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Fiction by Mildred Pond

The Stowaway - page 19

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“Gut! Und sie auch!” He emitted a guttural sound, perhaps a laugh. “No, we’re doing this my way.” Then, stupidly – he looked so pathetic -- I relented. “All right. You go first. Your mother -- where was she from?” “Von Silesia”, he said, where the Russians gunned her down, when they were making their way to Berlin. ”Und sie? Ihre mutter?” “Not so fast, Schmidt.” He was asking about my mother? What gall. Schmidt playing the psychiatrist, priest, friend? He already knew I never spoke of my mother. The ship rolled and again I struggled to regain my footing. “Your father, Schmidt. When did he join the Nazi party?” He jutted his head further out of the boat, looked down at the couples dancing on the deck. “I say no more now. After you.” “Listen to me, Schmidt. I don’t have to help you. Think what will happen if I turn you in?” “ Ist der Englander so powerful? Mein Got, so strong? You agreed to ex-change information with me. And you lie, like everybody.” “All right, Schmidt. My mother’s dead too.” My words were barely audible, and I had to lean against his boat for balance. I had never spoken of her. “Warum?” He wanted to know why? My throat contracted, I felt dizzy. But then I looked at his emaciated face, illuminated not only by curiosity but something I could only describe as sympathy. I slowly slumped to the deck and was, for the first time in my adult life, weeping. He climbed out of the boat, crept over and sat on the deck quietly beside me. Like a small boy, I haltingly told him that I had discovered my mother hanging in the attic myself – I was six years old – that no one had ever explained why she had taken her life, that my father was still alive, but never spoke anymore. And that Mary, my wife, had died in a car crash a month after I’d graduated from Cambridge. Schmidt listened attentively, though I could only see the outline of his head above mine, and he remained quiet when I finished, seemingly lost in his own more immediate thoughts. Beyond the