The Book Thief

by: Markus Zusak

Part 7

1

For the first lap, a group of seven boys led the field. On the second, it dropped to five, and on the next lap, four. Rudy was the fourth runner on every lap until the last.… Like an elastic rope, he lengthened his lead until any thought of someone else winning snapped altogether…. In the homestretch, there was nothing but blond hair and space… In the 400 final, he led from the backstretch to the end, and he won the 200 only narrowly.

2

The book simply tilted toward her and she took it with her free hand. She even closed the window nice and smooth, then turned and walked back… Like an itch that demands a fingernail, she felt an intense desire to stop. She placed her feet on the ground and turned to face the mayor’s home and the library window, and she saw. Certainly, she should have known this might happen, but she could not hide the shock that loitered inside when she witnessed the mayor’s wife, standing behind the glass.

3

Liesel opened one of her books and began to read…. The opening paragraph was numb in her ears…. When she turned to page two, it was Rudy who noticed. He paid direct attention to what Liesel was reading, and he tapped his brother and his sister, telling them to do the same…. By page three, everyone was silent but Liesel. She didn’t dare to look up, but she could feel their frightened eyes hanging on to her as she hauled the words in and breathed them out.

4

When they arrived in full, the noise of their feet throbbed on top of the road. Their eyes were enormous in their starving skulls. And the dirt. The dirt was molded to them. Their legs staggered as they were pushed by soldiers’ hands—a few wayward steps of forced running before the slow return to a malformed walk. The suffering faces of depleted men and women reached across to them, pleading not so much for help—they were beyond that—but for an explanation. Just something to subdue the confusion.

5

Another week passed, and still, Hans Huberman waited for his punishment. The welts on his back were turning to scars, and he spent the majority of his time walking around Molching. Frau Diller spat at his feet. Frau Holtzapfel, true to her word, had ceased spitting at the Hubermanns’ door, but here was a handy replacement. “I knew it,” the shopkeeper damned him. “You dirty Jew lover.”