‘Sorry, I lost my bus pass on the 75 this morning and I…’ the girl’s tone grew soft, at the manufactured moment when she knew it would have most effect.
She knew that she was fighting against the current. It had gone past six, and the ticket office was closed. There was little chance she’d be able to get in and rummage through the Lost Property box in a desperate attempt to find the bus pass she foolishly left on her seat this morning. So she used all her charms on the boy in the blue uniform, who seemed to be on his way home, and held the key to the locked office.
‘…I was just wondering if someone… had handed it in?’ she asked.
When she was a child, she often used this tactic on her father when she really wanted something. She made her request sound like she was in danger of death, if she did not get the rose-beaded bracelet that spelled out her name, or a second scoop on her ice-cream.
Unlike mother, who must have manipulated her way through childhood in a similar manner, her father was unable to see through her guise, and gave into her capricious demands. At the sound of her tone, much like the soft meow of a helpless, blind kitten, his rational mind retreated. Ruled by some primordial fear that he had to protect the little innocent babe at all costs, her father reached for his wallet every time.
But no such luck with this boy.
‘Then you’ll have to come back after 7 am tomorrow because the ticket office is now shut,’ he said in a tone that shed no empathy, no effort at understanding her situation.
He held the key to the ticket office, a smidgen of power over the girl. He wasn’t so stupid as to fall for her deceit, knowing that she would not repay his kindness.
The brashness of his voice threw the girl. The boy wasn’t much older than her – eighteen, nineteen perhaps. His uniform changed colour and he acquired a hat.
Stood next to dozens of other guards, he ensured that the steady current of starved and crooked people marched towards their deaths in an orderly manner. As the girl passed him by, she watched the dull look in his eyes, the half-closed eyelids that were stuck on his large, misshapen head. She searched for his soul, a hint of recognition that she too was human.
But the boy’s soul seemed to either be missing or capable of appreciating only the countdown to his break, to the moment his shift was over and he handed the duties of policing the rows of cattle-like people to another officer.
His floppy, blobby arms scooted her along. He would return to his barracks, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied at having performed his duty, and fall into a sound and dreamless sleep, while she perished in the gas chamber.