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Fiction by Mildred Pond

The Stowaway - page 8

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Schmidt’s bare feet, encrusted with dried blood, probably from his scramble up a rope along the hull’s rusty exterior, if that was how he’d come aboard. The ship rocked and he clutched at the lifeboat for balance. “Why did you let the American girl dance with the French soldier?” “Let him? He cut in, it’s the custom,” I said, annoyed that I was letting him gain the upper hand.If I did report him, considering France’s tortured, still raw, memories of the Nazi occupation, the ship’s crew, all dedicated communists, might not deal with this fellow so gently. They might kill him on the spot.“What makes you so sure she’s American?” “Nicht schwer. Easy. They’re all zoo full, fed and confident. You let the Frenchman. . .” “Nonsense. The reason was that I’d seen you earlier and I wanted to meet you. You can’t possibly get away with this.” “The girl. . .she is with the French soldier? “No, she’s not with anyone. We all just met. What’s your plan, Schmidt?” “Sud Amerika, naturlich. Like you,” he said.His first unpremeditated answer! Finally, I could begin. “We’re stopping at several ports, Schmidt. Where in South America are you planning to go?” Again he grabbed my lapel, yanked me toward him, having seen some give away expression that I usually hid carefully. “Nicht South America?” “I didn’t say that.” The ship had begun to roll slightly and a stronger wind was blowing, forcing us to widen our stance. Schmidt was obviously wobbly, and possibly the several gulps of wine he’d drunk had loosened him up. “Then we go where?” “Japan.” “Nein!”