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Unformatted text preview: e progress tests at school. One of them was for reading.
Every child was made to stand at the front of the room and read from a passage the teacher gave them. It was a
frosty morning but bright with sun. Children scrunched their eyes. A halo surrounded the grim reaper nun,
Sister Maria. (By the way—I like this human idea of the grim reaper. I like the scythe. It amuses me.)
In the sun-heavy classroom, names were rattled off at random.
“Waldenheim, Lehmann, Steiner.”
They all stood up and did a reading, all at different levels of capability. Rudy was surprisingly good.
Throughout the test, Liesel sat with a mixture of hot anticipation and excruciating fear. She wanted desperately
to measure herself, to find out once and for all how her learning was advancing. Was she up to it? Could she
even come close to Rudy and the rest of them?
Each time Sister Maria looked at her list, a string of nerves tightened in Liesel’s ribs. It started in her stomach
but had worked its way up. Soon, it would be around her neck, thick as rope.
When Tommy Müller finished his mediocre attempt, she looked around the room. Everyone had read. She was
the only one left.
“Very good.” Sister Maria nodded, perusing the list. “That’s everyone.”
A voice practically appeared on the other side of the room. Attached to it was a lemon-haired boy whose bony
knees knocked in his pants under the desk. He stretched his hand up and said, “Sister Maria, I think you forgot
Was not impressed. She plonked her folder on the table in front of her and inspected Rudy with sighing disapproval. It was almost
melancholic. Why, she lamented, did she have to put up with Rudy Steiner? He simply couldn’t keep his mouth
shut. Why, God, why?
“No,” she said, with finality. Her small belly leaned forward with the rest of her. “I’m afraid Liesel cannot do it,
Rudy.” The teacher looked across, for confirmation. “She will read for me later.”
The girl cleared her throat and spoke with quiet defiance. “I can do it now, Sister.” The majority of other kids
watched in silence. A few of them performed the beautiful childhood...
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- Winter '13