• Contributing Author

Winter Surprise

Magda Shoenburgh wandered along the path that would take her down to the waters edge. This particular morning was so cold she was sure that the water would be frozen over and she could skim stones and sticks along its surface. The trees that lined the path looked like spooky hands clawing out of the ground reaching for the gray sky. Her job that morning was to gather what firewood she could and bring it home so Mama could cook their meager breakfast with it.

Her family had moved to Branau Am Inn from Germany in 1897, this town on the northern edge of Austria was supposed to be a better place to live. Her father had an uncle that operated a bakery and he could work there. Papa would be busy today making challah and other breads.

Magda had only collected a few sticks so far and wondered where her brother had gotten off to. Joram was probably waiting to jump out and scare her. Magda looked around with heightened sense and waited, then she heard it. It was a yelp. That didn’t sound like her brother, that sounded like someone was in trouble. Magda ran towards the sound coming from the pond. She crested the frozen hill and saw a boy struggling in the frigid water. It looked like the boy from town who had tripped her once, until Joram’s arrival had made him back down and leave. How did that kid get that far out without the ice breaking before? Magda ran towards the frozen pond and gently stepped onto the ice, all the while shouting for Joram. The ice seemed to hold, she could even see where to boy had stepped by the disturbances of the frosty surface. Magda slowly inched her way closer to the struggling boy.

“Magda ran towards the sound coming from the pond. She crested the frozen hill and saw a boy struggling in the frigid water.”

She was very close now and then he went under, Magda pitched forward to grab his hand before he went to deep and the ice buckled under her, plunging her into the cold water. Her body felt that immediate first shock of cold and by luck she felt the hand of that boy. Magda grabbed onto him and clutched to edge of the ice with her other arm. She was in real trouble now but the voice of Joram broke through her terror. She saw him inching towards her and then laid down on the ice and extended the canvas firewood tote towards her. Magda was to scared to let go of the ice edge to grab the handle that was only a handsbeadth away. Her other hand pulled the boy up and edged him towards the tote. He weakly grabbed onto it and Joram pulled him out of the water.

The cold was taking all of her strength, she could feel her grip weakening in the edge of the ice and her legs were becoming dead weight. The handle of the tote hit her in the face, she didn’t feel it but it woke her from despair and with both hands she latched onto it. Joram had slid away from the boy and was pulling her in a different direction. With the last of her strength and Joram’s pulling Magda was free of the icy water. Magda hung onto the handle still, her fingers to numb to let go and Joram Pulled her to the edge of the pond. Magda tried to stand but her shivering was relentless. Joram pulled her up with one hand, all the while holding up the boy.

They made their home as quickly as they could and Mama came rushing out of their small house when she heard Joram’s calls for help. Between Mama and Joram we all were rushed in and covered with blankets and seated next to the embers of lasts nights fire. Mama gave me a cup of brandy as well as the boy. The liquid burned going down but warmed the belly.

Magda didn’t like going down to pond much after that and the boy moved away the next month. Papa took over the bakery when his uncle died from pneumonia. The shoenburgs lived with relative happiness in Branau Am Inn until 1938 and the Nazi's took over. Then Papa’s bakery was burned and they got relocated to a work camp.

I wonder what our world would be like if Joram and I had not heard little Adolf that day?.

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