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Memories in France(Temporarily Discontinued)

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Smithson remembered the first time he scalped someone. The knife he used cut like a pro. Luckily, he remembered the things his mother taught him. If you want clean cuts, do not use your knife like a saw. Clean cuts, that spurt out droplets of blood on Smithson’s pale skin. It was sickening, but it relieved him when the process was finished. The hairs that were attached to the cut off scalp made him laugh. It was grossly funny. He returned the neatly cut scalp to Lt. Aldo Raine. Receiving a pat on the back, and a “Good job, sport,” comment from the Lieutenant. Smithson felt proud. As the days go on, he perfected his technique. His scalps unique from the rest.

Smithson Utivich remembers the first time he almost lost a piece of himself. It probably happened in the first two weeks of being sent out into the harsh winter of the French countryside. Luckily, Donny Donnowitz was near him. Taking out the Nazi soldier brutally with the wooden bat Donny took everywhere he went. It glistened with red trickling down the light wood. Dried up chunks of flesh sticking to it. The bat was a sight to behold, and Donny was proud of it. He held it like a trophy, and Smithson doesn’t think he’ll ever clean it. It might have smelled like horseshit, but Donny didn’t care.

“Gotta be careful, Smit, don’t’ wanna die that quickly,” Smithson remembered Donny’s thick, Boston accent, and toothy grin. His eyes expecting a 'thank you’ that Smithson will give him.

Smithson remembers hearing the planes that soared above. The loud aircrafts, making him look up in curiosity. The white trails looked almost dazzling in the blue skies. The planes introduced Smithson to the one thing that’ll soothe him. The sky. The window into his life in Manhattan. The blue sky that he grew up underneath. The only thing that he brought with him to France, that will always stay the same.

Smithson remembers the first meal. He remembers the days before he joined the Basterds, and the people around him talking about the disgusting grull they serve. He had low expectations for the food. So, when he took the first spoonful, he was pleasantly surprised. Omar, who sat two feet away from him, frowned. Earning a scowl from Donny and Aldo. Sometimes Smithson would think back on his moms cooking. Almost forgetting how it tasted. It seems like he was forgetting his life before France. But the faint music playing outside the streets of his parents’ upstairs apartment would come back. The streetlamps that were always on seemed like stars in Smithson’s mind. Whenever he closes his eyes to leave the bland trees and dirt floor, he’ll be back in his family’s bookshop. The dusty typewriter in the back of everything, and the clean, fresh books on the closest shelves to the doors. The colorful covers that gave the shelves life. The titles that sparked the curiosity in Smithson’s mind. He was glad that he took a book from home with him but could not wait to go back to Manhattan. To taste his mothers Borscht again, for his father to ask him to help in the bookshop every Tuesday. Smithson remembers the first time he cried in France, but he could only go down from there.

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Smithson doesn’t know a lick of Hebrew, or Yiddish. Kagan was fluent in both, Hirschberg was learning, and Omar knew only Yiddish. Smithson knew Polish. The language that his parents would tell stories in, when Smithson was little. The language that they sang his birthday song in. The one that would comfort him in the worst of times. To hear this Nazi soldier, violate Smithson’s beautiful language, angered him. His only thoughts were to kill the Nazi. To silence him. To scalp him alive. Polish did not need to be said from that man’s mouth. Donny told him to not worry, that most of the time they don’t bother to answer Aldo’s questions. He was the only Nazi left. He shouldn’t kill him. He must endure his precious language being used to hate innocent people. His precious language being used to hurt the-

A gunshot whistled throughout the forest, as Smithson watched the Nazi fall on his face.  Hugo Stiglitz shot him.

“Goddamnit, Stiglitz,” Aldo sighed, looking down at the dead body. Smithson stood next to it. Smiling.

“He was too loud,” Hugo grumbled, walking closer to the dead body. He looked at Smithson for a short minute, before going down to scalp the man. Smithson remembers almost snapping in France, but Hugo did it for him.

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“Ihr dummt, Basterds,” The Nazi took out his gun, his boot on top of Smithson’s chest. Smithson’s breath hitched; his blue eyes wide. I’m going to die here. Smithson felt his stomach twist. I’m going to die here. The thought was all over his head, disorganized and in a state of panic. He’s going to die here, in the harsh dirt and leaves. Under the foot of a fascist soldier, with a stupid Pistol aimed at his head.

So, when he heard the squishy sounds of a knife piercing skin, he released a quick breath. The Nazi was pushed aside, and Smithson saw Hugo and his scowl. Hugo dropped his gun onto Smithson’s chest. It hurt a little bit, but he smiled. Smithson sat up, and watched Hugo scalp the dead man. Perhaps Hugo was a bit slow in his scalping, but Smithson didn’t want to say anything that wasn’t ‘Thank you’.

“Thanks for saving me, Stiglitz,” Smithson smiled, when Hugo turned to look to him. His smile was wide, relieved that he was still breathing. Hugo looked away.

He stood up, lending Smithson his free hand. They look at each other for a short second and Hugo starts walking, Smithson following him. The forest was peaceful as the young Jew tries to calm down his beating heart. He remembers everything feeling peaceful. That everything felt safe for a moment.

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It was Sakowitz’s birthday. So, Aldo decided to celebrate in a French village that Smithson couldn’t care to remember the name. They sat in a bar; Smithson close to the bartender due to him knowing the most French. The bartender, Eugene, was nice and polite, he didn’t question the English, but told Smithson to make sure they steer clear from Windows every so often. Sakowitz was dancing with a blonde woman. Smithson thinks that he didn’t know her name, but the two didn’t seem to care. The lieutenant, Donny, and Zimmerman were playing a “good” game of Blackjack. Wilhelm and Hugo were sitting in the corner, murmuring in German. Hugo watching Sakowitz and the blonde woman. Smithson felt a tap on his shoulder, and he looked back to Eugene the bartender.

“Would you like a drink?” The French man asked.

“Oh, yeah,” Smithson nodded, “Whiskey, please,” Eugene nodded, turning around to fix him up a glass. The music playing was upbeat and happy. The woman singer reminded him of the girls who wore fashionable dresses. The exact dresses Smithson’s mother would call ‘scandalous’ Smithson fondly remembered. Eugene settled a glass in front of Smithson, who muttered a quiet thank you.

“It’s on the house,” Eugene smiled at him, making Smithson smile back. “Including your friends but,” he leaned onto the counter, “don’t tell your friends that.” The two laughed, their voices echoing slightly throughout the tavern. Smithson felt eyes on him, a sense that developed in France. He ignores it though, as the music changes into something slower. Smithson holds the tiny glass in his left hand, looking around the bar. Sakowitz and the blonde woman were sitting down. The woman was talking in somewhat broken English, and Sakowitz nodded along with a goofy grin. Smithson looks to Wilhelm and Hugo’s table, the two were smoking and still chatting. Aldo, Donny and Zimmerman were still playing Blackjack. Surprisingly, Zimmerman was winning with a cocky smirk on his face. Everything felt normal for once as Smithson downed his drink, eyes still on him. He remembers that day being calm and almost dreamlike, and Smithson wished it happened more.

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“Why are you up, Utivich?” Smithson heard behind him; the voice easily recognizable. Hugo sat down next to Smithson. The dirt floor, and dry leaves were weirdly comfortable that night. Smithson rested his hands between his crossed legs. His fingers fiddling with the dead leaves.

“The stars seemed tempting tonight,” The Jewish man hummed, pointing to the brightest star in the sky. Smithson eyes were amazed by the sight. “I never got to see this in Manhattan,” Hugo nodded, looking up to where Smithson was pointing.  “My sister travelled a lot, and she told me her favorite thing was looking at the stars. Never got why until now.”  Smithson rested his arm, his hands holding each other in a slight need for warmth. “They really are pretty.”

“Meine mutter, she always said that stars are eyes,” Hugo whispered with a fond smile on his face. Smithson remembers the smile was faint, but he found it charming. “Said that they were the eyes of God and his angels, and that earth was the stage, and we were gods’ puppets.”

“An interesting way of thinking,” Smithson chuckled. He quickly glanced to the German, the smile growing on Hugo’s face. “Do you think of it like that?”

“I do,” Hugo hummed, and Smithson looked back to him to find Hugo looking at him. The German looked away immediately, Smithson doing the same, his face in a disappointed frown. Smithson stood up, looking up into the watching stars that mocked him.

“Goodnight, Stiglitz,” Smithson said with a polite tone, turning around, and walking away.

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Smithson remembers the scar on Hugo’s neck that seemed to trail down his back. He remembers asking about it, just out of pure curiosity. Hugo dismissed his question, saying that he didn’t need to know. He respected Hugo’s answer, but the curiosity of the scars origins always remained in Smithson’s mind.

Smithson reached 95 scalps before he knew it. Most of the Basterds congratulated him. The Lieutenant giving him a pat on the back and a father like smile. He did find himself thinking about the significant number during night patrol. Ninety-five.  The number making his stomach quench, and head spin. He thought the number would make him happy, but it’s left him with headache induced questions that he never bothered to answer.

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In the comfort of the dark sky, Hugo and Smithson sat next to each other. A thick quietness filled the tiny space between the two. Smithson was reading his book, and Hugo was sharpening his knife. The two found themselves in this same position during multiple nights of restlessness. It was a common occurrence that Smithson did not mind; he quite liked Hugo’s silent company. Sometimes Hugo will ask the other man about his book. Smithson tries not to ramble in his answers, but, he finds it difficult not to. He did not expect this random novel he brought with him to be a thrilling adventure. The book had Smithson at the edge of his metaphorical seat, making the Jewish man impatient sometimes. If Smithson was observing well, Hugo seemed amused at the younger man’s excitement. But that night, Smithson was tired. His body was aching to fall asleep. He did try to read at least a little bit, but Smithson’s mind was already drifting away from his book. The quick, high-pitched sounds of metal being sharpened were almost soothing. Hugo seemed to be sharpening rhythmically. The younger man tapped his index finger with the beat, for what seemed like a while. Smithson stops trying to stay awake and lets his eyes close. The book he held dropped into Smithson’s lap, letting his hands rest.

Smithson woke up to bright, cloudy skies, and his comrades cursing the new day. he finds himself laying down on his makeshift bed. When did he get here?

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In the late afternoon with the vague smell of smoke in the air, everyone was waiting for their grub. Donny was cutting firewood, and Smithson stood nearby to keep him company.

“Ya know, Smitty,” Donny starts, grabbing Smithson’s attention as the former continues with his beatless chopping. “This reminds me of home. When I was younger, Ma always made me chop wood when the trees stopped being green, and neighbors would pay for me to help them,” Donny chuckles, “My first job was this!”

“Huh, that’s kind of sweet,” Smithson smiles, “My first job was to restock all the books in my parents' store, didn’t get paid for it though,” he mutters the last part, but Donny heard and laughed at the slight realization. “It’s not like I was good at it anyways. I’d probably put away three books, then find one I like and start reading.”

“Is that how you became such a smartass, huh?” Donny asked, and Smithson just shrugged.

“I think school did that to me.”

“Well, it ain’t such a bad thing-” Smithson didn’t hear what Donny was about to say when behind him he heard his name in a low tone. Smithson turns around to see Hugo standing there with his arms crossed in front of his chest, and a tiny book in his hand. Smithson quickly shot a smile and was about to greet the man until he saw the book in his hand.

“What do you have there?” Smithson asked, eyes flickering to Hugo’s, then back to the book.

“You dropped it last night,” Hugo answered, handing the pocket-sized book back to Smithson. “I read the first few chapters.” Smithson looks down at the book in his hands. He didn’t even know he had lost it. Smithson always thought that it was in his pack.

“Oh, what did you think of it?” Smithson asked, slightly tilting his head when he looked back up to Hugo.

“The main character, Charlotte, yes?” Smithson nods, “She deserves better,” Hugo simply stated, making Smithson chuckle. Hugo’s charming, faint smile is back once more and lingers on for the remainder of this short interaction.

“She does, doesn’t she?” Smithson trailed off. The two staring at each other for a few, uninterrupted seconds. “Well, I’m almost done with it, would you like to take it when I’m done?”

“Sure, why not?” Hugo shrugged, and the two nod in agreement. The German looks behind Smithson, making the younger man remember that Donny was there. “Goodbye, Utivich,” Hugo turned around and walked back to where he came from. After watching for a moment, Smithson turns around to a staring Donny.

“You and Stiglitz are friends, huh?” Donny asked, but it felt more like a statement. “I kinda knew you two would get along.”

“I think he just tolerates me, Donny, we don’t talk to each other much anyway.”  

“Well, he talks to you and Wicki more than he talks to any other person here, that’s for sure,” Donny waves the axe in his hand, pointing it to Smithson.

“Maybe if you didn’t yell all the time, he would talk to you more,” Smithson retorted, earning a chunk of wood being half-assed thrown at him. It landed by his feet, and Smithson picked it up, feeling the splinters of wood pricking his hands. “Stiglitz talks to everyone; I’ve seen him do it.”

“If ya say so,” Donny shrugs, continuing his wood cutting. “Smitty, can ya check on the food? I don’t trust anyone besides you and Kagan with that shit,”

“Yessir” Smithson nods and walks away. The book in his soft grasp, and a weird urge to look for Hugo.

It was raining that night, and everyone was underneath trees as the Moon watches them in a brilliant glow. Maybe it was the little raindrops that fell onto Hugo’s skin. Maybe it was the cold winds that became harsher every minute that made Smithson’s cheeks a rosy red. But cold winds and rain never made Smithson’s poor stomach churn like this before.
 

 

 

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The forest was nothing but mundane weather, and irritated soldiers. Supplies were low and hostility rises as everyone smokes sparingly now. Smithson wasn’t an avid smoker but even he felt some sort of withdrawal. So, when he was told to head down to the town by Aldo, a feeling of relief ran through him. For the past few days, Smithson feared that one of his comrades might eat him alive.

His adventure into the town was a bit long. He didn’t know where anything was, but a nice lady named Eloise showed him around. If Smithson could write to his family, he would most likely tell them about this little town that was filled with a lurking despondency but painted with bright colors and happiness.

The sky was filled with swirly orange and purple when he returned. Aldo thanked him when Smithson gave him the bag full of things, and the leftover money.

“Thank god you’re back,” Aldo grins, leaning in closer to Smithson, a hand on his shoulder. “Hugo’s been a bit pissier ever since you left, so go talk to him. Give him a cigarette too,” Aldo suggested, patting Smithson’s shoulder and pushing him to the direction of a brooding Hugo. The German sat underneath a tree. His arms crossed, and his attention on Smithson and the Lieutenant. Aldo looks at the two before leaving for the more crowded area of the camp. Smithson walked over to Hugo, a friendly smile on his face as he got closer.

“Hey, Stiglitz,” Smithson waved his hand, “Whatcha doing?”

“Getting a break from the loudness,” Hugo says, prompting Smithson to sit down next to him. “I was hoping you would have given Donnowitz a bat when you returned.” Smithson sits closely to the right of him, a feeling of warmth blossomed and the two welcomed it. “He’s been swinging around that axe like an idiot.”

“I tried looking around but no store there sells bats. I wasn’t going to steal from some kid, but I did think about doing it,” Smithson jokes, making Hugo chuckle. “You want a cigarette?” He asks with a warm smile.

“Sure,” Smithson reaches into his pocket and grabs the pack that he took for himself. He opens it, putting one in his mouth, and taking another out for Hugo. The other man took out his lighter and lit his. Smithson moved his face closer to Hugo’s lighter, letting the cigarette end burn. He looks up to Hugo for a second, watching him watch the flame and Smithson smiles. He retracts his head and looks up, taking the cigarette out of his mouth to exhale. “May I ask something?” Hugo nods at him, letting Smithson continue. “When did you start smoking?” Hugo thinks about it for what seemed like 2 minutes.

 “Maybe a little bit before I was 16,” Hugo shrugs. “My father gave me one, and I just got hooked, if that’s the right term,” Hugo looks to Smithson for confirmation, and the Jewish man nods. “How about you?”

“Oh, uh, well,” Smithson smiles. A nervous air surrounding him. “My last year of high school, I was stressing out big time with my final exam,” Smithson pauses, “My long-time friend, Adam, takes me out to walk around Manhattan for the entire afternoon. He gives me a cigarette and lights it up, I told him that I’ve never smoked before, and he says it's easy, and just sticks the thing in my mouth!” Smithson looks to Hugo, a smile on his face that was covered a bit by white, swirls of smoke. “I don’t hold it against him anymore, he was just trying to cheer me up. I wonder what he’s doing now,” Smithson whispered the end. His eyes wandering. A quietness fell upon them, a comfortable feeling as cigarettes continue to burn. The memory of that charming smile will most likely linger for the rest of the day in Smithson’s mind. “Have you ever been to America?”

“No.”

“Would you ever go to America?”

“If I make it out of alive, your Lieutenant will just force me to go,” Hugo answers, looking over to the rambunctious group of people around a fire. Smithson looks to them as well.

“Well, you are a certified Basterd. It would make no sense if we were to go back and celebrate.  He wouldn’t want you to stay here in Europe when you helped us,” Smithson smiles, his cigarette now a dud, he tosses it to the ground, putting dead leaves and dirt on top of it.

“Celebrate with drunk versions of them?” He points to the Donny and Omar arguing about something about singers. “I’ll think about it.” Smithson snorts, a light fluttering in his stomach at the answer. It was most likely the cigarettes, Smithson thought. He hasn’t had one in quite a while; he lies to himself. The two sat there watching their comrades. Cigarettes tossed to the floor, and Smithson slightly sinking into the warmth that Hugo seemed to give off.Sitting next to him was quite nice, Smithson decided. And if Hugo inched a bit closer to Smithson, the younger man didn’t notice. Or maybe he simply didn’t care to be close to the man. It felt safe near him, and Smithson wanted that feeling of security more often.

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Smithson is continuously drowning in guilt. Everything about France reminds him of his sister’s letters. She described France almost like Heaven, but all he sees is Earth.  Bland, and harsh. Smithson knows that in different circumstances, his feelings would be like his sisters. If things were different, if she was alive, he would most likely adore the French forests, but everything here is flooded with jumbled words of praise for the country that destroys the scenery.

Sometimes when he wakes up, everything is black and white. Greys here and there and Smithson can only hear his parents reading aloud their eldest child’s letters ringing in his mind. When mornings like that happen, he learns to ignore it all, and find a place where no one will bother him. Where he’ll sit down and close his eyes. In those scattered, quiet moments, he forgets he’s in war, and he’ll feel a warmth in his body. The feeling is always fleeting though, and once it’s gone, he’ll go back to his comrades and ignore the worried glances from Aldo and Donny. The only people that know the troubles that plague his mind. Even when everything seems normal, Smithson sees her in the background of everything. It frightens him, but he deserves his torment.

He killed her anyways.

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Smithson did everything Aldo told him to do. It was a fact that he would not hesitate to carry out orders. He just finds the man intimidating. From the worn scar on his neck to the constant sound of authority he gave out. Everything about him was just- well, attractive if Smithson wanted to think about Aldo in that way. He had an aura that intrigued Smithson, but of course, Hugo had something akin to Aldo. The authoritativeness to him was present, but not necessarily needed. Aldo is their leader, the man who calls most of the shots. Hugo was very much in the background of everything. Smithson believes Hugo isn’t deflecting anyone, but he just seemed to like the quietness. Perhaps that is the reason why he seemed to like people of Wilhelm’s character. Quiet and intelligent. It seems like Hugo’s type. Like Hugo’s type. Smithson blushes, waving the thought off. Why was he thinking about “Hugo’s type” anyway? The recent thinking about everything related to the German was frequent. It wasn’t expected, and it certainly wasn’t entirely welcomed.

When Smithson was in college, he had more opportunities to experiment. Women were pretty and nice but just didn’t have the same “oomph” as men. Of course, he’s seen the Homosexual Cure posters, and because of them, he felt ashamed of some aspects of his sexuality, and many men that he has dated before having said the same.

College Smithson was separate from Manhattan Smithson and War-time Smithson.

College Smithson was what most people would call “Wild.” He was a flirt, a homewrecker; He was everything Smithson always wanted to be. College Smithson never experienced guilt or shame in who he was, and he just had fun. Maybe that part of him was a coping mechanism for his sister. Or maybe he was the rebellious phase Smithson never had in his early teens. What he does know is that when war came around, College Smithson had to grow up. War-time Smithson was a wreck, nervous, and passive. War-time Smithson was lost and afraid and needed help. Maybe that’s why he does whatever he’s told. If that’s what Smithson needs to do in order to live, to see his family again, then he’ll do it. People will think of him as a coward, but Smithson thinks of himself as quiet and intelligent.

He was precisely the type for war.

Exactly the type for Hugo.

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I deeply apologize to all my dear readers who tune in every week for Memories in France. In the beginning of writing, I was so happy. I made a skeleton, I had everything that I wanted to incorporate sewn in with the main plot of it all. But, as I continued to write, the more I despised what I was doing. Scenes that I at first adored, didn’t seem right. Plot points that took me months to write, just didn’t stick with me. I wanted to destroy the whole project, and start anew.
But I did continue, and the hatred simmered, but everything felt dull. I felt I was forcing things out of me. I wasn’t proud of my writing, nor did I despise it. Even if I hated what I was writing, at least I felt something. I was bored of everything. So for now, this will be on a hiatus. I might even delete the whole thing and rewrite everything to my liking again. I’m happy that I did Memories in France though. I tested the waters, as my friend once said. You all were very kind to me. But, I will be leaving for now to maybe write for other fandoms. I will not continue Memories in France for a long time. But when I do, I promise that it’ll be better.

Thank you,

 

Classical_Trash