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from the November/December 2004 issue

Please Leave a Message

Dina and Shlomo went out shopping. Their son, Dudi, stayed home.

He didn't stay alone. Tally, his baby sister, stayed with him. His dog Rexie stayed with him too.

Before Dudi's mother and father left, they stopped at the door for a moment, and his mother said: "If Tally cries, give her a pacifier."

And his father said: "If the phone rings, just say we'll be back soon."

"Okay," Dudi said, and they left.

Dudi was sitting on the floor, playing with his fire engine. Rexie didn't bark. Tally didn't cry. The house was quiet!

Suddenly the phone rang.

Dudi got up and lifted the receiver.

A woman's voice said: "Hello. May I speak with Dina, please?"

"She isn't home," Dudi said.

"When will she be back?" the voice wanted to know.

"Soon," Dudi answered.

"Could I leave a message?"

"Yes," Dudi said. "Yes, you could."

"Good. Then please tell her that she has a dentist's appointment at seven. Okay?"

"Okay," Dudi said and hung up.

Mommy has a dentist's appointment at seven, Mommy has a dentist's appointment at seven, a dentist's appointment, a dentist's appointment . . .

Dudi kept repeating the message to make sure he didn't forget it.

But what if he did forget? Dudi was worried, and he started wondering what he ought to do. He thought and thought till he had an idea: he ought to take it down. That's what the grown-ups do. Whatever you don't take down, you forget.

Yes, but how do you take something down when you can't write? You draw pictures. Dudi took a sheet of paper and a pencil and started drawing.

Here is what he drew:

A woman with her mouth open, and seven teeth inside. (A woman because a woman left the message.)

An open mouth (because that's what you do at the dentist).

Seven teeth (because the appointment was for seven).

Now Dudi was sure he wouldn't forget to give his mother the message. All he had to do was look at the picture and it would remind him. Dudi felt very pleased as he sat back down on the floor.

Then the phone rang a second time.

"Hello," the voice said. It was a man's voice this time. "Is Shlomo home?"

"Hello," Dudi said. "Shlomo isn't home."

"And who are you?"

"I'm his son, Dudi."

"Could I leave a message for your father?"

"Sure you could," Dudi said.

"Then would you tell him that Wolf will be over in the evening. Please don't forget. It's important."

"Okay," Dudi said.

"Thank you," the man on the phone said.

"You're welcome," Dudi said and hung up.

This message was very easy to take down.

Wolf will be over tonight. Simple!

To begin with, Dudi drew a wolf. The wolf looked a little like a dog, but just a little.

Where do you find a wolf at night? The forest. That's where you find him in all the stories.

Which is why Dudi drew a forest too and added some dark shading all around. The main thing was that he mustn't forget: Wolf will be coming over to see Daddy in the evening.

Now he had two messages to deliver: one for his mother and one for his father.

He put down his pencil and paced around the house. He petted Rexie and glanced at the phone.

Maybe someone else will leave a message.

Dudi wanted to take down some more.

He looked at the phone and waited. But the phone was silent. Just when you want it to ring, it doesn't.

If nobody else has a message, I'll take down a message of my own, Dudi thought.

He took a pencil and . . . wait a minute: what message did he want to give his parents?

He wanted . . . to give them the message that "soon" was over, and they should come home already.

He decided to draw Mommy and Daddy running home.

But before he started, he changed his mind. He'll have them take the bus, because that way they'll get home faster.

So he drew the two of them in a bus.

I'd better be careful not to get the messages confused, Dudi thought when he finished drawing.

He looked out the window, but there was nothing to see outside, and he didn't feel like playing with his fire engine any more. He wanted to talk to someone. But who?

Talking to little Tally was impossible.

Talking to Rexie wasn't interesting.

And going outside was against the rules.

I'll call Grandma, Dudi thought. I know her number. That's a good idea!

As soon as Dudi got the idea, he did it.

"Hello, Grandma," he said when he heard the familiar voice.

"Dudi, sweetheart, is that you?"

"Yes, it's me."

"What are you doing, Dudi darling?"

"I'm taking down messages for Mommy and Daddy. They'll be back very soon."

"What messages are you taking down?" Grandma asked, surprised. She knew Dudi couldn't write yet.

"All kinds of important messages," Dudi said. "Do you have anything important for me to take down?"

"Just a minute, let me think," Grandma said, and then she remembered: "Yes, I do. Please tell your mother that Fawn had a baby boy."

"Who's Fawn?" Dudi asked.

"Fawn is a good friend of your mother's," Grandma explained.

"And is her baby's name Bambi?" Dudi asked.

Grandma laughed. "Why Bambi?"

"Because Bambi sounds like a good name for a fawn's baby."

Dudi could hear Grandma laughing over the phone, but he didn't get a chance to ask her why. Suddenly, Tally began to cry.

"I have to hang up, Grandma," Dudi said and put down the receiver. He hurried over to Tally's crib. Where's the pacifier? He had to find it. Pacifier, pacifier, oh, there you are!

Carefully, he put the pacifier in Tally's weepy little mouth.

"They'll be back very soon," he said and rocked the crib, "Sleep, sleep."

And just as Mommy said, Tally sucked on her pacifier and went back to sleep.

"Good," Dudi said and hurried to take down Grandma's funny message. He found a blank space on the page and drew Bambi. He'd look at the drawing and remember Grandma's message.

Then the door opened. Mommy and Daddy were back.

"Hello, Dudi," his father said. "Was everything okay?"

"Yes," Dudi said, "and were you okay too?"

"We were fine," his mother said. "We bought a kitchen table. Did anyone call?"

"Yes," Dudi said.

"Who called? A man or a woman?"

"Lots of people called," Dudi said.

"Did they leave messages?"

"Sure," Dudi said. "And I took them all down."

"You took them down?" Mommy and Daddy asked, almost together.

"Yes," Dudi said. "Here they are," and he showed his parents his drawings.

They looked at the drawings, then they looked at Dudi, and then they looked at the drawings again.

"Well?" Dudi asked.

"What?" his mother asked.

"Can you understand them?"

"No," his father said. "Can you?

"Yes," Dudi said. "I've taken them all down." He looked at the pages and gave his parents all the messages, with no mistakes.

Then his mother asked: "Would you happen to have another sheet of paper? I have a message too."

"Who is it for?" Dudi asked.

"For my adorable son," she said.

"I have some paper," Dudi said and gave his mother a sheet of paper.

She sat down and drew a picture. When she finished, his father said: "I have a message for my son too. May I take it down on the same sheet of paper?"

"Go ahead," his mother said.

He took the pencil and drew his message next to hers. Then he handed it to Dudi.

By arrangement with The Institute for the Translation of Hebrew Literature. Translation copyright 2004 by Miriam Shlesinger. Illustrations by Ora Eitan.

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