“I think these are his father’s medals.”

“Let me see,” I said.

Dad held them up close to his face, squinting at the engravings on their surface. “Yeah. These are his father’s medals from the army.”

They were small, but clean, not rusted, and, looking at them, I tried to muster up some sense of awe and respect for what they meant, but I’ve never really cared much for military medals — I can never get them to move me.

“Shit, doch. What are we gonna do with these? Do you want them?”

I shrugged — I didn’t feel like I had the right, the appropriate proximity to their original owner, to be their keeper.

“Phee.” Dad waved his hands — his bed was covered in papers and dust. “Look at all this junk.”


“Wonder why he gave them to us.”

“I don’t know,” I said, but I was thinking of what it meant to hand the stuff of your life over to another person like that — to need someone to hand your life over to. “I have no one else to give them to,” Vladek had said. When we got to Bucharest, Dad considered throwing the whole sack away — it was bulky and heavy and smelled like Vladek’s dog — and at first I was going to let him, was going to let him toss everything except the pins; but eventually we decided to keep some of the other stuff too. I don’t know where any of it is now.

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