“The So-called Charge Was Murder”

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We all stood up. I offered my thanks to Mrs. Schubert for the lovely pastries and understood her to say that I resembled her brother. Would I like to see his picture? I said I would, and she left the room. I became aware of how silent and unmoving Karl and Luise and Mr. Schubert suddenly became. Mrs. Schubert returned in a moment and handed me a silver-framed portrait. I was expecting to see a photograph of someone of my own age but found myself looking at a boy who appeared to be around 17. He was in a German army enlisted man’s uniform. Across the upper corner of the picture was a wide black silk ribbon. I looked up and into her eyes.

 

“Eastern Front, 1944,” she said simply.

I looked down again. I supposed there was some slight similarity to my features as they had been when I was in high school. “Poor boy,” I said.

Her face immediately became very red, and her eyes filled up. She put out her hand and I took it, and awkwardly we moved toward the door, the picture in my other hand. It came into my mind that if I continued in this manner, I would be able to avoid shaking hands with her husband.

The car was at the curb. I held Mrs. Schubert’s hand while Karl and Luise shook hands with her husband, and then I occupied myself with opening the car doors. I relinquished the picture to Mrs. Schubert, said to her husband that I thanked him for his time, and got behind the wheel.

In the morning during breakfast the doorbell rang, and one of the girls admitted the Schuberts’ son. He greeted everybody and said to me, “My father hopes you can come to him again. There are more stories he wants to tell you.”

“Thank you, but I am going home,” I said.