Under the Desk The store is in the green little house across the road. The house has a side entrance to the basement, small stairs going down, it smells of shoe polish there, they sell kerosene, various brushes, some other things, I never looked too closely, on my mind was what I was to say and whether I had enough money. Once I was standing in line, and a man behind me asks, he speaks Russian not very well, but you can understand him – are you the doctor’s son? I say – yes. It’ good that he has come back. Tell him Olaf sends his greetings, he will remember me, I know. A gray haired, bent down old man, as tall as I am, maybe a little bit taller. Dad says – Olaf, thank God he is alive, I always believed justice would triumph. But he is not old, he is about forty five, like I am. If Olaf came back, then others may also return. What others? I have one more brother, Yulik, he was banished before the War, of course it was due to a mistake, and then the War started. Actually he was lucky, those who stayed here perished. The Jews? He thought some, says, no, not only the Jews. Why the Germans are mean? Hitler was mean, and the Germans are different, many were afraid. I have friends who are German, I studied there. Forget where you studied, dear doctor, says Gran, and forget about these friends too, they are no more any friends of ours. You are wrong, Dad disagrees. They started to argue, and I left, I have a little house of my own, under the new desk. Actually the desk is not new, but I have never seen a desk that big before, and I at once figured out what is the best thing about it. It has two solid sets of drawers, and there is nothing in between them, below is the parquet floor, above is the tabletop, and at the back the most important thing – the warm radiator of the central heating, and I would sit there, in my den. Look, Zina, the boy is growing positively unsocial, he made up a house for himself under the desk, says Gran, he has had a strictly home upbringing sure, but there is such thing as good measure, where are his friends? When he goes to school he will have both friends and enemies, and now let him sit awhile and think. What he has to think about, he is a child… Everyone has to do some thinking, says Dad, he comes home late, sits at his desk when I am in bed, and all the rest of the time the little house is mine. I was allowed to have a blanket there, and I sit in it, thinking. You’d better read some, says Mom, but I don’t like to read, I listen to her reading to me. No, I mean I do read, but little by little, I read half a page and think, imagining myself living there, on that island… It’s time you started reading yourself, Mom is not pleased about it. But reading myself takes too long. And I like to sit under the desk, thinking what is yet to happen to me.