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Hauptmann reconsidered.

So he sat in his cell, Bruno scraping scabs of paint off the walls and bars, endlessly picking green to get to grey underneath, covering himself with a dust of paint, inedible paint, lead paint, green paint, little scraps of paint.

When he slept he saw lines of little men, each chewing a pencil, each writing on his hand or a neighbor's, drawing ladders and babies, cockpits and white silk scarves. Bruno knew his prosecution, he read the daily news.

Bruno shook shards of paint onto the floor, gathered together all the green dust, like salt on the kitchen table, wasted for drawing hearts, animals with pointed ears, little stick figure men. Mutti smacked him and threw salt over her left shoulder, cursing her bad-luck boy. Bruno continued, drawing little men.

Bruno wrote to Mutti once, a little scrap of paper the guard showed the warden, who shook his head as he chose which lines to rule in black, which could travel home through the air. "Dear Mutti, Here in my cell I cannot hear even traffic, I can see for only seven hours a day. They don't like me, feed me no sausage, no spiced apples as you once cooked for Your tired son."

The blood-red ladder drips into someone else's drunken dreams, but Bruno awakens sober, to find no alcohol, no ladder, no file hidden in a birthday cake, no cake at all. This is freedom in this country, my country is this cell, I am bound hand to wall by little men, little pieces of wood, little scraps of paper.
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Author:Klein, P.H.
Publication:Chicago Review
Date:Jun 22, 1988
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