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General

Immanuel ben-Lazar had finally made it. He was standing on the wharf on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, waiting to step foot on a ship that would bring him to America. He had been trying to escape Israel for years and an opportunity had ultimately arisen. A friend had told him about a trader who smuggled immigration passes into Saudi Arabia. That was a dangerous place for Jews, but he and his family had made it through after a few miniscule trials.

Immanuel's wife, Leah, his young son, Elizar, and his sixteen-year-old daughter Rebecca were standing next to him. A ship was pulling into the dock. Immanuel looked out over the sea. This wasn't even the ocean and already the vast hugeness of it frightened him. It would be a long, difficult journey, he was sure, but he was willing to take that risk if it meant bringing his family to safety.

At least his children were excited. Rebecca adored adventure and Elizar was always pretending he was off on some fantastical escapade endeavoring to accomplish an impossible feat.

The ship blew a horn. It was such a long lonely sound, similar to the moo of a cow. Immanuel sucked in a breath. The endless line they were standing in moved forward slightly. Immanuel peered over the heads of the sea of people in front of him. His family was almost to the desk. He shoved his hand in his pocket. Good. The passes were still there. A travel-worn couple in front of the ben-Lazars moved forward to the desk. "Next!" the ticket checker called.

Immanuel and his family stepped up. "Immigration passes, please." Immanuel shakily thrust his hand in his pocket. His feeling of nervous excitement transformed into one of horror and dread. The immigration passes were not in his pocket. He tried the other one. No, they weren't there either. Wasn't it only a minute ago when he had checked to make sure they were?

"I don't understand! They were just here!" he shouted, frantically searching his pockets for the missing passes. Leah and the children did the same. When they found nothing, Immanuel looked up at the checker. He was tapping his fingers on the table, impatiently waiting.

"Sir," Immanuel started, "I promise you they were just here, not even a minute ago. Someone must have stolen them!"

The checker looked back blankly, clearly uninterested.

"I'm sorry," he said sarcastically, "but there are a lot of people in line behind you, so if you don't have passes, please move along."

"But, Sir!" Immanuel protested. "I swear I had them a minute ago! I would not lie! Please, don't you have extra passes we could have? I will pay for them! Plea..."

"Sir, if you have a problem, go to Security! I'm sure they can help you. Next!"

Immanuel was fuming. He grabbed his kids' hands and stormed off, angry and exhausted from the events that had just transpired. More than anything, he was full of misery. How could this have happened to them? After all his prayers and hard work? After risking his and his family's lives!? He stomped to Security, tired and worn.


Immanuel flopped on the ground and leaned against the Security building. His family sat beside him, confused and worried. Immanuel closed his eyes and leaned his head back. All Security had done was tell him they were "sorry, but they couldn't help him" and escort him out of the building.

A commotion pulled him out of his thoughts. He opened his eyes to see a group of travelers, jostling each other, walking towards the road. Immanuel closed his eyes again. After an hour, he stood, pulling his family up after him, and walked towards the road, where there was a bus waiting for immigrants. He settled his family in the bus and went to pay the driver.

"How much for four tickets?" Immanuel asked.

"Ten dollars!" the scruffy driver responded with a toothless grin. Immanuel almost croaked. First, he lost his passes; now, he couldn't pay the bus fare. What would happen next?

"When does the ship leave?" Immanuel asked the driver.

"In approximately two hours."

"When does this bus leave?"

"I dunno, as soon as it's full, I guess." As the man spoke, spittle flew from his mouth. Immanuel cringed. He walked back to his family, telling them he would be right back, then exited the bus. He had to get some money. But how? Immanuel walked out into the parking lot. As he was passing through, he heard a voice. What it said made him pause. He ducked behind a car.

"I heard Old Claudius was gonna smuggle immigrants to America. He's got a little boat parked down at Fisherman's Wharf."

"I dunno, man." a second voice said. "I heard Old Claudius was caught 'en killed last summer."

"Nah, I jus saw 'im the other day. But if he gets caught durin this trip, he's dead fo sure."

Immanuel peered over the car. The two men walked away, hopped in a car, and drove off. He glanced back at the bus. No one was going in. Immanuel jumped up, sprinting toward Security.


"Excuse me," he said to a security guard. "Do you happen to know where Fisherman's Wharf is?"

The guard stared at him blankly, as if this was the last thing he expected Immanuel to ask. "Down in that direction, the only dock on the whole waterfront. Can't miss it."

"Thank you." Immanuel sped off. He ran down the waterfront until he spotted the wharf. A little ship was tied to the dock and a stubby man, worn from weather, was bending over the cargo hold.

"Excuse me?" The little man, startled, turned around and said, "Can I help you?"

"Yes," Immanuel introduced himself and suggested his proposal. Old Claudius nodded and reluctantly agreed. Immanuel shook his hand, spun around, and sprinted back to the bus.


To his relief, it was still there. He climb in and explained his plan to the family. They were nervous, but agreed as well. Together, they ran back to Fisherman's Wharf and Old Claudius. He had agreed to let them sail with him on his overcrowded ship.


Immanuel and his family climbed aboard the ship and settled in. Standing on the bow of the ship, Immanuel watched the swirling waves and the sun setting slowly on the horizon. He shivered as a breeze picked up. It had been a near escape, but they were finally on their way. The sea held a foreboding mystery, but Immanuel was up for the adventure. It would be a long treacherous journey, but, afterward his family would be able to start a new, safe life. And that was invitation enough for Immanuel.


December 04, 2019 02:23

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RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

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