6/8/18

Escape (Working Title)

This is the first part of a story that was written for Ego's (Amanda McCormick) blog challenge. The prompt was Write a story including the following three elements: A stolen ring, fear of spiders, and a sinister stranger.  My story has some of those things, and is not finished. More will follow..

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"But Maman, I don't want to go."  The small voice at my side was high and frightened, wanting something that I couldn't give it, telling me that there was something wrong in their world, and there was little that I could do to end that fearful voice. 
I gently pushed at his back, the cloth of his rough woolen jacket pressing against my fingers, and smiled at him as best as I could, trying to tell him that I was brave, that there was nothing to worry about.  My son looked up at me with a smile, with eyes that shined with trust and I smiled back at him, trying not to cry. "We will be fine, Gustav.  There is nothing to worry about.  We have nothing to worry about."
We walked through the ghetto, and I tried to avoid the eyes of everybody around me. I did not want to look into anybody's face, and I did not want to think about what we were about to do. All I did was clutch Gustav's tiny little hand in mine and keep going. I did not want to look like I was racing anywhere, I did not want to look like I was dawdling either, so I tried to keep my pace normal as I wandered down the streets.  The stones of the old roadways rose and fell and she was afraid of catching her boot on the edge, but they made it to the arches of the ghetto and paused. 
"What are we doing here, Maman?" Gustav asked. 
"We are going to see an old friend of mine," I said, as I watched the hordes of other jews walk in and out of the gateway in front of me. Greta had told me how to do this, but I still was scared, I still didn't know if I could do it.  I smiled down at Gustav, hoping that my smile was reassuring, or at least refreshing, since he hadn't seen it much in the last while, but he only looked up at me with the same looks on his face, a crease of concern on his brow and his little hand squeezing mine has tight has he could. He hadn't been this close to the gates of the ghetto in a while, and I tried to be reassuring, but it was as if he could sense the fear in my body. I smiled at him, and then turned towards the corner and slid the yellow armband off of my arm, quickly, so as not to be noticed.  Gustav's eyes widened a bit at this; he was too young to wear an armand successfully, so he did not have one on his arm, but he knew that there was a punishment for not wearing the star. Even at the young age of three, he had seen death in the streets of the ghetto.
I slipped the star into my pocket and watched the flow of the crowd, and joined the stream just behind a nice older couple, who smiled brightly and held hands as they walked out the gate.  I kept expecting the guards to jump out at me, to question me, to ask to see my star, to ask to see my papers, but the young men, who both wore shiny golden pins with the swastika in black on it. They smiled down at me, and Gustav, and I smiled back, but averted my eyes quickly.  I did not want them too see the blush on my cheek or the fear in my eyes.
I had memorized the directions to the dealer's house.  Someone on the inside had told me about him.  I was not sure that I could trust this man, a broker in lost items and a finder of hidden things. I had hoped that he could perhaps find what I was looking for, and had sent word to him before I chose to take this journey.  His answer was rolled tightly in a ball in the hem of my pocket. Just a single word printed in old script. "Come".  it was the best that I could do for myself and Gustav, and so here I was, skirting the walls of the Ghetto, furtively looking through the streets, avoiding each face as much as I could while still making sure that I kept my head held high, as if I belonged.  The trick was to look like you belonged.
The ghetto here at Warsaw was not what we expected when we were told that we would have to move out of the country and into the city. We had expected clean housing, a community of Jewish people who would help take care of us in the absence of my husband, a people that we could call family, even if we weren't related by blood.  What we found was ... none of that.  What we found was a community living in fear, where we were hunted or holed up like so many vermin, packed in so close that we did not have privacy, in a place where - in order to get ahead - sometimes a neighbor, a roommate, even a relative that you happened to find living in the same terrible conditions would rat on you. And there were rumors that our own Judenrat within our ghetto was working with the Germans, getting ready to deport us all. Some had said that there were families who had managed to find a way out, a place to live outside the ghetto, a way to get away, that their relatives on the council had told them that it would be best if they left.
I had heard that rumor too, through the lips of Marta Klein, who had suddenly disappeared one night with her daughter from the ghetto. She had let slip that she wasn't going to be around anymore for the Germans to kick around, and I was uncertain what she meant, until she was no longer there. It was Marta's disappearance that had led me to finally get up the courage to seek out help from outside the ghetto.
I held Gustav's hand tightly, and in the other hand, I squeezed the stolen ring that was going to be our ticket out.
(to be continued...)

2 comments:

Myloe Yeager said...

Very powerful! I look forward to the next piece.

AJ said...

Very interesting use of the prompt elements. I had not expected such a heartbreaking story.

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