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.”

20 March 2020

Published March 18, 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 © J Hardy Carroll

 Green, not blue, click on the frog anyway. (You were expecting maybe poetry?)

A little snippet about Claudette Colvin not COVID 😉 Another woman history glossed over.  

Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 100

WRITE ME DOWN IN HISTORY

“’Thy kingdom come…’” The fifteen-year-old girl huddled on the musty cot, gazing through jail cell bars.  Her arms ached from brutal policemen’s hands, gauging and yanking. “’…Thy will be done…’”

            “Stand strong,” whispered Sojourner Truth.

            “You shall overcome,” sang Harriet Tubman.

            Now in her 90’s, Claudette Colvin recalls that fateful Wednesday, March 2, 1955, when she refused to give up her bus seat to a white woman.

            “If she’d been an elderly white woman, I might have given her my seat.”

            Few know or remember it was a child who inspired Rosa Parks and led her people out of bondage.

*

*

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Let Your Light Shine

Published March 16, 2020 by rochellewisoff

Today Pegman finds himself in the once-great forests of Minnesota in the American Midwest.  Your mission is to wander around using the google photosphere until something inspires you to write 150 words. When you’re satisfied, post your link to this week’s InLinkz site to share with your fellow participants. Remember, reading and commenting on other stories is part of the fun.

Have a good time, and do your best!

inlinkz frog

Thanks to Josh for keeping the lamps lit and the wicks trimmed. 

My research trail set my feet firmly in Split Rock Lighthouse. Keep your hands clean and sanitized. Be well and enjoy the read. 😉

Genre: Historical Fiction

Word Count: 150

LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE

“G.T. did I ever tell you about the time a sea monster came up out of Lake Superior.”

The boy’s eyes grew round as wagon wheels. “Really?”

“Holy oh jumpin’ up and down mackinaw city bobcat rooster! Big as a cockingaway.”

Tom Hassing raised his hands over his head for emphasis. “Would I lie?”

“There’s no such thing as cockingways, Grandpa.” G.T.’s sister Terry giggled. “He’s just making it up, isn’t he, Grandma?”

Anna tugged Terry’s ponytail. “It’s all those hours in the tower keeping the lamp burning so ships don’t get lost in the night.”

Despite the years of isolation between the 1930’s and 40’s she never lacked for entertainment with her lighthouse keeper. How he loved telling tales, first to their two children and now to their daughter’s children.

Anna took a pan of sticky buns from the oven, basking in the yeasty, fresh-baked cinnamon aroma and laughter.

 

Assistant keeper Tom Hassing came to Split Rock light station for a half-season in 1933, returned in 1938 and stayed there with his wife, Anna, until he retired in 1953. During these years, the posting was year-round and they lived there with their children, Evelyn and Harry. Later, after she was married, Evelyn Hassing Amell’s son and daughter, Tom and Terry, would spend time with their grandfather at the light. My story is based on an interview with grandson Tom, called G.T.  

Weekend Writing Prompt – Somnambulist

Published March 15, 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 Sammi’s Comment Section.


It’s funny how word prompts take me to an altogether different place than a photo prompt. 😉

Nope. Not telling you how long ago this was.

SLEEPWALKER

Sleep like a baby? What baby actually sleeps “like a baby”? Most mothers of infants will tell you, “Taint so.”

To be fair, it depends on the child. My first one slept through the night at six weeks.  

Between my second and third babies, the term “nightlife” took on a whole new meaning. It meant nursing every two hours while watching MTV. Sing it Lionel. “All Night Long.”

During the day, eyes glazed, I became the quintessential somnambulist.

Here’s one of those videos I enjoyed in the middle of the night. 😉

It’s a Writer’s Life

Published March 13, 2020 by rochellewisoff

At first meeting with Kathleen Rodgers, we found we had much in common. Both of us are military wives as well as authors. As life has a way of separating even the best of friends, our writing paths took us in different directions. So it has been such a pleasure to reconnect with her recently. Now we have an agent in common as well–Diane Nine, president of Nine Speakers

Kathleen and me. We connected at first meeting. We found we have a lot in common. (Height isn’t one of them.)

About three weeks ago, in conversation, she asked if I’d ever thought of painting an old typewriter. She thought it would make a great note card for authors. I found the prospect somewhat daunting but decided I had nothing to lose. I’m extremely pleased with the outcome. Even my husband had only “Wow” to say about it. 😀 

NEW!

So intent on promoting the prints and note cards, Kathleen has posted this wonderful, if not head-swelling, article on her blog. CLICK HERE for her side of the story. 😀

13 March 2020

Published March 11, 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 © Ceayr

The frog’s not blue, but will be if you don’t click her. 

Genre: Women’s History

Word Count: 100

FROSTED YELLOW WILLOW

“Wong Liu Tsong often played hooky from school to see movies at the Nickelodeon.” Lily Wu read her report aloud. “When she grew up, she changed her name to Anna May Wong and overcame many obstacles to become a famous film star.”  

            Tim Wu rolled his eyes. “If it’s a great Chinese actor you want, write about Jackie Chan.”

            “It’s Women’s History Month. Now—one of Anna’s biggest disappointments came in 1935 when Hollywood passed her over for the role a Chinese woman in The Good Earth.”

            “So?”

            “The role went to a Caucasian actress. What’s wrong with this picture?”

*Frosted Yellow Willow is the literal translation of Wong Tsiu Tsong. 

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SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

Published March 9, 2020 by rochellewisoff

Today Pegman hitches up his camel for a trip deep into the Saudi Arabian desert, an oasis known as Wadi ad-Dawasir. There is no street view, but more than a few photospheres. Feel free to wander until you find something that appeals to you, then write up to 150 words about it. Sharing, reading, and commenting is the meat of a photo prompt, so please participate. If you enjoy yourself, please encourage others to join this community.

Thanks for playing, and do your best! Thanks to Josh for hosting.

To read other stories, click here.

Two weeks in a row for me. 😉 I debated over this one. But being one day after International Women’s Day, it seems right to speak out for women who have no voice. 

Genre: Realistic Fiction

Word Count: 150

SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

We met in Toronto Pearson airport, where Clemira sought asylum. Her dark eyes broke my heart. She grasped my hands in both of hers. “Thank you for your help.”

Two years before I myself fled Saudi Arabia after my father killed my sister for going out in public without her Hajib. He poured acid on her while she slept. In my dreams I still hear her screams.

“I will do whatever I can.” I kissed Clemira’s scarred cheek. “How did you manage to escape?”

“The new law enabling women to drive saved me.” The plucky seventeen-year-old mother of three squared her shoulders. “My passport is up to date from our vacation. My brother—a rare sympathetic man—bought my ticket. I packed my things while Akbar slept. Then I took the car and drove to the airport.”

“Aren’t you worried about your children?”

“Akbar won’t beat them. They are boys.”

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