The refuge of the dream! There are two types of dreams, the genuine dream and the waking dream. It is doubtful which of the two is the most dangerous in war.
When you have the MG halfway together and then want to put the bolt action in place, it sometimes happens that it simply will not go. It is remarkable that there are people who can succeed at something on the first try, and always be successful from then on. It was not that Masold didn’t have any technical understanding, oh no. As a young boy he had tinkered around, even built detection devices, but he was not any good with the MG. He could not stand the thing since training. He had always shot poorly with it and that irritated him. The MG didn’t like him.
He held the bolt action in his hand, a long, thin piece of iron with grooves, with slides like blades, and he dreamed. The MG lay on the wooden bench in the poor room and gleamed bluish black. It grinned scornfully. The cover, the final piece, lay nearby. It was reassuring when the cover was set in place and snapped together. Masold wiped forlornly with an oily rag over the finished piece and hoped that Blessing would inspect it after him.
Outside a dredger was running, no, that was motor noise. Were our panzers leaving already? The noise sounded threatening. Something was not right. Ach—Blessing will come and get me.—
The friendship with Blessing was young, young like everything that had to do with Blessing, not yet a year old. It began in the supply convoy on the joint trip to Russia; but Blessing already had countless battles behind him, in the short time before he had been assigned to Jöckels crew. Masold had dragged himself along from repair shop to repair shop with Jöckel’s panzer. So Blessing had experience at the front, ach—he had far more than that. He had the flexibility of youth, the courage and the carefree ways.
Even Blessing had his problems, you could find even him brooding or dreaming: about Eva, the girl that he loved and that didn’t want to take him seriously. His merchant profession: goods manager. Music: melodies were always playing in Blessings head, even a few he had written himself. There was still one other point about Blessing, which he only hinted at in his words. His brother Joachim appeared to be in a sanatorium, and when Blessings thoughts went into this shadow, his countenance darkened and his glowing eyes lost their shine.
Masold dreamed while awake; he completely pushed back his awareness of being in a war, and the world that he had left behind opened before him as if from behind a curtain. It was the world of his parent’s house, that of his father, who was now almost always alone, hard-working and without great profit, in the foundry business—his mother, who, bowed and strangely stiffened during the war years, cared for the household. A household that was almost still the same as it had been a hundred years ago.
Today was the ninth of March, his father’s birthday. They would celebrate in a skimping way and speak of me. Mother would remember for a moment the time when I told her that I wanted to marry Bergise, a dancer; a ballet dancer. Her son, educated in the best school in the land, and sent with great sacrifice through the crisis years to the university—her son and a ballerina!
Again he heard the strange threatening noise of motor engines. A background feeling of uneasiness brought him back to the present moment. That was no dredger behind the forest. The Russians were coming from behind the forest. That meant . . .
But the image of Bergise was stronger than the signal of danger. Bergise—to just have a glimpse of the girl , her clear profile, her eyes, the touch of her firm hands, and his fear was gone—his fear, that didn’t want to exist here in this life.
Bergise, oh if only they had remained engaged! When he had introduced the girl to his mother for the first time, he noticed very well the steel hard look in his mother’s gray eyes and knew from that moment on that she hated the girl. And when he had spoken to her again and told her that the engagement was off, she remained silent. Once more he was her son, and lived in the room next to his parents, and she knew almost everything that he did and said. From time to time he asked himself why she had remained silent. Did she think differently about Bergise now?
The peaceful monotonous life with his parents. His friends, Valmeer and de Boni, artists to whom he was magically attracted. His job, empty and hollow to him like a mask laid to the side and left at home. All the troubles of getting permits from the city council now appeared meaningless, ridiculous, and pedantic to him. And he himself? Unready, unripe, naked. Who was he anyway? Perhaps the war was the best opportunity to see who he really was.