Fatelessness - By Imre Kertesz Page 0,1

I used to do, for after all he has, in a sense, risen to a higher status than us; my father and stepmother too were clearly more deferential toward him. Though he, for his part, sticks all the more stubbornly to addressing my father as “boss” and my stepmother as “my dear lady,” as if nothing had happened, never failing to plant a kiss on her hand while he is at it. He welcomed me as well in his old, jocular tone, oblivious to my yellow star. After that, I stood where I was, by the door, while they picked up where they had left off on my arrival. As I saw it, I must have interrupted them right in the middle of some discussion. I did not understand at first what they were talking about. I even closed my eyes for a second because they were still a bit dazzled from the sunlight up on the street. Meanwhile my father said something, and by the time I opened them, there was Mr. Süt. Yellowish red light-spots were dancing like bursting pustules all over his round, brownish-skinned features, with the pencil moustache and the tiny gap between his two broad, white front teeth. The next sentence was again spoken by my father, with something about “goods” that “it would be best” if Mr. Süt “were to take with him right away.” Mr. Süt had no objection, whereupon my father took out from a desk drawer a small package wrapped in tissue paper and tied up with string. Only then did I see what goods they were actually talking about, since I immediately recognized the package from its flat shape: it contained a box. In the box were our more precious jewels and such; indeed, I rather fancy that it was precisely on my account that they had called them “goods,” lest I recognize them. Mr. Süt at once thrust it into his briefcase. After that, however, a minor dispute sprang up between them, because Mr. Süt took out his fountain pen, with the aim of giving my father a “receipt for the goods” no matter what. He dug in his heels for a fair while, even though my father told him “don’t be childish,” and “there’s no need for that sort of thing between the two of us.” I noticed that pleased Mr. Süt to no end. He said so too: “I’m well aware that you trust me, boss, but in real life there is a right and proper way of doing things.” He even appealed to my stepmother for her assistance: “Isn’t that so, my dear lady?” With a wan smile, though, she merely said something to the effect that she left it entirely up to the men how the matter was best arranged.

The whole thing was beginning to bore me slightly by the time he eventually tucked the fountain pen away after all, at which they started to chew over the matter of the stockroom here, and what they should do with all the planks of wood in it. I heard my father urging the need for haste, before the authorities “might get round to laying their hands on the business,” asking Mr. Süt to give my stepmother the benefit of his business experience and expertise over this. Turning toward my stepmother, Mr. Süt at once declared, “It goes without saying, dear madam. We shall be in constant contact in any case over the settling of the accounts.” I think he was speaking about the premises that were now in his hands. After an age, he at last began to take leave. He took a long time over his glum-faced shaking of my father’s hand. He nevertheless ventured that “long speeches have no place at a moment like this,” and so he wished to say just one word of farewell to my father, namely, “See you again soon, boss.” My father replied with a quick, wry smile, “Let’s hope so, Mr. Süt.” At the same time, my stepmother opened her handbag, pulled out a handkerchief, and straightaway dabbed at her eyes. Strange noises welled up in her throat. There was a hush; the situation was really embarrassing, since I had a feeling that I too ought to do something. But with the whole scene taking me by surprise, nothing sensible occurred to me. I could see that the thing was also making Mr. Süt uneasy: “My dear lady,” he said, “you mustn’t. Really not.” He looked a tiny