You, Go Left. You, Go Right.
Margaret Shurtleff

You, go left. You, go right. I wonder why, these men and dogs bare their bloody teeth as we walk in fives along the train cars.

"Mother, why are they mad?"

"Shh--Eli. Don't look at them. They do not know G-D."

My mother's voice, meek, a tone I did not know from her, this in itself pricked me compliant. We walk steady. We don't run. We never run, anymore.

Before these times--in 1936, not so long ago, but a life time ago-we watched the black man, Owens, run and beat Hitler. Weó Micah, Tovi, Shira & I- ran, sang songs, and laughed until quieted by mother's strong voice. Father arrived home tired and bent from tailoring all day. Mother would comfort him; soften his face into a smile. Then he'd read to us.

We no longer exist, as such.

Now, we move along, as fast or as slow, as the angry dogs and men command. I hear one of them speak of slaughter--

"You see, to fix the problem, you put the gas up there, and soon, this one and that one, dies out quickly. The others, further back, choke and cry until they fall." Holding his hands vertical- then allowing his fingers to collapse, lifeless.

I listen and wonder why, they do not kill the cattle, as we do, with prayers and humble thanks. I start to ask Mother- why, but she holds my face to her bosom and tells me, she loves me. Her voice- crackled and wet.

First published: February 2005
comments to the writer: Knob'