Zygmunt Frankel

SHORT STORIES


BRINGING THINGS INTO THE HOUSE

My wife's short trip abroad, to a teacher's conference, was not as hard on me as I feared it might be. My parents-in-law, who live nearby, have practically adopted our baby daughter, while her big brother, due for school next year, proved a great companion in all sorts of manly pursuits. During the week my wife was away we:
Visited the fair, from which he proudly brought home and taped to the wall above his bed two cardboard targets with several holes made by the air-gun bullets quite close to the bull's eye;
Spent a day fishing from the rocks, with the largest mullet of the catch, a full twenty centimeters long, landed by him;
Assisted the cat in giving birth to her first litter of kittens (four), which actually amounted to verbal encouragement and compliments only because she did everything herself as if she had read the book on cats which we held open on the appropriate page;
Saw two cowboy and three star-wars movies, discussing and analysing each in detail afterwards over pizza and ice-cream;
Completed the rubber-motor model plane we had been working on and tested it in the large park. I also took along, as a stand-by, the boy's brightly coloured folding kite and it proved good insurance policy because, after a dozen successful flights, the plane flew into a tree trunk and broke a wing - too extensive a damage for field repair.
The day before my wife's return involved a lot of work because there had long been a leaking tap, a wobbling ironing board, faulty insulation in the toaster, a draft from the bedroom window, and dust on my bookshelves, all of which I had promised to set right before she came back, and, of course, left till the last day. There was also my mother-in-law's almost continuous presence, what with looking after the baby and general tidying-up and the baking of the welcome-home cake.
As mothers-in-law go, mine is not too bad, although with some talent to get on my nerves from time to time. This time it was her deeply ingrained superstition. You would think a modern, cultured, and educated woman would be free of it, but no, sir. She knocks on wood, spits over her shoulder, keeps her fingers crossed, will not go on if a black cat has crossed her path, you name it. On this occasion, she looked with some misgivings at the miniature stone-border cactus garden we had set up on our balcony and said:
"Er...very pretty...very nice indeed. Just one small thing: do you think you could use something else than stones for the border?"
"What's wrong with stones?"
"Well, you see... I know you're going to call me a superstitious old woman again" (I never did, unless she can read thoughts) "it's just, you see, this old belief that it's bad luck to bring stones into the house; something to do with graveyards and tombstones, I suppose; you know, like causing like, sympathetic magic or whatever they call it."
"That's rather far-fetched, isn't it?"
She changed the subject and did not mention the stones again, but it left me slightly angry and disturbed.
Finally the day of my wife's return arrived. The apartment was now shining, everything has been repaired, and the cake succeeded to perfection. When it was almost time to drive to the airport, I took a last look at the apartment, washed a coffee cup and saucer hiding in the sink, and went to call the boy. He was in his room, freshly washed and combed, wrapping up the bunch of flowers we had bought for Mummy. I gave his room a glance to make sure that here, too, everything was tidy, and froze.
In the corner, on the floor, lay the broken plane.
I glanced at my watch. The roads would not be crowded at this hour, and after the plane landed it would take the passengers another half an hour to clear passport control and the customs.
"You know what?" I said brightly. "There is still time to repair the plane before we go. Mummy would be sorry to see it broken, knowing how hard we had worked on it."
It was a simple matter. The broken balsa ends came together again with a few drops of fast-drying glue. We reinforced the joints with extra balsa strips, and then patched the torn covering with a new piece of thin tissue paper. By the time we left, the plane was suspended from the ceiling without any trace of the mishap.
My wife's plane landed on time, and shortly afterwards we kissed and hugged her at the exit gate and started hearing all about her trip.
Only now I shall never know whether her plane landed safely because of the extreme statistical improbability of an accident, or because we had repaired the model plane in time.

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1997 Zygmunt Frankel - All Rights Reserved.
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