The boy sat huddled
at a table in the library. Alone. The chair was too high and his legs dangled,
kicking at nothing. Bookshelves loomed over him, taller even than adults, as if
knowledge were on tiptoe, straining to appear intimidating. The book he read was
large and unwieldy and he had difficulty holding it while turning the pages.
word Treblinka alighted upon the boy’s brain like a dying butterfly.
Its sound fascinated him, and he mouthed the word over and over, committing it
to memory. The pages crawled with numbers and strange names, and these soon
became tiresome to the boy. He skipped through more rapidly and began to fidget.
He was about to put the book down when its first photograph flickered before
him. Only a soft whoosh of paper and light, but his world forever changed... The
photos were black and white, which triggered only a vague response in the boy
that meant it was long ago. Still, since it was photography, he also knew that
it did happen.
naked, rolled in languid somersaults before a bulldozer. Forms draped together
in an embrace more intimate than sex. A filigree of barbed wire rose against the
white stark sky. The trench gaped open, a muddy cunt, a lacerated womb begging
for its children to return. Angled haphazardly like letters exiled from the
alphabet, the swastikas were somehow primal and intriguing to the boy. The
guards and the guarded, all bore a certain awkwardness akin to what the boy knew
as shyness. A shyness before death. However, he saw no blush stain the colorless
photographs. No pink cheek. Or crimson blood. The pages slipped by, dreamlike,
filled with gauntness and chiaroscuro. Soldiers, officers, affected strange
graceless poses near the dead and naked. A boot tilted arrogantly, trouncing the
human mush. A rifle barrel was downcast, afraid to raise its glance.
woman sat down across the room from the boy, and beneath the table he saw the
twin shapes of her bare legs. He was still too young for unambiguous sexual
desire but felt inside himself a stirring, a prophetic yearning that seemed to
say: “Someday I will desire that.” And he longed to feel that future desire.
The boy wanted to see her thin legs in black and white, in the mud of Treblinka,
and to touch them softly without shyness or embarrassment, to press her flesh
with a fingertip and shiver with relief at her warmth. He flipped through the
book’s pages until he found a pair of limbs that matched the woman’s. The
boy peered across the room and compared them to the real thing. A tiny erection
sprouted in his jeans. The heap of death in the photograph overpowered him with
an intense horror that went straight to his groin and stayed there.
Throbbing. The boy grew dizzy and closed the book. His eyes swirled with
tears and the room seemed without color.
later, the boy’s silent mother arrived at his table. She picked up the book,
read the back of it, and slapped him lightly across the cheek. He came to his
senses with regret. As she dragged him off his chair, the boy looked frantically
for a final glimpse of legs. But there was no woman anymore. There was nothing
© 2002 Jason DeBoer