“No, really, Dovid,” Zalman continued, dropping into the seat beside me. “I care about you. Something’s bothering you. I can feel it”
alman was looking at me from the door curiously, concerned. Like he really cared and wanted to know what was bothering me. No one had ever looked at me like that before - not since Papa died. Mama was always too busy, and who else was there?
I almost let his concern melt me. I almost let his care penetrate my heart. But then I felt my hand curving around that smooth, hard rock. I could still feel the exhilaration of throwing it. The satisfaction of finally, finally doing something.
“I’m not angry,” I muttered, pushing past him and into the hallway.
That night, Zalman tried again.
“Dovid?” Zalman cornered me in the kitchen while I was eating my supper — crusty bread slathered with soft white cheese. It had been so appetizing when I took that first bite, but now I just wanted to forget about it and run out the door. Why did Zalman have to bother me?
“Dovid?” Zalman said again.
I dropped the bread I was holding onto my plate and looked up. “What?”
“Wanna learn with me?”
That was not what I had thought he was going to say. But anyway, I couldn’t learn now. Avi, Zev, and Yitzchok were waiting for me at the street corner. I shrugged, picked up my bread again, and started tearing off huge chunks — swallowing without really chewing. I needed to get going.
“No, really, Dovid,” Zalman continued, dropping into the seat beside me. “I care about you. Something’s bothering you. I can feel it.”
“So why do you want to learn?” I grunted.
“I—” Zalman looked stumped. Maybe he never had a conversation like this with anyone before.
I pushed out my chair and stood up. “Tomorrow,” I agreed. “We’ll learn during lunch tomorrow. Gotta go.” I dashed out the door before he could ask me where I was going.
“Guys, we got to do something,” I said as soon as we were all in our usual spot. Everyone just stared at me. “No, really,” I insisted, “we need to do something. Today.”
“That’s just what we were thinking,” Avi said, elbowing Zev. It was only then that I noticed Zev was hiding something inside his shirt.
“Yeah,” Zev agreed. “Enough of this talk. That’s what Avi and me were thinking, too. Wait till you see what we got.” He pulled his hand out from under his shirt with a flourish.
“What is that?” Yitzchok asked at the same time as I breathed, “Dynamite!”
This wasn’t just a rock or a knife, this was a serious weapon. “Where did you get that?” I demanded.
“It doesn’t matter.” Zev brushed me off. “I have it and I’m going to use it. Are you in?”
“Well… yes,” I said, crossing my arms and leaning against the wall, “but first tell me what you’re going to do with it.”
“We’ll go into the British police station,” Avi explained, lifting his eyebrows conspiratorially, “and leave them a little gift. But not before we light the fuse — obviously.”
“You mean blow up the building?” I asked, the beauty and danger of the plan slowly dawning on me. “But — we’d need to get inside to do that.”
“Yup,” Avi said, leaning toward me. “And we’re gonna do it tonight. Before someone discovers the missing dynamite and decides to investigate.” He tilted his head as if sizing me up. “You coming? Or are you chickening out on us this time?”
“But — but what about the men in there? They’ll die, won’t they?” I wanted revenge, but was that enough of a reason to kill someone?
“I knew you were chicken,” Avi said, motioning to the other guys to follow him. “We’ll just do it ourselves.”
“No!” I stopped him. “I want to join. But answer me — what about those men? Do they deserve to die?”
“Did your father?” Avi countered. “This is war. There are sacrifices.”
“Besides, it’s nighttime,” Zev added. “How many people do you think are actually in there now?”
I felt the blood pounding through my head quickly. They were right. Papa didn’t deserve to die. And until we got rid of the British, we’d never be allowed to defend ourselves from those Arab murderers.
“You’re right,” I said darkly, “let’s do this.”
The streets were silent as we headed toward the police station. We were silent too. But my heart was not pounding. I wasn’t scared. The British policemen didn’t scare me anymore. I was determined. I was excited. But not scared.
Finally, the police station came into view but before we could get close to it, Avi shoved me on the shoulder and we all ducked behind a building.
“In case they’re watching,” he whispered gruffly.
Zev nodded. “So here’s the plan. Avi and I are going in ahead. We don’t need you two midgets bumbling around, messing things up.”
Yitzchok opened his mouth to protest, but Zev shot him a look. “No one asked you your opinion,” he snapped, “Avi and I got the dynamite so Avi and I are going in. You’ll wait behind the wall over there and count to a thousand. When you’re done, meet us behind the police station. We’ll have to make a run for it. We’re taking one of their cars.”
We watched them stalk off toward the police and silently made our way to the wall. Close enough to see and hear but completely out of the action. “Not fair,” Yitzchok grumbled. “We started this whole thing.”
“What did you want to do?” I asked, “light the fuse?” But inside, I was seething too. Who were they to leave us behind?
We watched the two figures slowly make their way toward the station, clinging to the shadows of the buildings nearby so as not to be seen. And then they disappeared.
“They’re inside,” I whispered.
Yitzchok nodded. “Now we start counting.”
But then, suddenly, the police station flooded with light.
“Well, well, well, what have we got here,” a voice floated through the open doorway in Hebrew, with a strong British accent.
He yelled something in English that I couldn’t understand and then another voice.
“Hey, kid. Where’d you get dynamite from?”
And then some more English. We heard silence, footsteps, and then a policeman appeared on the open doorway. The man looked around as if searching for something.
“Yitzchok,” I whispered, frantically, “they must be looking for us. We’ve got to get out of here.”
Yitzchok looked at me, panicked.
“Move,” I whispered, pushing him, and we ran. Ran as fast as we could, our hearts beating so fast that even the sounds of our footsteps couldn’t keep up with them. Ran and ran without looking back. Ran until we found our apartment building, dashed up the stairs and ducked inside our apartment.
I was panting now, my heart beating wildly. Yitzchok was clutching a stitch in his side.
“Dovid?” Mama’s voice. “Dovid?” She called my name again and I turned to face her. “Where were you? And who is this with you?”
And then, ignoring the fact that Yitzchok was standing at my side, ignoring the bravery I was supposed to have shown tonight and didn’t, I burst into tears.
To be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 937)
Oops! We could not locate your form.