Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Berlin. Afternoon of November 10, 1938. The Butler Hüber Awakes …

This week's sentence is from Cicero's 'Second Philippic Against Mark Antony'.

"The household found these repulsive goings on completely unendurable."

Berlin. Afternoon of November 10, 1938. The Butler Hüber Awakes …

Jerked out of his reverie Hüber blinked at the light and sucked his old lips.
Raising a hand slowly to wipe the drool from the corner of his mouth he heard now the tinkling of the shattered glass and knew what had woken him.

Rheumy eyes roamed the room.
Across whitewashed walls long turned grey splashed a creamy yellow wedge of dusty late-afternoon sunlight, its apex pointing accusingly at Hüber where he sat jammed into a spartan chair that seemed a very part of his own spidery frame.

His gaze settled on the distorted image of the window thrown by the setting sun.
Not yet, he mused. Plenty of time.

Faint and muffled through the mired, grimy glass, sounds sneaked inside his sanctuary: thuggish jeering; the clatter of running boots on cobbles.
Sturmabteilung, Hüber grimaced with distaste. Too rowdy for Schutzstaffel.

That would be the bakery again, though who would have thought there might be anything left to smash after last night?
Nice old lady. They took her husband this morning according to the kitchen tittle-tattle. The maids had whined about having to walk further now to fetch bread.

Hüber shook his head and sighed. Filthy brownshirts going about their filthy business.

The household found these repulsive goings on completely unendurable.
Somehow though, he knew they would endure it all - both the household and the servants downstairs – and with admirable Prussian stoicism.
His master after all was a solid German citizen and so could show no public sympathy for the plight of the Jüden. Those untermensch may have been bearable in the old Republic but they had no place in the new Reich. You don’t argue with the party line. At least not in a nice, respectable household.
This respectable household just wished things could be done with a modicum more decorum; nobody had managed to get a wink of sleep last night.

Hüber of course held no opinion; he knew his place.

Dozing in his chair below stairs, watching the wall and waiting.
Not yet.
Once the wedge of sunlight touched the corner wainscotting it would be time.
Time for him to disentangle himself from the chair, to creak his weary way up the small bare back stair - old knees cracking like the ancient treads - and to array his master in evening dress.

The sunlight crawled across the wall.
Plenty of time …

Nervous footsteps.
A maid flitted through to the kitchen to fetch water, averting her gaze from him as was only proper.

Vaguely distressing sounds brushed softly at his ears, seemingly beseeching him from the street.
Weeping …
The old baker’s wife.

What could you do?
He repeated to himself.
What could you do?
Hüber glanced at the clock and shrugged.
He would do nothing.
All of them would do nothing.

Blanking out the sounds from the street, he hunched his scrawny neck deeper into the greasy, threadbare felt collar of his jacket, closed his eyes and tried to slip back unnoticed into his dream.

6 comments:

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

OMG, Dive, that is chilling and sad and way too true to life. That last line is just painful. Real writing here.

Ms M said...

That's a powerful story, Dive. Heartbreaking.
We must never forget.

MmeBenaut said...

Dive, this might just be your best writing yet. Sombre yes; heartbreaking yes as history reminds us but as fiction, it is wonderful. For those who do not know the history, it might not have the same tug of guilt and shame.

(Hark! There are some sounds from the living room brushing softly against my ears but I'm gonna hunch my pudgy neck and try to slip back unnoticed unto my computer ... hee, hee. Love it.)

dive said...

Katherine: Thank you so much.

Ms.M: We certainly must not.

Mme: You'll have to start writing with us know you're back from the piste.

This piece came out of several long talks with my German neighbour's elderly mother on her trips over here. What happened in the 1930s in Germany is something that should be taught in schools today; the current rise of right wing nationalist parties in the US, Europe and in your part of the world too is truly scary.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt said...

"...the current rise of right wing nationalist parties in the US, Europe and in your part of the world too is truly scary." Ah yes, it is. I am living on ground zero of it.

dive said...

You certainly do seem to have more than your fair share of racist bullies and hatemongers there, Katherine.
Re-reading William Shirer's Rise and Fall of The Third Reich really brought it home to me.
He was an American, there in Berlin attending Hitler's rallies and reporting on his speeches and saw the things that Hüber saw, the everyday things that don't get talked about these days.
Reading his diary entries from the thirties he really could be reporting from Republican USA and that is truly scary.
It seems to be the curse of humankind that we are completely unable to learn lessons from past experience.
Sigh …