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“So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.”
- Dr. Seuss
Short Stories

Teddy Bears

I've got you, Ted, it's alright now. I'll keep you safe. Mummy can't take you away from me anymore. I bet it was horrid and smelly in that wheelie bin.  I'm glad I was looking out the window when Mummy throwed you in there, coz I saw her and I came to rescue you. You're lucky you don't stink. You'd smell like fish and chips, but Mummy never clears the table till it's teatime, so she didn't put the chip papers in the bin yet.

I know Mummy can be nasty sometimes, but I don't know why she throwed you in the bin; unless it's coz I love you more than I love her.

Daddy says she's lazy and they always shout at each other. He calls her a punkin pitch. I don't know what it means, but it sounds not very nice. Like somewhere they grow punkins. I don't like it when they fight, coz it frightens me. You must be very brave, Ted, coz you just sit in the chair and never say a word, but it makes me cry.

When they been fighting and he calls her that punkin pitch thing, she starts crying, and she feels sick coz she starts drinking lots of mecidine. I thought it was just cool drink without bubbles, but she said it was mecidine to make her feel better. It must be good for her coz she always lies on the couch and sleeps like a baby when the bottle's empty.  It makes me cry to see Mummy get sick like that, Ted.

Do you remember that time when Daddy bringed you to our house in a big plastic bag and gived you to me.  That was my fav'rite day, Ted, coz you're my bestest friend now and I love you more than teddy bear biscuits. You're the best present anyone ever gived me. Tommy at school got a bike for his birthday.  All I got for my birthday was a book from the op shop about hairy scary spiders. It had someone's name in it, and lots of scribbles, as well. I can't ride a bike anyway, but it's not fair, I know I could learn, if I had one.

But Daddy gived you to me to help me keep a big secret.

One day, when Mummy went to sleep, Daddy picked me up and took me upstairs to his and Mummy's bedroom. He said, Come on, my little teddy bear, come and give your Dad a cuggle.

So we had a cuggle and he said, Take your clothes off and hop into bed. So I did. And he did, too. And we had another big cuggle. Then he started rubbing my bum, but I can't tell you anymore about what he did, because he made me promise not to tell anyone. The next day he bringed you home to help me remember my promise.  Every time he wants his special cuggle, I have to leave you downstairs to look after Mummy.

Maybe Mummy doesn't like me being Daddy's teddy bear and that's why she throwed you away. But never mind, Ted, we're safe now, and Daddy can't do things to me anymore, coz sometimes his cuggles hurt me.

We're going to have a surprise today, Ted.  Someone made up a song about it, so it must be special.  Mummy told me about it. We're going to have a picnic in the woods. If you're not a teddy bear you have to go in disguise, but we don't need to, do we, Ted?

I think we're nearly there coz there's lots of trees here. Are you getting hungry, Ted?  I am, too.  The song says there's lots of marbles things to eat.  I had marble cake from the shop once. It was scrummy.  I wonder if they make marble sausanges too.

I hope we get there soon.  Oh, look!  There's a yellow sign with a mummy duck and two baby ducks.  They must be showing us the way to the picnic.  Come on, Ted, it must be in the trees over there.

Wow, there's lots of trees here, we must be in the real woods.  Not far to go now.  We should hear them dancing and playing games soon.

Can you hear them yet, Ted?  I can't. We've be walking and walking and it's getting darker and darker.  It's getting colder, and I'm ever so tired.  The song says today's the day, but maybe, the teddy bears changed the picnic till tomorrow day.  Or p'raps they gone home already, coz it's starting to rain. The song says, at six o'clock their mummies and daddies will take them home to bed, but we don't know what time it is.  And I'm really, really tired now.

 Ted, there's a lots of leaves under this tree. It's like a big bed in a cubby. Let's snuggle under the leaves and get warm and wait for the teddy bears to wake us up for breakfast.

Nigh… night… Ted.

 

Shalom

 The final echoes of the jackboot and the stench of burning flesh slip away into oblivion for the gaunt and jaundiced rabbi.  In sympathy, the flames of seven candles breathe their last, and in a macabre parody of the past, the blackened smoke of burnt wax spirals upwards with his spirit and leaves me in darkness.

Where are my tears?  I stare into the void along that single Auschwitz railway line and see again the spectres of those imploring hands, hear once more their cries.  My tears are all dried out from years of reliving their massacre, of imagining the ignominy of my mother's final moments as she sheds her clothes in a crowd of hundreds, and holds my little sister tight while they slowly choke to death in the dry and acrid showers of Zyklon B.

 How long I listened to their screams, and smelt the pungent odour of their smoke as I watched it pour from those blackened chimneys.  Each day for four long years that stretched like decades in the Polish winters, I looked skyward and prayed they suffered no longer; begged and pleaded with whatever deity was allowing such desecration of humanity, that they all, each one of the massacred millions, had at last found peace.  Shalom.

The rabbi more than once felt the sting of a kapo's whip while trying to protect me, to help me withstand the bitterness of our barefoot parades in the freezing snows, and he comforted me as best he could in the anger and agony of my loss.  He, like the thousands around us, went without, and knew too the pain of hate and hunger, and loved ones lost.

He must have shed a million quiet tears on that stinking wooden shelf that was our bed, yet I don't think I ever saw him cry.  I want to believe he did, for though his stoic strength carried me through the degradation, surely it is impossible he would not weep for his beloved wife and daughter.  Of course he wept, but how could I see, with my own eyes burning from acid tears of torment?

And now they come again, in torrents.  As the new dawn fingertips its way across the casement sill, my body wracked with sobbing for the rabbi, tears flood my face, and when I bend to kiss him, they splash upon his ancient countenance, and finally, I see him cry.  My tears washing his face cry his past for him.

I stumble from the room as we stumbled from the camp so long ago; this time alone, without his strength, alone to trek the memory of desolation and the bittersweet joy of our resurrection from that Polish purgatory. 

There will be time enough anon for kaddish, and burial - no hated crematorium for this man.  His body will lie in blessed and cherished earth, surrounded by the orange groves of his beloved home.

Goodbye my rabbi, my own dear father.  Shalom.

 

(C) dave bowen

April 2009

 

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