Drunk from his bachelor party, still in jeans and flannel shirt, Jack plops onto his bed and falls asleep. He snores. Soon he’s dreaming of tomorrow’s chupah , his white-veiled Rachel being led down the aisle by her father, Wisconsin’s goat-cheese king. Stainless-steel vats of curds roll onto the bima , and speckled sheep leap oh-so-Chagallesque over the gathered relatives.
A knocking against the second-story window startles Jack. Groggy, he stumbles out of bed, lifts the window shade. An angel — white robes, fluffy wings, the whole megillah — smiles at him from outside. Jack rubs his eyes. Pearly fingernails rap against the window. Jack lifts it open, and the angel climbs in from atop a ladder.
“I’m still dreaming,” Jack mutters.
“Come,” says the angel, brushing sand from his feet onto Jack’s polished hardwood floor, “let’s sit, have a chat.” From within his robes, the angel brings out a yellow fruit. “A person comes for a visit, a person brings something. Love-apple. Take a bite. In old Canaan, they were better than potions.”
Jack takes it, sets it on his nightstand and makes a mental note to bring the love-apple on the honeymoon.
“Tell me your worries, I’ll make them disappear,” the angel says. “Poof.”
“You’re getting married tomorrow, of course you have worries.”
“Well, we did just read Vayetze in shul yesterday. That whole thing about Laban switching Leah and Rachel is kind of disturbing.”
“You’re afraid you won’t be able to tell your beautiful Rachel from her older sister with the Coke-bottle glasses?”
“I didn’t mean….”
“Have you looked in the mirror lately with that hair on your ears and the triple chin down to your gatkes ?”
“I didn’t mean….”
“Look, stop worrying. Today’s veils are all gauzy see-through. Millennia ago, of course, you had either your heavy linens or your opaque cottons, but today….”
“I didn’t mean I’m worried about a literal switch! I mean I worry if the Rachel I’m marrying is the Rachel I think she is.”
“And who do you think she is?”
“A warm, caring, smart, beautiful woman.”
“You think a person can fake such things? Don’t be ridiculous. So what else is bothering you?”
“I don’t want to work for her father.”
“In this economy, you can afford to be picky? There’s a lot of money in goat cheese nowadays. Plain, garlic, herbed, with sun-dried tomatoes even. You want my advice, you’ll work for him a few years. As son-in-law, you’ll have your job security, and you’ll take his medical insurance while the kinderlekh are young; you’ll squirrel away bonuses and stock options. That’s so terrible? You’ll learn the business; then one day you’ll set off on your own. You’ll become the competition and take away half his market share.”
“That’d serve him right. Do you know he wouldn’t give his blessing until I saved enough for a down payment on a house? And he’s made Rachel feel so guilty about marrying before her older sister.”
“You’re getting a wonderful woman who cares about family.”
“If she’s being sincere.”
“So we’re back to that again. You think everything’s a ruse to trap you into marrying her and working for her father because suddenly penniless miskayts like you are in fashion? You’re the only man in the state who knows how to scrub a cheese vat? Nothing personal, but wake up. Wake up! She met you right out of college. All you owned was debt. And half a continent away from your family, which isn’t exactly rolling in dough raising New Jersey chickens. Wake up! Wake up!”
Jack sits up, looks around for a moment, blinks. His temples are throbbing, his mouth is dry.
No angel. No leaping speckled sheep. Of course not.
But he does spot a yellow fruit on his night table. Golden delicious apple? Asian pear? Big plum? Where did it come from? Had they served fruit at the bachelor party? Oh, his aching head. Who could remember? Unless? No, ridiculous! Of course, ridiculous! Impossible. It was impossible! Unless? Unless it wasn’t.
Just to be safe on this day of days, his wedding day, to give his system a jolt of morning sugar energy and moisture if nothing else, Jack grabs the fruit and takes a bite. The tart skin, the juicy sweetness of flesh soothe him, and he stands, stretches, looks in the mirror. What on earth does Rachel see in him? How lucky that she wants him. And how foolish to have worried. After all, he’s marrying the woman of his dreams.
Daniel M. Jaffe, editor of “With Signs and Wonders: An International Anthology of Jewish Fabulist Fiction,” lives in Santa Barbara, Calif.