Crescent City

Crescent City by Belva Plain

Book: Crescent City by Belva Plain Read Free Book Online
Authors: Belva Plain
her third in another month. How fast the years go. Why, I was saying to Mr. Raphael only the other day, sooner than we think it will be time to find a husband for his Miriam. She’s already going on twelve.’
    “Grown-up women say such stupid things!”
    “I had a letter from David yesterday. He has finally had a long letter from Papa, who sent him a lot of money to buy books. I am so glad.
    “Today Papa sounded a little hopeful, even a little proud of David. At least he spends for books, Papa says. He’s no wastrel like so many of them, away at school, spending too much and drinking too much. Columbia, Aunt Emma says, is in a fine neighborhood. The best families, she saw once when she was in New York, live on Chambers and Murray streets. They will be a good influence. She says he will grow out of his foolishness and come home. When he is finished at the medical college, he will come home, you will see, she says. And Papa says yes, perhaps so.
    “I do not think so.”
    “David wrote that he is happy I visit Rosa’s house every week. It is a Jewish home.
    “‘What,’ Emma says, ‘You do not call her “Mrs. de Rivera” or at least “Aunt Rosa”?’ She is shocked. ButRosa asked me to, although I do call her husband Uncle Henry. Aunt Emma does not understand that Rosa is like that; she doesn’t care much about rules. The house is jolly. The boys are such pretty little boys; they break everything, but it doesn’t seem to bother Rosa. She scatters things around, too. I laugh a lot when I am there. People laugh in their house. The boys are named after their father and their uncle. Jews aren’t supposed to name after the living, but the de Riveras are Sephardic, and that’s different. The family takes me to the synagogue, the Gates of Mercy. Sometimes when Marie Claire is in the city visiting, we take her, too.
    “I wish I had a talent like Marie Claire’s. Uncle Sisyphus says she might sing at the opera someday. She is surely not pretty except when she is singing. Then she is almost beautiful. I have quite a silly thought about her, that we will be connected in some way when we are grown up. I don’t know why that should be, we hardly know each other.”
    “The Scroll of the Law is full of holes; this synagogue is a poor place, but it is better than nothing, Uncle Henry says.
    “I wish Papa would go with us, but he will not. It is too bad. Aunt Emma says that he is pleased that the de Riveras take me, they are a fine family. They are rich, that is what she and Papa mean. I am beginning to understand things that people don’t think I understand.
    “Sometimes I sit at the services half asleep because it can be very boring, but I don’t mind, because I know my mother is glad I’m there. I feel her warm breath on my neck. Her shoulder touches mine. She is wearing the plaid shawl that she always wears when I think of her. I remember her death and I know for hersake I will never be led away from what I am. Never. I am what I am. New Orleans is a mixed-up place.”
    “What a good thing it was that Papa was not with us last week on Yom Kippur. Manis Jacobs, who isn’t really a rabbi anyway, said right out in the middle of the service that he was going home to eat and we should all go home, too, and eat, because fasting was ridiculous. And now this morning he is dead. I said to Papa that was perhaps God’s punishment and Papa said that was superstitious nonsense. He said it kindly, though.
    “Now we shall have Rowley Marks to lead the congregation, and I think he knows even less than Manis Jacobs knew. Rosa says he got his name because he plays old Rowley in
The School for Scandal.
He is a part-time actor and also a captain in the fire engine company.
    “But he doesn’t pretend to be a scholar of religion, Uncle Henry says, and he keeps saying it will all come right in time, you have to give credit where it’s due. These men are trying to keep our people together in the absence of anything better. At

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