Margret hung over her husband’s shoulder. She grinned as she watched him illustrate her words. “I love the monkey playing with the yellow hat.”
“You always like my work.”
Sirens pierced the night sky. Margret shivered.
Hans slammed his fist on the table. “We must get out of this country before it’s too late, but first we find shelter.” They followed their neighbors down the steps in what had become a nightly routine.
Huddled together in the basement along with dozens of others, the smell of fear filled the space. To be Jewish in a city soon to be occupied by Nazis proved to be much more frightening than the siren that commanded them to safety.
Slowly they trudged back up the steps when the nighttime sky grew a little pink. “Go to bed, Mags.”
Hans put his fingers to her lips.
He stood until his eyes settled in to the dark then he ran to the pile of debris he had gathered through the weeks. What others regarded as junk, Hans saw as a means of escape. He pieced together parts until he had reassembled a bicycle. An hour later another was formed. The man worked until he heard the sound of morning. Birds chirped happily. For a moment he smiled…just a moment. He road-tested his new creations then ran up the steps, the journey already mapped out in his mind.
Margret waited for him at the door. “Please, Hans, what are you up to?”
“We’re leaving. Hitler’s evil. He hates us and our Jewish heritage. He sends our kind to death camps.”
“I’ve heard the talk. Oh Hans, is it true?”
“Yes. I’ve bicycles ready for us. You gather our coats and food.”
Margret looked around their tiny apartment. How could they leave their beloved Paris? Leave their memories? She watched Hans pick up their work and her heart lurched.
“Hans, we can’t leave the manuscripts.”
“Hitler can take much away from us but he can’t take away this that came from our hearts. Even if lost they’re still inside us,” Hans winked, “but I have an idea.” He rolled each of the five piles of papers and put them in cardboard tubes.
Margret smiled. She took scissors and cut holes into the linings of their coats. Hans immediately caught onto her plan. He dropped one into each spot and helped his wife sew the tears. Their most cherished possessions safely tucked away, they looked around the room.
“We have each other, that’s all that matters,” she whispered.
Hans steered her through the door and shut it firmly behind them.
“Your carriage awaits, my dear.” Hans held out the bicycle and Margret straddled it, eager to begin their adventure.
The little round face with horn-rimmed glasses peered into the book. A bit of his tongue stuck out from the space where his two front teeth belonged. He ran his finger below each word of the bound yellow book.
*One day George saw a man.
He had on a large yellow straw hat.
The man saw George too.
“What a nice little monkey,” he thought.
“Mama, how do you say this?” Tyler pointed to the word. “See, it’s on the title, too.”
“Curious. This is Curious George. I used to read it when I was little.”
“That means full of questions, like you.”
Tyler loaded up his chosen books and walked to the check-out line. He stood on tiptoe and laid them on the desk.
“I’m sure we all grew up with Curious George books.” The students snickered at the class clown as he began his speech.
Tyler adjusted his glasses and waited for them to settle down. “What you probably don’t know is that the authors, Hans and Margret Rey, were Jewish. They escaped Paris on June 14, 1940, just hours before the Nazi troops stormed into the city. They made it safely, along with their Curious George manuscripts.
Hitler believed in a master race but I say the masters of the race were the ones who fought for their lives and their talent and the ones who were chosen to die just because of who they were. You may think Curious George is a silly children’s book but it represents the strength and character of the Jewish people.”
Not one to disappoint a crowd who expected a good show, Tyler drew up his arms, scratched his armpits, and screeched like a monkey, causing his high school classmates to erupt in laughter.
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