Chapter Two introduces a new main character, Walter, living in Berlin.
It was 5:45 AM when the whistle of the Kaufmann Textilfabrik sounded, warning its workers that fifteen minutes remained until their shift began. The bright light of a summer morning was already streaming in through the thin curtains of the Heubers’ tenement flat. Each of the neighborhood’s many whistles had its own familiar sound, and it was to this one, that Walter had trained himself to wake.
He rose from his narrow bed, moving quietly so as not to disturb his younger brother Erich, sleeping on the other bed against the opposite wall. Erich shifted uneasily and pulled the sheet over his head to block out the light.
With practiced quiet Walter dressed, poured water from the pitcher into the washstand, and shaved. He spread the thick coverlet over his bed, then arranged against the wall the overstuffed cushions which, to his mother’s eye, made the beds look more like couches and less like “a working man’s flat.”
The two brothers slept in the apartment’s main room. Their mother, only returned a few hours before from her night shift of cleaning, slept in the windowless bedroom, isolated from noise and light.
In the kitchen Walter cut himself a thick piece of bread and spread it generously with butter. He took his plate to the table by the window, and drawing back the curtain sat looking out into the street as he ate. Pedestrians and people on bicycles were flowing back and forth three stories below in a gradually increasing stream as the morning advanced. A street car whirred by, the contacts crackling against the wires above. The street view made the Heubers’ one of the better flats -- lacking the sight and scent of rubbish that rose from the courtyards on hot days.
Ten minutes after six. Walter stacked his empty plate to be washed and went to give Erich a shake.
“Time to get up for school. I’m leaving now.” Erich obediently struggled into a sitting position and sat rubbing his eyes.
Walter took his cap and thin summer jacket from their peg by the door and let himself out, locking the flat behind him. It was dim in the passage and stairway. The air had a stale, flat smell -- dust, mold, and the lingering odor of cabbage soup dominating other old cooking smells. The stairs were dangerously steep, although there was a certain safety in the fact the stairwell was so narrow that every six steps there was a small landing and a sharp turn. If someone fell, as tenants trying to go up or down the badly lit stairs at night while the worse for drink often did, chances were good that he would land in a heap at the next landing rather than plunging a full floor or two. Walter thundered down them with practiced ease and burst forth into the bright, cool morning of the street.
Paul Ehrlichmann was already waiting for him, lounging back against the wall and reading a copy of the Workers’ Daily News.
“What’s the news?” Walter asked. “There must be something to make you buy your own copy instead of waiting to get a look at one in the coffee house this afternoon.”
“Someone’s shot an Austrian archduke,” said Paul, holding out the headline which said in huge letters: Blood in Sarajevo!
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Learning Notes Week of Feb 20
4 hours ago