One, two, let me through
Three, four, police at the door
Five, six, fix the witch
Seven, eight, it’s getting late
Nine, ten, begin again.
M arianne had made a pact with herself that if she could go on repeating the skipping rhyme without stopping, even to cross the street, and all the way till she reached the school gate, she’d pass the math test. Math had always been Marianne’s worst subject. She’d been dreading this day all week, but she was as prepared as she could be. Today she’d arrive at school on time, in fact, with time to spare. The rhyme was just an extra precaution.
The school clock said 8:20 A.M. ‘Good,’ she had ten minutes.
Why was the school yard deserted? Where was everyone? The front doors were shut. Marianne tried the handle – locked. Sheknocked, waited, and knocked again. Someone must be playing a joke on her. At last the doors opened and Miss Friedrich, the school secretary, stood in the doorway looking at her.
“Yes?” she said at last.
For some reason Marianne felt guilty, though she’d been so careful lately, being extra polite and not drawing attention to herself.
“Good morning, Miss Friedrich. I’m sorry to disturb you. I couldn’t get in,” she said.
“What are you doing here? I suppose you’ve come for your records?”
Marianne thought she was having a bad dream. “Don’t you remember me? I’m Marianne, Marianne Kohn, in the fifth grade. Please let me in; I’ll be late for math,” she said.
“Wait here,” said Miss Friedrich, and shut the door in Marianne’s face. Marianne heard her heels clicking away. It seemed a long time before the clicking heels returned. The door opened and Miss Friedrich stood there holding some papers. Marianne could make out a list of names on the top sheet.
“You are to go home at once, Marianne. Here are your records.”
“Why? What have I done? This math test – it’s really important. I’m already late. There’s choir practice today, and I haven’t handed in my library book.”
“You may give your library book to me.” Miss Friedrich took the book and handed Marianne a brown envelope. She avoidedlooking at the girl. “Now go home. Just go home – I have work to do.”
Miss Friedrich went back inside and the door shut. Marianne looked at her name on the envelope. People only got their records when they changed schools. There was something going on that she didn’t understand.
A cold splash hit her cheek. She wiped it away, and saw that her palm was streaked with ink. The sound of giggling made her look up to the open first-floor window. Faces grinned at her. A second pellet, blotting paper soaked in ink, hit the sleeve of her school coat. The giggling turned to laughter.
Marianne relaxed – it was a joke after all. But what kind of joke? This wasn’t April Fools’ Day; it was the third Tuesday in November, and she was freezing out here. The school clock struck the half hour: 8:30 A.M. She heard the sound of a teacher’s voice thundering, “That’s enough, settle down.” The window above her slammed shut. The school yard was perfectly quiet.
Marianne reached up to knock at the door again. It was then that she saw the notice. She read the typed words nailed up for everyone to see, and felt colder and more alone than she had ever felt in her whole life.
She ran out of the yard, afraid to look back; crossed the street without looking; and went into the park. The words of the notice resounded in her head, and she knew that she would hear them for the rest of her life.
M arianne needed time to think. The words she had read on the door were as clear as though they had appeared on a billboard in front of her:
AS OF TODAY, NOVEMBER 15, 1938, JEWISH STUDENTS
ARE PROHIBITED FROM ATTENDING GERMAN SCHOOLS.
Expelled because she was Jewish!
The sun came out, warming the gray winter morning, but not Marianne’s icy fingers which were cramped from holding the envelope so tightly. She sat down on a bench near the