BAXTER’S BIG FALL: An (unpublished) Baxter Tail, from the archives…

 

Baxter’s Big Fall

By Laurel Snyder

 

 

Leaves were turning yellow.

 

Smoke was in the air.

 

Baxter had new socks on, and…   IT WAS   FALL !

 

Down at the grocery, there were things to see.

 

“What’s this?” Baxter asked a small woman with a large dog.  He held up a round red thing.

 

“Why, that’s a pomegranate!” said the woman.

 

Baxter had never seen a pomegranate before. “What’s it do?” he asked.

 

“You eat it, silly!” said the woman.  “On Rosh Hashanah. Everyone knows that!”

 

“Oh,” said Baxter.

 

He didn’t know.

 

Baxter made his way to the counter, where a man was stacking jars of honey and whistling.

 

“Excuse me,” said Baxter.   “I wonder—can you tell me what a Rosh Hashanah is?”

 

The man smiled.  “Of course. Rosh Hashanah is the new year. The start of the fall holidays.”

 

“You mean like Halloween?” said Baxter.  “Thanksgiving?

 

“Not exactly,” said the man. “But I don’t have time to explain today. It’s my busy season!”

 

“Oh, okay.”

 

Baxter left the deli, munching his pomegranate. It did not taste very good.

 

The next day Baxter went to visit his friend Rabbi Rosen, at the synagogue.    She smiled when he trotted into her office.   “Can I help you?”

 

“I was hoping, “ said Baxter, “you might tell me about Rosh Hashanah.”

 

“Oh, it’s wonderful!” said Rabbi Rosen, setting down her pen.  “It’s when the book of life is written, and everyone starts fresh!”

 

“Book of life?”

 

“If you want to know more, you should come on Tuesday!”

 

Baxter nodded.  He certainly didn’t want to miss the book of life!  It sounded important.

 

That Tuesday, Baxter returned. Sure enough, Rosh Hashanah was terrific, full of cheerful prayers and bright songs.

 

A man blew a big special horn.

 

And Baxter discovered honey cake!

 

“What comes next?” he asked a little boy who was being dragged to a car.

 

“Yom Kippur!” called out the boy. “In ten days!”

 

Ten days? That seemed a long time to wait for more honey cake.

 

Ten days later, wearing a new tie, Baxter arrived at the synagogue.

 

He looked for honey cake, but didn’t see any.

 

And why was everyone being so quiet?

 

Baxter excused himself to the lobby, where he found a man in suspenders.

 

“I wonder, sir, if you know what’s happened to all the honey cake?”

 

The man knelt down.  “This holiday is different,” he whispered. “On Yom Kippur we say we’re sorry for all the things we’ve done wrong. We think of ways to make the new year better.  It’s not fun, exactly, but it’s very important.”

 

“And the cake?” asked Baxter hopefully.

 

“No cake,” said the man. “In fact, we don’t eat a single bite until sundown.”

 

No eating?” said Baxter. He wasn’t sure he liked the sound of that.

 

Still, he stayed, and spent the day listening and thinking, hard…

 

When Baxter left the synagogue, he didn’t feel exactly happy. But he felt—better.

 

And also hungry!

 

He went home and ate fourteen bagels.

 

A few days later, Baxter returned to the synagogue.

 

He had so many questions!

 

But the rabbi was busy with power tools.

 

In fact, the entire neighborhood was out in the yard, banging and pounding.

 

“What’s that?” asked Baxter.

 

“A sukkah!” said a girl with brown braids, “for the festival of Sukkot!”

 

“Another holiday?” said Baxter.  “What’s this one about?

 

“You’re looking at it!” said the girl.  “It’s the feast of huts.”

 

“Huts?”

 

“Sure, we build a hut, fill it with fruits and things, and celebrate the harvest.”

 

“Ooh!” said Baxter.  “I like fruit!  Can I help?”

 

“Of course! “ said the girl. “But we’re almost done.”

 

Then what will you do with it?”  asked Baxter.

 

“Oh…” said the girl. “We’ll eat, and play, and dance, and pray.  We’ll do everything in the sukkah.”

 

“Everything?”

 

“Everything!”

 

Baxter wasn’t sure he had the energy for everything.  But he still got to work, banging and pounding.

 

When the sukkah was finished, it was beautiful!  Baxter felt very proud.

 

That week Baxter brought his lunch to the sukkah each day.

 

He read, and talked with the rabbi.

 

When the kids had a party, Baxter danced and grooved.

 

It was all very wonderful.

 

But…

 

Baxter found he was getting drowsy.

 

And droopy.

 

In fact, he was plumb tuckered out!

 

“Come, Baxter” said the rabbi, “Join us in the synagogue. Today is Shemini Atzeret!”

 

“Shemini what?”

 

“It’s a holiday!”

 

Another holiday?”

 

Baxter could feel his feet trembling. His eyes glazed over.

 

The rabbi chuckled. “You know, Baxter, though it’s a mitzvah to do everything in the sukkah, you are allowed to take a break.

 

“I am?” said Baxter.

 

The rabbi nodded. “Certainly,” she said. Nobody can do all there is to do. The world is too full of wonderfulness.

 

Baxter thought about that.

 

“In that case,” said Baxter, “do you know what I would really like to do in the sukkah?”

 

“I can’t imagine,” said Rabbi Rosen.

 

“I would like—” said Baxter, “to take a nap!”

 

 

Rabbi Rosen laughed.  “Luckily,” she said, “that is a mitzvah too.”

 

With a sigh of relief, Baxter fell over in a little heap.  Right there, with the green leaves above him, and the smell of apples in the air, he curled up and began to snore.

 

There he slept.

 

He slept and slept, through a day and a night and another day.   He was that tired.

 

Baxter was sleeping when they took the sukkah down around him.

 

He was sleeping when everyone went home, and when they came back!

 

And as the thumping feet and the clapping hands of Simchat Torah began, Baxter didn’t stir.

 

But that was okay.

 

There would always be next year…

 

And in the meantime, the songs and sounds from the synagogue were sure to give him lovely dreams…

 

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