Middle Grade / Young Adult
Date Published: 6/2013
Markus Simmons, a 13-year-old 8th-grader, wants to hang with the cool kids. When his social studies class begins a Holocaust project, some A-listers befriend him to get him to work with them so they can have access to his Oma, who was in Auschwitz, and he discovers that there are Holocaust deniers in the world, one of whom is in his class. Then someone identifies his Oma as having played a criminal role during the Holocaust, and he has to reconcile his love for his grandmother, his desire to work with the cool kids, and his anger at the deniers and the others who attack his grandmother.
“Jeez, Oma! You trying to scare me to death? When did you wake up?”
The eyes sparkled. “You’d prefer maybe that I did not?”
“Not funny. When you leave here, you should maybe be a stand-up comic.”
Her long fingers guided a wisp of white hair behind her ear, and the scar that stretched from the corner of her left eye down to her mouth glared at me. I looked away, and when Oma shifted in the bed, the strong smell of her gardenia-scented bath soap washed over me like a tidal wave. My sneakers squealed on the tile floor when I shifted from foot to foot.
I looked back at her face. She stared at me hard.
“Something on your mind, child. I can always see it. That crooked little grin gets even crookeder.”
The time had come – now or never. I crossed my arms over my chest. “Well, actually, yes…” I heard – and hated – the squeak in my voice.
“Speak.” She took my hand in both of hers. They felt weak but warm.
“It’s like this, Oma. In social studies class we’re starting a unit on…well, on World War II…and I was wondering…”
Her gaze shifted to the window, and she dropped my hand. “You ever notice that window looks out on nothing?” I looked over at the window but didn’t answer. How could a window look out on nothing? The room grew quiet except for the humming of the fluorescent lights. Finally she sighed and said, “You mean you’re going to study the Jews.” She blinked rapid fire about five times.
“Yeah, well… I just wondered if I could ask you some questions, sort of interview you.” Her lunch tray with its remnants caught my eye. The lime Jell-O looked sort of like bright green puke. And the chicken…well, I appreciated the gardenia smell.
“Interview me? You think maybe I’m a movie star? This is a fancy spa I’m relaxing in instead of a place where old people come to finish out their days? With this
broken-down junk they call furniture?” Her skinny hand pointed across the room. “Look at that dresser with the drawer that won’t close, so it looks like it’s always sticking its tongue at me!”
I turned to the dresser and almost stuck my tongue back out at it. This wasn’t going exactly like I had hoped. I tried to get a grip. “You know, you could tell me some things about what it was like.”
“What it was like? Why a teacher would want kids today to know what it was like, I’ll never understand.” She looked back to me, but the eyes had stopped sparkling. “No, child. Some things are better left in the past.”
About the Author
William McCauley was born and grew up in the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, in a delightful little town called Vienna. His B.A. in German and M.A. in English are from George Mason University, and at the ripe old age of 29, he "ran away from home" to do doctoral work in linguistics at the University of Colorado in Boulder. After two years, his Wanderlust attacked again, and he trekked on down to Miami, FL, where he did more doctoral work at the University of Miami. Then the powers that be at The German School Washington, where he had taught English for six years, tracked him down and asked him to come back. That brought him back to the DC area, where he taught at the German School for another eighteen years. He finished his career in education at the end of school year 14-15, retiring after ten years as a Gifted and Talented Education specialist with Howard County Public Schools in Maryland. Now all he wants to do is write – and read.