Author's Notes: I've done a little research on Meyer Lansky. Apparently his family lived in Grodno until about 1909, when they migrated to the United States. His family lived comfortably in Grodno, never went hungry, but did live in fear of the pogroms that erupted during that time period. He was about 7 when he left Poland for the United States, where he, his mother and brother entered New York through the Port of Odessa. That's historical Meyer.

But the way I see it, Boardwalk Empire is well-written fanfiction. It has taken historical liberties and so I will do the same. This is a little writing exercise I did on Meyer Lansky, whose pre-NY life I took historical liberties with. I do hope you enjoy reading it.

Disclaimer - I don't own Meyer Lansky.


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For too long, she worries. He's too little. The large eyes frame his face, dark and questioning, and when she looks at him they're all she sees. Little Meyer. His legs too short to carry him when the wilderness in his spirit calls him to run. Who stretches out his arms to bundle up the first snow, telling her he will take it and make something beautiful for her –for you, mama, I will make you a star!

She will never forget the first time he went hungry. How the dark eyes shifted, moved across the table toward where she sat helpless in her chair, and asked nothing of her. Only waited. Only stared, quiet, and there was no resentment in the way he blinked softly and silently. Deep in her stomach, beneath the ache of emptiness, she felt something sharp and cruel press against her. Fear. Little Meyer – he did not even cry, did not ask, did not speak a word.

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The years pass. In their rush, they forget little Meyer, they forget the wide dark eyes crowding a pale, hungry face. He does not grow much. His legs stay little. His hands still so small she can fit them within her own and kiss the tiny fingers until it tickles (until she coaxes a bit of light from the dark eyes, a laughter that swells up from deep within the soul). My little Meyer. It will get better. You will see. Mama will show you.

There is one thing that the years of suffering cannot take away from him. They may take his food, his hope, his innocence – but he is so smart. She sees it, in the way he groups together potato peelings (thin potato soup, thinner every day, and that is all she can give him) and counts them, one by one. With the pale tiny fingers, he separates the peels into two piles, counting so carefully. One, two, three, four. Look, mama, I'm counting!

On his face, a grin missing its two front teeth, almost too big for the small face to hold.

He has a gift with numbers. Calculation. Such a little thing, a tiny boy, and already she can see it – how deftly he handles what little she knows about arithmetic. It is almost too late when she realizes her little Meyer has surpassed her in skill, in intelligence. His father, by the pearly gray light of dawn, fills little scraps of paper with numbers while sweet-faced Meyer lies crushed against his mother's chest (dreaming the dreams of little boys with too-big eyes and too-big dreams for such fragile hopes to hold). In his own way, an unspoken pride shines behind the great thick beard and the weariness of the gentle brown eyes of his father – he is proud of his little one (to mama, Meyer is darling).

It is there (that solemn pride) when he tells Meyer that he must go away, if only for a little while – take care of your mother, little one. Take care of your brother. With a ruffle of his brown curls and a kiss upon the thin pale cheek, papa is gone, melting away into the horizon with the last of the late winter snow.

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Hunger carves away at little Meyer. It hacks away at his strength, tears him slowly down; it bleeds him dry. Thin potato soup. A cabbage thrown in, if Meyer's brother can steal one away from the farm down the road (slick and sticky with mud). It's all she has, it's everything she can give him, and it's not enough. Every time she must watch him pray to God in thanks for what he has been given, something in her dies and begins to rot, filling her up with the decay of a dying faith. Anger. Fear. Frustration. Why must we suffer. Why must my children suffer.

He still does not grow. His little hands still fit inside her own. But she does not tickle them with kisses anymore. She cannot bear to remember that the light in her Meyer's eyes, once burning and bright, has gone out. The eyes, once endearing in their enormity, have become morbid, hunger engraved into every crevice and every thought that may flit quietly past (those cruel unspoken little reflections). Not even laughter or gentleness or pride may summon it now. After all, the love of a mother may only go so far to keep her children alive.

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When the pogroms come, the world is bleached white with winter. Snow falls, flecks catching on the sharpness of Meyer's grey cheeks. She runs. The little hand within her own, cradled against the cracked flesh, and her blood blooms scarlet on the threadbare brown of his jacket sleeve. His brother runs beside her, weak, but still moving. Little Meyer cannot even run. Too sick to lift his head, too weak to move the hand held tightly against his mother's palm - the wilderness in his spirit has been tamed.

They run. Run until their lungs ache with cold and their faces burn. Until her legs at last give out and she collapses, exhausted, against the hard shell of an ice-encrusted tree. Like a sentinel, it towers over her, its bare branches throwing eerie shadows into the pale glowing night. His brother nestles into her side, the wool of her shawl scratching his wind-burnt cheeks. Meyer does not make a sound. She holds her children close, hiding them away from the black bitter night, and feels a silent tear turn cold in the corner of her mouth. In the too-near distance, she listens with a creeping fear tightening in her chest – the screams, the cries, the crack of gunfire, the low simmering hiss of fire. The forest is alive with the echoing clamor, resonating deep within the roots of the trees. If she closes her eyes, it almost sounds like a bell, a deep bell tolling somewhere far off in the distance.

They are not safe here. She knows it. But she's so tired, tired of running, tired of being afraid, tired of watching her sons waste away with nothing but watery soup and empty prayers to sustain them. In the heavens, the sky is clear, the face of heaven staring back at her. Is this your gift to us, Hashem? Is this your promised land?

She almost doesn't hear the deathly quiet. But she feels it, the sensation cutting her down to the bone. The rawness of a long, weary night, a blank passive sky stretched thin over the desolation of an innocent people (pain and misery and the question, why, why your people, why must we suffer?). There is no answer. There is never an answer.

She returns to her home - what is left - her enemies long having fled with their cowardice into the light of fading dawn. Little Meyer has not made a sound (not in between the restless burning hours). Often, with his brother trudging weakly at her side, she presses her ear against the paper-thin chest (oh my darling, do not leave me, do not go). She is relieved with the sound of the tiny heart's reply, so faint, so brave like her little Meyer has always been (I will not go, mama, I will not leave you). But how long will it last? How long can courage keep that fragile heart beating with so little to urge it on?

She tightens her grip on the half-frozen hand at her side. No reply, not a sound. They are so silent (and the silence hurts, like the sharpness of ice against bare skin). No more. She will listen to their silent suffering no more.

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Long into the winter she carries her hope, keeps it within her like a secret light (she shares this light with no one, not even her sons). The pogroms come, they take more away, they sweep through the village like a pestilence and leave nothing in their wake. More watery soup, more soft-spoken voices lowered, obedient, in prayer. She must watch the hunger grow in them for only a little while longer. And she dreams, dreams of filling their stomachs with thick stew and warm bread so that there is no more room for the hunger. In sleep, only in dreams, Meyer grows so that the little hands no longer fit within her own. The blood of pogroms no longer stains the innocence in his dark, questioning eyes. No more death. No more sickness. With each sunrise and each nightfall, the hope shines a little brighter in her. No more death. No more sickness. No more hunger.

Under the cover of nightfall, she gathers only what she can carry safely on her back. She lifts Meyer into her arms, his brother at her side, and runs for the last time beneath a sky littered with smoke and stars. She will forget this place, turn a blind eye to the scars that it has left behind. No more death. No more sickness. No more hunger.

The ship leaves at dawn. His brother leans over the railing, the hollow cheeks glowing softly in the new light. And little Meyer in her arms, too weak to lift his head. She feels his tiny fist move within her own and gives it a squeeze. No more, my little Meyer. You are free.

The sun breaks free and blooms on the horizon. It is blinding.