“He wants to take our whole house, Mommy!” the little girl yelled, running to tell her mother.
Ehud felt his sons’ eyes upon him, watching to see what he would do.
“It isn’t your house,” Ehud said.
“Yes it is,” the man answered.
“We bought it. We have a deed,” Ehud insisted.
“I have a deed too,” the man answered, and he reached in his pocket and pulled out a deed. “The people you bought the house from weren’t the legal owners. I lived here before with my family and have the original lien.”
How could it be, Ehud thought? Hadn’t he received the house from its original owners? Quickly, he examined the man’s deed. Superficially, it seemed all in order; including the right address and plot number, the name of the builder, the seal of the notary, and signatures of lawyers and witnesses. Once again, Ehud felt faint. Little white dots swirled in his brain. The man had to help him into a chair.
“I’ll bring you some water,” Tzipora said.
She returned with two glasses and offered one to the man.
“The deed seems all in order,” Ehud said. “But I’m not a lawyer. Of course, on something like this, I’ll have to have legal advice.”
“I really don’t care for lawyers,” the man said. “I’d much prefer to solve this ourselves. Lawyers always get ugly, and I really don’t want to fight.”
“Of course we don’t want to fight,” Tzipora said. “But…”
“I’ll handle this,” Ehud said. He stood up from his chair and told his children to go up to their room.
“We want to listen,” his older boy said.
“Let’s give him the house. Dad,” the younger added. “We can all live outside in my tent.”
Ehud looked at his wife.
“We could go to my mother’s,” she said.
His wife really meant what she said. Ehud’s heart moved toward her with a surging of love. She was so beautiful. She was so pure. He remembered how happy he had been on their wedding day to have found a partner who believed in all the principles that he cherished.
It was true, Ehud reasoned. They could go to her mother. It wasn’t as if they would be out on the street. And maybe the man didn’t have his own home or anywhere to live. And it was also true that lawyers could get ugly. And it was only a house. There were other houses. What did it matter where they lived? It was only walls, floors, and furniture. The main thing was that everyone should live somewhere and that there shouldn’t be a fight.
Ehud reached into his pocket. With trembling fingers, he handed over his key. In the morning, he would decide what to do about lawyers. Now the important thing was for his children to learn the great lesson of kindness and fairness and peace.
He told his family to gather what they needed for the night. He collected his important papers, including his mortgage and deed to the house, a change of clothes for work, pajamas, his toothbrush, and the small handgun in his bedside table, which he was afraid to leave in the house lest the man’s children find it. He handed the man his mother-in-law’s phone number in case he had any problems. Then, carrying two small bags, he led his wife and his children out from their home.
The next day, Ehud was typically busy at the office. He spoke to his lawyer, but there was nothing to do on the phone, except to schedule an appointment for some time later in the week. For the moment, Ehud decided not to go to the police.
Life at his mother-in-law’s apartment was crowded, but the elderly woman seemed happy with the unexpected visit. That evening, Ehud was trying to distract himself with the newspaper when he heard a familiar knock on his mother-in-law’s door. Tzipora glanced up from the television.
Husband and wife exchanged looks.
“He’s back!” the girl said, running to open the door.
Tonight, the man was dressed in one of Ehud’s nicest suits. He stood in the doorway and said with a big happy smile.
“I’ve come for my wife.”