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לפני 4 שנים ו-11 חודשים Anschel's Return מאי נפקא
Margot. a lonely Holocaust survivor, misses her husband Anschel who disappeared one day from home. Will he come back on their wedding anniversary? Any resemblance to real characters is purely coincidental.
Saturday night, December 4 1993. The flickering flame casts a yellow glow on the white linen sheet that covers the round kitchen table. Amidst the two pewter candlesticks, a glazed plum pie lies on a white paper napkin covering a beautiful hand-painted tray. Margot baked the pie yesterday afternoon, exactly as she had done nearly two months ago, on Anschel's 70th birthday. Three weeks ago the withered pie, having only been sampled by Diwa, Margot's loyal Philippine caretaker, found its way to the trash can. Yesterday, on the eve of their 48th wedding anniversary, Margot baked a fresh pie, as has been her custom since Anschel went for a stroll and just vanished. Now she is waiting for Anschel to return. "Tonight you will show up, my beloved Anyosh. Five years and four months I have been waiting. Enough, Anyosh. Tonight we reunite. Tonight we shall eat the plum pie that you love so much. You know I baked it especially for you".
They first met in Transylvania on October 5, 1945, Anschel's 22nd birthday. Both had returned from the Nazi inferno, recuperated in field hospitals from Typhoid, dysentery and famine. Anschel had been liberated by the U.S. forces from the Mauthausen-Gusen concentration camp after surviving the death march. Margot, only 17 years old, having endured a series of forced labor camps, had finally been freed when the Germans fled from the Red Army troops that took over the Malchow death camp. After a short acquaintance, the two decided to compensate the loss of all their beloved ones, parents, brothers and sisters who were all gassed and cremated. Almost strangers, they were united in marriage on Tuesday, December 4 1945, on the 4th day of the feast of Hanukkah.
It is very cold in the house. The bluish flame in the kerosene heater is waning. "I'll remind Diwa tomorrow to fill up the tank. The wick needs to be cleaned too". Leaning heavily on her walking fr
ame, Margot drags her feet to the stove, bends down slowly and turns the control button to lower the flame so that the kerosene should last for the next hour or two. She then staggers to the slightly open window and shuts it down completely. "Not healthy, I know! The flow of fresh air must not be shut off when the kerosene heater is on, but what can I do? I cannot stand the cold draft from outside". Margot, supported by the walking fr ame, carries herself back to her seat, opposite the empty chair that awaits Anschel.
In 1947 Margot gave birth to Leon, their firstborn child who was followed by David in 1949. In 1962, when the communist regime relaxed its hold on Jews who requested to emigrate from Romania, Margot and Anschel and their two teenage sons made Aliyah to Israel and settled down in Tzur Shalom, a suburban neighborhood in the Haifa bay. Anschel found a job as a typesetter in downtown Haifa and Margot worked for years as a cleaning woman in a geriatric center on Mount Carmel. Both sons, Leon and David, immigrated to the USA after serving their terms in the Israeli Defense Forces and completing their bachelor degrees in the Technion institute in Haifa. There they married and had children, and henceforth Margot and Anschel hardly had the opportunity to meet their offspring in flesh. They were compelled to experience the development of their grandchildren mainly vicariously, through occasional pictures and letters.
A slight scent of kerosene fumes spreads into the kitchen's atmosphere. Margot wipes her eyes with her fists. She feels weakened by a growing sense of drowsiness. "Anyosh will arrive shortly. He will fill up the kerosene tank and turn up the heat. He will open the window and all will be fine".
In February 1988, when he was 64 years old, Anschel had a stroke after which he began to lose his memory. On a pleasant Sabbath morning in August he walked out for a stroll never to be seen again. Leon and David left their offices and families in the USA and came to Israel to assist Margot during the days that the search for Anschel was carried out. They took advantage of their stay mainly to tour the country and, when after two weeks the police gave up the search, they took off back to the USA. "Take care, we'll keep in touch", they promised Margot.
Margot hears footsteps beyond the wall that separates the kitchen from the hall. Anschel's smiling face appears in the doorway. His face is smooth, his body robust. The sparse gray hair covering his head has again become dense and black. "Anyosh! My beloved Anyosh! I knew you will come back!"
Margot springs up from her chair. Her feet are light, the pain in her knees completely forgotten. She is young again. So is Anschel who now embraces her, holding her tightly to his chest with firm hands.
"Anyosh, how I longed for you! Where have you been all these years? What made you disappear?"
"Never mind, Maggie my beloved. From now on we are together. Nothing will ever separate us again".
"Look, Anyosh. I baked the plum pie that you love so much. Come, let's sit down and celebrate our anniversary".
* * * * *
Sunday afternoon, Diwa returns from her weekly vacation. She unlocks the door. Her nostrils sense the faint mixture of paraffin and kerosene remnants still rising from the cold stove and the burnt out candles. She enters the kitchen and finds Margot seated erect on the chair, elbows leaning on the round table, her back to the doorway.
"I'm back, Mama. How are you feeling?"
Margot does not answer. Her wide-open eyes transmit an ex
pression of glee. Her lips are joyously curled. Her countenance emanates sheer elation.
Diwa approaches Margot, reaches out affectionately to take Margot's hand in hers.
Margot's hand is cold and stiff.
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