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Unformatted text preview: them. If that meant being in the party,
it meant being in the party.
Point Five: Somewhere, far down, there was an itch in his
heart, but he made it a point not to scratch it. He was afraid of
what might come leaking out.
They walked around a few corners onto Himmel Street, and Alex said, “Son, you can’t go around painting
yourself black, you hear?”
Rudy was interested, and confused. The moon was undone now, free to move and rise and fall and drip on the
boy’s face, making him nice and murky, like his thoughts. “Why not, Papa?”
“Because they’ll take you away.”
“Because you shouldn’t want to be like black people or Jewish people or anyone who is . . . not us.”
“Who are Jewish people?”
“You know my oldest customer, Mr. Kaufmann? Where we bought your shoes?”
“Well, he’s Jewish.”
“I didn’t know that. Do you have to pay to be Jewish? Do you need a license?”
“No, Rudy.” Mr. Steiner was steering the bike with one hand and Rudy with the other. He was having trouble
steering the conversation. He still hadn’t relinquished the hold on his son’s earlobe. He’d forgotten about it.
“It’s like you’re German or Catholic.”
“Oh. Is Jesse Owens Catholic?”
“I don’t know!” He tripped on a bike pedal then and released the ear.
They walked on in silence for a while, until Rudy said, “I just wish I was like Jesse Owens, Papa.”
This time, Mr. Steiner placed his hand on Rudy’s head and explained, “I know, son—but you’ve got beautiful
blond hair and big, safe blue eyes. You should be happy with that; is that clear?”
But nothing was clear.
Rudy understood nothing, and that night was the prelude of things to come. Two and a half years later, the
Kaufmann Shoe Shop was reduced to broken glass, and all the shoes were flung aboard a truck in their boxes. THE OTHER SIDE OF SANDPAPER
People have defining moments, I suppose, especially when they’re children. For some it’s a Jesse Owens
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- Winter '13