Rubble Women, a short story by David Milner at

Rubble Women

Rubble Women

written by: David Milner


This morning he woke up laughing. God help us, here of all places, going mad with quicksilver dreams. When he had asked for her hand in marriage, she had said, “Yes, of course.” The ‘of course’ pure comedy ringing in his ears, comfortable as putting on a pair of old woollen socks. His mother liked her. That is how it works. Waking up laughing, as the dream reminded him that Myrtle would have said, “yes, of course,” to just about bloody anyone.

Tuesday (Dienstag), middle of July, itching from backside to armpit with lice. Parasites, tireless germs bringing slow death. Oh, dear mother, best tha’ doesn’t know…. he picks at a piece of sausage gristle, caught last night, between his molars. Can’t say, hand on heart, that he misses home. Here among the rubble of a thousand bombs, the ruins look the same as anywhere else. Just the dust, mother, playing havoc with my bronchial tubes! Like powdered glass trapped in the khaki and smeared into my sensitive skin. I shouldn’t complain. Seems hotter this summer than it’s been for years, they tell me. Maybe folk are noticing more. I wouldn’t know.

Here, in Wilmersdorf, Berlin, to clear up the mess. And bear witness.

Don’t know when I’ll next be coming home

Myrtle deserves more than a letter.

He traded with the street urchins, some as young as ten, no trace of Nazi on them. Though what would become of these kids, these refugees from the innocence of childhood, was anybody’s guess. They’d get under the feet of the Trümmerfrauen, the women who rummaged in the rubble and waste. He’d managed to get a Leica camera, a pair of superbly crafted motorcycle goggles (kept the dust out of his eyes), swapped for Woodbine cigarettes, mint humbugs, even his mother’s home-made rhubarb jam. It was trade, a sense of obligation; also, Private Eric Watts was a natural born collector.

He kept himself to himself. Bearing witness. If nothing else.

He’d seen the fat French pimp. Everybody’s friend, freeman of the city, with his sweet-smelling tarts. Watched him beat one of the Trümmerfrauen half to death with the butt of his Luger. A little local dispute. Nothing he could have done to help.

Most of all he hated the fat pimp’s goatee, waxed, and pointed it was, like a postcard devil. Nothing funny about it.

Myrtle deserved more than a letter. Let her know, tenderly, that life would never have worked for them. Tethered to tradition…? Something like.

We might have hated each other in time

He would use the Hitler Youth Butterfly knife. Yes. Resolute in his thoughts. His mother, his muckers at the barracks, and anyone’d ever known him, would all agree that Eric Watts was not the impetuous type. Knew the Pimp’s daily routine. Couldn’t miss his heavy tread as he moved from one place to the next, head held high on his thick neck and powerful shoulders. A good six foot of him. He wouldn’t go down easy. But down he was going. Like a gouged, blood-soaked bull. Would be over soon enough. Just an animal sinking its teeth into another animal.

Eric sealed his envelope. Someone had to pay.

Latest posts by David Milner (see all)