When he passed Meyer’s barbershop the street shadows were already on the clock in the darkened window. Inside Meyer was sweeping up. The pile of hair on the linoleum gleamed brightly under the ball of light in the back. It was late. If Meyer was closing up then he was sure it was after eight. But because it was his habit to check the clock whenever he reached Meyer’s on his way home from the special Gemara class at Salanter’s, he shuffled closer to the window, shifting his books to his other arm. His eyes were tired. The third hand confused him. He stepped into the vestibule and looked at the face frontways. Fifteen after. Yeh, he was late, not for supper, no, not so much for that. And yeh, sure, nobody cared what time he came home to eat. Not even his ma. But he was late for the company that his ma was expecting.
His ma wanted him home on time for that. That morning, her face hot with running up and down the store to tend to the customers who slept late and came in angry and made her race around the counter to measure milk on one end and weigh off butter on the other and take cash in the middle and hop into the back to break open a new case of eggs, she called him over when he was on his way out to school and told him about it. He was going to be like a watchman for her. She didn’t come right out and say it that way. But it was easy for him to see that his ma was afraid of staying alone in the house because somebody was coming.
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