Issue 45, Winter 1968
“The kitchen and the restaurant are full of soldiers!”
“What kind? ... French? ... Krauts?”
“Krauts with an officer!”
“But who? ... which?”
“They’re coming up!”
It’s true, I open the door, I see them ... they create order . . . order! ... they clear the landing ... and our room ... and the toilet ... everybody out, let’s go! ... down the stairs! nobody left on our floor ... have they come to arrest me ? ... that’s my first idea ... I want to see that officer ... ah, here he comes! ... I know him! ... I know him well! ... it’s their Oberarzt Franz Traub ... head physician at their hospital ... I know him all right ... dressed ... fit to kill! ... dagger! sword belt, tunic. Iron Cross! ... gray pants, perfect crease ... cream-colored gloves ... dress uniform ... just to see me? hmmm! ... nobody left on the landing ... all cleared ... only his escort ... well, two, three squads, armed ... okay! ... I wait for him to say something ... he greets Lili, he takes off his cap, he bows ... he shakes hands with me ... I bring him into the room, I give him a chair ... Bebert has the other ... we have only two chairs ... Bebert’s great game is jumping from one chair to the other! ... Bebert gives the occupant a dirty look ... some nerve! That’s his opinion! I look at them, Oberarzt Traub and Bebert ... who’s going to speak first? ... as long as I’m the host, I start in ... I apologize for the poor reception ... our quarters ...etc. ... etc. ... he answers in French: “C’est la guerre!” and a gesture meaning to think nothing of it ... details! ... he sweeps them away ... introductory remarks ... okay, okay! ... but there’s one idea he hasn’t swept out of my head ... has he come to arrest me? that’s what I’m wondering ... and this deployment of police outside our door? ... that was how they operated when they arrested Menetrel ... a doctor and an escort ... Menetrel was a doctor too ... this one, Traub, is the cold type of German ... oh, of course he detests the French! ... like all the Boches ... no more, no less! We French are “special detestables” ... entitled to be specially detested by every Boche in the village! ... because we’re here! and we shouldn’t be! we’re compromising them!... they all listen in on Bibici ... all Siegmaringen! dong! dong! dong! Bibici tells them what to think! ... of us and Petain! ... our names, our places and dates of birth, our crimes! four, five times a day! and we should all be strung up! ... Petain first! next the French troops in Siegmaringen! ... three, four times a day they notified the real French! the ones we were expecting! the purest legions of the Underground! Brisson, Malraux, Robert Kemp, the colonels in Leclerc’s army ... that we hoodlums represented exactly what the real France detested most! and that they, the good Germans, should assassinate us, and right away! that we were taking advantage of their kind hearts! ... betraying them same as we had betrayed France! that we deserved no pity! ... exactly the opinion of my pirates on the rue Norvins ... who at that very moment were having the time of their lives wiping me out! ... the Bibici is the organ of Fualdes ... it plays while’ they murder! ... and the Boches fell for it! ... four, five broadcasts a day! ... they were waiting for Leclerc’s army with open arms! ah, we filthy, mangy, lazy devourers of Stam! their Stam! we’d see if the Senegalese didn’t make us vomit up their Stam! ... and our guts! ... and our blood! ... the gutters would be full of it! the honor of Siegmaringen avenged! ... and naturally Oberarzt Franz Traub tuned in on Bibici! ... Our professional relations had always been correct, no more ... he’d certainly get along better with theFifis ... he’d always refused me everything ... like Kleindienst ... sulphur ointment, mercury ointment, morphine . . . Leider! Leider! ... he was about my own age ... in his fifties ... I could stand on my head before he’d admit one of my patients to the hospital! He unloaded all my cases on the Fidelis, I’d find them all there plus his own! ... He’d admitted Corinne Luchaire after a terrible fuss and only on condition that she’d stay just long enough for an X-ray ... he was like all the rest ... he didn’t want the “liberators” to say he’d shown the slightest indulgence ...
But why now this plush-horse visit? ... creased pants and dagger! ... with his swastika? and all this escort? the whole landing full of them ... I didn’t get it ... finally he speaks up ... he starts in ...
“Colleague, I’ve come to ask you a favor ... ”
He speaks French without too much accent ... he’s crisp, succinct ... he explains that he has a patient ... a wounded German soldier ... who’s had an operation ... he’d like me to come and see him ... his wound ... a shell had blown off his penis ... that this wounded German soldier is a married man and he wants an artificial penis ... that these artificial penises are on sale, but only in France! ... only one manufacturer in all Europe! ... that he, Traub, could apply to Geneva, to the Red Cross ... but it would be much better if I were to write directly to Geneva ... allegedly! ... allegedly! ... for a wounded prisoner! ... because the Red Cross was Gaullist . . . the French prisoners were Gaullists! and I was another Gaullist! ... Well?
Certainly! ... We had a little laugh ... wasn’t it funny!. . . would I? ... of course I would! ...
Ah, but something else ... he had another reason for coming to see me! ... this is more delicate ... he hesitates ...
“Well, you see, I have notified Monsieur de Brinon that I am obliged to bar the Miliciens from the hospital ... ”
Why? ... because they defecated in the bathtubs! ... and wrote all over the walls in shit! ’for Adolf” ... Naturally Traub could understand that kind of thing! c’est la guerre! but the staff? ... the nurses? ...
“You understand, colleague, you do understand? u won’t do! . . . I’ve notified Monsieur dc Brinon . . .”
Oh, of course! . . . he had been perfectly right! . . . “Then you agree with me, colleague?”
Something else coming up! ... is he going to arrest me now? . . . make up his mind? . . . the Boches arc so mealymouthed, they’d introduce you to the guillotine ... “won’t you cut your little cigar? . . . licher Hcrr! . . . bitte schr! . . . help yourself! . . . the matches are over there!” No . . . it’s not the knife quite yet ... he wants to talk to me about de Brinon . . . his prostate . .. “Monsieur de Brinon came to see me the other day . , , he has difficulty m urinating . . . lie’s in pain . . . of course we could operate! . . . but here? . . . here? ... ” Brinon had come to me for advice, too . . . same answer as Traub ... “When you get back!” . . . how pleasant and practical it is to have a phrase that fixes everything . . . “When you get back!” we might as well be going back to the moon ... ! what were we going hack to anyway?
At that point Traub’s expression changes . , . suddenly . . . before my eyes ... he takes a different tone . . . he’d spoken rather lightly of de Brinon and the bathtub . . . now all of a sudden he’s talking very seriously ... still about prostates . . . but this time it’s his! ... his own prostate! . .. “Aren’t you a bit of a specialist?” . . . oh no! but I know something about it ... he’s been having trouble . .. he urinates frequently like Brinon . . . “how many times at night?” I ask him . .. “anti in the daytime?” . . . “five ... six times ... ”
“Would you examine me?”
“Certainly . . . please remove your trousers ... ”
He stands up, he goes to the door, he says three words to the sentries ... I can see that Lili’s presence embarrasses him . . . Lili goes to the door, too . . . “see that nobody comes in” . . . now he can take his pants off . . . there’s only the two of us ... and Bebert ... but he’s a man, too ... he relaxes ... he gets confidential! . . . he unloads . . , he confesses . . . he’s got plenty on his mind . . . plenty . . . his hospital is a hell! ... a battle, a free-for-all between the departments! the doctors, surgeons, and nuns! . . . they all hate each other, they accuse.they denounce! .... worse than with us! ... to see who could get who arrested 1 for everything! ... plots! buggery! black marketing! He confided in me, he had to get it off his chest ... it was no surprise to me ... go lift up the cover of the Kremlin . . . the House of Lords . . . the Figaro ... or I’ Humanité . . . any cover . . . salons . , . political parties, Castles . . . populaces ... back stages . . . monasteries . . . hospitals . . . you’ll be all worn out the way they denounce each other, get each other arrested, garrote each other, drive spikes under each other’s nails . . .
“You won’t speak of all this? . . . you promise, colleague?”
The tears came to Ins eyes . . . those people in the hospital! . . . he was sobbing! ... worse than the people in the Castle! “You won’t mention it to a soul?”
I swear! ... I double-swear! ... not a word! ... he wouldn’t ask for advice at the hospital . . . no, never! . . . but he could trust me? . . . ya! ya! ya! ... he tells me the whole story . . . he’d been to TÜbingen, he’d consulted a specialist, a Professor ... at the university ... in the Professor’s opinion his prostate was quite operable . . . sufficiently enlarged . . . but lie. Traub, didn’t consider himself operable at all! ... not at all! ... in fact he was scared shitless of being operated and admitted it ... yelled it in fact! . . . really afraid!. . . especially under the circumstances! so what about me? what did I think?