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Faigele the Idiotke A Story

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THE NAZIS were marching all over Europe and I could already see them crossing the Atlantic and capturing the Empire State Building or holding maneuvers in Central Park. “Manny,” my mother kept telling me, “join up with the Merchant Marines or get a job in a defense plant,” but I sat home, without taking a step or making a move. Phil was talking about going to New Orleans. We had both just finished high school and we knew that in a month or two we would be shipped off to the army. If only we had had ten more years to live, we both solemnly agreed, we would have been the greatest painters in the world. “One month,” Phil said, “gimme one month in New Orleans and then they can take me away.” He wanted me to go with him, but to tell the truth I had never been away from home even for a day and I was scared. New Orleans, it was like the end of the world. “Manny,” Phil said, “who knows where we’ll be in another three months. They’ll bury us both in Africa somewhere.” He was right, but I was still afraid to go. “Phil,” I said, “if you want to paint, you can paint in the Bronx too.” So he went by himself. And I sat home and didn’t say a word to anybody and every time I heard the air raid sirens wail I died a little. I could feel my heart contract and dig all the way down to my bowels, looking for some place to hide. It was no joke.

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