The disgraced usurer Yankel D took the baby girl home that evening. Here we go, he said, up the front step. Here we are. This is your door. And here, this is your doorknob I am opening. And here, this is where we put the shoes when we come in. And her is where we hang the jackets. He spoke to her as if she could understand him, never in a high pitch or in monosyllables, and never in nonsense words. This is milk I am feeding you. It comes from Mordechai the milkman, whom you will meet one day. He gets the milk from a cow, which is a very strange and troubling thing if you think about it, so don’t think about it… This is my hand that is petting your face. Some people are left-handed and some are right-handed. We don’t know which you are yet, because you just sit there and let me do the handling… This is a kiss. It is what happens when lips are puckered and pressed against something, sometimes other lips, sometimes a cheek, sometimes something else. It depends… This is my heart. You are touching it with your left hand, not because you are left-handed, although you might be, but because I am holding it against my heart. What you are feeling is the beating of my heart. It is what keeps me alive.

He made a bed of crumpled newspaper in a deep baking pan and gently tucked it in the oven so that she wouldn’t be disturbed by the noise of the small falls outside. He left the oven door open, and would sit for hours and watch her, as one might watch a loaf of bread rise. He watched her chest rise and fall in rapid succession as her fingers made fists and released, and her eyes squinted for no apparent reason. Could she be dreaming? he wondered. And if so, what would a baby dream of? She must be dreaming of the before-life, just as I dream of the afterlife. When he pulled her out to feed or just hold her, her body was tattooed with the newsprint. TIME OF DYED HANDS IS FINALLY OVER! MOUSE WILL HANG! Or, SOFIOWKA ACCUSED OF RAPE, PLEADS POSSESSED BY PENIS PERSUASION, BECAME “OUT OF HAND.” Or, AVRUM R KILLED IN FLOUR MILL MISHAP, LEAVES BEHIND A LOST SIAMESE CAT OF FORTY-EIGHT YEARS, TAWNY, CHUBBY, BUT NOT FAT, PERSONABLE, MAYBE A LITTLE FAT, ANSWERS TO “METHUSELAH,” OK, FAT AS SHIT. IF FOUND, FREE TO KEEP. Sometimes he would rock her to sleep in his arms, and read her left to right, and know everything he needed to know about the world. If it wasn’t written on her, it wasn’t important to him.

Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated, pp. 43-44


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