Tikvah

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There I was just standing there, when what I wanted to do was forbidden.

I wished I had more strength, wished I was more brave, wished I had the strength of my grandmother. Even now I could feel her downy cheek on mine as she had grasped the back of my neck with her surprisingly strong fingers, pressing her lips to my ear.

“Don’t let them break you, Esther. Do what is right.” She had kissed my forehead, the remnants of the perfume she always wore enveloping me in its warm familiarity.

They had dragged her away, a useless old woman, of no benefit, just a drain on finite resources. Dispensable.

I had hated them for that more than anything else. It burned in my chest. And yet…

I stared through the hole in the wall at the shop across the street, a street alien to me now even though it was only a moment away from where we lived. It was brightly lit, swarming with gaily dressed people like so many butterflies dancing above a wildflower meadow. The smell of freshly baked bread teased my nostrils and my stomach yawed and ached with hunger.

“If you don’t take chances,” said the man in the striped pajamas,”you might as well not be alive.”

I had seen him many times before, crouching in the gutter, holding his hand out for anything that a passer by might press into his cracked palm. I doubted he had the strength to stand. Every time we met, I tried to give him something that could be spared without Mutti noticing.

He was leaning against the wall, legs shaking with the effort. “Don’t be like me. Don’t let them break you.”

The words echoed bell-like.

“You have a child?” he asked, his voice barely a croak.

“Yes.”

He beckoned me towards him, pulling me close with surprising strength, whispering in my ear.

“Let me distract them when the gate opens. Get food for your child, for you. Survive.”

The gates were creaking open, the lorry was entering, my heart was thumping. I had to decide, had to decide now. He pushed me away, towards the gate.

“Do it!” he hissed, the potential for his last good deed setting his eyes aflame. “You have half an hour and then they will be back. Do what you must. Do what is right!.”

I remembered my grandmother, the way she lit the candles on Erev Shabbat, the flames illuminating her eyes.

I nodded and ran. I didn’t look back, not even when the bullets ricocheted off the walls, not even when jackboots rang on the cobbles, not even when I heard him scream.

He had just been standing there, and still fought back.

There was still tikvah.

The Boy – Five Sentence Fiction

It’s time for my latest offering to Lillie McFerrin’s Five Sentence Fiction, a weekly prompt where there is no word limit, just a limit on the number of sentences. Plus, although she provides a word prompt, it is just for direction only – you don’t have to include the word itself in your contribution.

This week, the prompt is  – MAGNETIC.

Do let me know what you think of my offering below – and whilst you’re at it, why not take a look at everyone else’s offerings (I’m sure they’ll be fabulous), and even give it a go yourself…

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– The Boy –

The boy stared, the tingling that had started in his fingertips crawling up his arms like an army of ants; they had all told him not to open the door.

It wasn’t anything special, just plain wood that could do with a lick of paint – in its prime it must have been scarlet, now it was dulled with age and several flakes lay on the floor, crispy like autumn leaves; they crunched under his shoes.

He sidled closer, reaching out to touch the handle, pulling his fingers back sharply as they made contact with the cold metal.

The boy muttered to himself “Do it!”

Closer, yet closer, hand hovering over the handle; still he couldn’t steel himself to grasp, and push…

Lillie McFerrin Writes