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Another morning rises, slipping through the window blinds. Again, I hear her high heels clamping on the wooden living room floor. My eyes shut to sleep, but my hearing is well aware, waiting to hear that door slam behind her. After fifteen minutes pass, the door shuts, which brings a pleasant ring in my old ears. Still, I wait underneath the sheets until it is as silent as the Jewish grave. The leather boots marching down the street gives acceleration to my awakening body. As routine permits, I fasten my woolen slippers, and head downstairs to the library. One might wonder who could ever speculate that someone could hold a library in his or her own dwelling. Any prime Christian man could, I always reply. And, quite fitting for this old man too, if I do say so myself. Indeed, a fine collection of books I possess.
Despite the variety of genres I can choose from though, Edgar Allen Poe is one I intentionally thirst. Yes, his creativity astounds me with every page I shift. I am currently reading Tell-Tale Heart, closing the cover where the butler allows the police officers in the old man’s home. What serene nature this character has after committing himself to such a burdensome task. I admire his creative accomplishments, his way of claiming his own freedom by taking responsibility. An impervious feeling, a deceiving yet rewarding feeling that keeps myself breathing after I hear my beloved’s ring beside me.
The front door gently opens, releasing the cold morning mist into the library. I pound my chair’s right armrest with my fingertips, signaling Abram to quickly retrieve my breakfast and medicine. As soon as I hear his leather soles tap vigorously on the kitchen floor, the kettle begins to boil as Abram goes through the cabinets. I continue to pound with my fingertips, giving an abrade call
to him. The kettle whistles a piercing siren, ready to be poured and prepared for me. Abram walks into the library with a plateful of watermelon slices, a cup of coffee, and my medication.
“You must not really have the diligence to please me, Abram,” I say.
“Of course not sir,” Abram replies.
“Don’t lie to me! I can give the closest Nazi outside the house your name and they’ll take you away just like that. I give you money and hold your life. Money is all you care about, isn’t it?”
“Don’t lie to me! Honestly, I think I spoil you sometimes, heaven knows why. Did you forget something?”
“Not that I recall, sir.”
“The phone! Bring me the phone! You know I like it next to me. I have important business with important people, and I don’t intend to keep them on hold.”
“Your lack of courtesy disgusts me, Abram. It really does.”
Abram rushes back into the den, grabs the phone while holding the phone wire, and comes back to place it next to me. I raise my hand to dismiss him from the library and drink my coffee. After
a few slices of watermelon and tasting the coffee from my lips, the phone finally rings. I lift the handle and speak with informal words that I always say to an incoming caller.
“Hello, Claus speaking,” I say.
“Claus, it’s good to hear your voice again.”
“Ah Emmeline, just the woman I wanted to talk to. Your blissful voice brings my youth back into this old body.”
“Be silent my love. What if Gertrude hears you?”
“Don’t woe yourself dear. You should know Gertrude went to work this morning. She won’t return ‘til ten tonight.”
“She must be a very well liked nurse to be working all day. Don’t you worry that she and the men over there are playing around?”
“With a body like hers, she can be mistaken as one of the burned Jewish corpses.”
“Then why do you sleep in the same bed with her?”
“You know I am retired dear. My years as a Nazi were good years, and I gave all I could to Germany. Gertrude is now the one who keeps a fine roof over my head. Besides, how else can I buy those dresses for you?”
“I can live without dresses. But I can’t live without you.”
“My dear, you know we’ll see each other tonight. You see me every night.”
“Just give me your address, and then I can come and see you. I’m tired of staying here at nights.”
“Right now is just not a good time to do so. When the time is right.”
“When the time is right. See you tonight dear.”
“Alright. Tonight then.”
She quickly hangs up with my ear still next to the handle. Sensing her irritation, I consistently remind myself her sensitive nature. Like a watermelon, just one bite can leave her in tears. I pick up my last slice, sinking my teeth into it. Although the water runs past my lips, dripping off my chin, the taste is so nectarous, it’s addicting. The slice satisfies my appetite, but not my hunger. I decide to rest on my chair for a while, and when I awake, dinner will be waiting for me.
I wake up stiff as a board, eyelids forcefully lifting, and my nose rises to the aroma of bratwurst, brown rice, and savory golden biscuits. I bring the 1941 newspaper with me to the dining table where Gertrude helps herself first to a plateful of food. She insists of filling her own taste buds before considering her husband’s needs once more. Abram places my plate in front of me, smothering beef gravy over my biscuits. After he finishes the dishes, Abram notifies us for the end of his shift and quietly walks out of the house. The room is left lifeless and bitter. Even the wind chimes’ voice is louder than we are.
“So how was work darling?” I ask.
“Busy,” she says shortly.
“Anything new happen at work? Anything bizarre during the Jew’s experimentation this time?”
“Well, I guess they don’t keep you too busy then. But I’m sure you’ll be able to get those extra hours you’ve been wanting. I think if you leave a little bit earlier in the morning you could…”
“Da** it Claus! I don’t want to talk right now!” Gertrude says as she throws her fork on her plate.
The room again gives the wind chimes a chance to speak for a brief moment. Gertrude repeatedly rubs her forehead while staring down her plate. “I’m sorry,” she says morosely. “I’m just really tired. I’m going to bed.” She comes to me attempting to kiss me on the lips, but I insist to dodge that approach and kiss her on the cheek. She doesn’t return any eye contact to me before she heads upstairs. I push my plate away, and leave it for the night housemaid to clean up. I begin to head upstairs myself for yet another tedious early night in bed.
What painful moans I make before I strap myself down in the bed sheets with that old woman. I can’t bear to look at her tiresome face before I rest. For hours, I stare outside our bedroom window from bed, watching the vultures bathe in the dead black snow. They delight themselves while cleaning off the Jewish ashes from their feathers. Every night, I feel disturbed lying next to a skeleton. Every night, I question myself of ever placing that ring on her finger when I knew she was unattractive and over ten years older than I. I was such a foolish and dazed young man back then. I never considered how long Gertrude’s deceased family’s heritage could extend, forcing me to work again as a German soldier training to be a Nazi. But if I could keep anything, it would be my promise to God that I’d stay with her. Of course, I must make the best of what I have. Emmeline is my angel sent from God himself, and I refuse to not partake in God’s will. My body grows old and brittle, but my mind and soul is still young with a thirst for youthful sensation. But with heart, I am delicate with Gertrude’s sensitivity and remain cautious during my where abouts every night, just like this one.
The clock finally strikes midnight. I turn only once to see if Gertrude is in deep sleep. With assurance, I go downstairs quietly and put on my worn-out brown jacket and hat before I silently walk out the door. As I walk down the street, I reach my hand out to see how many ashes could fall on my hand. As I look up at the lifeless night sky, I see vultures, watching me as if I were their next meal. I no longer pay attention to them, and continue to make my way down to Emmeline’s house. Right outside her gate, I see a young Nazi who I used to train back in the army. I tip my hat to him as he gives a salute in return. I ring the doorbell, and there a beautiful young woman greets me. “I’ve been waiting by the window for you,” Emmeline says. Her stunning chocolate brown hair, vibrant red cheeks, well-formed body, and especially her alluring smile, pulls me in to shut the door behind me once more.
Before the clock strikes four a.m, I quickly change into a new pair of clean clothes underneath my coat and hat and head out the door without disturbing Emmeline’s peaceful slumber. I follow the same morning routine, get myself into bed before Gertrude’s alarm clock calls to her. Twenty minutes later, as predicted, the alarm clock roars into Gertrude’s ears to turn off. Before I hear her high heels walking their way out the front door again, I unconsciously fall asleep, forgetting about any worries I intentionally have.
Feeling numb, I feel secure being in the room alone with the clock ticking softly. I look up slowly as my eyes were still blood-shot to look at the time. It is a quarter past three in the afternoon. Looking at it again to prove I wasn’t just seeing things, I was still correct. I abruptly rush down stairs without putting on my woolen slippers in search of the phone. As Abram continues slicing a plump watermelon, I call Emmiline continuously until I can hear her voice. She doesn’t pick up after my numerous attempts to reach her. I begin to sweat with fear, not knowing how to cope with myself. What would Gertrude think if she happens to pick up the phone, hearing a young girl such as Emmeline asking for me? How will I know it is Emmeline calling? Assuming Abram heard the phone click onto the operator, he says, “I almost forgot, Miss Emmeline called a few hours ago. I told her that you were resting and she insisted that I not wake you up, but to tell you that she will be waiting for you tonight.”
I turn my head slowly with sudden dismay towards Abrams last words. “You know,” I mumble. “You know.” Abram continues to slice the watermelon with such an innocent calmness to him. If given enough money, he could rat me out. I can’t let him do that, I can’t. Too much is on the line. He knows too much. I slowly walk into the kitchen, grasping the boiling hot kettle from the
stove. As he finishes slicing the watermelon and putting it on a plate, I bash the kettle against his head. He trembles on the floor in excruciating pain from the hot water burning his face like acid. He whimpers like a dying animal, only glancing at me every other second. “You know too much,” I say to him.
He stutters his words as he tries to speak. His whimpering pesters me. I take the knife from the counter used to slice the watermelon and slice open his throat. This way, he could never speak of the things he heard, the things he saw.
Abram stops his whimpers as his eyes lose their color. I turn on the faucet to wash the blood off my hands before I realize Gertrude walking in. Her eyes grow twice as big, and she holds her hands against her mouth to keep herself from vomiting. I freeze by the sight of her, speechless in fact. I hope that I didn’t have to say anything, but this whist became too much to bare.
“Gertrude, why aren’t you at work?”
“It’s Sunday Claus. I was out front planting flowers.”
I know cannot handle this suspense, so I run past her and leave the house. As I run, the vultures take wing from their dead branches and begin to follow me. I finally reach Emmeline’s front door, pounding on it while screaming her name. “Emmeline, please! I need you! Help me, please!” The vultures now circle over my head, staring as they seemingly wait. I look behind to see if Gertrude or anyone else has come for me. Although none of them were found, I see Emmeline from afar. “Emmiline!” I cry. As I get a closer look at her, I see her, with another man. A young gentleman whom I am not familiar with wearing a Nazi uniform. He appears
charming and well-kept like I once was many years ago. He has that same charming smile I gave Gertrude. I can’t blame her for having the same temptations our God has given us. She is a young and foolish girl after all. If anything, God has made Emmeline and me quite alike. But she has many years ahead of her before she stops below death like I am now. Her predictable fate could change if I tell her to not follow my ways. But that won’t satisfy my appetite, now will it? I drop on my knees, already hearing the guards calling for search parties. I stare up at the sky with a face as lifeless as Abrams, beginning to blend in with the falling ashes. One by one, the vultures strike down upon me, ripping off my ear, fingers, and then so on. I suppose I can’t blame God this time. Even these birds could see that I was walking straight into a dead end.