If you are participating in the 12 Short Stories Challenge, today is the day to submit your sixth short story for 2019, using the prompt: Lethal.
We’re half way! Six done and six more to go.
I will accept and approve posts for Lethal (Word count: 1800 words) from 19 June 2019, 8:00 (Johannesburg time | GMT +2:00), until 20 June 2019, 8:00 (Johannesburg time | GMT +2:00) on 12shortstories.com. Please ask Google to figure out what time that will be in your part of the world.
Please submit your story on www.12shortstories.com.
- Log in.
- Submit (Top right).
- Complete the form.
- Select the correct category: Prompt 6: Lethal.
- Do not select any other category.
- Your story must be 1800 words. I won’t approve stories under 1750 or over 1850 words.
- Submit for approval.
- Read and comment on four other stories. Please spread the love. Look for stories that haven’t been read, instead of everyone reading and commenting on the same stories. If you want tips on how to comment, read this post: The Complete Guide To Evaluating Your Short Story.
- This is an exercise in discipline. The comments are a bonus. There is no prize because I want you to focus on writing for yourself and to try and take more risks.
- Be kind when you comment. Start with a positive comment, suggest an improvement, and end with something positive. We are here to learn.
- Our next prompt is at the end of this post.
A few more points:
- I will try to read as many posts as possible, but I do have a day job that I would like to keep.
- NO hate speech. None. If you see something nasty that I should be made aware of, please send me a message.
- Be careful of profanity.
- I need to approve every post. Please be patient with me. I am teaching during the day and I will approve them as quickly as I can. They will all go up.
Can I still join?
You can join the 12 Short Story Challenge in any month. So, if you start in June, that will be month one for you and then May 2019 will be month 12. Sign up on www.12shortstories.com
Here is my short story:
Secret Strudel by Mia Botha Prompt: Lethal | Word count: 1800 words | Genre: Drama – WW2 The slats of the picture perfect little porch creak slightly under my weight. She has lived here for almost thirty years and it still looked like the bloody retirement brochure. Mint green with white trim. Perfectly preserved. Her only indulgence was the pink plastic flamingo I’d bought as a “Happy retirement” present when she had moved in. It perches beside the walkway. Sarah is taking it all in. I wish we were doing something else. I wish my grandmother was still alive, I wish I was here to introduce Sarah to her, instead I’m here because she is gone. “Thanks for doing this,” I slide the key into the lock. The hinges swing without a squeak, the product of years of well-oiled efficiency. “Not exactly what I had planned for a third date.” She smiles her impossibly beautiful smile and follows me in to the house. What does she see? I stop in the middle of the small living room, the bric-a-brac of my childhood, the shag rug I knelt on as a little boy searching for my Legos tangled in the long hairs. The porcelain horses and dogs I played with and built Lego houses for all still at attention on the mantle. Sarah stands behind me. I can’t tell what she is thinking. I can’t look right now. I blink away the unexpected tears. “Well, this is it.” I wave my hands in an encompassing gesture. “It’s lovely. It reminds me of my Grandma’s house.” She traces the branches of our menorah still standing in its place on the server. “I think we have the exact same one.” She smiles. “It feels like home.” I grin, relieved and reach for the AC remote. Even though it’s December, Florida still offers little in the way of cool air. “What do you want to tackle first?” she asks. “Most of it’s been packed by Mom, but I said I’d finish up in the study.” I pause, “It’s hard for her.” “I can only imagine.” She is looking at the photos. I cringe. There’s little me and big me. Me and mom. Me and Mom and Dad. I watch her. We had only just started dating and I was still in awe. My grandmother had set us up. The granddaughter of a Bingo friend. I had been furious and had no interest in meeting what my grandmother considered a good Jewish girl, but my grandmother had cajoled, threatened and finally plain pleaded with me and so I had gone. I had met the woman of my dreams in the same week that I had lost the woman who had raised me and loved me. Sarah had been a rock through it all. She offered a safe place to grieve. We had so much in common it was ridiculous, there were so many things that did not even need to be said. Sarah was like a going grand adventure and coming home all at once. “Let’s do this then.” She said. We go into the study and I point to the shelves. “The books that are left can be packed in the boxes. They’re going to Good Will.” “I’ll start on that.” Sarah pulled a box closer and began packing the books. German and English titles stood side by side. The duality of my grandmother’s life. I walk to the desk, wishing to be any place but here. Wishing she would summon me from the kitchen with a raspy, “Come eat your strudel,” at any moment. Warm strudel with sweet cinnamon sugar and thick clotted cream. I sink into the chair. She had spent hours in here reading pages and pages about our people and our religion. She penned many letters to governments, charities and Jewish organisations all over the world. Endless pages filled with her fine cursive that asked, begged, pleaded and fought for the Jewish cause. I take a deep breath and open the top draw. Everything neat, placed with purpose and precision. Two pencils, a pen, a sharpener, a notepad and ruler. Nothing out of place. “Did your grandparents come over together?” Jarred from my thoughts I take in her question and smile, “No, they met here in Florida. Pops was American. He trained as a mechanic and fixed the planes. He came home from the war and went back to fixing cars,” I swallow, “My grandmother was in Ravensbrück and after the liberation she spent time in DP camps until she could travel to America. She never said it, but I think she bribed someone for a visa or something clandestine. She didn’t talk about it much. She said that it was in the past. Only when she met my grandfather, years later, did she start opening up again. Strange to think that my formidable grandmother was once so quiet, so terrified.” “My grandmother spoke about it often. All the time in fact. I think it was why I chose to study the Holocaust. She said we had to know what happened to our people. That we can never forget.” She was taking the books out, three at a time, putting them in the box. “The stories of what happened in those camps shaped my life.” “I wish I had known more, but she was so evasive. She never wanted to talk about it. I suppose people deal with grief in different ways.” I open more drawers and empty them out on the desk. Creating chaos out of her order. My anger and grief falling on top of the pile of papers. The empty drawer slips and clanks hard on the desk. I flip it over and drop it on the floor next to me. I watch as it thuds. I frown, the bottom has popped loose revealing a small compartment. I reach in and take the little parcel out of the drawer. The thud has caught Sarah’s attention. She walks around the desk and kneels down to see what I have found. A small rectangular package wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. My fingers trace hard edges forming lumps under the paper. The corners of the parcel round and soft. I turn it over, but there are no markings or words anywhere. I lay it down and untie the string. Sarah is excited, I am apprehensive. What kind of secrets could my Bubbeh have that she needed to hide in a secret compartment? The knot slips and I uncross the strings. The paper is soft and I pull it apart. I pick up a little red book, the Imperial Eagle clutching a swastika above the word Ahnenpass. I stop. “Oh my…”Sarah says reaching for the booklet. “Do you know what that is?” I shake my head and turn it over. “It’s a certificate. It documents the Aryan lineage of a Nazi.” She says. Sarah reaches for it again, but I put it back down. The next card is yellowed, Ausweis it says. My mind unravels the German. An identity card with smudged stamps. I am confused. I look at the small photo in black and white of a young woman in uniform. The words fr.-konzentrationslager Ravensbrück. Concentration Camp Ravensbrück. A name is typed across the card, Frl. Christa Fanck. I don’t understand, SS-Aufseherin. That’s a female camp guard, an overseer. My thoughts race. I snap it closed and look at the remains of the parcel. The lumps under the paper were made by an Iron Cross. I run my hands over the swastika in the centre and recoil as if burnt and the cross clangs to the desk. I look at Sarah. Her face is rapt. I wish I was alone, but she doesn’t take her eyes off the parcel. She looks greedy. I want to ask questions. I want to rail against the invasion. Against what I am seeing on the paper. Sarah paws through everything that I have put down. I look back at the photo on the card and then up again at the wedding photo hanging on the wall. The young woman in uniform, the woman, slightly older, in a wedding dress. Dread rising like bile. Sarah is taking pictures of the documents. She looks at the phone and then at the documents again. “What are you doing?” I hiss. “I knew it. I was right.” She beams. “Right about what?” “That Christa Fanck, a prison guard at Ravensbrück, faked her identity and has been making her life in America pretending she did no wrong.” “No.” I’m emphatic. “Yes, we have proof.” She flashes her phone at me. There is another photo, my grandmother many years ago grinning at the camera. The chimneys belching black smoke in the background. Her beautiful eyes sparkling. “Who are you?” I whisper. “I’m with the Simon Wiesenthal Centre. We track…” “Nazi hunters. You’re a Nazi hunter.” I say. Disbelief screams in my head. “I’ve dedicated my life to catching monsters.” Squaring her shoulders, daring me to say something. I want to tell her she is crazy. I want to scream that she is lying. I just want to scream. Bubbeh. My grandmother. Hundreds of hugs rush through my mind fighting with every horror story I have ever heard about the female camp guards. “You’ve been lying to me all along.” I say. “Your grandmother was the one doing the lying.” I see my mother now in my mind’s eye. My frail, soft mother. I think about the news reports. I think about the hatred. I think about the repercussions. My mother cannot know. “Please don’t tell anyone.” I meet her eyes, but there is no mercy there. “I’ve already reported it.” She wields her phone again. I try to think, but there are too many things going through my head at once. Her refusal to go back to Germany. Her refusal to talk about anything related to the war. Her anger when I said I had wanted to research our lineage. Her joy when I told her I liked Sarah. Sarah? “And us?” I ask. “Was any of it real?” “I had a job to do. You were the easiest way in.” I stare at the wall behind her. A numbness creeps up my spine. “She’s dead. What good can it do?” “They…we, deserve justice.” I nod and walk to the door, but turn back, “What made you suspect her?” “You.” I gape. “The stories you told, about her childhood, they didn’t make sense. Too German. Not Jewish enough.” I think about how hard she pushed for me to meet Sarah. She must have known about Sarah. “What happens now?” “An official investigation.” “And after that?” “Depends on what they find,” she pauses, “They say she was one of the better ones. Kinder than the others, if that helps.” “It doesn’t.” I walk away.
Here is the seventh prompt for the 2019 challenge:
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by Mia Botha
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