Life’s Ephemeral Nature

All posts in the Life’s Ephemeral Nature category

10 April 2020

Published April 8, 2020 by rochellewisoff

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The next photo is the PROMPT. Remember, all photos are property of the photographer, donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only. They shouldn’t be used for any other purpose without express permission. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor credit.

PHOTO PROMPT © Jeff Arnold

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Thanks to my husband Jan who found an article about the following event. As soon as he shared the article I knew what my story would be. Just in time for Passover. Matzo and sweet wine for everyone. 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100

WHY IS THIS NIGHT DIFFERENT FROM ALL OTHER NIGHTS?

PFC Nachman Levy recited the four questions for the hastily-organized Passover seder. At nineteen, he was the youngest in the “Rainbow Division” so the task fell to him.

“We’ve taken Dahn from the Third Reich.” Wearing his tallis over his fatigues and a twinkle in his eye, infantry rabbi Captain Bohnen led the ceremony reading from the hagaddah. “This is the first Jewish publication in Germany in seven years.” He brandished a crumpled ink-stained Nazi flag. “We put this to good use—cleaning the printing press.”

1,500 Jewish-American soldiers cheered.

Nachman’s pulse raced. He raised his cup and shouted. “L’chaim!”

The Haggadah begins with a message from Major General Collins: “My Jewish Soldiers– The celebration of Passover should have unusual significance for you at this time, for like your ancestors of old you too are now engaged in a battle against a modern Pharaoh. This Pharaoh has sought, not only to enslave your people, but to make slaves of the whole world.” 

General Collins also told attendees, “I am sure this Passover will live in your memories forever. You celebrate it in Germany, the land in which Hitler said no Passover would be celebrated for at least a thousand years.”

Rainbow Division Insignia

SPIRIT OF LOVE

Published April 5, 2020 by rochellewisoff

Today Pegman heads west to the quaintly-named Happy Jack, Arizona. Your mission as always is to use the photosphere/street view part of Google Maps to wander around and find something that inspires you to write up to 150 words, then post your work to the InLinkz below. Reading and commenting on other stories is part of the experience, so you won’t want to miss out! Do you best, and have fun!

inlinkz frog

I didn’t really have a clue until this morning what to write. On the other hand, I needed a diversion and it’s not like I have anywhere special to go. Many thanks to Josh and Karen (Good to see you back!) for hosting the challenge. 

Such a peaceful setting. I would love to be there right now.

 

Genre: Historical Fiction

(I imagine this to take place before the Conquistadors. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. 😉 )

Word Count: 150

SPIRIT OF LOVE

During her eighteenth summer Sicheii told Johona he had given her to Kai, a man from another Diné clan. In her anger, she stomped her feet and wailed, beating the air with her fists. “I don’t want a man.”

“My decision is made. Kai is a dependable man,” her grandfather told her. “He will give you a home and many children.”

The Spirit had not blessed Kai with good looks. His nose was too big and his eyebrows too thick. Johona wept bitterly on their marriage night and refused to share her bed with him.

Kai did not force her.  “My hogan is yours. I’ll wait. “He flashed a crooked-toothed smile.

Two summers later, Johona gave thanks to Mother Earth at the ceremony celebrating her son’s first laugh. She rested her head on Kai’s broad chest.

“This child brings joy!” Sicheii proclaimed

“And,” Johona beamed, “he’s handsome like his father.”

 

*Sicheii is Navajo for Grandfather

Parents, remember your baby’s first laugh? What a sweet sound. Imagine a ceremony to celebrate it? How beautiful is that? When I read about it, I had to write about it. 😀

CLICK HERE TO KNOW MORE

 

Weekend Writing Prompt – Keepsake

Published April 4, 2020 by rochellewisoff

A word prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  How you use the prompt is up to you.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.  If you want to share what you come up with, please leave a link to it in Sammi’s Comment Section.

*

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Today I’ll downsize.

With a large trash bag at my disposal I dive into the sea of clutter—useless junk—only to rediscover heirlooms—handwritten notes, children’s drawings, a sixty-year-old dreidel—keepsake after keepsake.  A sea of treasures and memories. I cannot part with them.

I’ll downsize tomorrow.

Maybe.

In case you wonder what a 60 year old dreidel looks like – It’s a piece of plastic that might have set the synagogue back less than a cent a piece to give each child at the Hanukkah party. To me a priceless keepsake.

Weekend Writing Prompt -Continuity

Published March 28, 2020 by rochellewisoff

A word prompt to get your creativity flowing this weekend.  How you use the prompt is up to you.  Write a piece of flash fiction, a poem, a chapter for your novel…anything you like.  Or take the challenge below – there are no prizes – it’s not a competition but rather a fun writing exercise.  If you want to share what you come up with, please leave a link to it in Sammi’s Comment Section.

JUGGLING ACT

I work on my current WIP only to be sidetracked by a blog challenge or to add a detail to my painting. Mustn’t forget my beta reading. No continuity for this multitasker. Life is grand!

  • WIP – Work In Progress

KEYSTROKES

Published March 25, 2020 by rochellewisoff

Another idea struck me this morning and decided why not double dip? This is what happens when a person wakes before 04:00 with her mind on spin cycle. A hearty thank you to my mother who sat me down with my brother’s Gregg textbook and insisted I learn to type. I argued, “What does an artist need with typing?” 

PHOTO PROMPT © Jeff Arnold

Genre: Questionable

Word Count: 100

KEYSTROKES

Q is for quill which is what Charles Dickens used to write his stories.

W is for the white-out I would need were I using a manual machine.   

E is for happy endings.

R is for ruminations, renderings and rebuttals. It’s also the first letter in my name.

T is for typewriter. Imagine writing a novel in longhand. Hats off to Christopher Latham Sholes.

Y is for yesteryear when life was simpler. Was it really?”

Rochelle studied her brightly-lit desktop screen. “Not so sure about this one.” She tapped the delete key. “Or maybe…” She hit CTRL Z. “Viva technology.”

Could I avoid history? I think not. CLICK HERE.

The reason Jeff took the picture. 😉

 

27 March 2020

Published March 25, 2020 by rochellewisoff

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The next photo is the PROMPT. Remember, all photos are property of the photographer, donated for use in Friday Fictioneers only. They shouldn’t be used for any other purpose without express permission. It is proper etiquette to give the contributor credit.

PHOTO PROMPT © Jeff Arnold

CLICK THE FROG TO JOIN!

Another installment to celebrate Women’s History Month. 😀 This week, a woman from my own tribe. Some of us remember her from the TV show in the 60’s called “I’ve Got a Secret.” 

Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100

FOR SUCH A TIME

“I would’ve been taller.” Bella gaffed off her daughter’s complaints. “But we couldn’t afford it. Back to your homework.”

            At 5’10”, twelve-year-old Bess stood head and shoulders above her classmates, garnering her the role of Olive Oyl in the school play. An honor she didn’t want.

            As she matured, her awkwardness became statuesque grace.

            Bess’s sister entered her in the Miss New York beauty pageant. Although embarrassed, she competed, refusing to use a pseudonym that didn’t sound “so Jewish.”

            On August 15, 1945, in the shadow of the liberation of Auschwitz, Bess Myerson proudly wore the crown of Miss America.

*******

REQUIEM IN C-SHARP MINOR

Published March 19, 2020 by rochellewisoff

This month I’m taking part in Writer’s Unite! WRITE THE STORY. Click the link to see how to add your story for March’s prompt. 

At almost 2,000 words this is not a flash fiction, but a subject near and dear to my heart. As the survivors are aging and dying off, we who remain must keep the message alive! 

REQUIEM IN C-SHARP MINOR

            “Tonight, we play ‘Hungarian Dance Number 5’.” Shifra Mendleson poised her bow over her violin and winked at her great grandson. “You’re ready to join me?”

            Twelve-year-old Aaron wrinkled his nose and tucked his violin under his chin. “I don’t know it very well.”

            “Then you must practice.”

            “I don’t want to be a concert violinist like you, Savta. I’d rather play soccer.”

            Shifra shrugged. “Eh. Soccer. Shmoccer. Your violin could save your life, you know.”

            He stared at his grandmother. Had she lost her mind? She was, after all, past ninety. Her faded brown eyes twinkled.

She set her instrument on her lap and stroked its pockmarked neck. “My dear old friend. You are mature enough, Aaron I think, for me to tell you my story.”

“I already know about the camps and the Nazis, Savta. It’s Israel. We learned about the Holocaust in school.”

“Your great-grandparents lived it. So, I’m gonna tell you what the history book don’t tell you. What your parents and teachers don’t tell you.”

Glad for a reprieve from painful practice, Aaron laid his violin in his lap.

Savta’s gaze went past him, to some far-off place as it often did.

 “I ran all the way home from school. I couldn’t wait to tell Mama Karl Schmidt, the banker’s son, had invited me to his twelfth birthday party. Karl came from one of the wealthiest families in Heidelberg. They lived in a fine mansion not too far from our modest bungalow.

            “Mama met me at the door with a hug and a kiss. ‘Go change into your play clothes, Shifra.’

            “I stamped my foot. ‘Are you listening, Mama?’

“‘Yes. Yes. You’re invited to the Schmidt house. Hang up your dress. I don’t want to find it on the floor like yesterday.’

“‘All right, Mama.’ I chattered excitedly. ‘There will be pastries and chocolates.’ I hugged my books. ‘Karl says I’m the prettiest girl in class, even if I am a Jew.’

“Mama frowned. ‘How bighearted of him.’

“‘Are you angry with me, Mama?’

“She caressed my cheek. ‘No, of course not.’ 

“I breathed in the scents of fresh-baked bread and chicken soup emanating from her clothes. My mouth watered in anticipation of our evening meal. Mama made the best soup in Heidelberg. Probably in the whole world. ‘What time will Papa be home?’ I asked.

“‘Not until 6:30. He has a tutoring job.’

“Oy. My disappointed stomach growled and I whined. ‘That’s two whole hours.’

“‘Good, you can tell time. Nu? Ample time for you to practice.’

“I groaned.”

“See?” Aaron chuckled. “You didn’t like to practice either.”

 Tilting her head, Savta sighed. “It’s part of being a child, I suppose. Anyway, I drug my heels to my room. I hated it when Papa was late. He taught music at University. He’d taken on extra students to help pay my brother’s medical bills.”

“Was he sick?”  

“Born healthy and strong, my big brother Aaron was at the top of his medical class. One day, on his way home from school, a gang of vigilantes attacked him screaming, ‘Jüden! Dirty Jüden’ He spent weeks in hospital but never recovered.”

Shifra’s grandson shifted positions in his chair. “I’m named after Uncle Aaron, right Savta?”  

“A good Yiddisher kopf on your shoulders.” She poked his forehead with a gentle finger. “It used to make me angry when he teased me and call me das brag. The brat. Now I would give anything to hear him say it again.”

“Did you practice then?’”

“Of course. Make no mistake. I was a good girl. Of course, I kvetched and complained. ‘What if I’m not good enough to be a concert violinist?’ I asked.

“Mama gave me a potch en tukhus. ‘You have a gift,’ she said. ‘Mark my words. Some day people will come from miles around to hear you play.’

“Rolling my eyes, I went to my room. After I changed out of my school uniform, I took my violin from its case. This very violin you see before you today. It was in better condition then.

“‘Hello, Aaron. It’s me.’ I said and plucked the strings. ‘Das Brag. What would you like to hear?’”

            “What did he say?”

“Say?” Savta shut her eyes. “He just sat in his wheelchair and stared out the window like I wasn’t even there. His gnarled hands lay in his lap like herrings on a plate. I kissed his cheek and whispered. ‘That’s my favorite one, too.’”

“But he didn’t say anything.”

“Who’s telling this story, you or me?”

“Was it really Uncle Aaron’s favorite music?”

“Like I should lie? I always hoped if I played it well enough, it would bring him out of his fog. Alas it never did.

“Now, where was I? Oh yes. I am playing Hungarian Dance Number Five. For all my protesting, I loved to play it. Once I started, the music would transport me distant lands. So caught up on the wings of the notes I never heard my Papa—your great-great-grandfather—come in.

“He applauded and cried, ‘Brava!’  

“I jumped this high into the air.” Savta held her hand over her head. “Then I leaped into my father’s arms. ‘You’re home early.’

“He laughed and the sound of it was like a—a cleansing rain in the springtime. ‘My darling virtuoso,’ he said. ‘It’s almost 7:30.’

“Burying my face in his shoulder I clung to his neck. ‘What did you bring me?’ Such a spoiled brat I was.

“‘I brought you me.’ He set me on my feet. ‘Let’s see what Mama’s made to delight us for supper.’

“That night as he spread schmaltz on his bread, Papa looked from Mama, to me, to Aaron’s empty eyes. ‘The university fired me today.’”

“Mama clapped her hand over her heart. ‘Why?’

“‘Why do you think? I fear it won’t be long before—’ He raised his face to the ceiling.

“Never had I seen such fear in my father’s eyes. ‘Before what, Papa?’

“The telephone rang before he could answer me. I leaped up and rushed to answer it. 

“‘Hallo. Shifra?’ My heart thumped. It was Karl. He said, ‘I’m so sorry. Mother says you cannot come to my party.’

“Soon after that, I said goodbye to my classmates I’d known since we were babies. The authorities said I was no longer welcome in their school. Things got worse and worse for us Jews.

“Three years later, the unthinkable happened.

“Someone banged on our door. ‘Jüden! Open! Schnell!’

“Papa’s hands shook as he turned the knob. How frail he’d grown. He opened the door. There stood Karl, decked out in a Wehrmacht uniform.

“Putting his finger to his lips, he looked over his left and then his right shoulder. ‘Gather what belongings you can and come with me. Please there’s no time to explain. I beg you to trust me.’

“Trust him? The boy who shunned me and broke my heart? He stands before me in the devil’s raiment and has the audacity to ask us to trust him?

“Papa squeezed my arm. ‘What choice do we have? Come, Shifra. Time to meet our fate.’

“Clutching my violin in its case, I steeled myself as my parents and I marched ahead of my ex-boyfriend turned Nazi. He held us at gunpoint and barked orders. My pulse thudded against my temples in dread as we made our way through the crowded street.

Those who refused to comply were gunned down on the spot. I saw it with my own eyes. A soldier shot a baby in his mother’s arms, then shot her for crying. They plucked out the beards of old men. A man in a wheelchair plummeted to his death from a two-story window.  A part of me rejoiced that Aaron had passed away peacefully in his sleep the night before.

 “To our shock, Karl guided our path away from the trains to his father’s mansion. Herr Schmidt met us at the door. ‘Wilkommen’ He embraced Papa. ‘Oscar, forgive me. I never dreamt it would come to this.’

“He led us to a hidden apartment at the back of his house. ‘It’s cramped, but safe.’

“For a time, life was good in our three-room hideaway. Mama insisted I practice my violin for an hour every day. Papa would join me with his clarinet. Karl came to visit when he could.

“‘You shouldn’t be so chummy with that boy,’ Mama would say. ‘He’s a Nazi and you are…’ She pointed to the yellow star on my sweater.

“Two years passed. We celebrated New Year’s Eve 1942 with the Schmidts in our quarters. Papa and I played ‘Auld Lange Syne’ and ‘Havah Nagila.’ We laughed and danced. Herr Schmidt assured us, there was so much celebration in the town no one would hear us.

“After everyone had gone to bed, Karl woke me. Sitting on my bed, he bent to kiss me. He slipped a ring on my finger. ‘My dearest. I’ve gotten orders to go to the Russian front. Promise you will wait for me.’ How could I refuse?”

Aaron pointed to the oval-shaped diamond on her hand. “Is that the ring, Savta?”

“Yes.” She flourished her hand so the gem sparkled in the lamplight. “He had a good eye for jewelry, didn’t he?”

“Did you get married?”

Savta wagged her head. “A month later, Frau Schmidt barged into our living room, a telegram clutched in her fist. She waved it under my nose. ‘My son is dead! You’ll pay for this you Jüden whore.’”

“How was it your fault, Savta?”

“Grief makes people say horrible things. Do horrible things. Anyway, I had little time to mourn my beloved Karl. The next few days are a blur in my addled memory, yet so clear it’s like it happened yesterday. Herr Schmidt committed suicide. Blew his brains out in his office right before the SS stormed our safe haven.

“Papa, whose health had declined, couldn’t fight them off although he tried and was rewarded for his efforts with, not one, but three bullets. So much blood. The soldiers herded Mama and me to the trains.  

“Amid stench and tears, Mama and I were greeted at Auschwitz by more uniforms. Our clothes ripped from us, our heads shaved and our arms tattooed. You can imagine my surprise when I was allowed to keep my violin.”

“Why?”

“Because, of all things, those sadistic animals loved music.” Savta tucked her violin under her chin and played a lullaby. “Can you imagine? They gathered all the musicians in the camp and forced us to formed an orchestra.”

Aaron recognized the song for his grandmother had played it for him many times. A sweet smile spread her lips and tears oozed from under her closed eyelids. Her white hair glowed under the lamp.

“I met your great-grandfather in that vermin-infested place. He played the cello, you know.”

“I don’t remember Saba Yosef.”

“Of course not. He died before you were born. Your brother Yosi is named for him. We survived hell together. We married a few months after the liberation—with Karl’s ring.”

“Didn’t it bother Saba that another man gave it to you? How come the guards didn’t confiscate it?”

“Oy, so many questions. We had no money for jewelry. Saba said the ring was a survivor like us. A gift from God by way of Karl.” Savta stopped playing and pointed to the violin’s f-holes. “No one ever thought to search inside.” She lifted the battered instrument and played a few more notes.

“So, you see, Aaron, my humble fiddle saved my life and Mama’s prophecy came true. People came from miles around to hear my music. It was the last thing they heard on their way to the gas chambers.”

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