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Unformatted text preview: e nod. He was reaching for a paintbrush. “Yes, I would.”
“Do you play the accordion, by any chance?”
This time, Hans stopped, leaving the brush where it was. Again, he nodded.
The stranger rubbed his jaw, looked around him, and then spoke with great quietness, yet great clarity. “Are you
a man who likes to keep a promise?”
Hans took out two paint cans and invited him to sit down. Before he accepted the invitation, the young man
extended his hand and introduced himself. “My name’s Kugler. Walter. I come from Stuttgart.”
They sat and talked quietly for fifteen minutes or so, arranging a meeting for later on, in the night. A GOOD GIRL
In November 1940, when Max Vandenburg arrived in the kitchen of 33 Himmel Street, he was twenty-four
years old. His clothes seemed to weigh him down, and his tiredness was such that an itch could break him in
two. He stood shaking and shaken in the doorway.
“Do you still play the accordion?”
Of course, the question was really, “Will you still help me?”
Liesel’s papa walked to the front door and opened it. Cautiously, he looked outside, each way, and returned.
The verdict was “nothing.”
Max Vandenburg, the Jew, closed his eyes and drooped a little further into safety. The very idea of it was
ludicrous, but he accepted it nonetheless.
Hans checked that the curtains were properly closed. Not a crack could be showing. As he did so, Max could no
longer bear it. He crouched down and clasped his hands.
The darkness stroked him.
His fingers smelled of suitcase, metal, Mein Kampf, and survival.
It was only when he lifted his head that the dim light from the hallway reached his eyes. He noticed the
pajamaed girl, standing there, in full view.
Max stood up, like a struck match. The darkness swelled now, around him.
“Everything’s fine, Liesel,” Papa said. “Go back to bed.”
She lingered a moment before her feet dragged from behind. When she stopped and stole one last look at the
foreigner in the kitchen, she could decipher the outline of a book on the table.
“Don’t be afraid,” she heard Papa whisper. “She’s...
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- Winter '13