This is Ezra’s first extended convo with his friend Annemarie Johanssen, who is now Annemarie Nilssen and the great-grandmother of one of his best friends. I need Annemarie to have a strong enough motivation to revisit the past to cause her to convince Ezra to go back and muck around with the timeline, thus causing WWIII.
“Annemarie?” Ezra asked, in low enough tones that Heike wouldn’t hear.
“What was happening when you first came to the US?”
“My parents were very fortunate after the war. Ellen’s father played a part in getting us over. Copenhagen was just coming back to life, and of course, I was able to write to Ellen again. Mr. Rosen had come to be a well-respected man in the shipbuilding industry. He was able to maintain the Aberdeen yards well enough that there were at least five offers for his services. I didn’t like the prospect of them going to the States without us, but what could I do?” Annemarie looked up, as if she were recalling a plan that she had hatched.
“You didn’t have me there to dream you back.”
“Right, and even if you were there, I would have had to create a story for you so that you wouldn’t wind up in one of those awful DP camps.”
“DP camps? I never heard of those,” Ezra mused.
“Displaced Persons. It was terrible. There were refugees of all kinds who couldn’t go home for whatever reason, who got moved to a DP camp. The sad thing is that some of the Jews had survived in spirit only, like walking ghosts. Now they were put in another camp, and can you imagine,” Annemarie looked in Ezra’s eyes for emphasis, “the UN put barbed wire on top of the fences?”
“Yuk!” Ezra responded.
“Yuk, right, Ezra. My mother was a nurse before the war, so she made it to the camp in ( ). I think that Mr. Rosen suggested it. Once Mama found quarters, we moved there. We stayed eighteen months.”
“Eighteen months in a DP camp? That sounds pleasant.”
“Ezra, it was awful! I just spent every day I my bed, crying.”
“Didn’t your mom try to find you some friends? That’s what my mom did when we came to Philadelphia.”
“There weren’t very many young people left! Most of them had starved during the war, or were taken away to the gas chambers.”
Silence settled over the two of them. After a few moments, Annemarie continued.
“There was a girl there, who it turns out was from Poland. She was sixteen, but she was no bigger than me, and she had never…”
“Had a period?” Ezra interjected. Annemarie’s eyes twinkled that Gilleleje twinkle again, just as they had when Ezra last saw them, either nine months or sixty-eight years earlier, depending on which dream-traveller you ask.
“Right you are, Ezra,” Annemarie continued. “She thought for certain that the Nazis had taken that from her. My mom and I spent extra time trying to heal her. She stayed sticklike for the eighteen months that she lived with us, but after a year, she had gained a little bit of weight and some muscle tone.”
“How did you help her do that?”
“First off, I didn’t let her eat anything too rich at first. We made tons, huge vats, of rice pudding, so that the Jews could keep it down. As Fruma gained weight, I made her exercise with me. She learned how to lift her arms again, and then to hold potatoes in them. Finally, she started doing deep knee-bends, so I put whey powder in her food. Then one month, I think it was the month that she made 40 kg, – that’s about 88 pounds – it happened! She had a period, and we celebrated. She and I spent all night giggling, creating imaginary boyfriends, and creating ridiculous anatomies for her first lover so that she could produce a child who could defeat the Third Reich all by himself.”
Ezra interjected. “What did you tell her about me?”
“I told her you were my boyfriend, and that you had to go back to Palestine to prepare for Independence. I told her you would come back and get me pregnant, and I’d share you with her if she wanted.” Ezra was happy that he could easily see a fourteen-year-old girl in front of him, not the octogenarian with the dancing blue eyes.
“Wait a minute, Mrs. Nilssen, just what did you tell her I was packing?”
“Ezra, I didn’t know what you were packing, and for all I know, you are going to keep your promise.”
“What promise was that?” Ezra had forgotten.
“By the sound, under the full moon, that you would dream your way back to me when you get to be fifteen and be my first lover,” Annemarie said, clearly enjoying the provocative nature of the discussion.
“I remember now. I said I’d be your first boyfriend. I didn’t promise THAT! But I guess, maybe, I would like that. For you to be my first. But what if I get you pregnant?” Ezra was starting to get the same temporal displacement headaches he used to get when he and Annemarie first met in his dreams, in the bad old days when his mom wouldn’t let him see Aba.
“Silly, isn’t it obvious? Our child grows up to have a son, who marries your mom, they have children, and you stay in Kazakhstan and never meet me!”
“In which case the whole thing blows up. 2x=4x, x=0. We’re learning that in pre-algebra. But that wouldn’t happen. What do you know about infertility?” Ezra asked this question sardonically.
“Oh, right. Your mom and my son adopt you and live happily ever after, so you don’t get the nightmares, and you don’t get to me. So once again, we never meet, my kid doesn’t marry your mom, temporal train wreck.” Annemarie had begun to think she had figured out the paradox, when…
“My mom meets my dad instead, and restores the timeline.”
Ouch, Annemarie thought.
“But what about that you come back, find me in the DP camp, we have a baby, who then becomes your grandfather?”
Stumped, Ezra scratched his scalp, turning his jet-black hair into a spike pattern. After a brief pause, Ezra reached into his jeans pocket, removed a Beyblade and its launcher, and loaded it up.
“Then my grandfather produces kids who never feature in the equation. My mom still meets Aba, they still adopt me, I still meet you – nice try, but,” Ezra continued while launching his Rock Orso across the coffee table, “Stadium Out!”
“Ezra,” Annemarie chuckled, “I’ve only known how to be a boy for nine months.”
Ezra gave Annemarie a love tap on her slightly wrinkled cheek. “Or sixty-nine years.”
“Bedstemor Nilssen, can you give me my friend back, please?” Heike stuck her nose into the living room. It was, after all, her sleepover. Ezra captured Rock Orso, gave his elderly friend a quick kiss, and said, “Wake me up when Heike and Jake are asleep. I have an idea.”
How does this read to you?