I’ve renamed my writer’s group project ‘The List‘ instead of Kill List – which is the name of a very good UK folk horror film.
My group meets again on the 7th, and I jotted down an opening ‘chapter’ and hope to have another before then. First person feels weird, but I think I’m getting the hang of it.
29 FEBRUARY 1960 – SKIERNIERWICE-PL
Nurse Koblencja was the only woman who ever asked me my name without putting a gun in my face or slapping me.
The war began for me at age 11 when some bitch named Edith Moyer appeared on the playground and offered me a milky-marshmallow bar covered in Wedel chocolate. She married after the war and changed her last name, but I still found her.
I was born in Drawkso, a city in Western Pomerania.
We became part of Poland right before the Germans invaded, which made sense since my momma was Polish. My pop died before I could walk, and he was a good pimp that never hit or mistreated her—at least, that’s how momma remembered it on nights when vodka soaked her brain.
Pop died taking on two men that tried to leave the brothel without paying.
Momma stopped tricking after she had me and ran the books. Excitement filled the brothel when the German Army came; soldiers equaled cash, and then they equaled rations when the money ran out. Whores always make bank when there are soldiers around.
Unfortunately, no one anticipated the ethnic policy.
German men weren’t allowed to fuck Slavic women—in fact, Slavic women weren’t even considered human; like us men, they’d been labeled non-human liabilities. When the new government renamed our town Dramburg in 1939, they closed my school, and the new school only took students that spoke German.
I’ve always been good with languages, but Russian proved harder than German. A whore named Gretchen taught me German so I could run to the market for her. One day, a teacher showed up at our door, offering to ‘take me’ to a private school in the country because of my German.
Momma cussed him out at the door, shouting that they weren’t getting their hands on her blonde son. My hair was always light, and my momma buzzed it with her electric razor after I kept getting lice at school.
She said, ‘those fuckers will try and steal you from me, just like they did Magda’s boy across the street.’ She meant Leo Kowal, a boy I used to sit beside before they closed our school. Like me, Leo had white-blond hair, but his eyes were blue, while mine were green.
‘Those fuckers are stealing kids they can pass off their own.’
I didn’t understand what momma meant until, one day, my friends and I played kick the can in an alley near the clothing mill. At age 11, I’d never seen such a fancy car, and when it pulled up with two uniformed Germans on the side and once behind the wheel, a pretty lady stepped out wearing a fancy dress.
Edith Moyer had accosted hundreds of kids throughout Poland. Her Polish came without a German accent, but I could tell she wasn’t one of us because no Polish woman would stockings in summer. She commented on my green eyes and light head, then asked where I lived. I said nothing, she was a stranger, and momma said never tell strangers your address or name, and if you did, she’d kick your backside for being so stupid.
Edith knew my name and used it when she offered me a marshmallow cream bar covered in dark chocolate, my favorite. I grabbed the candy bar and sprinted for home. A soldier gave chase, blowing his whistle, but I kept running. One of my friends, Jan, told them my address; he ended up living in Warsaw and dying in Auschwitz.
Momma had been rolling some cigarettes in the kitchen when I barged in and told her what had happened. She took the candy bar and rushed me to the basement. We had a coal shoot down there, and that’s where she hid the Jewish tricks when German clients appeared without knocking.
Corporal Gunther Vos kicked our door off the hinges before he and Corporal Hans Voigt marched inside and pulled me from her grasp. Momma jumped Vos, clawing his face with her long painted nails until he drove a rifle into her gut.
When I caught up with Vos four years ago, his face still bore the scars of momma’s fury. He paid for what he did to her, as did Voigt when I located him last year. That day though, I had been a helpless boy. Fear made me piss myself as Vos and Voigt kicked momma while she was down.
Edith recoiled to the far corner of the car in her fancy dress when Schneider shoved me in back with her. He pressed a smelly rag to my face that made me sleepy. I screamed and saw momma out the back window, running after us; that was the last time I saw her.
Nurse Koblencja’s long blond hair looked just like my momma’s, and I told her that when we first met in that bombed-out castle along the river near Butzow. All the nurses and doctors at that hospital spoke Polish, and they looked weary and shell-shocked, as all of us upright and breathing did in 1945. The place was chaotic, with trucks dropping off bodies like drones swarming a hive.
Nothing ailed me physically, but I wanted to wake up on my 17th birthday in a bed. I loitered among the injured, poor fools on stretchers waiting to get inside. One man was barely alive when I smothered him and took his place.
Nurse Koblencja had appeared not long after and asked me my name.
‘Berek Kozak’ I’d said.
Not Boris like the Germans called me when they declared me Aryan.
Kozak, my father’s family name, wasn’t Vogel like the first bastards the Germans placed me with, nor Lang, like that family in Oppeln. They hadn’t eradicated my identity or language, and I proved that when Nurse Koblencja smiled at me.
Seeing her lying here in this coffin today breaks my soul.
She’s older now, and her hair is shorter, but she’s as thick as ever with those big tits and wide hips. Admiration is all I can muster for women since my cock never weeps for them. It betrayed me, though, during the war, at a brothel outside of Schieratz.
My fellow Napola cadets shoved me into a room with that whore, and I couldn’t get it up for her. It wouldn’t harden for any of them, which was the final straw for my academic overlords.
I wouldn’t have been in that place without that bastard, Corporal Horn, leaving me with Lieutenant Richter. There’d been ten of us that day, age 15, all failures at Germanization. Richter lined us up shoulder to shoulder outside the building and shouted, ‘kill the boy beside you.’
We understood his German, but we didn’t comprehend it. Richter pulled out his gun and shot the first boy in the head. We all break formation, yet none of us ran away, not even when he killed the next boy.
‘I’ll go down the line until you carry out my orders.’
The boy beside me swung first, his fist catching my jaw. He wasn’t strong enough to finish me, so I finished him by bashing his head on the concrete until his skull cracked and his brains spilled out. Another boy came for me after that, and a third boy. That’s how Richter determined membership to his National Political Institute of Education; the lone survivor made the cut.
Klaus changed his name to Karl Mink and remarried. When we met again, he was living outside Rakcovnik, Czechoslovakia, waking every morning as if he’d never done anything wrong, that fucking fuck.
“You look nice, Nurse Koblencja,” I whisper, and I mean it. Not everyone looks peaceful when they die, and that’s good because not everyone deserves a peaceful death.
Nurse Koblencja, you deserved the world.
Sometimes songs come into my head and remind me of dancing with you. European free radio out of West Germany plays modern American songs, and I hear them when driving my train from Berlin to Warsaw, and I think about how much you loved to dance.
After the injured stopped coming and the Americans showed up, the doctors and nurses spent their nights drinking with the soldiers around the campfires. She loved any song by Celia Lipton, and an American medic played her records on his gramophone. One night, Nurse Koblencja pulled me out of my chair and made me dance with her to Kiss the Boys Goodbyes. After that, I danced with her every night until the Americans departed and the Soviets replaced them.
Yes, she probably owns some black-market records and a turntable.
Lately, I’m stuck on that song by those brothers, where they wonder if they’ll ever be loved. I’ve never been in love, and no one’s loved me since momma and you.
Fuck. I didn’t realize I was singing it. The funeral director thinks I’m drunk. If he’s the same idiot that turned all the chairs upside down, then he’s no right to judge me. I’m a thirty-two-year-old man with a job and a life, and I wouldn’t show up to a funeral drunk.
You hear that, Nurse Koblencja?
I did what you told me when I left the hospital with those Soviets soldiers; I joined the job corps in Leba, and now I’m a man.
“Excuse me?” His voice is deep yet soft, but his black jackets and trousers look big on his gangly frame. “Are you a friend of the family?”
I cannot believe he’s still alive. He’s taller since I first saw him at the hospital, and I keep my eyes on his face because if I look at his crotch, he’ll know I know.
“Nurse Koblencja,” I stammer, then settle. “Miss Ruta took care of me at the hospital.”
“I knew her from the Red Cross Hospital, too.” He doesn’t remember me; he’d opened his eyes that night and looked right at me.
“I thought perhaps you might’ve known one of her sons.” He pushes those little round glasses up on his nose and sets his dark eyes upon me. “Have we met before?”
“I don’t know,” I say, like an idiot.
The black curls on his crown shine under the parlor light. Yes, you beautiful bitch, we met in that ugly space between the war and when it ended.
“It feels like we have.” His smile is perfect, and his teeth are small, straight, and very white, but he’s missing some inside. The night we met, the lightning had boomed, and he’d smiled at it like it was an old friend.
“Maybe, I wasn’t there long.” I cannot confess that I was there when he woke up, the sixteen-year-old he caught trying to lick his groin sutures.
His lips come together like a fleshy rosebud. “Perhaps we missed each other.”
Before I can say another stupid word, a girl rolls up alongside him. She won’t smile at a funeral, but her big blue eyes set upon mine, and I know what she wants—the same thing all women want when they meet me. It’s not conceit. Since the war, every pair of tits I’ve ever met looks at me like I’m lunch.
There aren’t enough men around, so girls my age and younger prowl for boyfriends while the older married ones fish around for some out-of-the-house dick. Most men don’t mind, but as I said before, my cock doesn’t weep for women, and their attention makes it difficult to hide what my dick does cry for—boys like the sweet meat beside her.
“Who is this, Ari?” she asks.
He clears his throat and tugs at his black jacket.
“I’m Berek,” I say. “I knew Miss Ruta from the war,”
“Another war orphan,” she puts an arm around his slender frame. “Did you know each other as boys?”
He looks at her as if embarrassed.
“I don’t think so,” I say. “I’m over 30,”
“I’m one year shy,” she flirts without smiling; again, this is a funeral. “My name is Gata since Ari’s not quite himself today and forgot to introduce me.”
“I hadn’t even introduced myself,” he says softly. “Please, Gata,”
“You walked up just as we met,” I say when she looks offended. I tip over and stare at his face because he’s looking at the ground. “I’m Berek Kozak,”
His cold hand takes mine, and I hope it isn’t clammy.
“My name is Arik,” he withdraws his hand. “Arik Tarski,”
“Tarski,” I nod as if I’m 100 years old. “I don’t know any Yiddish,”
His lips twist until he recalls where he is and drops his head. He pulls again at the hem of his jacket and says, “I’m disenfranchised. I no longer follow the faith, really,”
“We’re all like that these days,” Gata teases. “Good little Comrades,”
I hide my smile by bowing my head. Poland belongs to the Soviets now, meaning no Catholics, Episcopalians, Lutherans, or Jewish. The communists turned all the churches and synagogues into offices and made life shit for those brave enough to wear a cross or a yarmulke.
“Ari?” Gata whispers as if scolding. “You invited Oleg,”
He follows her gaze to the chubby man in the train-engineer uniform.
“Mister Tursik’s not a bad man,” he says.
She whispers in his ear, “You’ve never had his hand on your ass,”
“He’s here for me,” I confess. “He’s my secondman,”
Gata forgets herself and smiles. “You drive for Polish Rail?”
“It was nice meeting you, Mister Kozak,” Arik says softly, stepping back.
“Thank you for allowing me to pay my respects,” I say, my hand out.
The curls on his crown shake when he nods, but Gata takes my hand.
“Skierniewice is expanding its stocker line,” she says. “Please tell me your part of the new inventory,”
Arik bristles at her boldness. “Thank you for coming, Mister Kozak,”
“Nice to meet you,” I say to him but shift my eyes to Gata. “We may meet again,”
They whisper to each other as I approach Oleg, whose soiled jumpsuit and looming presence earn some wary stares. When he sees me, he grins as if he’s not in the presence of someone that’s died.
“Why are all the chairs turned over?”
“Keep your voice down,” I scold. “The dead woman’s adopted son is Jewish,”
“Hey, I know her,” Oleg looks past me and waves at Gata, and when she ignores him, he frowns. “She’s still a stuck-up bitch,”
He stands over 2 meters and weighs about 115 kilos, and with his blotchy skin and greasy brown hair, I suspect every woman crossing his path is ‘stuck-up.’
“Her and that pipsqueak work at the red castle,” he adds.
“Did they fill their quota for stocker drivers?” I ask under the midday sun.
“They got all they needed before they decided,” he tells me, snorting some snot and hocking it onto the sidewalk. “All they got open is secondman positions,”
Skierniewice never got bombed during the war; proof lay in the town square—Curvy gabled drains on stucco rowhouses, each with a painted door and iron-barred glass windows. We exited through the arches of the palace gate, where two uniformed probation rats scrubbed bird shit from the roman columns.
Finishing my list here would be easy.
South of here sat the Strobowa and Pamietna forests. To the north, the Bolimow. Outside of town, just west, was the Zwierzyniecki; so many places to rid the world of bad rubbish.
“I see the gears turning in your head,” Oleg elbows me. “Don’t even think about it. You’ll be taking a pay cut,”
The train station lies across the street, and beside it is Polish Rail’s administration center, the ‘red palace’ as Oleg calls it because it’s nothing but bricks from the roof to the foundation. We part as I walk toward it.
“Where are you going?” he wails.
“Change of scenery might be worth a pay cut,” I say.
“You think the twins are here?” he asks, following me.
I smile. “Go check the shed,”
Konrad and Karol Podraza, a couple of twenty-something train mechanics from the Polish border, left the West Berlin station when the four stockers they worked on got transferred east.
Most people call the Ty51 heavy freight locomotive a stocker. It’s a black beast designed to move coal over flat distances. Mine’s an ugly flat-nose steamer, but she gets the job done, and she’s the first locomotive I learned to operate out of school.
Our overlords sunk a lot of coin into redesigning the footprint here in Skierniewice. A new turntable, a bigger shed, and a group of sweet east-west track paths.
Oleg’s belly shakes under his one-piece jumpsuit as he jogs back.
The yard outside Wester Berlin where we work sent this place a dozen stockers for their new lines, and that’s when the twins left. I could learn to love working in a place like this.
“I’m applying for a secondman position.”
“Wait,” Oleg leans into the door before I can open it. “You’ll have to move here. Have you thought of that?”
I’ve thought of nothing else since laying my eyes on Arik Tarski again.
Thanks for reading.