Sample text for Bridge to America : based on a true story / Linda Glaser.


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I"ll never forget that cold afternoon. It"s fixed in my head as clearly as Beryl"s
face and the warm sweet smell of his bakery. Such a smell could fill an
empty stomach!
I was heading there right after heder --itching to tell him the trick
we"d played on our teacher and hoping for a bagel to fill myself up a little. But
Lila, a neighbor lady, came rushing up to me on the road.
"Fivel, I heard there"s a man at your house." She leaned in too
close, smelling strongly of garlic. "Do you know who it is?" Lila always
wanted the gossip. So even if I had known, I might not have told her. But the
only man I could think of was Pa. My heart pounced at the thought. Was it
possible?
"I"d better go see" was all I said. Then I raced down the road so
fast my own breath had to run to catch up with me.
Pa. That one word thundered through my whole body. Maybe I"d
finally meet him. Maybe he had come for us himself. I ran so hard, the heels
of my feet hit me from behind. Maybe, maybe, we"d soon be with him in
America.
I burst into my house and stopped short.
A tall well-dressed man in city clothes was talking to Ma. We"d
never had such a rich looking man in our house before. No one had ever
stepped on our hard dirt floor with such shiny leather shoes! He was
speaking Polish, not Yiddish--our Jewish language. And he did not have the
full beard of a Jew. So it wasn"t Pa after all. Disappointment weighed on my
chest, heavy as a pile of stones. It took me some time to even care enough
to listen or wonder why he was here.
When I did, he gave a quick glance in my direction and lowered
his voice. "Please understand, Mrs. Myzel. All of us will benefit." He stroked
the side of his nose with his pointer finger. "You, most of all, with one less
mouth to feed." He gave a stiff smile showing mostly teeth. Ma set her lips
firmly and shook her head. The man frowned. "Mrs. Myzel, as you well know,
life does not look promising for Jews in Poland. So far, 1920 does not bode
well." He drew a folded paper from his coat pocket, snapped it open, and
offered it to her--"Here is my name and address" --not knowing that Ma
couldn"t read. "You must realize that I can give him a much better life than
this." He shot an ugly look around our one-room house and down at the hard
dirt floor. It made me want to kick him.
Ma didn"t take the paper. "Thank you for your concern." She
spoke in Polish, clipping each word. "But we"re managing." Her face was rigid
as she held the door open for him.
He thrust the paper into her hand anyway. "If things get worse for
you Jews, and mark my words they will, you"ll be grateful you have this.
Good day." He turned and left.
Ma quickly shut the door and gave a little shudder.
"Who was that?" I asked.
She didn"t answer. Her mouth was set in a thin tight line.
But my sister Kvola spoke up. "That man . . ." her eyes
flashed. "He wanted to take you!"
"No!" I threw my arms around Ma.
My sister Hannah was bent over our table mending. She hunched
into herself even more when Kvola said that. Ma was still glaring at the door.
Just then, my brother, Benyomin, rushed in, his face flushed from
running. "That man," he pointed outside. "What was he doing here? Did you
see his fancy horse and carriage in front of Tomas and Ana"s house?"
A horse and carriage! I hadn"t even noticed. I"d been in such a
rush to see Pa. I"d barely glanced next door. He must be very rich. I
squeezed Ma"s arm even tighter. Rich people always seemed to get what
they wanted.
Kvola narrowed her eyes. "He wants to take Fivel away. His wife
wants "a good little boy." " She gave a stiff smile like his--full of teeth.
"What?" Benyomin looked at Ma. "He can"t do that!"
"Don"t let him!" I clutched Ma around the waist. "Please."
"Of course not," said Ma impatiently. "I"m already one child
poorer." A shadow of sadness swept behind her eyes. I didn"t know what
she"d meant by that. But it wasn"t comforting. She drew her mouth into that
tight line again as if she"d said more than she"d meant to. She gave Hannah
and Kvola a sharp warning look.
"But Ma, what if he comes back?" I cried.
Ma shook her head. "Don"t worry." But she sounded more tired
than reassuring. She set the paper on the table.
That troubled me. I badly wanted to crumple it into a tight ball,
throw it into our clay oven, and watch it burst into flames. But something
about the heaviness in Ma"s shoulders made me uneasy. Now my shoulders
sagged, too.
"Pff!" Kvola made a spitting sound. "Don"t even think about him!
He"s gone." She gave a strong kick in his direction as if she, herself, had
booted him out of our house. That made me smile. "Don"t you worry, Fivel."
She tugged my shoulders back up. "Everything will be fine."
I nodded. "Soon we"ll be safe in America." I tried to sound just as
strong and sure as she did. I looked up at Ma. "Won"t we?" I asked, hoping
maybe she"d talk about Pa and America like she used to when I was little.
But Ma was in her own thoughts. She wiped her hands on her apron and
turned to the pot on the stove.
"Soon Pa will send for us." I tried again, enjoying the sound of it in
my mouth, as though saying it aloud would bring it closer.
But Ma just wasn"t in a talking mood. She ladled out our soup for
tonight--mostly water with some potatoes and onions, leaving the rest in the
pot for tomorrow.
"It"s almost Shabbos," she reminded me, feeding a few more
sticks to the fire. "Here." She handed me the pot. "Quick to Beryl"s. And
come straight home before sundown."
I lifted the latch and hurried into the sharp autumn air and down
the dirt road. An icy gust swept through my clothes. I shivered, but not only
from the cold. That man in city clothes gave me chills. And what about Ma?
One child poorer? It made no sense. But why had she looked so sad? I
walked as fast as I could without spilling our soup.
Meanwhile, I tried to push the man out of my head--like Kvola
kicking him out the door. But his parting words taunted. You"ll be grateful you
have this.
"No!" I shouted into the cold wind. "No we won"t!"

Copyright © 2005 by Linda Glaser.
Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Jews -- Poland -- Juvenile fiction.
Jews -- United States -- Juvenile fiction.
Jews -- Poland -- Fiction.
Jews -- United States -- Fiction.
Ocean travel -- Fiction.
Emigration and immigration -- Fiction.