The plane dipped its wings twice and plummeted. Maxine heard the screams, as she had every night. Then Humphrey
Bogart threw his arms around Ingrid Bergman and they stared into the dizzying rush of clouds.
“I never should have come with you this time,” he told her.
“No, Rick," she said, tears washing her exquisite face. "I like this ending better. We’ll be together
Then the lovers turned to Maxine as she tried hard to blink awake before the aircraft hit ground.
She couldn’t, though, and the impact jolted her. She jerked upright, sending the startled cat fl ying
into the nightstand. The dreamvanished.
“I’m sorry, Avrom. I just can’t do it," Maxine whined into the dim morning light. "I can’t fly."
The cat regained its senses and leaped up onto the bed again, paced in front of her waving his gray striped
tail beneath Maxine’s nose. Maxine corralled the animal, hugged him to her and buried her facein his warm fur. "What
can I do, Bertram? I really can’t go with him. I can’t get on an airplane."
Bertram set his paws against her chest, pushed and squirmed in vain.Until last year, the animal had been nameless.
"Cat," she used to call him. Then, when things warmed up between Maxine and her employer, Dr. Abraham Sorkin"Avrom" she decided the cat needed a name.
A good Jewish name. After all, when she and Abraham were married . . . .
Maxine released the cat and pushed the bedding back, then stretched her
legs over the bedside and sat up. She caught sight of herself in the dresser mirror: a middle aged, pudgy, red headed sissy
in Elvis pajamas.
Elvis flew, she told herself.
“And look where it got him," she said out loud. “He’s dead."
Maxine opened the nightstand and retrieved a small plastic binder from its depths. She opened up a newspaper
article she’d placed inside the notebook last year. "Two Killed in
Bombing of Women’s Clinic," it read.
"Two men are being sought by Denver Police as 'persons of interest' in the overnight explosion of a women’s
clinic which killed two people. The clinic, owned y Dr. Abraham Sorkin, was a recent target of pro-life protests. Killed in
the blastwere Reverend Leonard Soudo of Hope Tabernacle Church and Paige McKenzie, a member of Soudo’s congregation.
Both have been identified as suspects in thekidnapping of Sorkin’s nurse, Macie Stone, prior to the explosion.”
“You got through that, you big baby." Maxine folded the newspaper piece again and returned it to the nightstand.
She turned back to the mirror, studying her reflection. Abraham saved her from the clinic fire.He pulled her from the building
and went back for his young nurse Macie. So what if he had been involved with those creeps to begin with? She owed him. She
shook her head at the middle-aged woman who staredback at her.
"Suck it up."
After dressing in her starched whites, Maxine gulped down a cup of Sanka and opened a can of fishy cat food
for Bertram. Then she headed out to the bus stop. If she was late today, it would the third time this week.
Macie was already hard at it when Maxine arrived, seated at her desk, her head bent over a ledger. The younger
nurse was plump, dressed in blue scrubs with pink hearts printed over them. Maxine frowned. As much as she loved Macie, she
wished she could get the girl to dress professionally.
Macie had been different before the kidnapping last year. She’d worn white pants suits then and had been
pencil thin. But after that crazy preacher held her to get Abraham’s research notes, and, as it turned
out, to get Abraham himself, Macie changed. Of course, part of that could have been the pregnancy and childbirth.
Maybe she didn’t have the time to keep herself up as she did before. Still, after what they wentthrough together, Macie
was like a dau--like a younger sister.
“Is the old man here?" Maxine ventured, peeking around the corner toward the door to the examining rooms.
“Dr. Sorkin has been here since eight," Macie answered. "He poked his head out a minute ago to remind
me of that, and to ask me if I noticed that you had not."
“That old goat." Maxine ducked into the bathroom to run a comb through her hair. Old goat. Sorkin was far from it. He was seventy--not young, but
then what was young? Seventy was the new sixty, which was the new fifty.
Avrom had told her that one of the patriarchs, Methuselah, lived over
nine hundred years. Maybe Dr. Abraham Sorkin had a few wrinkles, but didn’t that give him character? And Avrom was balding
on top, but if she was honest, she was too.
she must remember not to use the familiar nickname in public, Abraham had big, strong hands, warm, dark eyes and, after Maxine’s
extensive input, had acquired an appreciation, if not a liking for the music of Elvis Presley.
Maxine caught a whiff of coffee. That was what she needed now, morethan anything.
“I didn’t sleep last night," she said to Macie as she came out, closing the ladies’ room door
Macie stood and poured some hot coffee into a tall mug with a bedraggled cat image on the side. I don’t do mornings, the mug read.
She handed it to Maxine. “I didn’t get much sleep either. Weslie was up anddown all night. What about you? What
kept you awake?"
Maxine smiled at the mention of Macie’s baby. Weslie Ciel was six months old now and, though small, showed
no ill effects of last year’s nightmare, being kidnapped and nearly blown up before she was even born. A tiny white
tooth had just popped through in the middle of Weslie’s grin, and Maxine could not be more proud if . . .
“Maxine?" Macie cocked her head and waited.
“What? I’m sorry, what did you say Macie?"
“What kept you awake?"
Maxine hesitated. Tears welled and she couldn’t hold them back. When they finally gushed through, the
words tumbled out on top of them.
“The plane crashed. I tried to stop it, and Ingrid Bergman looked so frightened, but I couldn’t
do anything and the plane . . . Humphrey Bogart said he was glad he was there with Ingrid, and Elvis flew all thetime but
“What in the world are you talking about?" Macie pulled a tissue from the box on the counter and handed
it to Maxine.
“Thanks,” Maxine squawked, wiping her eyes. She blew her nose and
squeezed her hand around the wadded tissue. “It’s just . . . I can’t go with
Abraham, Macie. I can’t.”
Macie turned away. Maxine was sure the younger nurse was
“It’s not funny. That trip is my wedding present from Abraham.”
Macie put her hand on Maxine’s shoulder. “I know, Maxine. I’m sorry.
It’s just . . . you have a way of saying things that—”
12 ANNE CARYL
“I can’t help what I say when I’m upset. Abraham needs to go back—to
the place where his mother died and the house where he lived as a child.
He says he needs to connect the parts of his life. And I want that for him,
Macie. And for me. Until he does that, there is a part of him I can’t reach.
A part he holds back.” Maxine honked into the wadded tissue again. “But I
cannot fl y to Poland with Abraham, Macie, and I have to tell him that.”
“And you don’t think he’ll understand?” The younger nurse batted
at Maxine’s hand poised at her lips. “Don’t chew. It makes your hands
Maxine considered this for a moment. What was it that what’s-his-name
said in “Citizen Kane?” Oh yeah.
“Old age is the only disease that you don’t look forward to being
cured of,” she said.
Macie smiled. “That’s funny.”
“It’s from a movie.” Getting old was humiliating. And what made her
hands look older were the brown spots spiraled at the base of her thumb.
Liver spots. But she did want her hands to look nice for the ring, and . . .
her eyes teared again. “What am I going to do, Macie?”
“You’re that scared of fl ying?”
Maxine nodded. “But I’m even scairder . . . more scared . . .” she
slumped her shoulders, dropped her chin to her chest. Her hands felt
like iced lead. “I’m even more afraid of being alone. Of not having
The phone rang—one short, rude, interrupting ring and then
stopped. Wrong number, probably.
Maxine looked up at Macie. The girl was shaking her head.
“You don’t understand, Macie. You’re young and . . . more to the point,
you’re married.” Maxine sniffed. “I just want what you have. I want a lover
and . . . and a friendship. I want a soul mate. I want—”
“Macie, if I don’t make this trip, I’m afraid I’ll lose Abraham.”
“Have you considered praying about this, Maxine?” Macie was staring
into her eyes now. It wasn’t fair. There was no escape.
“Maxine,” Macie’s voice had a touch of giggle in it. “I don’t think ‘Oh
God, I don’t want to fl y in an airplane’ qualifi es as a real prayer.”
* * *
Abraham Sorkin sat tapping with his ballpoint at his scarred wooden
desk. In three months he would be a married man. In 90 days he would
return to walk the grounds of Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp. Two
THE GOLD TRAIN CONNECTION 13
new journeys to begin. No, that was wrong. One new journey and the
conclusion of an old one. Maybe, when the new journey started—when
he was no longer alone—the nightmares would stop. Or maybe it was the
end of the old journey which would lay to rest his ghosts. He had dreams.
Horrible dreams. Dreams in which he was the monster.
They were always the same, the nightmares: Abraham walked between
wooden bunks stacked three-high, and the cold wind whistled by his ears.
Men in thin striped shirts—men little more than skeletons—crouched on
the fl oor around a stub of candle and recited old Jewish blessings.
Then the dream changed, and he was outside in snow the color of
saffron—snow that bit his toes through holes in his shoes. Outside, looking
at bodies, bloody bodies piled against the hospital wall. Bergen-Belsen
Concentration Camp. Hell.
Saul, Abraham’s older brother, had given his word. He had promised
their mother that they would survive. And so, when the S.S. man came
into the barracks, when he turned his nose up at the smell and the fi lth
“Any among you know anything about medicine?”
Saul raised his hand. Saul said he would help in the camp hospital.
And in exchange, Saul and little Abraham got beds in the warm end of
the building. They got food when the rest of the prisoners got fl avored
And Abraham survived. Sometimes, over the years, he’d almost wished
he hadn’t. A kapo had no right to survive. A traitor, A turncoat, that’s
what he was. If only he could erase the past. But it was impossible. It was
impossible because Abraham’s memories were only these . . . slow-paced
scenes of the men around the candles, and snatches of other times . . . But
they vanished before Abraham saw them clearly. And the ghosts would
continue to plague his dreams. Pointing their accusing bony fi ngers at
him. Spitting their curses at him until he could walk the grounds of the
camp again, confront them and put them to rest. Then, maybe, he could
be a free man. Free to live his life with his bride.
Maxine knocked before entering Abraham’s offi ce. He jumped.
Maxine was sucking in her bottom lip.
“What is it, Maxine?” She looked as if she would cry any moment.
The image of Maxine’s ninety-three-year-old mother suddenly fi lled his
thoughts. “Is it your mother?”
She shook her head. Why had he thought it might be that? Maxine was
fl ighty. She cried over dead mice. So what did you say to a crazy Gentile
woman who burst into your offi ce looking like the world was about to
end? Looking like the world was ending and it was your fault?
“You look like you just ate the maror,” Abraham said.
14 ANNE CARYL
Maxine frowned at him. What had he done?
Abraham looked up at Maxine, cocked his head and raised
his eyebrows in question. When she didn’t respond, he continued. “The
herb Jews eat at the Passover Seder to remind us of the bitter life in Egypt.
You keep saying you want to know about the Jews, so I tell you.”
“Horseradish, right?” Maxine made a face at him, and Abraham
laughed. She wasn’t angry, then.
“So, Maxine, that one you know. And the sour face?” He took her right
hand and kissed the fi ngers. You should not bite your nails, Maxine. You
are so fond of bright polish. And you will chip a tooth, or break one off.
That would be a shame. Up until now they are all yours, yes?”
“You old goat. I suppose you size up all your brides looking into their
mouths like horses.”
“Goats, horses—your love for animals is endearing.”
Maxine frowned again and Abraham stood, drew her close and rocked
in a silent dance. Then he pulled back and tilted her chin up so that her
eyes met his. “Three months, beloved. You have your passport already,
Maxine bit her lip and drew a smudge of blood. “Yes.” She was
breathing hard now. “But, Abraham . . . Avrom . . . I don’t think I can
Maxine stepped on Abraham’s foot and he winced. She fl uttered her
hands in the air, took a deep breath and plunged ahead. “I’m afraid—”
“Again with the fear of airplanes. I thought we had won that battle,
Maxine. I though we had decided you were more likely to get killed in a
car.” Abraham paused. Maxine was shaking her head. “Okay, so you don’t
drive. But the bus, Maxine. You could be killed riding the bus.”
“But . . .” her voice trailed off and Abraham thought perhaps he might
win this time.
“I was just saying I need to do some major shopping before I can
fl y anywhere, Abraham.” She put her thumbnail to her lips again and
paused. “And then, there is the wedding. It is only three months away. I
don’t see how—”
Maxine was stalling, hinting at something. Abraham hit his forehead
with his palm. “Old fool! Of course you cannot expect Maxine to get
all this accomplished in three short months. A wedding and a trip. Too
much, too much.”
He paced the width of the offi ce before returning to Maxine and
grabbing her in a tight embrace. “A civil ceremony, that’s what we’ll
have. A small one, with just a few friends. Then we can have the blowout
THE GOLD TRAIN CONNECTION 15
when we return. A canopy and all the trimmings. What do you think of
Maxine’s eyes teared. She pulled a tissue from her pocket and wiped
How had Abraham known Maxine all these years and not have seen
before how dear she was? They were not young, after all. And it was
obvious she was overcome with emotion. Abraham patted her shoulder.
“Sentimental old woman.” He sat at his desk again and picked up a manila
folder. Maxine stood for a moment—he felt her watching him—then
started back to the reception area.
* * *
Maxine sat at the computer, staring at the ceiling . . . willing it to fall
on her head.
Gelibte. Darling. Why did it sound so romantic in Yiddish?
goat didn’t play fair.
“So, did you two get it settled?” Macie asked.
“Well, we . . . no. He thinks I’m just worried about getting everything
done. Now he wants a civil ceremony and then a big hullabaloo when
we get back.”
“Macie, you don’t see. You think this is funny, but it’s not.”
“I’m sorry . . .”
“I was engaged to be married once before.”
“I knew that.”
Maxine ignored Macie’s response. “And I sent more airmail letters
through Uncle Sam than I can count. Then, he came home to Georgia
from ‘Nam and I hopped a plane. I wanted to surprise him.”
“But I was the one who got the surprise. His . . . his wife met me at
the door, big as a barn with their kid, and told me to get lost. Called me
a home-wrecker and lots of other things I don’t want to repeat.”
Macie sat chewing on her lip.
“If I had just not taken that plane . . .”
Macie opened her mouth like she was going to say something, but
then she just turned back to her desk. Maxine dabbed at her eyes with
“Excuse me?” A voice pounded on her now-throbbing head.
Maxine looked up to see a giraffe of a young woman. They got taller
every year, these kids.
16 ANNE CARYL
“I just get shorter and fatter,” Maxine said.
“Thinking out loud.” Maxine hoped her recent tears weren’t evident.
“May I help you?”
“I’m your new pharmaceutical rep,” the woman said. She tossed a
business card onto the appointment book and inclined her head as if to
show Maxine what lay on the other side of the counter. As if Maxine could
see through the wood and whatever that stuff was the desk top was made
of that the red marker Maxine used sometimes wouldn’t come off of.
Maxine stood and peered over the counter. The girl really wasn’t
all that tall . . . she was wearing ten inch heels—at least. Heels Maxine
couldn’t even stand in. Heels on which Maxine would break her neck. But
men loved those things. Maybe she should try a pair . . . for Abraham. She
might look—” Maxine glanced down at the sensible white SAS oxfords
“Ma’am?” The girl was staring at her.
She called me ma’am. “The doctor is busy right
now,” Maxine said
through clenched teeth. “Please have a seat.”
The rep turned to the reception area, sank onto a blue couch and
crossed her incredibly long legs. Maxine bit the nail of her index fi nger.
The nail she had just polished to keep from biting.
Macie lifted her gaze from the green ledger book and whispered,
“Lying is a sin, Maxine. Shame on you.”
“And how am I to know he isn’t busy? He looked busy when I was
back there. Sometimes people can be busy when you think they’re just
“He looked busy,” Maxine insisted.
“A sin, that’s all I’m saying.” Macie bent over her ledger again.
Maxine studied the ragged fi ngernail, then pulled out a nail fi le from
her leopard-print tote. She pulled the rasp over her nail twice before
tossing it against a manila folder.
“I hate today,” she said, punching the intercom button.
“Yes?” Abraham answered.
“There is a young wom—a pharmaceutical rep here to see you,”
“I am busy right now,” Abraham replied. “Tell her it will be . . . maybe
fi fteen, twenty minutes.”
A warm fl ush crept over Maxine’s neck. She couldn’t suppress a
Macie looked up.
THE GOLD TRAIN CONNECTION 17
“He’s busy,” Maxine said as she picked up the nail fi le again. Score one
for the old lady.
“So . . .” Macie began. Maxine turned her head, but Macie didn’t look
up. “So, when are you going to tell him?”
“That you can’t fl y to Poland with him,” Macie fi nished.
The tears returned. “I hate today,” Maxine said.