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Saving Günter

She never stopped blaming herself, even though his destiny was beyond her control. After all, it was she who had sown the seeds of estrangement when she insisted they attend the rally in Nuremberg back in 1938. Only seven years ago, but it seemed so much longer. Hans was then only eight years old and Günter, three. Her husband Heinrich refused to come, saying he would not support fascists, a sentiment he held onto through the war in spite of all the pain unleashed on him and the family. At the university he had many Jewish colleagues, learned men with whom he worked every day. He could not accept the Führer’s dream and still sleep peacefully at night. So Anna went for the rally with her neighbors, taking the children.

The excitement was palpable as they boarded the overnight train to Nuremberg. People had come from different parts of the country excited to be part of such a great movement. The Third Reich. The spectacle at the rally was incredible, especially for the wide-eyed peasants who poured into the city from tiny hamlets far flung from mainstream Germany. Against the background of flaming torches, massive flags with the grand SS symbol flying high, they indulged in delectable wurst, watered down by the best beer in makeshift Biergartens. At the time, she was so proud to be a part of Germany’s rebirth under a powerful leader. After years of subjugation by the Austrian Hapsburgs, Germany was finally coming into her own; or, as the Führer called it, “his own.” Das Vaterland. And at night, when the anti-aircraft lights turned on and the beams shot up into the sky, it was as if the heavens partook in the glory of the Third Reich.

The Runner

Machu Pichu, Peru

“Good morning Amedica (America)!”
Juan was waving as hard as possible at the bus as it turned the corner. He dashed into the foliage, picking his way deftly along the cobbled path up the mountain, running as fast as he could to head the bus off at the next turn. His frayed sandals were a problem. He sorely needed another pair. He saved every bit of foreign currency he earned in tips to buy a new pair, but he didn’t know how much he needed. He would have to travel to Lima to purchase them, and that was only a remote possibility. Perhaps one of the American tourists would give him an old pair of Nike shoes. How he hoped for that. He would be able to run twice as fast without the thorns and stones cutting his cold, calloused feet.

“Good morning…Amedica!” he yelled out again, pausing this time to catch his breath. The busload of mainly American tourists cheered loudly and egged him on. Just two more turns and he would reach the restaurant at the entrance to the ruins. The sweat pouring down his face felt icy cold and his lungs were bursting, but it would be all worth it when the wealthy Americans emptied their pockets and filled his outstretched palms with shiny coins.

One Glass of Water

New Delhi, India

Salma rushed down the narrow alley, dexterously avoiding oncoming pedestrian traffic as she made her way towards the main street in Dariya Ganj. She was late. She should have been at work almost an hour ago and Salimbhai was sure to be annoyed with her. But what was she to do? Ammijan was so sick. After Hakim Sahib said she needed Angrezi medicine, Salma called the doctor who diagnosed Ammijan with pneumonia and prescribed strong medications. A sniveling cold had developed into a hacking cough and Salma feared it was too late. Her father Abbujan had passed away when Salma was four years old and Ammijan had struggled all her life to care for her. Allah had to spare her life, she was all Salma had.

As Salma walked into the tiny tailoring store, Salimbhai looked up at her. “Late again? What’s your excuse this time?”

Keeping her eyes lowered, Salma told him the truth about Ammijan’s illness and the new medicines to be purchased.

“Hmm,” said Salimbhai preempting her. “And you need an advance.”
Salma bent her head even lower. “If it’s no problem,” she mumbled hopefully.

“Tomorrow night you can stay late. I have an order for a hundred tablecloths. I will pay you four hundred rupees extra.”

Salma sat down in front of her sewing machine, happy to make the extra money. Hard work didn’t scare her and she was willing to stitch night and day if needed. That evening, Salma stopped at the pharmacy to pick up the medicines. The owner looked at her and said, “Behenji, this will cost almost a thousand rupees. How will you pay?”

The Habiru

It was nightfall by the time they reached Luxor and they ate a hearty meal of chicken and oven roasted bread before retiring for the night.

That was the night the dreams began.
At first the sun rose over the temple of Isis before resting on the calm waters of the Nile, shimmering in multicolored lights, almost as if heaven’s blessings were bouncing off the waters, showering good fortune on either bank. The river should have flooded but its waters were low and placid and on the edge near the tall papyrus reeds were visible the snouts of crocodiles, native to these waters. A young man stood at the water’s edge watching the flow of the river in meditative reverence. His eyes were a deep turquoise blue over a prominent hooked nose and his hair a fiery, golden orange. Nobility emanated from his mere presence. The glimmering sunlight bounced off his magnificent breast plate studded with bright blue lapis and gold beads. Almost as if a divine messenger whispered in his ear, he knew he was not alone and he turned to see her. She was young and her beauty took his breath away. She had not seen him as she was seated further up the bank under the sycamore trees, weaving flower garlands. A huge mound of wild flowers lay by her side. Other than minimal kohl lining her large, brown eyes she wore no makeup, but nothing could enhance her nubile, natural beauty more than the first rays of sunshine. Her kilt left her young breasts exposed and the young man was filled with desire. He walked towards her and they looked at each other.

“Who are you?” he asked, staring at her with lustful abandon.
She looked back at him unabashed, meeting his desire with forthright innocence, yet she was fully aware of the effect of her youth on the young man.
“I am Shipra,” she said. “Daughter of Kanofer.”