191

“Number 687.”

“Number 687,” the woman droned, once more from behind the glass.

“Last call. Number 687.” The rest of the room fingered their tiny slips of paper, smelling the lead on their fingers.

“Number 191.”

“Me!” a mother yelped, as if shaken from a deep sleep. She turned to the little girl who sat next to her. “Alright, Alice. It’s time to go.”

Alice stood up and brushed off her dress, not that she needed to.

The woman did not make eye contact with the mother or her child. “Number 191, if you’ll just stand on the platform.”

The mother knelt before her daughter, staring intently into her eyes. “Alright, Alice. Just stand here and mommy will be right behind you, ok?”

“Ok.” Alice held her suitcase and stuffed turtle tightly as a low rumble turned into a faint whirring sound. The platform opened with a whoosh and Alice dropped into the blackness, screaming for her mother.

As the platform closed, the woman behind the glass finally looked up at the mother. “Ma’am, if you’ll sign here.”

“Yes. Of course.” The mother stared for awhile at the pencil.

“Ma’am?”

The mother blinked and shook her head. “Yes. Sorry.” She scribbled her Govnim as best she could and headed for the door. With tears in her eyes, the mother smiled in thought,“Thank God. She’s finally safe.”

“Number 523…”

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