The Remainders

By Matthew Arnold Stern All Rights Reserved ©


Chapter Nineteen: Lake Forest

Moshe had a horrible day. Some kid at school called him a “dirty raghead.” He thought “Mo” was short for Muhammad. He got a C- on a test. I would have been happy with Dylan getting a grade like that, but anything less than a B was unacceptable to Rachel. I don’t know what she said to him, but he looked shaken by the time I saw him at the game. Baseball was rough too. He struck out every time at bat. When his coach put him in at second, he let a ball go past him down the middle. He immediately moved Moshe to right. I thought that was a humiliating thing to do to a kid, but I said nothing. Teresa would have wound up getting ejected for the things she would have said.

He left the dugout dejected, his head hung low.

“Stop dragging your bat bag,” Rachel scolded.

Moshe adjusted his bag higher.

I looked over at David. He walked quietly, his body tense. I thought I would try to break the tension.


“I have dinner ready at home.” Rachel didn’t turn her head.

Her Sequoia and my Lexus were parked side-by-side. Sometimes, I offered to let one or both of her kids ride home with me. I figured it was better not to ask.

Rachel opened the lift gate. Moshe put in his bat bag. As he turned towards the side of her car, I caught a glimpse of his face. I could see a tear.

I knelt down in front of him and put my hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t take it so hard, Moshe.” I said with a smile, “You did your best.”

“How would you know? You looked at your phone the whole time.” He pulled sharply away from me.

After dinner, I was still staring at a screen. This time, my MacBook Pro.

“No answer?” Rachel held a saucepan that she was wiping dry with a towel.


For a moment, I thought she was going to whack me over the head with that saucepan, especially with Moshe complaining I didn’t pay attention to him during the game. Instead, she set it on the sofa and put the towel inside it. She walked over to the desk and leaned against it.

“Do you think he read your email?”

“I don’t know.” I sighed.

“So, what are you going to do?”

“Wait. What else can I do?”

“You can file a missing person report.”

“But what if he doesn’t want...”

Rachel grimaced at me. “You have to find out. It’s upsetting your daughter, and I can tell it’s upsetting you.”

I glanced at my iPhone at the corner of the desk and exhaled hard. I looked back at Rachel.

“I’m also upset I hurt Moshe’s feelings. I feel awful that I kept checking my phone...”

“He has to accept it.” Her voice turned firm. “Children around here feel like they’re the center of the universe, and we parents have to lavish them with our undivided attention all the time. We’re doctors. We get important messages from time to time. We have to check our phones. We have things to do. He has to deal with it.”

If she was trying to absolve me for checking my phone for Dylan’s response, it didn’t work. It made me feel even more guilty and uncomfortable. Especially with what she said next.

“But next time, don’t tell Moshe, or even David, that they did their best when they clearly haven’t. ‘I did my best’ is an excuse. It’s meaningless. You either did something, or you didn’t.”

I never realized how hard Rachel was on her children. It was working on David. He was a top athlete and an A student. But what about Moshe? Was she being too hard on him and expecting more from him than he could do? I couldn’t say anything to Rachel about this. They were her children. I had my own children to worry about.

“I’ll give Dylan a few days. If I don’t hear from him, I’ll submit a missing person report.”

Rachel nodded. “I better check on the kids and finish the dishes.”

I nodded. She stepped away from the desk and went to the door. As I watched her leave, I noticed something on the sofa.

“Wait! You forgot something.”

Rachel turned around. She saw the saucepan and towel on the sofa.

“I wondered why I hadn’t seen it.”

I thought she was referring to the saucepan. But she picked up the Orange County Register from this morning. I forgot that I left it there.

“Sorry. I forgot all about the paper,” I said.

She took the newspaper out of its plastic bag and unfolded it. As she stared at the front page, her eyes grew bigger.

“You better take a look at this.” She handed me the paper.

As soon as I saw the large-type headline below the masthead, I gasped.

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