Sunday, March 14, 2021

New Short Fiction by KJ Hannah Greenberg

Pretty Little Miss

Jedidah pulled at the cuticle that was half on and half off of her right index finger. The skin gave way and suddenly she was sucking at the resulting small laceration.

Basmat lifted an eyebrow at his wife and then returned to studying the book before him. The twins had gone to sleep only minutes ago, and, for a short span, the house was quiet.

That span got truncated. With the delicacy of a capybara, Basmat’s beloved began to complain. Both Anat and Nava, Basmat’s sisters, were taking their families to a hotel in Jerusalem for Shavuot. Jedidah, it seemed, was more than annoyed that her family was not similarly going away for the holiday.

“Cherished wife,” I bought you the kitchen appliances you asked for before Pesach. I also bought you and our five daughters two new outfits, apiece, for the holiday. So, presently, we don’t have any extra money.”

Jedidah’s bottom lip began to quiver. Her high tech job covered all of their expenses since Basmat, who learned Torah full-time, earned just a pittance of a stipend. On balance, when she had been seeking a mate, Jedidah had specified to all of the matchmakers that she wanted a “learner,” not an “earner.” Moreover, her college degree in computer science, more than equipped her to fund a family. The problem was that she liked “nice” things.

Twelve years earlier, the honor of supporting a man who would devote his life to learning was more important than: a new car, a large apartment, or boutique clothing. Besides, her parents had gifted them an apartment as well as had given them an allowance for the first ten years of their marriage. Those parents had likewise bought Basmat and Jedidah’s daughters everything that those girls claimed that they “needed.”

However, when Malka, a late bloomer and Jedidah’s only sibling, had at last stood under the chuppah, the familial subsidies had stopped. “Gotta be fair to both of our girls” was what Jedidah’s parents had said.

Going forward, Jedidah and Basmat used Jedidah’s salary. No longer were her earnings split between savings and indulgences. There was no more patronizing of posh steakhouses or biannual restocking of clothing closets. Rather, there was ground meat that had to be manually transformed into patties and Malka’s hand-me-downs.

Large tears fell from Jedidah’s eyes. Although she was a high tech wonder, she was, concurrently, at forty, poor!

Sighing, Basmat closed the book from which he was learning and wiped a tear from his wife’s cheek. “Fine, I’ll arrange something,” he grunted as he left their apartment for evening prayers.

Lag B’Omer came and went. Jedidah accompanied their girls to their Beit Knesset’s campfire. The little ones roasted potatoes and then marshmallows. Thereafter, the good wife awaited her husband’s return from learning.

Basmat came home flushed. His night had been filled with a great deal of dancing and singing, plus hours of debating Torah. He loved Lag B’Omer.

Jedidah looked at her happy mate. More or less, she succeeded in pulling herself into a mindset that might share in his joy. Her sense of loss, though, walled his rapture from her. So, rather than smile at Basmat, she held out her palm. “So, where’re the tickets? Where’re we going?”

Basmat, who was glistening from elation as much as from sweat, smiled at his beloved. Without her working to finance their family and without her parents’ decade of generosity, he would not have been able to toil in Torah. Jedidah was a woman of valor! He filled her outstretched palm not with a registration form for a hotel or with a surprise of jewelry, but with kisses.

Jedidah yanked her hand from Basmat’s lips and glared at him. “Your sisters’ husbands work even though they, too, were once at the top of their respective yeshiva classes.”

“Yes. One’s a store manager and one’s an accountant. Their lives are neither easy nor illuminating.”

“But they will go away for Shavuot.”

“So will you.”


“Raphael …”

“Your afternoon learning partner…”

“… has a sister-in-law, who has a cousin, who has rental property near Meron.”

“Lag B’Omer will be over when the stars come out.”

“Yes, but Shavuot in Tzfat won’t start for another few weeks.”



“Can we pray at the Breslov synagogue?  Do you remember that Chanukah, when I was pregnant with the twins, that you watched our three oldest so that I could join the collective recitation of Tehillim?

“A sweet time.”

“Can we buy cheese from Kadosh?”

“Of course. I’d anticipated you’d want to do so and have already written “dairy cutlery” on the packing list.”


“You want to come home with one piece of microcalligraphy. That’s why we’re arriving a day before the holiday and leaving a day after— you’ll have time to shop.”

“What did you trade Raphael?”

I’m teaching his sister’s cousin’s nephew te’amim; that boy, with Hashem’s help, will become Bar Mitzvah next year.”

“I’m blessed! I can’t wait to tell our girls!”

“About that… before Pesach, your mom bought them new dresses and bought you this gift card. I picked up the package, which contained these goodies, at the post office last week, but didn’t tell you since we can’t buy new things until after Shavuot, anyway.”

“The card’s to Ohr Boutique! I can use after we return from Tsfat! Life is good. Why was I complaining?”

“I don’t know. We have each other, our children, a Torah life, and a home in Jerusalem. Gifts and trips are just bonuses.”

“Forgive me?”

“Nope. You never hurt or otherwise upset me. There’s nothing to forgive.

“Besides, my dear, pretty little miss, I’ve always known that you like sparkly things. I’ve equally always known that you wanted to be married to someone who learns full-time.”

“Not a contradiction?”

“Does it have to be?”

“Keep me?”

“There was never an option not to.”

- © KJ Hannah Greenberg 2021

KJ Hannah Greenberg captures the world in words and images. Her most recent poetry collection is Rudiments (Seashell Books, 2020), her most recent essay collection is Simple Gratitudes (Propertius Press, 2020), and her most recent short story collection is Demurral: Linens, and Towel and Fears (Bards & Sages Publishing, 2020).

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