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The End Is Where We Start From | 2.2

CHAPTER TWO (part 2)

But Ima had other plans.

“Tali’s mother cannot look after you tomorrow. Both of you will have to come to work with me,” she said.

Tali, whose mother did not work, shrieked.

“I’m so excited! I could not sleep the whole night,” she said as we were trotting behind Ima the following morning.

“How much longer?” I whined.

“Enough! We’re not taking the bus,” Ima repeated. “Busses are a waste of money. Besides, walking makes you strong. What will you do when you’re in the army? Will you tell your officer you’re too tired and need a bus?”

“But I’m only five.”

“We’re only going to Abu-Tor. It’s not even an hour's walk. So, stop whining and look around. Such a beautiful day.”

Indeed, it was a splendid morning. The full moon was setting in the west, where the surviving stars dissolved into the brightening sky. Desert breeze blew away the mist of the night. Chirping robins, hidden in the foliage of the trees along the road, were marking their territories.

Tali stopped at the bottom of the steep Keren-Hayessod Street, staring at the veined wings of a windmill, stretched like a huge dragonfly against the rising sun.

“It’s just like in the picture of the Dutch girl in your book,” she marvelled.

“Who built it?” Ima asked. She would grab at any opportunity to test me. “Every child must know his roots,” she used to say.

“Montefiore,” I said.

Ima seemed pleased. “When Israel was part of the Ottoman Empire, the Jews of Jerusalem lived in the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.”

“What’s Ottoman?” Tali interrupted.

“Boaz, can you tell her?” Ima said.

“It’s people from Turkey.”

“Boaz is right. The Jews were very poor and lived on donations from overseas. The Turks would not allow them to work. But all this changed when in the nineteenth century Sir Montefiore visited from England. He wanted to help the Jews leave the Old City, so he bought this land and built this house and the windmill.”

“Why isn’t it turning?” I asked, hoping to extend our brief respite.

“The Arab millers said it was the work of Satan and sent their wizards to cast a curse. Nobody knows if the curse worked, but legends tell that after that there was never enough wind to turn its wings.”

A short walk later, Ima stretched her arms, stopping us. “Listen carefully! Here is a dangerous place. When we cross that street, over there, snipers in the Jordanian post can see us. Sometimes they shoot, so we must cross fast.”

“Snipers?” Tali sounded excited.

“We’ll run one after the other. I’ll go first. Tali, when I call you from the other side, you’ll run to me as fast as you can. Can you do that?”

“Yes, Boaz’s mother. I can run really fast, much faster than Boaz.”

“When you cross, bend low and run in a zigzag. Let’s practice. Run to that pole over there and show me how you do it.”

We both bent and ran to the pole, zigzagging like crazy. Tali reached first.

“Very good. Now stand here and wait for me to call you.”

Ima darted across the road and reached the other side. “Tali now you,” she called.

Tali zigzagged across, skipping and hopping as if she were playing hopscotch.

“Ready Boaz?” Ima called. “No mucking about. You understand?”

The other side was a short distance away: easy to run but narrow enough for a patient sniper to wait until a target crossed his sights. Every child knew of the shooting incidents.

Unable to find my voice, I nodded.

For the first time, I became aware of pain creeping up my shoulder blades, pinching and throbbing, adding lead to my body, haze to my mind. My sandals felt as if glued to the asphalt, my leg muscles powerless to lift them.

“I said no mucking about! This is not a game, Boaz. If I need to come and get you …”

My eyes locked on Tali’s. “Come on, it’s easy-peasy,” she called.

One, two, three …, staring at my moving feet, I counted my steps. I lifted my head. I saw neither Ima nor Tali, only the upper body of a Jordanian legionnaire, his head covered with a red and white keffiyeh, perching behind the sandbags of his post. He was waving his fist. He must have seen me. … No, it was not at me he was waving, but at another soldier. He was smoking a cigarette. The two were arguing. … A third soldier was sitting not far away. He had a gun. Did he see me? My eyes ran down the barrel. The gun was pointing up, not at me. A sudden tug. A smack. Furious Ima. I was on the other side.

Tali’s face came back into focus, beaming. “Wasn’t it fun?”

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(20. 1.)

I am still looking forward to wait for the rest of this novel 🙂


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