The arendt files, p.28
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       The Arendt Files, p.28

           Ivan Rosemblatt
 
It was at the end of the fourth day that it happened. He could hear them shouting, knocking things over. Feet stomping up and down stairs. After having been living in a state of almost perfect silence the sound was incredibly jarring. Each noise hit his body and made him jerk and shake. He knew everything about the men by the sounds they make. Against the back drop of days of silence meditating on love and kindness those movements were stark int hteir aggresion, vicious. He wanted to kill them, wipe them from the earth. He had to kneel down, pull at his own hair, slowly pond his head on the mattress, to keep his screams inside.

  What were they doing to her? All he wanted to do was sneak up the to the cache of guns, load up and see how many of them he could kill, maybe all of them. It was a confined space and you never know. A straight charge without hesitation can be be a shocking thing to the enemy if you have the element of surprise. But then they would just kill her straight away. He knew it.

  He waiting long into the silence. As a soldier he had gone without food and comfort for days on end; endured lack of sleep and shelter, sick, shitting himself with dysentery, endless marches. He had always found ways to keep himself going, created games to trick himself into continuing for another step or another day. When time would drag on interminably and stretch out as a kind of unending anxiety he would say to himself, “This is your fountain of youth. You have managed to make a minute stretch into a year. Philosopher's and monks should envy you.” He would chuckle to himself then, but now, nothing helped him withstand the movement of one moment to the next, of not knowing what had happened to her. He didn't know her name.

  He broke his promise to wait five days and made his way through each room of the house crouched down low, to stay out of the line of sight of any window a 45 held softly in his hands. When he had been fighting through Italy in 43 he had picked up the habit of taking corners low to the ground. This always seemed to catch the enemy off guard and give him that extra second. He also found that the more relaxed he was, the less jerky and aggressive his movements, the longer it took them to figure out what they were seeing. He had gotten so good at that he had been able to confuse some Italians and just walk around the corner and smiling, they didn't know what was happening. He started to feel like he could affect other people's minds. After a time he always volunteered to go in first when they were involved in any city fighting. He got tired of seeing his friends killed or injured doing it and no one wanted to imitate him because he thought it was an undignified way to fight, loose limbed and relaxed. That was one of things that got him taken off the field and put into the special training programs.

  He was more nervous now than he had ever been in those days back in France. “It's so different when they attack you at home.” As he walked out of the basement door leading from the steps into the ground floor hall he saw that the order and cleanliness of the house had been blown over with a thick layer of chaos and violence. A storm or wild animal, something that didn't belong there had come through. End tables, couch, pillows, grandfather clock, were all knocked over, strewn on their sides. Porcelain figurines of border collies and commemorative plates to the veterans of the civil war lay shattered in pieces on the floor. His body shook and he felt a personal devastation, a loss. He had grown attached to this very home during his last few days of fantasy. It had an order and austerity that was so foreign and attractive to him. Strangely, the armchair he had so admired sat undisturbed in the corner.

  He found her in the last bedroom on the second floor naked lying on the wood floor, her body covered in drying blood, one leg ankle tied to one of the feet of the bed, another the oak dresser on the wall spreading her legs wide. She had a deep cut across each cheeks and her face bruised and swollen. He imagined for a moment it must have been what the priests had felt when they saw the holy altars of the temple desecrated by roman soldiers. To see the most beautiful thing treated like nothing. He turned his eyes away as a he knew he had no business staring at her. He pulled the quilt off the bed and draped it over her then cut her legs free. He reverted to his training and started to examine her body part by part. There were six deep stab wound on her back and one below her belly button that was still oozing blood, which meant she was alive. He sighed with relief even though he had no idea whether she would survive. There was a lot of blood on the ground and he had to take care not to slip on it.

  He leaned in to hear if she was breathing.

  “The women in my family made that quit for my grandma 80 years ago. Now it's all bloody.”

  “I'm sorry.”

  “It's ok. I'm glad you are here. I was hoping you would come up. I didn't want to die alone.”

  “You aren't going to die. You're too strong to die.”

  “Don't be silly. You can't be too strong to die. We are all die. I'm just sad about the quilt.”

  “You’ll have lots of daughters and you all can make a new quilts.”

  “God I hope I ain’t pregnant from those bastards.”

  He carefully lifted her onto the bed. She moaned and her body was weak and heavy like a wet towel.

  “What's your name.” she asked.

  “Adam.”

  “Of course. Handsome Adam.” She must be delirious he thought to himself.

  “What about you. What is your name?”

  “You won't believe me now if I tell you.”

  “You don't strike me as a liar. What is it?”

  “Eve silly, my name is Eve.”

  She took his hand and squeezed it as he arranged the quilt around her. Her head fell over to the side and her grip weakened. “Shit.” He said and very softly she whispered, “Don't swear. It's not nice.”

  “Yes of course. I am going to get some water to wash you off. I'll be right back.”

  “Don't go yet. I don't want to die alone.”

  “I need to clean your wounds.”

  “I'll be right back. You'll be alright, I promise.” Her grip loosened.

  “Goddamn” he thought. “She better not fucking die.” He scramble down the stairs and searched frantically for a wash basin and linens. He wanted to boil some water but had no idea how to do that without drawing attention to the house. Everything was exactly where he would expect it to be, linens stacked meticulously in the closet, white as snow, basin under the sink in the kitchen. He was glad to see that the sun was going down. He would leave the lights off and let his eyes adjust which would allow him to move around the house without being worried about being spotted. He had no idea if there was any activity on the road of any people milling about. He knew that if he couldn't see them they couldn't see him. It was exhausting having to pay such close attention to each movement and he was starting to loose focus. He needed to get back up to her.

  As the sun went down outside he sat next to the bed. Her breathing was low and even. It felt it was a good sign, but he wasn't sure. Once it was dark he went into the other rooms and brought in extra blankets as the night chill was starting to seep in. He wrapped her first in the quilt and then wrapped each of her limbs. For the next two hours he methodically would unwrap and expose a small part of her skin, wipe her with a damp towel, cleaning off any blood or dirt, any trace of the rape, and quickly cover her back. Sometimes she would bring her shoulders up in a shiver. At times she slept and even snored a little. When he was done, he sat in the dark, a sliver of moon shining just enough light to see the bare surface of things and their shape. It was getting colder and he wrapped himself up in a thick wool blanket. He felt content, glad to have this time to watch over and care for her. Strangely, it was the happiest he had ever been, happy to do be doing something for her, as opposed to just for the war, the cause and he had the luxury to keep watch over something he wanted to protect, someone. It was all very strange and different to him.

  When he had started to fade she spoke in a clear voice. “Come lie next to me for a bit. I'm cold.. He carefully lay down next to her. “Come in closer.”

  “I shouldn't fall asleep. I don't know what is going to happen in the
morning.”

  “Move me down into the cellar in the morning.”

  “Ok.”

  “Talk to me so that you don't fall asleep.”

  “What should I talk about?”

  “Tell me about where you are from?”

  “I'm from New York.”

  “I'm too tired to keep asking questions. Just tell me.”

  “I'm grew up in the Lower East Side. It was a pretty tough area but as long as I stayed around my block it was pretty safe, being a Jewish neighborhood. By the time I was twelve though I was already making my way all around the city. I had a couple of buddies, Shlomo and Isaac we would sneak onto the train and go check out the city. The truth is that we were little thieves. We had different cons we would . . .” He kept talking. Sometimes she would start snoring and he would stop, but then somehow she knew what was going on and she would whisper, “Don't stop. Keep going.” So he would. He was amazed by all the details that came to mind. The small events. The kind of candy bars he like to steal and exactly what their wrappers looked like. The subway stops. The names of the gangsters and whores on the block. Ice Pick Willie, Dopey Benny, Greasy Thumbs Guduk. What is was like on Saturday afternoon before shabbos everyone rushing around trying to get things ready. How friendly everyone acted Saturday early afternoon walking around with their families. She seemed to be listening the whole time though he had no idea how she could do it, when he he would would forget what he was talking about she would bring him back to where he was, “You were running away from the shop owner on 5th Avenue” or “You were on your way back from the butcher” so he could pick up where he had left off.

  He was sure he had fallen asleep a few times but it had been an easy drifting in and out, a mild and pleasant bobbing up and down on a mild sea. Through it all they stayed connected in a steady back and forth, the conversation uninterrupted as they rose and fell together. Adam felt perfectly happy and at peace. His worrying about her, whether she was warm, even whether she would live, all of that concern was a part of his contentedness ,because there was nothing else he wanted to be with, no other concern he wished to have. He touched her hair gently, gathered and adjusted the blankets around her.

  He felt dawn approaching at their backs, there were subtle shifts of light and he heard the first animals stirring outside. “It's about to get light. We need to move you to where I can take care of you out of sight.”

  “We can't stay here? This is nice.”

  “This is very nice but no. I'll need to get some food in you soon.”

  “Did you eat all the rations down stairs?”

  “No, but I want to get something warm into you. But we can't use the stove.”

  “There's some can's in the cupboard by the kitchen.”

  “Ok, I'm going to have to move you now.”

  He slid off the bed and walked around it to her side. The floorboards creaked loudly beneath him. “Shh. You'll wake the devil.”

  “I can't help it. I'm barely moving.”

  “You sound like a bull in a china shop.”

  “I know.” They laughed. As he walked around he felt his foot come up sticky from the blood on the floor. “I need to clean that up. The room was emerging around him from the deep shadows of the night; the nightstand with a book on it, a small framed picture above the bed, an oval braided rug at the foot of the bed he kicked aside. He gathered the blankets around her again, gently rolling her side to side wrapping her up like a bundle or like a swathed child. Then slid his hands, then his forearms under her and rolled her towards and against him as he lifted her up in one movement. She was not light and the blankets made his grip less firm than he would have liked. He had to make it through the door, down the stairs to the bottom floor and then down the rickety basement stairs, back through the dark, then into the hiding space. Did he leave the door open to the basement? If he didn't how was he going to open it? “God damn it Adam. You better not drop this girl. She'll never think you're a real man if you do.”

  The door to the hallway was narrow as was the stairway, more than he had expected. “Just don't hit her head is all. Focus on that.” So he moved her, squeezed her gently through the doorway, turned left and began his way down the steps when he realized he was walking in his socks. He had taken his boots off the day before when he had made his way out of the hiding space in order to make less noise, had actually been barefoot, but had put the socks he had shoved in his pocket back on because of the cold. “That's funny that I remembered to bring my socks with me? I guess I expected to survive and I do hate it when my feet are cold. Maybe if I were less of a baby I wouldn't be risking dropping her down a flight of stairs.”

  The steps were old, smooth and slick from decades of use. He moved slowly and methodically down, each one, his arms already starting to fatigue and lose a bit of grip. He wanted to just rush down and hope it turned out well but he knew he couldn't. By the time he made it down the stairs his arms were burning. He was in luck though. He had left the door to the basement open. He moved more quickly now. There was enough light now that he felt that it would be possible for people to see shadows moving in the house and he didn't want that.

  This time he was a bit more careless and did hit her foot against the door as he maneuvered her to make his way through.

  “Ow, be careful.”

  “Sorry, sorry.” He took a side step through the door and this time made his way down quickly. His arms were starting to lose strength and he knew he had to speed up. Luck was with him and he was able to make his way through the dark basement. He set her on her feet for a moment so the she could lean back into his arms and he was able to lower down onto the mattress he had spent the last few days on.

  “I'll be right back.”

  “Where are you going?”

  “I need to do a few things upstairs.”

  “Be careful, don't let anyone see you.”

  “I will.”

  “Thank you.”

  “He turned.”

  He now moved as fast as he could back up to the bedroom where he used more of the linens and water to wipe up the dried blood from the floor. There was no way to get it truly clean but he managed to wipe down most of it. He then found the can's of food from the cupboard and gathered some water in a pitcher. He gave one last look around and headed back down. When he made it to the crawl space she was fast asleep. He managed to fit himself on top of the storage bench and faded into blackness.

  When he came back down the steps he said, “I have some water” but quickly went silent as he saw her silent sob. “Oh no.” He put everything down and carefully squeezed in next to her and put a hand lightly on her shoulder. “I'm so sorry.” He said to her and she began to sob and wail and he touched her hair very softly.He woke with a start.

  “Evie!” He heard someone shouting loudly. It was a woman's voice. He knew had known that their time alone wouldn't last long but he had hoped it would. Now it might all be over. There was no one they could trust. Eve stirred and moaned. The grace period of anesthesia that nature provides had worn off and he knew that all the wounds; stabs. bruises, and of course the effect of the rape were kicking. Every part of her would be it pain and even the slightest movement would hurt. He had heard similar moans and worse ones. Moans that came from bones, livers and missing limbs.

  “Eve, Eve where are you?”

  “What? Who.” Eve spoke.

  “Evie!!!” The voice was a bit more distant but louder.

  She spoke to Adam “Turn on a light.”

  “There's a light?”

  “Yes, by the front of the cabinet.”

  “I wish I had known.”

  “Well you know now. Adam started to stand up to reach out for the light. As soon as he turned on t she moaned again and shielded her eyes. For a moment he saw the massive swelling, the bluish, yellow bruising of her right eye swollen almost shut, the whites of her eye almost non existent, filled with blood.

  “Damn, I hope she doesn't loose the eye, I also ho
pe those wounds don't infect.” he thought.

  “Evie!” Whoever it was was in the basement stairs. He had left the hidden entrance open so that she would more air. “What an idiot. Were you fucking crazy? You let yourself get sloppy.”

  Right then she rushed in, rifle in hand. She wore a long blue skirt and blue long sleeved shirt. She raised her rifle and pointed it at him “Evie!?” He had his pistol held low and back on his hip as he pushed his hand out in a stopping motion. He had taught himself to shoot from this awkward position through hours of practice. Since no one else held a gun that way it didn't register in other people's minds as a danger. He already had the women locked in. She wouldn't notice his gun and he could kill her at any moment.

  “Don't shoot.” He said. Eve moaned.

  “Evie, are you ok.” She raised her rifle again now aiming at the flashlight, squinting her eyes, drawing a bead on him.

  “Who the hell are you?”

  “Eve, tell her to lower her rifle.”

  “Bonnie please.”

  “Dammit Evie. Who is this guy. I saw the blood on the floor upstairs. You, get away from her, for shame.”

  He didn't move. This was obviously a very bossy woman.

  “Didn't you hear what I said? Evie, look up at me. She raised her head a bit.

  “Oh my god Evie.” Bonnie lay her rifle on the floor and brought her hands to her face.

  “What did they do to?”

  “Bonnie, enough already. You are giving me a headache.”

  “I'm sorry, honey.”

  She started step down into the hiding space, made for one but now suddenly cramped with three people in it.

  “These boys. Will help get you out of here. They know these hills better than anyone. They have been harassing the Nazi patrol.”

  “So you men are part of the resistance?”

  They nodded. The smaller of the two men spit.

  “You've heard of the resistance army?”

  They nodded again. “Consider yourselves both drafted and now under orders.”

  “Who's orders?”

  “Mine.”

  “I didn't join no army. Can't no man say I did.”

  “You're a United States citizen aren't you?”

  “A free citizen.”

  “If you are a citizen and not a collaborator, and you're fighting the enemy then you are part of the Army. And there's no Army without discipline.”

  “We're come here to help a neighbor out and you and you think you can boss us around.”

  “I'm a Captain and you two are privates. Simple as that. There's a war going on and we are going to push the krauts right back where they came from. Do you think a few backwoods, ignorant mountain sheep fuckers like you are going to make that happen? No. It's going to take an Army. We have an Army, you're drafted. Get it through your skull quick. Not following orders is treason.”

  “And what you going to do about it, you fucking jew” He slowly pointed the barrel of his rifle at Adam's face. Adam stared at him for second, then fast and easy stepped to the side of the barrel, slapped the man open handed in the mouth, took the rifle from him his hands and stepped back with it pointed right at his head. Adam paused a moment looked at the other men who hadn't moved at all. “Take that gun from his holster. He ordered” The tall thin man reached over and pulled the revolver from the young man's belt.

  “You gonna do what that man tells you instead of helping me?”

  “You best think about what you're saying now boy. We got a war to fight. I always knew this day would come. Plus you’d be dead right now if it weren't for that guy saving your life.”

  “What are you talking about?

  He motioned with his head over to the right where Eve stood with her rifle held high pointed right at his head.

  “Miss Eve is a straight shot. Her Pa taught her good. I saw her shoot at the county fair one time time when she was what?”

  “I was 11.”

  “That's right. She wasn't but eleven years old. Beat all the grown men there. Everybody was tickled since she was cute as a button.”

  “If I let this sack of shit live will he tow the line or is going to run off like some traitor dog and suck the Fuhrer’s cock.”

  “He ain't no traitor, just a young fool.”

  “What do you say shit head? You ready to be a man and join the Army or you gonna spend the rest of your life a godless countryless little shit.”

  He still had his hands raised. He shrugged his shoulders. “I'll join.”

  “Add a sir to that?”

  “I'll join Sir.”

  “Shut the fuck up. I didn't want to waste ammo on a sack of shit like you. Your on mess until further notice.”

  “What does that mean?”

  “That means you're doing the cooking. You're going to have to earn those guns back.”

  “Damn it, I ain't been without a gun since I ain’t walked around without a gun since I was 12 years old.

  “Eve, can I speak to you for a second?” She nodded as she lowered her rifle and nestled it into the crook of her elbow, letting the barrel hang down into the comfortable position all experienced hunters around those parts used. They walked a few yards away from the men who had already turned discretely away, and turned to look at each other.

  “Well Eve, it may sound a little crazy and I'll understand if you you say no, because it makes no sense but I love you and was hoping you would marry me?” He looked at her, for a second but couldn't hold her her gaze for long and had look down at his feet kicking at the dirt. She sunk her head down and forward a bit to duck under the barrier he had created to look him in the eye. “Is that a question?”

  “Yes it is Evie.” He looked at her now. “Will you marry me?”

  She moved closer and kissed him lightly on the lips, took a slight step back and nodded her head in assent. Adam let out a sigh. “Well that's good. I don't have a ring or anything.” Eve looked at him a little dumbfounded that he was focusing on such trivialities. “Also I don't think I mentioned it but I'm Jewish.”

  “Yes I know. What will the neighbor's think?” She pulled a stray lock of hair behind her ear.

  “Well it's pretty important to me so we will probably need to talk some more about that at some point.”

  “Ok. We can talk about it.”

  “Look I have a guerrilla army I need to get organized in these parts, but I'll be back as soon as I can.”

  “You go ahead and do that now.”

  He turned to go, but then hesitated and turned back around, “Eve, don't forget me please. Keep me in your thoughts.”

  He leaned in and they kissed and he held her close and she grasped at him by the her brothers jacket which was two sizes too large for him but incredibly warm and pulled him in closer still.

  “Take care. I was so glad to see that you knew how to handle Jed, that's the only kind of language these boys understand. Don't let them get too drunk. That's always when the trouble starts.”

  Chapter 29

 
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