TRIP TO PARIS
By Toni Kief
In the silence of terror, a thin arm reaches for a toolbox and with steady almost invisible movement, Peggy picks up the hammer. Slowly she brings it back to the cubbyhole beneath the stairs. She has no plan just an unspoken desire to survive, so she waits. This was her first trip alone, and she had chosen the journey of a lifetime. Peggy remembers just moments before she gathered her phrase book, map, cell phone, and her false bravado to march from the hotel room. She had a plan, and step one was to not allow Paris to intimidate her. A quick stop at the deli for a supply of snacks and a light lunch then she would fulfill a lifetime appointment with the Louvre.
The delicatessen was busy when she arrived, but the unusual French sounds and foods added to the adventure. Peg wandered the aisles trying to blend in, but felt noticeably American. Towards the rear shelves, she chose the final item to stock her backpack for the long anticipated afternoon. As she turned toward the counter, there was a commotion at the front door. Two people dressed in black stormed in and blocked the entrance. Customers scattered with a universal scream that took on a life of its own. She saw a mother snatch her baby from a stroller and run through a rear door with a clerk. After a brief moment, Peggy followed.
As she started down the stairs, she saw the clerk lead people into the freezer, and shut the compartment. By time Peggy caught up, it was already locked down. Searching for any place to hide she found a narrow pocket beneath the stairs. She moved a box to cover the opening, but she could still watch between the steps. Suddenly she realized if they looked back, they would see her. With a rudimentary command of French, she heard herself mutter merde.
She listened intently to the commotion and gunfire from upstairs. Creeping out of her hiding place, she broke the overhead light with a gentle stroke of the hammer. Everything went black with the tinkling of the glass followed by a hush. Did they hear the breaking bulb? Had she revealed her location? In the total darkness of death, she inched back to her refuge and made no other sound.
Peg knew that if they came, she would not go easily. Not only worried about her personal survival, she acknowledges she was the last obstacle between the terrorists and the people shivering in the freezer. Surprised how the simple tool gave her the determination and confidence that she could fight and possibly survive. There was movement above, and the muffled footsteps seemed to be coming closer. Acutely aware that stillness and a hammer stood between her and Paris, she vows that they would be damned to eternal hell if they ruin her vacation.