See Under: Love Online - David Grossman

MOMIK

IT WAS LIKE THIS, a few months after Grandma Henny was buried in her grave, Momik got a new grandfather. This grandfather arrived in the Hebrew month of Shebat in the year 5317 of the Creation, which is 1959 by the other calendar, not through the special radio program Greetings from New Immigrantswhich Momik had to listen to every day at lunch between 1:20 and 1:30, keeping his ears open in case they called out one of the names on the list Papa wrote down for him on a piece of paper; no, Grandfather arrived in a blue Mogen David ambulance that pulled up in front of Bella Marcus’s café-grocery store in the middle of a rainstorm, and this big fat man, dark but like us, not a shvartzer, stepped out and asked Bella if she knew anyone around here called Neuman, and Bella got scared and wiped her hands on her apron and said, Yes, yes, did something happen, God forbid? And the man said, Don’t get excited, lady, nothing happened, what can happen. No, I bring them a relative, see, and he thumbed backward over his shoulder at the ambulance in the street which seemed empty and quiet, and Bella suddenly turned as white as this wall and everybody knows she isn’t scared of anything, but she wouldn’t go anywhere near the ambulance, she only edged closer to Momik, who was doing Bible homework at one of the little tables, and said, “Vay iz mir,” a relative now? And the man said, “Nu, lady we don’t got all day, so if you know these people maybe you can tell me where they are, because is nobody home.” He talked broken Hebrew like that even though he didn’t look so much like a newcomer, and Bella said to him, Sure, what did youexpect, sure nobody’s home, because these people are not parasites, these people work plenty hard for their bread, morning to night they’re working in the lottery booth two streets down, and this little boy here, he’s theirs, so just you wait a minute, mister, I’m going to run get them. And she ran out with her apron still on and then the man winked at Momik, and when Momik didn’t do anything because he knows how you’re supposed to behave around strangers, the man shrugged his shoulders and started reading the newspaper Bella left there and he said to the air, Even with this rain we’re having, seems like it’s going to be a drought year, yeah, that’s all we need. And Momik who is usually well-mannered didn’t hang around for more but ran outside to the ambulance and climbed up on the back step, wiped the rain from the little round window, and peered inside where the oldest man in the world was swimming like maybe a fish in an aquarium. He wore blue-striped pajamas and was all wrinkled like Grandma before she died. His skin was yellowish-brown, like a turtle’s, sagging down around his skinny neck and arms, his head was bald, and his eyes were blank and blue. He was swimming hard through the ambulance air, and Momik remembered the sad Swiss farmer from Aunt Idka and Uncle Shimmik in the little glass ball with the snowflakes which he had accidentally broken once, and he opened the door without a second thought, but then he jumped back when he heard the old man talking to himself in a weird voice that went up and down excitedly, and then sounded almost like crying, as if he were in some play or telling a tall tale, but at the same time, and this is what’s so hard to understand, Momik was one thousand percent sure that this old man was Anshel, Grandma Henny’s little brother, Mama’s uncle, the one everybody said Momik looked like, especially around the chin and forehead and nose, the one who wrote children’s stories for magazines in Europe, but didn’t Anshel die by the Nazis, may-their-name-be-blotted-out, and this one is alive all right and Momik hoped his parents would agree to keep him in the house because after Grandma Henny died Mama said that all she wanted now was to live out her life in peace, and suddenly there was Mama with Bella hobbling after her on ailing legs, lucky break for Marilyn Monroe, and she yelled at Mama in Yiddish to calm down, you shouldn’t upset the child, and behind them trudged the great giant his papa, panting and red in the