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Swastikas

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"They won't let my grandfather into the country."

"Why not?"

"It doesn't matter. He's an old man. Why can't they let him in the country, for crying out loud?"

The young woman had dirty blond hair and a sharp face, and was pointing with a long, skinny finger at the young man sitting next to her. He was looking at her with mock concern--with one of those "I'm not sure about the substance of what you're saying, but if I can get a date out of it, I'm willing to be attentive" faces.

The train juddered along the track and came to a squeaky halt by an apartment building, one wall of which was covered with graffiti, including a swastika. Near the wall some neighborhood kids were playing a game of contact tag.

"Goddamn Nazi fucks," the young man said and shook his head. "Kids don't even know what that symbol means."

The young woman nodded.

"They think it's a goddamn joke," he said. "There's a kid in my school, wants everyone to call him Hitler. Thinks it's the funniest fucking thing. Doesn't even know how to spell it. Just wants everyone to call him that."

"That's just stupid."

"Yeah, isn't it? But some of the kids are into that shit."

The train was approaching Argyle, and the young woman stood up.

"You getting off here?" he asked.

"Yeah, I gotta get home. I've got to call my dad."

"Hey, that's too bad about your granddad--not letting him into the country. That's some stupid shit."

"Yeah. What can you do?"

"You know, anything I can do to help," he said.

The young woman just smiled.

"I mean, can I call you up and find out how the thing turns out?"

The young woman handed him a business card.

"I mean, why wouldn't they let an old guy into the country?" he asked. "What do they think an old guy's gonna do?"

"It's just something he did almost 50 years ago. It's so stupid."

"What'd he do?"

"He worked for the German government. Big deal."

The young man didn't say another word, and the woman got off. He placed the business card on an empty seat and moved a few seats back. He shook his head and then with his finger drew a swastika on the sooty window. Then he crossed it out.

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