Kalonymous, upon learning for sure about the murders of Jews, tells Berl and Fisch that he and his brothers must get away. Berl and Fisch insist that they will all travel together.
* * *
Hershel and Dovid’l noticed the change in the atmosphere the following day, but didn’t know the reason behind it. Berl, Fisch and Kalonymous spent most of the day huddled at the table, a large map spread out between them. The little boys kept trying to jump onto any lap that would hold them, but they were gently rebuffed over and over again. Finally, Fisch arose and prepared some food for them, setting it down on a small table at the other end of the room.
“There are so many different ways to go,” said Kalonymous, dragging his hand through his long, shaggy hair. “How are we supposed to know which one to choose?”
Fisch agreed. “Our main problem is that we have no papers,” he said. “So we have to think which country would be the nicest to us if we get caught.”
Berl shook his head. “It’s not a bad point, but it shouldn’t be the only consideration. I think we should head towards a neutral country — Denmark, Norway, Sweden.”
“What about Switzerland?” said Fisch.
“Switzerland is landlocked. It makes me claustrophobic. Just looking at it on the map makes me nervous.” Berl pretended to shiver a little.
Kalonymous didn’t know what claustrophobic meant, and wasn’t sure about the rest, either, but he understood the part about a neutral country.
“From where we are,” said Berl, “it looks like it will be the simplest to get to Denmark, here, up north.”
“At least it’s not lock-land,” said Kalonymous. Berl and Fisch looked at him curiously. “Like Switzerland,” Kalonymous explained.
“Of course,” said Berl. “So, we’re decided. Denmark it is.”
“When do we leave?” asked Fisch.
“As soon as possible. Tomorrow.”
Kalonymous nodded with satisfaction, but Fisch was horrified. “Tomorrow! There’s so much to do!”
“Fisch,” said Berl, “all we need to do is pack some food and money and close the door behind us.”
“It’s that simple to walk away from our whole life?” he asked.
Berl nodded sadly. “Believe it or not, yes, it is.”
The day passed quickly as Berl, Fisch, and Kalonymous worked feverishly, packing, planning, discussing what to take and which was the best route to travel. Kalonymous had been assuming they would walk the entire way, and was making his choices based on what they would be able to carry, and it took a while until Fisch caught on.
“Kalonymous,” he said, sitting down so he would be eye to eye with him, “We have a wagon, and a horse. We won’t need to walk the whole way. We can bring blankets and bottles and enough food to last until we arrive in Denmark. Everything will be fine. The only tricky part will be crossing the border, and even that will be fine. Nobody cares about the Danish border. We’ll hop over and then we’ll be safe. Do you believe me, Kalonymous?”
Actually, Kalonymous did not believe Fisch. Even though their guardians were doing everything in their power to protect them, Kalonymous still wished the Sperlings were going alone. He was used to tucking his brothers under his wings and disappearing. With a horse, a wagon, and two tall men, it would be impossible to hide if they had to. If anything bad happened to any of them, Kalonymous didn’t know what he would do.
“I do believe you, Fisch,” he lied. “But I wish you would change your mind. I can take care of my brothers — I just needed you to tell me which direction to go. Now that I know, you and Berl can stay here where you’re safe.”
“And spend the rest of our lives worrying about you? No, thank you,” said Fisch.
Kalonymous smiled weakly, his apprehension at full pitch. He felt pressed in on all sides: the evil Germans and their nefarious plans on one side, and Fisch and Berl’s devotion on the other, but it seemed there was no way to shake off either one. The only way out was through, and if it meant traveling with an entourage, that’s what they would do.
Hershel and Dovid’l tried to stay out of the way as best as they could, until Kalonymous found them huddled together outside the hut, arms clasped around each other’s necks tightly, wailing at the top of their lungs.
“What is it?” Kalonymous cried. “What’s wrong?”
“Are we leaving?” asked Hershel. “Are we leaving here and Berl and Fisch? Has something happened? We’re scared!”
“I’m sorry,” said Kalonymous. He always took his brothers seriously, and he was disappointed in himself that he hadn’t taken the time to explain to them what was happening.
“Yes, we are leaving,” said Kalonymous. “But Berl and Fisch are coming with us, and we will all get to ride in the wagon! It will be fun.”
They suspected that Kalonymous was not telling them the whole truth but, as children, they looked on the bright side.
“Can we sit in the front?” asked Dovid’l. “Next to Fisch?”
“Of course,” said Kalonymous, and held the small boy tightly. “We’ll take turns.”
To be continued . . .