Lenny stood in the doorway for a long time. Bright sun streamed through the window and clung to his uncle’s scalp. The light navigated the thin tangle of unkempt hair and appeared as if a halo. “Uncle Nathan,” Lenny said softly. The old but robust man did not break off his stare. A trio of swallows whipped the air into braids as they plucked invisible flies from god. The man followed their trail with his head and eyes, his fingers sporadically digging into the puce vinyl arms of the tightly upholstered chair. Each spasm was a catch, a lunch, and consummation of manna from heaven. The old man’s mouth moved.
“Uncle Nathan,” Lenny repeated ever so slightly louder.
The man was clearly speaking now, though his words were whispered toward the swallows.
“Father,” Lenny shouted. And then he leaned out of the door to see if he had attracted unwanted attention.
The old man turned to Lenny slowly. “And the Lord our God said to Moses: Behold, I will rain down bread from heaven.”
“I’ve come to visit,” Lenny said. He approached the old man and stood before him. Do you remember me today?”
“I will rain down bread from heaven,” the old man said, and he casually turned back toward the window.
Lenny turned his back and retrieved a matching puce chair. He set it alongside the window so he too could see the swallows. “I’m your son, Lenny.”
“I have no son,” the old man said.
“Yes you do, uncle. It’s Leonard. Remember?
“They wanted quail.”
“They wanted quail. Bread was not enough. They wanted quail.”
Uncle Nathan. It’s Leonard. I’ve come to visit. Remember last month? I brought you some of that rye you like. Mit Kimmel. From the Open Window Bakery. Did you like the bread? Did you eat it all?
“The nurses like bread. One nurse likes bread. Who are you?”
Lenny let his head slump. He closed his eyes and imagined the swallows twisting a trail of Shabbat challah. Uncle Nathan ripped off a hunk with his powerful hands, split it in two, and reached across the table to young Leonard. “Grab a handful, yes, like that! And lots of salted butter. This day we celebrate life. This day we celebrate a hard week’s work. This day we celebrate God’s bounty with a handful of challah and salted butter. Leonard, my boy, your father God-bless-his-soul, did not take the time to celebrate God’s bounty. That boy was always in a hurry. Rushing here. Rushing there. Spending his money on a palace in the suburbs! A station wagon! Your Zaida pushed a cart with chickens from Weston Road to Kensington. To the market every week. No horse, mind you! Pushed it by hand!” Uncle Nathan stared at his palms. “Your father needed a station wagon. Echt!” Lenny put his forehead in his hands and let his fingers comb through his hair. He was startled by a touch to his scalp. He sat up.
“I know this scar. You are family, yes?” The old man said.
“Yes. I’m Leonard.” He held his hair away from his forehead. “You remember the scar.”
“I did that to you?” The old man asked.
“No. You did not.” Lenny released his hair and took in the surroundings. “They keep your room nice,” he said. “Can I ask you?” Lenny paused. “Would you help a boy, a six-year-old boy, if he did something terrible? Would you help him? I mean, if he needed help?”
“It’s Tish’a B’av.”
“What?” Lenny asked.
“Can you imagine? The second temple was destroyed on the same day as the first, but six hundred and fifty years later. The same day!”
Lenny stood. He checked his watch. He heard something crash in the hallway. When he looked back to his uncle, the old man was staring at the window. The swallows were gone.
“Uncle Nathan. Father. You’re a good man.” Lenny leaned down and kissed the old man’s head. He smoothed his uncle’s hair. “You need a haircut.”
“Six hundred years later. To the day.” The old man’s gaze seemed to be fixed on the glass, perhaps at his reflection. “They destroyed the second temple on the same day.”