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Unformatted text preview: le that day.
For that, he had Erik Vandenburg to thank. Or more to the point, Erik Vandenburg and the sergeant’s
That particular morning, not too long before they were leaving, Sergeant Stephan Schneider paced into the
sleeping quarters and called everyone to attention. He was popular with the men for his sense of humor and
practical jokes, but more so for the fact that he never followed anyone into the fire. He always went first.
On certain days, he was inclined to enter the room of resting men and say something like, “Who comes from
Pasing?” or, “Who’s good with mathematics?” or, in the fateful case of Hans Hubermann, “Who’s got neat
No one ever volunteered, not after the first time he did it. On that day, an eager young soldier named Philipp
Schlink stood proudly up and said, “Yes, sir, I come from Pasing.” He was promptly handed a toothbrush and
told to clean the shit house.
When the sergeant asked who had the best penmanship, you can surely understand why no one was keen to step
forward. They thought they might be first to receive a full hygiene inspection or scrub an eccentric lieutenant’s
shit-trampled boots before they left. “Now come on,” Schneider toyed with them. Slapped down with oil, his hair gleamed, though a small piece was
always upright and vigilant at the apex of his head. “At least one of you useless bastards must be able to write
In the distance, there was gunfire.
It triggered a reaction.
“Look,” said Schneider, “this isn’t like the others. It will take all morning, maybe longer.” He couldn’t resist a
smile. “Schlink was polishing that shit house while the rest of you were playing cards, but this time, you’re
going out there.”
Life or pride.
He was clearly hoping that one of his men would have the intelligence to take life.
Erik Vandenburg and Hans Hubermann glanced at each other. If someone stepped forward now, the platoon
would make his life a living hell for the rest of their time together. No one li...
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- Winter '13