The diary of a young gir.., p.12
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       The Diary of a Young Girl, p.12

           Anne Frank
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  Upstairs you can hear the thud of the vacuum cleaner on Mrs. van D.’s beautiful and only rug. Margot tucks a few books under her arm and heads for the class for “slow learners,” which is what Dussel seems to be. Pim goes and sits in a corner with his constant companion, Dickens, in hopes of finding a bit of peace and quiet. Mother hastens upstairs to help the busy little housewife, and I tidy up both the bathroom and myself at the same time.

  Twelve forty-five. One by one they trickle in: first Mr. Gies and then either Mr. Kleiman or Mr. Kugler, followed by Bep and sometimes even Miep.

  One. Clustered around the radio, they all listen raptly to the BBC. This is the only time the members of the Annex family don’t interrupt each other, since even Mr. van Daan can’t argue with the speaker.

  One-fifteen. Food distribution. Everyone from downstairs gets a cup of soup, plus dessert, if there happens to be any. A contented Mr. Gies sits on the divan or leans against the desk with his newspaper, cup and usually the cat at his side. If one of the three is missing, he doesn’t hesitate to let his protest be heard. Mr. Kleiman relates the latest news from town, and he’s an excellent source. Mr. Kugler hurries up the stairs, gives a short but solid knock on the door and comes in either wringing his hands or rubbing them in glee, depending on whether he’s quiet and in a bad mood or talkative and in a good mood.

  One forty-five. Everyone rises from the table and goes about their business. Margot and Mother do the dishes, Mr. and Mrs. van D. head for the divan, Peter for the attic, Father for his divan, Dussel too, and Anne does her homework.

  What comes next is the quietest hour of the day; when they’re all asleep, there are no disturbances. To judge by his face, Dussel is dreaming of food. But I don’t look at him long, because the time whizzes by and before you know it, it’ll be 4 P.M. and the pedantic Dr. Dussel will be standing with the clock in his hand because I’m one minute late clearing off the table.

  Yours, Anne

  SATURDAY, AUGUST 7, 1943

  Dearest Kitty,

  A few weeks ago I started writing a story, something I made up from beginning to end, and I’ve enjoyed it so much that the products of my pen are piling up.

  Yours, Anne

  MONDAY, AUGUST 9, 1943

  Dearest Kitty,

  We now continue with a typical day in the Annex. Since we’ve already had lunch, it’s time to describe dinner.

  Mr. van Daan. Is served first, and takes a generous portion of whatever he likes. Usually joins in the conversation, never fails to give his opinion. Once he’s spoken, his word is final. If anyone dares to suggest otherwise, Mr. van D. can put up a good fight. Oh, he can hiss like a cat … but I’d rather he didn’t. Once you’ve seen it, you never want to see it again. His opinion is the best, he knows the most about everything. Granted, the man has a good head on his shoulders, but it’s swelled to no small degree.

  Madame. Actually, the best thing would be to say nothing. Some days, especially when a foul mood is on the way, her face is hard to read. If you analyze the discussions, you realize she’s not the subject, but the guilty party! A fact everyone prefers to ignore. Even so, you could call her the instigator. Stirring up trouble, now that’s what Mrs. van Daan calls fun. Stirring up trouble between Mrs. Frank and Anne. Margot and Mr. Frank aren’t quite as easy.

  But let’s return to the table. Mrs. van D. may think she doesn’t always get enough, but that’s not the case. The choicest potatoes, the tastiest morsel, the tenderest bit of whatever there is, that’s Madame’s motto. The others can all have their turn, as long as I get the best. (Exactly what she accuses Anne Frank of doing.) Her second watchword is: keep talking. As long as somebody’s listening, it doesn’t seem to occur to her to wonder whether they’re interested. She must think that whatever Mrs. van Daan says will interest everyone.

  Smile coquettishly, pretend you know everything, offer everyone a piece of advice and mother them—that’s sure to make a good impression. But if you take a better look, the good impression fades. One, she’s hardworking; two, cheerful; three, coquettish—and sometimes a cute face. That’s Petronella van Daan.

  The third diner. Says very little. Young Mr. van Daan is usually quiet and hardly makes his presence known. As far as his appetite is concerned, he’s a Danaïdean vessel that never gets full. Even after the most substantial meal, he can look you calmly in the eye and claim he could have eaten twice as much.

  Number four—Margot. Eats like a bird and doesn’t talk at all. She eats only vegetables and fruit. “Spoiled,” in the opinion of the van Daans. “Too little exercise and fresh air,” in ours.

  Beside her—Mama. Has a hearty appetite, does her share of the talking. No one has the impression, as they do with Mrs. van Daan, that this is a housewife. What’s the difference between the two? Well, Mrs. van D. does the cooking and Mother does the dishes and polishes the furniture.

  Numbers six and seven. I won’t say much about Father and me. The former is the most modest person at the table. He always looks to see whether the others have been served first. He needs nothing for himself; the best things are for the children. He’s goodness personified. Seated next to him is the Annex’s little bundle of nerves.

  Dussel. Help yourself, keep your eyes on the food, eat and don’t talk. And if you have to say something, then for goodness’ sake talk about food. That doesn’t lead to quarrels, just to bragging. He consumes enormous portions, and “no” is not part of his vocabulary, whether the food is good or bad.

  Pants that come up to his chest, a red jacket, black patent-leather slippers and horn-rimmed glasses—that’s how he looks when he’s at work at the little table, always studying and never progressing. This is interrupted only by his afternoon nap, food and—his favorite spot—the bathroom. Three, four or five times a day there’s bound to be someone waiting outside the bathroom door, hopping impatiently from one foot to another, trying to hold it in and barely managing. Does Dussel care? Not a whit. From seven-fifteen to seven-thirty, from twelve-thirty to one, from two to two-fifteen, from four to four-fifteen, from six to six-fifteen, from eleven-thirty to twelve. You can set your watch by them; these are the times for his “regular sessions.” He never deviates or lets himself be swayed by the voices outside the door, begging him to open up before a disaster occurs.

  Number nine is not part of our Annex family, although she does share our house and table. Bep has a healthy appetite. She cleans her plate and isn’t choosy. Bep’s easy to please and that pleases us. She can be characterized as follows: cheerful, good-humored, kind and willing.

  TUESDAY, AUGUST 10, 1943

  Dearest Kitty,

  A new idea: during meals I talk more to myself than to the others, which has two advantages. First, they’re glad they don’t have to listen to my continuous chatter, and second, I don’t have to get annoyed by their opinions. I don’t think my opinions are stupid but other people do, so it’s better to keep them to myself. I apply the same tactic when I have to eat something I loathe. I put the dish in front of me, pretend it’s delicious, avoid looking at it as much as possible, and it’s gone before I’ve had time to realize what it is. When I get up in the morning, another very disagreeable moment, I leap out of bed, think to myself, “You’ll be slipping back under the covers soon,” walk to the window, take down the blackout screen, sniff at the crack until I feel a bit of fresh air, and I’m awake. I strip the bed as fast as I can so I won’t be tempted to get back in. Do you know what Mother calls this sort of thing? The art of living. Isn’t that a funny expression?

  We’ve all been a little confused this past week because our dearly beloved Westertoren bells have been carted off to be melted down for the war, so we have no idea of the exact time, either night or day. I still have hopes that they’ll come up with a substitute, made of tin or copper or some such thing, to remind the neighborhood of the clock.

  Everywhere I go, upstairs or down, they all cast admiring glances at my feet, which are adorned by a pair of exceptionally
beautiful (for times like these!) shoes. Miep managed to snap them up for 27.50 guilders. Burgundy-colored suede and leather with medium-sized high heels. I feel as if I’m on stilts, and look even taller than I already am.

  Yesterday was my unlucky day. I pricked my right thumb with the blunt end of a big needle. As a result, Margot had to peel potatoes for me (take the good with the bad), and writing was awkward. Then I bumped into the cupboard door so hard it nearly knocked me over, and was scolded for making such a racket. They wouldn’t let me run water to bathe my forehead, so now I’m walking around with a giant lump over my right eye. To make matters worse, the little toe on my right foot got stuck in the vacuum cleaner. It bled and hurt, but my other ailments were already causing me so much trouble that I let this one slide, which was stupid of me, because now I’m walking around with an infected toe. What with the salve, the gauze and the tape, I can’t get my heavenly new shoe on my foot.

  Dussel has put us in danger for the umpteenth time. He actually had Miep bring him a book, an anti-Mussolini tirade, which has been banned. On the way here she was knocked down by an SS motorcycle. She lost her head and shouted “You brutes!” and went on her way. I don’t dare think what would have happened if she’d been taken down to headquarters.

  Yours, Anne

  A Daily Chore in Our Little Community: Peeling Potatoes!

  One person goes to get some newspapers; another, the knives (keeping the best for himself, of course); the third, the potatoes; and the fourth, the water.

  Mr. Dussel begins. He may not always peel them very well, but he does peel nonstop, glancing left and right to see if everyone is doing it the way he does. No, they’re not!

  “Look, Anne, I am taking peeler in my hand like so and going from the top to bottom! Nein, not so … but so!”

  “I think my way is easier, Mr. Dussel,” I say tentatively.

  “But this is best way, Anne. This you can take from me. Of course, it is no matter, you do the way you want.”

  We go on peeling. I glance at Dussel out of the corner of my eye. Lost in thought, he shakes his head (over me, no doubt), but says no more.

  I keep on peeling. Then I look at Father, on the other side of me. To Father, peeling potatoes is not a chore, but precision work. When he reads, he has a deep wrinkle in the back of his head. But when he’s preparing potatoes, beans or vegetables, he seems to be totally absorbed in his task. He puts on his potato-peeling face, and when it’s set in that particular way, it would be impossible for him to turn out anything less than a perfectly peeled potato.

  I keep on working. I glance up for a second, but that’s all the time I need. Mrs. van D. is trying to attract Dussel’s attention. She starts by looking in his direction, but Dussel pretends not to notice. She winks, but Dussel goes on peeling. She laughs, but Dussel still doesn’t look up. Then Mother laughs too, but Dussel pays them no mind. Having failed to achieve her goal, Mrs. van D. is obliged to change tactics. There’s a brief silence. Then she says, “Putti, why don’t you put on an apron? Otherwise, I’ll have to spend all day tomorrow trying to get the spots out of your suit!”

  “I’m not getting it dirty.”

  Another brief silence. “Putti, why don’t you sit down?”

  “I’m fine this way. I like standing up!”

  Silence.

  “Putti, look out, du spritzt schon!”5

  “I know, Mommy, but I’m being careful.”

  Mrs. van D. casts about for another topic. “Tell me, Putti, why aren’t the British carrying out any bombing raids today?”

  “Because the weather’s bad, Kerli!”

  “But yesterday it was such nice weather and they weren’t flying then either.”

  “Let’s drop the subject.”

  “Why? Can’t a person talk about that or offer an opinion?”

  “No!”

  “Well, why in the world not?”

  “Oh, be quiet, Mammichen!”6

  “Mr. Frank always answers his wife.”

  Mr. van D. is trying to control himself. This remark always rubs him the wrong way, but Mrs. van D.’s not one to quit: “Oh, there’s never going to be an invasion!”

  Mr. van D. turns white, and when she notices it, Mrs. van D. turns red, but she’s not about to be deterred: “The British aren’t doing a thing!”

  The bomb bursts. “And now shut up, Donnerwetter noch mal!”7

  Mother can barely stifle a laugh, and I stare straight ahead.

  Scenes like these are repeated almost daily, unless they’ve just had a terrible fight. In that case, neither Mr. nor Mrs. van D. says a word.

  It’s time for me to get some more potatoes. I go up to the attic, where Peter is busy picking fleas from the cat. He looks up, the cat notices it, and whoosh … he’s gone. Out the window and into the rain gutter.

  Peter swears; I laugh and slip out of the room.

  Freedom in the Annex

  Five-thirty. Bep’s arrival signals the beginning of our nightly freedom. Things get going right away. I go upstairs with Bep, who usually has her dessert before the rest of us. The moment she sits down, Mrs. van D. begins stating her wishes. Her list usually starts with “Oh, by the way, Bep, something else I’d like …” Bep winks at me. Mrs. van D. doesn’t miss a chance to make her wishes known to whoever comes upstairs. It must be one of the reasons none of them like to go up there.

  Five forty-five. Bep leaves. I go down two floors to have a look around: first to the kitchen, then to the private office and then to the coal bin to open the cat door for Mouschi.

  After a long tour of inspection, I wind up in Mr. Kugler’s office. Mr. van Daan is combing all the drawers and files for today’s mail. Peter picks up Boche and the warehouse key; Pim lugs the typewriters upstairs; Margot looks around for a quiet place to do her office work; Mrs. van D. puts a kettle of water on the stove; Mother comes down the stairs with a pan of potatoes; we all know our jobs.

  Soon Peter comes back from the warehouse. The first question they ask him is whether he’s remembered the bread. No, he hasn’t. He crouches before the door to the front office to make himself as small as possible and crawls on his hands and knees to the steel cabinet, takes out the bread and starts to leave. At any rate, that’s what he intends to do, but before he knows what’s happened, Mouschi has jumped over him and gone to sit under the desk.

  Peter looks all around him. Aha, there’s the cat! He crawls back into the office and grabs the cat by the tail. Mouschi hisses, Peter sighs. What has he accomplished? Mouschi’s now sitting by the window licking herself, very pleased at having escaped Peter’s clutches. Peter has no choice but to lure her with a piece of bread. Mouschi takes the bait, follows him out, and the door closes.

  I watch the entire scene through a crack in the door.

  Mr. van Daan is angry and slams the door. Margot and I exchange looks and think the same thing: he must have worked himself into a rage again because of some blunder on Mr. Kugler’s part, and he’s forgotten all about the Keg Company next door.

  Another step is heard in the hallway. Dussel comes in, goes toward the window with an air of propriety, sniffs … coughs, sneezes and clears his throat. He’s out of luck—it was pepper. He continues on to the front office. The curtains are open, which means he can’t get at his writing paper. He disappears with a scowl.

  Margot and I exchange another glance. “One less page for his sweetheart tomorrow,” I hear her say. I nod in agreement.

  An elephant’s tread is heard on the stairway. It’s Dussel, seeking comfort in his favorite spot.

  We continue working. Knock, knock, knock … Three taps means dinnertime!

  MONDAY, AUGUST 23, 1943

  Wenn Die Uhr Halb Neune Schlägt …8

  Margot and Mother are nervous. “Shh … Father. Be quiet, Otto. Shh … Pim! It’s eight-thirty. Come here, you can’t run the water anymore. Walk softly!” A sample of what’s said to Father in the bathroom. At the stroke of half past eight, he has to be in the living r
oom. No running water, no flushing toilet, no walking around, no noise whatsoever. As long as the office staff hasn’t arrived, sounds travel more easily to the warehouse.

  The door opens upstairs at eight-twenty, and this is followed by three gentle taps on the floor … Anne’s hot cereal. I clamber up the stairs to get my doggie dish.

  Back downstairs, everything has to be done quickly, quickly: I comb my hair, put away the potty, shove the bed back in place. Quiet! The clock is striking eight-thirty! Mrs. van D. changes shoes and shuffles through the room in her slippers; Mr. van D. too—a veritable Charlie Chaplin. All is quiet.

  The ideal family scene has now reached its high point. I want to read or study and Margot does too. Father and Mother ditto. Father is sitting (with Dickens and the dictionary, of course) on the edge of the sagging, squeaky bed, which doesn’t even have a decent mattress. Two bolsters can be piled on top of each other. “I don’t need these,” he thinks. “I can manage without them!”

  Once he starts reading, he doesn’t look up. He laughs now and then and tries to get Mother to read a passage.

  “I don’t have the time right now!”

  He looks disappointed, but then continues to read. A little while later, when he comes across another interesting bit, he tries again: “You have to read this, Mother!”

  Mother sits on the folding bed, either reading, sewing, knitting or studying, whichever is next on her list. An idea suddenly occurs to her, and she quickly says, so as not to forget, “Anne, remember to … Margot, jot this down …”

  After a while it’s quiet again. Margot slams her book shut; Father knits his forehead, his eyebrows forming a funny curve and his wrinkle of concentration reappearing at the back of his head, and he buries himself in his book again; Mother starts chatting with Margot; and I get curious and listen too. Pim is drawn into the conversation … Nine o’clock. Breakfast!

 
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