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When I look back, I remember my slippery
hands of paint and the sound of Papa’s feet
on Munich Street, and I know that a small
piece of the summer of 1942 belonged to only
one man. Who else would do some painting for
the price of half a cigarette? That was Papa,
that was typical, and I loved him.
Every day when they worked together, he would tell Liesel his stories. There was the Great War and how his
miserable handwriting helped save his life, and the day he met Mama. He said that she was beautiful once, and
actually very quiet-spoken. “Hard to believe, I know, but absolutely true.” Each day, there was a story, and
Liesel forgave him if he told the same one more than once. On other occasions, when she was daydreaming, Papa would dab her lightly with his brush, right between the
eyes. If he misjudged and there was too much on it, a small path of paint would dribble down the side of her
nose. She would laugh and try to return the favor, but Hans Hubermann was a hard man to catch out at work. It
was there that he was most alive.
Whenever they had a break, to eat or drink, he would play the accordion, and it was this that Liesel remembered
best. Each morning, while Papa pushed or dragged the paint cart, Liesel carried the instrument. “Better that we
leave the paint behind,” Hans told her, “than ever forget the music.” When they paused to eat, he would cut up
the bread, smearing it with what little jam remained from the last ration card. Or he’d lay a small slice of meat
on top of it. They would eat together, sitting on their cans of paint, and with the last mouthfuls still in the
chewing stages, Papa would be wiping his fingers, unbuckling the accordion case.
Traces of bread crumbs were in the creases of his overalls. Paint-specked hands made their way across the
buttons and raked over the keys, or held on to a note for a while. His arms worked the bellows, giving the
instrument the air it needed to breathe.
Liesel would sit each day with her hands be...
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- Winter '13