Eddie walked past Dr. Braun, a solemn-faced man with dull eyes looking out of small, round rimless glasses. Next to the doctor, a young policeman gave orders, as Eddie watched his mother advance in the crowded middle line. He soon lost sight of her.
He stood, undecided, in front of the doctor and the policeman. The doctor glanced at Eddie with disdain, as Eddie’s hands flopped in front of him. “Hi, I’m Eddie.”
“Showers for him,” Dr. Braun said, “middle line!”
“Good. Showers.” Eddie clapped and let out his strange squeaking cheer. “My Mutti’s going there.”
The young policeman with the clipboard beside Dr. Braun heard Eddie’s voice and suddenly turned around to look. It was Otto, who was now twenty-two years old.
Otto pulled Eddie aside. “Eddie?” he whispered.
Eddie, still fixated on looking for his mother, watched as the middle group walked down a long street to the brick building with the tall square smokestack that had flames rising from it.
“Eddie!” Otto said quietly again.
Eddie glanced at Otto. “Otto? Hi!” Eddie said, excitedly. “They brought you here, too?”
A short distance away, Dr. Braun pointed to Eddie and shouted. “I said showers for the idiot!”
Eddie looked at Dr. Braun. “I’m not an idiot. My mother has two smart sons.”
Dr. Braun rolled his eyes. “Middle line,” he said, jerking his head.
“I need a shower. Good, thank you. That train was dirty and smelly.”
Otto stepped up to the doctor. “What about your medical experiments? This one might be useful to you.”
Dr. Braun looked at Eddie, studying him. “Perhaps. Yes, okay,” he said, nodding.
Otto’s shoulders relaxed. He walked over and leaned in to Eddie and whispered, “Stay to the right.”
Eddie shook his head. “No, I want a shower, too.”
“It’s okay, Eddie. Stay to the right.”
Eddie shook his head. “No, I need a shower.”
“Do what I say, Eddie!” Otto ordered under his breath.
“Okay, Otto, okay.” Eddie said, finally giving in to his old friend.
Otto walked backward with Eddie, still directing other people to the lines. “Stay in line!” Otto yelled to the crowd. He turned to Eddie. “Where’s the rest of your family?”
“Hans is in England. He took a train. Not like our train, I hope. My Vati and Oma are dead. They are not coming back. They left Oma on the street. And my Mutti . . .” Eddie pointed to the gas chambers. “She’s taking a shower.” He frowned. “I wish I could.”
Otto’s eyes opened wide with horror. “Stay to the right, Eddie,” he said gruffly, pointing. “Do it for me!”
“Okay, Otto.” Eddie nodded and merged into the right line.
Otto hurried down the middle line, searching the faces as he passed until he got to a building with a sign over the door: “To the bath and disinfecting rooms. Cleanliness brings freedom, and one louse may kill you.” Otto did not get there in time to see Anna descend into the cellar.
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