Eva Eliav grew up in Toronto, Canada and now lives in Israel. Her poetry and short fiction have been published in a number of literary magazines, including Room of One’s Own, Emrys Journal, Natural Bridge, Flashquake, The Apple Valley Review, Horizon Review, The Linnet’s Wings, Cyclamens and Swords, and ARC Israel. Her work also appears in “Tel Aviv Stories”, an anthology of English writing in Israel. She was a winner in the GlimmerTrain June 2009 “Best Start” competition and received an honorable mention in the Glimmer Train winter 2011 very short story competition. Her other interests include painting, films and finding the perfect frappuccino.
Eva Eliav is married and has a daughter.
Don’t get me started on Uncle Charlie.
Uncle Charlie was my mother’s brother, shabby, moon faced and completely bald. He’d been married twice. His first marriage had ended in divorce. He’d married again just before the war, and his wife and child had been murdered in the camps. “Poor, damaged man,” sighed my mother. But he seemed hardy enough when he slugged me. One moment, I was babbling in my highchair, 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 leaking bright red drops, my mother shrieking. A small, silvery 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. But then he was back, jovial as a Santa, bearing gifts. Or, rather, one gift only, a small rubber flower that sprayed water. My brother and I took turns squirting each other. My mother encouraged us to thank him profusely. But we weren’t left alone with Uncle Charlie.
Except for one spring day. He treated us to ice cream at a small dusty park beside our street. 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 a pocket of her purse.
“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.