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Unformatted text preview: m, the rafters were firm, and Michael Holtzapfel jumped from
the chair as if it were a cliff.
So many people chased after me in that time, calling my name, asking me to take them with me. Then there was
the small percentage who called me casually over and whispered with their tightened voices.
“Have me,” they said, and there was no stopping them. They were frightened, no question, but they were not
afraid of me. It was a fear of messing up and having to face themselves again, and facing the world, and the
likes of you.
There was nothing I could do.
They had too many ways, they were too resourceful—and when they did it too well, whatever their chosen
method, I was in no position to refuse.
Michael Holtzapfel knew what he was doing.
He killed himself for wanting to live.
Of course, I did not see Liesel Meminger at all that day. As is usually the case, I advised myself that I was far
too busy to remain on Himmel Street to listen to the screams. It’s bad enough when people catch me redhanded, so I made the usual decision to make my exit, into the breakfast-colored sun.
I did not hear the detonation of an old man’s voice when he found the hanging body, nor the sound of running
feet and jaw-dropped gasps when other people arrived. I did not hear a skinny man with a mustache mutter,
“Crying shame, a damn shame . . .”
I did not see Frau Holtzapfel laid out flat on Himmel Street, her arms out wide, her screaming face in total
despair. No, I didn’t discover any of that until I came back a few months later and read something called The
Book Thief. It was explained to me that in the end, Michael Holtzapfel was worn down not by his damaged hand
or any other injury, but by the guilt of living. In the lead-up to his death, the girl had realized that he wasn’t sleeping, that each night was like poison. I often
imagine him lying awake, sweating in sheets of snow, or seeing visions of his brother’s severed legs. Liesel
wrote that sometimes she almost told him about h...
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- Winter '13