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  • Writer's pictureTimothy Bragg

Living Bread

Written by: Arlene Baker

Ach, Mein Gott. Heinrich is gone. What can I do now? I have a baby feed. Alone on the farm. All is lost. All. Hilda’s hands fisted, against her will. Mustn’t in the house of God. But, how, how will we survive?

Hilda had cycled to a larger church many kilometers from her home. Perhaps God would hear her better there. Recognize her plight. She smoothed her worn ankle-length skirt, thankful it did not tear in the spokes – or worse – throw her. How careful she had pushed the pedals, first right, then left, concentrating. A frown crossed her face. Someone had stolen the netting that prevented such accidents.

Candles flickered across saints’ faces. Hilda paused to study each. Could they really understand? She knew the stories of many – stories that inspired her in her own struggles. Circumstances that won them canonization after their deaths.

I have no time to think of the afterlife. She sighed. My problems are here. Now. If only …

She swallowed a sob. Heinrich had been forced into Hitler’s service. His dexterity landed him in Special Forces and the eastern front. She pulled an edge of her babushka over trembling lips. How she had wept and prayed as she watched him disappear on the horizon, back straight and stiff in his nappy uniform. She only wanted her beloved husband home, tending the farm and loving their newborn together.

She rose to leave. After touching the holy water to her lips, she tucked her baby in the bike’s front basket and mounted it for the long journey home. Her breath quickened as she approached the small concentration camp on the outskirts of her small village, filled with political foes of der Fϋhrer.

“Brot, bitte.” The hapless men stretched bony hands toward her as she passed. She swallowed a gasp at their sunken cheeks and pedaled faster. I’m sorry, her heart cried. I cannot help. I would be shot. I must live for my baby. For Heinrich. He will return. I know he will.

She turned into her lane with a mournful sigh. They suffer so, God. We are all suffering. Misery enveloped her like a mist-soaked blanket. She pulled her weary body up the few stone steps into her cottage. I hate this war. I hate… She halted with a shudder.

I cannot even think such thoughts. Too dangerous.

You must forgive all your enemies.

Hilda jumped. Who said that?. She dashed back to the door, threw it open and looked around. Nobody. She shook her head as she pulled an apron from a nearby peg. Time to make bread.

Later, as she kneaded the dough, her motions grew more aggressive. Should be the best bread, as hard as I’m working it. She gathered the dough into a large ball and placed it in a greased bowl, then carried it to a sunny window.

Heinrich. A single tear slid down one cheek. How I wish I could give you this bread. She thought of the hapless prisoners. Late that night while her baby slept, Hilda slipped out thanking God for the moonless night. As she approached the fence, a prisoner lifted a finger to his lips. She nodded before pushing the rolls through the wire, one at a time. When the last had disappeared into the man’s worn coat, she whispered a single word. “Tomorrow.”

Daily, she baked bread rolls, prayed for Heinrich’s safety and fed prisoners. Monthly, she pedaled to the church with her baby.

It is so unfair! Hitler is a beast. She bowed her head low just in case a spy could read her thoughts. He has stolen my husband. For what? To rule the world? Daily, supplies grew scarcer and scarcer. How much longer could she share with those poor prisoners? How long could she feed her baby? Herself? He’s a beast she repeated in her heart.

Everyone knew the dreaded Soviets were coming. Nothing could stop them with their inexhaustible supply of manpower. Hilda began to tremble.

They are brutes. They will kill us all.

You must forgive. That voice again! Anger overcame Hilda’s shock.

I cannot. I will not.

You must.

Impossible. She crossed her arms to hug her body tightly. Suddenly, her eyes traveled to the image of Jesus with bared and pierced heart. Her cheeks reddened.

He died for those who abused him. How could he …

Love, Hilda. For you. For your enemies. All is conquered through pure love. All.

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