Aleksandar was lying on his stomach reading the Politikin Zabavnik aloud to the whole family. This mutual reading of the Poltikin Zabavnik was one of the favourite pastimes on Saturday evenings after the end of Shabbat.
– Brick Bradford – Aleksandar was reading a title in the header of a comic with an exaggerated theatrical voice, – An Indian Doll with the Diamond Eyes, chapter twenty-six, Brick Saves the Professor! – As he was reading he was making grimaces, with his eyes wide open, imitating “the Indian doll”. Selma was lying on the floor next to Aleksandar holding her Pepi repeating to it:
– Brick Bradford! An Indian doll with the dianomd eyes! –
– Diamond! – Aleksandar corrected her.
– Dian …diamond eyes! – Selma corrected herself nodding her head significantly to Pepi so that it could understand, too.
– As Brick was descending the well, the professor disappeared under the water surface… – Aleksandar pronounced it dramatically making gestures with his hands as if he were swimming.
– …under the water surface! – Selma shook Pepi as if trying to persuade it how great danger awaited the professor.
The mother and the father were sitting aside laughing aloud at this show.
Every evening before going to bed, Aleksandar and Selma would come to the father who would be sitting at the big dining table made of oak wood, and kiss him wishing him good night. The father would pat their hair and kiss them, and then the mother would take them to their room. It would be dark in the room, but the light would come in from the dining room making an elongated pattern along the carpet. The mother would check if the window was closed, straighten the curtain a little, and then cover Aleksandar, kissing his forehead saying “my golden boy”. Then she would sit on Selma’s bed for a while, kiss her saying “my sweetest heart”, and close the door behind her as she would leave the room. The elongated pattern of light on the carpet would disappear abruptly, as soon as the door would close, while the dim, pale street light would sneak in the room throwing shadows on the part of the wall above Aleksandar’s bed. Sometimes, when it was windy, a tall oak tree growing in front of the house would rustle, the flickering shadows of its leaves playing on the wall.
Aleksandar quietly pulled out his red race car under the pillow. In the semi darkness of the room it looked more mysterious, as if magical. He passed his fingers over the fine smooth surface of the car, and then spun the wheels with a carefully measured move of his index finger. He would spin them, and then listen to them rustling until they would slow down and eventually stop. Then he would spin them again.
All of a sudden he found himself at the steering wheel, shifting gears convulsively squeezing the wheel. Lo! There was Bogdan, too, sitting next to him at the assistant driver’s seat in this red Mercedes Benz W-154 M163, the invincible race car of the world champions. Aleksandar and Bogdan were racing around Kalemegdan’s Park, and soon through a pungent smell of gasoline and scorched tyres, through the shouting of excited crowd, and the noise of engines and squeaking of wheels, they would pass the stands where the father and Pavle were watching. What a surprise it would be for the father and Pavle to see two of them! Aleksandar kept shifting gears, and the engine was roaring very loudly, more and more all the time. Aleksandar was turning around, something was wrong, he let off the wheel, the engine was droning very loudly. Bogdan grabbed his head with both hands. Something was wrong! Bolides kept racing past them, everywhere, hundreds of bolides, hundreds of engines. Aleksandar grabbed his head with both hands, too.
– Aleksandar! – he heard Selma’s voice. She was standing beside him with Pepi in her hand. Aleksandar sat up on his bed. He was not sure if he was still dreaming or not. All these engines… where was the sound coming from? They moved to the window slowly. Something could be heard. He slowly opened the window pushing aside the curtain. The noise of the engines was clear and even louder. Airplanes were swarming in the sky, like dense flocks of black birds with their wings spread wide. The whole sky was covered with their silhouettes. Selma covered her ears with her hands. Then they heard sirens.
– Aleksandar? – Selma whined in fear.
When the first bomb exploded in a fireball with a loud bang they felt the whole house shook, and stepped back into the room with their eyes open wide. The mother was already there behind them, grabbing their hands and pulling them inside:
– Quick, let’s go to the shelter! –
– Mother, what is this? –
– Germans. The war has started. –
Aleksandar seemed to hear the voice of his uncle Julije: “A war is a terrible evil bringing out an animal in a man”.