May 28, 2024
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May 28, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

As the hours turned into days, and the days into weeks, and the weeks turned into months, Jake Rabinowitz marveled at the resiliency he saw among his friends, neighbors and, particularly, his wife, Belle. “After all,” Jake thought, “the pandemic is such a troubling, upsetting time that surely tests a person’s patience and character.”

Unusual patterns of behavior began showing up in the neighborhood: Mr. Jones began to run his sprinklers at all hours, disturbing the sleep of many, while Mrs. Katz began to approach her daily visits to the trash cans outside her home armed to the teeth after once discovering a large raccoon inside one of the cans. On that particular occasion, she had dropped the bag she was carrying directly on the striped creature she had uncovered, vowing to never be caught off guard again in the future!

“I have a theory,” said Jake at that time, “that as we humans begin to circumscribe our behavior in this time of social distancing, the mammals in our neighborhood have begun to expand their territorial ranges to exploit this reduction of human activity.” And his neighbors could only agree with him as all noticed a proliferation of groundhogs, chipmunks and skunks, not to mention the ubiquitous squirrels, rabbits and aforementioned raccoons along the suburban streets and backyards.

Bedtime habits/rituals and coping with one’s partner’s habits, frightening one’s soulmate who is on a different wavelength, intolerable behavior leads Jake to his workshop where one Sunday he’s busy working away to develop a substitute for Belle who, unlike Belle, will allow him the indulgence of watching another episode of Family Feud even though she has to get up an hour earlier than Jake to go to work the next morning. Unbeknownst to Jake, Belle sneaks out to the garage window where she spies Jake through the small aperture and overhears him talking softly to her replacement, which Jake plans to soon exchange for Belle. He’s reading from blueprints obtained from a Popular Science do-it-yourself insert: “Just another few adjustments and I’ll be ready for you,” Jake says as he covers up his future “mate” with a canvas covering and leaves the garage quickly.

Two nights later at about 11:30 p.m., Belle comes upstairs to begin her bedtime ritual of showering, brushing her teeth and generally unwinding. Jake is already lying in bed watching an episode of Family Feud as Belle goes about her business. Jake says to no one in particular (Belle unable now to hear him with the shower running): “These are the dumbest contestants and answers I have ever heard,” instantly hitting on the secret attraction of this program, the feeling of superiority the viewer feels when he watches the program and plays along, successfully answering the questions!

Has Jake already made the substitution? It appears so! The previous night, they had watched only the final try to win the $20,000 big prize at the end of the show; when Jake told Belle he wanted to watch the next episode before turning off the TV. Belle squawked and insisted he hand the remote over to her, which he did, and darkness prevailed.

On this night, however, a different result ensued. For as the Family Feud episode ended with a triumphant final round, Jake, wanting to ensure he could watch another episode of the show, wrestled the remote from Belle’s grip, only to have the device explode in his hand. Belle had luckily jumped from the bed to the floor, escaping with little injury because of the limited range of the device. Jake wasn’t so fortunate. No longer would he wrestle Belle for control of the remote. The police attributed the tragedy to faulty wiring in the remote, but Belle knew better as she soon introduced her “twin sister, down from Canada” to all her friends in the neighborhood.

“Since my sister arrived, I’ve been sleeping better than ever. O! Canada, glorious and free,” Belle hummed to anyone who cared to listen.

Joseph Rotenberg, a frequent contributor to The Jewish Link, has resided in Teaneck for over 45 years with his wife, Barbara. His first collection of short stories and essays, entitled “Timeless Travels: Tales of Mystery, Intrigue, Humor and Enchantment,” was published in 2018 by Gefen Books and is available online at Amazon.com. He is currently working on a follow-up volume of stories and essays.

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