The door handle jiggled. Chaya, sitting on the bed, her breasts still bare, shivered, then grimaced, knowing what the next move would be. On the colorless street, beyond the drawn shade behind the bed, men and women murmured as the water cart pulled up. She knew one of the men’s voices well. Just two days ago an Arab Legion shell had fallen a hundred meters down the street and a fragment had cut the throat of Mrs. Teitelbaum’s sister-in-law, killing the horse, and shattering the cart. Where the water was not mixed with blood, people had mopped it up with handkerchiefs and squeezed moisture into their mouths.
Chaya glanced at the boy in the bed. He was lying on his back, staring at the mildew on the ceiling. His sun-fired head and neck looked as if they had been grafted on to his pale body. She quickly pushed her arms into the sleeves of her smock and stood up. The smock did little to warm her and floor was icy. Now the whole door shook and the boy’s friend shouted: “Hey, you two going into overtime?”
“It’s Ari,” the boy said matter-of-factly. He stroked the line of his hairless chest with his left hand and his right moved down under the corner of the blanket that covered his loins.
She brushed her hair, stooping before a tiny mirror propped up on a rough wooden table against the wall. “Should I let him in?”
“It’s not his real name,” the boy said, turning to look at her.
“It usually isn’t,” she said. “Mine isn’t. Nor is yours.”
“You speak Hebrew so precisely. I mean, for someone who’s been here just two years,” the boy said. Then he quickly added: “I like that.”
“Get dressed and don’t forget to pay.”