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Unformatted text preview: ing up in bed with the deflated soccer ball on his lap. His
beard itched him and his swampy eyes fought to stay open. An empty bowl of soup was next to the gifts.
They did not say hello.
It was more like edges.
The door creaked, the girl came in, and she stood before him, looking at the bowl. “Is Mama forcing it down
He nodded, content, fatigued. “It was very good, though.”
“Mama’s soup? Really?”
It was not a smile he gave her. “Thank you for the presents.” More just a slight tear of the mouth. “Thank you
for the cloud. Your papa explained that one a little further.”
After an hour, Liesel also made an attempt on the truth. “We didn’t know what we’d do if you’d died, Max. We
It didn’t take him long. “You mean, how to get rid of me?”
“No.” He was not offended. “You were right.” He played weakly with the ball. “You were right to think that
way. In your situation, a dead Jew is just as dangerous as a live one, if not worse.”
“I also dreamed.” In detail, she explained it, with the soldier in her grip. She was on the verge of apologizing
again when Max intervened. “Liesel.” He made her look at him. “Don’t ever apologize to me. It should be me who apologizes to you.” He
looked at everything she’d brought him. “Look at all this. These gifts.” He held the button in his hand. “And
Rosa said you read to me twice every day, sometimes three times.” Now he looked at the curtains as if he could
see out of them. He sat up a little higher and paused for a dozen silent sentences. Trepidation found its way onto
his face and he made a confession to the girl. “Liesel?” He moved slightly to the right. “I’m afraid,” he said, “of
falling asleep again.”
Liesel was resolute. “Then I’ll read to you. And I’ll slap your face if you start dozing off. I’ll close the book and
shake you till you wake up.”
That afternoon, and well into the night, Liesel read to Max Vandenburg. He sat in bed and absorbed the words,...
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- Winter '13