She sat on the granite boulder, swinging her short legs.
Car after car passed on the rural highway, but none turned in to the gravel roadway leading to their bungalow colony.
She wondered why her mother hadn’t come to look for her.
At the same time, she felt grateful that she could rest in solitude
Her mother had an anxious manner, never smiling, always busy.
She wondered how she could be so busy in the country.
They were far away from the traffic, the horns, the buses, the screaming children.
They were in the mountains.
Nights felt quickly and resolutely.
She never understood her mother.
Sometimes she saw her crying, softly, sitting on a wooden slatted chair, the same chair she used to secure the heavy-duty steel grinder. She would clamp it to the seat of the chair with a vise, and feed chunks of fresh carp into the top opening. Long rows of twirled fish would flow uniformly out of a grated nozzle as she slowly turned the handle.
She knew that her mother was unlike other mothers. She knew that something had happened to her, but she was never exactly sure what had happened. Her past was divided into “The War” and “Before The War,” never talking about either.
She continued to wait.
Her father always brought toys when he visited them.
He spent the weekdays working in the city, and then would drive several hours to the mountains.
Everyone called her a “Daddy’s girl.”
She wasn’t sure what it meant, but she knew that nothing made her happier than to please her father. He was tall and strong and fearless.
She wondered where her sister was.
They had spent the afternoon splashing in the pool. She didn’t know how to swim, and neither, it seemed, did anyone else who used the pool. They just bobbed and held on the sides, or sat on the steps.
Her sister had indefatigable reserves of energy. She was always playing, running, leaping, shouting and disappearing. She often distressed her mother.
She looked down the road.
It was empty.
A small knot of anxiety began to build in her heart.
“What if . . . ?” she thought.
The sun was setting.
Still, she sat alone. She wondered why no one had come to look for her.
She fingered the granite. it was speckled.
Last time, he had bought them matching toy plastic banjos.
She was thrilled. She put her hand to her mouth with joy.
“He must really love us,” she thought.
But no one showed them how to use the banjos. They plucked and twanged the plastic strings discordantly, and soon they became loose, and then lost.
She was tired.
It had been a long day.
She and her sister had picked blueberries in the neighboring field. They had walked and walked. No one had come to look for them.
She heard the sound of a car’s wheels against the stones.
Headlights illuminated the road.
She stood up.
“Daddy!” she wanted to say, but the car drove by.
She climbed back onto the boulder.
“If I stay here, he will have to see me,” she thought.
Suddenly, she saw the flicker of a light. Minuscule. Floating in the air, turning, then disappearing, then another and then another. The lights flicked on and off, creating semicircled orbits in the darkening sunset.
“Oh,” she thought. “Fireflies!”
She watched their trails turn and disappear, a dance of light and life.
“Tatteh, where are you?” she thought, almost crying.
Somehow, the fireflies made her sad, made her think of her mother’s mute stare, her father’s absences.
She felt a chill in the air as the sun set.
Still her father’s car did not appear; still her mother did not come to look for her.
Alone, she sat on the stone alongside the road leading into the bungalow colony, and waited.
THE FIREFLIES appeared on chabad.org.