Old Men at Midnight

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Book: Read Old Men at Midnight for Free Online
Authors: Chaim Potok
him,” Rachel said.
    She displayed a drawing of three figures in a flower-studded field. The picture had been made with crayons, the figures drawn in bold colors, a green dress for my mother, a bow tie and a dark suit for my stepfather, a pink dress for Rachel. Over the figures was a blue sky with a yellow sun.
    “That’s very nice, Rachel,” my mother said.
    My stepfather, my mother, and I attended synagogue on Tisha B’Av. The day was inexhaustibly hot; the synagogue was packed. We read Lamentations and chanted about the fall of the Temples.
    Noah’s aunt called me Tuesday evening.
    “Noah is sick and won’t be able to come tomorrow.”
    “Oh, no.”
    “The doctor says he will be okay by Sunday.”
    “Is he running a fever?”
    “It is not a fever. The doctor says he needs rest.”
    I told Rachel when I picked her up from summer camp.
    She said, “Then I’ll give him the drawing on Sunday.”
    His aunt called me Friday morning. Noah was better and would be here on Sunday. I was very relieved. But then she called me Sunday morning and told me he could not be there after all.
    “He has had a relapse.”
    “You said he didn’t have a fever.”
    “Not fever. He is trying to remember.” A wail of pain wafted over the telephone line. “Another of my children is sick. With fever.”
    I told my mother.
    “Well, see if she’ll let you go to him.”
    I telephoned his aunt.
    “It is not a good idea,” she said immediately.
    “Please ask him.”
    “I will call you back.”
    When she called again, she said, “Come at three o’clock.”
    I told Rachel. She said, “Ilana, you give him my drawing as a get-well present.”
    On Sunday afternoon I left the house. I wore a short-sleeved white cotton blouse and a blue skirt. My shoulder-length blond hair lay parted on the right side, caught in a tortoiseshell barrette. Blistering heat waves stretched across the neighborhood. I could feel them ripple against my legs. The street seemed ancient, primordial. I walked in the burning shadows of the green maples.

3
    I turned onto Eastern Parkway. The sun was bright and hot. No one was on the street. I looked at the numbers on the buildings. The Polits lived in a four-story brownstone, with an off-white entrance hall and a reddish floor linoleum. I walked up to the fourth floor and rang the bell of the apartment nearest the stairs. The door was opened by a bearded man in his early forties wearing a round skullcap, a short-sleeved white shirt, and brown trousers.
    “Hello. I’m Davita Dinn.”
    He looked at me carefully. He was some inches taller than I, with dark eyes and dark hair, the hairline beginning to recede. “Come in,” he said, and closed the door. “Would you like some tea? A glass of water?”
    “Water, please.”
    He brought me into the kitchen, filled a glass from abottle in the refrigerator, and gave it to me. I drank it quickly.
    He put the glass in the drain and led me through the hallway to the right of the kitchen and then into the space that was a living room and dining room, with sofa and easy chairs near one wall and a mahogany table set with six dining room chairs against the other. A rug and two end tables were near the sofa, and two rotating floor fans.
    “Please sit down. My wife will be in soon. One of the children is sick.”
    I took one of the easy chairs. He took the other. He looked embarrassed.
    “You’re very young to be teaching English.”
    “I’m a graduate of Tilden High School.”
    “But still—”
    “And I’m going to Barnard College in the fall.”
    “Where is that?”
    “In Manhattan. It’s the women’s college of Columbia University.”
    “That’s impressive.”
    “Noah was doing very well.”
    “He did his lessons every night after working for me during the day. We have him going to a yeshiva in Lakewood, New Jersey, this coming September.”
    Noah’s aunt entered the living room. She looked exhausted.
    “Hello, Davita,” she said. “I have a child who is

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