By: Esther Pardes
Part 1: The Croc Kids Fear a Dismal Summer
Mmm…yours looks good! Can I have a lick?”
“Sure.” Rebecca held out her strawberry cone for Sharon to sample.
“Eww!” Morris made a face. “That’s germs!”
“We’re sisters!” Rebecca rolled her eyes at her nine year old twin brother.
“Ahem!” Judy got their attention. “Let’s review the situation. Joey, you want to explain?”
Joey, 13, and Judy, 12, were the oldest of the siblings, and therefore leaders of the little group.
Joey quickly crunched down the last of his chocolate chip mint cone. “Okay. Here’s the problem. We are facing a miserable summer. Daddy and Mommy decided to take us away from Brooklyn, away from camp, all our friends, the ice cream stores and pizza shops, away from weekends at Grandpa and Grandma in Deal, and, worst of all, away from every bit of technology we know and love!”
“What’s tek-na-lo-gee?” Sharon, at six years old, the youngest allowed to attend, asked.
“Electronics,” Judy, explained. “As in – no computers!”
Her audience gasped in horror. “No Ipods!” Another gasp. “No Wii!”
Ezra, 10, looked like he might faint. “No Wii?!” he protested. “What are we going to do all day?!”
“And no cell phones!” Judy finished dramatically, and whirled her tongue around her scoop of Mocha Chip.
The six kids became quiet. What kind of dismal summer were they facing?
The younger ones were curious to know what this was all about. Only Judy and Joey knew where they were going. Ezra, Rebecca, Morris and Sharon all began talking at once. “Where are we going?” “What do they want us to do with ourselves?” “Let’s go to sleep-away camp instead…”
Joey laughed. “Guys, settle down! We’ll tell you everything. Look.” He pulled out a bunch of colorful brochures from his pocket, and gave one to each kid. Sharon read aloud slowly. “Pardes Acres.” They all examined the pictures of a huge farm and glistening lake. “Newly renovated rooms. Hundreds of animals to feed and enjoy. Horseback riding. Boating. Night activities including bonfires. Breakfast and dinner served daily. Packaged lunches. Daily minyanim. Bet Midrash. Tennis. Ping-pong. Separate swimming. Crafts. Woodworking. No technological distractions. The perfect place to get away!” Sharon smiled. “Sounds like a ton of fun!”
“No friends? No camp trips? No computer games? Give me a break!” Ezra groaned. “This is going to be the worst summer ever!”
“Listen everyone,” Joey spoke quietly amid the chorus of reactions. “Daddy’s shoe store hasn’t been doing so great. And camp is very expensive. There’s been this property in the family for years. It’s an abandoned farm in upstate New York. Anyway, Grandpa Joe suggested that they try to make the place into a kosher hotel, with animals and activities, like you just read. Daddy said farm animals are sold for a bargain in that area. They are getting some yeshiva boys as staff, but we’re expected to help out with morning and evening chores. The boys will have a learning session each morning with Daddy and our afternoons will be free.
“Worst of all, Mommy’s going to give us all a big speech about how we’re not taking the laptop, any electronics or games. They want us to break from all that this summer, because, as you know,” he grinned wryly, “…it’s about the only thing we like to do…”
A week later, Ezra Pardes was packing. Out of his closet and over his shoulder flew socks, shirts, and, of course, his entire rainbow collection of Crocs, courtesy of his father’s store. In fact, all the kids had been nicknamed “The Croc Kids” by their friends, because they loved to wear them while relaxing after coming home from school. His suitcase bulging, Ezra surveyed his room. His eyes landed on the slim screen and Wii system. Impulsively, Ezra stuffed them into the suitcase. Mommy would never know.
Miles away, a lone figure stood staring at the sign. “Kosher family farm?” he spat. “They’re gonna wish they never came…”
Part 2: The Croc Kids Arrive at the Farm
“Seventy-two days left,” Ezra sulked.
“Ezra Pardes!” their mother scolded. “We didn’t even get there yet!”
“Look!” Rebecca shrieked. “I see the sign!” Ezra, Rebecca, Morris, Sharon, and Baby Charlie (Joey and Judy had come a day earlier with their father) peered at the massive billboard. Sharon read it slowly, “Pardes Acres – Kosher Family Farm.” Spread out as far as the eye could see were acres of rolling farmland, dotted with buildings, cabins and stables.
As their car turned onto the gravel drive, Morris sat up abruptly. “A goat! I see a goat!” he yelled. Goats, sheep, and horses began trotting up to the white fences and peering through curiously. Chickens fluttered in front and behind the bigger animals. Further back, cows grazed calmly, betraying no interest in the newcomers. Suddenly, the kids saw an amazing sight. Sitting on a small tractor and driving it himself up the road towards them was…Joey! Judy was sitting next to him, holding on for dear life.
“Joey’s driving?!” Morris wondered.
From the looks on Joey’s face, it looked like he’d decided it was going to be a great summer after all! “It’s a tractor,” his mother explained, “and by law around here, anyone thirteen and older can drive a tractor on farm grounds.”
Piling out of the car, the kids went to check out their new home. Ezra rushed toward the cabin, pushed open the door and peered inside. “Hey, look at this! A bed under the steps! Mommy, can this be my bed?” His mother, already busy unpacking, nodded. The kids wandered around the spacious cottage, exclaiming over the fireplace, the quaint bedrooms up in the loft, and the screened porch. Ezra plopped down on his new bed and stared up at the steps over his head. Despite himself, he was beginning to feel just a little bit excited. But he quickly quashed those feelings. Sure, the first few days will be fun, discovering everything on the farm. But they had a looong summer ahead of them. Soon, he was going to be bored of the animals, sick of his new bed, and wishing he was back in Brooklyn. He thought about the Wii, hidden in his suitcase. He’d have to be careful that Mommy didn’t find it. But whenever he could, he would hide out and play. That would keep him sane for two months till he got back to Brooklyn, to his beloved computer games.
“Hey!” Judy called. “Who wants to find eggs in the chicken coop?” There was a mad dash for the door. Crocs thudding silently on the perfumed grass, the kids headed out to discover the wonders of the farm.
A pair of eyes stared at the new arrivals. “It’s time to send y’all packin’,” a hoarse voice hissed. “Cropsy don’t take kindly to intruders. I want this farm empty. The same it’s been for the past fifty years, before you bothersome people came. Don’t want none of you snoopin’ around and findin’ Cropsy’s hidden secrets. I’m gonna make sure that don’t ever happen.”
As the little group in their rainbow colored Crocs ran and squealed as they examined the animals, none of them heard the hidden man’s whispered threat…