Lucienne would tell the story tonight, Harry thought.
She would tell the story soon. The da Costas had never heard it. She had been waiting, as she always did, for the quiet moment, the calm place, the inviting question, and the turning point in a growing intimacy.
Harry had heard the story scores of times. He had heard it in Yiddish and in French and occasionally in Spanish. Mostly, though, she told it in her lightly accented English.
Whatever language she employed, the nouns were unadorned, the syntax plain, the vocabulary undemanding: not a word that couldn’t be understood by children, though she never told the story to children, unless you counted Miriam.
He could tell the thing himself, in any of her tongues.
I was four. The Nazis had taken over. We were desperate to escape.
My father went out every morning—to stand in line at one place or another, to try to pay the right person.
That morning—he took my brother with him. My brother was twelve. They went to one office and were on their way to a second. Soldiers in helmets grabbed my father. My brother saw the truck then, and the people on it, crying. The soldiers pushed my father toward the truck. “And your son, too.” One of them took my brother by the sleeve of his coat.
My father stopped then. The soldier kept yanking him. “Son?” my father said. “That kid isn’t my son. I don’t even know him.” The German still held on to my brother. My father turned away from them both and started walking again toward the truck. My brother saw one shoulder lift in a shrug. He heard his voice. “Some goy,” my father said.
So they let my brother go. He came running home, and he showed us the ripped place on his sleeve where they had held him. We managed to get out that night. We went to Holland and got on a boat for Argentina.
Excerpted from “The Story” from Binocular Vision: New & Selected Stories Copyright © 2011 by Edith Pearlman. Used by permission of Lookout Books, an imprint of the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina Wilmington. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.