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Book 2, Chapter 17: Scrap Metal Notes from The Tin Drum

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The Tin Drum Book 2, Chapter 17: Scrap Metal

On visiting day in the institution, Maria brings Oskar a new drum. Oskar would not accept the receipt from the store - he even had Bruno wash the price tag off the drum with hot water before he would look at it. Maria takes the old drum, well worn as it is. Per Oskar's instructions, she is to put it in the cellar at home, along with all of Oskar's other used drums. Oskar asks himself what it is that makes him collect his worn out drums - his answer is fear of a drum prohibition sometime in the future. This complex started on November 9, 1938, the day he lost Sigismund Markus to the Nazis and with it, his supply of drums.

Oskar had salvaged three drums from the ruins of Markus' shop. He drummed carefully and seldom in order to save them. Oskar began to lose weight in his depression. To get away from Dr. Hollatz, Oskar began to eat; the price, however, was that he ruined his three drums quickly. Alfred was of no help - he was lost to the Party (the Nazis), and held long conversations with the portraits of Hitler and Beethoven hanging in the living room - Beethoven spoke of destiny, Hitler of Providence. On Sundays, Alfred would spend his time collecting money for the Party. One day, Oskar took the collection box when Alfred was napping and tried to used it as a replacement drum - it was a miserable failure. Oskar learned then that no substitute could replace his drum. Now he had to carry on his deceptions without his drum; he had to pretend he was three years old alone. Oskar went looking for Jan Bronski.

With Agnes gone, Jan and Alfred's friendship had gone by the wayside - mostly since they came down on opposite political sides of the inevitable war - their meeting was forbidden. Once or twice a month, Jan would stop by after midnight to play skat with Alfred and Alexander Scheffler. Alfred and Jan soon found skat partners closer to their own way of thinking. Jan found Koybella, the janitor at the Polish Post Office where he worked. Koybella, Oskar thought, could probably fix his tattered drum. To get to Koybella, he waited for Jan on his normal route home from work. Jan didn't come on time - as he waited, he thought of the lengths he went to, to gain admission to the space underneath his grandmother's skirts. Only when she was alone could he gain free admission - he would go beneath her skirts and smell a rancid butter smell, and he would drum.

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Jan finally showed up, putting his hands over Oskar's eyes. Looking at the battered drum that Oskar showed him, Jan led him back to the post office, where he came from to search for Koybella the repairman. On a normal day it would have been a pleasant trip, dropping off the drum for repair. But as it was, the Polish Post Office workers had been undergoing military training for the past few months in preparation for the Nazis; they had turned the post office into a fortress. Jan had escaped from the post office, to get out of defending it against the oncoming Germans, but now Oskar had forced him to go back on account of his drum. Jan was secretly counting on the barricade of German SS men at the post office to turn him away; they did not, and Oskar and Jan were pulled inside the post office door, where the workers were putting up sandbags in defense. Oskar, unable to find Koybella, found a windowless room on the second floor filled with carts of unsent mail, and fell asleep.

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