Flour White by Batnadiv HaKarmi

Lealeh’s hair is snow white. Snow white and wrapped in a hair-net. A hair-net that glitters. Glittery studs in her ears. Her ears are small and elegant. Elegance of her fingers, wrapped around the cigarette holder. Her cigarette holder is long and silver—she blows in delicately, then exhales. Exhaling, she says, “I was addicted as soon as my first boyfriend offered me one. Behind the house, I smoked it, right down. Smoked it right down in a minute—after we got married, Max didn’t like it.” Max didn’t like it, but they were sent to different labor camps. Different labor camps for seven years. Seven years, but at least she saw him again. She saw him, but not “the child.” “The child” was four, sitting beside her on the cart, before they were deported. He was sitting beside her before they were deported, and “How can you take a child to Siberia?” demanded her sister, Pesha. Pesha, who couldn’t have children, said “Leave the child here, safe with me.” Leave the child safe, but all his clothes were packed away in the one bag they were allowed. The one bag allowed left with the child, they departed to Siberia with nothing. Nothing against the cold; nothing to eat. Nothing to eat, but the hunger was for news. News came with survivors, who were deported after fleeing to Russia. They fled to Russia after the Nazis invaded. The Nazis invaded, and all the Jews were shot, out in the field. Out in the field, Pesha’s husband jumped in front of the child. The child was gone, and so was Pesha’s husband. Pesha’s husband, childless, leaving no one to say Kaddish. “Say Kaddish,” Lealeh begged, trading in her cigarettes to arrange a minyan every morning. In the morning there would be Kaddish; she huddled alone, hiding, that night. Alone in the storage room, which rustled and was full of ghosts. They disappeared with the dawn. As dawn streaked, she walked like an old woman into the courtyard. In the courtyard, all the prisoners were standing ready for roll-call. One by one they turned. Someone asked, “were you stealing flour?” Her hand reached up for her hair. No flour fell from her suddenly white hair to the floor.

Batnadiv HaKarmi is a writer and visual artist who currently resides in Jerusalem. Her work has been published in the Ilanot Review, New Flash Fiction Review, and most recently in Belmont Story Review. Her work can be followed at batnadiv.com or on Instagram @batnadiv_art

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