The Night Train

By Andrew Hogan

The guards loaded the children into the 46th boxcar and were prepared to close the door. Only three boxcars remained to be filled.

“Don’t be afraid,” pani Ottla told Michal, one of the two-dozen children in the boxcar she had volunteered to chaperone during the transfer from Theresienstadt to the new camp.

“I’m not afraid,” Michal said, giving Ottla his most confident look. “Mama told me what to do.”

“What’s that?” Ottla said.

“Always be polite, she said. Nothing really bad ever happens to a polite person. And always stay in line. If you get out of line, you will attract attention to yourself, and that could be bad. Never ask for special treatment because you might get treated badly. Never get mad, because that will attract attention, almost certainly unwanted.”

Through the boy Ottla heard the voice of a frightened woman, putting on a brave face, pretending to know how to control the uncontrollable.

“Oh! And never get hicstayracal…,” Michal added.

“Hysterical?” Ottla said.

“Right, hysterical. It’s okay being afraid, but if you get hysterical, you attract attention to yourself…”

“And that would be bad,” Ottla said.

“Right.” Michal smiled, looking satisfied now he had been able to recite the entire list.

The door was shut, and boxcar became completely dark. The inevitable smell from the soiled undergarments of the terrorized children began to rise. Ottla knew it would dissipate as soon as the train began to move.

“What do you know about the new camp, pani Ottla?” Michal whispered in the dark, so as not to wake the other children who were too frightened to sleep.

“Will we have better food?”

“I’m told the new camp is very efficient,” Ottla said. She heard the cascading clanks of each boxcar being clenched by its neighbor as they were dragged forward by the locomotive. “I’m sure it will be nicer than Theresienstadt, but I’ve never met anyone who’s been to Auschwitz.”

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Andrew Hogan received his doctorate in development studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Before retirement, he was a faculty member at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, where he taught medical ethics, health policy and the social organization of medicine in the College of Human Medicine.

Dr. Hogan published more than five-dozen professional articles on health services research and health policy. He has published thirteen works of fiction in the OASIS Journal, Hobo Pancakes, Twisted Dreams, Long Story Short, The Lorelei Signal, and SANDSCRIPT.

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Since 2000, The Copperfield Review has been a leading market for historical fiction. Copperfield was named one of the top sites for new writers by Writer's Digest and it is the winner of the Books and Authors Award for Literary Excellence. We publish short historical fiction as well as history-based nonfiction, poetry, reviews, and interviews.
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