Recap: Ezra has an encounter with Kalman who teamed up with another boy to bully him outside of school. Now he has two big problems: the bullying and needing an idea for the writing club project. His mother gives him a journal from his great-grandfather to read, to help him forget his troubles.
Ruchy, my nine-year-old sister, limped into the house, her brown braids swinging, and plopped onto the window seat in the living room. It was her favorite spot. Two tears rolled down her cheek.
“Hey, what’s wrong?” I asked. I went over to her. I hated to see Ruchy sad. She was always such a good sport about everything.
She wiped the tears away with her hand, but another one followed and another. “It’s nothing.”
“Come on, Ruchy, tell me,” I said.
“Becky and Sarah won’t let me play tag. They say I’m too slow.”
We both glanced at her leg that made it difficult for her to walk, and certainly hard to run the way a nine-year-old should. I felt my heart squeeze against my chest.
If only… I tried not to dwell on the secret that hurt so much when I thought about Ruchy’s disability.
“One day you’ll run circles around them,” I said.
Ruchy didn’t answer. She picked up a book that was on the window seat and began reading.
I thought about what Dr. Morrison had told me just last night. “There is a way for Ruchy to overcome the limp. She needs to exercise the leg muscles. The new invention would be perfect for her. You know I’m talking about a bicycle.
“Ruchy, Uncle Adam is coming tonight.”
She brushed away the tears. Then she looked up and smiled at me. “Oh, I almost forgot.” Ruchy rose and limped towards the stairs. “I can’t wait to see him.”
Uncle Adam was always fun to be with. He had great stories to share about his trip to Alaska during the Gold Rush. I loved hearing about the bear he saw and how he panned for gold.
Bubby came into the room. “Sender, please go fix up the guest room. Then check on the train schedule. Adam should be due in soon.”
I headed upstairs to make the bed. As I tucked in the corners, I thought about my idea. Uncle Adam was going to meet with those Wright brothers, the ones who invented the Van Cleve bicycle. I was going to ask my uncle if I could go with him to the Dayton and I was going to ask the Wright brothers for a job in their bike shop and then earn a bike for Ruchy. I was thinking so much about the idea I wasn’t paying attention to the bed and I hadn’t even spread the coverlet yet.
Bubby marched into the room. “What’s taking you so long? I need you to go to the grocer and pick up some items. I wondered if you were writing in that journal of yours again. You know I disapprove of that thing. It’s a time waster. You’re always daydreaming. You won’t amount to much if you keep on dreaming like that!”
Thankfully, I wasn’t writing in it now or she would have taken it away. She’d done that a few times already. I kept it hidden. One day, I wanted to be a journalist and write for the newspaper. I would never tell her that. She didn’t believe in having dreams like that. She thought writing was a waste of time. Mama never disapproved. She understood that I wanted to be a writer and writers had to imagine and think about stories they wanted to write. What was so wrong with daydreaming a little? Still, I had to be respectful. Maybe I was too much of a daydreamer and I wasn’t efficient enough. I had to try to stop daydreaming so much.
“Sorry, Bubby.” I quickly finished making the bed and headed out the door with her list. Bubby was harsher than Ima. I was trying to get used to her ways. She’d moved into our house when Ima had to go to the hospital. Her tuberculosis was bad, and she needed a special place to recuperate. I couldn’t wait till she got better and came home. I davened so hard every day for her to be better. Aba was niftar years before. I barely remembered him, so Ruchy and I were really on our own until Bubby came to help. I appreciated her coming. It wasn’t easy for her to take care of a 14-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl. Still, even though I tried, I was always displeasing her and we often clashed.
Waiting on the platform in the train station, I spotted Uncle Adam right away. He wore a fashionable new derby and a plaid suit jacket. His sparkling dark eyes and his wide smile along with his emphatically arched eyebrows set him apart in a crowd. I waved to him and he hurried over to me, carrying a small suitcase and a briefcase with a shoulder strap.
“Sender!” He enfolded me in a big hug. “You get taller every time I see you.”
“How was your trip?”
The train belched smoke just then. “It was fine!” he called over the noise.
We headed together towards our house.
“How’s Bubby treating you?”
I had to walk fast to keep up with Uncle Adam’s pace. “I haven’t been in Ohio for ages, since…”
He stopped because it was a sad memory: since my father’s l’vayah.
“So, you’re managing with Bubby in charge?”
I didn’t want to complain so I just nodded. “How’s the new baby?”
He stopped and squeezed my shoulder. “Cute little thing. She’s growing nicely. You’ll have to come visit us some time in Seattle.”
I didn’t know when that could happen, but it was a good opening for my next question.
We started walking again. I wanted to ask my question before we got home and before Bubby heard my plan and nixed the whole thing.
“I know you’re going to meet the Wright brothers in Dayton.”
“Yes. Baruch Hashem, I’ve got a good deal for them. Their bike will sell like crazy in Seattle. That’s what I want to meet with––”
“Well, about their bike. So, Dr. Morrison said a bike would help Ruchy to exercise her leg and get it to work better, so I want to come with you to the Wright brothers.”
“You want to come with me? Do you want me to buy her a bike?”
“Thank you. No, I want to earn it. I want to work for them.”
Uncle Adam stopped again. He looked at me with his kind dark eyes. “I think it’s a wonderful idea. We’ll both tell Bubby.”
“Thank you!” I felt hope wash over me. With Uncle Adam helping to push my plan, I had a good chance of her saying yes.
To be continued…
By Susie Garber