Listening

Yvette, an old woman, speaks to us from a circle of light in Listening, recalling her experiences as a child during WWII in occupied France.  She and Ernst, an older boy, had been left behind in the chateau when the Germans used it as their command center.  She and Ernst hid in the ancient, secret passages behind the walls where they listened to what was said.  Neither of them knew German very well, but at night Ernst would sneak out into the back garden and tell the Resistance what they had heard.  She says life was terrifying and exciting, living in the shadows, but one night Ernst did not return.  Her sleep pattern was disrupted and her head fell against the wall.  The Germans heard it, and one went to get an ax.  They were deciding where to smash into the wall when the telephone rang.  She could hear that something was wrong.  There was gunfire, a huge explosion, and the Germans forgot about the noise on the other side of the wall.  When she woke, she heard birds singing and realized the Germans were gone.  They had left plenty of food, so she decided to stay where she was until it was safe to come out.  American soldiers took over the house and then another family moved in.  She says she doesn’t know how long she has been living behind the walls.  She has grown very fond of the family.  The wife says food keeps disappearing from the pantry, but the husband says she’s imagining it and the daughter thinks it is a ghost.  She says she feels like a ghost, lurking in the dark, listening.

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