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“So I saw it, Saukerl.”
“How do I know that? For all I know, you were probably on the ground somewhere, licking up the mud I left
behind when I scored.”
Perhaps it was Rudy who kept her sane, with the stupidity of his talk, his lemon-soaked hair, and his cockiness.
He seemed to resonate with a kind of confidence that life was still nothing but a joke—an endless succession of
soccer goals, trickery, and a constant repertoire of meaningless chatter.
Also, there was the mayor’s wife, and reading in her husband’s library. It was cold in there now, colder with
every visit, but still Liesel could not stay away. She would choose a handful of books and read small segments
of each, until one afternoon, she found one she could not put down. It was called The Whistler. She was
originally drawn to it because of her sporadic sightings of the whistler of Himmel Street— Pfiffikus. There was
the memory of him bent over in his coat and his appearance at the bonfire on the Führer’s birthday.
The first event in the book was a murder. A stabbing. A Vienna street. Not far from the Stephansdom—the
cathedral in the main square.
A SMALL EXCERPT FROM
She lay there, frightened, in a pool of
blood, a strange tune singing in her ear. She recalled the knife, in and
out, and a smile. As always, the
whistler had smiled as he ran away,
into a dark and murderous night. . . .
Liesel was unsure whether it was the words or the open window that caused her to tremble. Every time she
picked up or delivered from the mayor’s house, she read three pages and shivered, but she could not last
Similarly, Max Vandenburg could not withstand the basement much longer. He didn’t complain—he had no
right—but he could slowly feel himself deteriorating in the cold. As it turned out, his rescue owed itself to some
reading and writing, and a book called The Shoulder Shrug.
“Liesel,” said Hans one night. “Come on.”
Since Max’s arrival, there had been a considerable h...
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- Winter '13