Recap: The police came and arrested Gator and her gang. Shoshana’s parents rushed back home. Her father confides that they still can’t find the plant for the vaccine. Ruty is taken to the hospital.
My heart squeezed against my chest. I stared out the window at the raging white beast and prayed that my cousins weren’t out there. No, they wouldn’t have gone out into the storm. They couldn’t have. But where were they?
I pulled out my T’hilim. My heart was pounding.
Suddenly, there was a knock on the front door. Ilan was standing there, covered head to toe in snow. He stumbled into the house.
“Come to the fire,” I said, wondering how I could be saying normal things at a time like this, when both my cousins were missing – missing during a terrible blizzard.
“I found her. She’s okay.” Ilan removed his snow-covered gloves and rubbed his hands together.
He began coughing. I brought him some hot tea.
“A man came by while I was searching, and he told me she was with a group of passengers, safe and sound a mile away at the Halsen farm. After the storm, I will go pick her up. Baruch Hashem.”
Ilan sipped the tea and warmed his hands and feet by the fire.
Finally, in agony, I screamed. “Ilan, I don’t know what to do. Chezky and Shmueli are gone.”
I explained how I’d been called away to the Slotkins for a medical emergency and left the boys alone.
“You left them?”
“I didn’t know what to do. The Slotkin baby was so sick, and Uncle Nathan wasn’t here. I couldn’t take the boys out in the storm.”
“No, no, you did what you had to do. I’m sure there must be an explanation.” He said the words, but his eyes said a different message and it chilled me.
“It wasn’t that long that I was gone. I’m in a panic. Do you think they would have gone outside?”
Ilan’s eyes widened. “I hope not.”
After the longest, most worrisome night of my life, Aunt Mimi and Uncle Nathan returned.
“We’re home,” Aunt Mimi called from the kitchen. I was sitting up, saying T’hilim.
“What’s wrong? Aharon, what is it?”
I swallowed. “I don’t know where the boys are.”
“What?” Aunt Mimi’s hand flew to her mouth.
Uncle Nathan walked in and stomped his feet on the mat. “That storm finally stopped. What a storm…”
Uncle Nathan looked from me to Aunt Mimi and Ilan, who was sitting and reciting T’hilim.
“Nathan, the boys are missing. We don’t know where they are.”
My uncle’s face paled. “We’ll get a search party. Ilan, Aharon, come, let’s go now.”
Uncle Nathan got a group of neighbors together and we spread out in all directions, calling for Chezky and Shmuel. Hearing their names made the hole in my heart grow wider and wider. Please, Hashem, bring them back. Please, I pleaded. If only I hadn’t gone to the Slotkins. If only I had stayed home. That look of despair in Aunt Mimi’s eyes was like a stab in my heart. If only I could erase that look. There was no point in “if onlys.” I had to help the Slotkin baby. There was no going back on what happened. We just had to move forward.
An older man joined our group. “I know how to search for bodies in the snow,” he said.
Thanks for that cheery thought.
“You poke around in the snow with a pitchfork until you hit something soft. He handed out a few long pitchforks.
I trudged through the heavy snow, searching, trying to think where they might have gone on a night like last night.
Just then, I spotted a pair of mittens and a hat on top of a mound of snow. I recognized them. They were Chezky’s.
I gasped. A chill went through me.
I pointed it out and the man told me, “Yep, them two is goners. Poke around there, young man.”
My hand trembled as I poked into the mound of snow.
It was so deep. I poked some more.
Was I imagining that sound?
I poked again.
I called to the closest men and pointed excitedly. “Someone yelled ‘ouch’ from under that snow mound.”
Uncle Nathan and the other men ran over and began to dig furiously.
Piles of snow flew through the air and then…it was unbelievable. Under that mound of snow, there were my two cousins huddled in a snow fort.
“I builded it like the one in your story,” Chezky said to me. His voice trembled. He was shivering.
We rushed the boys into the warmth of the house.
Aunt Mimi rubbed them with molasses to remove their clothes and we brought them over to the fire.
“That fort is what saved them, Mimi,” Uncle Nathan was sipping hot tea.
“It was Hashem,” Aunt Mimi said. She was crying and laughing. “I just can’t believe it. What a miracle!”
“You weren’t scared under all that snow?” I asked, still too stunned by Hashem’s miracle to say much else.
Chezky shook his head. “I knew Hashem would save us. I told Shmueli to daven and then you came right then.”
Later, we learned the boys had been bored and went outside to have fun in the snow.
I said T’hilim 100 over and over and thanked Hashem for this miracle.
That night, we made a s’udas hodaah. Afterwards, Uncle Nathan called me into his study. “I want you to have this map. Keep it in a safe place. It shows where the plants grow for the vaccine I’m working on. I’m going to have to curtail my work. I’ve got a heart condition and my doctor told me I better not work so hard. It’s such a relief knowing I have you to take over the practice eventually. In the meantime, a young doctor is coming in to be my assistant.
I took the map and studied it.
“That’s the spot near the barn where the fiji plant is growing. That’s a valuable plant, Aharon. It could save the world one day. From the cuttings, we can grow more. I got these from that man who traveled from China. They are rare in China. It’s a very valuable plant.”
Uncle Nathan sighed. “I had hoped to keep working on the vaccine, but Doc Nelson told me to stop for now. No more strenuous work until my heart is healed.”
“It will get better?” I asked.
“I saw a specialist. He told me it will improve if I am careful with my diet and don’t keep up the stressful schedule. Hashem has given me so much.”
It was then, at that moment, that I realized that I wanted to take over my uncle’s practice one day. I had saved a baby with Hashem’s help. I did have a feel for medicine, and I could use my love of learning to continue learning, and I could teach, as well. My uncle mentioned the Rambam, who was a medical doctor and a great Torah scholar.
“I tucked the map into my journal. Maybe one day I would work on a vaccine. Maybe one day I would need the map.
To be continued…
By Susie Garber