Maybe Later It Will Come Back to My Mind

Thirty years. Summer lore. Myer Layevsky’s business: A dollar down and a dollar when you ketch me. Sunset in the old people’s home. All this and more come warmly together in this first published story by Miss Faessler of Toronto, Canada. Besides writing, she presides over a rooming house for actors.

An Atlantic “First” by Shirley Faessler

Lady! Lady!” An old man in a wheelchair at the far end of the corridor was beckoning me. I was standing at the elevator preoccupied with thoughts of my father, whom 1 was visiting at the Jewish Home for the Aged, and had not noticed the old man before. I took my finger from the Up button and went to him.

“Good morning,” he said, adjusting his yarmulka. “You got somebody here?”

“My father,” I said.

“Where is he?”

“On the fifth floor.”

“That’s in the hospital part, no?”

“Yes. He’s recovering from an operation. And I’ve only got time for a short visit with him,” I added warily. I had been trapped so often before. I had been prevailed on to make calls to delinquent sons, daughters, grandchildren; I had made trips to the kitchen with complaints about the menu; I had been asked to rustle up a doctor for somebody, a nurse, an orderly — and I was bound this morning not to become involved as I had only a short time to spend with my father.

The elevator came to the floor. “Excuse me,” I said. “My father’s waiting for me.”

“So he’ll wait a little minute,” he said. “I want you should do me a little favor first.”

“If I can, and providing it doesn’t take too long.”

Instead of saying what he wanted of me, he kept me waiting—quite deliberately, I could tell. He kept me waiting while he searched his pockets, brought out a match, struck it on his chair, and held the flame to his stump of a cigar. Even after he got it going, he sat puffing away and slapping at the ashes on his vest.

A second elevator came to the floor. I was disposed to leave him, and took a few steps toward it.

“Wait a minute,” he said. “What are you in such a hurry? Your father wouldn’t run away. All I want is you shall take me out in the garden.” He cocked an eye at me. “Easy, no?”

I looked at the old man, taking him into account for the first time. During visits to my father I had encountered dozens of old men in wheelchairs, also old ladies in wheelchairs. I had spent the time of day with them in hallways, in sitting rooms, and had done errands for many of them. I had been thanked, excessively so, for a trifling service like addressing an envelope. For making a telephone call I had been blessed. But this man there was something odd about him. I had never been addressed with such peremptoriness, such lack of regard for my own affairs. There was something about him that took me back. Where had I seen him? I looked at the old man, studying him. Broad face, heavy-lidded eyes, hooked nose, thick torso, and short legs, his feet barely reaching the footrest of his chair.

“What are you looking?” he said, bringing me up short. “You never saw an old man before? Go behind better, and give me a little push,” he said in Yiddish. “ The Messiah will come first before I’ll come out in the garden.”

Ah. now I had it! Now ! knew who he was!

“Is your name Layevsky? Myer Layevsky?”

He closed an eye at me. “How did you know?”

“I used to work for you. A long time ago, about thirty years ago. I was your office lady; my name was Miss Rotstein. I worked for you nine months, and you fired me. Do you remember me?”

He wagged his big head. “From this I shall remember you? God willing I shall have so many years left how many girls I fired. So I fired you. On this account you wouldn’t take me out in the garden?”

“Oh, don’t be—” I was about to say don’t be silly. Fancy saying don’t be silly to Myer Layevsky.

I wheeled him to the lobby, and once outside the glass portals, carefully down the ramp.

“How’s your son?” I asked.

He turned full face to me. “My Israel? A very important man,” he said, giving equal emphasis to each word. “A very big doctor in the States.”

“And Mrs. Layevsky, how’s she?”

He turned, facing front. “Dead. A healthy woman crippled by arthritis. Ten years younger than me. I always had in my mind the Molochamovis will come for me first, but it turned out different. Take me over there by the big tree.”

I settled him by the big tree. “And you don’t remember me? I was only sixteen, and now I’m a married woman with two grown children, so I must have changed a lot. But you should remember me. You gave me a week’s holiday; I took an extra few days, and when I came back, you had another girl in my place. Now do you remember?”

“Ask me riddles,” he said, again in Yiddish. “Do me a favor and go to your father,” he said, using the familiar thou instead of the formal you, with which he had first addressed me. “Maybe later it will come back to my mind.”

My father was in the armchair beside his bed, reading a newspaper. “Pa! You’ll never guess who I saw downstairs. Remember Myer Layevsky, the man I used to work for?”

My father removed his eyeglasses. “I remember him very well. And also how you hid under the bed from him when he came to find out why you didn’t come in to work one morning. Correct?”

My father had it wrong. He was confusing Myer Layevsky with Mr. Teitlbaum, the comforter manufacturer, from whom I had hidden under the bed.

“You’ve got it wrong, Pa,” I said. “You’re thinking of Teitlbaum, the comforter manufacturer. But how did you know I hid under the bed? Ma swore she wouldn’t tell you.”

“Maybe a little bird told me,” he said. “Now I remember. It seems to me you got another job that summer. Correct?”

“That’s right. For a toy factory, remember? Three days after I quit Imperial Comforters I went to work for a toy factory, in the Kewpie Doll section. I wanted to stay on, but you wouldn’t let me. You made me go back to commercial school. But I went only six weeks of my second term, and you let me quit. Then I went to work for Layevsky, the man I saw downstairs — ”

“I let you quit Commercial? This I don’t remember, but if you say so, maybe you remember better.” He sighed reminiscently. “You always had your own way with me. Whatever you wanted you accomplished.”

Like fun I’d always had my own way with him.

For one thing, I never wanted to go to Commercial. My plan, after being passed out of Grade VIII, King Edward School, was to go with my best girlfriend, Lizzie Stitsky, to Harbord Collegiate, but my father wouldn’t cough up the money for books. So I had to go instead to commercial school, where the books were free and the course took only two years. I loathed the sight of that dismal building, the dreary classroom, the drabs I was thrown in with, and went every morning five days a week with a resentful, heavy heart, and my lunch in a paper bag.

Sure, he let me quit Commercial after only six weeks of my second term, but not through any understanding on his part, or sympathy: I swung him around through a trick, a bit of chicanery.

EVERYTHING had gone wrong for me that Monday of my seventh week. I had gone to bed the night before with a bag of hot salt pressed against my check to ease a toothache, and Monday morning after a troubled night’s sleep my cheek was inflamed. When the noon bell rang, I was as miserable as I had ever been in my life. When I tried to get at my lunch, my desk drawer was jammed. Propping my feet against the legs of the desk, I gave the drawer a terrific yank. It shot out suddenly, knocking me back and landing overturned in my lap. Everything spilled to the floor, pencils, pads, erasers, books. I scrabbled around collecting my things, and returning them to the drawer, noticed a man’s handkerchief, dirty, clotted, and stuck in the right-hand corner. I had never got the drawer more than partially open before, so it must have been there all these weeks side by side with my lunch. My tooth began to ache again.

I fled the room, and that night at supper, screwed up enough courage to tell my father I would not be returning to Commercial.

He reared. “Why?” he wanted to know.

“Because I found something in my desk.”

“What did you find?”

I made no answer; I knew under cross-examination my case would be lost. He insisted on knowing; he kept badgering me. “A dead mouse?”


“What worse?” he persisted, getting angry.

“Don’t ask me, Pa.” And on the inspiration of the moment, I turned my inflamed cheek to him and said, “I’m ashamed to talk about it.”

And my father, sensing that the object had something to do with sex, stopped questioning me. I had won. I knew he’d never let me quit on account of a dirty hankie in my desk.

A week later, through an ad in the paper reading Girl Wanted, Easy Work, Easy Hours, Good Pay, I went to work for Myer Layevsky. Myer Layevsky was sitting in a swivel chair at a cluttered rolltop desk in his two-by-four office when I came to be interviewed for the job. His hat was on the back of his head, and in his mouth a dead cigar. He swiveled around, and closing one eye, inspected me with the open one.

“You’re a Jewish girl, no?”


“I had already a few people looking for the job, but I didn’t made up my mind yet.” He pointed to a beat-up typewriter. “You know how to typewrite?”


“So if I’ll give you a letter, you’ll be able to take down?” He rooted around the desk and came up with several lots of file cards, each bound with a rubber band. “Customers,” he said. “I sell goods on time. You heard about that joke a dollar down and a dollar when you ketch me? This is my business.”

He extracted one lot of cards and put them aside. “Deadbeats,” he said, screwing both eyes shut and shaking his head. “Deadbeats. From this bunch nobody comes in to pay. I have to collect myself. Sometimes I even have to go and pull back the goods, so this bunch you can forget about.” He went on to the other cards. “This bunch is something difference,” he said fondly. “Good customers, honest people which they come in regular with a payment. So this is what you shall do. A customer comes in the office with a payment? First you’ll take the money. Next you’ll find out the name. Then you’ll make a receipt, mark down on the card the payment, and keep up to date the balance.” He struck a match on the desk and put it to his cigar. “Easy, no?”

“Another thing which I didn’t mention it yet,” he said. “Sometimes it happens a cash customer falls in the office for a pair sheets, a pair towels, a little rug, a lace panel, something — so come in the back, I’ll show you my stockroom.”

I was taken by surprise when he stood up, to sec how short he was. Sitting, he looked like a giant of a man. But the bulk of him was all in his torso; his legs were short and bowed, and he stood barely over five feet, and loping in baggy pants to the stockroom, he looked like a comic mimicking someone’s walk.

Except for a conglomeration of stuff piled in a corner of the stockroom, everything was in order, price-tagged, and easy to get at.

“This mishmush,” he said, indicating the heapedup pile, “is pulled goods from deadbeats which they didn’t pay. So if a poor woman comes in the office with cash money for a pair secondhand sheets, a pair secondhand towels, a lace panel, something, let her pick out and give her for lest than regular price. Give her for half. A really poor woman, give her for a little lest than half.”

Right away I panicked. “How will I know a real poor woman from only a poor one?”

“You got a pair eyes, no?” He snapped off the overhead light. “So that’s all. You’ll come in tomorrow half past eight.”

“An office job,” said Ma when I gave her my news. “Wait till Pa hears.”

When Pa heard, the first thing he said was, “How much a week?”

“I forgot to ask, Pa.”

“Very smart. The first thing you do,” he lectured me, is to ask how much. If he mentions a figure not satisfactory, you ask for more. The way you handled, you’ll have to take whatever he gives. But it’s not too late yet. You didn’t sign no contract, so tomorrow before you’ll even sit down or take off your coat, you’ll ask him.”

You’d think, to hear my father, that he was the cagey one, the astute bargainer. All his years a loyal slavey he had worked his heart out for peanuts, protecting the boss’s interest, saving him a dollar. Only the year before, my father had been out of work, and things were so desperate in the house with no money for food or rent that he went finally (and at the cost of his pride) to Iscovitz, one of his rich Rumanian connections who owned a tobacco factory. Iscovitz had nothing to offer my father except a job as night watchman.

“I’ve got a man already, an old cukker half blind, half deaf. I’ll let him go, Avrom Mendl, and give you the job.”

My father refused; he wouldn’t take another man’s job; but Iscovitz argued he needed a younger man, would have to let the old man go eventually — so my father came in as second night watchman. The old man ducked for cover when the heist took place, but not my father. Unarmed, he stood up to the thugs, and was cracked over the head for it.

He lay in bed three weeks with a bandaged head and fractured shoulder.

A few days after the foiled stickup a basket of fruit came to the house with a card from Iscovitz, and one night the millionaire Iscovitz himself came to visit. “Take your time, Avrom Mendl, and don’t worry. I don’t want to see you in my place till you’re better,” he admonished my father, then came to the kitchen seeking my mother.

“He’s a wonderful man,” he said in Yiddish, and slipped her an envelope with a month’s pay in it.

When I came to work, Myer Layevsky was out front loading his car. He blinked an eye at me, and I passed through to the office. Doing my father’s bidding, I stood without removing my coat or sitting down. It took him a while to complete loading, and lugging goods through the office to the car he passed me several times, never once looking at me. This made me very nervous. Finally the car was loaded, and Layevsky came back. He straightened his hat and put a match to his cigar. “So I’ll go now. You didn’t brought a lunch?”

“I thought I’d go home,” I said. “I live only ten minutes from here.”

“Next time bring something to eat. I don’t like the office shall be left alone. A customer comes in to pay and they find a closed office, they have an excuse to put off. Even a good customer will take advantage. Take off your coat and come in the back; I’ll show you a hanger.”

He was back at the door, and I hadn’t got up nerve to ask about my pay. “Mr. Layevsky? I forgot to ask you yesterday. We haven’t settled yet —

“I had in my mind to pay ten,” he said, “but I need a Jewish girl in my business, so you I’ll give twelve.”

It was late in October when I came to work for Layevsky, and during the winter months I had to keep my coat on, it was so cold in the office. There was a hot-air register behind the door at the entrance to the stockroom, with hardly any heat coming through, and I used to stand on it stamping my feet, which were icy by midday.

“I’ll tell a few words to the janitor,” Layevsky kept promising, and one morning before the day’s peddling, he did go down to the basement. There was a great rumbling below, and in a few minutes a rush of smoke came shooting through the register. Layevsky came back and stood over the register, rubbing his hands.

“You wouldn’t be so cold no more,” he said. “Comes up a little bit heat now, no?”

“You mean smoke,” I said.

He blinked an eye at me. “So she has a little sense,” he said in Yiddish.

THERE wasn t enough work to keep me busy, and in the beginning I sat banging away at the old typewriter, getting up speed against the day he’d give me dictation. But I soon got bored with that, and one morning came to work with a hook.

Layevsky spotted it immediately. “No, no, no,” he said, wagging his head. “Don’t bring no more a book to the office. It’s not nice a customer comes in and the girl sits with a book.”

“But there isn’t enough work here to keep me busy,” I protested.

“Who said? In an office you can always find something to do. Check over the cards; it wouldn’t hurt.” I took my coat to the stockroom, smoldering.

“Come here, my book lady,” he called.

Hunched over the desk with knees bent and arms locked behind his back, he was peering at some cards he had fanned out, his nose almost touching, ashes dropping all over the place.

“Pick out Mrs. Oxcnbcrg’s card,” he said.

I pointed to it.

“Pick it up, it wouldn’t bite you. Now take a look.”

I knew the cards were in order, but to satisfy him I glimpsed it briefly and returned it to the desk. “There’s nothing wrong with this card.”

“Look again,” he said, thrusting it under my nose.

I resisted an impulse to slap it out of his hand, and turned my head away instead.

“Mrs. Oxenberg,” he mused, “a good customer. I only wish I had more customers like that.” Suddenly he slapped the card down, and with his nicotined finger, pointed to the last entry on it. “When did she made the last payment?”

“October twelfth,” I said, “but that’s before I was here.”

“And today is already middle November, no? You can’t see from the card that up till now she came in regular every week with a payment, and now it’s a whole month she didn’t come in? This you didn’t notice? Maybe she’s sick. Maybe she died, God forbid. Pick up the phone, find out. Attend better to my business, and you wouldn’t find time to read a book in the office.”

The first three weeks I worked for Layevsky he used to come back from the day’s peddling before five. I would vacate the swivel chair, and he would sit down to check the day’s take. No matter howmuch the amount varied, “That’s all you took in today?” he’d ask. I took it as a joke at first, a pleasantry between us, but when I got to dislike the man, I resented it. “As if I were a salesgirl,”

I muttered once. “Or even a thief.”

“What did you said?”

“Nothing.” I had a feeling as I went to the door that he was laughing at me, but I did not look back to sec.

After I’d been there a month he started comingback later each day; it was seldom before six now when he returned, and I’d stand peering through the office window looking for the car.

One night he didn’t get back till seven, nor had he telephoned. Cold and hungry, I was standing on the register, and through the half-open stockroom door, saw him as he came in. He took a one,-eyed look around. Lights on, no one in the office. He came loping to the stockroom.

“You’re still here?”

I was incensed, indignant to the point of tears. “You speak as if I’m a guest who’s overstayed her welcome.” I swept by him; he followed me to the office.

“I speak like a what?”

I took my handbag from the desk. He followed me to the door.

“No, earnest,” he said in Yiddish. “I speak like a what? Tell me.” His manner was concerned, solicitous even, but I felt he was mocking me.

“Never mind.” I said. This time I did look back, and saw him laughing at me.

One day a month was given over to repossessing merchandise from deadbeats. “Today I am pulling,” he would say grimly; “give me the deadbeats.” Deadbeat — the word was anathema to him. He couldn’t say it without screwing both eyes shut. He would return at day’s end, and through the office window I’d see him yanking piece by piece from the car, loading his shoulders. Draped like an Eastern merchant escaped from a bazaar holocaust, he loped from office to stockroom, muttering. “Deadbeat. You can t afford? Don’t buy. I don’t go in with a gun to nobody. Chutzpah. When it comes to take advantage, everybody knows where to find Myer Layevsky.”

One day he was muttering, mulling this over, the injustice of it, the grievance to himself, when the telephone rang. I look the phone. It was Mrs. Greenberg, a good customer, an honest woman. Where’s that tablecloth? she wanted to know, the one she ordered three days ago.

“It’s Mrs. Greenberg,” I said, my hand over the mouthpiece. “About that tablecloth, style 902 with the lace border? I told you about it—” He took the receiver from me. “Hello. Who? Oh. Mrs. Greenberg, what can I do for the lady? What tablecloth, when tablecloth? Who did you gave the message? Oh, my office lady,” he said, swiveling around so that his back was to me. “You’ll have to excuse. She’s a young girl, she thinks about boys. Next time if you need something in a hurry, better speak to me.”

I wanted to knock his hat off, grab the cigar from his mouth, and jump on it.

Despite having been forbidden to bring books to the office, I kept sneaking them in under my coat, and one morning, caught up in Of Human Bondage, I didn’t hear the door. I jumped as if I’d been surprised in a criminal act; I put the book out of sight as if it were a bottle. Standing before me was a blond young man, tall, thin, with a pointed nose and white eyelashes. An albino.

“Is my dad here?” he asked. “I’m Israel Layevsky, Mr. Layevsky’s son.”

I told him his father would not be back before five, and loping like his old man, he went to the door. “Tell my dad I was here. And also that I came first in my class.”

“Your son was here,” I reported to Layevsky. “He asked me to tell you he came first in his class.”

A smile came over Layevsky’s face, breaking it wide open. All of a sudden he jumped up, clicked his heels together, and in baggy pants began a little dance in the office, clapping his hands. For a minute I thought he was going to ask me to partner him. He left off as suddenly as he began, and sank to the swivel chair puffing, fanning himself with his hat. “Twenty years old and going through for a doctor already since seventeen. So better don’t make eyes on him,” he said, wagging a roguish finger at me, “because it wouldn’t help you nothing. I’m looking for a rich daughter-in-law.”

ONE Friday the second week in July Myer Layevsky said, “How long do you work here now, nine months, no?”

About that, I said.

He blinked an eye at me. “You feel you’re entitled to a holiday?” He handed me a roll of single dollar bills. “Count over, you’ll find two weeks’ pay. You don’t work so hard in my place you need a holiday, but I close up anyway the office a week in July to take my missus to the country.”

A holiday! The idea was thrilling. Except for day excursions to Haitian’s Point or Center Island with Lizzie Stitsky, I had never been anywhere.

“So where will you go?” my father asked when I told him about the holiday.

“I don’t know. Pa. I’ll look in the paper under Summer Resorts.”

“Don’t look in the paper because I wouldn’t let you go just anyplace, a young girl, and fall in the wrong hands.”

I began boo-hooing, the disappointment was so keen, and ran to the room I shared with my sister. Gertie, slamming the door shut. I heard him in the kitchen talking it over with Ma, but as to what was being said, nothing. I heard him go to the telephone in the hall, but he spoke into the mouthpiece, keeping his voice down. He then came to the door. “Gome out, my prima donna, and we’ll talk about the holiday.”

“Don’t bother,” I said, “I’m not interested anymore.”

“So what did I spend money on a long distance call to Mrs. Rycus?”

Mrs. Rycus, another one of my father’s Rumanian connections, was a widow who had a small hotel in Huntsville and took lodgers during the summer months, mostly Rumanians.

“Poor woman,” Pa said anytime he spoke of her. “Lived like a duchess in Focsani; now it’s all she can do to keep a head over water.”

My sister, Gertie, came home from work. She went to the kitchen, then came to the room we shared. “Pa says you’re going to Huntsville? Mrs. Rycus says she can take you, but you’ll have to share a room with the cook and maybe help out in the kitchen.”

“That’s great,” I said.

“Why, what’s wrong with that?” my sister said. “At least you’ll be out in the country, and that’s something, isn’t it?”

“Have you got a bathing suit?” my father asked me at supper. “Mrs. Rycus said you’ll need one.”

“You mean an apron,” I said, and my father flared up.

“Don’t be so smart. I can still phone Mrs. Rycus and cancel.”

My mother winked at me to keep quiet and not ruin my chance of a holiday.

First thing Saturday morning I went to Eaton’s, and in the bargain basement equipped myself with a few assorted summer items, including a bathing suit, and Monday morning my father put me on the train for Huntsville. He fussed about securing me a window seat, then fussed again about whether it would be best to put my case on the rack or at my feet. The conductor called All Aboard, and my father unexpectedly leaned down to kiss me. His kiss, embarrassing both of us, landed on my car. Through the window I saw him on the platform.

“Don’t forget what I told you,” he was saying.

I was to be met by Mrs. Rycus’ truck driver, Bill Thompson. “You’ll wait till a man approaches you. Don’t you mention the name first,” my father had warned me. “If he says Bill Thompson, you’ll get in the truck with him. Have a good time,” my father called, and as we pulled out, he raised his hat to me!

The station emptied quickly at Huntsville. I waited ten minutes, and the only living soul to show up was a good-looking boy, about twenty, who positioned himself inside the door, giving me the once-over. Could this be Bill Thompson? I was expecting an old man. Forgetting my father’s warning, I jumped from the bench. “Is your name Bill Thompson?” “That’s right,” he said, and I got in the truck with him. We drove four miles to the hotel, the truck driver all the while stealing flirtatious glances at me as I sat puffing away on the cigarette he had given me. My father, fearful I might fall into wrong hands under Summer Resorts, should have seen this!

MRS. RYCUS, a lot shorter and grayer than I remembered, was on the hotel veranda to greet me. “Sura Rivka.” She smiled, giving me my Jewish name, and stubbing out her cigarette, came slowly forward on swollen legs to embrace me. “Come, we’ll go in the garden for tea,” she said in an accent as thick as my father’s. “Bill, take her suitcase up to Mrs. Schwartz’s room,” and the truck driver, picking it up, gave me a wink.

Sitting at cafe tables in the garden were about a dozen ladies, all in brightly colored dresses, some with straw hats on their heads, others with kerchiefs.

Mrs. Rycus clapped for attention. “I have a surprise for you,” she said, putting her arm around my waist. “This lovely girl is Avrom Mendl’s daughter.”

A fluster and flurry ensued at all tables. There were cries of No! I don’t believe it! So big!

Mrs. Rycus whispered, “Don’t be shy, darling. These are all Daddy’s friends.” Piloted by Mrs. Rycus, I was taken from table to table, each lady in turn kissing and complimenting me. I had never been called darling, or kissed so much in my life. One lady, a Mrs. lonescu, wouldn’t let go of me. “Sit by me, darling,” she coaxed, as the tea trolley was wheeled in by a maid. The trolley contained such a variety of things, I couldn’t take them all in at a glance. Sandwiches, small sausages, black olives, fruit, iced cakes, cream buns. I pointed to a cream bun, and the maid put it on my plate.

“Tea or coffee?” she asked.

“Tea, please.”

“Milk or lemon?”

“Milk, please.”

Wasn’t this thrilling! I was with real quality now, classier by far than anything I had read about in books. I wondered if I should have said please to the maid. I had said it twice — maybe even once was infra dig?

“What grade are you in school?” I was asked by a Mrs. Kayserling.

“I’m not in school anymore. I’m working.”

“Clever girl,” she said. “What kind of work?”

I had got over my initial shyness and felt at ease now, on top of everything. Incorrigible showoff,

1 rattled away like one o’clock. “Oh, at a sort of bookkeeping job. I work for a Myer Layevsky, a very funny man. He sells goods on time.”

“Goods?” another lady asked.

“Yes. Sheets, towels, blankets, Axminster rugs, and lace panels. He calls it goods.”

“On time?” another lady asked.

“Yes. To poor people,” I said, offhandedly dismissing the poor as if my only connection with them were through my job. “It’s a dollar down and a dollar when you ketch me.” I loped across the lawn imitating Myer Layevsky. I blinked an eye at the assembled company. “That’s all the money you took in today?” And they fell about.

After tea the ladies retired for a siesta, and I went up to the cook’s room to unpack. Dinner was not till eight, and it was now only six — was I expected to help? I went downstairs and located the kitchen. Mrs. Rycus was at the stove beside a fat lady in an apron, a waitress was putting hors d’oeuvres on a tray, and Bill, in a far corner of the kitchen, was emptying a garbage container.

“Mrs. Schwartz, this is Sura Rivka, the daughter of a very dear friend, and for the next week your room companion,” said Mrs. Rycus, introducing me to the fat lady in an apron. She then introduced me to Leona, the waitress.

“What can I do?” I asked Mrs. Rycus. “My father said I was to give you a hand in the kitchen —”

“Certainly not,” she said. “That was Daddy’s suggestion, not mine.” Nothing was expected of me except I come to the kitchen in the morning and get my own breakfast. “The dining room does not open till one,” she said. “The ladies don’t come down to breakfast; they take a cup of hot chocolate and a biscuit or something like that in their rooms. I’m short a waitress, so if you don’t mind to give Leona a hand with the trays, I would appreciate it. But only if you like, darling; otherwise, Leona can manage herself. Meantime, go for a little walk to the beach, it’s very pretty there. Bill, take the garbage to the incinerator, then show her where the beach is.”

It was a fifteen-minute walk to the beach, Bill flirting with me all the way, and by the time we got there I was in love with the good-looking truck driver, head over heels.

At dinner that night I was seated with Mrs. Kayserling and her husband, Aaron, who had come for a few days in the country, I came to the dining room hungry as a bear, but when I saw the array of silver at my place I was dismayed, appalled, my appetite left me. “When I was your age I could eat an ox,” Mrs. Kayserling chided me. I made out that I had a very small appetite, so small it caused my father worry sometimes. After dinner we went to the lounge for coffee, and I sat listening to nostalgic talk of Rumania. Wonderful stories, and told for my benefit, I expect, as my father was featured in most of them. Tales of escapades, derring-do. My father? Fabulous stories, fascinating to listen to — but in the end had the effect of sending me to bed unhappy, depressed. In Focsani my father had been on easy terms with these people, on equal footing with them. What a contrast now between their way of living and ours. He, so far as I knew, was the only failure of the Focsani emigres, the only pauper.

But I was up early next morning, happy again, restored. What was the matter with me? I was holidaying in the country, and in love. After breakfast I helped Leona with the trays, then went to the beach in my new bathing suit. I had not been there ten minutes when Bill Thompson arrived. “Mrs. Rycus sent me. I’m supposed to keep an eye on you,” he said, ogling me. On the way back I let him kiss me, and remembering my first kiss, could not for the rest of the day fix my attention on anything.

Wednesday morning at trays Leona was not at all friendly. Was she in love with Bill too? Later in the day I went to market with Bill and the cook, and sat between them in the cab, thrilled at the truck driver’s proximity. Thursday morning Bill told me he and Leona were going to town that night for a movie. “See if Mrs. Rycus will let you come too,” he said.

“Go, darling,” Mrs. Rycus said, “there is nothing here for you to do.”

Bill sat between us, and in the dark of the cinema, held my hand all through Catherine the Great with Elizabeth Bergner.

What a wonderful week. The excitement of being in love, the secrecy, the preoccupation, the thralldom of it. The ruses I contrived to meet my love at the incinerator for a few minutes before dinner, and again after dinner for walks along the country road . . . But the inevitable Sunday arrived. The holiday was over. I was to leave by the six o’clock train. I Took my things from the cook’s closet, snuffling over my open case. To go back to my dreary home, my miserable job, and never again to see Bill. He had said something about getting work in Toronto, but I knew for sure I’d lose him to Leona, who was prettier than me, and older.

Mrs. Rycus came to the room. “I shall miss you, darling. It’S such a pity you have to go back to the hot city. Wait,” she said, “I have an idea. Leave everything. Go down and phone your Mr. Layevsky. Ask him to let you stay another week. It won’t cost him anything; you’ll stay as my guest.”

I was so nervous when Layevsky’s voice came over the long distance wire I had to make my request a second time before he understood me.

“It won’t cost you anything, Mr. Layevsky. I don’t expect to get paid.”

“So what can I complain? Stay long as you like,” he said, and hung up. That worried me, I didn’t like the sound of it—but surely that was only Layevsky’s way? He would have ordered me back if he didn’t want me to stay.

I managed to get word to Bill. I told him at the incinerator I was staying another week, and again that night after dinner I excused myself from the lounge on the pretense of going up to bed, then sneaked down the back staircase to meet him.

MONDAY morning Leona handed me Mrs. Rycus’ tray. “She wants you to bring it,” she said.

I knocked, Mrs. Rycus called “Come,” and I brought the tray to her.

“Sit down a minute, Sura Rivka,” Mrs. Rycus said, and I took the chair beside her bed. She put her cigarette in a holder, smiled at me, and began. “You’re a big girl, a young lady now, and I would not presume to lecture you, but as I am such a close friend to Daddy you won’t take offense? Bill is a nice boy, but just a boy from the village. Common. He is not for you, darling, and I don’t like for you to be so much with him. You understand what I mean?”

I wanted the floor to open up. I wanted to drop out of sight never again to be seen by Mrs. Rycus. I reached forward almost toppling the hot chocolate in her lap.

'‘Yes, of course I understand. You don’t want me to go to the market with him anymore —”

“To the market is all right, and to the pictures if Leona goes too is all right. But at night alone with him for a walk? No, darling, this worries me.”

So she had known all along. I could die for shame. Talking so cleverly in front of the ladies, then sneaking down the back staircase for hugs and kisses with the truck driver.

I went to the cook’s room and stayed there, ignoring the one o’clock signal for lunch. Mrs. Rycus came up to fetch me.

“I want to go home,” I bawled.

“Darling,” she said, embracing me. “I could bite my tongue. You must excuse an old lady. Come down to lunch. Please, for my sake.”

Next morning at her usual time she came to the kitchen with instructions for the cook. “Sura Rivka,” she said, handing me a list. “If you don’t mind to do me a favor, go with Bill to town. I need a few things from the drugstore, and he will not be able to attend to everything.”

Bill, instead of continuing on the main road, turned sharply off onto a side road. “How come you stood me up last night? Are you playing hard to get?” He made a grab for me, and tried some fancy stuff. I slapped his hand. He lit a cigarette and backed the truck onto the main road again. “You Jewish girls are all alike,” he said. “There’s only one thing you’re after, that wedding band.”

Through the corner of my eye I studied his face as he drove sullenly to town. His head had assumed peculiar contours; it looked flat on top, something I had not noticed before. I was out of love. Leona was welcome to him. I had a longing suddenly to go home. To see my father, who had raised his hat to me in the station, to see my mother, and even my sister, Ccrtic. After lunch I sought out Mrs. Rycus. “Please, I want to go home on the six o’clock train. Not because of anything you said yesterday, honestly. It’s just that I’m homesick.”

“Darling,” she said, “I understand what it is to be homesick.”

Oh, I was glad to be on my way. I wouldn’t have to think up funny stories to amuse the ladies at teatime. At home I didn’t have to sing for my supper; I could be as glum as I pleased. My father might call me prima donna, my mother might ask if I’d got up on the wrong side of the bed.

Pa was at the station to meet me. “You had enough of the country?” he said, and we boarded a streetcar.

Next morning, apprehensive of my encounter with Layevsky, I put off going to work till nine o’clock. By nine he’d be on his way for the day’s drumming, and I could let myself in with the office key. I arrived ten past nine and through the office window saw a girl sitting at the desk. She swiveled around as I entered. She was blond, with buckteeth and eyeglasses. Definitely not a Jewish girl. I stammered, “Are you — is this —”

“This is Supreme Housefurnishings,” she said briskly. “Did you want to see some merchandise?”

“No, no,” I said, collecting my wits. “I used to work here, but I’ve got another job now.” I put the key on the desk. “I always meant to return this, but with one thing and another —”

“Thank you,” she said, and turned to the cards, dismissing me.

Deposed! Supplanted! It hit me like a stone.

My father had dozed off again. I roused him. “Pa!”

He excused himself again. “I had some pills this morning, it makes me very sleepy. We were talking about something — that man you saw downstairs.”

“That’s right. Myer Layevsky. He’s the one that gave me a week’s holiday, and I went to Mrs. Rycus in Huntsville, remember?”

“Oh, yes,” said my father. “She was a wonderful woman, Mrs. Rycus. You know we grew up together in Focsani? In Rumania she lived like a duchess, but here she had a hard time to keep a head over water.”

“I’ll go now, Pa, and see you tomorrow.”

My father held his hand out, and as was our custom except for the time he kissed me on the train, we shook hands on leave-taking.

Myer Layevsky was still under the big tree where I had settled him. He beckoned me, and I cut across the lawn.

“Didn’t I told you maybe later it will come back to my mind?”

“Then you do remember,” I said, exhilarated beyond all reason.

“I gave you a week off, but that wasn’t enough for you. You made me a long distance call, no?”

“That’s right. You know why I didn’t want to come back? I fell in love that summer. With a shaygitz,” I added mischievously.

That stopped him. He cocked an eye at me. “Did you married him?”

“No, I married a nice Jewish boy.”

“Better,” he said, nodding his head and chewing his dead cigar. “Better.”

I had, in fact, married a nice gentile boy — but there was no need for Myer Layevsky to know that.