The Fireflies

She sat on the granite boulder, swinging her short legs.
Car after car passed on the rural highway, but none turned into the gravel road leading to their bungalow colony.
She wondered why her mother hadn’t come to look for her.
Her mother had an anxious manner, always busy.
She wondered how she could be so busy in the country.
They were far from the cars, buses, horns, screaming children.
They were in the mountains.
She never understood her mother.
Sometimes she would see her crying, softly, sitting, silent.
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 spent the weekdays working in the city.
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, strong and fearless.
She wondered what her sister was doing.
They had spent the afternoon splashing in the pool. She didn’t know how to swim and neither, it seemed, did anyone else. They just bobbed and held on the sides or sat on the steps.
Her sister was always playing, running, leaping, shouting and disappearing. She often distressed their mother.
She looked down the empty road.
“What if . . . ?” she thought.
The sun was setting.
She wondered why no one had come to look for her.
She fingered the specked surface of the rock.
The last time, he had bought them matching toy plastic banjos.
She had 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 and soon they became loose and then, lost.
It had been a long day.
They had picked blueberries in the neighboring field and had walked and walked.
She heard the sound of a car’s wheels.
Headlights illuminated the road.
She stood up.
“Daddy!” she said, but the car drove by.
She climbed back onto her perch.
“If I stay here, he will have to see me,” she thought.
Suddenly, she saw the flicker of lights floating in the air, turning, then disappearing. They flicked on and off, creating semicircular orbits in the dark.
“Oh,” she thought. “Fireflies!”
She watched their trails turn and fade, a dance of light and life.
Tatteh, where are you?” she thought.
Somehow, the fireflies reminded her of her mother’s mute stare, her father’s absences.
She felt a chill in the air.
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 and waited.
The Fireflies first appeared on chabad.org.
About the Author
Elaine Rosenberg Miller writes fiction and non-fiction. Her work has appeared in numerous print publications and online sites, domestically and abroad, including JUDISCHE RUNDSCHAU, THE BANGALORE REVIEW, THE FORWARD, THE HUFFINGTON POST and THE JEWISH PRESS. Her book. FISHING IN THE INTERCOASTAL AND OTHER SHORT STORIES will be published by Adelaide Books in 2019.
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