The old man sat across from the plump, middle aged woman at a table in the corner. The shop was bustling. The 6 tables were occupied with chatty locals and the line for coffee and the locally famous baked goods was out the door, the steady announcement of visitors via the bell over the door rose above the din.
The old man was staring at his coffee, intently stirring it as the woman enjoyed her coffee roll. She looked up, noticed his distracted behavior.“What’s the matter, Klaus?” she asked. “You’re here but you’re not.”“Anna” he sighed. “I have a heavy heart today. Ah, that’s not entirely true. I have a heavy heart every day but I’m afraid it’s come to a head.”
Anna pushed for clarification.
“Care to share?”
“Anna, we’re friends aren’t we?”
“I suppose so. We meet here for coffee once a week. Now that I think about it I don’t really know that much about you. You’re from Germany. You’re a widower. You’ve been in town for a long time. You owned a clock repair shop.”
“You know enough about me then.” Klaus told her.
“Most of that I got from the Senior Center that reached out to me to be your coffee buddy. When we talk here we mostly make small talk.”
“Anna”, he reached across the table and grasped her hand. “Would you come to my house tomorrow afternoon? I know it’s an extra day, not on the schedule but I want to ask something of you and I don’t want to do it here.”
Anna pulled out her smartphone, pulled up her calendar and studied it for a moment.
“I think I can do that. How’s 2 sound?”
“That sounds wonderful” he said. “I will take my leave now and I look forward to seeing you then.” He took his faded leather wallet out of his breast pocket, dropped a few bills on the table and slowly stood up. She watched him intently as he made his way out of the door, parting the crowd like the Red Sea and onto the sidewalk.
She turned her attention to the remainder of her coffee roll and thought about what the old man who she volunteered with could possibly have to ask of her.
The next day, Anna Feinberg stepped onto the walkway of the quaint Emerald Lane residence of Klaus Schmidt. Neat flower beds flanked the walkway. The freshly painted porch was adorned with hanging plants in full bloom. She marveled at how a man of Klaus’s age could maintain his house so meticulously.
She rang the bell. Shortly, Klaus appeared at the door. She noticed he was without his walker. “Ahh, Anna. Thank you for keeping your word. Please, come in.” He gestured her inside.
The interior of the home was as meticulous as the exterior. There was no clutter, paintings adorned the walls, the wood floors gleamed as if recently treated. She followed him into the kitchen.
A pot of tea, a bowl of sugar and a small carafe of milk and 2 cups awaited them at the table.
Klaus invited her to sit down. She patiently waited for him to ease himself into his chair, she then sat.
“Anna” He slowly began. “There is so much you, anyone for that matter, don’t know about me and as a friend I feel that I should unburden myself.”
“Klaus”, she interrupted,”with all due respect, we’re not that close. Surely you have someone closer you want to share this with?”
“Anna, I’m afraid that close or not, you are all that I have. Now if I may continue?”
She nodded in agreement.
“Anna, I’ve done some terrible things. Things that I am so very ashamed of. I have haunting memories that I just can’t escape them.”
“Klaus”, Anna interjected. “We all have done things that we are ashamed of.”
“My dear, I’m afraid my deeds fall under a whole new category other than ‘things that we are ashamed of.”
“I’ m listening.”
“Anna”, he paused. He took his glasses off and put them on the table in front of him. He rubbed his eyes and looked down into his lap for a moment. “What if I told you I don’t want to live any longer?”
“I don’t have an answer for that. Again, I’m not sure I’m the right person for this conversation.”
“You’re the perfect person. The only person. Your name is Feinberg, yes?”
Puzzled, Anna replied “Yes.”
“You are Jewish, am I correct?” he queried.
“I’m not sure where we’re going with this but I’m getting a bit uncomfortable here.”
“Alas, I’m going to make it a bit more so.” He reached into the pocket of his robe and placed a WW2 era Luger pistol on the table in front of him.
“Anna, I want you to kill me.” He paused to let his words sink in.
To be continued…