Return to Home Page Return to Home Page
Fiction by Mildred Pond

The Stowaway - page 16

Next Page Next Page
“My mother?” The words scorched my throat. I never spoke about my mother. I was simply unable to. Hilda’s one comment on the subject swam through my head: “No clam was ever more tightly sealed about his past than you, Roger.” Memories of my mother dangling in our attic with a rope around her neck – discovered by me when I was a small boy – had been repeatedly buried, and re-buried, as was my wife Mary’s car crash so soon after our wedding. “I must go below Schmidt.” He roughly grabbed my arm. “You talk, I talk, Englishman.“ Insanely, I began to shake, as if he had some sort of power over me. It was my fault entirely; I’d let him take me off guard. And now I felt feverish, frantic. jumped him then, frisked him from shoulder to ankles, noticing for the first time shrapnel wounds on his left shin. “Where’s my passport, Schmidt? Reise Pass! Give it to me! Do I have to scour the boat?” He’d fallen to the deck, wasn’t struggling anymore, so I climbed inside. The boat stank like a sewer. My passport wasn’t there. We both heard shouting, the last clang of gangplanks being hauled up, and then the ship’s slow pull out of the harbor. Schmidt was still sprawled on the deck, pale as a corpse, and grinning absurdly, crazily. I couldn’t fathom the grin. I handed him the bag I’d brought of fresh figs, bread and water, saying as I left, “Don’t try anything, Schmidt, you’ll never make it.” * * * Ilona said to me at dinner, “You didn’t come with us to the pyramids and you’re the one who looks as if he’s seen a ghost.” By then we all customarily sat together in the dining room. Ilona wore a new pair of flat-soled red leather shoes, their toes pointing upward. Gamal, who’d spent the day in Cairo, stared distractedly out of a porthole. “One of his deals fell through,” Ilona whispered. “One or two more failed deals and he will ship me back to Romania. Without him, I will be stateless.” “Surely not,” I said, though I knew such cases occurred and fairly often. “We missed you,” Janet said to me across the table. An obvious lie, I thought, since she and Jacques, the French Foreign Legionnaire, were no-ticeably closer, the electricity between them all too obvious. I ordered another gimlet. “We divulged all of our secrets,” Ilona said.