“Elected to what?” the girl had replied, brushing crumbs from her father’s beard—because, didn’t her family live in an unrelieved penury due to the universal injustices that her absconded brothers had made the girl so keenly aware of?
But while she paid lip-service to her brothers’ sentiments, she never invoked their anger, for like her father she was possessed of an amiable disposition, and like her mother she had a practical turn of mind. What interested Jocheved most about Pisgat’s establishment, with its goggle-eyed heads of herring and carp staring out of their frozen cataracts, was the ice itself. Early on in her visits she’d begun to cultivate the idea that there were more things one might do with ice than cool drinks and preserve the carcasses of dead animals and old men. Taking a cue from a moonstruck anecdote of her father’s about how the rebbe’s disciples had chipped “saintsicles” from his lucent block, the girl brought with her to Pisgat’s one evening a sealed tin cylinder acquired from a rag and bone man. While her father slept, she shaved slivers from the stacked ice cakes and packed them into the container, which she tucked away among the demijohns of chilling schnapps. The next morning on the way to the market, under cover of the hectic loading and dispatching of wagons, she retrieved the tin drum from the icehouse. She had a scribe scratch GEFROYNS in charcoal on a piece of bunting and flew the banner from a pole over her mother’s stall. Then for a grosz she scooped the crushed ice into paper twists and flavored it with treacle and nutmeg, with powdered ginger, vanilla syrup, and lemon juice. In subsequent days she began to sprinkle the ices with almonds, raisins, and runny fruit jams as her customers desired.
Once she had determined that there was a demand for her product, Jocheved ended her furtive activity at the icehouse. Unbeknownst to her father, she sought an audience with Zalman Pisgat in his office, its walls plum-aged in orange invoices. She offered him a most reasonable percentage of her profits in exchange for the few kilos of ice upon which her business daily relied. As impressed with the maiden’s pulchritude as with her ingenuity, the grizzled old ice mensch suggested a salacious arrangement of his own; but, a little ashamed of himself, when the girl seemed not to know what he was talking about, the old lecher agreed to her generous terms. In this way Jocheved was launched in her career as merchant and manufacturer.
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