The Eighth Dwarf
that he was being robbed, but then his face had stretched into a wide, merry grin. Before the war the Estonian had been a lawyer, and he was, by nature, Bodden had decided, a very cheerful fellow. “This is my courtroom now,” he had once told Bodden, waving an arm grandly at the narrow black-market alley. “Do you enjoy my histrionics?”
    â€œVery much,” Bodden had said.
    Frau Eva Schoettle, landlady of the six-room, largely undamaged house where Bodden roomed, was a thirty-three-year-old widow whose husband had been either killed or captured at Stalingrad. Either way he was now of no use to her and her two children, and so she took in roomers, who paid their rent in potatoes or bread or eggs or vegetables or anything else that could be eaten.
    Frau Schoettle had twin dreads, one of them being that a British officer would suddenly appear at her door and requisition the house. The other was that her either dead or missing husband might someday return. She had never really liked Armin Schoettle, a big, coarse, loud, humorless man who, before the war, had been a contractor. Although he had built the house and had been reasonably good to their ten-year-old son and nine-year-old daughter, he had been a dull, indifferent lover with questionable personal habits. She had not seen him in four years now, or heard from him in three, and her memory of him had grown dim, almost nebulous. Her one vivid recollection of him was his underwear. She remembered that because he had never changed it more than twice a month. And his smell. She remembered that, too.
    By contrast, the printer was a skilled, inventive, even laughing lover with neat habits, and she had gone to bed with him three days after he had moved into the small back room on the third floor, the room that was almost a wardrobe. She lay beside Bodden now on the narrow bed, smoking one of his British cigarettes and thinking about what he had just told her—about his going back to Berlin the next day. She realized that she would miss him. She would miss his lovemaking, of course, but that wasn’t all. She would also miss those wry little jokes that he was always making. The printer was sometimes a very funny fellow. But then, a lot of Berliners were.
    She turned to him and smiled and said, “I’m going to miss you, printer.”
    â€œWill you miss me or the eggs I bring you?”
    â€œWhat else will you miss?”
    â€œThis,” she said, and reached for him. “I’ll miss this.”
    â€œAh, that,” he said, and reached for her cigarette. He put it out carefully in a tray. “Well, that particular item you may borrow one more time, provided, of course, that you return it in reasonably good shape.”
    As he made love to her for the second time that evening, she thought fleetingly of what she would have to do next. She would have to leave him and dress and then walk three kilometers to where the British Captain was billeted. For only a moment she thought of not telling the Captain, the one who was called Richards and who always smoked a pipe. She would let the printer go his way. What business was it of theirs? But no. She would tell them. If the printer left and she didn’t tell them, they would take away her house. Too bad, printer, she thought, and clutched him tightly to her.
    It was raining the next morning at 6:42 when Bodden boarded the crowded train to Hamburg. It was a cold, hard rain, and Bodden had been caught in it as he had walked from his rooming house to the Bahnhof. But then, so had the other fellow, he thought with a grin, the one who had fallen in behind him just as he had slipped out of Frau Schoettle’s house.
    The other fellow was a medium-sized, youngish man with yellow hair that flopped down over his eyes despite the cap that he wore. He looked well fed, or reasonably so, and Bodden wondered whether he was German or

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