by April Sunday
SHORT STORY COLLECTION/ adding former bitems ... from 2006 (etc} Edit Feb 3, 2016
To: William Faulkner, Esquire
St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans
My Esteemed Sir:
Please regale my exuberance brought on by your invitation to celebrate your 110th birthday on Sept. 25. May I convey your generous
tickets arrive of which we're so excitedly beholden.
My wise, inspiration, darling ... Woody, Hillary, Bill and yours truly, embark as touristy treasure seekers en route. Mr. Faulkner, please
note. Our happy party of four thinks you're THE MOST wonderful, generous bard of Southern American Lit.
P.S. Sorry to hear about your asthma. Best keep flowers out of the bubble-envelope in which you live and
breathe, oh fantastic visionary of non-linear narration.
Woody repeatedly practices a really funny joke. Best tighten those Ace bandages.
Hillary boasts another spell to eradicate world-wide pain. She's sure to share it with you.
As for Bill, my dear Illuminati sir, he's got fabulous eyes, shoulders, one-liners. His smile can melt steel.
We'll visit Rowan Oak thinking of ya'll while in Ole Miss.
Appreciatively, Au Revoir!
Paula LaRue (133)
American author, William Faulkner won the Nobel for Lit. in '49, Steinbeck in '62, Saul Bellow '76, Toni Morrison '93.
"The young writer would be a fool to follow a theory." William Faulkner.
Boarding at JFK, Pres. Clinton steers me to plush seats.
Hillary orders breakfast, checking black-boxes and impressive lists for our hotel itinerary.
Woody's deep in thought wondering if he deign discuss his short story epic, MR. BIG with our illustrious host.
Fashionable ladies in our entourage entertain flirtatious notions about purchasing scant sun dresses in New Orleans, our final
First up, however is the grand Faulkner stomping grounds, his start in life and actual viewing of his prolific writing desk in
Oxford, Miss. Faulkner's desk and homestead are precious relics to authors and literature buffs the world over.
To liven things up inside the Rowan Oak museum, Woody formulates an escapade.
Faulkner, a short-story-ist of great renown, brought his bride to roost at The Old Bailey Plantation as a newlywed.
Woody plans to limbo under heavy gold cords with the carpet bagger wiles of a coyote. Hill's to snap Mr. Allen scribbling on
the walls. Where, once intense plot twists from the famous conduit (Faulkner) supplied grueling compound form.
Smitten with history at every step along winding paths, we'll glance beyond sunny bowers and dining halls.
Knowing without a a doubt, here:
laid to rest
his weary pen.
"I am going to write a book which, at a pinch, I can stand or fall if I never touch ink again." William Faulkner, 1929.
9/21/2007 For me, this provocative jet ride proves an elixir. I'm cozy, sitting next to my president captured, enraptured,
alive flying over New York. And I love him very much. (Wow, ladies, is he ever hot!)
Mr. Clinton continues his rendition of Faulkner's much publicized Nobel acceptance speech. In a deep, masculine drawl,
Bill's determined to commit to memory, the Faulkner speech from 1949. Just in case, a need ever arises and he's on the
podium himself one day in far off Sweden.
Upon our arrival we're inundated with sweat, below sweltering shade. The heat in Old Miss is so intense sidewalks
melt, stonewalls become unhinged. Locals bombard themselves behind closed doors, basking in air conditioning.
Once, "A sparrow slanted across the sunlight, onto the window ledge, and cocked his head at me ..." careened against
a typewriter ribbon inside the Faulkner enclave.
Now, incessant marching about like Army WACS, Hill's girls come hither and yon. These, tall, spiky, laptop connoisseurs
follow her with mini battery fans, tongue-in-cheek. Her staff's shrills convey an overall allowance of unbridled, creativity
among writers of books.
For the next two days, we'll wallow our curiosity below wisps of dry Spanish moss. Which, when pulled from the skin
affords the grayish backdrop of Faulkner's jaunts into realism via racial explanations of the hard times.
Allen is the first to put a damper on things. He's caught photographing Faulkner's unpublished manuscripts. The
"personal notations" he says he may need later, hoping exact details will come in handy for his own comedic venues.
I hustle Woody's left elbow. No plagiarism on my shift, I warn. Our jostling almost causes us to fall over as we succumb to
the Mississippi heat akin to the gates of Hell.
At the Rowan Oak ceremonies, Pres. Clinton's eyes tear accepting a ream of papers from a tour guide. Bill's a huge fan and h
andles with the delicacy of an ape a manuscript long thought lost at sea in 1929.
Then, when on his way to Genoa, William Faulkner himself heaped tons of un-edited text overboard. Unbeknownst to the future
Mississippi King an alert Jason Compson IV "the first sane Compson since before Culloden ..." notices a disturbing wind blowing
most of the unruly papers back onto a lower deck.
Mr. Clinton kisses the pile of papers in his temporary charge. The University of Mississippi thanks the family of Quentin Compson,
posthumously for the relics retrieval as these are added to the Faulkner memorabilia.
Outside at a press conference, Sen Hillary Clinton shakes hands with Sen John Edwards (D) of North Carolina. Hillary poses center
stage during the controversial look backward upon the path of American Literature. Outside on a misty verandah she announces her c
omplete withdrawl from the presidential campaign. A surprised group of stone-faced publishers listens as she offers her future support for Mr. Edwards.
Pushed unkindly to the back of the cheering throng of humanity, Mr. Allen comments on the laid back brilliance of the sinking torrid
twilight. We meander among ponds of rainbow trout, cast our fate to mosquitoes which think we are the best thing since sliced
Gulping mint juleps from silver trays, Bill waits until midnight before taking out his sax. Woody screws together his clarinet and a fond
evening of captivating jazz ensues.
Hillary is in a corner avidly paging THE SOUND AND THE FURY when night caves in around us. Hard to believe we are sated usurpers
of such sweet, southern style hospitality. Altogether the next few days are ripe with novice enjoyment, taking in the sights where
Faulkner created his cast of characters in his early days of publication ventures.
Like many an upstart, Faulkner's family remained shocked by his pushing the inside of the envelope, branching out into seriously gifted
depictions of Southern life. For posterity he bound together superb creative talents in his novels which dealt with relationships between lovers.
While it is true, Faulkner's chair at the University of Virginia as Writer in Residence ended in 1962, his life did not. He was whisked away
to New Orleans where he previously wrote MAYDAY in 1925. Retitled: SOLDIERS' PAY, Harcourt, Brace & Co release the novel while
Faulkner heads for the call of contemporary asylum among gifted authors. He's sequestered to the Left Bank of Paris. Europe is at his
fingertips and he becomes an avid sightseer.
Suffice to say, inside St. Louis Cathedral bell tower, amid sweltering discomfort, he spends the next thirty-five years reading his
own long-winded epistles. Mr Faulkner withdrew from society, stabbing at quasi nuances of editorial bias. Since published under a
nother clandestine pseudonym.
We end our sojourn in Mississippi flying out on Air Force Two with the Edwards in tow. None of us really looks forward to seeing
the emaciated form of a once healthy, five foot, eight inch, boy wonder of the short story and novel world prior to the turbulent
mid-Sixties. However, we're booked into a four star hotel for the weekend. The Big Easy beckons. We answer the call willingly.
The William Faulkner Birthday Celebration is a highly private affair. A media circus is not expected. The night of the charade is
carried off without a single note of warning to the press and the world at large.
We walk slowly in pairs along a moonlit arena. Gas lamps overhead direct us toward the outside of St. Louis Cathedral.
Built in 1738, the towering white church is a New Orleans delight, basking the French Quarter with millions of tourists over
time worn centuries.
Suddenly, we're swept along by French abbots. They lead us behind the Cathedral, into St. Anthony's Garden.
Mr. Faulkner's hospital bed is propped on an elevated platform. Towering New Orlean's mausoleums pale in comparison behind t
he silver gurney of "The Pride of Dixie Literature."
One by one we're allowed to pass without fuss, prodded forward in abject silence.
The Clintons are the first of a long line of admirers. Mrs. Clinton kneels, kisses Faulkner's withered hand. She shimmies nervously,
frozen in place. Bill raises her to her feet. Then kneels in her place where he's knighted with the hilt of an emerald encrusted sword.
Mr. Allen tells me, "Stay close, Fiona." We lean on each other, our shoulders even like Siamese twins. Finally after whispering to the
Edwards, husband and wife, how he hopes they enjoy the White House, our centenarian colleague adds: "I sure did on rare occasions
when I visited there, John."
We move as if in a trance.
Woody is thanked by the great bard for making the old gentleman/ founder of the Okatoba Fishing and Hunting Club laugh. He breaks down,
slinks off, wiping his eyes, honking at his nose.
On line, I'm given a door-prize of a make-up case. The small yellow case is a dead-ringer match for Hillary's lemon, linen pant suit. Later,
at our hotel we'll trade. In exchange, the former first lady gifts me her silver evening bag which matches my stiletto heels. I've always
favored silver over gold. In case you're wondering, I stopped seriously competing in this tight crowd from the git-go.
At last, my chance to meet him, to be presented. My arrogant, twisted soul aches in acute pain to embrace his listless arms, pummel his hand, kiss his bald pate.
"So! Fiona Moffett, if I live and breath," quakes from the 110 ten year old Nobel Prize winner's parched rudimentary lips.
Falling on my knees, crying: Your HONOR!"
All night long, I turn my full attention to every eloquent word he speaks to everyone in the entire snaking line. Now it is my chance to finally meet the American inventor of stream of consciousness ala character detail.
How explain the thrill attacking the very marrow of my bones?
"Listen, kid, you got what it takes," he says to me. To ME!
Woody shakes me. Small potash, I'm quickly pushed out of the path of a steam rolling, camera crew tooting, Michael Moore. Onrushing footsteps cause the Mississippi Master to roll in the direction of the flabbergasted crowd of worshipers.
Without further ado a collective hush settles at the edge of the platform. As if alone, I wave in the air to combat a debilitating accident. Namely to be crushed beneath no other than the wheels of William Faulkner, Esquire.
"Fiona, Fiona!" Someone cries, shaking me from slumber.
"Fiona, only a few minutes to post time. The contest deadline, remember?"
Yes, 'tis true, thus the late hour submission.
Alone in my bedchambers, Faulkner novels stacked playfully on all available surfaces, one bids you good night. Don't let the bedbugs bite.
Thus I begin reading: ... "Have there been very many Caddy
I don't know too many will you look after Benjy and Father
You don't know whose it is then does he know
Don't touch me will you look after Benjy and Father
The bridge was of gray stone, lichened, dappled with slow moisture where the fungus crept."
* From: FLAGS IN THE DUST by William Faulkner.
Biblio: Faulkner: Novels 1926-1929, Publisher: The Library of America --- 2006
© Copyright 2007 Paula LaRue (teffom at Writing.Com).
FRAULEIN HANNAH ECK
by Mary Moffett
Falling in love with Fraulein Hannah Eck at first sight was no easy task in 1945. She's extradited soon after we meet, for trial by the Brits in Hamburg. Under the Nuremberg Trial's jurisdiction my dear Hannah's considered a war criminal. To me she's a misguided child of seventeen who I take upon myself to liberate. Eventually we marry although our lives experience out and out strife. Meeting during harsh conditions, war torn Germany is known for back then, results in pure hell.
The first time I saw Hannah I'm dispatched as part of a search brigade courtesy of the Russian Army to a crowded concentration camp, nestled between cold mountain lakes, a mere fifty miles north of Berlin. Conditions at Ravensbruck are filthy, murderous and appalling. We assault the Aufsherin easily in full view of the 3,000 surviving female prisoners. Despite three crematoriums, overcrowded conditions, degradation, waves of rampart illness and near starvation, slave laboring residents of this women's camp welcome us with open arms. This is a treatise in human behavior, one never forgets, forges in the mind for all eternity. Securing the camp, rounding up the perpetrators of terrible, unthinkable crimes against humanity, far, far from the SS, devoid now from any further directions from their infamous leader, Heinrich Himmler, requires two weeks of pure grief.
Aufsherin elite, female guards conscripted by an edict from their Fuhrer, himself ... stoically remain puzzled and austere as we herd them together, locking them in a dilapidated bunker. Their power is gone. This takes time to sink into their stubborn, dedicated noggins.
Ravensbruck began as a training arena for women guards later sent to spend tenures at Auschwitz, Birkenau, and thirty-four satellite camps. Places their credentials appeal to, reasoning being that these ladies manage the camp's inhabitants with the aide of feisty, blood thirsty German shepherds. Much better than Germany's overtaxed male population who are needed elsewhere. Any German in uniform is our enemy. Aufsherin wear gray wool skirts and shoulder padded jackets, fond of posing for pictures with large dogs growling beside their wide waists.
Near Furstenburg, a small resort where German civilians and Army personnel came with their families, to enjoy the mountains, Ravensbruck is first established in 1939. The camp functions under the direction of the criminally insane Aufsherin until the Russian Army razes it to the ground in 1945. An estimated 130,000 women and children pass through this model hell hole. How many of these victims of greed and slaughter and death Hannah Eck handles is not known. She reports to her overseer, the Oberaufseherin, Dorothea Binz, camp warden, later sentenced to hang in April 1947. Hannah says she always liked her. By then Hannah and I are en route to a second destination.
More about that later for I wish to write my tirade in a chronological manner with few mistakes if memory serves. Actual itinerary for my military career of which this solider went AWOL as you say in the states, while Russians simply nod: five years in Siberia, must be left out as a safety precaution. We stay on the run for fifteen years until 1960, continuously looking over our shoulders, changing names and cities, shedding all past affiliations the way a snake sheds skins.
Hannah prefers to call me by my full name, Davidovich Vladiminsky almost from the minute she instigates her escape from the wooden barracks. She threw a long, firmly calved legs up over a high, rusty, barbwire fence with the speed of a bullet from a machine gun which the infamous Aufsherin guards employ with the precision of a well tuned orchestra. We receive this information from thin, skeletal ladies of the French Resistance, who graced the deplorable environment of Ravensbruck with fortitude and courage. They, along with others from The Dutch Resistance, record a death toll list of piteous names numbering over 92,000 victims. Although from their pens drip surnames of Gypsies, Poles, Latvians, Hungarians and Russians, the list supplies little consolation to bereaved families searching Europe between 1943 and 1953. Maybe sadly even to this day.
None of this matters to Hannah Eck when she confides to me she's fighting the enemy, the same as me. Anyone dubbed Jude or brought here by the transport trains is her enemy, her beloved Fuhrer's reason to wreck havoc across a continent. Again, I digress with historic lecturing.
Suffice to say, Fraulein Eck's rather extensive derriere tumbles like a bomb from a B-52 right smack dab into my arms, upon my person on the opposite side of the barrier protecting Ravensbruck from the outside world. A community which daily ignores black, putrid smoke billowing from German bake ovens, amid screams from experimental medical labs.
The prisoner work force sent out from Ravensbruck tries the patience of company bosses at Siemens Electric Co, still one of the most profitable electricity corporations in the world. The captives manage an occasional tour de force. Sabotaging detonation parts and being found out only added to corrective chores to the erstwhile chagrin and dissatisfaction of the club wielding Aufseherinnen. Himmler orders whippings, collects prinsoner's raggy blankets. Elects to serve merely gruel type, emaciation soup only once a day. German employees at the electric plant, nee construction site of war weapons, high on the list for Nazi government contracts, deemed it so. German civilians at the plant never once wrote one official letter of complaint regarding the Ravensbruck inmates ill treatment by their Aufsherin guards. Day after tormented day, weak women and children reluctantly file into the industrial complex at gunpoint without one single protest to the contrary.
Seasons change, time wages a toll against these pitiful creatures. Harsh winter temperatures arrive between 1939 and 1945, yet still prisoners pulled heavy road paving equipment, fourteen to a machine. The object: laying new roads and rail beds around the compound. The Russian Army leaves standing a memorial tribute to these unfortunate women, whose children toil ten hours per day sewing winter jackets, luxuriant furs for SS elite's social basking wives and daughters who fare far better.
Beside their failing mothers, children sort through spoils of war arriving in huge bundles to be picked over. Clothing, jewelry, art objects, confiscated throughout Europe. Placed in bins, this booty's redistributed, sold, stored at Ravensbruck, one of the "Nazi's main depositories." Children sew modest, wide striped, prisoner fashion of the times.
With an iron fist, an enormous, sleek eighty pound canine, a whip, a chain and a pistol butt, Hannah quickly excells in her new job. Her training course as a prison guard complete, she feels relief being out of Berlin, away from Allied bombs which scare the living daylights out of her. She'd been highly spoken of at her Lutheran congregation where she sang in the choir. Fraulein Hannah's voice which can stop a clock. Her dear parents, who she subsequently misses all her life, wrote praising her new career proudly.
She told me on our first wedding anniversary she only killed thirty of the Judes. She insists these 'kikes' were born trouble makers who refuse to carry on a simple work day of thirteen hours per day. "Some Judes," she says, "actually tried to sneak up on me." When her shift's over and she's petting her dog or rocking the deformed gypsy baby the good Dr. Rosenthal gives her as a gift. "He wanted to make sure a simple woman like me could love an infant."
Experiments at Ravensbruck include testing of cyanide poisoning, abortions, bone transplants and the ever popular switch of entire limbs from one patient to another. Another goal is to draw comparisons for German emergency surgery upon German soldiers, by German doctors and nurses. Some of those caring individuals swore their Hippocratic oaths at Ravensbruck.
At our first breathless meeting, the wind knocked out of me, we roll upon each other, side to side. For some ungodly reason, my eyes rivet on Hannah's chubby face. She has golden braids down to her waistline. Two missing teeth form her signature crooked smile. Through our lean years of sparse employment my infamous Fraulein stays approximately 250 lbs. Hannah can inhale and gain weight. So there I hold onto her, struggling as she puts a deadly fist lock on my neck like a monster vice.
Seeing my dilemma, rounding the compound's corner, comrades separate me from my own true love. Too late, for the sheer energy of the woman attracts me something fierce. Later, smitten by her impartial, blank, ignorant gaze at the Ravensbruck Trial I can't get her out of my mind.
On the way to Nuremberg, I receive permission to be her personal escort. She's the only one of the Nazi defendants sobbing tears of remorse. Or so the world at large thought via cameras, newsreels and radio broadcasts. Hannah cries because she misses her dog, the infant long gone. One night in a burst of anger toward a human being not wearing striped rags, Hannah once relates she can't abide its lopsided head no longer. She wishes the baby could wail like the other babies attended by her compatriots in Aufsherin private chambers where diapering, bottle warming, formula stirring and bathing ensue after work in the yard. Many a night, Hannah's bereft from the social whirl of nurturing and child rearing. Her baby's a charge with cleft lips, devoid of vocal cords, a deaf mute. A product of artificial insemination, she tells me proudly. A gift from her friend and confidant, and former lover the Angel of Death, as history so dubs the bastard, serial killer, an addicted torturer, Dr. Josef Mengele.
"He practically ran the place for a while, but was promoted to Auschwitz," she says on our fifth wedding anniversary. By then we must vacate the Bronx where we arrive in 1948. An uncle of mine kindly sent tickets to come by air. We lay over in London where my voluptuous Hannah enjoys the Blitzkrieg's handiwork. Bombing sites: high on her list of sightseeing.
Hannah and I exhaust the topic of Ravensbruck by the end of three years of marriage. I give in to her request, promising to let her relive her 'important part' in Third Reich German history, on Christmas Eve. My darling wife's smitten with the holidays, singing Silent Night in her addictive soprano. Afterward, she'll talk all night about what a good job she did, basking in artificial limelight ala compliments she receives from Dorothea Binz and the great doctors whom everyone in the Nazi party swear are ahead of their time. Mengele and Rosenthal. My Hannah, part extovert, very long-winded about her glory days. Well versed in hands-obn historical details.
She worships credentials re: Mengele's family, known for farm tractor production, wealthy beyond even average SS standards, satisfied his whim of medical school. Although he repeatedly flunked out, Heir Hitler himself gave him a position working among the various camps. Hannah, who hardly has the IQ of a cherry clam combined with an gnat, thinks he was God's gift to medicine. Secretly, I always knew my international criminal wife savors a school girl's crush on him.
In 1947, by the time the trial starts, Hannah gets her teeth stubs capped, her gorgeous straw hair dyed black. Her plastic surgery heals, except one eye has a pulled down slant all the way to her jawline. Dr. Rosenthal, adept at chemical applications dealing with anti-freeze and botched surgery, performs the operation himself. We smuggle him below to the lady monster's cells. My lover's new look is startling. To me this adds to her allure. I get her out of the place with the stealth of an invisible vampire from Transylvania. We make love beneath the stars, pretend we're drunken soldiers celebrating the end of war. It's easy really with my access to the jailer's keys.
I'm fascinated with her girth. She's a thoroughbred in bed. Eventually, I tire of her arrogance and desert Fraulein Eck after our fifteenth year.
Our last night together I press the whore Hannah about the women of the French Resistance, holding themselves above the hell fires of Hannah's original stomping grounds. By then my novice research on the subject of Germany's National Socialism pays particular attention to those who buck the system during the Nazi regime under the sacrilegious leadership of mass murderer, Adolph Hitler.
She went off, listing her attributions toward these damsels in distress until I can stand no more. How "the Frenchies" marched around, bent, weak yet so haughty with their language classes. So Jude swine could communicate with Poles and other nationalities all beneath the towering German bloodline, pedestal of the Third Reich's mighty esteem for itself. Then my dear wife's eyes go as round as saucers. The droopy eye wobbles with her considerable chins which rest on her ample bosom, like a stone edifice at Stonehenge.
She regrets her words as soon as she speaks them. Forgetting my name is Vladiminsky, she should at least offer an apology. Perhaps we'd sip our drinks, climb in bed, turn up the motel heater, snuggle under the covers.
Instead, she intensifies her remarks by standing up as straight as a lopsided cliff. Her bra-less chest nearly hits the floor as she leers at me. "They told us from above ... The SS sent an official report. Almost 25% of all prisoners in the camp were Russian. These swindlers stole all that was good in the world. These Jews by their mere birth had nerve talking French right in front of us. They talked about us, condemned us to the French. But, of course, we were above their remarks. We worked for Heir Hitler, the greatest president Germany has ever seen. Everywhere we've been, David, people never forgot such a great man."
So my marriage lasted from 1945 when we were married secretly by a Lutheran chaplain, deep inside stone dungeons of Nuremberg Prison where infirmary ghouls nursed her, thus changing her face. Maybe the Mengele family was behind this payment for devotion. Josef escapes across the the Alps, on to South America, chased by Nazi hunters until the Sixties. Paraguay took in The Angel of Death. Perhaps due to hefty bribes, or they needed the money for his rent.
The entire time we're a couple, Hannah never spoke of her hatred for Russian women, bloodline of my mother, my sister and my grandmother, until that fateful night.
Ignoring my ken for broody silence, Hannah went on and on. I'm reluctantly treated to inside information. How the French spies at Ravensbruck sang and cavorted in circles, holding hands with lying, cheating Jude children, Hannah called piglets, shoats. Our worst conversation to date. Why hadn't I saved a mademoiselle whom I now hold in high esteem for laughter under scrutiny, which lifted the spirits of the heartbroken, the chronically ill, the dying? That night I left for good.
Did part of me set out to punish Frau Eck? Guilty of that, I Davidovich Vladiminsky pressed my anger upon her whenever feasible. Fists and bruises never changes her. Hannah Eck shows no remorse for her crimes. Not once. I wanted to raise a young wife so I could praise her past beauty, her reborn normalcy. I fail in my conceited altruism. Hannah is Aufsherin to the bitter end.
Yes, I desert my Hannah, the love of my life, the vain of my lonely existence. While once I attracted to the innocent, duped Nazi child, now I am utterly appalled by this obese, ugly, braggart. A shouting murderer in our temporary drafty, dirty motel room. My fate? Merely another food-less supper. Save for an occasional swig of vodka, what did I exist on? Hate, perhaps for taking care of this warped freak?
Again and again, temptations to beat the living shit out of my beloved, tough love mate, the former Fraulein Eck were given into as is the way with cordiall marital bliss. This time, thinking I left her for dead, I cross the border into Canada from Seattle and never look back.
Winters are akin to Moscow in Vancouver. I communicate via the Internet with as many organizations as I can about the events that happened under the tutelage of my enterprising, vainglorious wife. I own another new passport, collect a series of them. It is 1990, Hannah would be 62. I am arthritic, stooped, shorter. Forever skinny. I enroll tonight in a high school equivalency course offered at a local church.
When I open the oak door to the church, I tear off my wool scarf, it wipes the snowy floor. I sit in the front, my eyesight is poor.
Who do you think walks into the side entrance? Turning itself sideways as if fitting a couch or an elephant into the cramped low door. My Hannah is tall, she has impeccable breasts, she has golden braids. This thing is grotesque. Her skin's covered by welts and bumps, psoriasis associated with canine spittle, I guess. She pulls on a long silver chain, hauls a huge, struggling shepherd into a stance of sorts, but he's only pushing backwards. Wind howls behind them, snow flurries inside. The dog has his front feet inside to the other five students relief. Cold so biting goes up my spine. My hand freezes across my mouth. I squint.
"Hannah, oh, Hannah, my dear love of my life. Is it really you?"
She stumbles past a low table, drops a carpet bag, lets go of the leash. She is upon me, my chair falls to the wayside.
"Davidovich, my David, my rescuer," she cries. When she smiles, the class smiles with her, as we all list to the side where the droopy eye is balanced by the strength of her resounding Germanic voice. Her triple chins make me giddy. An entire roomful of unsuspecting strangers rise and come to our aide. For we're once more tangled in each other's arms. Her strong legs and immense weight overwhelm me. Like a lioness she licks salty, crocodile tears from my face.
Two weeks later, I contact the French Embassy in Ontario, rat out the last known Aufsherin. Avoiding possible implications for aiding and abetting, I must leave, book as the Americans say. I kept the dog. We leave tonight for the Yukon Territory. Maybe he'll keep me warm at night. Hannah would like that.
Invited to tour Germany with a group of WWII history buffs, I arrive in Berlin to find the German papers filled with stories about Fraulein Eck. There's a group of us here to attend the trial and subsequent execution of said individual. Answering an ad to teach Russian to the incarcerated, I meet and greet my wife of twenty years. She receives a reprieve of life imprisonment. The Vladiminskys quietly register for a course together Hannah seems not to mind studying French. We sit side by side holding hands. Hannah's careful to always call me Sam, the name on my current passport. My Hannah has white hair and she's much thinner these days.
Yet ... Tolerance and love, heartfelt truly from my side of the desk, graces her fair golden braids as I kiss those rosy dimpled cheeks, shedding tears each time I remember her innocent girlish smile. One supposes we turned a few pages of history together, so it's easy to avoid that awful droopy eye.
STORMY WEATHER & HOT DANISH
Gretchen Vrejlevon's gray headed, elderly torso lying in a claw-footed tub isn't what nephew, James and his wife Patsy expect to find on their summer visit to Aunt Gretchen's humble abode. Debating calling the law, either the staties or the locals, to the remote section of Davidson Co., twenty miles due north of Scranton, PA takes top priority. All Patsy does is stop their Volvo, rush inside to the bathroom, her screams echoing through rose gardens, tearing across the vegetable patch where Jimmy samples cherry tomatoes, then pukes his guts out. Torrential rain arrives, flashing lightening and thunder akin to a banshee, flooding the stone patio, wiping out the ninth hole on the adjacent golf course behind the two story stone house.
Detective Jeff Paxatawny visits Steeraway Golf Club often in the past few months of active police duty out of Scranton aware Miss Vrejlevon, a Danish emigrant from 1957, often has her rear windows done in by golf balls. Paxatawny's reluctant inspection of the body floating sideways in the tub ensues. Gretchen, age 81, exhibits a gruesome sight. Not much left after crows and vultures take to flying in and out an open window behind her, properly shocking nonetheless. Clearly something went very wrong with the left side of her head. One eye's out, dried blood clots coalescing like a waterfall onto a bronze eagle claw atop the tiles. "It's said 50 % of all household accidents occur near the tub," Jimmy mumbles from the hallway, afraid to look.
Gretchen enters her Pringle Petal Orange Rose in the annual horticulture competition at nearby Forest Nursery every year and wins. Mrs. Forest, a rival rose connoisseur drives out earlier that week to deliver a late entry form. Gretchen stops driving when she turns 77. Cataracts, according to Dr. Harvey, a life long friend and Gretchen's intimate. Those two often seen cutting a rug at square dances, the first in line at Matilda's Roadside Rotisserie House down on Route I-91 every Sat. night like clock work.
Rumor has it Doris Forest is mildly jealous because judges overlook her Vinyl White Superb, a rose with a taffy colored center, year after year in favor of Pringle Petal Orange. "What do they know?" asks Dave Harvey. He instantly takes up with Doris Forest. The following week escorts her to the Ringling Bros. Circus to see the hugest elephant parade to ever grace downtown Scranton, a coal town which welcomes diversions. The couple waves to the imported NY judges who wear roses in their lapels, double breasted suits, pin striped with wool vests. Here for the horticultural contest, they spend a week at the Scranton Arms, playing the daily round of golf, thankful to be out of the toasty asphalt city of their births.
Jimmy and Patsy tidy up the house after forensics comes and goes. Make more appropriate calls. Gretchen's lawyer visits, tells Jimmy he's sole inheritor of the estate, fifty acres with a right of passage clause from Steeraway Golf Club. Patsy takes umbrage when Jimmy accepts a $50,000 promissory note for a loan from Gretchen to her former beau, Dave Harvey.
Vinyl White Superb places first as dead matrons carry no posies to garden shows. Although dearly, departed Gretchen Vrejlevon is laid to rest surrounded by blooms. Patsy and Jimmy Vrejlevon return to Philly. Everything seems under control. Harvey and Doris Forest schedule a trip to Spain for a little R & R. After Forest seals a deal selling Forest Nursery to an out-of-state conglomerate associated with Wall-to-Wall Bargain Mart. "Crappola on the march" according to the Wall Street Journal. The last quoted by the NY judges and Gretchen's lawyer. Who produces a copy of the will faster than a lump of coal tumbles down a coal chute. Growing roses in coal dusty soils, no easy fete for contestants.
Att. Bill Moyer uses decayed fish under his pride and joy, Finnicky Fuchsia, a four-inch, wide wonder.
No charges of murder in the first degree are forthcoming until a witness shows up with a tale of mayhem during another terrible storm earlier that fateful summer. Blind justice takes a toll on the small rural community of Bushkill Falls. Overnight the place is swamped. A black and white photo of the tub crests the front page of Pocono Mainstream Independent, an investigation pending. When a private map is discovered in Gretchen's cherry wood secretary, curiosity seekers and treasure hunters line the back roads. Hikers camp in Gretchen's lane. Jimmy is notified to come take care of the place, now under siege from the outside world from as far off as Newark.
Patsy quits her job as a receptionist at a dental office in Cheltenham, the first relative to reside permanently in the old stone house belonging to the popular emigrant Dane. She says she hears ghosts, but Jimmy won't believe her.
Dr. Harvey visits for tea and Ingrafaerkage, a recipe that Gretchen passes on to Patsy. He says he's in arrears, owing his second mortgage to Gretchen. Harvey tries to enlist Patsy as confidant, testifying to high costs of living, his increasing dependence on Zaannaxoride. Dave Harvey spends hours citing wage, per capita, school, state, federal, social security, occupational and property taxes that double once Bush won his second term. "No money came anymore from the feds for PA schools, now that's fact. Is it any wonder they call it Tax-sylvania?" Harvey quips.
Everynight between dusk and nightfall, Detective Paxatawny of Scranton PD visits the last vestige of his jurisdiction with a young man, folks assume is the out-of-town lawman's son. That witness is in fact a caddy. While Doris Forest never won the rose competition, she's a yearly winner in the Betsy King Golf Tournament and even played once with the former PA Gov. Tom Ridge. Last year she came in tenth.
When all is said and done, Patsy steams ear after ear of corn for Jimmy who drives up every Friday night.
Paxatawny forgoes buying fresh veggies. He's allowed to pick his own, also invading the orchard on perpetual visits when he combines crime scene questions for the family and friends with a relaxing round of golf. Alibis are tucked into files the way a weaver spider nets flies.
The caddy is sworn to secrecy, eventually sequestered to Albany for his own protection. The prominent, NY, judge contention is tailed. They display an uncommon surge in financial gain. Wall-to-Wall Corp. contacts Patsy, who pushes to sell, saying she misses friends in the City of Brotherly Love.
Treasure seekers find nothing. Fingerprints on the original map, long stamped out by constant Xeroxing. Copies sell for almost five bucks a shot. Times hard in the Poconos where industry is scarce, these only snare buyers via e-bay.
Finally sated, gaining weight from potatoes, cantelopes and corn, the waddling 279 lb, Paxatawny announces he's re-opening the case of Gretchen Vrejlevon's innocent demise with a possible arrest warrant. Local townsfolk gather outside Scranton PD, bump shoulders with reporters from as far off as Brooklyn. An elderly one-eyed Dane found dead floating in a claw-footed bathtub upstairs on a remote country estate apparently is nothing to sweep under the rug. Neither does the entire affair wash with Matilda, who has an upper hand in moving Gretchen's valuables around local antique shops, the way a cow stampedes from a passing train. Strong and cumbersome is Matilda, Gretchen's best friend for over forty years. Why, Matilda built her dessert cart around Danish delicacies, provided by Gretchen. Roadside Rotisserie will sorely miss seeing the two head to head over a flour sifter. (The red herring to hidden treasure might be the antiques. Maybe yes, maybe no. One never knows with red herrings.)
Matilda cries the most at Gretchen's graveside, Patsy comes in second, Jimmy as pale as Vinyl White Superb. The good Dr. Harvey? Well, he plays golf the afternoon of the funeral, despite another summer downpour washing across the slopes, lightening lashing at the Pocono Mountains for twenty-four hours straight.
Delivering a pan of Korendekage to Matilda's for the morning breakfast crowd of tourists, Patsy mentions the European tour planned by Doris Forest, whose select crop of White Vinyl Superb is destroyed by the latest mountain storm. Matilda tears off her apron, tears off in a 1962 Chevy Bellaire station wagon with a cracked muffler.
Pawatawy sails yet another golf ball toward Gretchen's now Jimmy Vrejlevon's upstairs bath. Caddy in tow the two gents creep up on Matilda Lightfoot busy with a shovel under Gretchen's tallest peach tree. From the orchard ground, Matilda removes a set of sterling silverware buried there since 1862. She staggers under the weight, grimy to the touch.
Now even the caddy, young Allen Rittenhouse is angry. He's a friend of Miss Gretchen, having mowed her lawns the past few summers. The garden / yard boy / caddy is naught but sixteen, very fond of grilled burgers with the Vrejlevon specialty, Kirsebaerkage for dessert. Allen's the only one to hit the bathroom window with a golf ball, to the Scranton gumshoe's chagrin. Patsy ponders the source but not the direction of the mysterious golf balls, each marked with a fluorescent orange dot, spread about the side yard atop lush green ivy like Easter Eggs at a kindergarten. Jimmy thought it only natural since Steeraway Golf Club lies a mere forty yards from his new property line. A three foot stone wall sunk into the ground, circa 1801.
Passage of Pocono time as slow as molasses in a snowstorm, Paxatawny begins a detailed alibi check.
Dr. Harvey is first to go under the knife. His cell phone records are subpoenaed, calling Gretchen at four o'clock in the afternoon on the day she took her last sedating bath. The caddy's right, Harvey played that day, according to Steeraway Golf Club's sign in sheet. His partner on the gorgeous green under the pines is Doris Forest.
Up to her dishpan elbows in gold and silverware, Matilda Lightfoot produces personal letters in Gretchen's tight script. Proof that Matilda is correct, she is in charge, her best friend's, flea market partner in antique price wars. Att. Bill Moyer concurs. The land went to Jimmy Vrejlevon, but the Lady Matilda got the antiques. Patsy wraps brass vases, porcelain plates, boxes three treadle sewing machines. Matilda is in the clear, returning to decorate Rotisserie House.
Dr. Harvey's purchases at a Feed & Weed Garden Center seventy miles this side of Niagara Falls are charged to Doris Forest, pesticides for her sacred roses. This augers badly for now Detective Jeff Paxatawny must decipher the gaff that certainly fleeced the elderly patron of the best Danish in Davidson County. Or pay his own golf fees, including lunches at Matilda's where he's become overly familiar with Kage med Smorcreme, Butter Cream Cake plus rotisserie pheasant.
Scranton PD waits for the outcome of the investigation with baited breath, hands out for Ingfaerkage, gingerbread.
The caddy Allen flees to Albany awaiting further news. Jimmy V. contacts insomnia due to the fact that Doris Forest, Harvey and Patsy become inseparable allies. Patsy insists she's just killing time ala social engagements. Jimmy's cracking under undue strain, discovered by Pawatawny showering with a garden hose. For the new lord of the manor can't abide the infamous tub.
As for the NY judges, an allusive slippery bunch, they chose Ruby Red as second place winner, submitted by a local Catholic church where Att. Bill Moyer worships every Sunday. The NYC imported judicial cartel lives it up in the Pocono Mountains, fishing and white water rafting.
Will Paxatawy crack his case? Scranton wants to know. Bushkill Falls reels with suspense that summer while stormy weather assaults highways and tourists. Gardens stand ready for answers under two feet of rain water.
While he's up to his bulging dewlap, chinny-chin-chins in suspects and confectionery sugar for Detective Paxatawny the beat goes on.
To Be continued.
While writing this mystery the ending was not allowed to be posted at
Disclaimer: All places, proper names for fiction use only.
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