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Unformatted text preview: like a giant crown of thorns. I untangled him and carried him
out. High above the earth, we sank together,
to our knees. It was just another day, 1918.
“Apart from everything else,” she said, “he froze to death.” For a moment, she played with her hands, and she
said it again. “He froze to death, I’m sure of it.”
The mayor’s wife was just one of a worldwide brigade. You have seen her before, I’m certain. In your stories,
your poems, the screens you like to watch. They’re everywhere, so why not here? Why not on a shapely hill in a
small German town? It’s as good a place to suffer as any.
The point is, Ilsa Hermann had decided to make suffering her triumph. When it refused to let go of her, she
succumbed to it. She embraced it.
She could have shot herself, scratched herself, or indulged in other forms of self-mutilation, but she chose what
she probably felt was the weakest option—to at least endure the discomfort of the weather. For all Liesel knew,
she prayed for summer days that were cold and wet. For the most part, she lived in the right place.
When Liesel left that day, she said something with great uneasiness. In translation, two giant words were
struggled with, carried on her shoulder, and dropped as a bungling pair at Ilsa Hermann’s feet. They fell off
sideways as the girl veered with them and could no longer sustain their weight. Together, they sat on the floor,
large and loud and clumsy.
Again, the mayor’s wife watched the space next to her. A blank-page face.
“For what?” she asked, but time had elapsed by then. The girl was already well out of the room. She was nearly
at the front door. When she heard it, Liesel stopped, but she chose not to go back, preferring to make her way
noiselessly from the house and down the steps. She took in the view of Molching before disappearing down into
it, and she pitied the mayor’s wife for quite a while.
At times, Liesel wondered if she should simply leave the woman alone, but Ilsa Hermann was too interesting,
and the pull of the books was t...
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- Winter '13