Part 17: My Playground

Of all this I neither suspected nor knew. I was only a boy of about eleven years old when I sat on the board of the big sandbox on a genuinely nice May day and watched the children baking patties and building castles.

My mother was out and had told me to look after my little sister. A cloudless, pale blue sky stretched over the square of estate houses. It was very warm; all the children were lightly dressed and barefoot. There was not a breeze stirring, but from a distance a slight vibration and humming could be heard. Suddenly the flak began to fire. The first shell fragments of the exploding projectiles clattered on the tiled roofs.

Only now did the sirens wail. As if the hawk appeared over the chicken yard, the children scattered and ran to their houses. I grabbed my sister and dragged her behind me to our apartment. In a flying hurry we put on shoes because we wanted to go to the air-raid shelter, because the fine buzzing that was in the air had swelled to a loud, threatening engine noise.

As if in a trance, I opened the closet and took out an oversized box of confectionery. On the lid of the box was a bouquet of roses, the red of which was already somewhat faded. Inside the box were important documents that I had never been interested in before. Why I stuffed the box into the colorful shopping bag with the wooden handles and dragged it along with my sister into the basement is inexplicable to me to this day.

My parents never told me that I should save the candy box in case of danger, because the papers and bills in the box with the stamps and signatures are what make an individual what he or she is: a person of flesh and blood with name and address, with place and date of birth. Without these bills, the person is nothing, he does not exist.

My sister and I flew down the stairs more than we ran. While still running, I released the heavy front door, which stood wide open because of the early summer heat, with a kick on the barring hook. In front of the air-raid shelter knelt my asthmatic playing friend. The hectic pace had left him blue-lipped and breathless; he could take no more. I dragged him into the shelter, which was full of children, and locked the gas lock door. Upstairs, the front door slammed shut. 𝓣𝓸 𝓑𝓮 𝓒𝓸𝓷𝓽𝓲𝓷𝓾𝓮𝓭

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