"I finally found a good reason to come home.
Stay safe, stay strong,
And let me know that you'll be here when I am gone."
-Take This to Heart, by Mayday Parade
In a small Jewish neighborhood in Boston, people talked about three things: They talked about how young Donald Donowitz gave his life to personally take down that Jew-hating maniac, Adolph Hitler; they talked about how a frightening looking man showed up on the Donowitzs' doorstep with that little black girl, looking as scared as she was pregnant; and they talked about how that girl had taken up residence at the Donowitz home, and raised her little boy, which she had named Donny Jr.
After the Basterds ended the war in Europe, Josie stayed in Paris with her brother for months. Both of them tried to live a normal life, but Marcel without Shosanna and Josie without Donny was a miserable existence for both of them. Soon, Josie realized she was pregnant. She was terrified, so she wrote to Aldo. He was just as surprised as Josie was, but he had her in America within a few weeks. And after a short stay in Maynardville, Tennessee, she was in Boston, meeting Donny's family.
At first, they were shocked. Donny had never written to tell them he had been seeing a girl in Europe. But of course, he had hardly gotten to write at all.
Josie explained that she had assisted the Basterds during their last year, that she was a Basterd herself.
Then Mrs. Donowitz called out the elephant in the room: Josie's bulging belly.
"Just as much a surprise to me, madam. I did love your son; very, very much. But we only had one night together… Aldo wouldn't allow much else." Josie explained with a deep blush, Aldo simply grinned.
Mr. Donowitz, who hadn't spoken except to introduce himself, finally said, "Anyone Donny considered family, we'll consider family too. You can stay with us, dear. Take Donny's old room."
"Josie, dear," said Marilyn Donowitz, who was past middle-aged. She had the devious and playful smile that was so familiar to the young French girl she had taken in. "Why don't you call Donny in for lunch?"
Josephine Donowitz was older now, thirty years old to be exact. She had taken on Donny's name, another shock to the community.
She walked out into the small back yard and found the boy. His dark curls and light brown skin made him a nearly perfect combination of Josie and Donny. He, too, shared Donny's smile. He was tall for his age, eight years old. Donny Jr. swung a baseball bat after he tossed a ball into the air. It hit the wooden fence lining the small property, for he had been warned not to hit them too high incase he broke a window. The kid had a fierce swing.
"Donny," Josie called from the steps.
He turned around and smiled up at his mother, "Yeah?" Just like his father, it got her every time.
"You're Nana says lunch will be ready in a few minutes, so come in and wash up." Being a mother had come easily to Josie, but she had had help.
Donny ran across the yard, put his bat by the door, and followed Josie inside. "Mama…?" He asked with hesitation.
Josie turned, "Yes, sweetie?"
"Am I ever going to be allowed to play with my dad's old bat?" He asked with a pleading look. The bat was kept in a glass case above the fireplace.
Josie frowned. "Has anyone ever told you about that bat?"
Donny nodded, "Just that dad took it with him in the war. It has names in it, and it's dirty." He paused, "It's just that I never got to meet him, so if I can use the bat, it's like I'll have a part of him, just like he's a part of me."
Josie walked into the living room with Donny on her heel and stood in front of the fireplace. "These names… they're of families in this very neighborhood. Jewish families like this one. Jewish names, like yours."
Donny nodded, "I know, Mama."
Josie smiled, "And that's not dirt. What you see inside the names that your dad carved… is blood."
Donny Jr. gasped. "Blood? But why?"
Josie put her arm around her son, "Your father met some bad men who wanted to do harm to innocent people. This bat was the last thing they saw."
Donny stared in wonder at the piece of wood in front of him.
Josie opened the case and removed the bat. Donny was surprised that she wasn't very gentle with it, but when he imagined what the bat had been through, this was probably the most delicate touch it had ever felt. "Donny, you don't need to play with this to feel like a part of your father. So much of him lives inside of you. He wouldn't want you to use something that represents the darkest parts of him."
"Then why is it sitting in our living room?" Donny Jr asked as he scrunched his face in confusion.
"Well, it also represents his sacrifice. He gave his life for his country and to save the lives of thousands of other people," Josie held out the bat to her son.
Donny took it, running his fingers over the names. "Mama, I know I've only seen pictures of Dad, but I love him. I'm real proud of what he did in that war."
In the doorway, a deep voice spoke, "I am too, son."
"Grandpa Sy! Did you know this isn't dirt in the names?" Donny asked with amazement.
Sy Donowitz laughed. "I know, Donny. Come on, if we don't get to the table, your Nana will use that bat on all of us."
Donny handed the bat back to Josie, who returned it to the case. He ran to the kitchen.
Sy went and stood by Josie at the fireplace and placed a hand on her shoulder. "Is it still hard for you?"
Josie looked up at yet another reminder of the man she had loved and smiled. "No. Not anymore. I have my Donny." She placed one hand against her heart and another on the glass case. "He's always in my thoughts. Besides, this is exactly how he would have wanted everything."