<%@LANGUAGE="JAVASCRIPT" CODEPAGE="1252"%> Little Fireworks
Chapter 4
Sonata in A Major, by Mozart

It was raining. They were all huddled in Bohr’s shed, looking at the music.“Sonata in A Major,” ThinMan read, “by Mozart.”

He had heard music by Mozart once, played on the violin. It was in the funeral chapel that time when they were burying Dr. Strathmann. He had to go with his Grandma.

“How did it sound?” Sugar wanted to know. “Chirpy,” said ThinMan, “but Grandma likes stuff like that.”

It was Animals’ opinion that music from that whole gang, Mozart and whoever all they were, was just cabbage anyway.

So they argued back and forth about it. ThinMan said, “Maybe the music is good and we just don’t understand it, because they never explain anything to us.”

“Exactly,” said Animal, “so it’s not a concern of ours. It’s their thing. They do it all for themselves, and they don’t even want us to understand it.”

“Nonsense,” ThinMan said, “that is exactly why we have to learn it.”

Animal laughed, “You! With a violin!” and he hopped around and drew a stick lightly across his outstretched arm.

“Did you know that Lenin, yes, Lenin, liked music like that?” ThinMan asked him. “Once he even stroked a young woman’s head, after she played the piano.”

“So,” Animal said, “and that woman was your Grandma, right?” ThinMan jumped on Animal and tore the stick from his hand.

But Phantom got in between them. “Stop it,” he said. “I liked that music, too, that Edith played.”

“Well look at that,” said Sugar, “and I suppose you want to stroke her on the head too?”

“Kiss my ass,” fumed Phantom, and he grabbed the music book and ran out.

On the way he ran into Sparks, who was headed over to the shed. Sparks asked, “What’s the matter?”

“A fight,” Phantom said. “Over Mozart.”

Sparks looked back at Phantom for a long time before he continued on his way. Then he shook his head and went on to Bohr’s shed.

Phantom ducked into Albert Siepmann’s shoemaker’s shop.

He hopped over the counter, pushed aside the curtain in front of the workshop area, and said hello. He sat down at the long low table which was black from shoemaker’s pitch and wax. That was where the little boxes were kept, full of nails and containers of glue, which smelled so sharp but good.

Albert Siepmann was sitting on a low stool in the work area. So was Jean the Frenchman.

Jean was a forced laborer, but for awhile now they had not made him return to the camp in the evenings. He lived in a little attic room at the Siepmanns’, and he was a good shoemaker. But the reason the Siepmanns treated him like a son was Christa.

Christa was the Siepmanns’ only child, and already thirty years old, and not married. She was slightly crippled – one of her legs was shorter than the other – and she had to walk with a cane. Well, Jean had understood the situation perfectly, and had cooperated. Now Christa hobbled around beaming. Sometimes she even wore flowers in her hair.

Of course everybody in the whole Quarter knew what was going on between the two. They were all glad about it, because earlier, Albert Siepmann had gone over to the other side.

At the beginning of ’40, he suddenly came home wearing the Party insignia on his jacket. He laid it all out: “Now it’s time to toe the line in this Quarter, we’re going to clear the whole pack of Communists out of here,” etc etc.

Benno Krach, who was Sparks’ father, was still alive then, and home on leave. He punched Albert Siepmann right in the mouth. There was a big fight.

The ladies had to hold Frieda Siepmann back. She was howling, “My man is a Nazi now, I’ll never live this down,” etc etc.

Of course Albert Siepmann could be very dangerous now, and they had to be careful around him. But then along came Jean and the situation had worked out to everybody’s advantage.

But one morning there was a note on the shoemaker’s table, and all it said was: 'My dear Frenchman darling.'

That same evening Albert Siepmann went over to the Spormanns’ place, and two windows got broken during the ensuing discussion.

The shoemaker calmed down after that. “He just wanted to provoke us,” Heini Spormann said, “But now he’s happy that the whole scene is over.” Despite that, mistrust remained.

But Jean could also play the violin, and it was for this reason that Phantom was sitting in the shoemaker’s shop, watching the two of them cobble shoes.

“You have something there with you,” Siepmann said. “Tell us what it is.”

Phantom tried to explain. “I have music by Mozart. I would like to try it on the harmonica, but I can’t read music. But Jean can,” etc etc.

Albert Siepmann hammered a sole onto a shoe and said, “There’s no reason I should let you toy around with me.”

But Jean interjected, “Music is a wonderful thing. Why shouldn’t people make music together?”

“I’m serious,” Phantom said.

“So am I,” said the shoemaker. “Do what you will, but not with our Jean.”

“Not with our Jean,” Phantom mocked. “Who buys rubbers for your Jean?”

Albert Siepmann jumped to his feet so fast that he knocked the stool over. It rolled away. He had his hammer in his hand. But Phantom just stood his ground, looking calmly at him. “Or is something already on the way?” Phantom asked.

The old man turned quite pale. He pulled the stool back over to himself with his foot, and sat back down. He said, “Suit yourself.”

They went upstairs to Jean’s room. Jean clapped Phantom on the shoulder, laughing.

He fumbled around in his pocket and pulled out two handrolled cigarettes. He licked them, and gave one to Phantom. They had a smoke.

Phantom had tried that for hours on end before, but the best he could manage was one cigarette, and that one looked lousy. “So how do you do that?” he asked. Jean pulled his tobacco and papers out of another pocket. He held the tobacco under Phantom’s nose, then twirled his fingers at lightning speed, and – presto! – there were two more finished cigarettes.

He pulled a chest out from under the bed and took a flask out, with brown schnaps in it. “Is that French cognac?” asked Phantom. Jean nodded yes. Phantom took a swallow, in deep awe.

Then Jean pulled his violin out of the wardrobe. He fiddled around a little bit, then played Before the Banks at the Great Gate and Everybody Ought to Play Piano. He danced around the room. “Now all we need is some girls,” he said. Phantom laughed.

Then they heard a noise, tup tup, on the steps. Jean ripped the flask out of Phantom’s hand.

He was just standing upright again when the door flew open. He had his violin under his arm, bow in hand, and Christa asked, “What kind of a spectacle are you making here? People outside are already gossiping,” etc etc.

“Cheri,” Jean began, and he put his arm around her, and nuzzled around a little bit in the hair at the back of her neck. He looked over her head at Phantom and made a face.

“We have to practice,” Phantom said.

Christa threw a hostile look at him. “And what do you have to practice for? And woe to you and your band if you have trouble in mind for Jean!”

“Oh, come on,” said Phantom, “we just want to play a little music.”

“You and music,” Christa hissed. But then she left. Jean looked astounded.

Then he opened the music book. “It’s for piano, not violin,” he said. But he began to play anyway.

“Yeah, something like that,” Phantom nodded.

He opened the little window and looked down at the street. It had stopped raining. The chimney swallows were swooping over the rooftops, calling. In Kleff’s yard next door the old Mr. Lattmann was sitting on a crate, pushing a little child’s wagon back and forth. He was talking to Else Kleff. She was shelling the pile of beans in her apron, dropping the finished ones into a bowl. A cry came from the child’s wagon.

Now the sun came out, and Kleff’s cat jumped up onto the seat next to Else.

Someone called from another window, “Special report, they’re about to issue a special report.” Neither of the two moved.

Paul Lattmann pointed to a bird, and made a cute expression and cooed at the baby in the wagon. The baby stopped crying. Now the only sound was the violin.

Something was in the air, and it had to do with the special report. This wasn’t just any report, so and so many thousand tons gross weight sunk etc etc. No, this was really something. Phantom could smell it. Even the chimney swallows stopped calling.

“Could you stop for a moment?” he asked Jean. Jean laid down the violin and came to the window.

After awhile they heard the flourish that always introduced a special report. Then came the high staccato voice of the speaker, but they couldn’t understand a word of it, because just then the baby and the chimney swallows all started crying again.

“Louder!” Phantom called.

Suddenly the Pumann’s brat appeared at the window directly across the street. “They killed him! Murdered Hitler! Hitler is dead!”

The baby kept crying. Else Kleff jumped to her feet and brushed all the beans out of her apron. “You better not be lying!” she cried.

Phantom turned around. His face had gone white. “The swine is dead,” he said, “the swine is dead.”

And they laughed, and threw their arms around each other, and danced around the room.

Phantom ran down the steps, over to the Krachs’ house. He threw the door open. Sparks’ mother was sitting at the table. There was important music coming from the radio. “Satan in the form of a man,” she said.

“What?” Phantom asked. “Isn’t he dead?” Lisbeth Krach shook her head. “Providence, or however they say it, has protected him again. Someone threw bombs at him.”

Phantom sat down. His knees shook. There was a monstrous rage rolling around in his stomach. “Still not dead,” he thought, “still not dead.”

And so thought everyone in the whole Quarter. It was evident that evening, as all the windows stood open. The usual dinner dish noises were hardly there. Nobody went to the window after the meal, the way most everybody usually did, to talk and laugh a little bit. It was very quiet everywhere. Only the locomotive hissed, loud and angry.

And then the Full Alarm sirens began to howl, and they moved, silently, with their packs and blankets, over to the bunker.

Phantom lay on a plank bed and stared at his blanket. There were a couple of women sitting on blankets and crates near him. It was his mother and several others, playing skat. A large mug full of hot brew with schnaps was going from hand to hand.

“What have you caught there?” asked Herta Ronsdorf. Phantom was sniffling and snuffling.

“My little man,” said Phantom’s mother to her son, “if we got as weepy as you do every time, why today we would all be bawling.” Now of course Anna Spormann was as disappointed as anybody, but yesterday she had gotten a bit of news. Heini Spormann had been taken to Buchenwald. And that, under the circumstances, was the best thing that could have happened. There were many of their own at Buchenwald. They had heard good things from there, how they were able to work together, and had contacts, even with people from the outside.

It was even good that they had come for Heini Spormann earlier, and not after today. There were always reprisals after things like this, and many of those arrested would wind up dead, like Sugar’s father that time.

Someone took Phantom by the arm. Phantom turned and saw Bernard Makevka, from the keg division.

Phantom jumped up from the bed and followed the tall invalid fellow to behind a concrete pillar. He said, “Phantom, you need to come alone, in half an hour, to passageway 3, by area F. We have something to talk to you about.”

When Phantom came back, his mother and the other women acted like nothing had happened. But awhile later, when Phantom stood up and said, “I’m going to go see how ThinMan is doing,” his mother said, “Be careful, young man.” She looked at him earnestly.

Passageway 3 ran between the security rooms for forced laborers and prisoners- of-war on one side, and the sanitation area on the other side. At the end of it there were railroad ties stacked up, and sawhorses, and kegs. Makevka was sitting on a crate, underneath a siren loudspeaker on the wall. His safety helmet was off, but still hanging from his neck. He was smoking. There was nobody around. He whispered anyway.

“Behind you in the passageway, where the trash heap starts, next to the barrel on the right, there’s a hole in the wall. Get in there.” He handed Phantom a flashlight.

Phantom felt his way between the barrels and the wall. He had to get on his knees. He crawled under the railroad ties, which formed a small passageway, carefully onward. The passageway took a turn to the left, then to the right, then another left. He could only see a couple of feet in front of him with the flashlight.

Then, suddenly, someone grabbed him. “Give me your hand,” someone whispered. He was pulled forward. They crawled further, and then the man shoved a wool blanket to the side.

There was a little space there, bounded by railroad ties on top of stacked-up sawhorses. Two kerosene lamps stood on a chest. There was a group of men sitting on blankets. Phantom recognized Stash and old Mr. Dautzenberg. The other faces were in the shadows.

“Piotr is still coming,” Stash said. “We’ll wait until then.”

“Take a look at that,” Phantom thought, “Stash is now the head of the Organization, that little Russkie.” Phantom was happy about that, because he liked the little Soviet officer quite a lot.

A bottle of schnaps made the rounds. Stash, who never drank schnaps, passed the bottle on to Phantom.

“Watch out, that’s pretty powerful spirits,” said Ewald Stumpe. Phantom recognized him by the little black patch that he wore where his nose used to be.

Then Piotr arrived, and said something in Russian to Stash. Then Stash began. “We shall have to reckon with arrests. It doesn’t matter that the attempt on Hitler’s life was made by others, others with whom we have no contact. They are on the other side, these militarists, at least most of them. They want to liquidate Hitler, but otherwise they want to carry on business as usual. Particularly against the Soviet Union.”

Stash spoke for a long time, and with difficulty, because he was speaking German. Phantom hardly understood anything he said. There were a lot of words he had never heard, and he didn’t know what they meant. That irritated him.

A couple of times before he had spoken about this with his father, and with Karlheinz. “We don’t know enough. You should just please explain a few more things to us.” So they tried. They said quite a bit more, but of course Phantom hardly understood any of it. “Later,” his father always said. “Then there will be school, and you’ll learn. You’ll know much more than we do.”

Stash was interrupted a couple of times. One asked this, the other asked that. Old Dautzenberg always had to put in his two cents’ worth. The old man was full of hot air, but as Phantom’s father had put it, he had an honest hide.

Stash said, “We will need to work more slowly now. Things are going quite well. The whole keg division is cooperating, and for this we have Mr. Dautzenberg to thank,” – the old man beamed as he heard this – “but things are bad at arc-welding.”

“But Hubert Klein is one of you,” said the short Mr. Pottmann to Dautzenberg, “so why isn’t that working?”

“A few shipments of parts destined for tanks have already been sabotaged,” Stash said. “We need to do more along these lines. More low-quality goods need to be coming from the other parts of the factory too, including the canister division,” etc etc.

“So why have you fetched me here?” Phantom asked in between. “There’s nothing I can do about this.”

“Your part comes later,” Stash said.

Then they talked about what to do concerning the coming wave of arrests. Stash said to Phantom, “What we need now is good hiding places. Undoubtedly there will be fugitives arriving from the outside. You should look for some places and get them ready.” Phantom also was to return to Judge Pahlmann and ask him if someone could be hidden at his house.

“I bet you can think of something,” Ewald Stumpe said. “You and your gang, the way you carry on in the Quarter, I bet you have enough hiding places.”

“We’ll see,” said Phantom. “It isn’t much.”

Awhile later, Phantom could play the theme to the Sonata in A Major, and two variations. Jean wanted of course to continue, but Phantom had had enough. Besides, the thing about finding hiding places was getting pressing.

On Saturday afternoon he went to the Pahlmanns’ house, carrying the music book.

They were sitting in the garden, having tea and cakes. Edith’s Grandma was visiting from Bavaria. So was an uncle, Hauptmann, who told stories about wonder weapons, and how they were going to hunt the Bolsheviks from here all the way to Siberia.

“Man,” Phantom thought to himself, “you just wait and see how they’re going to hunt you down. You just might make it to Siberia too.”

The judge sat there and said not a word. “Have you practiced diligently, then?” Edith asked.

“Come with me,” he said, “to the summer house out there, and I’ll play some for you.”

They ran under the trees and over the grass to the arbor at the back of Pahlmann Park. Phantom pulled his harmonica out of his pocket and began to play. Edith lay on the bench, hands behind her head, humming along.

Then the judge came slowly over the grass. “It sounds lovely,” he said. Then he asked, “Edith, would you please go run get my pipe?” After she was gone he said, “I’m being watched. I can’t take on any more. Our contact man in Berlin was arrested day before yesterday.” Phantom didn’t stop playing, but he nodded. Then Edith came back. She said, “Your pipe wasn’t over there. Maybe it’s upstairs in your room.” “Oh well, that’s all right,” her father said. “I smoke too much anyway.”

Phantom played tag with Edith for a little while. Then he said goodbye, shook everyone’s hand, Hauptmann said “Heil Hitler,” and Phantom departed.

He was glad to be back outside.

That evening at their meeting under the overpass he reported what had happened. He asked Stash, “What are we doing, fooling around with people like that, who sit around eating cakes and drinking tea and babbling about wonder weapons and how they will conquer the Soviet Union once more?”

Stash said, “They’re not all like that. There are differences among them, and the judge is a worthwhile man, democrat, patriot,” etc etc.

“Yeah right,” Phantom said. “With friends like that, how can anything ever go wrong?”

But Stash got very angry and told him he still had quite a lot to learn.

“First you need to learn German,” Phantom said. He had to duck fast because Stash took a swing at him. But then they both laughed. They smoked another cigarette apiece and then said, “Dosvidanye.”

Two nights later, in the bunker, Makevka reported that they had picked up Pahlmann.

The next morning Phantom went strolling down Bismarck St. All the curtains were closed at the Pahlmann residence. Someone told him that the wife and child had gone to stay with relatives, on an estate in Bavaria.

“We simply are going to have to spend some time finding hiding places,” Phantom said to the others.

They considered here and there. The entire Quarter was absolutely out of the question, because it was always where the first and most thorough searches were carried out. Bohr’s shed with the stalls and the hayloft was at most an emergency hiding place. So was the Niehus’ converted railway car, first class, with the underground tunnel under it.

The only place left was the cave. They were just going to have to occupy themselves with that. And they were going to have to do it sooner, and differently, from what they thought.