Sunday, November 24, 2013

In The Blink of an Eye

By Lynn Solte
Young Adult, 197 pages
Cover art provided by Lynn Solte
Until that peace-shattering night, Rachael's life had been perfect. Nothing in the child's world could have prepared her for the pounding on the door, or the nightmarish events that would follow…

An ivory satin kerchief draped loosely over my hair, I struck a match and lit the two white Sabbath candles. As I sang the customary Hebrew blessing, another Sabbath evening, the traumatic, life-altering memories of which I had long since tucked away, chose this moment to burst into my here and now. Swept back to another time and another place, as sharply as I could see those bright, flickering flames, I saw Father as he looked years ago, standing at the head of our dining room table with the yarmulke Mother had crocheted, buried deep in his thick, curly, fudge-brown hair, raise his silver wine goblet.

"Boruch atah adonoy, eloheynu melech ha-o-lom…" he chanted in Hebrew, "Bo-ray pri hag-a-fen." He drank from the cup.

It was Friday evening, my favorite time of the week. Father, a physician, was rarely able to join us for dinner, but on Fridays at sundown, onset of the Jewish Sabbath, he always managed to be at home, so our family could share this special time together.

At its start, there was nothing out of the ordinary about this Friday evening. Mother lit the traditional candles then served the usual Sabbath meal of soup, thick with chunks of chicken and vegetables, roast chicken smothered in gravy with baked potatoes and spinach. The conversation revolved around me and my four-year-old brother, David, and what we had learned in school that week. Not only had I memorized a poem, but, on Monday, my friend Leah taught me to squeeze one eye shut without closing the other, and I had waited all week to show Father this wonderful accomplishment. Grinning proudly, he said, "That is called winking, Rachael." When I proved equally talented with both eyes, he laughed and said to Mother, "Look, Hanna, our daughter is an expert winker!" Mother laughed, too, and David, watching my face contort, bounced in his seat and squealed with delight.

Enjoying the attention of my appreciative audience, I was in the middle of reciting the poem I'd memorized, when a loud pounding on the front door rudely interrupted my performance. The unexpected noise frightened me, and made Father drop his fork.

For a few moments, there was an intense quiet. Then, suddenly, the silence was filled with a man's angry voice shouting, "We want Alexander Wasserman!" The expression in Father's eyes sent chills up my spine, and I sat rigid in my chair.

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