Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Working Behind the Scenes: A Dream

He dreamed he was back in his childhood in the little town of his birth. He was a child about seven years old, walking into the country with his father on the evening of a holiday. He was walking with his father past a tavern on the way to a graveyard; he was holding his father's hand and looking with dread at the tavern. A peculiar circumstance attracted his attention: there seemed to be some kind of festivity going on, there were crowds of gaily dressed townspeople, peasant women, their husbands, and riff-raff, mysterious riffraff of all sorts, all singing and all more or less drunk.

Hideously masked or painted out of all semblance of humanity, they had tramped out a strange limping dance round the square; round and again, singing as they went, round and round--faster and faster, so fast that it finally sounded like a stampede of wild horses, and all of a sudden, in the middle of it several voices cried out:

"Men to the left! Women to the right!" ". . . clear this out now!" They shouted again: "Get out!" "Right or left, or in any direction."

Two lines were forming. An elderly woman shouted something in German. I failed to understand.

"Rascher! Nochmals von vorn anfangen! . . . " A surge of attention, unspoken, identifiable only in a certain convergence of stillness, an inward tensing.

I had not had time to think, but already I felt the pressure of my father's hand: we were alone.
"Come along, come along!" said his father.

What was happening? What on earth were they doing? Who are the people working behind the scenes?

"Abba, Father, what are they doing? Why won't you look at me, why won't you explain what is happening?"

"They are drunk . . . They are brutal . . . It's not our business!" said his father.

I went on walking. My father held onto my hand. Behind me, an old man fell to the ground and was then beaten over the head. Through all my limbs a shudder ran.

Time was running out.

The boy put his arms round his father but he felt choked, choked.

His father said: "Look, we have reached the boundary-we must part now; you must not accompany me any further-go back!"

"What would happen if I followed?" asked the child, looking round at the horizon that was clear.

There was a silence.

At that instant his father paused to look: with a sudden recollection, or by an impulse, he shook his head and glanced at his son with deep, tragically knowing eyes and--and--walked on into the distance, the far distance--and at this point slowly vanished, a remote and isolated figure, a dark blur on the very edge of the horizon.

It came at last to this--

A minute later the square was empty, only the boy remained, alone and forsaken in the world a sole survivor and an empty shell.

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