(Quick note: This is one of my downloaded fonts, so it may not show up for everyone.)

Font: The classy, stylish Janson.

Developed: 17th century; later revived in 1937 and again in the 1950s

Chapter: “Jakob’s Leap of Faith”

Book: And Jakob Flew the Fiend Away (original title: And Jakob Limped)

Written: Probably March 2012, as I began expanding the long short story/piece of backstory into a full novel in early March and had finished the first draft by the end of April.

Computer created on: 2008 15-inch MacBook Pro

File format: Word 2004

This is the 11th chapter of my first volume about my young Dutch resistance fighter turned real soldier Jakob. The chapter closes Part II, as Jaap makes his dramatic escape from a death train before it can cross the German border. He severely breaks his right foot and ankle as he lands, but is found by four young men who soon become his brothers in arms.

Yes, it wasn’t a very common occurrence to escape from a death train, but it happened. If I’d had him staying on that train with his mother, it wouldn’t be such an original take on the familiar Shoah story. The whole point of his character, and the story, is that he wants to fight back like the Maccabees instead of thinking things can’t get worse or that nothing too bad will happen. There are verified instances of people jumping from the trains and living to tell the tale.

Yeah, I’m still kind of pissed at being dogpiled in a pitchfest some time back and told I don’t know how to write historical and that my whole premise was inaccurate and unrealistic, even down to my hero’s name. I did quite a bit of research for this, and the spelling Jakob is definitely used in Dutch. Plus you’re just looking for nitpicks if you think I’m a crap writer and researcher for saying Holland instead of The Netherlands. Dutch people themselves often say Holland when speaking English! And all based on a damn six-line pitch. Rant over.

During this chapter, set during fall 1942 in Westerbork, Jakob’s worst nightmare comes true when he and his mother Luisa are chosen for one of the regular deportations. The night before their deportation, his friend Elma (Anselma) convinces him to kiss her in case the worst happens. They’re not in love, but she tells him that sometimes a person can have two firsts, the physical first and the first time with someone you really love. Elma was one of the secondary characters who came to me while I was crafting this story into a full-length book, and I’m glad she showed up.

Some highlights, so to speak:

[Family friend Kees] “Always the rebel, even here.  Would you rather be like some of your old school friends and forced to work on the farm?  You have nice indoor work.  I wish I could work indoors like you.”

“We’re going to be okay,” Jakob promised.  He pictured the newest drawing he would make that evening, the train station being hit by a bomb as he and other resistance fighters sprayed machine gun fire at the Nazis and NSBers. “I’ll figure out a way out of this.  There have to be some weapons around here somewhere we can steal.”

“We’re all doomed anyway,” Luuk said. “Maybe we should imitate the Zealots so we won’t be taken alive all the time.”

Elsje began weeping loudly and rubbing her fists across her eyes, oblivious to her brother’s wheezing, hyperventilating breaths and her mother’s hysterical screams.  Jakob watched the scene with as much sympathy as he could scrape up until he heard his own name being announced, followed by Luisa’s name.  He stopped breathing for moments that seemed to stretch on to eternity.  By the time he came back to himself, the Blockältester was continuing to read names and Luisa was sitting like a stone, no expression on her face, not even shock or sadness.

Jakob cast a glance at his old classmate, still feeling hollow and like he were floating outside of his body.  Everyone he cast his eyes upon seemed as if he or she were a kaleidoscopic vision of some Hindu deity with many heads and limbs, constantly spinning, rotating, and changing.

“There will be another maternity ward at the new place,” Gusta said, in a similar deadened monotone. “Women are always having babies, even in wartime.  For some reason, most of the babies I’ve delivered who were conceived after the occupation have been girls.  Maybe women are stronger than men, and God knows this.”

“I never had a boyfriend.” She curled her fingers around his arms. “If I should die this week, I want to know that I had that experience just once.  I don’t want to die never knowing what it feels like to kiss a boy.”

“I know you don’t love me.  I don’t love you either, though I really like you.  Please tell me you’ll grant my dying wish?  I’ll think of you in my final moments and remember how you were the first and only boy I kissed.”

“I’m not riding in that,” Luuk announced.  He tapped the nearest guard on the back. “Officer, may I have your side arm?  I’d like to kill myself.”

Luuk’s eyes lit up. “Please tell me you’ve got suicide pills!  I’m not going to be taken alive.  I want to die a hero like the Zealots instead of waiting for some gruesome fate as a slave, or killed in a horrible way.”

Remembering Luisa’s advice, he pulled himself into a very uncomfortable squatting position, still holding onto the ledge with a death grip.  Then, knowing it was now or never, he propelled himself off the ledge and let himself drop, landing very hard on his right foot.  It all happened so fast he had no time to be scared.

12 thoughts on “Jakob’s Leap of Faith (Janson)

    1. He severely breaks his foot and ankle, though he’s found by four young resistance fighters and taken to safety. Healing from my own leg injury gave me personal experience in writing this!

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  1. Different theme for the challenge — interesting including info on the fonts. Jakob is an interesting character — very pro-active. That’s the only way you get to live when you fight monsters.
    Thanks for visiting my blog during the challenge. MM

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    1. Yes, he styles himself as a modern-day Maccabee, in comparison to his frenemy Luuk, who thinks the Zealots were heroes for committing mass suicide rather than fight back.

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    1. Thanks! I later found out one of those agents was involved in some rather well-known online bullying of someone who gave a negative review to one of the books she represented. At least it let me know which agents NOT to query!

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    1. It can be rather grueling emotionally to write some of the scenes in my Shoah books, even in the postwar years. I’ve read memoirs and seen documentaries that mentioned or were narrated by people who escaped the death trains. There’s also a popular melody to a well-known Hebrew song that was composed by a Chasidic man and given to two young men who escaped from a train. The one man who survived went to the composer’s rebbe after the war and taught him the melody.

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