of food for everyone. Both of you apologize."
"Sorry," they chorused.
Mr. Flopstein mused, "Do you think the woman was allowed to keep the coins?"
Shaindy looked at her father. "Why not?"
"Would she have to find this person and return it, according to Halacha?"
"Finders keepers!" said Pinny.
"Im yirtzeh Hashem, next year you will learn Eilu Metzios in Gemara and learn that is not true."
Shlomie worked on widening his mashed potato mountain road, making construction sounds.
"Come on, Totty, it is only a skit." said Shaindy.
"Where did you get the story from?"
"Ummm....we made it up. But do you really think the woman would have to find him? she only found the coins many months afterwards, he was probably far away."
Malky added, "And if he had known about the coins he would have come back to get them."
"I think you are probably right, but you should ask Rabbi Goldfarb during your next halacha class just to make sure."
"You mean I can't say 'Finders keepers losers weepers' anymore?" asked Pinny.
"You can say it all you want but it is not true," answered his father. "When possible, we try to return lost things. I really don't know in this case."
"I thought you know everything!" said Pinny.
Mr. Flopstein sighed. "I have a long way to go yet to learn everything. But I'm pretty good at guessing."
"So tell us your guess as to what will happen with your job," asked Malky.
Mr. Flopstein looked at Shlomie as he built a second lane on his potato mountain. Soon everyone looked at him as he happily and obliviously placed two meatballs on top, keeping them from rolling down with his knife. Then he said "1,2,3, go!" and lifted the knife up. One meatball raced down the mountain but the other got a little stuck on the knife with some mashed potato. The second meatball went up in the air a couple of inches before falling back down, but it missed the road and fell down the other side of the mountain. It then rolled around the rim of the plate and finished right next to the first meatball. Shlomie squealed with delight.
Mr. Flopstein smiled but seemed sad. "All I can say for sure is that things will work out for the best, Malky. It might be a rough ride but--." He looked at Shlomie and la-la'd to the tune of Gam Zu LeTovah. "La, la, la-la-la; La, la, la-la-la; La, la, la-la-la -"
"This too is for the best!" finished Shlomie as he popped the winning meatball into his mouth.

This is a nice chapter.....I love the way the kids bicker, it rings true.

What a lovely insight into family life!
I certainly hope I get to read more of this! Its great!

fabulous!

wonderful!

brilliant!

On suggestion tho is that I would double space the dialogue like the other stories.

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