"Leave me," he told Blood in a near whisper. "Stop it," said Blood. "Leave me." "Are you a man, Private?"Benjamin stiffened. His lip grew firm. "We can show no signs of weakness against the enemy, Private."Blood's voice was stern, but sympathetic, as though it were part of a half-hearted act. "Yes, sir." "Think of Lord Kitchener leading the Egyptian army, racing through the war-torn streets of Khartoum. That's what I do. I imagine him in the Boer War, pledging to defeat the guerillas. Doing what it took to bring victory to the Queen." "Yes, sir." Benjamin turned, wiping his eyes. "This is a new family you've entered. Every bit as real as flesh and blood. You have to earn their respect, Private." Blood's eyes were cold emerald. His face was wide and long. "You understand, Private?" "Yes, sir." "You're going to need that anger. That anger we can use."Benjamin nodded accordance, and Blood stood adjusting his collar.. "All right, now come have some coffee. I need a drink."
��Blood, Benjamin, and nine other men from the battalion hit the streets around eight o'clock. They'd circled through King, Queen and Weber. With every step, Blood's pockets jangled with the sound of his barracks' keys. They were headed back toward King again when they spotted two young "recruitables" heading south along Yonge. "Excuse us. We're gonna need a word with you."The soldiers circled around them with Blood in front doing the talking and Robert Haff slinging one arm around each of the two men. While Benjamin was thin and gangly, Haff was a twenty-one-year-old bull with thick forearms and one long eyebrow that divided his face in two. He was also the undisputed champion of arm wrestling, so if anyone could break Benjamin's arm, Haff would be the man. "Why aren't you men in uniform? They look fit and able, don't they Haff?"Haff squeezed them toward him, so their faces touched. "They sure do." "You boys read the newspapers, don't you? You didn't notice that your country needs soldiers? You didn't notice how other boys are putting their lives on the line for you?"One of them pulled away, making Haff tighten his grip. Their two heads locked in a vice. "You should save some of that for the field."Blood paced in a circle around them, brandishing the metal weights he'd held in his pocket, jangling them like a nervous twitch. "What do you think Benny?"Benjamin's blond-brown hair was raised in spikes above his forehead. He stood at the front of the other soldiers, doing his best to blend in. The sergeant major turned toward him. "I don't know," said Benjamin. "What should we do to these two?"Benjamin stared back at him, his palms sweating. He could feel the eyes of the other soldiers. Could see Blood's mouth nearly mouthing the words. "Haul them in is what," Blood blurted. "How's that sound?"He looked back to Benjamin, the keychain looped about one finger, as though threatening to lock someone away. "Good," Benjamin managed, as Haff released them with a shove. "Let this be a warning to you," snapped Blood.Around the corner at Gettas and Gettas, after finishing with the two men, the group stood, looking both ways down the deserted Wednesday-night avenue, waiting for the restaurant's customers to exit. One of the soldiers was looking through a newspaper article entitled "HAVE YOU MOTHERED A MAN?" "Here's what we do," said Blood.He backed up and leaned on the concrete ledge of the restaurant window. "One of us is going inside. Up to that couple in the back corner. No, first he'll head to the washroom and then maybe sit down, just so they get the idea he's alone. Then he'll approach them." Blood rubbed his hands together. A light snow began to fall around them. There were Christmas lights hanging from the street posts. A glowing white angel hung on the restaurant's front wall. "He'll tell him he's a coward."A few of the men grinned and nodded their heads in admiration of the sergeant major's plan. "If that doesn't work, he'll slide over next to the woman and wrap his arm around her. Ask her if she wouldn't prefer a soldier instead of some Hun-loving yellowback. Who's it going to be?"The laughing and nodding suddenly stopped. The men's faces froze in silence. "Who?"Blood searched through the crowd, feigning deliberation. Benjamin knew it was an act. He could feel it in his racing pulse and the tingling of his legs. He stared down at the cracks in the concrete. His eyes followed them back and forth as though they were a viable means of escape. "Benjamin!"The boy looked up. His eyes sharpened, aware he hadn't gotten away. "Yes, sir."In the men's room, five minutes later, the reflection in the mirror showed a young man poised for an act of bravery. He knew this was a test. "War itself is a test" was the wisdom his father had imparted. Benjamin's lips mouthed the words Blood had made him rehearse. He was to lure the man outside when his blood was up. Haff and the others would take care of the rest.The couple in the booth were still eating. It had bought him time. When he came in, the waiter had just taken a second order, so Benjamin had walked past their table to the washroom and found refuge in a back stall. The words were like lead inside of him. They weren't anonymous threats like the phrases written in lipstick and black ink on the bathroom walls. He tried to envision himself, standing at their table and releasing those words. His lips like a loaded weapon. He tried to imagine it, but he couldn't. His future was blank with the inevitability of this act, which he felt certain could never come.The door swung open. It was the man from the table. Like seeing someone from a dream. He was short and stocky. He had hair on his face and knuckles. Benjamin watched him wash his hands.When the man left, he held the door. "Thank you," said Benjamin.As though he'd been invited to leave the stale air of the men's room and join the couple for dessert. As though his future was restored by a simple act of kindness. "Are you yellow?" Benjamin blurted, though he felt no connection to the words. He might have been asking him for the time or whether he preferred limes to lemons.The man turned, but he hadn't heard him. "Sorry."Benjamin struck deeper. "I'll take a piece of her." "Who?" "Your woman."When Benjamin came to, Blood was standing over him, holding a napkin to the hot liquid dripping from Benjamin's cheek. There was a commotion of soldiers. The manager of the restaurant was waving them out. "Am I bleeding?" "No, it's just mushroom soup. The girl threw it at you." "Where are they?" They ran out the back.Benjamin leaned forward and opened his jaw. He felt the exact location of impact. A throbbing that extended down his neck and into his back. He didn't mind though. He felt the high of coming through slaughter. If this were war, he was ready. He felt bold and confident. As though he were drunk. "Did you get a good look at them soldier? Someone's gotta pay for this."Benjamin thought he meant the soup.
On weekends the Bloods had a handful of soldiers for dinner. Agnes would cook pumpkins and squash and mash them into a saccharine pudding. Benjamin was always the first to arrive. He came to get a few minutes on the floor with Citizen, the mutt the Bloods let on was a pure breed Cocker Spaniel. Whenever Agnes walked in, Citizen lay flat on his back with all four legs in the air. "There's something refined about him, isn't there?"Agnes glanced over and smiled. Benjamin looked her up and down as she walked into the kitchen. She was big-boned, as firm as a granite post. "Theodore will be down in a minute." She spoke from the opposite room. "How's your mother?" "Okay." "She's sick, isn't she?" "Yes." "Don't you have a brother and sister?" "My brother's training to fly at the Curtiss School of Aviation. He wants to get over there." "What's your sister do?"Agnes, watching for Haff and the others, came back in and peered behind the curtain out the front window. She always found herself at the window. The war, she felt, was all around them. "Nothing." "She's not the girl in those photographs?" "She makes us a bit of money. It's good I suppose." "As long as she stays away from those quack eugenicists. They're doing that now. Did you know that? Cutting healthy people open. The body is something sacred." "Her body is everywhere," said Blood as he entered and held his hand down toward Citizen, letting the mutt lick the tips of his fingers. "A soldier in the war is different," said Agnes. "Vilray Blair should be commended." "I saw a picture of her in the washroom at the Button Factory," said Blood, continuing on about Rachel. "She was wearing one of them harem designs."Agnes leaned atop the sofa. Along the outside of the room ran the tracks of a miniature train. It was Blood's hobby. He'd reconstructed most of the town in a corner of the basement. He'd glued scraps of metal to tiny pieces of wood and even hand-painted the signs that reached out overhead toward the avenue. He remembered as a child holding a kerosene lamp over miniature houses and pretending for hours that he was the sun. "Where's Robert?" asked Agnes.Blood moved over beside her and glanced back at Benjamin, sitting on the faded carpet, grasping Citizen's chain. "The guys at the factory, they'd glued a button to her you-know-where."Blood coughed and turned back to the window. He held a passenger car in his hand and pushed it back and forth along a small stretch of track. Benjamin didn't look up, but kept his eyes on Citizen. Chain tracks dug into the blushing palms of his hands. "Have you ever fallen asleep on a train?" said Blood. "It's the only place where Agnes sleeps soundly." "Once you get on there're no more worries," said Agnes. "You're locked into a certainty. We fight wars to feel that kind of security." "We," stressed her husband."Germans fight wars for the unfettered ability to progress." Blood turned from the window. "Who's that German minister? Reverend ..." "Bindemann," said Benjamin from the floor. "He's an agitator." "Before the war," said Benjamin, "we used to go to his church. He seemed nice enough." Blood frowned. "Nice? A man who supports the slaughter of Canadian boys. A man who thinks that we're the enemy." Benjamin nodded in accordance. "I have nothing against Germans, as long as they remember what country they're in. Your mother's German, isn't she?" Benjamin bent his head down toward Citizen. His hands clutched the chain. "That doesn't make your mother a Hun. She supports you, doesn't she? She's proud of what you're doing here."Without looking up, Benjamin nodded again. "You see?" said Agnes. "Remember that: a German isn't necessarily a Hun. Sometimes it's hard to make the distinction, but you must. It's your responsibility as a soldier." Blood went back over to the window and stood beside Agnes. He put his hands on the back of her arms and pressed his nose to the top of her head. She stepped forward and leaned toward the double pane of glass. "It's so dark. Even for this time of year." Blood peered over her shoulder. They could see the outline of a giant moving toward them. "Here comes Robert," she said. �֬֬�. Over dinner Haff bragged that one year earlier he and two others, whose names he'd forgotten, had run into Victoria Park and, with nothing but their bare hands, had knocked the Kaiser's bust completely off its granite pedestal. With an electric cable they'd found behind the Rubber Factory, they'd strung the bust up from an oak tree, and at the end of the night, tossed the Kaiser into the lake. "Imagine," said Blood. "A bronze bust of the man attacking our armies. Right here in our city." "It's actually his father," said Agnes as she scooped two potatoes onto his plate. "Is that any better? It's atrocious. It's an insult."Blood set his plate back down in front of him and tucked a napkin into the collar of his shirt. "Is it really him?" asked Benjamin. "Who?" "Is that really what the Kaiser looked like? Can they do that?"Blood grinned and glanced at the others. Benjamin had a way of asking questions that nobody else would ask. "Of course, they can do it. Who did you think that old guy was? Your grandfather?""I don't know. I always thought his face was made up."
The work of the famous German artist Reinholt Begas, the bust of Kaiser Wilhelm I (1797-1888) was a little over four feet in height, and had been ordered from Berlin, Germany at a cost of $250.00. Together with a six-foot granite monument from the Toronto Granite Company which weighed 24,000 lbs., and two large bronze medallions of the heads of Otto von Bismarck (1815-1898) and Helmuth von Moltke (1800-1891), also ordered from Germany, the memorial was installed in Victoria Park on August 13, 1897. The total cost of the monument, plus expenses, $1186.68, was covered by donations from throughout Waterloo County, as well as from Hamilton, Toronto, Guelph, Winnipeg, Montreal, and Williamsburg, Penn., U.S.A.
The News-Record's publication of Rev. Walter Bindemann's letter:
On Tuesday of last week, I was invited to attend "a regular meeting" of the Minister's Association. "War" was the topic and, as a man with German parents who has traveled extensively through Germany and has remained in contact with the trend of German thinking and feeling by a diligent study of German literature and frequent intercourse with representative German scholars; as a man who living in an English speaking country my entire life has attained standards of comparison and distance of observation so indispensable for forming a fair and unbiased judgement, I expressed my views on certain phases on the popular presentation of the interesting subject "War." Almost all ministers present, although not agreeing with my views, received my remarks as one would expect of gentlemen ...
The Germans are a liberty-loving nation and cherish independence of thinking and acting. I would rather sacrifice anything than bring up a family in a country where a man can be called to the police for expressing his views at a Ministerial Association or upbraided by an official for having a conscience and acting according to its dictates.
�֬�One morning outside the Post Office, a gathering of young men from the local battalion spotted Walter pressing a stamp to an envelope. Instead of approaching, one of the men picked up a bottle cap and sent it glancing off the reverend's shoulder. Walter paid no heed and continued toward the mailbox at the side of the building. He pulled another envelope from his parcel and began licking a second stamp when he felt a projectile glance his ankle and then a larger object bite the corner of his knee. In more of a hurry now, he tossed the two envelopes into the box and reached for two others, one of which never made it, but was accidentally dropped on the patch of grass adjacent the building. The letter was addressed to Alex Thomas of the Royal Air Force, the handwriting more careful than his own.Moving away in the direction from which he came, he watched stones skim past him on the sidewalk and heard the men shouting, We'll get you Bindemann...and they would.
It was late October. Edward had walked Elizabeth to Grand Trunk and they'd waited on a bench, squeezed together tightly. She'd had a map open, pointing to places Wendle was going to take her. She was spending four days with him in Ottawa and then the two of them were coming back to Kitchener for the three days that Wendle had off. She was in love with him. She hung on his every movement, so the hug she'd given Edward as the train had pulled up had seemed more of an apology than a goodbye. It'd said, I'm sorry. I loved him first. Or maybe, I'm sorry I loved him first. Either way, the train left that Elizabeth was on.
Edward moved back to the bench by the station. At the far end was the same older woman in a heavy jacket who'd forced them to sit as cramped as he'd wanted. When the train had departed, the crowd had cleared, but the woman hadn't budged. She hadn't even stood to wave goodbye. Just sat digging through her jacket's heavy pockets. Everything about her was heavy. The morning had turned heavy. Even the bit of sun shining on the last remnants of snow had a weight to it that Edward both despised and enjoyed.
His was a life of drama. The weight was a thickness. It was substance. He remembered the first time he realized he was an unusual child, a boy living with his grandfather who had no knowledge of his parents. The sympathetic looks of those who knew how his mother had died. It carried a weight that became a comfort. Loneliness itself was a comfort. It felt familiar. His life was a story and he wasn't the type to get the girl, so he slid willingly into the moment, watching Elizabeth's face in the train window, retracing the steps they'd taken, opening the letter he'd received from Peter two days before.
Come home. Stop wasting time when you should be working was the theme of it. Edward had neglected to mention in his last letter that he'd found a job painting Vera's house and doing other small repairs. Vera's father had stopped in and Vera had pretended Edward was a friend of Levi's. By the time her father had left, he'd offered Edward the job.
It was his first day. He walked into the front room, arms full with supplies he'd bought on his way from the station, and found Vera standing over a mural she'd designed, laid out across her living room floor. Her thick copper hair was in tangles, her forehead dressed in beads of sweat. She turned swiftly when she heard him, holding glue and scissors.
Come take a look.
When he thought of her, he sometimes came up with a mishmash of different faces. She'd dyed her hair a little browner. She'd had the doctor do something to her lips. He tried asking her about her childhood, but she still refused to answer. She existed only in the present and in his speculations of the past.
She clasped hold of his hand. On a giant section of canvas she'd pasted layer upon layer of newsprint. Some fractions were hidden completely behind other sections of text.
I gathered them from the back of the hotel. They said they were getting rid of them.
Edward looked down over it and realized there was more than just newsprint. She'd taken maps from different cities all over the world and cut out as much as an entire district or as little as a city block and incorporated them into the mixture. Edward spotted Broadway running down a long trail between articles on the 1917 conscription and the making of the Hindenburg, and then stopping at a piece of Heathrow and a triangular slice of High Park.
It's fascinating, said Edward. I've always had a thing for collage. Does it mean anything? I just like the look of it. Would you help me hang it on the wall?
Edward grabbed hold of the right side and balanced it over one of the four rusted nails already embedded in the plaster. When he stood up in front of it, it demanded his attention. His eyes jumped from section to section. It provided a strange sort of release, a sense that nothing was missing, simply because it tried to say nothing at all. When he started to turn, Vera pressed up to the back of him. He could feel her smooth hand on his padded shoulder. Some unidentified part of her pressing against his wrist and elbow. Her body a mosaic of connected flesh drawing him backwards.
Let me guess, he said. What? When you see something you want, you take it.
She pulled herself into him like it was a game. Like she was trying to hide the cracks in their shadow. You've judged me? That's it?
It's not so dramatic, she said. I like physical love.
And I'm true to it. I don't hide it. I don't know what that makes me. It makes you honest, said Edward. But I'm not afraid to lie to get it. How old do you think I am? She leaned back and kissed his neck. He lifted her dress and moved with her to the wall. He inhaled and mimicked her, kissing her neck, her collar bone. It wasn't his first encounter with a woman, but it may as well have been. The first time had been an exercise of futility. Hands groping in the dark to find places that just weren't there. When Levi walked in, they were too far gone to notice.
Betsy! he called. Have you seen Betsy? He's drunk, Vera whispered, one leg wrapped around Edward as they stumbled forward. Edward wrestling to stay inside her. Betsy's a cow! Levi said. He doesn't drink.
What did he say?
Then Vera started laughing. Come on, she said.
She pushed into him and Edward bent his knees, lifting her for an instant. In all her experience, it was always so serious.
During sex, she said, I've never just laughed out loud.
Edward grinned and she laughed again, uncontrollably, as Levi cirled around them, wandered down the hall toward the bedrooms.
Where's he going? said Edward.Who cares? she said, falling to the couch, pulling him down, shooting a look that said, Don't stop!
With Vera, sex is quick and simple. Every night becomes a reflection of the first. They find themselves laughing at the oddest moments. She never stays. It's usually she who leaves him. She kisses his stomach and rolls her body across him. Then walks around naked in the dark.
Don't you love being naked, she says. Just walking around naked. Like animals. If we could be so lucky.
Edward feels guilt for dreaming of Elizabeth when Vera's still sleeping beside him. He wishes Vera would sometimes stay. He likes the feeling of her body pressed into him. Her nipples just standing there, watching him in the dark. But he's never asked her. He's never held her arm and coaxed her. There's a part of him that's relieved whenever she gets up to go.
With Elizabeth, he envisions little pieces of her staying behind. Pieces that he'd have to carry with him. Scents and wider emotions. As though he'd lose something of himself. He knew it the first time he met her. He was sapped of energy, as though his heart were racing on without him. It's best perhaps that he can't have her. She'd take up space he's unwilling to share.
It's Elizabeth who first shows him the details of the city. She takes him through old factories and into the dark hallways of the college. On the way out, they stop into Devitt House, where Reverend Bindemann used to live. She knows bits and pieces of the history, but has no direct knowledge of the events which led to his mother's sudden departure. By mid-afternoon he and Elizabeth are moving along beside slow traffic down King Street. They pass the landmarks his mother might have passed. Most of them are still standing, wedged between downtown factories, slowly decaying.
They enter a fruit shop. The women at the counter speak in Bavarian German. They're huddled over a crate of tomatoes, sorting the bruised ones into a separate bin. Elizabeth is quiet. Edward tries to pick up what she knows about what happened between him and Vera, but she gives him nothing. She's neither awkward nor remote. She smiles when smiling seems natural. She doesn't appear to overact, though he can't read her, as though others have become too sophisticated for Edward's high school intuition. Their signals lost in a complex web of disjointed emotions.
Hallo, says Elizabeth to the woman at the counter. Hallo. Pflaume und Ananas.
The woman points to an aisle on her left, and Elizabeth smiles thank you.
You speak German? A little. You?
Edward shakes his head.
Two summers ago, Elizabeth went to the same German grocer everyday. A little place behind the Post Office. She just pointed to what she wanted. Monday was collards; Tuesday, coriander; Wednesday collards again, so the women came to know her only by this cycle of green leaves. She'd try a few words on occasion, but her German was rough and their English even rougher. The tension she'd felt when she'd first gone evaporated in time. They weren't silent when she entered. Even the manager from a room at the back would come out to greet her. He'd smile and sniff her coriander. He had a big bulb of a nose. He even managed to call it Chinese parsley. He broke it up into several pieces, having memorized the sound of separate sections of the words. It gave her an idea. The next time she went into the store she walked up to the woman at the counter. Eidechse, she said. Lizard. Eidechse. She'd asked one of her German-speaking friends for the word. As though opening up the lid of a box that she carried over her shoulder and showing them its interworkings. Eidechse, the woman said and then looked down at the collards. Eidechse! she shouted to the women at the back of the first aisle, like a revelation, and the three of them circled around Elizabeth.
Elizabeth points to where the store used to be, and Edward feels the city taking shape around him. All morning he can sense it changing, the first etchings growing bolder in contour as they become layered with visions of the past. Places where she and Wendle fell in love.
She leads him in and out of different neighbourhoods bordering the center of the city. She takes him to the church where he hears Reverend Bindemann preaching before a tiny congregation. He speaks in an unknown language. Edward can't fathom how he forms such sounds.
Finally, she leads him past the public school and across David Street through Victoria Park. She gathers about her legs the loose folds of her cotton dress and stares at the empty monument once belonging to the bust of the King of Prussia. She tells him more people come to witness its absence than visit the nearby statue of the queen.
Walter, when Edward first meets him, is concerned about what the Nazis are doing.
I like them. I like the potential they give to Germans. When Germany's up and running it gives life to the rest of the world.
He's bent over the piano in Concordia Club, practicing his seventh minors when Edward comes in.
What was your name again? Edward. Edward, do you play the piano? No. I've just started. This place used to house the German choir, harp lessons, organ lessons, and so on. Always filled with people. We've been without music in here for nearly twenty years.
Walter turns back toward the piano and sounds out another few chords. There are instruments on the side table, strewn across the sofa: clarinets, flutes, a half a dozen violas, a cello with three of its strings broken.
What happened to your leg, if you don't mind me asking? No. It was an accident in a train right after I was born. As I grew, I kept having to replace the prosthesis.
Walter stands and slides the bench back beneath the piano.
Have a seat, Edward.
Edward sits on a tan leather love seat beside Walter. Their legs spread out in the November sun.
You were born in 1916? Right. In July. Just after you gave up the pulpit.
Elizabeth had told him that she'd heard Walter and Rachel had been friends and that Walter had travelled half way across Canada and back searching for her. It had taken him more than a decade to get back at the front of the church.
Why did you stop?
Walter sighs and stares at his hands, interlocked across his chest. Because of her, maybe. I didn't give it up completely. Even now, I have a small congregation. Every second or third week. I started concentrating more on the politics of the area. I even ran for office at one point.
Walter leans back and looks across at Edward. He studies the features of the young man's hands and face. And Rachel Thomas was your mother?
He'd never known Rachel was pregnant.
Is there something wrong with that? No. Nothing.
Walter looks up into Edward's face and realizes this isn't a man who's come looking for his father. He smiles.
You don't know?
The knowledge of his father is sudden. It comes without warning. He only understands it in some remote corner of his mind. He sees a man and has to be reminded of their familial connection. He has to tell himself, I'm supposed to love this man. For the first few days, he carries a photograph of Walter in his wallet. After, he moves it to the case he carries with him, and eventually relegates it to the shelf in the room he lives in at Levi's. It's not standing up facing the room's interior, but flat down. Storage only. It's not that he doesn't feel an affinity toward Walter, because immediately, even before he knows they're in any way related, he does. It's the symbols of his love that take time.
For two weeks he compartmentalizes. Walter and Elizabeth exist on separate frequencies which themselves are separate from Edward's search for his mother. To Elizabeth, he has no father. To Walter, he's never attended the opera. And in his search for Rachel, an outside world hardly exists.
When Elizabeth arrives, Levi is somewhere in town looking for oil-based paints. Vera has gone for the weekend to Toronto for an audition. In the back corner, Edward sits at a table with a long white list of instructions snarled around him. Between his forefinger and his thumb he's got a tiny plastic knob, which he appears to be punishing with the end of a miniature hammer. He turns as her shadow crosses the wall in front of him. Damn thing won't fit.
He takes another few stabs and tries ramming it into the side of the wooden box. When it won't go in he puts it down and ruffles the instructions into a frenzy.
Isn't that the one from the other day?
It was working fine. Static. Couldn't you hear the static?
She'd forgotten his obsession with perfect fidelity.
Vera's gone and you didn't go with her? Edward considers her tone. He's lost her perhaps. Any chance he had of winning her over has now vanquinshed. He's done nothing wrong, but a trust has been lost.
Let me help you, she says, flatly.
She slides the sofa over and sits beside him. Everything he does must be directly by the book. He clutches the instructions, falling down across his lap. He's obsessive about finding the right piece and putting it in the right hole, about constructing a machine so finely tuned that all noise is disintegrated. He hands her a box of parts and tells her to divide them into piles based upon function. Only a few stump her, as most are visibly obvious. He then asks her to pick out the parts from each pile which coincide with a single radio. He gives her a book full of diagrams to help match the shell sections with what he refers to as the guts.
She smiles when he cringes. She has a two-inch dial where a four-inch should go, and when he reaches for it, their hands touch. She pauses for a moment in mid-motion, letting her fingers brush his palm, as he pulls the radio toward him.
What are the first few things that go wrong with a radio?
He has his head down, pretending to concentrate on removing the improper dial.
The gang condenser, she says.
He stops and looks back at her, his eyebrows raised with surprise.
You told me that the other day, she says, and he turns back to the radio. Where did you get the bow tie?
He peers down and straightens it.
You like it? Yes. Walter gave it to me. I went over there yesterday. Did he tell you anything?
Edward shakes his head.
Nothing? Not nothing.
Edward stops fiddling with the dial. He reaches his hand into a plastic container and pulls out a binding post. There's a radio beside him that gives off only static. He bends toward it, switches it off and on.
She used to go to church when she was young and sit between her parents and get her mother to whisper to her what she wanted to tell her husband so she could be part of their conversation, and then she'd whisper something nonsensical into her father's ear.
Elizabeth smiles and Edward sets the binding post onto the desk. Several times she's walked in and seen him listening to a dead channel. He's told her it soothes him, as though he'd lie down at the bottom of the ocean, yet refuse to go out in the rain.
In a rocker by the window, Edward sifts through the notes he's gathered about his mother and life in Berlin during the First World War. Elizabeth is curled up under a blanket on the sofa.
You should talk to your father. He's come by here to see you.
After a week he'd told her, and she let on she hadn't already guessed it. Since then she's been trying to convince him to go back.
I'm leaving on Sunday. Oh. My grandfather. He hates people, but can't stand to be alone. She leans down and pulls a second blanket up over the first. She folds her legs up into her, so her chin rests on her knees as she rocks herself into balance. When her eyes close, Edward finds only her tilted head above a bulge of folds and angles. He misses her. It takes him a moment to identify the sensation. How can you miss someone who's right beside you? He slides one foot up along the edge of the sofa, a toe beneath a flap of blanket. His arms and legs tingle in the cold. Is it morbid, he wonders, to imagine her never waking? That time might freeze and leave them eternally in this limbo of distance and proximity? He slides his foot a little further, almost touching her. Then, for a moment, he lets it move beneath some unidentified part of her. A mass of warmth against his skin.
On the day before he leaves for Hamilton, Edward decides to follow Elizabeth's advice and talk to his father about Rachel again.
I feel like I already know you. I've been listening to your voice on the radio.
It's Walter's turn to walk Edward through the busy streets of Kitchener, pointing to places his mother visited for such and such a reason at such and such a time. As they pass City Hall, they find Jewish protest stickers pressed to the doors and windows. New York has seen the largest of the protests.
It's easier sometimes when you're the one being persecuted.
Walter pauses and closes his eyes.
I'm sorry, he says. That's a stupid thing to say.
F.T. Clauseen, the president of the Kitchener-Waterloo Rotary Club and of Waterloo College, warned: "I am going to say that people at the New York meeting will be ashamed of themselves in two weeks. I can say that from what I know of the German." He attributed the persecution to the Jewish connection with Marxism, while M.J. Motz wrote in a report from Germany that, though he deplored the lack of justice in the treatment of Jews, it was "no different than the Canadian reaction to those of German heritage during the First World War."
Your mother was the one with the theories. She was the storyteller. We used to walk all the way down past the Grand River, and I'd hardly get a word in. She had this amazing way of talking at times from the side of her mouth, so that if I do it now, I can reproduce her image almost perfectly in my mind. It wasn't easy. Part of loving her was knowing that it wouldn't last forever. She'd only allow you to sink into that kind of comfort for so long.(Continued in part 5)