The air-raid siren catches us on the highway, driving to Grandpa Yonatan’s place, a few kilometres north of Tel Aviv. My wife, Shira, pulls over to the side of the road and we get out of the car, leaving the badminton rackets and feathered ball on the back seat. Lev holds my hand and says, “Daddy, I’m a little nervous.” He’s seven, and seven is the age when it’s not considered cool to talk about fear, so the word “nervous” is used instead. Following Home Front Command instructions, Shira lies down on the side of the road. I tell Lev that he has to lie down, too. But he keeps standing there, his small, sweaty hand clutching mine.
“Lie down already,” Shira says, raising her voice to be heard over the blaring siren.
“How’d you like to play a game of Pastrami Sandwich?” I ask Lev.
“What’s that?” he asks, not letting go of my hand.
“Mommy and I are slices of bread,” I explain, “and you’re a slice of pastrami, and we have to make a pastrami sandwich as fast as we can. Let’s go. First, you lie down on Mommy,” I say, and Lev lies down on Shira’s back and hugs her as hard as he can. I lie on top of them, pressing against the damp earth with my hands so as not to crush them.
“This feels good,” Lev says and smiles.
“Being the pastrami is the best,” Shira says under him.
“Pastrami!” I yell.
“Pastrami!” my wife yells.
“Pastrami!” Lev yells, his voice shaky, either from excitement or fear.
“Daddy,” Lev says, “look, there are ants crawling on Mommy.”
“Pastrami with ants!” I yell.
“Pastrami with ants!” my wife yells.
“Yech!” Lev yells.
And then we hear the boom. Loud, but far away. We stay lying one on top of the other, without moving, for a long time. My arms are starting to hurt from carrying my weight. From the corner of my eye, I can see other drivers who’ve been lying on the highway get up and brush the dirt off their clothes. I stand up, too.
“Lie down,” Lev tells me, “lie down, Daddy. You’re ruining the sandwich.”
I lie down for another minute, and say, “O.K., game’s over. We won.”
“But it’s nice,” Lev says. “Let’s stay like this a little more.”
We stay like that a few seconds longer. Mommy on the bottom, Daddy on the top, and in the middle, Lev and a few red ants. When we finally get up, Lev asks where the rocket is. I point in the direction the explosion came from. “It sounded like it exploded not far from our house,” I say.