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Valentine's Day

by

Harry Buschman
 

Martha looked back at the burning city. Her father told her so many times, "They will never bomb Dresden. There is nothing here to bomb -- the war will soon be over, Martha -- and everything will be as it was before.

If Martha had not been to the Lutheran Cemetery on Kaiser-Strasse she would be dead by now. She knew that; yet the full realization that her family must have perished in the flames of this holocaust had not yet set in.

"But everything will be as it was before." She said to herself. "I will put these flowers on my brother's grave. I will go home again and we will have tea -- and Mama will ask me -- what did they teach you at school today, Martha?"

.... and then she remembered it was Valentine's day, and there would be a love card from Werner waiting for her. But then she remembered the bombing began before the mailman came.

There was such a wind feeding the flames -- everything was sucked into them. She could see people fighting to stay on their feet, hanging on door frames, to trees, anything to stay out of the flames. "If I had not been here ..." she said. But even here everything had changed. The grave-stones were toppled and the monuments that guided her to her brother's grave were gone. She could not find it, the stones were scattered and the grass was scorched. She could not find her way.

She saw a woman, an old woman in black, sitting on a stone holding a bouquet of cut flowers in one hand and a rosary in the other. She looked up at Martha and asked her what time it was. "I am waiting for the funeral to arrive." She said. "They were supposed to be here at eleven o'clock. They are late. Do they think I can wait all day?"

The woman stood up and walked to the entrance gate and looked left and right. Martha saw her skirts billow about her. Her flowers were ripped away; she looked back at Martha and took two or three stumbling steps, and was suddenly swept off her feet in the direction of the flames.

Martha felt as though she might be the last person alive in the world. "What will I do when the flames die down? Will someone come to get me? Will someone take me home?"

She looked back again at the burning city. "There is nothing here to bomb." Father said.

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