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Freefall: Chapter 37

Miriam Zakon

The children arrive at the hotel and Annie realizes Artie has been traumatized by his experiences. In England, Mrs. Braun falls and injures herself

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

"W

hat is wrong with you?”

Moe almost dropped the string bag laden with food wrapped in newspaper. Could it be that she was speaking to him?

Since he’d come to Bletchley, for six days a week — though the colonel did work on Saturdays, he’d managed Moe’s time so he had Shabbos off, another huge benefit of the posting — Moe had been dropping off kosher food packages for Rob Morgenstern. If they weren’t working the same hours, he’d leave it near her chair; if they were on the same shift, he’d hand it to her. She’d then give him a stiff nod and a dry “Thanks, Yank.” That was the entirety of their relationship.

So why was she talking to him now? And what in the world was she talking about?

“Excuse me?”

One of the other codebreakers at the table looked up sternly. “Sssshhh.”

Working on the intercepts to try and make sense of them needed full concentration, and chatting among the cryptographers as they pored over the encoded messages was almost unheard of.

Rob stood up and nodded her head toward the door. Moe, puzzled, followed her out.

Again: “What is wrong with you?”

Moe tried a touch of humor. “I’ve intercepted your message, but it needs some decoding.”

She didn’t smile. “Why in the world didn’t you tell me about Mrs. Braun’s accident?”

So that was what she meant. Moe felt a wave of righteous indignation wash over him; he hadn’t appreciated her snide tone and complete lack of common courtesy these past two weeks.

He kept his voice carefully under control. “Have you given me any indication that you wanted me to speak to you? I’m the lowly Yank, remember? Why would you sully yourself by speaking with a cowboy?”

Suddenly, and completely unexpectedly, she laughed — a pleasant sound.

“Touche,” she said, her voice softer than he’d ever heard it. “My apologies, Lieutenant. Now, tell me about Fanny Braun.”

Moe’s anger and hurt feelings melted away with her apologies. “She fell off a stepladder.”

“Yes, I know that,” she said with a touch of impatience. “Jack Slater is billeted next to them, and he told me about it today. But how is she now?”

Moe’s mind went back to those difficult moments. Walking in and finding his hostess lying on the floor, groaning, semiconscious, her arm sticking out at a dreadful angle to the rest of her body. The feeling of helplessness: alone, in a strange country, with no idea of what to do. Racing to a neighbor, who’d phoned an ambulance. Telling Sam, cheerful Sam, and watching tears flow from his pale-blue eyes. Fanny’s homecoming…

“She’s much better. They kept her in the hospital for one day, because of possible concussion. One arm is broken and the other wrist is sprained.”

“Poor, poor Fanny.”

“Do you know her?”

“Much better than you do,” she said sharply.

“So you know how she is. Still smiling and singing though she’s in a lot of pain.”

“But wait — if Fanny’s arms are both useless, who’s been making the food there? Sam?”

Now it was Moe’s turn to laugh. “Not exactly. Sam’s a great butcher, and a wonderful person, but he’s hopeless in the kitchen. No, I am now the official cook and cleaner of the Braun home.”

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