April 19, 2011
By , Pittsburgh, PA
The city was dark and gloomy, full of smoke and suffering. Gunshots rang out in the gloom of the evening, and shells rained down like fireworks. The noises seemed deafening to the little girl who lay huddled up against the rubble heap, panting like a wild animal.
She had been left alone, totally alone. No one had remembered her. Now she would probably die.
She knew all this, young though she was. She could feel the danger everywhere, in the loud, angry bursts of the bombs, the sudden volleys of gunshots, and the startling shells. Sometimes soldiers would run by, her soldiers, her idols, the glorious ____ soldiers, whom she and Mama had watched walk by in the streets a hundred times.
They had been frightening then, too, of course. But then you were safe in the marketplace, holding Mama’s hand tightly, nestled against her long robes. They didn’t notice you then, and they didn’t notice you now.
Shana didn’t want them to notice her now. They were so very frightening! They had fire in their eyes, and some moaned and groaned with pain or anger. All of them screamed things at the top of their voices that Shana couldn’t understand.
Here came another soldier! Trembling, Shana crouched down lower beneath the garbage, watching him closely. He drunkenly staggered down the street, screaming to his comrades all the while. Then suddenly…just like that, a gunshot rang out, and he fell down in the road.
Shana stared with wide eyes. Was he dead? This was the way that Mama had looked yesterday, when everyone was trying to leave and the bombs started coming. Shana had waited in the doorway with the other children, while Mama ran out and tried to stop the soldiers, to ask for help. And then everyone started screaming and Mama fell down in the road, just like this soldier! And she lay there, and when Shana went to look at her, she smiled at Shana. Someone had said that Mama was dead.
The silence in the city was deafening. There were no more bombs, no more gunshots, not even shells. Shana’s breath sounded noisy and uneven. The soldiers must be gone! She thought happily.
Would this man in the road smile at Shana? There was no one else to smile at Shana, and she needed a smile right now. She had slept in a pile of garbage all night, and she was dirty and cold. Mama would smile at Shana, but Mama wasn’t here. The big buildings around her loomed up frighteningly, with their sagging doors and broken windows.
Shana slowly crept from the rubbage pile. It felt good to stand up again, after so long. Her little sari was dirty and torn, and she looked down at herself with a trembling lip. Mama had made her sari. It had been beautiful…
But there lay the man, and he was making funny motions with his hands. Shana eagerly scampered across the wide street towards him.
“All you alright, soldier?” she asked timidly. He turned his head and looked at her, and Shana let out a low cry. His face was covered in mud and blood. His eyes were so scary! He was coughing so much…and his chest was heaving so….
“No, I’m not alright,” he gasped out savagely. “Get away from here! Can’t you let a man die in peace?”
Shana stared, aghast, her lip trembling. “Get out of here!” the man screamed hoarsely. “I’ll kill you!”
Sobbing, Shana staggered away from him and ran down the street. His frenzied shrieks and violent coughing echoed after her. “I’ll kill you a thousand times over! Get away!”
And then suddenly everything was silent again. Shana had never felt so alone, or so scared. The soldier would come and kill her! She had to hide!
There were so many buildings. She could hide in any of them, and no one would find her. She ran up to one of the sagging houses and looked up apprehensively at it. Well, it might fall down on her! And the steps were gone! Why, she’d have to climb up into the doorway….
What was that noise? Running feet, barked out orders….more soldiers! Shana let out a little noise of fright and hurriedly began to climb up to the doorway. Oh… was too high! And here came the soldiers…!
Shana dropped down onto her bottom and put her face in her hands, beginning to cry. Just then she noticed a pile of tires, all of them ripped and shredded, lying near her.
“That will work!” she said happily to herself, and scrambled into the pile. This was almost fun! If she brought this home, she could make a house with them. And Mama could bring her lunch in them and…
There were the soldiers. But these weren’t the soldiers who marched in the streets when Mama took Shana to the market. These soldiers looked like turtles, with their funny hats! And they had funny, very white faces. And they were wearing all green! What funny soldiers….Why weren’t they wearing robes?
They were running, keeping out of shooting range from the roofs. “There’s no one to shoot at you soldiers.” Shana whispered, but mostly to herself. “They are all dead! You killed them all!”
Her little body shook with sobs, and she lay down on the pile of tires and cried. She had not cried yesterday, when Mama lay so still in the road, and she had not cried all night when she slept in the garbage. But she needed to cry now.
There was a screaming noise in the distance. Shana lifted up her tearstained, dirty little face and looked around. What was that? It was getting louder and louder…
Frightened, the little girl stood up and began to run. But it was too late. Suddenly there was a loud crash, and the world was full of flying dust and wood and pieces of tires and rubble and dirt. And Shana heard herself screaming, but she didn’t know where she was or why she was screaming. And everything slowly went black.
When she woke up, she was lying near the road. And she couldn’t stand up….Shana whimpered. Her leg hurt so much! She burst into tears as she tried to move herself. Oh, yes, now she would die. Her leg hurt so and she couldn’t move. Soldiers would come, and they would see her, and they would shoot her.
Lying still for hours, the little girl slowly fell asleep.
Another loud noise awakened her. It was a rumbling, grinding noise. What’s that? She thought in dismay, forgetting her leg, and trying to rise to her feet. She fell back in the road, gasping and crying. Oh, her leg hurt so!
The noise was coming closer. This wasn’t a bomb. What was it? She stared hard down the street, wiping away her tears with one hand, and propping herself up with the other. Through the gathering gloom she could see something coming towards her. It was a….oh no….it was a tank!
Shana looked around helplessly, sobbing hard. It would run her over, and she would die! Oh, she must move!
She reached far forward and grabbed the dirt, trying to pull herself forward, but she could not. She couldn’t move; her leg hurt so! Blinded by pain, Shana fell back into the road, stunned. She could hear the grinding coming closer and closer, and the rumbling louder and louder….!
And then two gentle hands gathered her up, and she was enclosed by two warm, loving arms. And then the rumbling of the tank grew faint, and Shana opened her eyes. “Mama?” she asked questioningly. No, it wasn’t Mama….but it was a wonderful lady, in a beautiful white sari edged with blue. Oh, how Shana wanted a sari like that!
“Take me home, take me home,” Shana whispered tearfully, snuggling into the woman’s arms. The woman answered in strange words Shana couldn’t understand, but Shana knew they were full of love, and that this woman would take Shana home.

Post a Comment

Be the first to comment on this article!

Site Feedback