The Tin Drum Chapter 21: Maria
Oskar says that while the governments of Europe spent all of their time and money gobbling up the metal of Europe, Oskar was running out of drums. He did his best to destroy the drum he had found in the post office because it reminded him of his guilt over Jan's death, but it somehow survived his attack. Oskar was convinced he would get a new guiltless drum for Christmas, but he did not. He was sure the grownups had hidden it from him; when he was proven wrong, he used his glass-breaking voice for the first time in a long time, and shattered all the decorations on the Christmas tree. Alfred could not understand.
Since Oskar was too small to work in the store, Alfred took on Maria Truczinski to work behind the counter. Maria understood Oskar better than Alfred - she bought him a new drum every four or five weeks. She acted with servility toward Alfred, and spent her free time playing the harmonica. She succeeded in bringing customers back to Alfred's store that had been lost when Agnes died. Maria was Oskar's first love - she was the first person that Oskar didn't mid touching him. Maria took to putting Oskar to bed - he would blush when she undressed him and put him in the bathtub. She did daring things in front of Oskar - she would take off her outer garments and clean them with gasoline. Maria smelled to Oskar of vanilla - she did not wear perfume, but smelled that way naturally.
In July, 1940, after Maria's brother Fritz Truczinski had been drafted, Maria and Oskar went to the beach. They rode the streetcar to the beach, having to pass Saspe cemetery on the way. Oskar tried to convince himself not to look, but the car turned and he was greeted with an unwelcome view of the cemetery, which was still painfully whitewashed. He took a long whiff of Maria's vanilla scent and looked to her necklace, a string of red wooden cherries.
Oskar was allowed into the women's changing area of the beach on account of his height, even though he was almost sixteen. In the private changing room with Maria, Oskar undressed first, facing the wall, though Maria turned him around to put on his woolen bathing suit. Then Maria began to undress quickly. Oskar drummed a little, then stopped. Maria whistled while undressing, more loudly as she finished. Oskar felt rage, shame, indignation, and disappointment as he felt himself become erect. He threw himself on Maria, burying his face in her pubic hair, and looked for the source of her vanilla scent. Maria laughed and tried to pull away. The vanilla scent brought tears to his eyes, then the scent switched to that of mushrooms or some acrid spice, reminding Oskar of Jan Bronski lying smoldering in the earth and he let go of her. Oskar slipped on the boards of the cabin and began to cry. Maria picked him up and called him a little rascal who didn't know what was what.