Our work was nearly finished at the old home that was being remodeled after the war. We stood out in the street looking at the work and estimating how long finishing would take us.
Erwin said, “I would estimate that finishing up should take us no more than and hour or so.”
I was concerned, “What would we do about finishing this house if Bill came for us this evening?”
“What would we do? What do you mean? We would leave!””
“Well, I mean would we leave it unfinished like this?”
Erwin spoke clearly and forcefully as if everything was obvious and set in concrete, “Why, we would get in the truck with bill. The motor would start, the truck would drive away, we would be free in West Germany,”
“Yeah, but what would the owners think about us?”
“They’d think that we were gone, they’d think we had escaped, and they would rtight!”
“Yeah, but, their house would be unfinished, and rain and snow would get in and ruin the rest of the house!”
“Manfred, they would get someone else to finish it.!”
“But Erwin, they have already paid us to brick the house!”
Erwin grabbed his head with both hands, “But Manfred, if we finish this evening, we would have back tomorrow to get paid. If we’re free in West Germany, we would lose that money.”
“Yeah, but’s better to lose the money than to lose your reputation,”
“Are we back to worrying about reputation when we should be preparing to esc…” He realized he was yelling and about to yell the word escape. He finished by saying, “Leave this place?”
I shrugged, “You go ahead and leave. I can’t leave. I’ve got to finish the job!”
He shook his head violently, “I’m leaving! Goodbye!”
I turned toward the other three in the brigade, “What about you guys” You staying, or are you going?”
George shrugged, “You confound me, Manfred. I’ve got things to do, but I’ll stay for a while, but only until it’s time to go!”
Hans said, “I’ll stay until it’s time to go!”
I didn’t ask when that time would be. I was glad to have his help.
Martin shrugged, “If you’re staying, I’ll stay too until it’s time!”
I nodded, and we went back to work. I turned to pick up a brick. Erwin handed me one. He said, “I’ll stay until the other guys leave. I nodded, took the brick, and I laid brick as fast as I could.
We finished the job an hour later.
I walked away from that job that evening knowing that I had done my best. I new that no matter what happened to me the owner would have confidence in me if wee should ever meet again. I knew Grandfather Kaiter would be proud of me. I had done right by the owner. As we walked away from that job, I secretly glanced around at the others in the work brigade. They each had a smile on their face. I knew I had done by them, too. I decided I wouldn’t rub Erwin’s nose in it. He had come back to the site, had helped finish the job, and he was smiling too!
The sun was close to setting, and the weather was getting cooler. We picked up the pace and hurried to the street car pickup point so that we wouldn’t miss the street car and haver to walk home. We didn’t want to arrive late in case Bill was waiting to pick us up for our escape to West Germany!
No one was waiting for us when we arrived at our apartment, just an empty front room. George had peeled off from the group a couple of blocks from the apartment with the determination of seeing his fiancée to make sure she was ready to go. We tried to talk him out of going to see her. I said, “George, I have a bad feeling about this. Please don’t go there.
He said, “I’ll just make sure she has everything we need, and if she does, I’ll bring her to the apartment!”
“What if she doesn’t have everything, George. What’ll you do then?”
“If it’s not important, I’ll bring her...