WeWriWa—Madame Druillet’s kindness

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’ve gone back to my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, which follows a group of young Shoah survivors during the early postwar years. We’re now in Part IV, “An Exile Driven on By Fate,” in which the friends travel through Italy and France before finding a place to call home before immigrating.

The friends are currently staying in Nantes, France, the home of almost-15-year-old Marie Sternglass. Though Marie was full of hope and excitement when they arrived, those feelings have completely disappeared after rude treatment by old acquaintances, discovering another family living in her old house and refusing to give her back any of her belongings, and learning her father didn’t survive.

I’ve skipped ahead quite a bit so I can start my Halloween-themed excerpts next week. In this scene, Marie and her friends are in the home of her mother’s friend Eléonore Druillet. Though Madame Druillet has some special belongings which Marie’s mother gave her for safekeeping, and promised to speak to a policeman friend for help with reclaiming the things in the house, Marie barely reacts to these happy developments.

L’An 2440, Rêve S’il en Fut Jamais (The Year 2440, A Dream If There Ever Were One) is a French version of Rip Van Winkle.

View of Cimetière Miséricorde in Nantes, Copyright Llann Wé²

Mme. Druillet served them a snack of hard-boiled eggs, tomato and carrot salad, macarons, pralines, opera cake, and hot chocolate. As they ate, Mme. Druillet made smalltalk with Caterina, Artur, Imre, and Júlia, and taught the others the French words for some basic objects in the apartment. Marie didn’t say much of anything, and just picked at her food. She was still picking at her food when everyone else had finished eating, and her hot chocolate had grown rather lukewarm.

Mme. Druillet set the tableware in the sink and went into her bedroom. Several minutes later, she returned with a black mink coat draped over her left arm, an antique lamp in her right hand, several books tucked under her left arm, and a framed photo of Marie’s parents on their wedding day and a peacock feather fan in her left hand. Marie barely looked at these items, though she caressed the fur coat.

“Those were her favorite books,” Mme. Druillet said. “She knew she couldn’t save all her books, but she wanted these in particular to come back to. She also gave me all sixteen volumes of The Human Comedy, which are in a trunk under my bed.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

Marie mutely looked at the books, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, The Three Musketeers, and L’An 2440, Rêve S’il en Fut Jamais. She’d often looked at these books on her parents’ shelves and dreamt about the day she’d be old enough to read them, and all the other adult books in the house. Now they represented the life she’d once had, the life that was hers no more. Books on shelves were things for other people, happy people with intact families in their own homes. Not war orphans who no longer knew how to be normal.

“Look in the coat pockets, Marise. I hid the rest of the items in there.”

Marie catatonically reached her hand into each pocket in turn and pulled out French hook garnet earrings, a sapphire necklace, an aquamarine bracelet, several costume rings and bracelets, pink pearl hairpins, emerald clasp earrings, and a turquoise necklace. Though her eyes normally sparkled at the sight of jewelry, now she just mutely regarded each piece as though they were insignificant scraps of paper.

WeWriWa—Rage intensifies

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’ve gone back to my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, which follows a group of young Shoah survivors during the early postwar years. We’re now in Part IV, “An Exile Driven on By Fate,” in which the friends travel through Italy and France before finding a place to call home before immigrating.

The friends are currently staying in Nantes, France, the home of almost-15-year-old Marie Sternglass. Though Marie was full of hope and excitement when they arrived, those feelings have quickly faded. She’s now at her old house, which has a very cold, hostile new owner who admits she burnt the photos and children’s watercolors which were left behind. Marie can also see some of her family’s belongings in the background.

Nantes Synagogue, Copyright Jibi44

“Those are my family’s things inside the house, you connasse! You didn’t buy those paintings, that mahogany side table, that white grand piano, those beautiful Persian carpets, or the dress and slippers that other woman is wearing! Allez vous faire foutre!”

“Why don’t we go back to the hotel so you can calm down?” Caterina asked. “Then we can go to the Red Cross or the synagogue.”

“That’s an excellent idea.” The stranger slammed the door in their faces.

“Perhaps you can ask the police for help,” Móric said as Eszter and Csilla steered Marie back onto the street. “French police are different from Hungarian police or Soviet soldiers. They might help you to press your case and give you a warrant to search your house.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

“What’s the use of trying?” Marie slumped against Eszter, her whole body shaking. “All that remains of my former life is the photo I hid in my shoe. Perhaps my father and Pierre already came back here and were kicked off the property too. They might’ve left France already, and think I’m dead. I was stupid to believe everything would be sunshine and rainbows.”

“You could find good news tomorrow,” Eszter promised emptily. “Maybe your father and brother are here, or you’ll find some friendly faces. You can’t know until you try.”

“Right now, you only need to think about calming down and getting to a safe place,” Caterina said. “I’ve never seen you nearly that angry before. I really thought you were about to hit her or claw her face off.”

“You and me both,” Imre said. “I never realized Marika knew words like salope and connasse, let alone that last sentence she said to the woman.”

WeWriWa—The straw that breaks the camel’s back

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’ve gone back to my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, which follows a group of young Shoah survivors during the early postwar years. We’re now in Part IV, “An Exile Driven on By Fate,” in which the friends travel through Italy and France before finding a place to call home before immigrating.

The friends are currently staying in Nantes, France, the home of almost-15-year-old Marie Sternglass. Though Marie was full of hope and excitement when they arrived, those feelings are quickly fading with each cruel new discovery and encounter.

Last week, she went to her old house and asked the current owner if any of her family’s old belongings were still there. The woman at the door was very hostile, and now the situation becomes even worse. Marie’s trademark sweet temper is replaced by rage.

Marie looked around the stranger and saw some of her family’s furniture, paintings, and carpets. Another woman in the background was wearing her mother’s favorite blue silk dress and red velvet house slippers with faux leopard trim.

“Well?” the woman at the door snapped. “Are you all just going to keep standing there, or shall I call the police to evict trespassers?”

“You have to let our friend inside,” Artur begged. “Don’t you have any photographs or small items?”

“This is my house now! Everything that was here when my family moved in is now legally ours. There were some meaningless items like photographs and childish watercolors, but I threw them out with the trash or burnt them.”

“What the hell is wrong with you, salope?” Marie screamed at the top of her lungs.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to complete the scene.

“Those were my family’s things, not garbage! How dare you discard my memories like meaningless trash!”

Csilla and Eszter grabbed her arms as she started to move forward, her face mottled in rage. She struggled against them and screamed curses at the woman, while Artur gave a translation of what had just happened.

“Are you going to get off my property, or shall I call the police?” the stranger asked. “Fancy all that fuss over meaningless photographs and stupid watercolors.”

WeWriWa—Marie’s old house

weekend_writing_warriorsveteransbadge_4

Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’ve gone back to my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, which follows a group of young Shoah survivors during the early postwar years. We’re now in Part IV, “An Exile Driven on By Fate,” in which the friends travel through Italy and France before finding a place to call home before immigrating.

The friends are currently staying in Nantes, France, the home of almost-15-year-old Marie Sternglass. Though Marie was full of hope and excitement when they arrived, those feelings are quickly fading with each cruel new discovery and encounter.

Aerial view of Le Château des Ducs de Bretagne in Nantes, Copyright Jibi44

Marie’s old house was close to the nineteenth century Rosière mansion, slightly past the intersection with Rue Urvoy-de-Saint-Bedan. She smiled faintly when she saw it was still standing and hadn’t been bombed into oblivion like many of the other buildings. It was a sky blue, stone Beaux-Arts edifice, with a flat roof, arched windows, a pedimented and arched door, a balustraded balcony on the second story, and a very ornate balustrade around the roof. When she drew closer to the front door, she saw her family’s gold mezuzah case had been ripped from the doorframe. The decorative tiles with her family’s surname had also been ripped off and replaced with a plaque bearing the name Séverin.

Her throat was dry as she rang the bell and stood back waiting for someone to answer the door. The sound of music, either from a radio or record player, was abruptly shut off and was replaced by the sound of footsteps. Several moments later, a tall brunette woman in a dusky rose dress answered the door and looked at the surprise visitors questioningly.

“Are you collecting money for charity, or are you carolers? We never entertain solicitors of any sort.”

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene.

“I used to live here,” Marie stammered. “My family’s name, Sternglass, used to be on the front door. We lived here until the spring of ’42.”

“So? It’s my family’s house now, and I just told you we never entertain solicitors.”

“But I used to live here, and I lost everything but one family photograph. Did you find anything left behind when you moved in here? Pictures, letters, artwork, silverware, tableware, cups, books, rugs, linens, furniture, religious items, anything?”

The woman standing at the door crossed her arms. “This is my family’s home now. You have no legal right to step inside.”

WeWriWa—Precious protection

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Welcome back to Weekend Writing Warriors and Snippet Sunday, weekly Sunday hops where writers share 8–10 sentences from a book or WIP. The rules have now been relaxed to allow a few more sentences if merited, so long as they’re clearly indicated, to avoid the creative punctuation many of us have used to stay within the limit.

I’ve gone back to my hiatused WIP The Strongest Branches of Uprooted Trees, which follows a group of young Shoah survivors during the early postwar years. Part II tells the story of what happened to some of them while they were separated.

Ráhel and Dániel Kovacs, eight and four years old, escaped from a death train under cover of night and found shelter in a nearby convent. They’ve been put in a hidden room upstairs, and a doctor performed a tracheostomy on Dániel, who has diphtheria.

After being assigned the Polish names Liwia and Fryderyk, the Polish forms of their middle names, a nun asked where they got the rosary and scapular they arrived with.

“A very nice lady gave them to us before we got off the train. She taught me four Catholic prayers, and taught my brother a very easy prayer for little children. Her parents converted before she was born, but the Germans thought she was still Jewish.”

“Oh, good, you already know some prayers. Some of the other people we’ve hidden didn’t know anything. What’s your dolly’s name?”

“Ambrózia. My sister bought her in a big store in Budapest. She came from France.”

Dr. Kaczka smiled.

The ten lines end here. A few more follow to finish the scene (and chapter).

“Well, let’s hope she’s your ambrosia and confers the same kind of protection on you as it did on the Greek deities. No one can live forever, but living a long life is good enough.”

After Dr. Kaczka and the nuns had gone, Ráhel leaned over and whispered the Sh’ma and its first paragraph in Dániel’s ear, just as Mirjam had commanded. She also added the last paragraph, and then repeated it in Hungarian, adding the concluding line of the Our Father afterwards.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might. Take to heart these words with which I charge you this day. Teach them to your children. Recite them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down, and when you rise up. Bind them as a sign upon your hand, and let them serve as a symbol before your eyes; inscribe them upon the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Thus you shall remember to observe all my commandments and to be holy to your God. I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to be your God: I am the Lord your God. And deliver us from evil. Amen.”

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