Earlier in the week several large moving trucks had arrived in a cloud of dust carrying the entire household furniture of professor Hubnoth and Moshe Cohen. It was enough to fill an entire furniture store and the professor had the movers put everything in the until now unused dining room of Shmuel who happened to be away to get supplies in the nearest town.
I had noticed that for some days Shmuel Eregast was in a foul mood even though his little restaurant was booming with the dozens of workers coming in from time to time for tapas and a glass of wine. Professor Hubnoth led these workmen as a Roman centurion might his cohort, with his omnipresence and booming voice, supervising everything and telling everyone to do the job properly. The men cleaned, painted, repaired roofs, replaced doors and windows. They didn't seem to mind to have a transvestite as their boss.
“Something bothering you, Shmuel, I inquired as I walked into his kitchen. “You seem tired.”
The old cook was chopping away ferociously at some fresh vegetables while he kept one eye on the simmering pot of soup on the stove.
“Tired? Me tired? What an preposterous idea!” With his knife he pointed through the open window at the professor. “Look at that!” Shmuel cried. “That queen, everyday in another ridiculous colourful dress or frock, everyday another wig, another hat. High heel shoes. It's a joke. He puts the fear of God into his workers but he himself has no fear of God. It's an abomination.”
“Well..” I said, not knowing what to say.
“ And will you look at this?” He threw his knife on the table and pulled me by my sleeve to an adjoining room. Shmuel was really worked up now, nervously stroking his beard and constantly repositioning the yarmulke on his head. He opened the door.
“Will you look at thát,” he shouted, pointing at a jumbled collection of furniture and suitcases that were piled up higgledy-piggledy almost to the ceiling. I couldn't believe my eyes.
“I run a restaurant,” Shmuel declared and almost in tears continued, “not a second-hand furniture shop. I have guests to feed. Where do I put them?”
We looked at the chairs, sofa's, tables, lampshades, cloth racks, cupboards, paintings and statues. I even caught a glimpse of the shiny enamel of an antique bathtub behind an upright piano.
Shmuel turned to me and put his hand on my arm.
“But what really bothers me, Yosht, is this... Moshe Cohen, the … monk. He is a Jew, you know, like me. We fought side by side on the Golan Heights during the Yom Kippur War. We thought of settling in Israel then, we loved the country, the people. Our people.”
There were tears glistening in old Shmuel's eyes. I could feel his hand shaking on my arm so I put mine on his to calm him down.
“It's an abomination in the eyes of the Lord. How can a Jew chose to wear the clothes that represent a religion by which we Jews were persecuted for more than 2000 years?”
I tapped his hand, stroked it,, tapped it again. All to no avail. Shmuel was upset.
“Has he a no shame? And his so-called friend,
the professor, in skirts and dresses, wigs and hats and make-up, false eyelashes and false breasts. What is the world coming to, Yosht? I ask you.”
I had no answer, but at that moment I heard a sound from within the room and gradually the round, shiny and sweaty face of Moshe Cohen appeared. He was leaning out of the bathtub, partly hidden by the upright piano that balanced dangerously on top of an antique Biedermeier dining table.
“Could somebody please help me? I seem to be stuck.”