A small taste of my current efforts
(Located somewhere in the Southern States of the Soviet Union in 1941)
“We need drinking water,” Mama said, holding up the empty glass flagon. The train had pulled in to a railway station surrounded by a small but busy town, an oasis of colour and life. Everyone grabbed bags and containers, laced up shoes and buttoned jackets. I hopped down onto the platform and Mama passed the flagon to me. She stepped down and turned back to look up at Sophia.
“I need you to stay here,” she said.
“I don’t want to be alone,” Sophia whimpered.
“You are not alone...Pani Dorota will look after you,” Mama said. She pulled her shawl tight around her shoulders and rushed away into the crowd before Sophia could cry.
I wandered around the streets for a little while worried that I wouldn’t be able to do this one simple task. In the end I found fresh water back at the train station. On the other side of the station building from the train, at the far end next to the Station Master’s office a boy stood filling his container at a tap. A few others lined up behind him and I joined the queue. Before long a snake of people had formed. Then it was my turn. I fitted the flagon under the tap and turned it hard, the water soon overflowing. And then I heard the worst possible noise. It had become so familiar; the mundane hooting voice of the train signalling the stops and starts of our travels. Now it struck fear in me. The train was leaving.
Everyone scattered. I wanted to run but the flagon felt awkward and heavy. I hobbled round the corner with my load and saw the locomotive pulling away. Why was it leaving? Wagon doors still gaped open. People on the train leaned out and pulled their friends and relatives on board. My heart fluttered in panic. I ran after the wagons sliding away along the platform, the flagon knocking at me. I wasn’t fast enough to catch up and climb on. My only chance was to grab the hand rail. I had no choice. The flagon dropped, smashing, the water gushing away as I threw myself at the train, my hand reaching out to grasp the metal bar. Others were doing the same. Taking frantic leaps and grabbing on as tightly as possible. The train accelerated. For five minutes it raced through the countryside, people clinging, pressed hard by fear against the speeding locomotive. A few kilometres from the town it slowed and came to a complete stop in an open field. I didn’t wait to see what happened next. I jumped down and ran beside the track as if the devil himself was after me. Others ran too. I saw Mama running, a bunch of her skirt in one hand to free her legs. I caught her up as we reached our wagon. Sophia stood at the open door sobbing hysterically. We clambered on. Mama clutched Sophia to her.
“I just...got hold of a...hand rail,” she gasped. “I saw you...I saw you up ahead. I thought...I thought I might have lost you.”
I grinned at her, wiping sweat from my eyes.
“The water?” she asked.
The grin fell off my face. I shook my head. She shrugged. “I have nothing either.”
For several hours the train stayed in the field as if daring someone to try getting off again. But no one did. We’d had a lucky escape. Mama didn’t ask after the missing flagon and it was never mentioned again. I knew now wherever Mama went Sophia and I had to go too.