Stella’s Carpet in The Miramichi Reader
Published in the The Miramichi Reader by James M. Fisher
Here is an excerpt from Stella’s Carpet, coming out in the fall. “Exploring the intergenerational consequences of trauma, including those of a Holocaust survivor and a woman imprisoned during the Iranian Revolution, Stella’s Carpet weaves together the overlapping lives of those stepping outside the shadows of their own harrowing histories to make conscious decisions about how they will choose to live while forging new understandings of family, forgiveness and reconciliation.”
Tell me, said her father, speaking calmly. Tell me what you saw.
In the park, feeding ducks. I thought, how nice. I watched him. His hand went into the bag of breadcrumbs and came out. He threw the crumbs on the lake. His arm did not bend so good. I watched. Again he put his hand in the bag and pulled it out. He threw the crumbs. And then I knew. I felt it. I was shaking. He felt it. He turned and looked at me and he made a face. A terrible face. A face with hatred. We stared at each other. He walked away very fast. I could not walk. I felt sick.
Are you all right? asked William. Do you need a glass of water? Her father looked at Stella and she understood. She went to the kitchen and returned with a big glass of cold tap water. William held it to her grandfather’s lips and helped him drink. Then he placed the glass on the draped fruitwood table. No coaster. Stella watched the moisture wick from the glass onto the sheet. It would mark the table. She didn’t move. No one else seemed to notice. It would be wrong, she thought, to trouble about such a thing at a time like this.
We were on a one-night leave near Moerdijk in 1944, began her grandfather. All of us. There was dancing in a small place. It was one night. We drank a little beer and we danced a little. The Dutch girls were friendly to us. We had defeated the Germans in Breda and we felt happy. We thought the worst was over.
Go on, encouraged her father. Get it all out, Stan. It’s okay.
He nodded and continued. His hands were braced on his knees. His knees were shaking. William reached across and placed his own hands on top of the old man’s, gently steadying his limbs.
It was nighttime. We were walking back to our camp when we saw the planes dropping paratroopers. Junkers, J52s. Soon the sky was filled with planes and men dropping down. We knew who it was. All around the countryside we could see hundreds of men dropping from the sky. We didn’t know what to do. We were not armed. We ran back to the village and told the Dutch. They hid us in a small kelder. A tiny room half in the ground. They pushed something heavy in front of the door. We squeezed together. The Dutch ran away to their houses.
Grandpa paused. Stella watched him and watched her father tending him. His gentleness moved her. She felt spellbound. Sofia was now seated in a chair, weeping quietly, her hands twisting the fabric of her apron. Stella was trembling. William was the only one in control.
We stayed there overnight. We slept standing up. There was nowhere to piss. We didn’t talk. Through a crack beside the door we saw a little light. That was all. The next day there was noise. The door was banged open with something hard. Boots marched across the floor. We closed our eyes and held our breathing. The sound of a child came too. Crying. I was close to the crack and I opened my eyes to look. There was a girl on the floor with a Nazi on top of her and another one waiting for his turn. They used her and when they were done, they shot her. The sound was so loud. Then they left. We waited until night and we crept out. We covered her. She was very young.
William spoke first. Stan, you can’t be sure it was the same man. You were in a closet.
It was him. I saw. His arm was the same. The elbow works both ways. I saw. You don’t forget such an evil. I was in the right place to see.
Would you like me to call the police?
Pah! The police. What do they know about it? They know nothing.
We should tell someone, Stella offered. I’m sure there’s someone who tracks war criminals. They extradite them.
No! We do nothing. I do not want people knowing where we live. We tell no one.
(Excerpted with permission from Stella’s Carpet (NON Publishing, Vancouver) ISBN: 9781989689264, $19.95, forthcoming October 15th, 2021)