IT ALL STARTED WITH A PACKAGE placed on Borglund's doorstep at two o'clock in the morning.

But, no, really, it started before that, when tilting his head over the picket fence, the smell of gin strong on his breath, he told me about his father, how he had collaborated with the Nazis back in Holland. I was speechless, but I must have had a telling look on my face because he stood back a step and, with watery eyes, said, "What else could he have done? He had a family, seven children to support." His father had been a railroad employee, had helped the SS route trains to the death camps. To Borglund, he was like any other man trapped in a job he didn't really like. But it was different -- those trains were full of my people, my ancestors.

And that's when it really began.

A bag of shit, a bag of cat shit left on his doorstep. What is it really? Not much, in light of the number of ancestors of mine who were gassed in the war, whose names I don't even know. Not much in light of the dreams, the nightmares that have started to visit me ever since talking to Borglund that night. Sometimes it's every night, sometimes weeks go by without one, but when they come, it's as clear as day -- the gray-helmeted men with spatterings of Nazi red, the blood of their victims, as decoration. Some of them so young, so very young -- pimples on their faces still, gangly teenage postures, rifles over their shoulders or held firmly in the creases between their arms and chests. But no children these -- the eyes cold, metallic, the eyes that don't look at you, they look through you, the "superiority," arrogance, trained into them.

I'm standing there, behind a wall, watching as they pull my proud but faceless ancestors down a flimsy attic ladder, or sometimes down from a hay loft (the place changes, but the events never do), march them along in their baggy creased trousers and yellowing button down shirts, their aging flowered dresses, heavy woolen socks, and clunky black shoes. I wonder what they're thinking as they do these things, these wunder boys who have learned their lessons of hatred with such zeal -- do they inisc reminisce about a certain young Fraulein back in Hamburg or Bremen, or about their days back in school, skipping home with strapped books swinging? In their brown knee knockers and caps, peering into the baker's window with hungry eyes? Thinking these thoughts, even as they carry out their orders, thinking nothing of the crime, the genocide they've initiated? Innocent (in German: unschuldig), a word that will never again apply to them. The crime: the wholesale destruction of families (my family) and most of a race.

"Shnell! Shnell!" the young men shout, their rifle tips prodding my relatives -- the children among them -- forward, as I tremble, want to scream out, but know I can't make a sound, can't even breathe, as, grim-faced (the victims have faces now, or maybe just eyes), even the children stare hopelessly with the looks of the condemned, the already dead, as my tears start to fall -- tap tap -- onto the floor, and a gray-helmeted head turns, the fiery eyes searching in my direction, the black boots creaking, the rifle aimed toward me, a shot ringing out, and I scream (or is it just in the dream?), my heart racing, body drenched in sweat. I prop myself up in bed, sit up against the wall, don't ever want to sleep again -- but it's still, silent, crickets singing now, cicadas screeching outside in the darkness, the breeze coming through the window, lightly sweeping the blinds forward, then sucking them back so they slap gently against the window pane. An occasional car swishing on the street below.

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About Mitchell Waldman


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Mitchell Waldman is the author of the short story collection, PETTY OFFENSES AND CRIMES OF THE HEART (Wind Publications, 2011), and the novel, A FACE IN THE MOON. His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared in many other publications, including, among others, Kairos Literary Magazine, Literally Review, Corvus...read more Review, Random Sample, Wilderness House Literary Review, The Faircloth Review, Crack the Spine, Epiphany, Foliate Oak, The Legendary, Connotation Press, new aesthetic, Longshores Literary Magazine, The Battered Suitcase, Worldwide Hippies, Moronic Ox Literary and Cultural Review, eclectic flash, and eFiction Magazine. His writing has also appeared in the anthologies Beyond Lament: Poets of the World Bearing Witness to the Holocaust (Northwestern University Press, 1998), Messages from the Universe (iUniverse, 2002), and America Remembered (Virgogray Press, 2010). Waldman was also co-editor (with Diana May-Waldman) of the anthologies, Wounds of War: Poets for Peace, and Hip Poetry 2012, and serves as Fiction Editor for Blue Lake Review. For more information, see his website at: http://mitchwaldman.homestead.com.
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