The arendt files, p.35
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       The Arendt Files, p.35
 

           Ivan Rosemblatt
Mike pulled the canvas flap aside and poked his head out of the back of the moving truck to get a better view, he had never seen a major port before. The layers reminded him of the layers of a wedding cake; the scaffolding of the cranes alongside the water, the tangle of tracks and wires, silos like covered bridges above trains themselves carrying cannons, tanks, trucks. Everything a skeleton without skin, unfinished, geometrical, exposed. The ships towered alongside on the water, he had no idea how tall they were, six, ten stories?.

  They hit a bump in the road and he had to grasp onto his cap, a panzer officer hat with a bright red dot in the center to keep it from flying off. “That red dot is like a fucking bullseye on my forehead. Who the hell designed these things? As soon as the actions starts I'm tossing it.”

  A hand grabbed him firmly by the shoulder pulling him back in. Jimmy leaned over and tied off the straps to keep the flaps closed and shook his head “Would you fucking sit still.” The men sitting on the other side of the truck on the benches looked for a moment. He sat next to the only three other white men in the truck, the others were light skinned negroes, everyone dressed in full Nazi uniforms. Under their feet, sixty other soldiers, two layers deep waited like mummies. Something about the half light filering through the seams and under the sides made the powder on their faces look particularly artificial.The makeup was meant to get them a few extra seconds, thirty feet closer to their positions before being recognized. They looked strange, all of them, with their made up faces, as if they were actors or people at a halloween party.

  “I should be more frightened than I am” he thought “I'm glad we're bringing this too them. This isn't a bad way to go if it comes to it. Maybe I'm a good soldier?” The thought made him happy, he felt his chest flush and his emotion wash over him. He had never been particulary good at anything, no great athlete or student, not the best employee. Usually he was right in the middle, average. “Maybe that helps you be a good soldier, not thinking too much of yourself, knowing your place? I hope I make it out, but if not, fuck it.”

  He didn't know much about what he would be doing Jimmy would take the lead. There were two other men on the team. One was a tall, massive and blond, the other short, skinny with a little but of a pot belly, maybe 5'8. They had been introduced to him as Tom and Jerry, Jerry being the taller of the two. Jimmy had given Mike him the name Dumbo. “I like to make it easy to remember.” he had said laughing, slapping his on the chest with the back of his hand. Jimmy would take the lead, Tom behind him to the left, Jerry to the right, Mike would bring up the rear, a diamond shape. He was to act naturally and keep his mouth shut; Mike thought that maybe this was a theme, his being told not to speak.

  He bent forward for a moment propping his elbows on his knees and looked around at the others, a silly grin on his face. The other men were deep in thought, some leaned back with their eyes closed, other's stared down at their feet, but one man noticed his gaze. They looked at each and Mike smiled widely. At first the other man's face pulled in and hardened. Mike was undeterred in hs friendiness. He nodded at the other man who seemed to understand and broke into a slight smile, looked away, looked back and looked away again.

  The truck slowed and everyone sat up straight. They had reached the entry to the Navy yard. Being too far back in the caravan they weren't able to hear anything so they waited anxiously in the half light wondering if at any moment bullets might shower down on them. One soldier across from him tapped his foot incesantly until the sound became loud as a dum and the man next to him elbowed him to stop. They settled back into silence.

  Ten minute later they were moving again. People looked at each other and nodded. Jimmy pointed at his gun. Everyone was doing a last minute check. Mike pulled his luger from its holster and cocked it back, checking the chamber. Between the four men on his team they had four sidearms and one machine gun, otherwise they had to work with what they had, improvise and steal.

  They came to a stop and waited for a few seconds to make sure they had arrived. Jimmy stood up first and motioned for him and the other two men to follow. Those who stayed nodded and lifted their hands in farewell.

  They stepped out into a bright brisk fall day. Jimmy lifted his arms above his head and stretched out. Tom and Jerry stepped to the side and lit a cigarrette. They were just a bunch of soldiers getting some fresh air after a long drive.

  Mike turned slowly around in a circle to get a better look. It was a vaste place. All twenty trucks in the convoy parked close together took up a tiny corner of the loading area which must have been the size of ten football fields They were only a hundred yards from the main battleship. The other ships in the fleet were docked further behind, almost a mile down, fifteen in all, cruisers, submarine busters. Two stood raised in dry dock far off in the distance and three more were moored in the a few hundred yards off in the water.

  A few men were slowly starting to get out of their truck and mill about, some holding clip boards in their hands, other's stepping to the back of their trucks to release the latches and pull back the flaps revealing a facade of fake crates, hiding men and larger caliber guns. Everyone moved at an easy pace. The whole yard looked like it was running at half speed, it was the weekend and more then half the fleet had been given shore leave for the Thanksgiving holiday.

  “How can everyone act so calm?” His hands were damp and his heart pounded in his chest so that he could feel the blood shoving through him throbbing in his temples and under his arms. His legs felt like thick heavy rubber, slow to respond, his mouth was so dry he doubted he would be able to say a word, as if it were packed in thick cotton. He meandered in a small circle to distract himself, terrified that his bowels would finally go loose. He would have given anything to just go to the bathroom.

  Everyone else looked at ease, he was sure some of them must be as scared as he was but they didn't show it. They had been preparing for months while he had been brought on board only a couple of days ago. “It's what I get for opening my big mouth. I said I wanted to get out of town. Well I'm fucking out of town now.”

  When he had first made his request John had looked at him as if he were a kid asking for a pony. He had come hat in hand but he realized that in the resistance no one really gave a rats ass what you want. John's had stared at him with a look of mild astonishment, like he couldn't believe what he was hearing. By his attitude Mike had assumed that nothing would come of it which was why he was caught off guard when he was called into the garage right before they were about to leave. It turned out he had gotten word they could use a couple of more white faces.

  They had prepared a space for him in the trunk of the car, not even the whole thing; half of it was filled with supplies. Theyre was a canteen and a couple of peanut butter and jelly sanwiched in there, which was nice, but still. He looked at the other men incredulously but they were already talkinga mongst themselves. He was about to speak but thought better of itand started to climb in but one of the men stopped him. “Whoa there Nelly, we've got twenty minutes before we go. Anxious to get nice and cozy?” The guy smiles and patted him on the shoulder. Tall guy, blond real handsome. “Hey, you want some coffee? Here, have some coffee.”

  A pair of Nazi soldiers were walking down the gangway from the ship to the wharf. They approached the first truck and everyone saluted. The resistance men gestured over to the back of the truck inviting the sailors to take a look. A few men gathered behind them and in a second they were lifted up and dissappeared into the vehicle. He was able to see one of the Nazi's staring back down in confusion as he was being hoisted into the dark interior. It was like watching a fly get snapped up by the long tongue of a frog. “Things can die like that, all of a sudden. One second they're there, the next, gone.” He turned around again, scanning the yard to see if anyone had noticed anything but he saw no change anywhere, no alarm sounded. They were past the point of no return.

  Small groups splintered off every couple of minutes heading towards different targets. Others were still milling about, sitting
on the hoods or bumpers of the trucks chatting. everything following a timeline he was unaware of.

  Jimmy walked over to them and nodded. “Time to go guys.” He pointed at Mike, “You, just follow our lead and don't interact with anyone. If they talk to you just look at the sky or at your feet. When the action starts we're keeping the gangway clear, that's all. Do what I tell you.” Mike nodded his head. Jimmy turned and they started towards the main battleship and Mike followed behind taking up the rear.

  He had no idea acting natural could be so difficult, fear made his body feel not his own, his elbows and legs seemed to shoot out at strange angles, jumbled. He felt as if he were a loadspeaker or radio tower transmitting a message. “I am a fuck up. I will magically ruin this. We are about to attack you” Nothing happened though. They started up the steep long gangaway that ran paralell to the ship, 50 ft to the top where it met the entry midway up the hull .

  They were half way up when two soldiers appeared from the entrance and down the ramp owards them. They met the pair with only a quarter of the distance left to go. One of the Nazi's wore a lot of brass, Jimmy stopped and saluted, “Heil Hitler, Heil Schummer.” Mike joined in with the other's. The officer seemed distracted and returned immediatelyto his conversation. As he passed by he turned for a moment and looked at Mike who turned his head and stared up into the sky. The officer stopped walking.

  “Soldat?”

  Mike froze, “GodammitI knew I was going to fuck this up somehow” he stared down at his feet and said nothing. The officer stepped in closer to him. “Schau mich an wenn ich zu ihnen sprechen!” Mike looked up for a second, Jimmy joined moved towards them attempting to break the tension. “I'm sorry colonel what did this noncompoop do now?” The colonel turned and looked at Jimmy for a second then spoke the lieutnant in a quiet tone.

  “The colonel did not invite you to speak, This is between two German soldiers.” Mike realized then that they hadn't given him the red and blue stripes, the colonel thought he was German.

  “Is this how you act in an officers presence? Like a nervous school girl? Das ist wie sie in einem offiziere gegenwart handlen. Wei ein nervoser schulerin.?” Now the officer's face was almost touching his. Jimmy took another step closer and the second German soldier stepped in front of him and put his hand on his chest to stop him. “ I apologize mein herren. He is not very bright up in the head. He is always getting in trouble.” The colonel didn't even turn, but simply raised his hand to silence him and spoke to Mike again in a loud and demanding tone. “Speak when an officer addresses you. Sprechen wenn sie adressen und offizier.”

  Jimmy moved forward again and this time was shoved back with both hands. Mike was barely able to see Jimmy's hand when it came up in a flash and hit the soldier in the Adam's apple crushing his windpipe. The lieutenant grasped at his neck as he fell. The Colonel saw a movement out of the corner of his eye and turned. Jimmy moved towards him but the lieutenant grabbed his leg from the ground causing him to stumble. Jimmy grabbed on to the Colonels uniform for support pushing him back into Mike who was pressed against the side rails. In that fraction of a seconds pause the colonel cried out “Hilf . . . ”He wasn't even able to finish the entire word before Jimmy had unsheathed his knife and cut deep across the mans neck. Blood spurted from the wound onto Mike's face and into his eyes.

  “Get that guy over the side.”Jimmy called out the order while still pushing the cColonel back with a stiff arm. Tom And Jerry grabbed the Lieutenant by the legs and dragged him off the port side of the gangway where he fell onto the cement thirty feet below with barely a sound. Jimmy sheathed his knife and grabbed the colonel, one hand on his collar, the other at his belt and shoved and lifted him over the rail. “Get out of the fucking way.” he barked at Mike. Mike ducked and found himself half crawling trying to get out of the way.

  Jimmy had lifted the Colonel so that he was sitting on the top rail grabbing, kicking and pawing at Jimmy as blood poured from his neck. He was having difficulty getting him over as the colonel braced himself on the side of the ship only four feet behind. Mike grabbed the Colonel's shoulder pulling him to the side which allowed Jimmy to lift his flailing legs over the rail. The Colonel dropped for a moment then stopped. He was wedged between the ship and the gangway, head down, legs spread to stop his fall. Jimmy grabbed kicked at them through the rail to unwedge him with no luck but quickly stopped. “Fuck it. Let's move, quick.”

  Jimmy took the lead and Tom and Jerry followed close behind. It took Mike a moment to break himself away from awkward position they had left the dying Nazi in. Right then three new soldiers appeared at the ships enterance drawn by the noise. They turned and saw the Colonels upturned legs, less active now but still struggling and then Mikes face covered in blood. His team went right at them and both groups of men came together immediately fighting for the enterance. Jimmy turned and shouted to Mike. “Get the others up here.”

  Mike leaned over the railing and started shouting and waving his hands. The men below responded quickly moving to their truck, slamming their fist on the side. The trucks were starting to open up like fish tackle boxes, different levels seperating, for the moment it was hard to make out exactly what was happening as the soldiers rose up out of their hiding places.

  Mike turned back. In the few intervening seconds he saw Nazi's, lying dead or dying on the ground. Jerry was stabbing into the tangle of men as his team pushed back against a few newcomers. Then Mike noticed a lone sailor on his his knees struggling with one of the latches that connected the gangway to the ship, he had already managed to loosen the connector furtherst away and a space was forming between the two with men occaionally lossing their footing falling into it. If he managed to work the last bolt loose they would be able to push the entire gangway back into the air and that would be the end of the plan., it would be virtually imossible to take the main battleship. Who knew if they would even be able to get the other ships through the harbor past it's massive guns.

  The gangway ran parrallel to the ship but had a five foot ramp that jutted out at a ninety degree angle which connected to the ship. The fight was happening on the ramp and mass of bodies blocked the three or four feet that seperated him from the sailor who's face was crimson struggling to pull the bolt free from the eyelets that held everything together. Mike tried shoving his way past the other's towards him but all the fighting soldiers were locked together like a slab of frozen meat.

  The bolt was begining to give way and the sailors expression was changing from one of desperation to that of satisfaction as it started to lift out. Out of the corner of his eye he saw the first black soldiers starting up the ramp dressed in their olive green fatigue and his mind became very still and his thoughts crystal clear, so quick that time seemed to stop and he knew exactly what he needed to do. He stepped up onto the flimsy top rail of the gangway and jumped out into the intervening space. It was an awkward jump, only a few feet, but the sailor was low across from him and obscured to some extent by chains which helped secure the gangway to the ship, and the arms and legs of soldiers fallen around him.

  Mike floated in the air for only a moment as he reached out to grab the sailors sleeve. His fingers jambed painfully into one of the rail missing their mark and he started to fall but managed to used his wrist as a lever to hold onto the lower railing for a moment and slow his decent. His skin tore from the effort the momentum of his jump swung his legs out under him out into the open space under the ramp which whipped his head and torso back. In his last moment before plunging backward into free fall he managed to reach with his left hand and grab the sailors pant leg.

  It was enough of a grip to stop his fall, his legs swung back out and his other hand reached up and grabbed the sailor behind the heel. He had both hands around the foot now and with the full weight of his hanging body beneath him he gave a hard tug. He felt a deep satisfaction as the sailor's foot gave way and fell with him a good two feet, as it dropped he pulled himeself up a reached up and grabbed onto the waist of t
he man pants which gave him a firm grip. He pulled himself up further, grabbed onto the back of sailors jacket collar. The sailor tried resisting but his head was pulled down and forward through the railing along with one of his legs. Mike started to swing his legs underneath like a gymnast on the rings gaining momentum and two swing later everything came free.

  He kept hold of the sailor but the waist as they fell. He saw the ship, the scaffolding, the sky and the clouds; he turned his head and saw soldiers pouring in from the dock onto the gangway, he felt his arms and legs paddling free in the air, he wondered if they would land in the water or on the dock as they fell.

  He hit first, hard on his back and his breath was knocked out of him, then the sailor landed on him as they plunged into the ice cold water. He still had a firm grasp on the waistband and used it to pull himself up towards the surface. He propelled himself through the liquid feeling it's soft pressure on his face as he kicked him selfupward and broke throught the suface gasping hard for breath. He heard shots, muffled by distance and saw the ramp covered in men making their way into the ship. Then he was pulled down under.

  The sailor had turned the tables, climbing up Mike's body, pulling himself up from below, grabbing Mike's shirt and then stepping into the cleft between his thigh and waist to kick off and up. Mike wrapped both arms around the sailors waist and clasped his hands together in front of the man's bell, a move he had practiced a thousand times on the mat in the wrestiing mat. He relaxed. “This will be quick.” he thought to himself.

  He lifted his legs up as he pulled down to wrap his legs around the sailors hips. Once he had intertwind his legs and start to squeeze he hugged the man in close, reached his right around his neck and slipped the other under the his armpit and back over the same shoulder, grabbed the wrist of his other hand. Mike was locked in now. He relaxed again for a second to let everything settle in and cinch up then he really started to pull back and squeeze. The sailor was wrapped up tight. He struggled grabbed at Mike's arm around his neck and reached back hoping to poke an eye or grab some hair, but Mike had his head tucked firmly down agains the mans back; as they sunk slowly down the last spasms hit. Mike thought towards the man, towards God. “I'm sorry buddy. This is just how it had to go. I'm sorry.”

  When the man sailor stopped struggling he let go lightly and made his way up to the surface. There was a lot of movement on the wharf, he heard gunfire but wasn't able to see much from here he was. He swam a few yards over grabbed onto one of the pilings, waited for the rise of the water to lift him up and grabbed one of the pier's lateral beams, hoisted himself up. From there was able to pull himself over the side, back up to ground level.

  As he came over the side he saw the rush of troops all dressed in Army uniforms moving back up and down the pier. He felt proud, seeing the Army again, to know that they had a country. One of the soldiers rushing by noticed him and turned. Mike smiled and waved. The soldier raised his rifle. Mike saw the flash from the muzzle but never heard the shot.

  Chapter 36

 
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