Unformatted text preview: schön, Frau Hermann. I can make you some coffee, if
you like. Would you come in? I’m home alone. My mama’s next door, with Frau Holtzapfel.”
“Shall we use the door or the window?” Liesel suspected it was the broadest smile Ilsa Hermann had allowed herself in years. “I think we’ll use the
door. It’s easier.”
They sat in the kitchen.
Coffee mugs and bread with jam. They struggled to speak and Liesel could hear Ilsa Hermann swallow, but
somehow, it was not uncomfortable. It was even nice to see the woman gently blow across the coffee to cool it.
“If I ever write something and finish it,” Liesel said, “I’ll show you.”
“That would be nice.”
When the mayor’s wife left, Liesel watched her walk up Himmel Street. She watched her yellow dress and her
black shoes and her porcelain legs.
At the mailbox, Rudy asked, “Was that who I think it was?”
“She gave me a present.”
As it turned out, Ilsa Hermann not only gave Liesel Meminger a book that day. She also gave her a reason to
spend time in the basement—her favorite place, first with Papa, then Max. She gave her a reason to write her
own words, to see that words had also brought her to life.
“Don’t punish yourself,” she heard her say again, but there would be punishment and pain, and there would be
happiness, too. That was writing.
In the night, when Mama and Papa were asleep, Liesel crept down to the basement and turned on the kerosene
lamp. For the first hour, she only watched the pencil and paper. She made herself remember, and as was her
habit, she did not look away.
“Schreibe,” she instructed herself. “Write.”
After more than two hours, Liesel Meminger started writing, not knowing how she was ever going to get this
right. How could she ever know that someone would pick her story up and carry it with him everywhere?
No one expects these things.
They don’t plan them.
She used a small paint can for a seat, a large one as a table, and Liesel stuck the pencil onto the first page. In the
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- Winter '13