Welcome reader to my little corner of fiction. This story is a retelling of an old story told to me by many various people. This version comes from the tales of veterans of the European campaigns in WWII that I've had the honor of speaking with. The story is older than that, and has appeared in many forms. Some of you might even recognize this story as a song made in the '60's (or maybe the '70's, I'm not sure).
Regardless, this is my own variation of it, and I pray I do it justice. I expect it to pull somewhere around four chapters. Please read and review, for it is you, the reader, that has the power to make me a better writer.
Lastly, I'd like to dedicate this story to my brother, a man whom I am proud to call family. His outlook on life is an inspiration to me, and no matter how much I tortured him growing up, he has nothing but my utmost respect now. It is he that inspired me to write this tale.
The Dark Days Begin
As heavy thuds echoed through the house and into the small alcove in which Ralph and his brother Joseph hid in, the boy's mind wandered over his life.
He was a twelve year old boy, living with his family on the German side of the French border. Hitler had rose to power in his country, and was making war with everyone he could. Ralph did not care for such things, though he was aware his father, and many other locals in the small village, was members of resistance movements looking to overthrow the crazed leader.
His only care was to look after his little brother Joseph. He was a kind hearted little nine year old boy, the same as countless others, except for his left leg. For whatever reason, Joseph had been born with a deformed leg, preventing him from ever being able to walk. The small boy could move about with the aid of a cane, for very short distances. Otherwise he was confined to a wheelchair.
The government had begun their 'cleansing' of the population, and the chatter of the 'master race' was nearly deafening. Rumors floated about that the government was condoning the murder of those born with disabilities.
This, coupled with rumors of the genocide of the Jews, is what drove the boys' father into the resistance. There was a price to pay for such associations, and Ralph realized that he and his brother was about to split the check.
The thuds stopped, bringing Ralph's mind back to the moment. A few seconds later, he could hear men talking, and his father answering. A few more moments, and the men began yelling.
The men were soldiers, and that was why their mother had pushed the boys into the small room underneath the stairs.
If there was any doubt as to why the soldiers were there, it was quickly removed by the sound of a pair of gunshots, followed by their mother's scream. The soldiers had discovered their father's connections to the resistance, and were there to end them.
Joseph grabbed at Ralph, fear resting firmly in the little boy's hazel eyes.
"What's going on Ralph?"
"Shh! They'll hear you!" Ralph shushed at his little brother.
Joseph complied, and they both fell silent, listening intently for what would happen next.
The voice of the boys' mother floated into their hiding spot. Ralph could not make out her words, but could tell she was pleading desperately. The pleading apparently did not help. A thud shook the house, and the soldiers laughed gleefully.
Ralph's mother screamed 'no', but apparently it was no use, as the soldiers' laughter just increased, and soon his mother was crying out as though she was in great pain.
It was then that Ralph knew they had to get out of there. The soldiers would surely search the house, and then they would find the boys.
"C'mon Joseph, we've got to get out of here" Ralph said, starting to work on opening the small secret hatch set in the outer wall made for just such a situation.
"We can't go anywhere without Mom!" Joseph protested.
Ralph felt anger rise in his throat, but quickly reminded himself that Joseph was just a boy, and didn't understand what was happening. "Mom will meet us later, I promise."
Joseph looked apprehensive, but decided to trust his big brother. He lowered himself to the floor, and began pulling himself out the small opening. As soon as he was clear, Ralph began wiggling out behind him.
Right as both brothers made it outside, Ralph turned to secure the hidden hatch back, but was stopped cold by a chilling sound. One more shot rang out from inside the house, and the quiet weeping of their mother ended suddenly. Ralph knew they were orphans now.
"What happened?" Joseph asked anxiously.
"Don't worry about it. Everything will be okay as long as we get out of here."
"What about Mom?" The younger brother asked.
Ralph did not answer the question, instead turned and found a sturdy piece of wood lying in the alley where they stood. "Here, you can use this as a cane. Now c'mon."
Ralph took in the situation quickly. They were standing in a small side alley between their home and another. There were not many places to hide in such a small village, with only a handful of buildings keeping the wilderness at bay.
A woman lived a few houses down, someone his father had spoken of often, a Mrs. Monroe. Ralph could tell she was a member of the resistance as well, though his parents had never said as much. If anyone could help them, it would be her.
"We're going to Mrs. Monroe's house, Joseph" Ralph announced to his brother.
The younger brother just nodded solemnly and began hobbling towards the back of the alley.
Ralph followed, glancing every which way to make sure the soldiers hadn't discovered them. After turning into the back alley, the boys quickly found themselves standing at Mrs. Monroe's back door.
A few moments of light rapping brought the older woman out. She was fairly tall and imposing, but yet very kind and gentle of heart. She was heavy set, but not frightfully so, with her deep brunette hair colored more with grey.
When Mrs. Monroe saw the boys, she instantly knew what had happened. Joseph without his chair or proper cane indicated just exactly where the shots had came from, and why they had been issued in the first place.
"Oh my! Are you boys okay?" She asked with concern so thick it nearly dripped from her voice.
"They killed Daddy!" Joseph wailed.
Mrs. Monroe shot Ralph a panicked look, and Ralph quickly grabbed his brother's mouth.
"Hush Joseph!" Ralph ordered.
Mrs. Monroe did not say another word, but instead ushered the boys into her kitchen, closing the door quickly after making sure no one observed the children entering.
"What are we going to do?" Ralph asked the woman.
"This is bad. There is a mole in the group. I'm not sure who it is, or how we can find out. I don't think our cell of the resistance can survive" Mrs. Monroe answered.
Ralph's eyes fell to the floor and he spoke barely above a whisper. "I mean, my brother and me."
"Oh, dear, I'm sorry! With everything that's just happened, and here I am thinking about myself!" Mrs. Monroe said, snatching Ralph up and giving him a tight hug.
"Can we stay the night with you?" Joseph asked innocently.
Mrs. Monroe laughed, if only for Joseph's sake. "Yes of course dear, you can stay the night." The woman turned to Ralph. "But you realize you can't stay here long right?"
Ralph nodded. "We can't endanger you."
"Well, I wouldn't mind, but if they knew that your parents were in the resistance, then they know that you two are their kids, and they will be looking for you. I've got to get you out of here for your safety, not mine."
"Where will we go?" Ralph asked.
"There's an orphanage right across the French border. If I can get you there, they can help get you to Paris, or somewhere else away from this dreadful war." Mrs. Monroe explained.
"Thank you, but we don't want to make you take a trip on our accounts" Ralph responded.
Mrs. Monroe laughed again. "Such manners! Your parents were good people, and they raised you right, bless them." The woman rubbed Joseph's head playfully. "Don't worry, the orphanage is a relay point for the resistance to contact the French government, and I need to make a report. So you see, I'm going no matter what."
Ralph nodded, and Mrs. Monroe pointed to her small wooden table.
"Take a seat and we'll have something to eat." Mrs. Monroe began moving about the kitchen. "Tomorrow morning I'll see you to the orphanage."
Joseph ate eagerly, seemingly unaware of the dire predicament the brothers were in. Ralph wished earnestly that he could be so detached. He wondered how well Joseph's innocence was going to hold up in the face of the hardships he was sure they were about to face.