Yitzhak was rostered on the long rectangle from Munich to Braunau that year and he went, jiggling his extra layers of fat in a burlesque pantomime and muttering, as he did every year that really a Jew shouldn’t be required to do field work. He had the team ready when I noticed he’d left his lunch. There being limits to magic, I wriggled into an elf fur and bundled after him. Somewhere under the swollen face and beard, Yitzhak’s sensual lips broke into a happy smile. We worked from east to west and before the earliest hint of light we’d completed the whole down-the-chimney, leave-the-presents routine.
In Braunau I saw the boy slumped against a wall, palsied with cold tremors. His silly little moustache was crisp with icicles.
“Pick him up,” Yitzhak said in mock resignation.
He stayed for six months, painting mountain scenes which he presented shyly as silent thanks.
When we dropped him off in Munich with a full stomach he waved in the dazed manner that the memory-wipes always have.
“That kid will never amount to a hill of beans”, Yitzhak said as he stored Adolf’s awful paintings in his chest of precious things.