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58 15 Maria is sitting next to Father in the passenger train, traveling home for the long fall vacation. Twice already they have changed trains, and now the train stops at Nettersheim, 60 miles east of Freilingen. A thin woman gets into their compartment. They all shake hands. Father helps put the woman’s basket up on the luggage rack. “Nice in Aachen?” the woman asks Maria. “Yes—but much more so in Freilingen!” Then Maria says to Father,“I recognize girl. Lives on road to Lommersdorf, behind chapel.What name?” “Helene, works for a farmer in Nettersheim in his house and fields.” “Earns money?” “Yes,” replies Father, and turns back to the woman. The grownups talk and laugh with one another and Maria watches silently. She has not seen Father so merry for a long time. She looks at Helene’s hands which are rough and raw from hard work. Helene’s face is tan and has little wrinkles round her nose and eyes. Maria then looks out at the late-summer landscape flying by. They all get off the train at Blankenheim-Wald. From here the three continue on foot. Father carries Helene’s basket. Maria walks silently beside the chatting couple and thinks of her dead mother. Mother—the thought of her makes Maria sad. At home there is no longer a kind, good Mother waiting for her, and Maria distinctly feels it. The house seems empty. In need of comfort herself, she picks up little Josef in her arms, kissing and caressing him, and says,“You my dear brother Josef. You my dear brother Josef,” and even in her hard-to-understand voice, the words sound tender. The very first Sunday Maria is at home, Helene comes for coffee. She has combed her hair prettily. Her dress is simple and clean. Her light gray eyes look more serious today. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 58 4/26/2017 12:17:36 PM The Stories They Told Me  59 When Maria goes upstairs, she finds Aunt Barbara, her mother’s sister, sitting on the edge of the bed, crying.“Why you cry?” Maria asks, alarmed. Her aunt wipes her eyes. “Because your mother has died. Your father wants to marry Helene.” Maria is sad about Mother and that her aunt is crying. But she also thinks of Father and her five younger brothers and sisters. She pictures Helene, healthy, nimble, with industrious hands.“Poor Father must have wife,” she says.“Grandmother too much work alone!” The month of August is hot. Early in the morning the sky is already blue, the air still with only a few white clouds passing overhead. Reluctantly , Willi and Klöss tug their slates under their arms and trudge off to school.Their vacation is not until October.They never like going to school. But if they stay at home they will have to work hard, and Father does not stand any nonsense when it comes to work. Maria has put two slices of bread in her apron pocket and looks around for Grandmother. Father is threshing some sheaves of rye in the open barn.That afternoon, the wheat is going to be harvested. But because the wheat stalks are too short, rye stalks will be used to bind the wheat sheaves. Setta is playing in the yard with some old shoes she has found somewhere . Her hair hasn’t been combed, but Maria has no time to see to it just now because Grandmother is letting the animals out of the stable—a calf, a bull, and two cows, one of them lumbering heavily. Maria quickly fetches her stick from behind the open stable door. The cows stand waiting in the yard. One already has left a cow pat, right in front of the house door. Christina is looking at it, with her finger in her mouth. She is five years old, a chubby little thing with curly hair and soft features. She is a quiet child, and she needs to be handled quietly and gently. She can’t bear angry faces. She cries when she sees one. Maria flicks the big cow lightly. Slowly she deigns to move. Christina takes her older sister’s hand, and the two deaf girls drive the small herd past the half-timbered houses and out of the village. Maria looks out toward the far, rolling hills. From the road, a meadow slopes steeply down into the valley and flattens out toward the lonely...


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Subject Headings

  • Prisoners of war -- United States.
  • Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp.
  • Prisoners of war -- Cuba -- Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.
  • Afghan War, 2001- -- Prisoners and prisons, American.
  • War on Terrorism, 2001-2009.
  • Khan, Mahvish Rukhsana -- Diaries.
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