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Unformatted text preview: throat. “Did you have to do that?”
“Yes. I did.” She started up the steps. “If you’re not up there in five minutes, you get another bucketful.” Left in the basement with Papa, Liesel busied herself by mopping up the excess water with some drop sheets.
Papa spoke. With his wet hand, he made the girl stop. He held her forearm. “Liesel?” His face clung to her. “Do
you think he’s alive?”
She crossed her legs.
The wet drop sheet soaked onto her knee.
“I hope so, Papa.”
It felt like such a stupid thing to say, so obvious, but there seemed little alternative.
To say at least something of value, and to distract them from thoughts of Max, she made herself crouch and
placed a finger in a small pool of water on the floor. “Guten Morgen, Papa.”
In response, Hans winked at her.
But it was not the usual wink. It was heavier, clumsier. The post-Max version, the hangover version. He sat up
and told her about the accordion of the previous night, and Frau Holtzapfel.
THE KITCHEN: 1 P.M.
Two hours till goodbye: “Don’t go, Papa. Please.”
Her spoon-holding hand is shaking. “First we lost Max.
I can’t lose you now, too.” In response, the hungover
man digs his elbow into the table and covers his right eye.
“You’re half a woman now, Liesel.” He wants to break down but
wards it off. He rides through it. “Look after
Mama, will you?” The girl can make only half a nod
to agree. “Yes, Papa.”
He left Himmel Street wearing his hangover and a suit.
Alex Steiner was not leaving for another four days. He came over an hour before they left for the station and
wished Hans all the best. The whole Steiner family had come. They all shook his hand. Barbara embraced him,
kissing both cheeks. “Come back alive.”
“Yes, Barbara,” and the way he’d said it was full of confidence. “Of course I will.” He even managed to laugh.
“It’s just a war, you know. I’ve survived one before.”
When they walked up Himmel Street, the wiry woman from...
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- Winter '13