Interlitq publishes the short story “On the Seam” by Israeli author Ruth Fogelman, a contributor to Issue 13 of Interlitq and www.interlitq.wordpress.com

On the Seam

 

     “Sabah el her,” I greet Abu Amir, my corner grocery-store owner. His name is actually Muhammad, but since every other Arab is called Muhammad, he is also called “Father of Amir,” his eldest son. He receives everyone in his store with equanimity and grace. My down-stairs neighbor, Sarah, calls the store our local “seven-eleven,” but this grocery is more a “seven-eightish,” which suits us fine, and it is most useful when other stores are closed on a Friday afternoon or Saturday night. Regulars, yes, even Haredim in their Shabbat regalia, can walk into the store on Shabbat or Festival, take what they need, and pay him after Shabbat. Abu Amir nods amiably in return to my greeting.

“Hi, Yael,” I greet my neighbor from across the street, in American, about two seconds later.

“Your sewing is ready,” she tells me. “My son went away with the cell-phone, so I couldn’t call you.”

So, it goes without saying that the venue for the exchange of such information is our corner grocery store.

As I make my way to the refrigerator at the back of the store, another neighbor appears from the other side of the shelves.

Boker tov,Ada.” You’ve got it – three languages in less than two minutes.

“I’ll give you the book today,” she tells me. She’s just finished translating it into Hebrew. Since I’m British, I have explained to her what such expressions as a “Punch and Judy show” or a “grotty Liverpudlian” mean while she was in the process of translation.

At 8.00 in the morning my neighbors have already made my day!

I pick up the 1.5% yogurt and the 1/2% white cheese and 1% milk for me, and the 3% yogurt, 5% cottage cheese and 3% milk for my husband and children, thankful for the plethora of dairy products to suit every taste and watched waist.

I place my purchases on the counter beside Abu Amir for him to make the account.

“Excuse me, do you speak English?” a tall, gray-haired lady with a European accent asks me.

Instead of replying with a monosyllabic “yes,” I ask her, “how can I help you?” After all, my neighbors have already made my day, and I am in a good mood.

“I want to buy some yogurt and I don’t know which it is.”

I know that most of the labels have nothing but Hebrew on them, so I go over to the refrigerator with her, and explain which is sour cream, which the 4.5% fat yogurt, which the 3%, which the 1.5% and even the 0%. The European is amazed at the wide choice in a tiny grocery store on the seam of the Jewish Quarter and the Arab market.

Abu Amir has already totaled my account when we return to his counter. We continue our conversation while Abu Amir is showing the mark of Rabbinic supervision on the label to two small boys with black hair and short, wavy peyot framing their faces, who are buying candy on their way to school, or yeshiva.

The European lady, I learn, is fromSwitzerlandand is staying at the Youth Hostel above the Greek Catholic Infant Center a couple of hundred meters from the store. She, of course, with her gray hair and deep crows’ feet at the corners of her eyes, is hardly “Youth,” and the Greek Catholic Infant Center, with only Arabic and English on its sign is hardly Greek, but, that’s life in the Old City of Jerusalem.

Ma’ah salaam,” I wish Abu Amir as I leave the store.

About Ruth Fogelman: Ruth Fogelman is an award-winning poet, author of two books of poetry. She has lived with her family for many years in Jerusalem’s Old City. Her poems, articles, short stories and photography have appeared in anthologies and various publications in Israel, and the USA, including Arc, Poetica, The Deronda Review and New Vilna Review, as well as The International Literary Quarterly. Ruth Fogelman leads the Pri Hadash Women’s Writing Workshop in Jerusalem and holds a Masters Degree from the Creative Writing Program of Bar Ilan University.

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