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Non-Fiction




Buenos Dias, Colombia (Not S Carolina!) by Randall Barfield First-hand comments/observations of the country today and other days (w... [18,298 words]
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Stars & Stripers
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Musings
The Drink!!!
The Lake
Leaving Home
When Dolls Talk
Modern Fables
Clara Barton

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TITLE (EDIT)
Stars & Stripers
DESCRIPTION
He was a tiny man with a scrapbook. He'd served as a reporter for Stars & Stripes during World War II. And he was one of the first inside Buchanwald. He carried his scrapbook under his arm and his story inside his head; a story that tormented his soul.
[1,081 words]
AUTHOR
Steven R. Kravsow
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
I have been writing for the past 10 years. I have written short stories, essays, Op-Ed pieces, magazine length articles, and 3 novels entitled, "The Acorn Academy," "Boneman," and "Puppet Boy." I am presently at work on my 4th novel entitled, "Square Pegs."
[February 2000]
AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (13)
A Better Place To Be (Short Stories) Bennie Dean is a tiny little man with a crooked little smile who marks the passage of his day following the rituals of breakfast, lunch, and dinner at a Continuing Care Center. But do not be sad for B... [788 words]
A Place To Stay (Short Stories) Arnie Westin was a con man-- a nickle and dimer always looking for the quick score. Arnie had a plan-- genious really. But Arnie is about to discover that you don't always get what you want. [5,217 words]
American Tale (Essays) "I stood behind the old man in the check-out line at the local convenience store. A navy blue Yankees hat covered a head of sparse gray hair. He carried an old framed photo which he proudly laid on to... [629 words]
Loonies (Short Stories) A car slowly gained on him. Soon it was even with Daniel's. It was a black sports model, low slung and powerful looking with black tinted glass and black sidewall tires. He looked over at the black ca... [4,959 words]
Photo Man (Non-fiction) I stood at the airport fence looking at a vintageB-24 Liberator. And then I saw the tiny little man. He wore his old Army Air Force fatigues, perfectly laundered and looking like it was still 1944. Hi... [2,560 words]
Play Ball: The Real Rite Of Spring (Essays) I love the spring. Wanna know why? Because spring is the time of year when good things begin to happen. And like anyone else, I like good things to happen. And if they happen to me, then so much the b... [917 words]
Riding The Line (Short Stories) Rosie McClusky loved to ride the bus, losing herself in the tapestry of the city. She loved the way it wound its way through the sleepy city early in the morning and she loved the way it meandered bac... [918 words]
Songs From My Attic (Essays) While rummaging through my attic, I discovered a box of old sheet music from the turn of the century. It painted a rich tapestry of who we were in the early 1900's, what we believed, and portrayed the... [1,878 words]
The Debunking The Dreaded Shopping Spree (Essays) The English language has approximately 500,000 words, and these words, in and of themselves, are quite benign.The other day that dreaded combination was uttered to me, and my life changed. I was heade... [1,715 words]
The Family Executioner (Non-fiction) In the early hours of December 11, something terrible happened. William Beadle, known to his friends and neighbors as an honest and forthright man, took an ax and hacked his wife and four children to... [4,795 words]
The Left Arm Of The Law (Short Stories) Charlie Underwood was a good cop. But sometimes even the best laid plans and a lifetime's work can disappear in the bl;inlk of an eye. And when that happens, a guy like Charlie Underwoord has to have ... [5,317 words]
The Tree House (Short Stories) When you're a kid growing up, there are always three rules you need to remember-- look both ways before crossing the road, keep your bike oiled and the tires filled, and watch out for the Shoots! Ever... [3,691 words]
Trading The Metal (Non-Fiction) "Today was a good day for me, or so I thought. I had traded in my aged 4-door Taurus, after bleeding it as dry as turnip blood on a stone. In its place stood a bright red beauty that was not only econ... [1,234 words]
Stars & Stripers
Steven R. Kravsow

I can still remember him. He was a tiny man, at least a head shorter than me and I stand well under six feet tall. He had a shock of snow white hair that reminded me of the flowing mane of Robert Frost. Liver spots covered arthritic hands that shook ever so slightly, and there was the persistent smell of alcohol on his breath. He wore a soft flannel shirt and a wrinkled pair of Khaki pants. Clinched carefully against his side was an old musty scrapbook.

"I'd really enjoy speaking to your class," he said.

I had met him a few years ago when he came to my school to do an article for the local newspaper. He had retired a few years before and he did this to keep his hand in the business, he'd said.

 
My class had just completed a unit on World War II and he had seen some of their reports on a bulletin board. It was then he told me about his scrapbook. He wanted to share it with my 8th graders; a piece of oral history.

He seemed a shy man. Quite different from what I would have expected an old newsman to be. He spoke haltingly and self consciously, no Walter Winchell type here, as he spoke of his background to the children. He had been a reporter with Stars & Stripes during the war, attached to Patton's 3rd Army.


He passed his scrapbook around the room and answered questions. He told a few stories and explained that the army newspaper worked much like a regular newspaper. He tried to tell them what it was like gathering stories and fighting in a war. They listened politely. Soon he finished and my students applauded.

When the class ended, he motioned for me to come closer.

"I want to thank you for letting me talk to the kids. I think they enjoyed it," he'd said, but it sounded more like a plea.

"I'm sure they did. That's a nice scrapbook you brought with you."

He waved a hand as if swatting at a fly.

"Yeah, it's what I did and I'm proud of it. But I have another story to tell and I didn't think I should tell it to a bunch of eighth graders."

He was breathing harder now; agitated. The smell of alcohol clung to his breath.

The death camps. Hitler's demented handiwork. The Final Solution. 'By Your Work You Shall Be Set Free.'

"You know, I was one of the first ones into Buchenwald. Went in on the third day," he panted. "We'd heard rumors you know-- about the camps. But we weren't prepared for what we found. I can still see it-- taste it..." He wiped a gnarled hand over his nose. "I can still smell it. Those bastards," he hissed.

I took him by the arm. "Do you want to sit down for a moment?" I asked. His complexion had turned ashen. I was afraid the frail little man might faint.

He shook his head, dismissing my question, unable to stop the memories flooding back.

"We went into the camp. It was horrible. The place was still crowded with inmates. Bodies were stacked everywhere. Our doctors and medics were working round the clock."

He grimaced. His bony knuckles shone through his mottled skin as he gripped his beloved scrapbook.

"They brought a few of us in. The locals had already been through the place by the time we'd gotten there. Said they didn't know anything about it. Jesus Christ, how could they miss it?" he hissed. "The smell was something awful. Never smelled anything like it! Don't ever want to again."

"Some of the locals committed suicide after they visited the camps, didn't they?" I asked.

"Yeah, they did, the good mayor and his wife, some townspeople, too. And it was too good for them, I tell you. I had all I could do to keep from killing a few of them myself."

His hands were trembling more now.

"They took us through the camp. The barracks. You should have seen them. They were these thin, drafty, rickety, wooden buildings with dirt floors and no insulation. Bunks on both walls, three high. They say that the barracks were originally designed to hold about 200 men. They said more like 500 men lived in each one."

The old man's eyes had taken on a far away look. He was back at Buchenwald again.

"Anyway, they took us into one building. It was like all the others except this one had a cellar. They brought us down there. The smell was terrible. The army'd cleared it out but our captain said the damned Nazis had stacked the dead down there because they were dying faster than they could get rid of them. We walked over to one of the end walls. It was lined with stones and a thin layer of cement had been applied to it." He waved his arms as if he was a laborer. "You know, almost like a plaster. I remember it was still white."

A shiver suddenly wracked the old man's body.

"I walked over to the wall and noticed that there were regular marks on it-- in pairs-- that went right up the wall until they reached the ceiling. They were more like discolorations than marks. They seemed so familiar yet I couldn't place them. I asked the captain what they were."

The was a long silence. He swallowed repeatedly before he could go on. When he did, his voice sounded strangled as it came out. Tears rolled slowly down his cheeks. He wiped at them with the backs of his hands.

"You know what'd made those marks? The captain said those were oil marks-- from the soles of the feet of the corpses that had been stacked up so tight that they'd left stains against the walls." He sighed. "They went all the way up to the ceiling. Must have been close to ten feet high."

"I see why you didn't want to tell that story to the students," I mumbled.

"I know. They're not ready to hear that. And I wasn't ready to see that."

He turned and started down the hallway, scrapbook under his arm. Suddenly he turned back.

"You know," he said in a voice barely a whisper. "That's why I drink."

He turned on his heel and shuffled out the door, into the daylight, into the clean air beyond.

 

READER'S REVIEWS (2)
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"Wow! ...and that's an understatement! It's written with such feeling. I truly enjoyed the history lesson it gave. Great work, Steven! " -- Tammy, VA.
"Totally riveting....it left me breathless. Wonderfully written." -- JT.

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE
© 1995 Steven R. Kravsow
STORYMANIA PUBLICATION DATE
March 2000
NUMBER OF TIMES TITLE VIEWED
2155
 

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