The arendt files, p.18
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       The Arendt Files, p.18
 

           Ivan Rosemblatt
She ushered him quickly into the kitchen and sat him at the table. “How long have you been out there?”

  “Three days.”

  “Have you eaten anything?” He shook his head.

  “We don't have a lot of time. I want to get at least one warm meal in you though. You like eggs?” He nodded his head. She was already moving efficiently through the kitchen, opening cupboard doors, disappearing into the larder. “People will be up and about any minute now. The road was humming all night with trucks, patrols. You got lucky, they've been passing by every half hour or so. We can't let anyone see anything out of the ordinary. Egg's, bacon and and some ham then.”

  “No bacon or ham please ma’am.” she paused, but only for a second “Corned beef hash then. I'm pretty sure I have a can in here.”

  “That would be great. Is anyone else in the house? ”

  “Nobody else here since my father went off to defend the state capital in 44.”

  “No delivery men or workers coming through?”

  “Do you want breakfast or not?”

  “Not if it costs me my life, ma’am.”

  “Well, you haven't had one of my breakfasts yet.” She was already grating potatoes and putting an apron on as she worked. “So where you from?”

  He looked up at her surprised by the question. A moment before she had seemed eminently level headed, very in charge, but in an instant he was questioning his decision to be there, hungry and tired as he was. She had her back to him, “Sorry, I don't know why I asked that. Just habit I suppose.”

  What had coiled up in him relaxed and he started to slump in the chair feeling the weight of exhaustion wash over him. They were silent for a while as she cooked and prepared the table in front of him. She had already placed a large jug of milk in front of him and poured him a glass. “Go ahead, drink up. You must be starving. This will be up in a second. Also, take off your shoes, we can't have footprints in on the floor”

  He was so tired and bruised it was difficult for him to reach down to untie his boots, there was blood in them sticking his sock to his foot, he didn't even know where it had come from. She came over quickly and knelt down to help him. She didn't flinch at all as she untied the laces and found pieces of what was certainly hair, blood and bone.

  By the time she had taken them off his voice was weak and sad as he said, “Thank you.” He didn't like accepting kindness but she made it very easy, and that was what made him sad. She nodded and went quickly to the sink to wash her hands and return to the skillet. “Just a couple of seconds more and it would have burned and you would have been out of luck. Those extra couple of seconds will make it perfect, crispy.” She was talking to fill the space of the silence in the room, she could feel him. She was talking to spare him the loss of pride of being seen.

  He remembered the rebbe saying, “One day you will let a woman love you and you will have a family and children and all those things you think that you will never have. I will be happy then and will play with your children.” He started to choke up but she spoke again over the loud sizzle of the food. “The hash browns will be good and crunchy. Nothing worse than soggy hash browns. Can't have that.”

  She set the plate in front of him, piled high with scrambled eggs, corned beef hash, hash browns, toast and a large lump of butter. “Eat up.” She stood over him, hands on her hips, elbows spread wide. He felt incredibly happy even though he knew he shouldn't be. He was trapped, cornered, lost; far from any safe house. His friends were still dead and his chances of getting out of there were next to nothing yet he felt fantastic as the heat of the steam rose up off the food and hit him in the face. The peach pit he had felt in his throat a moment before dissipated.

  He took his fork and mixed all of it together, the hash, eggs and browns; that was how he always ate breakfast. She was now moving as fast as she could cleaning up.

  “She's getting rid of every trace of me as she goes. Which is good if she's planning on hiding me. Maybe she's a collaborator who likes to kill resistance fighter but believes in giving them one last meal. That's what you do with a condemned prisoner right?” He smiled to himself and shrugged his shoulder. “Well nothing I can do about it now anyway.”

  She stopped cleaning for a moment and came back with a bottle of catsup. “Sorry forgot this.” He looked up at her and smiled. He loved catsup with his breakfast. His mother back in the day used to shake her head when he would pour it on the food she would make. “You must be adopted I swear. You eat like a goy. Ruining the food I made.”

  “Not like a goy momma. Like an American” he would answer “plus its kosher.”

  “Kosher smosher.” She would wipe her hands on her apron and watch him eating proudly. For all her complaining she always put the bottle on the table but only after he had started eating, begrudgingly.

  Light was starting to pour into the room and he could feel the day really starting to kick in. The birds were getting loud and he was certain he had heard a car starting in the distance. He leaned over the food and got serious about eating. She felt it too and picked up speed, drying the pans, putting all the food back where it came from, She poured out what was left in pitcher of milk into the glass and rinsed it out. As he finished and started to rise she grabbed the plate out from in front of him. His time was up. She was no longer calm or hospitable, she was anxious and rushed.

  She tossed the plate in the sink. “Damn it. I'll have to come back for it. He liked that she didn't want to even leave a plate for anyone to see, it meant she knew how to take things seriously. For some reason he had never understood some people were incapable of taking anything seriously even when their own life depended on it.

  “We are going through that door into the hall and then through the first door on the left, down the steps into the basement. That hall connects to the living room, the windows give out straight onto the street so I'll walk normal but you crouch down as low as you can.” this was good, very good. She had an operational mind. He would need to try and recruit her. “I can just crawl over if that is better.”

  “Not the way your clothes are.” He hadn't thought about that. He must have looked like a disgusting animal. “Just stay low.” He nodded. He touched his face with his hand. “Oh, I started a beard. I wonder what I look like.” He realized he was worried what he looked like because he wanted her to like him, “What are you, a teenage boy?”

  When he first saw combat what surprised him most was his mind, how it would not stay on track or focus on what mattered. Mortar shell's would be exploding around him, he would be sure he was about to die, pissing himself, and then he would wonder what brand of soap the Army bought that he would be using later to wash his drawers. Then her would start remembering the boxes for the different brands of detergent back home and which ones he liked best; then he wondered who designed those boxes and how a person came to be a designer of detergent boxes. “I wonder how it pays?” He would start making plans of where he might go to study, and he would completely forget where he was for a moment.

  She moved through the door and he followed crouched low. He was able to get a glimpse of the living room as he moved towards the basement door. It was everything he imagined a middle class country home to be. Well crafted furniture, doilies everywhere, framed embroideries on the wall with what he imagined were bible verses, knick knacks and China in a large glass hutch. He saw himself sitting in the large wing-back chair in the corner smoking a pipe. It was more like a vision than a fantasy. He saw himself there plain as day. “I'm so tired I'm hallucinating.”

  They made their way down the old creaky steps into the basement and walked into a root cellar lined with simple rough hewn shelves filled with glass jars of pickled vegetables and canned foods. She walked to the back wall of shelves and reached behind the left side groping for something and pulled back shelf open easily like a door on a hinge.

  Behind the shelving was three feet deep space; on the right side there were perhaps ten rifles and five machine guns leaning against the
wall, stacks of ammunition propping them up and another seven pistols scattered willy nilly on the floor. She lifted a hatch on the ground hooking it up to latch on the wall revealing a set of stairs She started down and he followed.

  “My father built this when he felt the war wasn't going well.” She had grabbed a flashlight from somewhere and was shining it down below. “He was an engineer. You have enough room to stand and take two or three steps. You see how the ground is all mattress?” He nodded. “You can lift the whole thing up like a Murphy bed that way you can stand on some solid ground. It's all organized from right to left. This wall is all cabinets with supplies but you will only use the far cabinets, these closest to us have supplies for survival after you get out, you, know if there is chaos outside and you need to rebuild society.” He nodded his head. “What you have in the other two cupboards there is food and water, canned stuff and C rations, chocolate, not bad at all. Eat what you need. The left side here with the low bench is for elimination. These two closest to us are for trash. Do everything you can to eat all the food from any of the rations you open. The last thing you will want is food rotting in here, especially not tuna or sardines. Dad loved tuna and sardines. The bench there lifts up to a double commode. It's double so that the one closest to us is for solids and the one furthest is for liquid. It's important you remember that. He designed them differently. In the one for solid, after you do your business grab some sawdust from here and throw it on top. When these are closed you can use this area to sit. Last, you can't see it from here but when you lie down, you see that space there between the back walls and this cupboard?”

  “Yes.”

  “When you are lying down if you look into there you will be able to see a little dot of light when it's daytime. He rigged a system of mirrors. That tiny bit of light will make it so that you can see shapes in here during the day. Otherwise if you cover it it gets pitch black. Also, you have to stay quiet . It's isolated but it isn't sound proof, he designed it so that there is ventilation. Air get in and that means sound gets out. No talking to yourself or singing. “

  “I'm not crazy.”

  “After a couple of days alone in the dark anyone can want to talk. That light down there will help you keep track of how many days have gone by. No matter what you hear happening above stay in here for a full five days. I won't be back down during that time. Wait until the fifth night to come out if I haven't come to get you. If that happens suggest you grab one of those guns and some ammo, that's what I would do. If I'm not around no tellin what you find. Probably some German officer living with his family. Do some exercise as soon as you can if not you'll start to get weak. It happens quickly. Good luck. I'm going now.”

  “Wait. Thank you. Why are you doing this?”

  “That's a strange question.”

  “You are risking your life.”

  “We're all just waiting for the real fight to start. We're waiting for our chance to help.”

  “What's your name?”

  “In five days, maybe we share names then.” She gave a slight smile.

  “Thanks for breakfast.”

  “Your welcome. Get some rest.” She turned and walked up the steps closing the doors behind her.

  Chapter 19

 
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