“The Long Rifle,” Part II, an Excerpt from BORDER CROSSINGS

“The Long Rifle,” Part II, an Excerpt from BORDER CROSSINGS

In this blog I am featuring an excerpt (Part II of II) from Charles Novacek’s memoir which is scheduled for release in late October 2012.

Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance is a memoir describing the impact of World War II and the Cold War on a Czechoslovakian boy. It is written from the perspective of Charles Novacek who was born in Ozdany, Czechoslovakia in 1928, and who actively participated with his family in the Czech Resistance against the Nazis and Communists from the age of eleven to twenty. After escaping his homeland in 1948, Novacek fled to Germany, then Venezuela and was finally able to emigrate with his wife and children to the United States in 1956 where he became an American citizen and established a successful professional career in Detroit, Michigan.

Following is part II of the “Long Rifle,” an excerpt from the third chapter, “Life Calls the Child to Become a Man.”

                                                               The Long Rifle

     (Continued from Part I) I sneaked out into the dark and cautiously waited for the patrol to pass to the other end of the street. Then I climbed into the driver’s seat of the empty field truck to untie the rifle. The straps were dry and hard, and it took me longer to free the rifle and the ammunition than I anticipated. By then, the two patrolmen were returning from the far end of the street.

The beating of my heart seemed louder than the roar of the tanks as the guards almost touched the door when they passed by me. At the foot of the ridge, about two hundred feet from the truck, they turned back. I held my breath once more, but I could not control my heartbeat; in the tight space between the seat and the pedals I almost choked from its pounding. My throat and mouth burned and my sweaty hands trembled with fright.

After a few moments, I peeked out to see the guards fading in the darkness. Quietly I unlocked the door and slid off the seat. At that moment, in the second floor window of the house where I lived, appeared the horrified face of my mother. I saw her silhouette there; her frightened form tight against the glass seemed to reflect a saintly image. She recognized me and saw what I did.

I had been hiding my activities from her for security reasons. Most of the time, however, she knew what was going on, and her strong convictions to fight for freedom silently reinforced our family’s ideals. It was really not necessary to shelter her; yet I felt a searing pang of guilt when I saw her terror. She was still my mother.

I shut the truck door silently and swiftly vanished toward the dark hill with the rifle and ammunition.

When I got to the cave I relaxed, prepared the weapon, and hoped for daybreak so I could see. I knew the locomotive would come; I just did not know when.

In the morning light, that image of my mother in the window faded slowly from my mind as I realized what I was facing. I swallowed many times to moisten my throat, which seemed to grow drier with each passing second. I started to hope the locomotive would not come, that perhaps they had changed their minds or even forgotten.

Then, suddenly it arrived. In a few seconds the steam brake stopped the locomotive. A soldier stepped down with a battery box in his hands and walked toward the cables.

He was going to blow up the bridge.

I had just one chance. I would not have another. After the first shot the soldier would be able to take cover and detonate the charges.

The long rifle was ready. I got the soldier in my sights as he was kneeling over the box. I squeezed the trigger slowly and took my shot.

When the engineer saw his partner fall down dead, he took off with the steam hissing and the wheels of the locomotive wildly spinning.

Shortly thereafter I heard several explosions from the city; I discovered later it was a clothing and shoe warehouse, the food supply warehouse, and the grain depository.

I remained still. In a few hours the whole territory became silent.

The era of German control had ended.

Then the Soviets took over for the next forty-five years.

Excerpt from Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance. © 2012 Sandra A. Novacek, Ten21 Press Detroit

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