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Math Lesson

It was seventy-five yards to the air raid shelter, and it took less than a minute if you left at first howl. Stop for a few seconds if you had to and you could hear the first explosion in the distance.

Mom needed to stop that night because the pain was terrible and doubled her over. Leaning against the damaged stone wall sheltering us she pulled me to the ground and put her arm around me covering my ears with her hand. She smelled funny, different. The usual Mom smell replaced with something else and her hands were damp on my ears.

By the time we moved again the planes were rumbling overhead, and I could see Mom’s eyes wide and guarded, listening for a telltale whine, before we ran down the dark passage towards the only light under the earth.

I woke up slowly, finding my way through a dream that I didn’t want to leave as someone called my name.

I had counted the number of white stones in the wall. On a dark night, you could find your way by them. It was thirty-two between my house and the shelter, so after I had counted thirty-two, we had to be going somewhere else.

I was still counting when we stopped. I knew where we were then, one hundred thirty-six white stones meant the clinic. If Mom went into the left side, it meant a long wait, the right side, and no wait.

She went to the left. I went to see if there were any new comics on the magazine rack.

Mom was almost herself again. Her fingers wound around mine as we walked toward the school. We were learning multiplication in math. I’d be able to figure out how many stones it would take to build an unbreakable wall.


Carol is a British National who lives in southern California with Cesar, her black lab, and other wild life. She studied creative writing at California State and Junior Colleges and writes regularly with North County Journal Writers, Carlsbad. You can find more of her original work at

Math Lesson is a Fiction War Finalist entry. Please do not reproduce without permission from the author. Originally published at Image credit:


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