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Mr. Birnbaum and His Family

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Existence

The unearthly footsteps are directly outside. I hold my withered breath. One second. Two Seconds. Three. Four. Five.

My name is Ruth Bernfeld, and I am 17 years old. I was born on the first of February in 1923. The year is 1942, and I do not exist- technically. I was forced into hiding when those Nazi pigs came into my town. I watch them march into Hamburg as if they own the place. I hear meticulous stories of what they have done- of what they are capable of doing.

I am startled by the alarming knock.

Mr. Birnbaum and his family are long time friends with my family. My family, however, now consists of only me. My father was shot brutally for speaking out, and my mother was transported to Krakow. Mr. Birnbaum vowed his life to my parents that he would protect me under whatever circumstance.

The deafening knock happens to be him, Mr. Birnbaum; I never quite know his first name. He comes bellowing to me in a rather rushing manner, “Ruth, you need to come with me now. Grab as many clothes as you can and come. Quick!” I scurry around my mouse-sized apartment grabbing any kind of loose fabric I can find, thrusting it into my suitcase. My hands sweat perfusely, and my heart pounds in my ears.I have no idea what I am doing, nor where I am going. Mr. Birnbaum seizes my arm, and we run … run until we tiredly collapsed in front of my apparent new home.

Mr. Birnbaum’s house is nothing special: two bedrooms with a queen-sized bed in each and walls painted a royal blue finish. The two bathrooms have a nice black and blue tile for the flooring. The kitchen is quite small but quite large compared to mine. A cream colored oven sits in the furthest corner from the entrance, and only seven brown cupboards line the yellow walls. The seventh cupboard is unusual. Inside that cupboard is a space I will call home for an unknown amount of time. Behind that innocent cupboard lies a small 4’ by 4’ by 4’ crawl space-enough to fit two people. Perfect. The walls are painted as red as the Devil’s skin, and the floor is tiled just as the bathroom. The room carries only one opklapbed, an easily folded up bed, for me to spend my miserable days and dreamy nights on. Breakfast is served at a brisk time of 7:00 AM every morning, except Sundays. Mr. Birnbaum departs for work every day except Sundays at 8 AM and does not return till 5 PM. He strictly forbids me to answer any doors during these hours. Mr. Birnbaum technically lives alone, so I must be very quiet- almost non-existent. Little does he know, I am good at being not existing.

I never knew what small was like until I lived here. Crammed into this compact space for nearly 15 hours a day makes me miss big. Imagine living in an enormous bubble, and the very next day being contained in a droplet of water. Living in that bubble is miserable. The nice thing about this whole adventure is Mr. Birnbaum always brings home the daily newspaper for me to read, so tI have something to look forward to every day. Every quiet night, Mr. Birnbaum and I tune into the BBC to gain knowledge of the devastating war. Because BBC is illegal, we keep the radio at almost no volume, so the neighbors do not hear. During these radio broadcasts, Mr. Birnbaum teaches me English every night; so I can understand the British commentators. He taught over in America before the war, so his English is far better than any of what I know.

I have come to observe this rather handsome, yet mysterious fellow from outside my window for the past two weeks. Every single morning at a brisk 8:30, he rides his bicycle alongside the canal toward the local bakery in a rushing manner. He is in the shop for a short ten minutes and returns with a sack. I do wonder what he has inside. Perhaps I could get Mr. Birnbaum to interrogate the man. After my father figure comes back from work, I ask him. Explaining to him how often this mysterious man has been doing this, I finally pose, “Do you think you could go and check it out on Sunday?” He acquiesces to my curiosity, and I gleam with happiness to hopefully solve my two week mystery. The next

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