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Chapter 18: The Polish Post Office Notes from The Tin Drum

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The Tin Drum Chapter 18: The Polish Post Office

Oskar slept dreamlessly on the letters. He was awakened by the sound of machine-gun fire - the Germans had attacked the post office. Oskar's first thought was of his drum's safety - he dug a hole in the basket of letters and placed his broken drum inside. Oskar went in search of Koybella or Jan. In the hall, he could hear shots being fired from inside the building by the postal workers. Thinking his glass-singing talents could be enlisted to help the Poles, he instead got tangled in the grownups' feet. He watched the first Polish wounded as they were carried into the building. The first man was grazed in the arm. The second had been shot in the belly. A third wounded man was taken to Oskar's windowless room; he followed, lamenting that the man was placed into one of the mail baskets to bleed his drum. The drum, after all, had nothing in common with the blood of the Poles.

In a few minutes, the SS men blasted into the building, but reinforcements from the windowless room held them off. When the man came back, Oskar went to the third floor, to the apartment of the Chief Postal Secretary. On a shelf in the children's room in the apartment, high up amid other toys, sat a new tin drum just like those Oskar used. In the room he found Jan and Koybella behind a makeshift wall of sandbags. Koybella was busy shooting into the street at regular intervals with a rifle. Jan was huddled up and trembling in fear. Oskar gestured that he wanted Jan to reach for the drum, but Jan couldn't understand. Oskar tried to calm him down, but the Germans responded with a field howitzer that blew apart the iron fence around the building and scared Jan so that his eyes stood out of his head and made him scream. Koybella crept over and checked Jan for a wound; he was not hurt. Koybella gave him a gun, and with coaxing, Jan went to his post, emptied the magazine quickly, and slumped over again. Koybella looked at him and laughed, then kicked him in the shins.

Oskar never took his eyes off of the drum. During a lull, Koybella began to reach for it for Oskar - then a burst of machine-gun fire pulled him back to his window. After a time, Jan, who had been motionless, moved to the window he was supposed to man, and lying on the ground, put his right leg in the air in front of the window, exposing it for some German to shoot and get him off the battlefield. Enraged, Koybella rushed at Jan and began to pummel him with his fists. He was standing in front of the window; before he could do any real damage, he had been shot. Sitting under the window, the new drum suddenly fell into Oskar's arms. Before Jan would leave to haul Koybella downstairs, he insisted on picking up his belongings: his comb, his photographs, his purse, and all thirty-two of his skat cards, which had been scattered over the room. In the hallway, Koybella asked, "Is it all there?" Jan reached between the old man's legs and nodded.

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