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Top of His Caste

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Chapter 3

 

Naomi stopped opposite the laundromat complex and David jumped off the wagon to visit his mother. 

“David,” Sasha called, pulling off his shirt, under which he wore an undershirt, “toss this in for me.”

David entered the laundry drop-off room.  Sixteen cubicles lined the left wall, and David threw the shirt into the one designated for work clothes.  Stepping back outside and into the washing machine room, David pushed his way between the wagons of wet clothes, walked hurriedly passed three women who sat drinking tea beside the empty dryers, and entered the ironing section where several women stood whispering in the corner.  Hundreds of wooden compartments lined the walls of the clothes-distribution area, one for each household, which was where he spotted his mother who was standing next to a cart of clean clothes, looking for the ironed-on identification number on a pair of jeans.

“Hi, Mom.”

Slowly, as awaking from a dream, Rivka looked up and hugged him, her gray sweater and faded work pants hanging loosely on her slender figure. She had short brown hair and wore a pair of glasses which David’s sister, Leah, kept telling her to change them, claiming that the frames were too big for her face.

Rivka inquired about the harvest, and David repeated what Sasha had told him: that the yield was only half the average, which would cause the market price to increase, so that overall the frost might prove beneficial.  David totally failed to comprehend the connection between rotten avocados on the ground and higher prices, nor could he understand how good might come out of bad, but he trusted Sasha so was content.

David asked if she was ready to go.

Rivka put the jeans in their proper cubicle.  “I have three full carts waiting so I want to finish this one before leaving.”

“Mom, you know I hate waiting here,” he complained, then began pacing the room, hissing while glancing at the women in the corner.  Suddenly, he heard the sound of a tractor and dashed out the door.  “Ben!”

The tractor of the peach crew came to a screeching stop and his friend jumped down and ran over.  Ben was tall and slim, and he leaned forward as he ran, causing his arms to dangle, making him look like a sissy.  Since persuading his friend to become a paratrooper and jog with him, David had tried numerous ways to straighten his posture and make him bend his elbows to appear less feeble.  After the kibbutz doctor refused to issue Ben a back brace,  David stuck two strips of heavy-duty tape from Ben’s shoulders to his bum - but the tape kept falling off, and the safety pins with which David fixed Ben’s sleeves to his shirt kept snapping open and once slashed his skin.

The two friends punched each other’s shoulder and discussed work: David spoke about the harvest, and Ben about the rain up north which he hoped would reach the parched central region soon as the peach trees needed water badly.

“Ready for the assembly meeting tonight?” Ben asked.

David pointed toward the laundromat.  “You should see what’s going on in there: other than my mom, no one’s working.  Those women do nothing but gossip all day.  It’s a disgrace to equality.  Why can’t they work like us?”

Ben turned away, walked over to a plow which lay rusting in the sun, sat down, and started rolling up his sleeves.

David followed him.  “Why?”

“We’ve talked about it hundreds of times.”

David threw his hands into the air. “I want to know why! The kibbutz was founded on equality and nothing prevents them from working in the fields like we do, but they don’t.  They’re fifty percent of the population, but never want the higher positions.  It just goes to prove what I’ve been saying all along: women are inferior.”

Ben looked away.

“Don’t you agree?”

“I... do... I...I’m not sure,” Ben mumbled, staring at the ground.

“What do you mean, ‘you’re not sure’?” David shouted. “You were sure a while ago.  Aha, I get it, it’s that girl from school, isn’t it?”  Some time ago, Ben had started behaving strangely: wearing jeans to school, shaving every morning, mysteriously vanishing during recess. Following him one day to the orange groves bordering the high school compound, David  watched in horror as Ben led a girl from another kibbutz to their secret hideout where he and Ben had spent countless hours skipping classes and eating succulent oranges.  David didn’t speak to him for a week.

David kicked the plow.  “I’m right, aren’t I?  You began thinking about girls and your values got flushed down the toilet.  What a traitor!  After all we’ve been through together, I can’t believe you’re selling out like Michael.”

“Sssshhh,” Ben whispered, “I don’t want anyone to know about her, okay?  And I’m not like Michael, I’m just confused.   I’m with you on everything else, but leave her out of this.”

“Don’t tell me what to do when you’re the one perverting everything we’ve agreed upon.”

For his sixteen birthday, David had received a philosophy book from his parents, and he and Ben had spent hours reading it and discussing the notion of absolute truth.  They’d concluded that absolute truth had to exist because without absolute right and wrong, good and bad, idiots like Michael could claim to be as right as they - a possibility neither could tolerate.  Going a step further, they concluded that all people were equal in relation to that truth and should be treated equally, and since kibbutz was the most equal society of any, it was the correct way of living ... absolutely.

“You still agree that women don’t work as hard as we do, right?” David persisted.

“Right.

“And work is one of the most important values in life, right?”

Ben sighed.

“So, what’s the conclusion?”

“Forget it, okay?” Ben said, his head drooping.  “Certain things don’t seem black and white anymore.  Maybe work isn’t the only criterion by which to judge people.”

David’s eye twitched.  As if shaken by an earthquake, his legs trembled.  He pictured Ben in the volunteers’ club joining Michael on the dance floor, cigarette in one hand, beer bottle in the other, the two ridiculing him between songs.  He felt betrayed, exposed, and terribly alone, mind reeling as he floundered in self-doubt and uncertainty.  Desperately grasping for solid ground, David accused Ben of distorting pure ideals to suit selfish needs.  “I can’t believe that I’m hearing this from my best friend.  Just answer one question: if you don’t judge people by work, what prevents everybody from leaving the fields and sitting in the laundromat all day drinking tea? Don’t you see that it’s all related?   The moment that you give in on one thing, there’s nothing to prevent the entire system from collapsing”

Ben blushed, but said nothing.

Outraged, David turned around abruptly and stormed away.

 Stopping in the mail room located next to the dining room, and picked up two of the three newspapers (distributed free) , sat in the corner, and hid behind the pages.  Minutes later, Rivka approached him with three of her own papers, and asked why he’d vanished, to which he mumbled that he wanted to scan the headlines, hiding his anger as best he could.

The dining room was the biggest, most important building on the kibbutz, and  was divided into three sections: the lobby, the huge kitchen, and the eating area in which some forty tables were arranged in rows.  The dining room housed weekly movies, assembly meetings, and cultural events such as folk dancing, holiday parties, and sing-a-longs, the latter being the sole cultural event which David and his ideology squad hadn’t boycotted as a matter of principle.  The water boiler was always on, the coffee tray always stocked, and one could always find someone to share a juicy bit of gossip. 

At the bulletin board, David and Rivka stood behind  several members who were reading the notices and announcements.

“What’s this week’s movie?” David asked.

“Passage to India,” someone answered.

 After waiting in line, David took a plastic tray,  a scratched plate and cup, and stained cutlery.  The dining room was almost full and very noisy.  David spotted several men from the factory so looked towards his family’s usual table along the far wall, but his father hadn’t arrived.  At the first food trolley, David extended his plate to a girl from his class who was dishing out the main course and requested two eggs sunny-side up.  She dumped a heap of yellowish oily mush onto his plate.  He stared at it and frowned.  “Do you expect me to eat this garbage?”

“Shut up,” she retorted.

David dumped the food back into the container and continued on to the next trolley. “Why can’t the kitchen staff take pride in their work?”

Rivka looked at him. “If you’d give them a compliment every now and then, it might help.  You’ve no idea how depressing it is to stand over hot stoves for hours when no one appreciates what you do.”

No one thanks me, yet I give my best in the orchards, he thought, taking a huge scoop of cottage cheese.

At the last trolley, David grabbed several slices of bread and some cucumbers, while Rivka loaded her tray with tomatoes, onions, and green peppers.  Turning towards the tables, David saw Ben and his father on the right, so he led his mother to the left.

 At the family table, David tossed the newspapers under his chair and said hello to the elderly Mr. and Mrs. Peters who sat by themselves in the corner.  The Peters were an odd couple, not because they were Christians (Leah, as well as many other members, were involved with non-Jewish volunteers), but because they were said to indulge in bizarre religious rituals which no one could quite grasp.  Dozens of clay statues of things called “elves”, “reindeer”, and “Santa Clause” were scattered about their yard, which the Peters said had something to do with “Christmas”.  When he was a child, David had believed that the Peters were Smurfs, that the reindeer were their pets, and the elves their friends.  To this day he still walked by their house expecting to see them all at play. 

“How’s the harvest?” asked Mrs. Peters.

David grimaced and mentioned the devastation.

Mrs. Peters shook her head sadly;  then her face lit up.  “Did you hear the good news? It’s pouring rain in the north for the fifth straight day.  The water level in the Sea of Galilee has risen above the red line.”

David sighed with relief.

“That’s great news,” Rivka said. “I can finally wash the patio.”

“Tonight I’m going to take a long hot shower,” said Mrs. Peters.

“Not so fast.  Don’t forget that every drop of water counts,” said David, repeating the well-known public-service announcement.

David reached for a cucumber, his mother took a tomato, and the two began the near- religious routine of preparing a “kibbutz salad”.  “Mom,” he said, in a grave tone, “remember to slice the vegetables as finely as possible.   And don’t squish the tomatoes, or I won’t eat.”

Rivka shook her head. “How did you ever get to be so obstinate?”

“I’m not obstinate, but certain things must be done correctly.”

“I’ve prepared salads before, you know.”

“I know, I’m just saying-”

Cucumber in one hand, knife in the other, David peeled off the green skin with laser-like accuracy, without damaging the inside.  Placing the cucumber on the plate, he carefully cut it in half and carved each half into slices so thin they were transparent.   He piled them up and the precision of a surgeon cut them into thread-thin strips.  Bunching the strips together, he cut them into tiny, perfect squares.  Satisfied, he reached across the table and poked his knife into the chopped tomatoes on his mother’s plate. “Not bad, Mom, ” he smiled.

“It’s just a salad.”

David disagreed.  The kibbutz salad wasn’t just a salad but rather a window into a person’s soul.  Izzy contended that the salad served David’s need to distinguish himself, but David disagreed, arguing that his father didn’t understand that his finely cut salad actually tasted better because he took time to do things right, unlike Michael whose salad was all chunky and soggy: but what could you expect from Michael?

Izzy, who arrived as David finished the last cucumber, sat down heavily, dropping his tray onto the table, cutlery falling to the floor.

 “Where were you?” Rivka asked. “The others have been here for fifteen minutes.”

“God damn it, I’m sick and tired of that damn factory!  I swear that it’s nothing but trouble!” he growled, then removed his glasses and lowered his head into his hands. 

Izzy managed the factory, a burden he claimed equivalent to that of Atlas’, and responsible for his drooping shoulders and receding hairline.  Although it now manufactured kitchen cabinets, the factory originally produced violins and had been established through the generous donation of a wealthy Italian Zionist who’d dreamed of manufacturing the first kosher violins.  Money and Zionism built a factory and created jobs, but not customers, as even Jewish musicians rejected the inferior instruments.  Years ago, Izzy, then the director of marketing, was sent to America on a two year mission to boost sales, however he knew little English and nothing about marketing.  The trip proved an abysmal failure, though David’s parents had a wonderful time.  When the Italian donor died, the cash infusion stopped, and the factory floundered for years before being transformed it into what it was today.

“Headaches! That’s what I get for being the manager: headaches and irritation.  Sometimes I ask myself why I do it, what’s in it for me.”

“Dad, stop it.  Don’t talk that way.  Think about what you’re doing for the kibbutz.”

Izzy banged the table. “For the kibbutz? The kibbutz? I’m getting sick and tired of hearing what I should do for the kibbutz.  Its about time the kibbutz did something for me, like find me a replacement.  I mean, if I were to manage a company in the city, at least I’d be paid for my efforts, but as is, I’ve nothing to show for my work but wrinkles and gray hair.  I swear this is my last term.”

The threat was not new, but the situation was getting worse as now he simply refused to attend to late night emergencies, and had to be dragged away from the T.V. to go to board meetings.

David put down the green pepper and knife and asked why he was upset.

“I spent all morning absorbing insults from our distributor in Tel Aviv: ‘Where’s the service technician? Where’s the service technician?’”

“But what did he want?” Rivka asked.  She dumped cottage cheese over the vegetables, then added oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and lemon juice.  She mixed the salad, then distributed it.

“What doesn’t he want? He says our cabinets are falling apart, that we sent him the wrong models, that our serviceman is weeks behind schedule, and that his customers are calling him up and threatening to sue if he doesn’t take the goods back.  You should have heard him curse when I told him to be patient and that the serviceman would be there next week.”

David piled a mound of salad onto his fork and wolfed it down. “Mek em’ wait,” he sputtered.   “It’ll serve those materialistic urbanites right.”

The Beeps! signaled nine and David stood up. “Time to-” he belched,  “-back to work.  Great salad Mom.  Say hi to Leah for me.”  He loaded his dishes onto the tray, and at the dish-washer dumped half his salad and four slices of bread into the trash.  In the parking lot, he waited ten minutes for the crew to arrive, realizing on the way down that he’d forgotten the newspapers under the chair.

The crew picked avocados until ten-thirty, then drove to the factory for a half hour coffee break, after which they worked until twelve, then drove up for lunch.

 

Chapter 4

 

Minutes before ten, David’s sister Leah walked across the grass and slowly made her way from the pre-school nursery to the laundromat for the coffee break.  Even though Sven had slept in his own room last night, affording her a much-needed night’s sleep, she felt lethargic and moved as if sleepwalking.  A cool breeze blew life into her long tangled hair and chilled her husky body, stirring her from her semi-conscious state.  Although shivering, she smiled dreamily and complimented herself again for having had the courage to confront her parents with her decision to quit school.  No matter how boring her job seemed nowadays, nothing had been worse than school - one of the few subjects on which she and David agreed.

She’d hated waking up early, getting dressed in a hurry, running to the dining room for a quick breakfast, then enduring the endless ride to the regional high school, only to rush from class to class like a mouse in a maze, plopping herself at a desk, lowering her head and falling asleep during lectures in which she had no interest.  It made no sense.  And once her best friend and roommate Ofra had quit school, smoking behind the shrubs during recess ended too, as scrounging for cigarettes was a hassle, because even though Ofra had prodded her, Leah still hadn’t the nerve to buy cigarettes on the kibbutz, so fearful was she of her father’s reaction.

It still amazed Leah that she’d once despised Ofra and had even asked her parents to get the coordinator to change the new roommate assignments, having always considered Ofra one of “them”, the beatniks who dressed in rags rather than in work clothes, listened to Pink Floyd rather than Hebrew music, and hung bizarre Salvador Dali painting on their bedroom walls.  Yet Ofra’s zest for life- her ability to disregard peoples’ criticism - proved contagious.  More than anyone else, Over had been the catalyst for the major decisions Leah had recently made: school, cigarettes, and especially men.  Never had Leah met such a smart person, had as good a friend, or known anyone so considerate.  Whenever Sven slept over, Ofra vacated the room and slept elsewhere without Leah even asking. 

Leah reached the parking lot, which reminded her of the school bus, which in turn reminded her of the fateful day when she’d faced her parents.  She remembered the scene vividly: her father was watching T.V. - right leg over left as usual; her mother was in the kitchen baking a cake.  As planned, Sven had remained in his room.  David was expected shortly, but she preferred not to wait.  “Mom, Dad,” she murmured, her heart pounding as she braced for battle, “I want to quit school.”

“Why?” her father asked, momentarily shifting his eyes from the T.V.  without lowering the volume.

Leah told them how she hated school, and how Bible, history, and the other  lessons were useless since she intended to stay on the kibbutz and work in the cotton fields forever.  Although she hadn’t planned it, in the hope of eliciting a favorable response, she  announced her and Sven’s marriage plans, an idea she knew her mother enthusiastically approved.     Her father’s reaction caught her off guard.  “I think it’s a wonderful idea for a young couple to settle down and have children; the kibbutz needs as many young people as possible.” Leah responded that she and Sven hadn’t discussed kids yet.

“I like the idea of being a grandfather,” her father said.

“Don’t wait too long because your biological clock is ticking,” her mother said.

To this very day, Leah marveled at how understanding her parents had been.

After quitting school, Leah continued to work in the cotton fields, and although she returned exhausted each day, seeing the cotton grow was more than adequate compensation for the backaches.  Like Ofra, who worked with Michael in the barn, she was determined not to wind up in a dead-end position like her girlfriends who did nothing but complaint about their boring jobs.  Yet little things she hadn’t noticed when working just once a week quickly became unbearable. The physical demands were surmountable, since she was strong and able, however,  working only with men proved intolerable, as idiots like Ram - David’s friend - made her life miserable.  They criticized everything she did, from how she shifted the tractor’s gears, to how she towed the irrigation pipes.  Nothing she did was good enough.  And their vulgarity - the burping, farting, dirty jokes, and putting her friends down - repulsed her.  Ofra believed that the men were insecure, threatened by Leah’s presence, and that they sought to keep the cotton fields for themselves by pestering her to force her to quit.  Ofra implored her not to give them the satisfaction of defeating her, and suggested asking the cotton director to intervene.   The director promised to speak to the guys, but said he believed Leah was imagining everything and that it was all in her head. 

Nothing changed. 

Not long after, Leah was sent to replace the tire of a tractor, and when she opened the tool-box and found a dead snake inside, she was ready to explode, but calmly turned and walked five kilometers back to the kibbutz, vowing never to return.

Leah still hadn’t adjusted to working as a nanny: the filthy diapers disgusted her, the constant wailing of the babies gave her piercing headaches, and the job offered no satisfaction, only criticism, as the parents were never pleased with anything she did.  She gained weight, was constantly tired, and longed for her old position back, wishing that the cotton fields had been run by women: then, things would have been far different.

Entering the laundromat that day, Leah saw the women huddled in the corner and immediately knew that something scandalous had happened.  Her mother pulled her aside. “Have you heard?”

 “What? About Michael and Tammy?” 

“No, that’s old news.”  Rivka sat her down on a stool. “Get ready for this, because you won’t believe it.”  Joel, another man, and two women, all from the kibbutz, were caught cheating.

Leah covered her mouth. “Nooooo!” She knew that the four were married. “How do you know?”

Rivka told her that last weekend, the four had checked into a hotel up north where Yehuda’s wife’s cousin worked.  They registered using their real address and the relative discovered it.  “Can you believe it?”

“My God,” said Leah, “Anna told me she was going to visit her parents, and Joel, that bastard, his wife has just announced she‘s pregnant.  I thought he was through with shenanigans.  I hope she leaves him, like Naomi did.”

Rivka shrugged her shoulders.  “It’s her own fault for marrying him.  What did she expect?”

“Mom, what century do you live in?  How can you blame her when he’s the one who cheated. She should cut his balls off!”

The two analyzed the subject exhaustively, trying to predict the most likely outcome, until Leah looked at her watch. “Oh God, it’s a  quarter past eleven; I’m due back at work.”

  Leah hurried back, almost breaking into a jog, so eager was she to tell her co-worker.  She rushed through the parking lot and across the lawn, yanked the door open, letting it slam behind her.  She rushed through the kitchen directly to the back room where the sound of a wailing infant was like a siren.  Her friend was sitting on a rocking-chair holding two babies on her lap.  Leah went toward her, but before she could say a word, her friend looked up and grinned. “Did you hear the news?” she asked.

 

Chapter 5

 

“Wake up you lazy bum!  It’s six thirty!”   Kobi bellowed, banging on the door.

Michael sat up.  “Be right out.”  He yawned.

“I’m sick and tired of coming to wake you up.  I’ve told you before that if the morning milking doesn’t begin on time, the cows get infected udders.” 

Kobi also claimed that the delay meant less milk in the afternoon, which distorted the statistics.  Numbers didn’t concern Michael, but he hated angering Kobi as he admired anyone more knowledgeable about cows than himself, and Kobi, though just one his senior, knew by heart not only each cow’s name and number, but more important, was the only one ever to complete a session by himself in three and a half hours.

Still intoxicated from last night’s pleasures, Michael sat opposite the heater and moaned sensually as he caressed his skin.  He yawned again, then put on work socks and underwear, and stepped into the cold hallway. He opened the closet, and the stench of cow manure hit him like a fist.  “Phew, what a stink!” he cried, fanning the air while reaching for his filthy overalls.  “Why do I keep forgetting to throw stuff in the laundry?”  He slipped into his shoes and he ran up the hill.

Kobi sat on the barn’s new scooter, rotating the broken rear-view mirror.  Michael jumped on, grabbed Kobi around the waist, and the two sped off.  “Pretty cold, isn’t it?” Michael asked, the cold wind blowing his braid.

Kobi said nothing.

“I hate milking in the winter; my hands freeze.

Kobi remained silent.

 “I’m beat.”

Kobi slowed down and turned around. “Why?”

Michael smiled.  “I was up late listening to music.”

 “Yeah, right, and my grandmother is a lieutenant general.”

Although Michael had heard nothing other than the crickets last night, he did have reason to be tired, having spent the previous two nights in the cotton pile with Tammy, who although only sixteen, was undoubtedly the sexiest girl on the kibbutz.  Michael had recently begun seeing her in Ofra’s room, and had impressed her by interpreting her dreams, having just read a short book on the subject.   He’d dreamed of fucking her, but had never considered it possible - never, until Thursday two weeks ago, the day the grade ten students remained on the kibbutz to work. Michael had skipped school that day and was in his room listening to Led Zeppelin when he heard a soft knock.  Tammy walked in claiming to be looking for coffee, but rather than take some from the kitchenette, she sat down beside him and complimented him on his records.   Michael didn’t waste a second and slipped into his well-rehearsed routine of interpreting “Stairway to Heaven,” followed by reading pre-marked lines from “The Prophet”:

 

Pleasure is a freedom-song,

But it is not freedom.

It is the blossoming of your desires,

But it is not their fruit.

It is the depth calling unto a height,

But it is not the deep nor the high.

It is the caged taking wing,

But it is not space encompassed.

 

Tammy felt that the poem meant that one shouldn’t succumb to meaningless pleasure, so Michael quickly turned the page:

 

Sometimes in denying yourself pleasure you do

but store the desire in the recess of your being.

Who knows but that which seems omitted today, waits for tomorrow?

Ever your body knows its heritage and its rightful need and will not be deceived.

And your body is the harp of your soul,

And it is yours to bring forth sweet music from it or confused sounds.

 

Within minutes, Tammy  swore him to secrecy, confessing that she’d recently lost her virginity with a volunteer.

Matters heated up two nights ago.  On Sunday, Michael and Tammy fooled around in the cotton for hours, but when he reached for her underwear, she disclosed that she wasn’t on the pill and asked if he’d brought a condom.

“A condom?” he’d sneered.  He’d never use a condom!  Why should he suffer because of her inexperience?  He suggested to withdraw at the last instant, an offer she rejected, so he walked home with aching testicles, and ended up jerking off in the bathroom.  Last night, however, he compromised and came, equipped.

Riding toward the barn, they heard a sharp whistle.  Kobi braked suddenly and Michael turned and saw Ram, David’s friend, in the doorway of the cotton crew’s equipment shack.  “Forget it,” Michael urged, “keep going,” but Kobi made a U-turn and stopped under a weeping willow.

Ram reminded Michael of an elephant: a big fat body, pea-sized brain, and a long nose which Ram stuck everywhere.  The only difference between the two was their skin:  Ram’s face was covered in acne.

“So, lover boy, where were you last night?” Ram asked.

Michael ground his teeth, struggling to conceal his surprise that Ram knew of something which had happened just hours ago.  Was Tammy’s sweet smell emanating from his flesh?   “What do you mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean.”

Kobi got off the scooter. “Yeah, tell us.”

“I already told you; I was listening to music.”

“Don’t bullshit me,”  Ram said, fiddling with his crotch through his pockets. “I wasn’t born yesterday.”

“It’s none of your damn business.”

Ram spat. “Fine!  Don’t tell me, I’ll know by lunch anyway.”  He turned and walked off                                                                                   

Michael was only momentarily infuriated by Neanderthal Ram’s intrude into his life, having accepted the lack of privacy as a way of life:  David’s using his towels, people taking his last cigarette without permission, and losing his underwear only to find others wearing them.  Besides, he too enjoyed the communality at times.  Walking home from a midnight shift a while back, he suddenly heard a “Psst!”   Startled, he looked around and saw the night guard from within the bushes gesturing him to approach.  Michael stepped through the brush and saw guard peering into a window.  Michael knees buckled as he looked in, as there, a meter away, lay Joel on his back with a volunteer riding him like a frantic jockey, her head tilted back as she moaned.

“Fuck me... fuck me harder!” Joel panted, gyrating his torso.

 Noses pressed to the screen, the two watched on until the performers climaxed.   The guard fell to the ground howling with laughter when suddenly the screen door opened and out stepped Joel stark naked.  He hurled a shoe at them, but missed as the two vanished into the night.

Reaching the barn, Kobi dropped the scooter to the ground then went to round up the cows, while Michael made coffee.  After milking four hundred cows and eating breakfast, they went to the parking lot.   Michael climbed onto the tractor and Kobi hitched up the flat wagon.  At the hay stack, Kobi started loading bales while Michael leaned against the tractor and looked toward the ravine.  “I wonder when it’ll rain.”

“Move your ass!  I’m not going to do all the work myself.”

“Take it easy.  No one asked you to.”

After lugging and loading a number of bales, Michael mopped his forehead.  “I’ll start stacking them,” he said, then jumped on the wagon as Kobi continued hauling.  Once done, Michael drove into the barn and Kobi rolled the bales off the wagon to either side, the cows mowing eagerly.  Michael parked the tractor, grabbed a pitch-fork, and leisurely walked over to help Kobi spread the hay so the cows could eat.

When they were through, Michael said, “I’m exhausted.   I’ll make you a deal: you do the afternoon milking, and I’ll tell you where I was last night.”

Kobi shook his head. “You’re pathetic, always scheming to avoid work.  Besides, like Ram said, I’ll know by lunch anyway.”

 

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