Cohen liked to chase cicadas in Spring. He was restless at the dinner table, hisfavourite colour was orange, and he lied sometimes.
Jan liked to watch the stars. He collected buttons from different countries, he wasconscious of his cowlick, and he couldn't read very well.
They lost their homes and families in 1933.
* * *
"Come on, Jan," called Cohen, aged 12, "come on! You're falling behind."
Cohen tiptoed atop a dilapidated wooden fence. His hands waved from side-to-sideto keep his balance, with general success, but his feet slipped now and then.
Jan, aged 9, followed at ground level as he stared aimlessly into nearby brush andtrees. Jan blinked occasionally as dust fell into his eyes from above.
The boys adventured through unkempt land littered with abandoned equipment.
"I can see the tractor from here!" called Cohen, pointing. "Hey, you're not looking."Cohen steadied himself and twisted his mouth down at Jan.
Jan's gaze traced through the trees. The sound of a distant automobile churnedthrough the silence. The sound grew up to a point and then seemed to idle.
"I think that's my house," said Jan.
"I'm going to be first, look out."
Cohen scrambled to jump off of the fence. He came down with haphazard vigour,but Jan looked the other way. Cohen tumbled on Jan who cried out as his knee
scrapped in the mud. Cohen cried out in response and helped a shaken Jan to his feet.
Tiny stones poked from the graze and Jan was covered in leaves with wet shoes, but he
was otherwise fine.
The boys hobbled their way toward the sound through the brush.
Rightly, an automobile idled at the entrance to the Pick residence. Jan's parent's wereat the door talking to strangers. Cohen's parents watched from the window. Two
uniformed men stood at the door, hats in hand, while two uniformed men stayed in the
The boys viewed the exchange from the brush. Jan shivered in white-faced silence.Cohen watch with mouth agape.
Jan's parents looked panicked. The men passed uncompromising words, almostshouting. Eventually, Jan's parents returned inside with a slam of the door. The
uniformed men donned their hats and started up the path to the automobile.
Cohen held Jan's shoulder as the men passed, but Jan stooped under the grip. Janyelped when his knee pressed into the ground, so the uniformed men noticed the boys.
The four men exchanged looks with one another. One of the men already standingapproached the brush. He didn't speak until he was in speaking distance.
"Hello, children, " his lilting accent sounded friendly, though his tone did not matchthe lines around his eyes. He regarded Cohen. "What is your name?"
"Asher Cohen" the older boy murmured to the ground.
The man regarded Jan. "And your name?"
The man looked impatient when Jan didn't answer. The man's face pursed.
"Jan Pick," gave Cohen with stiff look to the man.
The man looked between the boys with a curious expression.
"Kepler, we need to go," called one man from the automobile, "wrap it up."
The first man sighed and gave each boy a nod. "Be seeing you."
The uniformed men filtered into the automobile and the boys listened as the soundof the engine churned into the distance and faded over the horizon.
* * *
Not two hours later, the boys were wrapped up by their parents, given a roughly-packed suitcase each, and taken to the harbour. Their parents didn't speak as they
packed, but their dark looks took no argument.
The boys stood alone in a harbour crowd watching their parents argued with aboatman at the gangplank. They weren't the only ones. Countless men, women, and
children clamoured to board the only freighter. They couldn't tell why the adults kept
pinched faces and shouted at every other sentence.
Jan sighed. His shoes were still wet. Jan wiggled his feet with a despondent look.
"Come on, let's sit down," said Cohen, who noticed Jan's expression.
Jan's mother shot him a terse smile that did not reach her eyes.
They moved off with Cohen in the lead, leaving their suitcases at the boat.
Cohen shrugged his coat forward. It was made for an older boy, because it belongedto the boy down the road until he jumped from the river crossing in May.
They found a seat on some crates. It was further away but they still had a view oftheir parents.
The boatman gestured broadly at the mass of people. Cohen's father lookedstubborn. The women cried.
Jan was still mopping so Cohen nudged him. "Is your knee ok?"
"It doesn't hurt."
"Maybe the whole city side is here," offered Cohen.
Cohen looked around for something to talk about. "Do you think they're goingdownstream?"
"Yeah, I guess," Jan pitched in a lighter tone.
"Where are they going?"
"Maybe all the way to the ocean. I'd like to see that."
Cohen jumped up.
There was a commotion and shrieking as the crowd scattered around them. A groupof uniformed men entered the dock and made a beeline for the gangplank. Cohen
wanted to call out, but his breath caught.
Cohen tugged on Jan to get up, but he tripped.
"Come on, come on, Jan. Come on, Come on, Jan," he said shortly, trying watch theirparents over his shoulder. He saw the uniformed men stride right up to the gangplank
with stiff backs.
Jan winced and touched his knee.
Cohen tried to help, surrounded by white noise.
By the time they turned back their parents were gone, as were the boatman and theuniformed men. The boat had pulled away from the dock and shrunk into the distance.
Strangers were scrambling to leave or hide.
The boys looked for their parents on the dock until the sun touched the horizon. Thetook their rest with a group of children. There were five - three boys and two girls, the
same age as Cohen or younger.
The group barely spoke. Exhaustion hit them as the sun dipped below the horizonand they all fell unconscious on a pile of sacks.
* * *
They awoke in the cold with rumbling stomachs and weary faces.
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