Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Austerity - a short story I wrote in 2008, part of my Land of Israel series

If the Lord delights in us, then he will bring us into this land, and give it us; a land which floweth with milk and honey – Numbers 14:8

            “Are you full?” his mother asked.  When he didn't answer, she asked again, and grudgingly, he answered.  “Yes, I am.”
            Then Arye Levin, distracted, a little woozy, stepped away from the table and out onto the covered balcony.  A smothering, cool rain blanketed Jerusalem.  He felt a gnawing pit in his stomach, taut and unforgiving, like the tightening of a tourniquet by an unkind hand. 
            While no one in the Levin family was hungry, no one could say they were sated.  When Arye Levin refused a second helping from his mother, he did so to leave more for his little brother Haim, due to arrive back from his Zionist youth outing. The group had been planting trees in the hills to the west of Jerusalem, creating forests over the ruins of Arab villages razed in 1948.  Little Haim Levin would return filthy with the mud of Greater Jerusalem and a hunger ill suited to a time of austerity.  

            Yet there was always breakfast and supper in the Levin flat.  But when the family arose from each meal for whatever appointed task their lives demanded, each retained a pit in the hollow of their bellies, a reminder that no one could eat their fill.  His mother, the keeper of the larder, jealously guarded her ration coupons bound in a flimsy book of cardboard, as insubstantial as the food it allowed them to purchase.  
           On two occasions, Giveret Levin had lost a coupon from the delicate book; it had slipped from its binding during her workaday journeys, and her sorrow at the loss was as if she had abandoned a child.  So when it was not in her purse on the way to the market, she hid it in the cupboard beneath the unused copy of the Shulchan Aruck a religious uncle had purchased for the Levins with the dim hope that they would keep a kosher kitchen.

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