Some hours ago he had returned from the Russian prisoner-of-war camp. Half of the village, the mayor, the parish priest, the schoolmaster, and of course, the music band had gathered on the platform. He was one of the last to return. The grand old pigheaded mule had made it possible.
He had been listed as missing. Those who were members of the SS never come back, they had kept whispering. His wife had married another man long ago, had not wanted to wait any longer.
Among the small group of emaciated grey faces, even his mother did not recognize him. His clothes seemed to be of a size much too large. The lead had eaten into his lungs. And now he had come home at last. It was the American zone. He loved chewing-gum. It became a habit with him to pull the gum down to his feet and to fix it on the toe-caps of his boots. The children admired him for this; they were gazing at that stranger in amazement.
After all those speeches and bouquets and clinking glasses he was now allowed to rest on a real couch, that one with the dark red velvet cover in the living-room. As an exception, only on this special day. He had been dreaming of lying here during all the long years on the hard wooden pallets, if he was allowed to sleep on a pallet. Often it was only the bare ground in the pit, his arm served as his pillow. This couch did not prick him and it did not bite him; it smelled of a light fragrance of lavender, against the moths. He nestled in the soft upholstery. When he was a child, he had not had the opportunity to enjoy such delight, as in those days it had been reserved for Sunday visitors.
His mother bedded down his exhausted feet on the soft armrest, pushed the embroidered cushion under his head. Tucked him in her best woolen blanket. Now he had arrived, at last.
A blissful smile in his face. He did not tell them anything about the pit, and if he did, the children were sent out of the room.