Amy Tingle and Hildie Block

Amy Tingle

Honey Tangerine
y Hildie Block
Inspiration piece

Irene, the 12 year-old granddaughter of Holocaust survivors takes some risks in an orange grove with a boy named Jesse. 

“Opa, what’s under that blanket?”

“Vat, dis?  Here?” Opa pulled back a corner of the blanket, showing a wooden handle, worn smooth, and a trigger, like one from a Western.

“Is that a gun?”

Opa pushed his sleeve up revealing 3 digits of a black tattoo.  “Shotgun, nu sure, your Oma’s, nicht wahr.  Trusts no one to keep her safe.  Why a shot gun?”  Opa shrugged, “Who knows.  Now help me lift the bait and poles into the trunk, Irenya.”

I handed Opa the yellow and white plastic bait bucket, fishing poles and then his tackle box while the April sun burned through my rainbow t-shirt.

* * *

Spring Break in Florida, every year with the grandparents.  Not a choice.  As Holocaust survivors, they didn’t feel I was safe home over Easter.  Mom said that dad’s family had been through too much to argue.  We Jews were snowbirds solely to avoid the post-passion play attack that never actually happened in suburban Philly.

My dad didn’t talk about it.  My mom, after taking Oma Bettina to tea once, told me never, ever, to talk about orange marmalade — and some story that couldn’t possibly be true about her surviving, and saving them all because she broke down and ate orange marmalade on toast with the Nazis at the camp.  Mom’s straight line lips stopped just short of it all making sense.  At twelve, I guess was too young to hear it.  Something bad, though, I could tell.  She broke, she gave in, she saved them, but she maybe did stuff she wasn’t proud of.

Dad simply said, “Survivor’s guilt.”  Whenever Oma or Opa talked about the Nazis they just cried out and said, “those bastards.”  That’s how I knew we were done.  “They took our guns.  Those bastards.”  “Took out your father’s tonsils without anesthesia.  He was just a Junge, a boy. Those bastards.”  “Those Hunds, those dogs, those bastards.”

* * *

Inside the white Ambassador, I asked, “Opa, can we stop at the stand?” 

Nur, sure, just don’t tell Oma!  She’ll be having schvitzes already we are so late for dinner. We don’t want she should hunt us down mit her gun!”  He smiled.

Inside the orange stand, I wandered around the necklaces that all cost 96 cents (4 cents sales tax in Florida), while Opa talked to the man behind the register.

“Hey, I bet you’ve never had a honey tangerine!” – a tanned boy with the sleeves sliced off his grey sweatshirt had slid next to me while I tried on a turquoise ring, also 96 cents.  I had, but I just looked at him, wondering where this might be going. 

“Why?” I swung my hair over shoulder and ran my tongue over my braces.  I rolled my Lip Smacker between my fingers in the pocket of my cutoffs.

“The best ones are still on the tree,” he lowered his voice, “and the best tree – I know where it is.”

I loved honey tangerines samples at the stand and Oma would never buy them.  “Fancy-schmancy oranges,” she’d say.  “For fancy-schmancy people.  Not refugees. For us, oranges are plenty fancy.”

I glanced over at Opa still talking to the man behind the register.  I could hear, something about President Carter and protecting Israel.  They argued – I heard him “Ich weiss schon!  I know it already! But Israel, it’s the only place where we will never be the foreigner, the outsider.”  Opa loved President Carter, even though he called him the peanut-eater.  I turned to the boy.

“So where’s this tree?”

He was half way out of the stand before he waved “C’mon, I’ll show you.”

I followed the boy down the path and didn’t look back once; we wound our way through the sweet smelling orange grove, and he ducked through rows of green and orange trees– I glanced back and couldn’t see the stand. 

“Hey, Are we getting close?”  He smiled, showing a greyish front tooth.  How had I missed that?  “What’s your name?”

“Why, are you going to write me a letter when you go home?”

“Maybe,” I said. “You never know.”


“I like the name Jesse.”

“I bet.”

“No, really.”

“I bet I know some other stuff you’d like.”

I looked at him hard, wondering why we’d stopped walking.  “So where’s this tree?”

“Over there,” he jabbed his thumb over his shoulder.  “Why, you getting tired?  You need a rest?”

“No, it’s just,” I ran my teeth over my braces again, “I probably should get back.”  A vision of Oma wringing her dishtowel haunted me.


I was started by his tone.

“NO!  You came this far!  Come, it’s amazing, I promise.  The juice from this tree.  You must see it.” He lowered his voice, “You must taste it.”

My feet seemed to think enough was enough, but my mouth was watering.  Oma always worried.  There was nothing to worry about!  It was 1978!  America!  “Okay, but let’s do this thing; I have to get back.”

“As you wish, Irene”

“How do you know my name?”

“You think you are invisible?  How often do you come to the stand?  It’s just blocks from your grandparents, right?  They talk about you.”

“Maybe I should get back.”

“Maybe.  But you won’t.”


Jesse had backed me into a tree; his hips were against mine, and even though I was scared, I had never kissed a boy before, I didn’t fight to get away.

“Irene,” he started and pushed his whole body next to mine, and reached up and grabbed a tangerine.  Still against me, he thrust his thumb in and broke it clean in half then squeezed so the sweet honey juice ran down onto both of our faces.  I barely got a taste before –

“Ireneya!  Ach du lieber!  Halt!  Get away from her!” Oma’s voice as I never heard it before, loud and broken, “Boeser Hund! You bastard!”

“Bettina!  Nein!  Nein!  Bitte nicht!” Opa was racing to catch her.

I barely heard the crack.


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