rough around the edges

General fiction short stories not related to Science Fiction, Fantasy, or Horror.

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dark2dalc
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rough around the edges

Post by dark2dalc »

Ms. Cohen



Outside it was cold. It was dark even when the sun was highest in the sky. Nazi Germany was like a knifing shadow, and gloom chased everyone who took a step outside into the grey.

Men with guns were on every corner, and others paced the streets. My father somehow had a handgun, which my mother and grandmother cursed. He kept it in a wooden box in his closet.

Nobody really went outside if they didn't need to. A couple kids were playing, and their parents were smoking on the porch not faraway, wary to even the slightest movement of the men with guns.

And there she was, pacing like an ancient turtle on the sidewalk. Ms. Cohen, a woman nearly ninety-years old was crawling down the road, looking as if she hadn't the faintest idea that the Germans or Hitler even existed.

She waved to the parents sitting across the street. My mother and grandmother started to look through our window as well.

"That woman is going to get herself killed. Robert, come here."

My father emerged from under the kitchen sink, sleeves rolled and towel in hand. He wore a worried look on his face, one that I'm sure he couldn't take off.

My grandfather stopped pretending to sleep. "If she wants to walk, let her walk!"

An argument began. I slipped away out the door, down the stairs, and out of our building. She wasn't very much further than when she left my sight.

"Ms. Cohen!"

"Yes, my dear?"

It was easy to appreciate how soft the old woman’s face was, seemingly ignorant of all the evil that filled the times. A hint of sunshine was in her smile.

"You’re going to get yourself killed!"

"Killed?"

"You’re Jewish."

"Yes, I know that my dear."

I was sure I could not draw it up any better. Even in her old age she must’ve been able to hear the gunshots at night, the bodies falling from balconies, the screams, all of it.

"Why are you walking?"

"Because I've always walked, honey, why should I stop now?"

I glanced towards the end of the road where a soldier was standing. She spoke again.

"I'm not going to let anyone say I can't do what I want to do, thank you very much. If I want to walk, I'll walk. I've walked down this road for eighty years every day young man. Neither you or they-"

"They'll kill you, Ms. Cohen."

“Young man, look at me. You see my wrinkles? You see my white hair?”
“That won’t protect you.”

She sighed. “Life has an end. Mine is closer than anyone’s in this town. I’m not afraid of those confused men with their guns. Just like life, this evil will end. I haven’t the power in these bones to fight against this evil, but I can prove to myself I won’t stand for it.”

“Son.” A voice called from the building’s porch.

I turned to walk up the steps but stopped at the sound of her voice.

“Besides my dear, it is such a beautiful day.”

I took a look up at the sky. It looked like rain. It looked like a massive cloud of ash. It looked like God had taken a straw and sucked the soul from our country. It looked like heaven had exploded.

***

It was late at night, hours past my bedtime. The lights were off, and we all sat around the kitchen table: my mother, my father, my grandmother, and my grandfather. We all silently prayed together holding our hands.

There were monsters wandering around the streets.

My mother was a wreck. The unmistakable bang of a gun sounded, and she gave a violent yelp and shudder.

The grip of my grandfather’s hand tightened.

I could hear my mother praying aloud. I looked out our window, wondering if that bullet had found the body of Ms. Cohen.

She probably would have ignored the soldiers, probably would have closed the door in their face saying that she wasn’t interested.

I knew if she was in our house she would not be praying with us. I don’t doubt that she cared about the people, she probably cared more than all of us, but I couldn’t see her sitting around being miserable. But that was next to impossible for the rest of us.

***

It was mid-day. I rushed to the window and looked over the street. She was there, creeping at a snail’s pace.

I smiled.

The next day she was there again. And the next day, and the next day, and the next day.

I finally went down to her once more.

“What is your secret? Why are you so lucky?”

“Lucky? Nothing to do with luck. The soldiers love my cookies.”

“Are you kidding?”

“Yes my dear.”


***

“That woman is still walking? She’s going to get herself killed.”

“She just wants attention you know that,” my grandmother replied to my mother.

“Now you know that it isn’t true she-”

“By God if the woman wants to walk, than let the woman-”

I disappeared into my room.

I could hear the voices distorted on the other side of my bedroom door. The loud argument changed its tone.

I could hear my mother whimper. My grandfather banged against the window.

My body instantly erected itself off the bed, and my legs carried me towards my parents’ room.

Specifically my parent’s closet, right to the small wooden box that my father had hidden away.

I picked up the powerful death bringing piece of metal.

I would have killed him, I would have walked down the stairs and put a bullet right in the first German’s head I saw, if it weren’t for a weak voice echoing in my head.

I dropped it on the floor. Still not knowing why, I rushed out the door, down the stairs, and out of our building.

A stoic soldier six feet tall stood like a statue, looking over the dead body of Ms. Cohen.

I pushed him out of the way and knelt down to the poor fallen creature. It was evident at once that he had rammed her with the hilt of his rifle.

The sight was terrifying, too grotesque for it to be put into words. The soldier smirked.

I stared directly into his eyes. I unleashed my anger, aiming countless blows at the thick tree-like soldier.

“Son!” I felt my father’s hands tearing my body away. My eyes never left those of the soldier’s, they were locked until I hit the ground. My father started to drag me away, and I heard a spitting noise and felt a wad lodge in my hair.

The soldier left us.

I crawled to Ms. Cohen. I thought I could make out that she was smiling. She must have given it to the soldier just before he delivered that fatal blow.

I went to whisper in what might have been her ear, but instead, I removed my shirt and covered her head.

I looked up into the sky. Precisely at the moment when rain started to fall, the sun also came out, somehow bursting through the smoky dense clouds. The beams seemed to trace the sidewalk that she had walked on so many years.

It was warm, there was an orange glow in the streets, and the rain was comforting like the weak pats on the back from my grandmother.

It was a beautiful day.

I noticed the rain running down the road on which Ms. Cohen lay, and as it ran under her body it carried the blood that had spread across the ground down the street and eventually into some gutter.

Not long after that day, the soldier numbers began thinning, and not that many weeks later, the war had ended. The Allied forces came forth, and carried the evil that was Hitler away.

She could have lived, she could have gone on with many more years of life and been happy and celebrated the end of the war and so on, but I remember that night in my bed, thinking to myself: Ms. Cohen died a happy woman, even in the last second of her life.

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dark2dalc
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Post by dark2dalc »

0/61 sweet

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Bmat
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Post by Bmat »

It is a touching and terrible subject. I think that it is well-written. and chilling.

Something that distracted my attention were the use of the words crawled and creeping. "Crawling" because that's what I thought that she was doing, especially after being compared to a turtle. "Creeping" because I mistakenly thought that she had been hit by the bullet and so was having to creep (or crawl) but this one I figured out quickly.

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