September 17, 1908

People gasped and clapped as Orville’s plane soared to 75 feet when it reached the lower end of the field. I was standing near a tree, watching the flight. It circled the field three times at around 40 miles an hour.

As the plane headed for Arlington Cemetery, Orville slowed the plane a bit. Then, suddenly, just as the plane flew over the Aerial Garage, a piece of the plane flew into the air.

“That’s a piece of the propeller,” an army officer shouted.

I felt my heart pound. Oh, no!

There was a light tapping sound in the rear of the machine. Orville slowed the engine and it looked like he was starting to land. He was around 125 feet up when there were two loud thumps and we could see the plane was shaking like crazy.

I held my breath. “Please let him be all right.”

Orville shut the engine completely. He was pulling hard on the steering and lateral balance levers, but he couldn’t stop the momentum.

I closed my eyes. I couldn’t bear to watch. The plane twisted back and forth, then plunged straight down…

Chapter 1: Ezra


“I am not going to school tomorrow!”

“Are you gonna say you’re sick?” Betzalel asked. “That one doesn’t work with Ima. She knows all the tricks.”

“No, I’m just gonna stay home. I am not going.”

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Betzalel put his knapsack down in the hallway and turned towards me. “I thought you liked school this year.”

“I liked it until now. Mr. Rabinowitz put me into this club. He said, ‘Since your brother Betzalel was a star writer, I’m sure you should be in our writing club.’ He didn’t ask if I wanted to be in it. Then he said we have to come up with a research project and write about it and make a presentation.”

“Hey, I’m sorry.”

“Well, why did you have to do all that fancy writing and make the teachers think I’m gonna be like you?”

Betzalel headed to the kitchen and bee-lined to the refrigerator. “I didn’t plan for your teacher to do this to you.” He pulled an apple from the fridge and offered to get one for me.

I shook my head. “I’m not eating anything. I’m too upset.”

“Hey, Ez, come on. It’s not that bad. Just tell this teacher you don’t want to be in the club.”

“I was about to do that, but you don’t know the worst of it.”

I plopped down on a kitchen chair. “Then the Menahel walks into the class and pats my head and says, ‘Ah, Betzalel’s brother. We expect big things from you, son.’”

Betzalel said a brachah and bit into his apple. “Ez, just tell him tomorrow in school. Explain that writing’s not your thing.”

“I’m not going to tell him,” I said, “cause I’m not going to that school ever again.” I stomped upstairs to emphasize my point.

I plopped onto my bed. I leaned over and pulled out A Bridge in Time and lay back to read. I’d rather have the problems those characters had being stuck in the 1800s than being stuck now with an impossible assignment. It wasn’t just the assignment. I hadn’t told Betzalel the whole story. There was that new kid, Kalman Newfeld. He was big and he was mean. When Mrs. Bernstein asked me to partner with him during reading time, he’d smirked at me. We were supposed to share what we’d read in our independent book. He glanced at my book and said, “That’s the kind of book you read? What level are you, on fourth grade?”

It’s true my book wasn’t on seventh grade level that day, but that didn’t mean I read on a lower level. I was just interested in the information in that book.

His meanness didn’t stop there. During lunch, he got a group of boys to stare at me and make fun of my stutter. I was suddenly being made fun of, even by guys who, if they weren’t my friends, had at least never picked on me. Dov Rensler and Ari Kahn were skinny guys like me. They were afraid of being the new target of bullying. I was sure of that.

I sighed and opened my book.

At dinner that night, Ima asked me to come into the kitchen to help her serve. “Betzalel mentioned you’re having a problem in school. Do you want to tell me about it?” she asked.

“It’s complicated.”

I wanted to tell her about the new bully in our school and the fact that I had to always live up to Betzalel’s sterling reputation, but I was afraid right now I’d lose it. I had this lump in my throat and I didn’t want to start bawling. Anyway, I was old enough not to break down like that anymore.

I carried a bowl of broccoli to the table.

After dinner, Daniel called. “Hey, Ez. Want to come over and work on homework. My mother says if we finish, we can shoot some baskets in back. My dad set up our new basketball hoop.”

I hesitated. I wanted to shoot baskets, but I didn’t want to talk about Kalman and my problems. Would Danny respect that?

“I’ll ask,” I said.

A little while later I was strolling down the block towards Danny’s house. If only I hadn’t chosen my usual route. Suddenly, from behind some bushes Kalman jumped out, and with him was an eighth grader I didn’t know who had a reputation for bullying, Jake Coleman.

To be continued…

By Susie Garber