I got to ride up front with Aaron. We wound the
windows down and turned the stereo to full blast.
It felt like a real holiday. I caught glimpses of
Moshe’s limousine straggling behind us, before
Aaron slammed on the gas, and we were gone.
The seaboard sparkled. Aaron told tales of whales
and dolphins, and how the Southern Ocean was
empty mountainous waves all the way to
Antarctica. He drew bold pictures in my head.
The man was mesmerizing. He had powerful
charisma. I ruffled my hair and pulled a wide
smile. Aaron winked mischievously, accelerated
irresponsibly, and we bulleted down the motorway.
When Aaron was told about our disastrous
excursions, he smirked. No such ill luck, he
boasted, would bedevil his plans. He proposed
a journey to the tip of Africa. It sounded exotic.
I asked if there’d be baboons. Aaron promised
boatloads of the mangey pests. I was taken
aback by his vulgarity. But the others laughed.
I sensed some competitiveness with Moshe.
Aaron planned to outdo his brother. The bar,
I reflected, wasn’t set particularly high. The
next morning, Aaron would swing by in his
By the time we took coffee, the room was electric.
Father and son reunited brought wide smiles to all
our faces. There were years to catch up on. Aaron
soaked up his Father’s chatter like it was ambrosia.
There wasn’t the tiniest suggestion of conflict.
Mr Steinberg’s face softened with happiness.
His pains and ailments were forgotten. They
simply scattered like starlings, and flew away.
I didn’t want to be a grouch, but I was concerned
Mr Steinberg would tire. I glanced pointedly at
Uncle. He took the hint. We would adjourn, and
continue this beautiful reconciliation at home.
Aaron was tense. He didn’t hug his Father. Instead
he scuffed his calf-skin shoes importantly on the
shag-pile carpet. I was appalled. Moshe struggled
to defrost the situation. He ordered expensive wine
and asked to see the menu. Aaron squirmed in his
seat, striking his knife on the table top. He was a
sulking hulk of a man. I took an instant dislike to
him. Spoilt, that’s the word I would have used. We
ordered our meals in icy silence. William knocked
over a tall glass of juice. Aaron glared brutally his
way. Our lunch order was late. I just knew that
Aaron would make some belly ache. He was vile to
an apologetic server. The poor man scurried away
like a whipped cur. Unexpectedly Mr Steinberg
smirked broadly, and reprimanded his son. Aaron
pulled a long face, just like a scolded child.
Suddenly the chemistry in the room was different.
Shyly, awkwardly at first, Mr Steinberg and his
estranged son began to talk.
Moshe warned us about his brother’s bizarre
moods. Aaron would be sailing along, then an
insignificant, casual comment would spark his
rage. We should take special care when
addressing personal remarks. Aaron was morbidly
obese, and extremely tetchy around the subject.
Once Moshe had suggested his brother diet.
Aaron had flared up, then ostracized Moshe for
over a year. He was still sullen, prone to
embarrassing public outbursts. I began to wonder
how Aaron conducted his business so
successfully. No one grew fabulously rich by
being obnoxious. I prettified my face one more
time, and stepped into the limousine. It was time
to meet Mr Steinberg’s stray son in the flesh.
Moshe telephoned his brother. A rendezvous
was organized. We would all meet for lunch
at this swanky city restaurant. I wondered what
had prompted Aaron to suddenly seek out his
Father. There still wasn’t a dicky-bird from Gustav,
Mr Steinberg’s youngest son. But I figured we were
making some headway. I hoped Aaron didn’t have
any insalubrious motives. Such as extracting a
final bequest from his dying Father. That would
tear at Mr Steinberg’s ailing heart. I dug out my
best dress. I would look my grandest for this
We limped back into the city. I couldn’t wait
to take a shower. As per usual, the mountain
was obliterated in cloud. I wasn’t enthusiastic
about any more excursions. Mr Steinberg suffered
quietly, but clearly in considerable pain. He’d
missed taking his medications. We crawled
through heavy traffic, heading for the apartment.
When we reached home, there was an ornate
visiting card perched on the mat. It was addressed
to Mr Steinberg. He turned it over in his leathery
hands. It was from Aaron, Mr Steinberg’s eldest
I was woken by the heavy rumble of a mechanic’s
truck. The sky was streaked with high pink clouds.
From the van stepped this gorilla of a man,
dressed in an oily blue boiler-suit. He tutted
aggressively to himself, and spat. Moshe was
there, looking sleep-deprived, dishevelled. The
problem with the tyre was fixed in less than ten
minutes. The mechanic clearly thought we were
all retarded. Uncle hung his head, shamefaced.
Moshe had brought some hard bread rolls. We
ate hungrily. A night in the wild had piqued my
appetite. Moshe settled with the surly workman,
who grunted his thanks, pocketed the money in
his grubby overalls, and spat obscenely. We were
free to leave. Moshe manoeuvred the car around.
Soon we were speeding after the dust storm raised
by the mechanic’s truck. Barrelling back to the
Moshe had hiked off in search of cell phone
reception. He planned to call a tow truck. It was
dark now. A dizzying multitude of stars whirled
over our heads. The air throbbed with plangent
insect sounds. William had whined himself to
sleep. Uncle tried to cheer me. He proposed
lighting a campfire and telling ghost stories.
The high veldt, Uncle said, had a blood curdling
history. I sneered at his silliness. Suddenly a
meteor shot across the sky. I gasped, and it was
gone. I shivered. I felt bereft. Moshe had already
been away for hours.
Uncle spent a considerable time fiddling
with the recalcitrant tyre. While I grilled in
the backseat, Mr Steinberg dozed fitfully.
Moshe held his phone high in the air,
struggling to get a signal. He looked like
a desperate clown. Inevitably, William was
hungry. There were only fruit lozenges to
suck. Not another soul passed us on the
road. It was eerie, creepy, terrifying, to
think of this immense wilderness pressing
in on us. We were such insignificant specks.