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12

The day Gus came running home from school snot-nosed and sniveling asking Ma whats a Jew, whats a damn Jew, those bastards on the Post Road were teasing him and Hank Diggles threw corncobs at him and everybody was laughing like they hated him, some of them he thought were his friends. And Ma was near to fainting, looking like a drowning woman, tied a scarf over her hair and ran to find Pa in the cemetery, stammering and panting for breath and it was the first time in memory hed seen her, his wife, this far from the house, outside in the cemetery where he was using a scythe on tall grasses and wild rose infesting a hillside, he was shocked how frightened she appeared, how disheveled, in her shapeless housedress and in fact her stockings were rolled down to her ankles, her legs were glaring-white and covered in fair brown hairs, fattish legs, and her face now was puffy, bloated, where once shed been a slender pretty girl smiling shyly in adoration of her schoolteacher husband and shed played Chopin, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, God how he had loved her!-and now this clumsy woman stammering broken English so that he had trouble figuring out what the hell she was saying, hed thought it might be those damn kids hiding behind the wall and tossing corncobs at the laundry on the line or at her and then he heard, he heard Jew Jew Jew he heard, and took hold of her shoulders and shook her telling her to shut her mouth and get back inside the house; and that evening when he saw Gus, who was ten years old at this time, fifth grade at the Milburn grammar school, Jacob Schwart slapped the boy open-handed across the face saying these words Gus would long recall as would his sister Rebecca standing close by:

Never say it.


| The Gravedigger`s Daughter | c