This short story tells of the quiet removal of a young girl from Germany at the end of World War II.
“I am not a Nazi German!” I answered. I had no idea what a Nazi might be, except that by the way he had said it with fragments of spit on his thin lips and his eyes pulled almost closed, I knew that it was not to be something pleasant.
“Perhaps not,” he said, “but it’s certain that you are the child of a Nazi German, just like many others here.”
“I do not know what you are talking about, and I am sure, neither do you,” I said.
Jesus Rodriguez screwed up his mouth, he grunted and sucked hard through his nose, and then he exploded a shower of slime that landed in my face and he laughed the way the man with the dead eye had laughed when he washed me, and he said, “Die, Nazi!” and he ran away, still laughing, and I tried not to cry.
One night during the summer whilst readying for bed, I know not how much later, but since it was almost time for me to start attending the local school, it must have been a year or more on, I had pause to reflect on the matter of my name in earnest. Sister Teresa, the nun with the smiling eyes, had come to the dormitory to read the bedtime story, and with her she had brought a small, dirty-gray satchel.
“Afra—” she whispered my name so beautifully, as if it was a living part of her breath, “—this is the satchel which came with you from Europe. It is a bit small and old, but it will do for your first year. Be sure to wash it in the morning and hang it in the sunshine so that it is dry for your first day at school.”
I took the satchel in both hands. I held it close. I smelled from its familiarity and recalled it. It had the smell of a mothballed closet that had been left closed for years and as I pulled it to me, I felt that it was not empty. Sister Teresa sat at the foot of a bed on the far side of the room and began to read from her storybook. It was the story of baby Moses who had been hidden in the bulrushes and it made me sad, and I could not help feeling that perhaps I had known the baby Moses at some time. As she read, I peeked into the satchel and removed from it a small, brown, bound notebook from where there dropped to my blanket a square paper fragment. On the piece of paper was written, Sin Nombre. The notebook was otherwise empty except for the following entry, written in German:
Go my child
Angel of beauty only I see.
Seek me not
I have failed you.
I am gone
And you are the light.
Through the tears upon my eyelids, I looked deeply into the satchel again. It was empty now except for some writing beneath the flap that held it closed where the name of the owner would go. I turned it over and pulled the inside out: Klara Hitler, it read. Later, once I had started to read history at school, I learned more of the name that I believe to be mine.
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