Israel Book Shop presents Chapter 6 of a new online serial novel, The Cuckoo Clock, by Esther Rapaport. Check back for a new chapter every week. Click here for previous chapters.
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Bratislava – 5704/1944
The representatives of the occupying government who arrived at the orphanage turned out not to be soldiers. There were two members of the city council, one Russian policeman, and another person in uniform who introduced himself as “Anatoly Stachov, a member of the Communist Party,” but didn’t provide much detail about his exact position or rank. In any case, it didn’t interest the director much; he just kept scurrying around his guests like a starving mouse, trying to curry their favor, to the point where the older children exchanged small smiles at the sight. They had never seen the director grovel like this to anyone.
Gustav did not smile. He wasn’t old enough to understand the comical scene, and besides, the only thing he could think about was which of the guests he could ask questions to without being embarrassed.
He finally decided that the fat man from the city council, the guy who hardly spoke, would have time for him. The man was standing near the wall with a lit cigarette, and Gustav sidled up to him.
The man took the cigarette out of his mouth. “Go play, kid,” he said in a gruff voice.
“Did you see my mother?”
“My mother. Theodore said that maybe you saw her on your way here.”
The man narrowed his eyes, his eyebrows almost covering them completely. “Me?”
“Why? Do you not know where she is?”