anyway. Rabbi Finklehorn had only condolences to offer, not information. Any synagogue member had a right to a memorial service, and the
Kappelschnitzers had been paying their annual dues for decades, even if
their seats on the high holidays sat empty.
“My uncle gets confused sometimes,” explained Kappelschnitzer,
whose religious endeavors had concluded with a bar mitzvah. “I just
didn’t want us to show up on Tuesday and surprise you.”
“Not to worry,” said Rabbi Finklehorn. “After you’ve been doing this
twenty-six years, not even a burning bush will surprise you.”
Kappelschnitzer might have said the same thing forty-eight hours
earlier. As it was, he had little choice but to attend the service the follow-
ing Tuesday. Besides, he was very curious to meet his wife’s purported
friend, Marilyn Loeb, who’d left a message at the office to assure him
that she’d arrived safely from Austria. No return number. She’d also
called him at home that Sunday, while he was bushwhacking for grouse
at Jamaica Bay. Her chipper voice mail united them as “the two people
who had loved Shirley most.” We’ll get through this,” she promised.
Kappelschnitzer had been certain all along that he’d never before set
foot inside Temple Beth Or, but the service on Tuesday morning confirmed this. He didn’t recognize the oak-paneled vestibule or the long,
low-slung foyer that led to the sanctuary. He possessed no memory of
the velvet-cushioned pews or the pipe organ beside the bimah. He’d have
remembered such an instrument, because it gave the shul the aura of a
church. He surely hadn’t laid eyes upon Rabbi Finklehorn before (the
clergyman had a port-wine stain on his left cheek and the build of a parlor stove), had never exchanged prior greetings with the aged shammes,
whose well-beaked mug resembled a peregrine falcon’s. But the mourners he knew: colleagues from the hospital, friends from the racquet club
and the Academy of Medicine, patients. Also the proprietor of “his” deli
on 88th Street; Dr. Osterman, his retired dentist; his cousin’s daughters,
pushing fifty now—only once in a decade he ever saw them. No, this was
not Candid Camera.
And then she was upon him. She wasn’t what he’d expected: much
younger, to be candid, and much prettier. He had anticipated some elderly doyenne trailing clouds of lilac, a substantial, imperious creature
who wore broad-brimmed hats and cleared gangways with her bosom.
A foil to Shirley, whom he’d imagined to be diminutive and self-effacing
though endowed with a rather understated wit. But Marilyn Loeb