Tap together those red slippers. Maybe you can wish yourself back home.
She was a stray, calico, so small she fit in the palm of his hand. Her fur was singed. He hid her in his coat and took her to his house, past dark alleys and war posters, demanding conscripts.
"It's getting worse," his brother said as he came in the door. "Worse every goddamned day."
"I know, Brother," he answered. "Did you find a job?" He stared at the offending coat rack. His little bundle squirmed, but made no sound.
"No—no." Brother's voice was suddenly heavy. "No, I—" he trailed off.
The young man put up his hat and wandered away from the coat rack. When questioning eyes followed, he said, "It's cold."
"Feels like it always is, huh." Brother had his scarf wrapped around his throat, and his skin was pale—so pale. Nothing like it had once been, tanned and healthy. "You smell like smoke."
"There was a fire." He drew up his shoulders, changed the subject. "You look sick."
His brother smiled. "I'm fine."
"No, you're not."
There was silence, except for the old, tired clock on the kitchen wall, ticking away the seconds too slowly.
"We can't get home." Brother ran his fingers through golden hair. "They're locking the borders."
"We've known that for a while," the young man said, and he pressed a hand to his chest to hide the squirming there. "We'll be fine."
"We invaded Poland, Alphonse." His brother's voice was strained. "We've gone to war."
Alphonse swallowed hard. The squirming was settling. "I know. I heard."
There was a hard knock at the door, and Brother looked its way. "I'll get that. Stay in the kitchen."
"Stay in the kitchen!" his brother snapped, and the flare of temper brought the color to his cheeks. Alphonse startled back, and obeyed, pressed to the wall.
The door banged against the wall. "All right, I've had it."
"We're beginning to worry about your patriotism."
He could almost hear Brother throwing up his hands. "I told you I've had it. Just point me to the conscription office."
Alphonse covered his mouth and felt himself go pale as his brother.
"We'd prefer to escort you."
"Wait." It was another voice. "There's two hats here."
"Can't a guy have two hats!?"
"Two winter hats? And a home like this?"
"Who's here with you?"
"Don't you have Jews to round up!?"
The sound of bone on flesh. "Restrain him!" There was the pounding of feet, curses from his brother. Alphonse tiptoed towards the bedroom—there was a window. He could escape. He'd never be seen. That's what Brother wanted, loathe as he was to leave him. He just had to be silent ...
The forgotten kitten poked its head out of his coat and mewled.
He doesn't have red slippers. He never has.