The Knees of Berlin (draft)

“The Russians will be here first. They’re advancing so fast.”

“Do you think there will be any difference”?

“I don’t know. But picturing those Soviets with their horrid chants is scaring me to death”.

“Do not repeat such cowardice words; not even in your mind. We’ll keep hiding and everything is going to be Ok”.

“What should we do with this food”?

“We have enough food in the river’s bunker. It will keep us fine for another month. As for this place, I’ll add it to my map. Look, there are totally three food reserves. All untouched. We just have to be careful and stay alive”.

Thomas and Guido have survived the allied air strikes on Berlin in April 1945. They hid in the river’s old bunker for a whole month, alone. The bombing continued for thirty-six nights in succession and their whole neighborhood was demolished. They were the only survivors. Guido was only fifteen year old. Two years older than Thomas.

“What about rifles?” Thomas said.

“To do what, fool? You want to hunt the Russians with old rifles? Why not with a bow and arrow? We just keep hiding. No any damn contact. If we stay alive the first month of the invasion we might survive” Guido said.

“I don’t understand why we don’t just flee to the north Guido.”

“It’s worse there. Before the bombings, I heard the neighbors saying that Hamburg is preparing for a battle with the Brits.”

Thomas grinned with a sudden naïve joy “Hamburg people are tough ones. I wish they reach Berlin before the Russians.”

“I don’t think so. Look around you. The capital is in ruin, including the Chancellery and all the main buildings. Don’t have daydreams. We must be lucid and as careful as a weasel. Listen to me, the river’s bunker is old and forgotten. It’s a perfect hiding place. We stay there until the storm is finished. A month or two until the Russians settle down and get rested. Then we’ll move east, to the Netherlands. I have an uncle there and I know the road well.” Guido said.

Thomas was lanky. Despite their two years of age difference, he was a little taller than Guido. This latter was also thin, but had a firm look. The war has been eating their childhood for six years already. And here they are, propelled into adolescence, then slapped into adulthood. They grew up surrounded by bombs, shelters, black uniforms and the bawling voice of that angry mustached man.

Guido’s father, Mr. Muller, was a blacksmith. He served in the first war and returned from the frontline completely destroyed. It took him a decade to get back on his feet and launch a small workshop where he manufactured bicycles. He got married in 1928, then the markets crashed and he went back on his knees. And as he was getting back on his feet, putting all the family’s savings in a new factory, the angry mustached man was bawling his way into power. And as the poor Mr. Muller was getting back to business, Mr. Hitler decided that factories must join the national rearming plan. The poor blacksmith was so desperate that he decided to enlist, again, in the army.

“Why did Mr. Muller join again the army? He should have stayed with you.” Thomas said.

“At first, he was angry about the factory. But my mother told me later that he was strongly hankering for vengeance. He marched with the troops into the Rhineland in 1936. He was so happy that he wanted us to settle with him there. He wrote a letter to us. Here, I still keep it. Take a look.”

Thomas took the letter clumsily and read it.

“My mother refused. She thought he’s becoming crazy.” Guido said.

“From what I see here, I wouldn’t reject that possibility. The words are insanely brutal.” Thomas said, frowning, while returning the letter back.

“Come on, let’s go back to the river, move it.” Guido said suddenly while jumping on his feet.