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Fiction by Mildred Pond

The Stowaway - page 14

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“Hello? Schmidt? I want to talk to you.” I spoke firmly, resolutely. It had occurred to me that he had snatched my passport, while I’d scrambled to keep my balance the night of our encounter. A hand pulled open a corner of the canvas top, and he climbed out. He looked awful. Immense dark rings looped under his gaping eyes. Those eyes, I thought, probably had witnessed every horror the world is capable of committing. The injured foot was a mess of pus, scabs and blisters. I handed him my kit of ointment, cotton, and a bandage I kept more or less permanently when I traveled. He sat down, cleaned and bandaged his foot, talking all the while. “Wo sind wir?” “We’re in Port Said. For the day only.” He stopped, glanced over the rail-ing. “Don’t even dream of getting off here.” Suddenly he mouthed a lot of frantic questions: Wasn’t there an excursion? Why hadn’t I gone with the others? “Warum, hmmm? Mit die Amerikanisher. . und die . .others?.” “Be quiet, Schmidt. Don’t try to escape here. They’ll probably kill you.” “Die Amerikanisher. . .” “What about her? Did she go to the pyramids? Yes!” Then I became quiet, insistent. “Where are you from, Schmidt? Berlin? Munich? Hamburg?” I paused in between the cities, looking for a give-away flicker, a twitch, anything.A mocking grin passed along his cracked lips.“Where are you from, damnit?” I was yelling, against every rule I knew. He’d never talk now. And then, calmly, he did. “Czechoslovakia. “Und sie? – wohin – are you from?” Central Europe was certainly possible. He could have become fluent in German during the long years of German occupation. “I’m from Devon. Southeast of London,” I said.“Sind sie heiraten?” “Am I married! That’s none of your business. I’m doing the questioning.” “Nein! We exchange. I tell, you tell.”