Sympathy for the Torturer: (conclusion)
He saw the pitfall not in whether this, though it was hard to tell, required a “yes” or “no”. He had no reason to come to Mrs. Smithrow’s defense. He wouldn’t do it, to find himself challenged on this point at some later date. Which was too bad, another way Anton’s occupied country was being divided by the G.R.A., in that one must quell the impulse to be fair to a stranger.
“You would like to say we aren’t allowed to save lives. That’s what it comes down to, Anton.”
He had been walking, fingering out the remaining jam from the jar. He would have to go on carrying this glued, more or less, to his sticky hand. He’d darted away from washing in a public fountain, seeing an officer ride up on her motorbike.
As the gossip had it, the shortages were engineered fraud. Anton knew he thought, through the hours of his days, about food more than anything else. He knew Herward could make great strides meting out privilege; that to spurn comfort called for Palma’s sort of pride…and if he’d had that, she would have loved him better. Both their secret, shared nature, and the treats themselves induced in Anton willingness to yield. He had not been psychologically overmastered, shrunken to a state of docile stupidity, though he crawled for the G.R.A. He supposed it true of the others…they were all grown tired, downhearted.
But at the pit of its deadened spirit, the capital smoldered. Revolt still could spark. And Anton willed, now and again, to do a great act…to show his general up, make her sorry to have thought so little of him.
This depth of sadness had inspired his verses, made him write in anger, too, in grinding capitals. He felt the same fog encroach now, and had, ever since he’d resolved to finish the jam and not share it with her, Mrs. Leonhardt…and that had made him dwell again, on food.
And that was the ache.
He’d written none of his poetry, once coming under her roof. Why it troubled him, the ebbing of this gift that was not a gift, empty signals flashed at a blackened window…
He supposed his mother (she was not) would sneak, just as much as any prison guard, but thought she would not mock. He believed this of her. She liked him to be an artist…as though he were Anton. She would look at his private things, and that was a transgression. But she would not look probingly, for clues that he hadn’t given up resisting, as he knew the guards had done.
Down the coast. That must be the expression.
(copyright 2017 Stephanie Foster)