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Fiction by Mildred Pond

The Stowaway - page 9

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“Ja!” My heart was ramming my chest. I berated myself, not for telling him the truth, but because I couldn’t judge which way to go with him.If he wasn’t German, why did he seem to be German? He clamped a cold hand over my mouth, his own lips darkened by the wine, and again craned his neck around to make sure we were alone. Finally, he appeared to relax. By then I knew we were in this together, for different reasons, but together. “Wohin. . the French officer gehen? The one who danced with the American?” “Where do you think he’s going, Schmidt?” His eyes widened. “For God’s sake, where were you planning to escape to? What were you doing in France? Tell me!” I grabbed his shoulder, ripping his shirt, and then wrapped my fingers around his neck. Headed straight into a strong wind, the ship now pitched. Schmidt seemed too weak to remain standing but he did. “I was in a Kloster. Katholisch.” True? Or not? The Catholic monasteries in France had hid more than a few escaping pro-nazi French, as well as German Nazis themselves. In fairness, they’d hid members of the resistance, as well. “They think I am someone else.” He began to stutter, from a chill or from fear, probably both. “Who does, Schmidt?” I leaned over to put things back in my rucksack, suddenly lost my balance and rolled to the deck. I couldn’t see if I’d gathered everything or not. “I wanted to go to Israel,” he said. “Yes? Why didn’t you?” I stood up but had to hold on to the lifeboat. There was a guttural Yiddish inflection cracking through Schmidt’s spiky German accent. This felt like firmer ground, but still I had no facts, no story. If he wanted to go to Israel, why hadn’t he? Thousands had and still were being al- lowed in. Why had he hidden in a French monastery? Where did South America fit in? Who thought he was someone else? “I have no papers. Sie glauben. ..”