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Fiction by Mildred Pond

The Stowaway - page 21

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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 railing, the dark sea’s horizon tipped dizzily, the sea itself hauntingly silent. I thought of groping my way down to my cabin, but was unable to move. “Schlecht Englander. . .” he said, in a kind, altogether new, tone. Poor Englishman. In my raw state it felt like pity. ”Damnit it, Schmidt, you’re on your own.” Feebly, I stood up, feeling the fool for opening up, for over playing the Good Samaritan. My too personal confession, one I’d never made to anyone before, still spun confusingly in my mind. “Let’s stop for a cool drink,” Janet said, pointing to a café, mockingly named Café du Soleil. Loose strands of damp hair stuck gracefully to her neck.