Well, and good morning to you too!

Oh, yes. That’s correct. The old Joseph that’s me.

What? Are they telling stories about me?

Probably because they do not have anything else to do.

The cradle? Of course, I remember it. I am old, but my memory is still OK.

That the old Joseph paints the old cradle in different colors every year?

That’s right. But it wasn’t always like this. Only after my Kathy has gone.

She died five years ago. Something with a tumor.

And she was gone rather quickly.

But she told me the whole truth about Asia before she died.

All that time she didn’t say anything, and I did not ask.

The cradle? Well, I do not have it. How come?

I do not have it because I gave it to someone.

That’s right. After all those years. And I gave it away.

Yes. It is true what they say. I made this cradle 60 years ago. For Asia.

The only reminder.

Well. A lady came. Nicely dressed. One could immediately see that from abroad.

She had some questions. So I told her about the cradle. I showed it. She wanted to buy it. But when she said she was a daughter of Asia, I just gave it away.

No. Asia never came back. When they released me from prison, she was gone.

Prison for what? Well, I got five years and was released after three.

There were such times. And I confessed. I was never good to tell a lie.

I did it not for myself. Everything for that little one.

The times were bad. And one had to make a living.

When I returned to the village, it was hard.

I was absent for nearly three years, and everything on the farm was deteriorating.

Kathy was only occupied with Asia. So everything was on me.

And there were some thefts. All the time something from our poor inventory was missing.

First, they picked up some eggs, and then the chickens were stolen.

But when they stole the pig, I took a guard. Three of them came in the night. Tattered. Scrawny as scarecrows. Jews. And they wanted to steal our only cow!

The first one got with the scythe. He did not even make a cry.

The other one got with a shaft. And the third one escaped.

I was so angry that I had thrown that wounded one into the wagon and drove him in the morning to the police station.

They gave me a big sack of potatoes and said that if I find more Jews, they would reward me. And we just run empty for potatoes.

Our only cow was scrawny. And its milk was just enough for Asia.

No. Kathy has not given breast.

I do not know. Asia was already there when I arrived. I was absent for nearly three years.

They took me to the army and then the war broke out.

No. I have never been in combat because the Germans captured the land before I was taught to hold a rifle.

I wandered around because our village came under Russian rule.

When I returned, I did not ask Kathy. I thought it was a Russian in play.

Because Asia was a bit dark. Such a poor little thing. But what a sunshine!

She was a small thing when I first saw her.

But when she looked at me and blinked with her eyes, oh, Lord!

No. God did not bless us with other children.

I’m not a kind of mournful man. Even when Kathy went to the other side, I did not shed a tear.

Only once. When I came back from prison and saw that Asia has gone.

Oh, yes! I went “hunting” with young Kobielak.

In scarcity time it was hard for anybody.

And these Jews were anyway on the brink of death.

Some of them even begged to take them to the Germans.

Because in the conditions they were, they didn’t care.

Of course not everyone. So with such one, we were quite harsh.

That one on the field, these three near the lake and the two in the grove were weak as kittens. So the German gendarmes have killed them right away. That one, who tried to resist, was sent somewhere with a group of some others.

Maybe he survived. Because they showed me some evidence.

They ordered to sign it, so I signed it. I do not know.

It was first in prison when they organized a course for those with a small sentence, I learned to read and write a bit.

No. They did not sentence the young Kobielak because he was already dead.

I stabbed him myself.

What was I supposed to do, when he told me that Asia is so dark that she is probably a Jewess, and if we do not share the money, he will go to the police station?!

When they found his body near the forest, it has been said that the Jews killed him and fled to the partisans. And I was silent.

What? That it was terrible? Good Lord! Life was terrible!

Only Asia was a little sunbeam warming my and Kathy’s hearts.

When Kathy told me that some relatives came and took Asia, I saw at once that it has broken her heart. Mine too.

That’s how it was to live after that.

Only on her deathbed, Kathy told me that she found Asia in a pigsty. Totally naked.

But she smiled at her in such a way that her heart …

Probably, a Jewish woman had left her there, because the day before there was a roundup with gendarmes and policemen.

She loved Asia more than if she gave birth to her.

Me too. I think.

What? Is it late for you? Well. Then goodbye.

Alex Wieseltier

May 2019

Although the plot of the story is based mostly on the available depositions of witnesses of the similar events, all occurring persons and all described events are fiction. Any similarity of names, surnames, figures, places or events is totally accidental.

Polish version of this story is a part of a series of 13 stories on the same subject entitled “Crooked Mirror”. The author is looking for a publisher.


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