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Excerpt | Variations on Life

Knock on the door three stories up. Sarah wipes her wet hands on her apron and walks from the kitchen to the entrance of the apartment. Aryeh wouldn’t knock, he would use his key, Moshe was at work, David at school, maybe Hannah from across the hall needed a cup of sugar or an egg. She unlatched the lock quickly after fixing her short hair with one hand and clearing her throat.

“Yes?” she asks as she pulls the door open. And she knows right away, right then and there what the source of her angst has been, the reason behind her sleepless nights since she gave birth, the racing of her heart on a daily basis, she knows that it was for this moment that she has been preparing herself all her life, this moment that she has been dreading, feeling the creepy feeling sitting in the corner of every house she ever lived in. Her head begins to spin as she holds onto the doorframe, legs weak under her heavy body.

“Mrs. Shamir?” A young man in uniform stands in front of her, she does not recognize him and feels an impulse to shut the door in his face, to tell him that he has the wrong address, that Mrs. Shamir no longer lives here and that she does not know where he could find her.

Maybe she’s dead, sick for years with the latest incurable disease, leaving behind her husband and children that moved to the country. She wants to ask him to please leave her alone and to never come back here, because he has no business intruding on her day while she is busy cooking her son’s favorite food, breading chicken breasts and mashing potatoes––she’s busy, can’t he see that, trying to get everything ready for him before night falls, before he comes home as always tired and dirty, black oil-smudged face and hands, a sparkle in his blue eyes. The bath will be very warm but not too hot and when he’s done asking David about his day at school he’ll leave his uniform in a heap on the tiled bathroom floor and the muscles in the back of her neck will finally relax as she hears him sinking into the water.