The Canceled Czech

Page 8

I closed the book, got out of my clothes, turned down the bed, flicked off the light, and stretched out on my back. My eyes were tired and my leg had begun to bother me again. I closed my eyes to concentrate on empty black space and saw nothing but Greta, eyes half-lidded, body bare, mouth delicately obscene. I tried blinking the image away. There are several good Yoga techniques for blanking the mind, and I tried all of them, and none of them worked.

So I went through the various muscle groups, relaxing them in turn, and I was not particularly astonished to find that there was one particular muscle group which stubbornly refused to relax, an island of unrelieved tension in a sea of tranquility.

Until finally the doorknob turned and the door eased soundlessly open and she entered my room. I could not see her in the darkness but I knew it was her. The smell of her filled the room.

I didn’t move. She padded softly across the room and stood for some silent moments by the side of the bed.

“Evan? Are you asleep?”

I did not say anything.

“I couldn’t sleep, Evan. I tried, but I just couldn’t. Are you asleep, Evan? I think I know a way to wake you-”

She lifted the bed sheet, drew it down. Her hand, soft, cool, trailed down over my chest.

“Oh!” she said, delighted. “You’re not asleep at all, are you? You were only pretending!”

And she rolled her fine Aryan body on top of me.

I touched her and kissed her. She panted and squirmed and giggled. I thought of the cold shower I had taken earlier; I might as well have tried to put out a forest fire with a cup of water. She’s a Nazi, an inner voice cried, albeit weakly. Politics make strange bedfellows, a stronger voice retorted. And that particular dialogue ended, and another wordless dialogue took over.

She had switched on the bedside lamp. I was lying back with my head pillowed on the sweet warmth of her thighs. Her golden hair hung down free, framing her breasts and brushing my face. Her hands, which had raced so trippingly over the keyboard to play the “Horst Wessel Lied,” now raced just as trippingly over me.

“It’s asleep now,” she said.

“I’m not asleep.”

“Not you. It.”


“It was awake when I came in, and I have put it to sleep. Will it sleep for very long?”

“Not at this rate.”

“Good. You know, I expected it the minute I saw you. That’s why I was so excited.”

“Expected what?”

“That you were Jewish.”


“Oh, don’t worry,” she said. She giggled. “I won’t tell anyone, Evan. Because then I would have to tell Papa how it is that I know, and he would be very angry. He would whip me. Here, and here, and-”

“Yes, I know. I’m not Jewish.”

“But of course you are.”

“No, I’m not.”

“But” – her fingers moved – “this is the proof, is it not? Jews are fixed this way and Germans are not. A rabbi does it, no? I always wondered what he did with it afterward.”

“In America,” I said, “that particular – uh – operation is performed on almost everyone. In the hospital. By a doctor.”

“You are joking with me.”

“I’m not joking.”

“You are telling the truth?”


“And this is done to everyone in America?”

“Almost everyone, nowadays.”

“By a doctor?”


“Do they have to use a Jewish doctor?”

“Any doctor can do it. Greta-”

“And you’re really not Jewish?”

“Really. Greta-”


“Is something wrong?”

“No, I guess not. But I was certain that you were a Jew. I thought so from the beginning, and then when you told me your name – Evan – I thought it was like Ivan and that you were a Russian Jew. Why are you laughing?”

“I’m sorry.”

“And then now, after we did it, I was sure of it. I never enjoy it that much except with Jews.”


She shrugged. “My father would kill me.”

“He probably would.”

“I knew he would. I share his feelings on race completely, Evan. You must believe that I do. But in the dark, and lying down, it is a different matter. I don’t know why. It just happens that way.”

None of this is really happening, I told myself reasonably. I suffered a concussion when I leaped from the train, and I have been dreaming all of this. The girl and her father do not exist. None of this exists. It is all a dream, caused by a devastating blow on the head. In time it will all pass away.

“Evan? Do you think I am terrible?”


“I can’t help myself, really. And I don’t think they should be exterminated. I think that is a bad idea, extermination. What is the point of it?”

“The purity of the race-”

“Ah, but I have an answer for that!” Her eyes lit up. “Not extermination but sterilization. Do you see? And then a girl like myself could have Jewish lovers whenever she wanted and be very very happy all of the time and never have to worry about becoming pregnant. The race would not be polluted with Jewish blood, and yet I could have my pleasure, and… You are laughing at me, Evan.”

“I’m laughing at everything.”

“You will not tell my father?”

“Of course not.”

She changed position, stretched out beside me. “You’re very nice,” she said. She kissed me, and her soft hand resumed its dalliance. “I think it is a marvelous idea, that everyone should have this operation. It must have been a Jewish trick, but I think nevertheless that it is a good practice. So naked it is, and so defenseless.”



“But dangerous when cornered.”


“Do you realize what would happen if your father were here?”

“Oh, but he’s sleeping. He will not-”

“But if he did.”


“He would whip you.”

“He would, yes, he would.”

“He would whip you here-”


“-and here-”

“Yes, oh, yes-”

“And even here-”


Chapter 6

When she finally left I went through the deep relaxation ritual again, this time with considerably more success. After twenty minutes of it I got dressed and went downstairs. I found a handful of books that looked interesting, including one in Czech; I could speak the language well enough but hadn’t read it intensively in some time, and wanted to brush up on it before we went to Prague.

There was an old atlas, too, and I carted it upstairs with the rest. Assuming that we managed to liberate Kotacek, we still had the problem of getting him out of the country and back to Lisbon. The short way would take us through either Germany or Austria, through the Iron Curtain and into the sunshine. That was the fastest way, but the more I thought about it the less I liked it. Those were the borders the Czechs would guard at once. They would seal them up tight, and slipping Kotacek through would be just slightly more difficult than threading a needle with a camel.

Even if we took advantage of the element of surprise and rushed past the German border, we wouldn’t be ahead of the game by any means. He’d be as hot in East Germany as in Czechoslovakia, and, as a war criminal, wouldn’t exactly get a hero’s welcome in West Germany either. And I didn’t even want to think about the problem of getting him across the West Germany border. Or, God forbid, of chucking him over the Berlin Wall.

The plan, then, would be to work our weary way south and east. There were little pockets of Slovak autonomists who would hide us in the first dark days after the rescue. South of Slovakia, in Hungary, there were political extremists of various persuasions upon whom I could call in an emergency. Most of them would cheerfully slit Kotacek’s throat if they knew who he was, but I could coach him to play whatever part the circumstances demanded.

From Hungary we could go to Yugoslavia, in many ways my favorite country. I was sure I could establish an underground railroad that would carry us all the way to the Greek border with a minimum of effort. And Greece was no particular problem. There were Macedonians in the northern hills, anarchists and such around Athens, even a Stuart legitimist on the island of Corfu.

From Athens, a plane to Lisbon. And in Lisbon I could work some devious miracle, get access to Kotacek’s records, and abandon him to his past and future sins.

It was comforting to plan the escape route. In outline form, it appeared easier than I expected it to be in actual practice. Moreover, by concentrating on the escape I could postpone thinking about the rescue itself. Janos Kotacek was in a castle tower in Prague, and my Nazi nymphomaniac would be my sole assistant in getting him out, and the less I thought about that, the better I felt.

I opened the atlas, hoping to trace a tentative exit route on the map. I located a double-page map of Europe and looked for Pisek, and then for Prague, and then stopped, and squinted in puzzlement, because there was no Czechoslovakia on the silly map. There was just one big Germany, spreading from France to Russia, and…

Of course. The damned atlas had been printed in Frankfurt, in 1941. And Europe had looked rather different at that date, especially when sighted from that particular point of view.

It was pointless to look for escape routes. Out of curiosity I thumbed through the atlas and checked out other continents, other countries. Africa was carved up among Britain and Spain and France; Ghana was still the Gold Coast; the Congo still belonged to Belgium; and Liberia was the only independent country on the continent. The map of Asia showed such items of nostalgia as French Indo-China, British India, Portuguese Goa, and Tibet. No Laos, no Cambodia, no Vietnam. No Pakistan. Large slabs of China and Korea were shown as Japanese possessions. Manchuria was labeled Manchukuo.

Rather far-reaching changes in only twenty-five years. I wondered what new changes would come in the next quarter-century – which countries would be larger and which ones would shrink or disappear, which new countries would emerge, which old ones would cease to exist. Perhaps there would be an autonomous Slovakia by then. Perhaps the Irish would win over the six Northern Counties, perhaps a Stuart would sit on the throne of England and a Bonaparte on the throne of France.

Perhaps Macedonia would be free, and Armenia, and Croatia, and Kurdistan, and all those other pockets of patriotism that clamored for freedom. Perhaps all the lost causes to which I wholeheartedly subscribe would find fulfillment. It seemed impossible, but the old atlas proved that the impossible had a disconcerting habit of happening in spite of all rules of logic.

I closed the book. It hadn’t helped much, but it had done wonders for my state of mind.

The day went quickly. I breakfasted with Neumann and Greta. I won three games of chess from him, and he left the house for a few hours, and Greta and I went to my room. I told her I would have to save my strength for our work in Prague, but she found a way to change my mind.

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