The New Generation of Classic Short Stories

Vol. 10, No. 1

The Wild Daughter

by Aviya Kushner

All my life I have tried to escape my mother's stories, but once in a while I listen with half an ear. This last story of hers intrigued me, because it was about a runaway. Why a girl should run from her parents' house to my mother's classroom—to the palace of all my mother's stories, where it is impossible to escape—is beyond my understanding. But that's the world. Everyone wants someone else's mother, and if you manage to escape that calamity, you still want something of another's life.
"You will not believe who walked into my class," my mother says. "Such a creature you have not seen in your life."
     I try to hide behind the newspaper.
     "She ran away from Boro Park, and came to my class at the college. Aah. Ahah! I knew you'd be interested. A girl who spoke Yiddish all her life suddenly decides she wants to learn Hebrew.
     "Everybody wants to learn Hebrew. I have in my class a hairdresser with three colors of hair, a priest, and also Michael, who is a psychologist for people who get depressed in the winter. Also Ben Steinmetz, who finally married the Italian convert.
     "This new student, though. Such a creature you have not seen in your life. One thing she is not is pretty. What can I tell you? Sometimes there are such girls. It's a tragedy.
     "The essential thing is this: the girl ran away. I can see, from her accent, that all she has talked all her life is Yiddish. Slowly, slowly, in her cracked Hebrew, her story comes out.
     "She is one of eleven. She grew up somewhere there, in one of those crowded apartments in Boro Park, like the rest of them. You can imagine. The father probably learned in kollel all his life, and the mother worked in a grocery store or something. She's not the oldest. She's the third-oldest. There is a boy and a girl and then her. Somehow she got it in her head to leave such a life. How she got such an idea I was very intrigued to know, but I had to wait until she learned enough Hebrew to tell me.

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