Victory Gardens – Chapter 113

Novel

Esther looks for something to do with her time, and the Schwester teaches her how to make dolls for the children in the hospital.

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“Come on Bonbon, let’s go.”

“Don’t call me bonbon. My name is Achmed.”
“Do you think I really care what your name is? I said let’s go. It’s time to grab some Jews.” Jack Brannigan was in a rush. He’d been sent here by Mr. Hearst to do this job, and he was thoroughly sick of the hot weather and the primitive conditions. He couldn’t wait to get back home already.

“I thought Mr. Hearst called it off. Didn’t you get a telegram from him?”

“He did call it off. But oh, the telegram got lost. I didn’t get the message. Ain’t that a shame? Now come on and do the work you were hired for.” He had received a garbled message telling him to leave Manny Rothstein alone. But he couldn’t stomach the idea that he’d come all this way and leave with nothing to show for it. He wouldn’t seriously injure him. He would just let the Arab rough him up a bit.

“I only took this job to help my family. Once the Jews left Chevron we didn’t get enough business in our shop.”

“Again, do you think I care? Let’s go.”

Brannigan had the use of a motor car, so they got in and made their way toward Manny’s house. Brannigan had been there before with another fellow, so he more or less knew the way, but it was hard to navigate between all the donkeys, camels, children and chickens blocking up the road.

Once they arrived at Manny and Esther’s, Brannigan didn’t waste time. Walking up to the entrance, he banged on it without mercy. Momentarily surprised that the door was locked, he then grabbed a metal bar, used it as a crowbar to force the door open, and stormed inside. He knew Manny’s schedule well enough to know he would almost certainly be home at this hour.

Achmed followed behind and beheld Manny’s terrified face. Manny had been frying an egg on the primus for lunch, and Esther was making a doll in her room. When the goons stormed in, Manny ran to the door of the room and slammed it shut.

“What do you want?” he shouted.

Achmed was approaching him and was about to strike when he got a close look at Manny’s face. He hadn’t meant to look. The last thing he wanted was to see the look of fear on his victim, but his eyes acted of their own volition.

His black eyes beheld the innocence in Manny’s blue ones, and Achmed noticed something else as well, something so shocking that it stayed his hand.

“Who are you?” he barked.

“My name is Manny Rothstein.” Somehow, identifying himself made him feel better.

“Rothstein. Your face. You have a brother?” he asked.

“I do.”

“Mooty?”

“Yes. Mooty,” said Manny, imitating the odd pronunciation of his brother’s name. Why do you ask?” Manny wondered how his would-be attacker would know his brother. His heart was pounding so hard he could hear the blood rushing through his ears. He could hear Esther screaming his name from the bedroom, and he wanted to go and comfort her, but Brannigan was blocking the door.

“I’m okay, Esther,” he said. “We’re okay.”

“Oh no we’re not,” said Brannigan.

“Manny! Manny! I’m coming in,” cried Esther.

“Esther! No! Stay where you are.”

“I not do this,” Achmed said suddenly to Brannigan.

“What do you mean, ‘I not do this?’”

“This man is the brother of a friend. A friend to me and my family. Before the massacre. He give us money and food when we had none. I’m not hurting him.”

“Well, if you won’t, I will,” said Brannigan, pushing Achmed out of the way.

“Not so fast, Fat Man.” Brannigan looked up and saw Achmed holding a knife under his chin. “First of all you don’t call me bonbon ever again. Second of all, we go now or I slice a smile into your neck.”

Brannigan was a goon and afraid of very little, but he had a terrible fear of being stabbed. He wouldn’t have even minded getting shot, but the fear of being stabbed overcame him.

“No, please don’t hurt me. Please don’t stab me.”

“You two-faced coward. Go!” Achmed made to thrust the knife in and Brannigan high-tailed it out as fast as he could.  Manny breathed a sigh of deep relief and burst into Esther’s room.

“Are you all right?” he cried.

“Are you all right?” she shrieked.

“Yes, I’m okay. Everything’s okay. We’ve had a nes. Is … is …?”

“I don’t know. I don’t know! I was so terrified. What happened?” Achmed’s face suddenly appeared behind Manny in the doorway. “Who is that? Who are you?”

“Believe it or not, Esther, this is the man who saved our lives.”

Esther eyed him doubtfully. “Why is he still here?” she asked.

“I stand guard on your house,” said Achmed. “Me and my family. We don’t forget a kindness, and we always pay our debts. Your brother Mooty, he a good man. I thought it would be good when the Jews left Chevron but I was so wrong. It’s very bad. Chevron will never be the same after what happened. There will never be peace there between us and the Jews. But I don’t forget.”

Manny put out his hand to thank the man who almost attacked him. “We’ve made a little island of peace right here,” said Manny. “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Esther nodded fearfully in agreement, still uncertain if the attack was really over or if the Arab was toying with them. Only time would tell.

 

To be continued . . .