Fearless Rudy | Teen Ink

Fearless Rudy

August 3, 2014
By IngeniousTurtle BRONZE, New York, New York
IngeniousTurtle BRONZE, New York, New York
4 articles 0 photos 10 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world." -Albert Einstein

January 27, 1947
Nazi Germany

They never saw it coming. The Americans bombed the Wilhelmshaven Port and the buildings surrounding it. No one within direct reach of the bomb survived. Deep in the wreckage, a young man called Rudy Neumann remembered...

January 23, 1937
Nazi Germany

I crouch, shifting from side to side on the balls of my feet. My team, Tommy, Fritz, Hans, and Josef try to subdue the other players, but one breaks away from the others. He sprints towards me. I brace myself and cover the goal. He pulls his foot back, and…

“Rudy Neumann!” My mother cries from inside the house. Everyone turns to look at the window from which my mother’s angry face protrudes. I sigh and stand up fully.
“What, Mama?” I ask, knowing the answer won’t be good. She glares at me.
“Don’t ‘what mama’ me. I knew the school remembered to send this to us!” Mama thrusts something out the window. A letter. Oh, no… my report.
“What is that, Mama?” I try to sound innocent, but she sees right through me.
“Don’t even try... I found it in your desk! Get in here. Now!” she yells.
“Yes, Mama.” I shuffle to my steps. Behind me, the boys unfreeze and the game begins again. The door creaks behind me. As soon as it shuts, Mama appears and yanks me into the kitchen.
“Sit!” she barks, and I plop down in one of the rickety chairs at the table.
“Mama, I’m sorry-” I start.
“Quiet! Wait until Papa comes home!” Mama glares at me and starts to cut a tomato. He’s not my papa. I want to say, but I think again when I see the cleaver she clutches. Thock, thock, thock, goes the knife on the thick wooden board. I bet she wishes that was my head. Just then, an angry man opens the door--my “Papa”, as he forces me to call him. With him is Johann, my oldest brother. “Papa” starts over to me and Johann makes a move to follow. Papa smacks him away with his huge paw.
“What is this about Rudy hiding something!?” he yells. Papa’s face is as red as the tomato that Mama is chopping. She looks up from the knife and passes him the envelope. He squints at it.
“Was ist das, Idiot Junge!?” When I don’t answer, he repeats himself. “What is it, idiot boy!?” I still ignore him. Papa bends down toward me, and Mama turns around. She squeezes my shoulder and her long fingernails puncture my shirt.
“Tell him, Rudy!” she commands me. I look away and she forces me to look at Papa, her yellowish eyes narrowing. Mama picks up the cleaver and waves it in my face. It slices through the air, dangerously close to my nose.
“Okay, okay. I’ll tell him!” I shout. She squints suspiciously at me.
“You better.” she says. I sigh.
“I hid my report, Papa… um, sir.” I duck, dodging for the inevitable blow. And it works, the knife whistles over my head. With a roar, Papa retrieves it, and swings it at me. I leap up and the blade misses me… but the flat side smacks the side of my head. The world sways, but I remain standing, bracing myself. He takes the handle of the blade and slams it into my temple. Then everything goes black.

I wake. Papa is holding my report and grinning maniacally at me. My heart sinks.
“Want to see your grades?” he taunts, holding them out to me. I swallow and take it from him. I stare at the paper. Mangelhaft, mangelhaft, manglehaft… the letters blur on the page. I put it on the table and back up slowly. Then I run up to my room and bury my head in the sheets. Two of my younger brothers, the twins Kristof and Max, stare at me, but I ignore them. I sob into the blankets, trying to stop my tears. Finally, the crying slows. I sit up and wipe my face while my siblings watch me. Suddenly, I’m angry.
“Get away!” I yell at them. They run out of the room and a wave of guilt washes over me. I used to never get mad at them before “Papa” came. I need to leave. The thought that has been pounding in my head for months finally works its way out. I need to leave… leave… leave… the word forces itself out of my mouth.
“Leave.” Maybe I could. Why wouldn’t I? I wouldn’t miss anything, and it would be better without me. But what about Max and Kristof? Without me to beat, “Papa” would hurt them. Either them or Mama. Both would be horrible… worse than being hurt myself. I can’t leave, I can’t. I huddle under the covers. I can’t. The tears return. I can’t… I can’t… I can’t… I… Blackness replaces the edges of my vision, and I fall into it. It consumes my eyes, and I fall into the inky darkness of sleep.
I wake to harsh knocking on the door. My brothers next to me stir, but none of them get up. The sky outside is jet-black. Who would be here at this hour? I roll onto my side. The knocking increases in volume. I sigh and slide off the bed I share with my three brothers. The floor in our house creaks, but I know all the right places to step. Slipping out of the doorway, I creep through the hallway and down the stairs. I draw the curtains on the door and face that I can only describe as ‘authoritative’ greets me. A Nazi. I register the huge gun on his shoulder.
“Open up, boy!” he commands. I freeze.
“Yes, sir!” My heart feels like it’s beating out of my chest. What does he want with us? I pull the door open. Just then, Mama and Papa come in.
“What is the meaning of this, Rudy!?” Mama cries. Her eyes widen at the sight of the Nazi, and she grasps the side of the counter. For a brief second, Papa looks furious. Then he smiles at the soldier.
“Rose!” he hisses at her. Mama seems to remember her place and lets go of the counter.
“Would you like some tea?” she asks. The Nazi pushes through the doorway, his huge frame almost not fitting.
“Where is your bathroom?” he growls. I almost laugh. He just wants to pee!
“Around the corner-” Mama starts.Then, he continues.
“I need to speak to… Günther Neumann. Very important.” That’s Papa’s name. The Nazi lumbers off to the bathroom. Then Papa strikes.
“What did you do, you evil Saukerl?!” he yells. Papa grabs a knife from the table. He leaps at me, and I dart away. The knife is implanted in the table--that should have been my chest. It shudders in the wood.
“Nothing, I swear!” I cry. He glares at me and wrenches the knife from the table.
“Liar.” Papa springs at me, knife in hand. I dive away and trip on a broken floorboard. He towers over me, ready to attack. Papa pulls the weapon back, and I realize he doesn’t just intend to hurt me--he wants to kill. The knife flies towards my chest, and every instinct tells me to close my eyes. I refuse, I will go out fighting. I take what I think will be my last breath.
“Günther!” Mama shouts. She grabs his arm. He glares at her, and smacks her hand away. She draws back... and I know. He has hit her before. Suddenly, all my fear turns to anger. I leap up and ready my fists.
“Ha!” he laughs coldly. “What are you going to do, tap me?” In response, I pull back my arm. He’s still laughing. That just makes me angrier. His laughter seems to echo in my ears, and I remember all the times he’s hurt me and my family. My arm feels like a spring, ready to release. And I release.
It’s been years, but I remember exactly what his face looked like when my punch hit him, but it’s hard to tell what the expression was. Sadness, maybe? No. Surprise. Yes, surprise. But not just that. Surprise, and anger, and one more thing. This was the hardest to recognize. Underneath all that meanness, all that rage… regret.
I hit him, and his face twists. His mouth opens to say something, but, in a second, I’ve knocked him down. He tries to escape, but I hold him on the floor. I slam my fists into his mouth. Blood flows underneath my punches. A red haze obscures my vision. I smash his nose, and the bone splinters. He moans, but refuses to stop fighting.
“Let go of me--I’m your father!” he manages. All at once, I stop.
“You’ll never be my father.” I ready my fists again. Blood spurts from his face.
“Well, your father wouldn’t want-this--” I’m about to smash him again, but his words stop me. Would Papa-my real papa-have wanted this? He was a peaceful man, my father. Suddenly, taking advantage of my hesitation, he yanks himself away from me and stands up. I scramble to get on my feet. He grabs a knife and hurls it at me. I duck. It smacks the wall behind me. Günther dives at my feet and I fall to the ground. My head snaps back on the wooden floorboards. He pins my arms to the ground.
“Poor Rudy… always so weak.” he smirks. My only chance of survival is the knife he threw before. I glance at it and he follows my gaze. In a flash, he’s grabbed it and slashes my shirt. Underneath, deep cuts form a pattern on my chest. More cuts, and more pain. I think of Kristof and Max and Mama. What will they do without me? Behind him, I think I see a blurry figure. I close my eyes. Gunther pulls back the knife. I brace myself. Suddenly, he freezes. He staggers and collapses on me, a deadweight. I can barely see the red hole in his back. A bullet wound. A figure lifts him off me. Not Mama… a tall figure. The Nazi. He picks me up easily and carries me to the table. I hear a stove turning on… a flash of light. Then, the Nazi. He’s carrying something… he speaks. An almost-kind voice.
“Brace yourself.” Somewhere deep in my mind, I wonder for what. Then I can see what he’s holding. A glowing knife, hot from the fire. A split second before it happens, my mind registers what he’s doing. I can see him insert the knife into one of my cuts. Then, just pain.
I remember flashes of consciousness. My brothers huddled around me. Mama sitting by my bedside, holding my hand. But mostly just pain. Pain.
When I next awake, I am splayed out on my brother-free bed. The sun is out, and it filters in through the window. I move to get up. Then my whole world splits open with pain. So much pain. I feel as if my chest is being sliced open again. I sink back onto the bed, and give myself up to the pain.
I open my eyes. It’s dark, very dark. In the next room, I can hear my brothers. Without thinking, I sit up. My head throbs. The room spins around me. I fight to keep consciousness. I lose that battle.
I awake to music. Someone outside is playing the accordion. I’m about to sit up, when I remember why I hurt so much. Slowly, testing my arms and legs, I sit. The world spins, and I close my eyes. I stand and grope for the windowsill. Opening my eyes, I see children playing with a ball on the street. Somehow, I do not think I am a child any more. I hear a creak from behind me. Mama. I turn, and she takes me into her arms. I am about to return the embrace when I remember all the times she’s hurt me. It’s a flood of terrible memories, and it overcomes any loving feelings I may have had for her. I hug her stiffly.

She notices and draws back a little.
“Rudy…” she looks like she wants to say something, but holds it back. “Officer Mueller said you had to come to his office as soon as you were better.” I nod.
“How long have I been…?”
“Four or so days,” she tells me. “Anyhow, we better get you ready. If you’re going to the German office, you have to look at least presentable.” Mama says with a touch of her old briskness. She opens my drawers and closes them immediately.
“Wait here.” she commands me. Mama returns in a moment with a crisp looking button-down shirt.
“Should I put it on now?” I ask. She shakes her head.
“Wash up. I think I have enough time to sew a swastika on the sleeve. You’ll look like a real soldier!” she fakes a smile.
“Why would I want to look like a Nazi soldier?!” I say angrily. “Papa and Jens were soldiers, and they’re dead!” Mama rushes to the window and closes it.
“Never say that!” she hisses. I know she’s right. “Now go wash up!”
After taking a bath downstairs, I brush my hair in front of the mirror. Well, the mirror is just a piece of metal that I shine every day, but you can still see yourself in it. I stare back at that unfamiliar face, covered in scratches and cuts. The only thing that’s the same is my hair. On an impulse, I reach for the knife I have next to the sink (I use it to carve grime out of the mirror.) carefully, I shear off my shaggy hair. It falls in neat clumps on the ground. Within minutes, I look like my brother, Jens. I walk into the kitchen, and Mama hands me the shirt. I button it. The rough material scratches my chest. Mama stares at my hair, but doesn’t say anything.
As I walk down the road, people stare at my cuts and bruises.
“Hey, wanna play a game-” Tommy starts. Then he sees my face. “Never mind.” I’m grateful for the thick doors of Officer Mueller’s office that shut me off from the public. I wait in a brightly lit room. A woman with blond hair and a kind face greets me.
“Hello, are you…” she checks a piece of paper. “Rudy?” I swallow and nod. For some reason, I’m nervous.
“Yes, ma’am.”
“Gut. Good. By the way, I’m Selma,” she says. “Follow me.” I walk behind her into Officer Mueller’s office. She ushers me to a chair in the corner, and I sit down. I’m surprised by the seat. It’s a soft cushion that makes me want to fall asleep. The softest thing in our house is Gunther’s pillow. He bought it with our food money for the week, and none of us were allowed to sit on it.
“Can I get you anything?” she asks. “Tea? Lemonade?”
“Um… lemonade would be nice.” I say. I’ve never actually had lemonade, but I’ve seen rich kids like Tommy drink it after games. She returns with a glass of yellow liquid. I pick it up and sip it. It makes my lips pucker. The woman-Selma-sees my expression and laughs.
“Wait.” she says. Selma comes back with a bowl of sugar. She takes a couple spoonfuls and dumps them in the lemonade. “Now try it.” she tells me. I do. The lemony taste is still there, but fainter. It’s sweeter now, like the candies Mama gives us on our birthdays. She comes back with a plate of small cakes.
“The officer’s last,” she puts a finger to her lips. “Don’t tell him!” I smile and nod. Sinking back into the chair, I spot a bowl of peppermints. Unwrapping one, I put it in my mouth. Just like Papa -my real papa- used to buy for us.
Just then, Officer Mueller comes in from the closed door. With him is a man with a hawk nose and no smile.
“Thank you, sir. My assistant will see you out.” he says. The man just glares at him. Officer Mueller sees me and smiles.
“Hello, Rudy. I see Selma has been at work again!” he says, looking at my cakes. “Come in.” I get up and follow him into his office. There was a new looking desk on the side, and some chairs in front of it. Officer Mueller lowers himself into the chair.
“Sit down, Rudy.” he tells me.
“Yes, sir.” I obey him. He smiles.
“No reason to call me sir.” Mueller says. I trust him.
“Yes, sir--I mean, yes, Officer Mueller.” I stammer, wondering what I have done to receive such special treatment from such a high ranked officer. He looks at me, and the grin fades from his face.
“How are your wounds?”
“They’re fine.” I respond. Although I trust Officer Mueller, I do not want him to know of my fragile state.
“Great,” Mueller looks at me and pauses. “Do you know who that man was?” he asks. I frown.
“What man?”
“The man who just left. Do you know who he was?”
“No, Officer.” I say. Mueller leans slightly towards me.
“He was the head of army recruitment, Herr Ackermann.” he tells me.
“Why was he mad?” I ask, still not seeing why I need to know this. Mueller runs his fingers through his hair.
“I came up short in recruitment. Only by three or four, but enough to get him angry. I’ve rounded up all… but one. Your father--” Out of habit, I say,
“He wasn’t my father.” Mueller gives me a sharp look, and I remember that he isn’t my personal friend, he’s an officer. “Sorry, sir.”
“Anyway, your guardian was going to be the last one on my list. And I need a replacement.” I’m still confused.
“Why do you need me?” I ask. He looks at me sadly.
“We need someone from every family, Rudy… so we have to take your brother.” Mueller looks guilty. The realization hits me all at once.
“No!” I shout. I don’t care that Mueller’s an officer, this isn’t fair. “No!” I yell again. The Nazis have taken my father, Jens, and Johann!
“Look,” Mueller tells me. His eyes are full of sympathy. “I understand. He’s your brother, and you don’t want him to go. But both he and you have a duty to the country--”
“No, you don’t understand!” I shout. “You can’t steal him from me. You took Papa and Jens. You’ve left me and my family to rot without so much as an apology! I was almost killed… and you and your stupid country was the cause. Don’t say you understand, because you don’t! You will never understand, you hear me? You. Will. Never. Understand. I don’t care about my “duty” to the “country”. That duty got most of my family killed, and I’m not going to sacrifice the rest because of your stupid duty!” I realize I’m standing up. Mueller stares at me. His kind face is frozen. Suddenly, it shifts to a look I know so well. Contempt. He stands, and his icy gaze is raised to a figure in the doorway. I turn, and my breath catches in my throat. It’s the man from before… Herr Ackermann.
“Hello,” he says snidely. “You must be Rudy.” Suddenly, all my confidence is gone.
“Yes, sir.” I tremble.
“Well, Rudy, I’m going to give you a choice.” he smirks at me. “We bring you back to your house and tell your family what you have said. Then, we burn it.”
“No!” I shout. “Please, no! I’ll do anything you say.” He raises an eyebrow mockingly.
“Yes. Just don’t hurt my family.” I plead. Ackermann smiles.
“Well, then…” he produces a pad of paper from his pocket. “Just sign here and we’ll be done.”
I can barely see the piece of paper. The words enlistment and forty years pop out at me. The room is a blur. Slowly, I pick up a pen from the desk. With a trembling hand, I sign it.
Rudy Neumann, Age 11--January 27, 1937.

January 27, 1947
Nazi Germany
10 Years After
“Hold on!” a rescue worker grabbed the man and dragged him into the open. All around him, corpses stared with unseeing eyes. “It’s gonna be okay,” one of his rescuers said. Rudy laughed, a weak chuckle.
“I’m too far gone,” he told them. He coughed. Blood flowed from his chest and limbs. “Tell Mama and my brothers I love them.” The rescuers rushed around him.
“Please, sir--” one lady asked.
“No.” the man interrupted her. “It’s too late.” He was right. The light in his eyes started to fade.“Tell them I have no regrets.” There was a silence, mourning for the man that no one knew.
Then one of the rescuers pulled a sheet over him. After a moment, the others lifted his body. As the warmth left him, his soul sighed. And for the first time in his life, Rudy Neumann was at peace.

The author's comments:
I wrote this when I was 11 years old for a Social Studies/English class, when I read "The Book Thief". Sorry if the translations are wrong--I got them from Google Translate.

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