A Literary Magazine in Support of the Jewish Community

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"Survivors" by Eva Eliav


Don’t get me started on Uncle Charlie.


Uncle Charlie was my mother’s brother. Moon faced, completely bald, he’d been handsome once. And popular with the girls. So my mother said.


He married twice. His first marriage ended in divorce. He’d married again just before the war and his wife and child had been murdered in the camps. “Poor man,” my mother sighed. But he seemed feisty enough when he slugged me. One moment, I was babbling on my stool, the next I was in flight, landing face down on the kitchen floor.


I remember feeling astonished, sprawled like a broken doll on the yellow tiles, my mouth leaking bright red drops. Somewhere nearby, I heard my mother shrieking. A small, silver scar on my inner lip still marks the spot where face and floor collided.


I wasn’t rushed to the doctor to stitch the wound. “They’ll hurt her,” my mother whimpered. My father nodded.


He ordered Charlie out as my mother wept. “The war,” she said, mopping her face with an apron, “the war…the war.”


Uncle Charlie hurriedly packed his case of stiff brown leather and disappeared from our lives for several years. Then he was back, jovial as a Santa bearing gifts. To be precise, one gift only, a small rubber flower that sprayed water. My brother and I took turns squirting each other. Mother encouraged us to thank him profusely, but we weren’t left alone with Uncle Charlie.


Except for the day he treated us to ice cream. Plump fingers grasping mine, he counted a few coins into my hand. Before I could turn away, he pulled me against him, capturing my cheek with his open mouth. He groaned deep in his chest…poor man, the war…his tongue left a trail of mucous like a snail. I didn’t dare to wipe away the wetness, though it tingled on my skin all afternoon.


My brother must have blurted what he’d seen. Not long after, Charlie was gone again. He wrote once from the Y in another city. I watched my mother carefully fold his letter and slide it deep into an old black purse, long unused, kept only to store memories.


“He was a good man…before,” my mother said, squeezing her eyes shut. Tears burst the fragile levees of her eyelids. My brother and I wrapped our arms around her. Innocently, we drank from the poisoned stream.

Eva Eliav

Eva Eliav studied English Literature at The University of Toronto and The University of Tel Aviv. Her poetry and flash fiction have appeared in numerous literary journals, including Room, The St. Ann’s Review, Emrys Journal, Ilanot Review, Flashquake, The Apple Valley Review, Horizon Review, Luna Station Quarterly, Fairy Tale Magazine, Stand, Constellations, Minyan, One Art, Gyroscope Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and Fictive Dream. She has published two poetry chapbooks: Eve (Red Bird Chapbooks, 2019) and One Summer Day (Kelsay Books, 2021). She has also been nominated for a Pushcart.



Eva Eliav