Recap: There was an air raid and the family rushed into the Anderson Shelter. Benny’s cat ran out of the shelter and Benny went to look for it. When the bombs slowed, Feter Dan went out to look for Benny and found him in the shed.
We stood outside, waiting for the children to come. Sunlight glistened on the colorful lilies in the front garden. Flowers are like love notes from Hashem, I mused. So delicate and beautiful. Hashem gives us so much beauty and people are destroying it with war and hate. Tante Aimee took pride in caring for those lilies, watering them every night.
Only two other children came today. Parents were wary of anyone leaving their homes. Feter Dan said that there were only five men for minyan that morning.
Feter Dan was patrolling tonight. Tante Aimee was in the kitchen searching her cabinets. ”We are out of so many ingredients. It’s my turn to cook dinner for the Home Guard for tomorrow. Bayla, can you run to the store for me. I’ll give you the ration booklet and my list.”
“I’ll go with you,” Mimi grabbed her sweater.
Tante Aimee glanced out the window. “Go quickly, girls. The sky looks like rain is coming.”
We headed down the street. It was twilight. I loved this time of day when the sun set in ribbons across the sky, though tonight I was nervous to go outside. “
“What if there’s more bombing?”
“Feter Dan told us what to do.” Mimi stopped to smell a rose. “We run for shelter.”
The grocery store was empty. “Well, hello,” Mr. Cole greeted us. “It was quiet in here all day. What can I do for you young ladies?”
I handed him the ration booklet and the list. Just as he was packing up the bags, a loud clap of thunder boomed. My first instinct was to run for shelter.
“It’s mother nature,” Mr. Cole reassured us.
The street was in blackout. There were no streetlights and all the house lights were off. “Whoa, it’s so dark,” I complained as I gingerly headed down the street holding two heavy bags.
Mimi called over her two bags: “Stay near the white stripe on the road. That’s how you’ll see where to go.”
Another clap of thunder and then droplets began to fall.
“Let’s run!” I called.
Mimi slipped, and one bag fell and tore. I ran back to help her. We had to load the contents of her bag into our other bags. While we did that, a bolt of lightning slashed the sky. Mimi recited the brachah and I said Amein. Then the rain began pounding.
“We’re going to get soaked,” I moaned.
“Come on. It’s not far.”
Somehow, we dragged ourselves down the street, trying to keep our eye on the white stripe painted on the road to aid pedestrians in a blackout. When we got in the door we were drenched.
Tante Aimee hurried us upstairs. “Oh, I feel terrible. You’ll catch cold. Go change into a terry-robe upstairs, both of you, and take hot showers.” There were two bathrooms upstairs so we both did. The warm water felt good after the freezing downpour. The rest of the evening, we helped Tante Aimee prepare a huge meal for the Home Guard.
Thankfully, it was a quiet evening. Even with the blackout curtains it still felt more normal because there were no sirens or bombs.
The next morning, Mimi started coughing. “You can’t get sick, Mimi,” I said.
“I won’t,” she said and coughed.
I’d forgotten how easily she gets sick. I was angry at myself for letting her come with me to the store last night. A threat of rain should have been enough of a deterrent. Why didn’t I think of it?
That night, Tante Aimee left with bags of food for the Home Guard. “I may have to stay overnight.”
I felt very grown up, being in charge of the little kids.
“I wish you didn’t have to leave,” Shoshie said.
“I’ll be back soon, and you have Bayla and Mimi.”
We tucked the little kids into bed. Benny wanted me to tell him a story about the prince with the magic cat. It was his favorite bedtime story.
Fraidy went right to sleep. She was lucky she didn’t have any worries about sirens or bombs.
Mimi was coughing a lot and her face was flushed.
“Are you okay?” I asked.
“Just a little tired. I think I’ll go to sleep now.”
Shoshie and I looked at each other. “It’s so early. Let’s play some games.” Shoshie was reaching for her Scrabble board.
Mimi shook her head.
That’s when I knew she was sick. She never liked to disappoint anyone. She must not be feeling well. I sighed.
I felt her forehead and it was burning hot.
“Mimi, you need aspirin.” I felt panic setting in. “Shoshie, does your mother have any here?” Shoshie hobbled with her crutches to the medicine chest in the bathroom and came back empty-handed.
Just then, we heard the air raid siren go off. My heart was pounding. “Shoshie, you and I have to get everyone into the shelter.”
Shoshie’s eyes widened. She hobbled to Benny’s room and shook him. I scooped Fraidy in my arms. The problem I didn’t anticipate was Mimi. “Mimi, we have to go into the shelter,” I called to her.
She was coughing violently. “No, I can’t,” she gasped. “You go without me.”
“Absolutely no. Mimi, please come drag yourself out for me.” I was holding a sleeping Fraidy and I couldn’t do anything to help Mimi. Shoshie was hobbling along, holding Benny’s hand. He was crying softly, clutching Kot in his free arm, and Shoshie was trying to reassure him as we all heard the siren become more insistent. “Hurry,” I screamed over the siren.
Mimi wasn’t moving. I herded everyone else into the shelter and then I opened the door to the shelter to leave. Shoshie was frantic. “Don’t go Bayla. I’m scared.”
“I have to get Mimi. You’ll be fine. Keep Benny busy. Tell him a story.”
I raced back into the house just in time, because suddenly there was the shriek of a whistle. I closed my eyes and waited for the explosion.
To be continued…
Susie Garber is the author of Denver Dreams, a novel (Jerusalem Publications, 2009), Memorable Characters…Magnificent Stories (Scholastic, 2002), Befriend (Menucha Publishers, 2013), The Road Less Traveled (Feldheim, 2015), fiction serials and features in various magazines including A Bridge in Time, historical fiction serial (Binyan Magazine, 2017). She writes the community column for The Queens Jewish Link and she writes freelance for Hamodia. She works as a writing consultant in many yeshivahs and she teaches creative writing to students of all ages.