Alma in the Clover
Sitting quietly on the dusty ground, Alma explored the clear green tufts of clover with her bony fingers. She picked a stalk and placed the three leaves carefully on the three remaining fingernails of her left hand, hiding the crusts of dirt and dried blood. If she squinted, it looked like she was wearing green nail varnish.
She continued scanning the tiny oasis, her eyes tiring in the glare of the midday summer sun. She knew the comfort the rays afforded was fleeting – she concentrated on the blanketing effect over her sore shoulders, storing up the warmth in her memory for the freezing nights that hopefully lay ahead.
Sorting through the clover was a weekly treat: every Sunday for a few minutes before the children gathered for inspection, they were let out in the yard. The newcomers huddled in corners next to the fence, like packs of penguins, rotating in and out of safety. The loudest cries came from the protected bodies inside; the outer bodies were left to stand stoically against the sting of the SS-wielded sticks.
Alma had been there almost since the beginning. None of the children she had arrived with were there in the yard. She tried to remember their faces among the clover: tiny trios of tears.
Her heart pounded silently, invisibly, and her fingers shook weakly as they gripped the bottom of the stem, pulled it and slid the four-leaf clover inside the frayed hem of her left trouser leg. She continued to explore the oasis; she had learned not to take luck for granted.
Alma imagined what she would buy with the botanical currency. She could almost feel in her empty stomach the weight of the chunk of potato she might find at the bottom of her watery soup that night. Another sunrise.
She imagined the four green leaves; her hem was heavy with hope. Yet she knew she was moments away from a desperate soul lightening her load; she would soon be left with only her thinning courage.
She would search again next week.