Kill List Project – Post 1 – Post 2
I’m revisiting the writers-group prompt from January for this month’s Sunday Post. We won’t meet again until April (we’re a quarterly cabal), but I transcribed my written notes from last month.
Transcribed this last night – will correct mistakes later. TW – child sexual abuse; antisemitism, ww2, physical trauma
Character History: “Ari/Arik”
In 1939, 6-year-old ARIK TARSKI and his sister Anya lived with their parents above their bakery in the Polish town of Sanok. The Tarski bakery thrives on a corner that borders Jewish and Catholic neighborhoods; his mother, Anusha, is Jewish, and his father, Viktor, is Catholic. After his maternal grandfather leaves for Palestine, his mother takes over the bakery.
After the Germans invade Poland, new laws forbid Jewish people from having bank accounts and owning businesses. Anusha signs the bakery to Viktor, and Arik recalls this because shortly after they returned from the bank, his parents built a room under the basement.
The room contains a stove, a bathroom with a working toilet, bunk beds, and all of Ari and Anya’s books and games. Anusha tells her children it’s where they must spend their summer vacation—since the Germans closed the lake. Anusha and her children spend many nights there, and it feels like a vacation for Arik and Anya. One day in October, Anusha leaves the room and never returns.
Arik and Anya remain unaware that the first Einsatzgruppe has entered Sanok. They kill Anusha and shoot Viktor for defending her.
Sometime in January 1940, Arik and 10-year-old Anya ran out of food. Leaving the basement, they find the bakery closed and its windows boarded. In the Tarski home above it, there’s no furniture or clothes, just appliances. The family paintings are gone, as is the mother’s jewelry and silver menorah. They return to the room with what food they find, and weeks pass before they hear movement upstairs.
Mister Aldo Kreider, a cake shop owner two blocks away, moves into the Tarski home with his teenage wife. The children emerge in March, shocking the Kreiders. Aldo claims their parents went to Palestine, and everyone thought they took Arik and Anya. He also claims their parents asked him to run the bakery until their return.
Misses Kreider, a girl of 16 named Charlotte, brings Ari and Anya upstairs after sunset to prepare bread dough for morning baking; they’re also responsible for the pre-dawn bagels and donuts. She lets them sleep in their bedrooms unless they have visitors. Arik and Anya live this way for two years, and on Ari’s 8th birthday, Charlotte announces her pregnancy. After that, Aldo joins them for the overnight bakery work.
Some nights, Aldo sends Arik upstairs without 13-year-old Anya. One day, Charlotte angrily rousts them from bed and sends them back to the room without reason. That night, Charlotte attacks Anya, and her water breaks when 9-year-old Arik comes between them. Aldo appears and takes his wife upstairs, and many days pass before he returns with news that his wife and newborn have died.
Aldo lets them back upstairs, but not long after this, Anya begins faking affection for him, which confuses Arik. One day, she declares that she’s started to bleed. She and Ari must leave before Aldo hands her over to the Lemkos (Ukrainians working for the Germans) in town. Confused, Arik refuses, and waking up later that night for his baking time, he discovers her missing. Downstairs, he finds Aldo burning Anya’s clothes in the fireplace; he claims Anya fell in love with some Lemkos and fled.
Six months pass, with Aldo and Arik running the bakery. One night, Aldo brings a teenage girl home, and she sees Arik. Aldo feigns shock and pretends to have no idea who Arik is or how he got there. The following day, German soldiers storm into the house and take the 10-year-old away.
Arik joins hundreds of women and children on a crowded train heading north. He catches the attention of a young German guard named Rance Eibner, who stares at Arik as Aldo did Anya. On the journey’s second day, Arik talks sweetly to Rance, as Anya did with Aldo. Lonely and afraid, Arik follows the young man outside and finds him pissing over the couplers; he boldly offers to hold his penis. After glaring at him for several moments, Rance uses Ari’s hand to pleasure himself and, shamed by his actions, threatens to shoot Arik. He sends him back inside instead.
At the next stop, soldiers separate the women and corral the children toward another train car. Rance pulls Arik aside and shoves him into the trunk of a parked vehicle. Hours later, the car begins moving, and Arik falls asleep. Rance opens the trunk after sunset, releasing Arik into a countryside he doesn’t recognize. He’s pissed himself, so Rance takes him to a river and washes him. They sleep naked together in the car, and Arik isn’t afraid when Rance touches him because he’s not physically hurt.
Arik considers running away when they stop in Breslau for a new vehicle, but he feels safe playing Rance’s brother. The young man purchases a better car, new clothes, and plenty of food and drives them to Germany. While overnight on the trip, Rance continues molesting Arik, but nothing goes beyond masturbation. Crossing the border into Germany, they move into a boarding house in Dębno (renamed Neudamm,) where Arik befriends Misses Ida Ritzer, the matronly widow running the place.
Arik bakes with Ida in her kitchen and plays cards with her in the evenings until ‘his brother’ returns from work at the petrol station. One day, Ida questions Arik about his and Rance’s parents and notices that his German isn’t perfect. She also notes that when Arik lets his guard down, he speaks German with a Polish accent.
After the boy repeats Rance’s story about their parents traveling east without them, she questions the young man, and he confesses that Arik is his sister’s son; she married a Pole and chose to die with him. Ida promises to keep the boy’s secret.
One night, however, Ida enters their room without knocking and finds Rance performing oral sex on Arik; before they can flee, the police arrive. German soldiers appear outside and take custody of Rance for desertion; after speaking with Ida about what she witnessed, they shoot the young man. The Commander questions 11-year-old Arik, still wrapped in a sheet, and he repeats the lie about them being brothers. Ida encourages Arik to be truthful, but when the boy remains silent, she tells the Commander what Rance told her about Arik’s parents.
The Commander informs Ida that Rance Eibner has no sister. She asks that Arik remain with her, but when she brings the boy a change of clothes and attempts to remove his sheet, he cowers, saying he’s not allowed to show anyone’ his private.’ The Commander pulls the sheet away and exposes his circumcised penis. He drags Arik out to Eibner’s body and demands to know where he came from; frightened beyond words, Arik confesses everything about being from Sanok and meeting Eibner on the train. Disgusted that Arik ‘came on to’ Eibner, the Commander orders him on a bus bound for Sachsenhausen. Horrified, Ida pleads for Arik; the boy was emulating his sister; he didn’t understand what he was doing.
The Commander tells her the boy is a pervert and a Jew; she cries as they drag him away.
Arik prays in Yiddish on the bus, and the Commander strikes him. He then snidely asks if Arik wants to hold his cock for him when he pisses, spitting and slapping him when Arik pleads to know what he’s done wrong. At the camp, the Intake Officer hears the Commander’s story and is enraged that a Jewish pervert bewitched a good German like Eibner. He assigns Arik a pink triangle and drags the boy before the camp Commandant. The intake officer tells the Commandant a sordid story about how Arik seduced the formerly decorated Eibner; revolted, the Commandant orders a complete castration.
Disturbed by Arik’s age, the camp Doctor disobeys protocol, putting the 12-year-old to sleep for the procedure. Moments after completion, authorities evacuate the camp as the Soviets cross the border. Soldiers whisk the Doctor away, leaving Arik asleep on the operating table.
Arik wakes in a Polish Red Cross Hospital and finds a young man with bushy golden hair leaning over him [Berek.] The young teen reminds him of a lion, so Arik thinks he’s in Palestine with King David.
Thunder booms outside, and the teen flees. Arik touches his crotch and feels pain; he lifts the bandage and finds only a catheter plugged into the slit within sutured skin. Before he can cry, thunder booms again outside, and lightning brings the room into view. He isn’t in Palestine with King David. Drawn to the gusty wind, Arik sees his family outside the lake; his mother held him during storms like this. Arik pulls the catheter out and walks toward his family–he steps off a collapsed landing and hits the pool’s dirty water.
Arik wakes to Nurse Ruta Koblencja praying in Polish at his bedside. She prays at his bedside daily; she changes his bandages, feeds him soup and solids, and eventually shows him how to pee without the catheter. Ruta tells him he’s still a boy, just a different kind of boy; she explains that some men lose an arm or a leg, and his situation is the same.
Comforted by her Polish, Arik listens when she talks of losing all three of her teenage sons in the war. Ruta remains with Arik after they move to a better hospital in Warsaw. Later, Ruta adopts the 14-year-old and moves him back to her home in Kalisz.
Arik matures physically, and though pubic hair covers his scars, he cannot stand seeing his crotch. At school, he urinates while sitting down and endures stigma for being excused from showering with others after gym class. After he begins having nocturnal emissions, Ruta surmises some testicular tissue might remain.
Arik verifies this when his testosterone levels grow enough that a portion of his scar tissue swells while watching older boys rowing in the river. He feels ashamed using the ball of his hand to masturbate. Ruta assures him, saying all men masturbate—and Arik is just like all men. At age 16, he confides his attraction to other men, and Ruta tells him to avoid gay prostitutes; those men are in the blackmail business, not the sex business.
In 1951, his first year of college, 18-year-old Arik developed a crush on a fellow student named Andrej Wojcicki. When the young man’s mother catches them kissing, she calls the police. Reminded of Eibner’s arrest, Arik flees the house, traumatized.
Andrej commits suicide in his bathroom after the police capture Arik and take him to a mental hospital. Ruta learns what happened and curses the Wojcicki’s for their ignorance; she tells them they killed their son and will not kill hers. She uses her influence with a judge to have Arik released, but she must wait three days; in that time, Arik endures electric shock therapy to cure his ‘unnatural perversions.’
Ruta sells her home and moves east to Skierniewice, where she purchases a two-story row house in the town center.
Arik completed university a year later than his peers in 1955. Ruta laments his introverted state and tries not to hover when he chooses to remain at home instead of living alone.
Poland National Rail recruits 23-year-old Arik in ’56, and he makes enough money that Ruta can retire from nursing. Arik eventually becomes a rail-pass account supervisor and keeps his sexuality hidden from everyone except his best friend and fellow manager, Gata.
After Ruta accidentally finds some anal pornography Arik bought in Warsaw, he bashfully tells her it’s not something they can discuss. A former nurse, Ruta uses her medical identification number and purchases an anal dilatation set for him from Germany. The kit mortifies Arik, yet he uses it.
More comfortable with his body, he visits movie theaters nearby Lodz and Warsaw and engages with other men. Arik performs oral sex while masturbating clothed but never lets anyone see or touch his crotch.
Ruta Koblencja is diagnosed with cancer in the Spring of 1960. Arik takes time off from work to care for her, and when she passes in November, he arranges for her burial and viewing.
Arik Tarski is the wildcard–the one character whose life gets turned upside down; he ultimately decides the outcome. Will he end up on the Kill List, or will wean leash Berek with his love?
The couples problematic dynamic cannot exist in a vacuum. There must be consequences or stakes to drive the plot, so I’m adding a third character, one whose life was also changed by Lebensraum, but his horrid experiences during the war didn’t make him a murderer.
He will be a police officer; a wolf who finds a fox (Arik) while hunting a lion (Berek.)