Welcome to the third, and currently the last, issue of Historical Feathers, a journal for lovers of the historical fiction and steampunk genres!
Historical Feathers was created from our love of historical fiction and steampunk and soon become our solution to help fill the growing gap within the market of available historical fiction journals. We are an imprint of the publishing house, Book Feathers, which specialises in speculative fiction. After the success of our first issue (November 2017), and steadying ourselves on our newfound literary feet, we were excited to be able to release our second issue (December 2017)! However, due to unexpected circumstances within the personal lives of our entire team, we are unable to continue Historical Feathers at this moment in time. We hope to revive the journal again in the future but until then we will be accepting no more submissions. Our current issues - November 2017, December 2017, and January 2018 - will be made available to buy soon and details of that will be released on the website and across our social media as soon as they are accessible. Our third issue is filled with so many wondrous works of short fiction, poetry, and non-fiction which we hope you will enjoy reading as much as we did. All of us here, at Historical Feathers, are excited for the release of this issue and, as Executive Editor, I would like to thank all of our supports with a special thank you and congratulations to our contributors to the issue! We would not have got this far without all of your support and passion for the genre(s). We say goodbye (for now) with a heavy heart from all of us, here, at Historical Feathers and wish you all success and fortune in the future. Happy reading! Amy Ford Executive Editor at Historical Feathers
Executive Editor Amy Ford
Editorial Assistant Peter Turner
Steampunk Specialist Sarah Oakley Cover Artist Ellouise Benjamin
Copyright ÂŠ remains with the individual authors and artist. No part of this publication may be reproduced, except for the purposes of review, without the prior permission of the publisher. Published by Historical Feathers Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org www.historicalfeathers.co.uk facebook.com/historicalfeathers
Contents ‘A Gallant Southern Cavalier’ - Mark Mellon ‘Bildungsroman/ Come, Come of Age’ - Paula C. Lowe ‘Under London,1862’ - A.S. Ford -contains some explicit language‘Obit’ - Joel F. Johnson ‘The Feather Cloak of Captain Cook’s Slayer Returned to Hawaii’ - Gene Parola ‘Carmel-by-the-Sea’ - Sydney Avey ‘Susan Vincent Invents the Phonograph’ - Eva Ferry ‘The Hired Girls of Norway’ - Paula C. Lowe ‘Fall of the Rust Bucket’ - J.C. Jones ‘Little Soldier’ - A.S. Ford -contains some explicit language‘The Incident at Mayerling’ - John Meuter ‘The Hermit and the Party Girl’ - Sydney Avey ‘Martyrs of the Apennines’ - Mark Galliford ‘In a Mist’ - Lori Hahnel ‘Martyrs of the Apennines - the Real Story’ - Mark Galliford ‘Teaching Her to Dance’ - J.C. Jones ‘Petals’ - A.S.Ford Author Bios
A Gallant Southern Cavalier Mark Mellon
In early ’63, I had business in the small town of Spring Hill, Tennessee, with Major Washburn, a highly placed Confederate quartermaster. It took the better part of a day to find him. Thousands of cavalry troops were stationed with their mounts amid the wooded hills surrounding the town. We transacted our affairs in his field tent at the regimental camp. To celebrate, Washburn uncorked a bottle of wine. “Nasby, you drive a sharp bargain for a young fellow. How old did you say you were?” “I didn’t, Major, but I’m twenty-five, sir.” Actually, I was still short of twenty-one, but that wasn’t the first stretcher I’d told Washburn that day. In those times I lied up about my age in contrast to the present when I now lie down. “You’re plainly handy, a man of capabilities, as some say. How’d you like to meet the commanding officer, General Van Dorn?” This put me off for a moment. Officers of such rank were usually about as close as the stars in the firmament. Nonetheless, I smoothly replied. “Well, sure enough, I guess, but why do you want to introduce a civilian ne’er-do-well like me to someone like Van Dorn?” Washburn laughed. “Come, my boy, don’t be so hard on yourself. Chaps like you perform invaluable services for the Cause. You bring the supplies that keep this army going. I understood you to say that among other lines of work, you’ve been a horse trader.” “Yes, sir. I’ve done that a time or two.” ”The General might well use a resourceful fellow like you. We’re always in need of fresh mounts. I’ll arrange for you to see him. Why don’t you come by his office this evening around six? He’s requisitioned the Whites’ place so you’ll find him there. Just ask in the town square for directions.” An invitation of that sort was simply impossible to refuse. At five minutes to six with twilight coming on, I stood outside the columned portico of a red brick mansion, boots blacked and suit freshly brushed. Two privates in worn butternut uniforms stood guard at the door, rifles more or less held at port arms. “What all business you got here, bub?” “Name’s Sep Nasby. I was sent by Major Washburn to see the General.” “Lucky for you I recall hearing that. Go on in then.” “Yeah, ain’t like the General’s busy,” the other guard said. They fell to sniggering. I ignored them and went inside. The foyer was brightly lit with candles. A handsome young man in a beautiful gray uniform with gold braid on the sleeves and collar admired the shine on his boots until he noticed me. “Yes? May I help you, sir?” He’d perfected the Southern gentleman’s art of condescension by means of perfect manners, closely akin to that of his British cousins. “I’m Sep Nasby, Captain, sent here by Major Washburn.” “Oh, yes. The General’s expecting you. This way, sir.” He led me into the parlor. A ginger haired man sat at a writing table, the paperwork before him lit by oil lamps. His double-breasted uniform was even more sumptuous than the captain’s with three gold stars on the collar. He had a luxuriously thick Van Dyke beard and the back of his hair was singed into ringlets. “This gentleman is Mr. Nasby, sir. Major Washburn sent him.” He fixed me with a piercing gaze. “Then you must have something to do with logistics. Dismiss, Captain. I’ll call if I need you.” “Yes, sir.” The captain left. Van Dorn didn’t bother to offer a chair. I stood there feeling like a school boy called on the carpet by his teacher. “What work do you perform, Mr. Nasby?” “I’m a horse trader, sir, mostly. I believe that’s why Major Washburn sent me to see you.” Van Dorn sagely nodded.
“My mounts do need constant replenishment. Tell me one thing. You seem healthy enough, Nasby. Why aren’t you in the service?” “I was, General. Company I of the 22nd Louisiana Volunteers, stationed at Ft. Jackson. At least, until I got invalided out from some shrapnel I took in my leg.” I hoisted a pant leg to show a long, wicked looking, thin white scar that laced down my calf, something my older brother had done with a scythe eight years before. I had forged discharge papers also, made by a business associate in Memphis, but Van Dorn didn’t bother to ask. “Upon consideration, it might do very well to have a civilian on my staff. Sometimes there are tasks that, although militarily essential, are best handled through unofficial channels. Just as a matter of discretion, if nothing else. You do follow me, I hope, young man?” “Oh, yes, sir, exactly. Happy to help the Sacred Cause, yes, sir.” “Glad to hear it, Nasby.” There was feminine laughter from the dining room. By a wax candle’s soft, faint light, I glimpsed a slender, young woman in a red velvet gown. A crystal decanter of Madeira was on the table with two glasses. Van Dorn rose. His head came to my chin. “Come in the morning at seven sharp. We’ll discuss your duties more specifically. Remember, I expect military punctuality even from a civilian.” “Count on me, sir.” Van Dorn smiled perfunctorily. His eyes stole away to the woman waiting nearby. He needlessly adjusted his uniform coat and left. The foyer was empty so I let myself out. I pondered my options inside my tent before sleep. Van Dorn was patently obnoxious, a vain pipsqueak, a jumped-up military peacock. Just a few minutes with him had tried my patience. On the other hand, a general was powerful, with the authority to let me travel anywhere and requisition anything I pleased. Working for Van Dorn would provide protection from conscription. More importantly, my chances for personal enrichment would dramatically expand. The answer was easy, to put aside personal preferences and take the main chance. My new life began as Van Dorn’s chief rat killer and general factotum. At that time, as commander of the Army of Tennessee’s cavalry corps, Van Dorn still hoped to defeat the Yankees in a significant battle and thereby gain undying military glory. The balm of acclaim for feats of arms was something Van Dorn sorely needed for he’d badly blotted his copybook twice, first when he mishandled his men at Pea Ridge and basically handed a victory to the badly outnumbered Yankees. The second was the Battle of Corinth where he threw his soldiers into the teeth of heavily fortified positions in repeated, bloody, frontal assaults; for this last blunder, Van Dorn stood before a military court of inquiry. Although exonerated, the accusation of military incompetence still stung. Relieved of command of an army and relegated back to cavalry service, Van Dorn lusted for glory the way a spurned lover aches for his inamorata. Van Dorn and his troops mounted frequent raids into enemy territory. Usually they returned, moreor-less victorious, largely because Union cavalry still significantly lagged in dash, although that was rapidly changing. No matter the result, casualties were taken and horses were lost, in addition to attrition from poor feed and life outdoors in bad weather. Van Dorn’s corps chronically needed new horseflesh and wasn’t choosy how it was acquired. With a pass that let me cross the lines anywhere and anytime, I traveled back roads in Union territory on the look-out for a farm whose owner could be persuaded to part with mounts. When a farmer didn’t accept a reasonable offer I wasn’t above casting a long rope, as Texans say, and rustled stock at night from under his nose. I herded my acquisitions across the lines by night, where only wildcats roamed, and traveled down creek beds to leave as little trail as possible. Van Dorn showed gratitude by providing access to almost unlimited amounts of requisitioned cotton. I smuggled cotton northward and goods south: quinine, laudanum, percussion caps, leather boots, and black powder. I made sure to acquire fine whiskey and cigars for Van Dorn’s personal pleasure. My star quickly rose. Pleased by the essential materiel I provided, even his subordinates showed me respect. Van Dorn, of course, continued his usual grandiose self. He was a study in contrasts. Unquestionably brave and a superb horseman, he’d gladly undertake a forlorn hope that would make any sane man blanch, led from the front head-on into a galling fire. He was educated and cultured as well, qualities I’ve always admired. Van Dorn was a West Point man and prone to flavor his speech and writings with appropriate references to the Bard and the Ancients. He painted and was accounted passable. If he ever considered a subject other than himself and his glory, a rare phenomenon, he
even had insightful comments. I recall one warm spring evening. We stood on the verandah and took in the night air as we smoked cigars. “Nasby, let your whiskers grow. Folks will take you for older than you are, show you more respect.” I followed his suggestion and have done so to the present day. Then there were his bad qualities. Ego comes uppermost to mind. In an army whose officers wore red velvet-lined cloaks and dueled on the eve of battle, as far as he was concerned, no more dashing, brilliant cavalier rode in the ranks than Earl Van Dorn. This unshakable conviction in his own undeniable superiority grated on both superiors and subordinates alike. The fool almost came to the verge of a duel with Nathan Forrest, a particularly savage backwoods hick turned slave trader, made a general by the fortunes of war. The quarrel was successfully mediated, a good thing for Van Dorn too, since Forrest would have made mincemeat of him. He loved a show as well with himself as the star attraction. With the exception of a bloody battle, nothing stirred him more than a grand review, an all day affair where thousands of men passed by for inspection while he sat on a magnificent bay mare, in short, nothing any sensible, adult man would take an interest in, much less enjoy. There was no question about what constituted Van Dorn’s worst flaw, the real stain, and that was his eternal, ceaseless womanizing. I’m no prude, but I’d never met a man so distracted by crinolines in all my days, and this was after long residence in New Orleans, one of the world’s worst stew pits. The sight of a slick piece of calico utterly distracted him, blew all thought from his head more effectively than a gunshot. He made no effort to conceal his passion either, openly flirted with any passably attractive woman who passed by, D---l take it if her husband was right there alongside her. Due to my youth, my sentiments about personal matters were much keener then. Time and experience hadn’t yet blunted my nerves’ raw edges. I cannot express how mortified I was by Van Dorn’s constant skirt chasing. From my admittedly limited perspective, anyone over thirty was a wretched antique. The sight of a man more than twice my age who behaved like the most errant schoolboy, even to writing wretched maudlin poetry and love letters, made me nauseous; especially due to my recent resolution to never let passion get the better of me again. Many officers and men in the corps looked down on Van Dorn as well. Largely Hardshell Baptists, they cared little for philandery. They blamed wine, women, and song for Van Dorn’s distraction from duty and their consequent losses against the Yankees. Even the few irreligious soldiers resented the thought of Van Dorn sporting with a woman in a soft bed under a dry roof while they sat in the rain eating weevil-infested hard tack and rotten sow belly. Nonetheless, Van Dorn persisted, a moth drawn inexorably to the female flame. While small, Spring Hill had its local aristocracy, gentry with fine homes, slaves, and some tolerably pretty wives and daughters. The daughters were thrilled to have officers quartered in their homes and there was a steady round of teas, luncheons, and dances. Of all these young women who swarmed about the gold braid, the most attractive and vivacious by far was Jessie Peters. She was bright eyed with a fine figure, thick brunette hair, and half Van Dorn’s age; the way he liked them. It took no time for him to scratch up an acquaintance. She was smitten by the wee Lochinvar, as everyone could see. Soon they were spotted riding together in a carriage (easy enough in a flyspeck like Spring Hill). Even if Jessie were single, an unrelated man and woman going out for a buggy ride together without an escort was scandalous enough. Yet Jessie was married, to one Dr. George Peters, her cousin, a retired doctor, local politician, and principal landowner in those parts. This of course set every tongue in town to wagging. The affair was reckless even for someone as impulsive as Van Dorn. It wasn’t just the outrage of the thing in and of itself. Van Dorn was thick as thieves with Peters. He frequently came by Van Dorn’s headquarters to request a pass to cross the lines. People said he owned property in Nashville, now Union territory. Or rather, he owned it until the Federal government seized it. That was said to be the reason why he crossed the lines so frequently, to plead for the property’s return. Still, I had my suspicions. Perhaps Peters was another of Van Dorn’s civilian agents, doing tasks only a doctor could perform, but I had no proof. I closely watched all parties involved, for my own security and personal amusement. Despite his wealth, status, fine home, and pretty young wife, Peters was an old, cold fish. The loss of his Nashville property only further aggravated his miserable disposition. I didn’t much blame Jessie for straying. And stray she did, before my very eyes one afternoon. I was outside the house Van Dorn had requisitioned as his personal quarters, my back against a white column, cigar in my mouth. Up sashayed Jessie, dressed in
a tight black riding outfit and a matching bonnet with an ostrich plume. Peters was away on another trip up north. Without a word, she sailed past me into the house. Rather than request he come down to the parlor as a respectable woman would, the impudent baggage asked the lady of the house if she could speak with Van Dorn alone. When Madam showed understandable reticence, the brazen thing simply announced she’d go herself, brushed past as she had with me, and went upstairs to Van Dorn’s room where she stayed alone with him for over an hour. The only way they would have been more obvious, if you ask me, was if they’d gone about it in the town tavern. This was more than enough for the Madam who informed her husband of her outraged feelings upon his return home. Her patriotism considerably diminished, she further told him he must inform Van Dorn that the house was no longer available. The husband dutifully if fearfully complied, pleading his family needed the room. Van Dorn graciously acceded, understandably since the next house he requisitioned was close to Jessie’s with only a field between them. Shortly afterward, Van Dorn called me into his office. He sat at his field desk, a sealed envelope upon it. “Nasby, take this letter to Mrs. Peters.” I balked. Although I acted as his agent, I wasn’t Van Dorn’s manservant. Getting involved in his affair with Jessie didn’t strike me as a good idea. “There are slaves for that, General.” “No. I need someone I can trust, who won’t just throw it away and say they delivered it. Make sure you put it in her hands alone.” He fixed me with his stern eye, the one used to put enlisted scum in their place. I had no choice but to deliver his billet-doux so I smiled, nodded, and put the envelope in a coat pocket. While I crossed the field to the Peters house, I examined the letter. The envelope was heavily scented, so much so I wanted to hold it at arm’s length, and undoubtedly contained some poetry that was the purest hogwash. I debated whether to open and read it, but didn’t because I couldn’t seal the envelope again. I came to the fence that enclosed the house, opened the gate, and went inside. Letter in hand, I was halfway down the walk when an angry voice cried out. “Here, you, boy. What are you doing on my property?” Before I could respond or even think to take offense, up popped Peters from nowhere. Red-faced with anger, he thrust his face next to mine and bellowed. “What have you got, a letter? Give that to me.” He snatched the letter from my hand and tore the envelope open. Peters read the letter only to fly into an even more aggravated state of rage. “‘Yearn for your sweet embraces.’ The unmitigated gall. That wretched young slut, I’ll cowhide her-” He poked me savagely in the chest with an index finger. “You tell your whiskey headed master that if either he or anyone else on his staff sets foot on my lawn, I’ll blow his brains out where he stands. Now get out of here. You hear me? Get. And tell Van Dorn what I said.” There was nothing to do but leave. I hurried back to Van Dorn’s quarters. He was in conference with his staff when I returned so I cooled my heels in the hall until they finished. As soon as they filed out, I entered the room. Van Dorn glared at me. “It’s customary to knock, Nasby.” “Never mind that, General. Peters got your letter. He’s madder than a wet hen too.” “What? I specifically instructed you, Nasby, to give the letter personally to Mrs. Peters, no one else. You must recall that.” “No offense, General, but I don’t rightly see how I could when Peters snatched it away before I even reached the door. Once he read it, he said he’d shoot you dead or anyone else that sets foot on his lawn.” Van Dorn laughed scornfully. “Didn’t sound like an empty threat to me, General. I know it’s none of my business, but you’d still better steer clear of Jessie Peters.” Van Dorn looked like he was ready to hit me, he was that angry. “As you said, Nasby, it’s none of your business. Next time I’ll find a more competent courier. Dismiss.” I left the room with burning ears, angry at Van Dorn’s reprimand and his mule headed insistence on having his way, even in the face of an angry, cuckolded husband. It occurred to me to simply pick out a good mount and slide; cut my losses and go while I could. Fool that I was, I stayed when I should have made a clean
getaway. The pickings were relatively easy. Moreover, despite my keen instinct for self-preservation, I wanted to see the sordid drama play itself out. Van Dorn was passionate and rash enough to drive matters to the bitter end. A few days later, Peters was seen in the morning riding out of town on the Shelbyville road. A few discreet inquiries confirmed he’d left on business and would be gone several days. Like whiskey to a drunkard, Van Dorn couldn’t resist. Certain some mischief would transpire, I watched outside his quarters that night, hidden in the bushes, with a bottle for company. Around midnight, who skulked out the back door but Van Dorn, wrapped in a black cloak, headed for the Peters house. I followed at a discreet distance, hopped the fence where he couldn’t see me, and crept up to the house. The parlor windows were lit by an oil lamp. I peeped through a window and was rewarded with a glimpse of Van Dorn and Jessie locked in a passionate embrace. The old rogue was clad in nothing but a nightshirt. Jessie had her hair down, but wore a wrapper, a disappointment as I had wanted to see her naked. Jessie picked up the oil lamp and beckoned to Van Dorn. He put an arm around her waist and they went upstairs, leaving the parlor dark. Other men would have counted themselves content with an eyeful of scandal and run off to recount the squalid tale to anyone who’d listen, but something made me linger; a hunch that even more spectacular fireworks were in the offing. I hid in the bushes on a dry spot with a good view of the house. Time passed slowly. Owls hooted and small animals scurried in the nearby field. The moon loomed gibbous and yellow. The place was as still as only a country home at night can be. After what seemed an eternity (time passed so much more slowly in my youth), I pulled out my turnip watch. The moonlight showed past two. Tired and uncomfortable, I mulled a return to a soft bed, but decided to stay. My vigil was rewarded shortly afterward. From a distance, there was the slow shuffle of a horse held to a walk. Peters rode up softly, dismounted, and tied the reins to the hitching post. He reached into a saddlebag, pulled out a heavy dragoon revolver, and tiptoed up the stairs. Tried to, that is, since Peters was old and clumsy. Even with the noise he made, Van Dorn and Jessie were apparently oblivious, either locked in passion or insensible from it. He opened the door and went inside. A few seconds of silence. BAM! The crash of a door kicked open, masculine shouts mingled with feminine screams, a cat’s yowls, and the crash of china, possibly a chamber pot. In short, a most delightful ruckus. Van Dorn dashed outside stark staring naked, caught in flagrante. Rather than flee, the nitwit hid under the porch. Between stifled guffaws, I concluded he was drunk. Peters burst out of the house. He only searched briefly to find Van Dorn. With surprising activity and strength for an older man, Peters dragged Van Dorn out by the hair from under the porch. He put his pistol to Van Dorn’s temple. “Now I’ve caught you, sir. You can’t deny your guilt, can you?” “No, no. I’ve wronged you, George, Wronged you terribly. Please let me go.” I couldn’t believe my ears. The fearless Van Dorn, the dauntless cavalier, trapped, naked and ashamed, made to eat crow by a fat old civilian. The moment was rich and rare indeed. “Will you admit your guilt? Write a letter and confess how you wronged me and beg my pardon so I can print it and show the world what a scoundrel you are? Come now, Van Dorn, tell me plain. I need to know if I have to shoot you.” “Yes, anything you say. I can’t afford any scandal.” The rank idiot. Why didn’t he think of that sooner? Peters lowered his pistol to his side. Jessie came out and went to the men. She handed Van Dorn his nightshirt and cloak which he hurriedly donned. She seemed the calmest and most self-possessed. “You made your point, George. Now let Earl go home and let’s go to bed. It’s very late.” “As if I’d share a bed with such a disgraceful hussy. I’ll divorce you, never mind the scandal.” Jessie laughed long and loud. “You’d never dare. You want to keep the property that came with me. We both know how much you love land, George.” I have to hand it to Jessie. She sure had nerve, laughed in Peters’s face, bid him defiance, while he held a loaded gun and the proof of her treachery stood nude before him. She had him buffaloed too. Van Dorn took the opportunity to skedaddle. Peters shook his fist at him. “I’ll come for that letter tomorrow, Van Dorn. By G-d, don’t you dare disappoint me.”
Van Dorn was halfway across the field. Peters tried to argue with Jessie, but she neatly deflected him and soon had him inside the house. The lights went out again and I assume they both went to bed together after all. Each marriage is its own peculiar arrangement, I have found. Tickled pink, for it had been more fun than a minstrel show, I stifled giggles as I crossed the field and went to the room I rented from a woman whose sons and husband had died in the war. The cock’s crow woke me sometime before dawn, more than half hungover with a deep foreboding that aggravated my headache. A few minutes of restless, dreamless sleep were granted to me only to be interrupted by bugles’ reveille blare. There was the clatter of hooves and the tramp of feet as men fell in formation to NCOs’ orders. I soaked my head in the basin for a while, combed my hair, and went to the general store for paregoric. Considerably steadied by a few hearty chugs from the bottle, I ate the country ham and eggs my landlady cooked and felt fairly human. I walked to Van Dorn’s quarters. No guard was posted. Several staff officers were in the front yard, diverted from duty by idle chit-chat and a good smoke. Peters came down the road on his horse, headed toward the house. I hustled over to the house and up the stairs, intent upon warning Van Dorn, until I caught myself short at the door. Why do Van Dorn a favor; especially after his condescension yesterday? Better to find a good vantage point where I could overhear Van Dorn and Peters while I remained hidden. I went inside and into the front parlor, next to Van Dorn’s room, only used to receive guests, empty since Van Dorn moved in. I put my ear to the wall and heard his pen scratch. Boots clumped on the stairs outside. Peters opened the door and strode down the hall. I flattened myself against the wall, but his gaze was fixed as he passed, intent only upon Van Dorn. A preemptory knock and the door was opened. “Dr. Peters. I suppose you want another pass. That should be no problem.” “You know d--n well what I want, Van Dorn. The written confession of your guilt you promised me last night. That’s the only reason you’re still alive right now. Now do you have the letter ready or not?” There was silence. Even though I wasn’t in the room, I knew from experience Van Dorn had fixed Peters with his patented disdainful glare. Last night was one thing. Caught in the act, naked, and drunk, Van Dorn had given way to shame and fear and cravenly promised to eat crow. Now he was in uniform, in his quarters, with thousands of soldiers around, ready to obey his commands. There was no way Van Dorn would crawfish to Peters now. “I’ve given that matter some thought. For an officer of field rank to make such admissions, well, it would be injurious to my own personal reputation. More importantly, it would bring dishonor to our Sacred Cause. I can’t be asked to take that step when our young nation is still in so much peril.” “So you won’t write the letter?” “Yes, that’s the short of it, Peters. Now take the door, you d--n puppy, or I’ll-” A gunshot cut Van Dorn off. There was a sharp clatter of heels. Peters ran past and out the door. I went into the hall and into Van Dorn’s room. Slumped onto his field desk, the back of his head was a bloody mess. Peters had taken advantage of Van Dorn’s foolhardy arrogance to take a coward’s revenge and shoot him in the back. I bent low over him. He still breathed but with great difficulty. At most, he’d linger a few hours. Boots tramped down the hall. “I’d swear I heard a pistol shot. After two years of war, I should know.” In a moment, they’d be in the room. I couldn’t afford to be caught. Lightning-quick, I leaped head first out the open window. I landed hard on the ground, but ignored the pain, got up, and ran for it. There was no time to grab a horse. Even if I had, the cavalry would surely run me down. I didn’t dare go to my room. My best chance was to hide in the woods. Deep in a thick forest and, reasonably sure nobody followed me, I spread my kerchief on a dead log, sat on it, and took stock of the situation. What could I learn from all that had occurred? The General had met the violent end he had so ardently sought in battle so many times, but not in the field at the head of his men with flags unfurled and drums beaten, his martial glory eternally assured. Instead a jealous husband had brought him low while his back was turned, shot in his own office far away from enemy lines. Any chance for renown would always be tainted by the memory of Van Dorn’s wretched, shameful end and the fatal foible that inexorably led to that doom. His catastrophe surely illustrated the peril of chasing petticoats, especially other men’s, that much was plain. And so I offer this tale to the reader in the sincere hope that he may benefit from the important moral lesson that it provides.
Bildungsroman/ Come, Come of Age Before War II, Minnesota, 1942 Paula C. Lowe
When they are at his table, he asks them to sit on the chairs with the legs that he cut with a knife so each seat wobbles and each of them sits at a tilt so the girl nearly a woman cannot look him straight in the eyes and the boy nearly a man cannot straighten his shoulders. The table is sticky with something spilled so a glass that sat there cannot be lifted and a letter from the government is face down lost to glue or oil or lacquer that comes off the wood to coat the glass to hold the paper to keep the armyâ€™s order from being read for this is the fatherâ€™s table and he is spent on loss when he sits across from them with a cup of something raw to his lips with his eye blinded by a bullet on an island in the middle of sharks with his mind spent so that he has no coins in his pocket emptied so that he has no words in his mouth and they do all of the smiling and begin without his asking to do all of the washing up but still neither knows if he whittled the wood out of wont or fear and still neither knows if the table was wet with his tears.
Under London, 1862 A.S. Ford
John had been working on the construction of Joseph Bazalgette’s London Sewage System for almost a year now. He had been applying for the opportunity since the digging had begun three years earlier and had enjoyed the work so far. The labour was slow and monotonous, hacking away at the stone and soil, but the pay was better than his previous construction employment and the demands of the sewer system promised a long term of work - despite the heavy rainfall that morning in May on the day that the tunnel he was digging caved in. A constant rhythm enveloped the tunnel broken only by the conversation and strained grunts of the men around him as they each swung their pickaxes. John hit the stone he’d been working at once more then positioned his pickaxe upside down so that the axe head rested on the floor. He leaned on the long wooden handle that now stood vertical from the ground and watched the lines of moisture run down the jagged walls. He wiped his sweat-coated forehead on his shirt and thought of the nice warm bath his wife would have ready for him when he returned home from his shift. As he stood there, beetles, bugs, and centipedes scuttered across his boots and crawled up his trouser legs. Above them, the rumbling of trains made dust and small rocks fall from the ceiling of the tunnel. It was not an uncommon occurrence - in fact, the trains travelled over them every half an hour or so - but John had started to notice that the amount of debris that fell each time had begun to increase. He’d thought about notifying his contractor but was unsure if they would listen, after all, he only had five years of experience as a labourer, not an expensive education, in the matter. As John brushed the dust and dirt out from his hair with his hand, George lifted his heavy-weighted pickaxe and stuck the rock in one of his high-arced swings. He pulled the axe head out and a deep rumbling in the rock face followed. George stepped back and looked at the wall. All four men listened to the creak and groan as a hairline crack, pushed further open by the blow from George’s pickaxe, spread up the wall and across a quarter of the ceiling’s horizontal length. All the men watched the gash in the rock and listened in silence. There was a noise like the trains that passed over them, only louder and more constant, then the rocks around the crack began to crumble away from the ceiling and walls. Stone and debris descended and the whole intersection tunnel began to shake around them. ‘Run,’ John shouted, his pickaxe falling to the floor. ‘Head for the main tunnel.’ His team followed his order without hesitation. He could hear their months of work collapse behind them, chasing them out of the tunnel, and the lanterns smashing as they were hit and crushed by rocks. He had no idea how close they were to the main tunnel by now but he hoped they would reach it soon. The lanterns ahead of them began to fall too as the tremor resounding around the tunnel ruptured a weak spot a few metres away. They would either become trapped between the two blockages or be crushed by the entirety of the cavein. John couldn’t decide which would be worse. The new collapse obstructed their exit and they turned to face the oncoming blockade of falling debris. George whispered a quick prayer and John closed his eyes. Then, the crashing and roaring slowed to a stop and a gust of hot air blew into his face as the dust resettled. John tried to focus on what was happening. He smiled at the relief of still being alive but the joy he felt disappeared when he felt the rocks behind him. They were now trapped inside the intersection tunnel. He opened his eyes and, through a small light that came from the top of the eleven-and-a-half foot wall of debris behind them, saw that the larger collapse had stopped almost ten feet away. A loud groan came from somewhere ahead of him. In an attempt to gain control over his panic, John decided to do a roll call. ‘George, you there?’ ‘I’m here, John, can’t see much at all. There must be a lantern around here … I’ll try to find one.’ George’s voice seemed close to John. Heavy footsteps moved towards the remaining stretch of tunnel wall. ‘Peter? What about you?’ John could hear the man whimpering. The sound of glass clinking, and a match being struck, echoed around them bringing John’s attention back to George who was now holding a lit lantern by its handle. ‘Here, John. There’s something heavy on my leg … I don’t think I can move it.’
John walked towards Peter’s voice. ‘Are you okay?’ ‘In a lot of pain, to tell you the truth, but I’ll be fine once my leg’s free.’ John called George over so he could use the light. They found the man four feet away from the far side of the blockade of debris. A couple of large rocks had fallen onto his upper left leg and knee. John pushed and pulled until Peter was free while George held the lantern above them. ‘Where’s Rob?’ he asked, looking around him. John helped Peter to stand who was hesitant to put his left foot on the floor. He didn’t flinch until he tried to walk and stumbled backwards into the sculpted wall. John made sure he was okay before signalling George to search with him for the last team member of their team. ‘Rob?’ George called out. John looked wherever the light allowed them to see, hoping he would find the youngest member of their team curled up in shock somewhere. The light illuminated a section of the collapse beyond where they had found Peter and, in front of the wall of rubble, was Rob. He was lying flat on his stomach on the floor of the tunnel covered in a layer of dust. John rushed over, with George close behind him, and dropped to his knees by the boy. Now that he was nearer to him John could see that only Rob’s torso was inside their cave the only word he could think to call it - the rest of the boy was underneath the collapsed rock. John had been so sure that all of his men were with him when they ran through the tunnel. He thought of the boy dying alone … would it have been quick? Painless? How would he tell Rob’s family and the girl he had been so eager to prove he was worthy enough to marry? John whispered an apology to the boy then stood back up then walked over to the blockade that used to lead to the entrance of the intersection tunnel. As he listened to George say the words ‘Rob is dead’ to Peter, John kicked the solid debris in front of him. He felt two of his toes crack but breathed through the pain as he reasoned with himself that he deserved it. After a few minutes, George came over to his side so that John could use the lantern’s light to examine the wall. There had to be a way out, he thought, perhaps that light at the top of the wall … his thoughts were interrupted as George placed his lantern down and, from the floor, took the pickaxe he hadn’t dropped until they had stopped running. He swung it against the wall before them, over and over, until John grabbed hold of George’s arm and told him to stop. The man threw the axe across their ‘cave’ and released a raw and angry cry. He banged on the wall with his fists then walked away back into the dark areas around them. Peter slid down the tunnel’s side to sit on the floor. ‘Fuck.’ His leg looked wonky as he stretched it out straight. ‘So, what’s the tally now … two fingers crushed in that small collapse last year and a broken leg this year for me … Rob’s dead … do you think if either of you two got injured as well they might actually compensate us for once?’ Nobody laughed at his jokes this time. Peter sighed. ‘Are we going to die here?’ John didn’t know how to comfort his men, wasn’t even sure he could, not without lying anyway. He had prided himself on being a fair and truthful team leader and he didn’t want to stop being that person now. What would happen if they did not, or could not, accept the truth though, he thought, would they turn on him? Perhaps, lying was his best option. Instead, he remained silent and turned to the rubble before him. He placed his calloused fingers in the ridges of the jagged surface and began to climb, finding the right leverage points as he moved further up the wall. When he reached the top, the ledges became a little wider until John found one he could rest on. He leaned against it and used his legs to anchor himself onto the surrounding rocks. A hole, the size of a shilling, was level with his hairline and he squinted at the sudden light that emanated from a lantern that hung on the other side. He tried to push his body up enough to peer through the opening but managed to hit his head on the ceiling of the tunnel instead. His grip slid on the ledge he was perched on, almost sending him off of it. He steadied himself and listened through the hole to a conversation he could only just about hear. ‘Do you think anyone might still be alive?’ The first voice, though faint, sounded as though it belonged to one of their surveyors who helped advise on the construction of the main tunnel. A train rumbled the ground above John’s head, so close he could feel the ceiling vibrate, as he tried to shout out to get the surveyor’s attention. The one time the train would have been helpful if it was late, he thought, then wondered if they would have even been able to hear him since the dust he had inhaled during the collapse had made his throat dry.
‘No. It looks too solid. Any point trying to rebuild the intersection here again?’ A second man asked. ‘With a collapse this big, it’s clear the ground here is too unstable. I think it’d be best to just fill this one back up. We can use the spare rubble we’ve collected from the other tunnels,’ was the reply before two sets of footsteps moved further away from the tunnel until it was quiet again. John cried as quiet as he could. How could he tell his men that they were to be buried? That George would never see his son, almost two, or that Peter would not get to go home to his mother who he took care of? Yet how could he keep it from them? John wished he could talk to his wife, she would know what to do, what to say to make him feel secure. He looked at the climb down and the lantern that still lit the bottom of the blockade wall. In the halo of light, the steel head of George’s pickaxe had a shadow like a stunted scythe. John imagined the fear and the anger, even hatred, towards him that his team would feel as their air was taken with every shovel load of dirt that would fill the tunnel. How could he face them when they realised his failure? He could take the pickaxe and save them the pain, he thought, let them die a quicker death, and hope God could forgive him. John wiped his eyes clear and began the descent to the floor of the tunnel and the axe that lay just out of reach.
Joel F. Johnson Reginald Perkins, whose improvements to the mimeograph machine transformed the use of paper in paperwork, has died. Zebulon Hayes, who carried the Good News to the lower Congo, illuminating the dark lives of those who dwell in its trackless wastes, has passed. Francis “Frank” Franklin, Senior Vice President of The Universal Gasket Company, charged but not convicted in the ice pick slaying his infant son, Francis, Jr., is dead at 83. On Tuesday last, the curtain came down on Robert “Zipper” Sandberg, author of the Broadway smash, Joey’s Gal … Wednesday’s devastating news of the passing of Ernest Holland, who did so much to industrialize our valley … The loss last Friday of Steven Howell Stone, universally recognized for his expertise in lotic waters, the “man who tamed the Lower Falls” … Of Deborah Jones Finkle, devoted wife of Allen R. Finkle, of Martha Cox Callaway, obedient spouse of Harrison P. Callaway, of Glynda Welch, loyal wife of Abram Welch and mother of his thirteen children … Remembered for her work with the retarded, for his contributions to modern phrenology, to the manufacture of continuous gearing, to our understanding of female hysteria … Who fought with us at Gallipoli marched with us toward Moscow carried our banner at Changping … Who was betrothed to her loving husband for more than forty years, whose caring eyes and gentle voice, the ready smile with which she greeted every stranger, whose laughter … Remains with us always, ever and forever flowing down through the strata of the years, never gone, never lessened, never lost.
The Feather Cloak of Captain Cook’s Slayer Returned to Hawaii Gene Parola
On March 11, 2016 the administrators of Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand, and prominent members of the Maori community, held a powhiri ceremony to begin the series of official events that terminated amid chanted ole, sung mele, and drum accompanied hula at Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawai’i. All this to begin the long-term loan of a magnificent Kanaka cape consisting of about twenty-thousand red and yellow feathers. The tiny red ones denote ali’i [noble], status, and the latter indicate the wealth of the chiefly wearer. The matching warrior’s helmet seems to accompany as protector. It brings its spiritual mana back to the Kanaka Maoli [true people] it initially served. Two-hundred-thirty-seven years ago, Chief Kalani’opu’u, ali’i moi [highest chief] of Hawai’i Island, might have been cranky upon learning that a prominent Hawaiian god had shown up in human form. They would do that now and again, and this was god Ku’s season, but why was his kahuna so eager to break the religious kapu by requesting the Chief’s presence? When he joined the holy man and his attendant at the beach their faces were twisted in fear. The attendant was balancing Ku’s standard with white kapa [cloth] blowing from the cross tree. The kahuna pointed silently toward the sea. There, two great ‘canoes’ stood in-shore, each with cross trees billowing clouds of white cloth. Later, when Capt. James Cook -- mistaken for the god -- came ashore from one of those obviously ’holy’ canoes and met the chief, Kalani’opu’u pulled the feathered cloak and helmet from his noble body and, in a religious fervor, clasped them on the surprised Englishman. That good will was short-lived, however, for by the time Cook departed some months later many chiefs were convinced that the good captain was a man rather than a god. One ship sprung its top-mast shortly after leaving, causing both to return for repairs and, with the religious season expired, Cook was regarded with a more sober eye. Throughout the visit, the kanakas’ hunger for iron had worn thin the patience of British sailors. Constantly distracted from their dalliances with native women to prevent pilfering, or to pursue a thief, the last straw was the theft of a small sailing tender. All low-level attempts having failed to regain the boat, Cook went ashore to demand its return. When his requests to the summoned Kalani’opu’u failed, Cook attempted to capture the chief in order to ransom the stolen craft. But a Kanaka bodyguard slew Cook-- a dear price paid for a boat that had, by then, been completely disassembled to salvage its nails. None of this sad story is new, however it comes to mind with the recent return of the ‘ahu’ula, the chief’s magnificent feather cloak, and mahiole. The helmet, also bedecked with red and gold feathers made a six-foot chief more than a foot taller--helping to keep him visible in the confusion of battle. These artifacts found their way back home to Hawai’i from an interesting direction -- the southernmost islands of the Polynesian Triangle, New Zealand. They were first preserved by Sir Ashton Lever, one of many English gentlemen-collectors who augmented Cook’s modest Navy salary by buying such souvenirs. They moved to another private collection before 1912 when Englishman, Charles Winn, who, perhaps not as hard up for cash as the occupants of Downton Abby, donated his collection to the Colonial Museum in Wellington, NZ. The central thrust of this museum, known today as Te Papa Tongarewa is multiculturalism borne out of the evolving brotherhood of native Maoris and British Colonials. The early thoughts of returning the treasures to Hawai’i stirred in 1978 when the cloak was displayed there to help celebrate the 200th anniversary of Cook’s discovery of what he called the Sandwich Islands. Recently all native peoples have been vocal about retrieving lost artifacts so administrators at Te Papa recognized their obligation to return these items to their brother Polynesians. The treasures are on display indefinitely in Hawai’i Hall, Bernice Pauahi Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawai’i.
CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA 1954 Sydney Avey
Sleepy beach town, all art and no industry. Bundled in a bulky sweater, She spies on dogs from her perch on a cliff-top bench, watches them play with their people and sport with each other. Below her, the setting sun sparkles in sea foam like diamonds that offer light but no warmth. A chill assaults her naked face, pulls tears from the corners of her eyes. She should have stopped at the bakery for coffee and scones. Around her, twisted trees that have waltzed with wind for centuries display their fibrous scars. Will time rub against the keloids that protect her wounds? Will her soul, like the Cypress, bend, reach, and grow strong? Such raw beauty in the tango of wood and wind. She reaches for her camera, captures the adagio effect of a wailing force on a willing partner; finds repose in the place between resistance and yield.
Adapted from The Sheep Walkerâ€™s Daughter
Susan Vincent re-invents the phonograph Eva Ferry
She likes to sit in the sun in August when the air is hot and heavy. She tilts her hat so that the rays fall on her face to the point where she almost feels her skin burning and the air gets into her nostrils, ears, eyes and to make her faint. True, she probably reaches the point of near-fainting before the other girls (all from the Department of Pedagogy, class of 1900) do, since she’s a good three stones heavier than most. It doesn’t bother her. Especially not when it means that, in a typical summer in Bloomington, Indiana, she’s guaranteed to reach the point of near-fainting practically every day. He’s seen her several times before as he walks past the Department of Pedagogy on his way home from the bank. One day he feels brave and sits next to her, jacket off, sleeves down, bench creaking patiently under their combined weight. “Hot, isn’t it?” “Does it bother you?” “I love it.” For the rest of the afternoon, they enjoy the heat together. Next time, it’s lemonade. The third time, it’s kiss. When they get married after two years of courtship, Susan Vincent, twenty-seven, becomes Susan Erfurter whose sound she likes very much. Solemn and German. In the weeks leading up to her wedding, she sometimes says it out loud laying on her bed before sleep. Two weeks before the ceremony, she goes to see Robert H. Andersen, the head of the elementary school where she now teaches third grade, and hands in her notice. “But you’ve only been with us for a year!” he protests. “Won’t you spare a thought for the third grade? They’ll be devastated!” Susan smiles and shrugs. “Of course, you’ll soon have your own children,” sighs Mr Andersen. Her hat, all feathers and flowers, an engagement present from her family in Indianapolis, balances voluptuously as she walks out. Robert H. Andersen is by now combing the pile of applications from new Pedagogy graduates (class of 1902). There’s no point in becoming attached, he mutters to himself. Sooner or later, they all leave. We all do. Her parents and six siblings travel to Bloomington for the wedding. So do Thomas’s widowed mother and his older sister, Theodora, who is tall and bony and grimaces painfully every time her gaze crosses with Susan’s, as if thinking that her brother has passed up the chance to marry a pretty, petite, discreet girl. Later that night, Susan’s body is lax and sated next to her husband’s. She wonders whether skinny girls like Theodora can bear to feel like she feels, pushed to the limit of her endurance by heat, a kiss, the relaxed drowsiness following what Thomas and her have just done. And the certainty that it will be like this for years to come. One day, he carries a phonograph in his arms when he comes home from the bank. She has seen one before when a salesman visited the school and asked Robert H. Andersen if he could perform a demonstration. The salesman carefully extracted a wax cylinder from a box, fitted it into the machine, and click - Shakespeare invited himself into the room. It was, the salesman explained, the latest sensation on the New York stage. The delivery was clangorous, but not refined or emotional, Susan thought - still, she saw it fitting to join the others as they voiced their admiration. The salesman smiled slyly and announced that it would be phonographs, not teachers, who would be standing in front of classrooms before long. Robert H. Andersen didn’t agree. “Utter! Nonsense!” he bellowed as the salesman started his car outside the school’s gates. Susan couldn’t help but smile. That, she had found pretty emotional. She now looks at the contraption Thomas has invited into their life and her finger along the bell. She
knows she’s supposed to say something like: can we afford it? Her brain starts to do the sums and recall the price of nappies – but of course they don’t need nappies just now. Her brain soon becomes a muddle of numbers and she’s already decided she likes the talking machine very much. Two days later, she reads in the papers about an Italian opera singer who, upon being recorded and then hearing herself for the first time as others hear her, proceeded to embrace the miraculous machine. She feels the temptation to do so herself. She starts doing so occasionally on the days she arrives home before Thomas does. Every day after the bank, he pours himself a glass of wine and selects a few cylinders from his growing collection: John Sousa’s marching band, Irish airs, the latest hits from the New York stage and sermons by Reverend Mason from Detroit. She always comes in, sits on his knee, his hands going to her thigh under her skirt, kneading the flesh, never in rhythm with the music or the words (because that would be too obvious). Just listening and touching quickly becomes their favorite pastime. The exception is when Thomas plays the Reverend Mason recording, and she sighs disdainfully. These Presbyterians. Or Baptists. She cannot tell them apart from each other and she really doesn’t care, she tells Thomas, all this talk about fire and revelation and tribulation. Then Thomas starts to play the Reverend Mason cylinder more and more often and she sighs and takes his hand from her thigh. One day he brings home the first cylinder ever capturing the Pope’s voice, from the Universal Exhibition in Rome. Susan stops sighing at the Reverend’s speeches, and even comes to appreciate his Presbyterian or Baptist zeal somewhat, as if some sort of truce has been established. After that day, it’s back to listening and touching. In the machine’s handbook he reads that it can be used to produce, although rather ephemerally, one’s own recorded cylinders. That same day, he records, after a few minutes of tinkering, her voice as she reads fragments from The Song of Hiawatha and sings The Shores of Amerikay. Later on, a cylinder is produced in which she mimicks, rather successfully, Theodora’s squeaky voice. Then he plays the cylinders back, and she shrieks with feigned outrage at the sound of her voice coming out of the bell. At bedtime, he asks whether he may keep the phonograph on. She laughs and nods. She finds it difficult at the beginning to let her muscles relax, to empty her head of thoughts and concerns and let it fall on the pillow. Although it is a blank cylinder that spins on the reel, one would say there’s someone else – John Sousa, Reverend Mason, Theodora - standing in the bedroom next to them. But soon his tongue is there making her forget everything that doesn’t matter. She lies back and her lustrous flesh flourishes. Susan doesn’t know, but Thomas is stocking up for times to come. Two weeks later, he plays back the recording they both produced on that wondrous night. Susan is in Indianapolis with her sister Rosie, now a new mother. Thomas sits in his armchair. His ears work industriously and make him smell, taste and feel her again. He plays the cylinder again, and then again when it’s finished. The stylus gnaws on the wax. Susan’s moans become a buzz, but his nose still smells her. His tongue still tastes her. His hands still feel her. At bedtime, he stands up and stops the machine. He thinks of the dozens of people who by now own a phonograph – hundreds alone in the state of Indiana, thousands in the whole of the country. He smiles. Thomas and Susan Erfurter, he thinks, have invented a new use for the phonograph. On their fifth wedding anniversary, he brings home the latest model of the phonograph. This time, she doesn’t even think, can we afford it? She just laughs as Thomas reads out loud the promises - entertainment, pleasure, social standing - printed on the machine’s box. The former two turn out to be true, though. When he inserts a record of a young new tenor, and sits on the armchair while she sits on his knee, for a moment his hand remains suspended over her thigh and under her dress. They look at each other and nod in amazement, Susan even turning her head slightly, as if checking that the young tenor is not there in their living room spying on their game from behind the curtains. Soon they get used to it though and his grab under her dress is tighter, her hands on the back of his neck more precise.
She cooks lamb stew for him, as she does every Sunday, then he announces he would like to take a nap. She never sleeps during the day. From the kitchen, she hears him play Caro nome - a song in Italian and a new favorite of his and of hers too - then silence. For a while. She walks into the room and finds him lying on their unmade bed, hands on his chest. It’s two hours since the wax cylinder stopped spinning. As has Thomas Erfurter’s heart. Three months after Thomas’s death, she visits Robert H. Andersen in his office. A teacher has just got engaged and Susan Erfurter is offered her post on the spot. She starts the next Monday. She often stays at school late, cutting paper dolls, rearranging the library’s books - all those things no one cares about or notices, things that leave her fingers numb or covered in dust. Three months into her job, she gifts Thomas’s phonograph to the school library. She rarely listens to it now anyway; her days busy with the school, household chores and being the treasurer of the Society of Widows, which she joined at her sister’s suggestion. Mr Andersen sometimes comes to see her in her classroom after all the others have left. No one is waiting for him at home either. His wife died ten years ago. His oldest son is a senior at Cornell and the youngest is a freshman at Princeton. One day he comes to see her in her classroom and asks whether she would like to go on a car ride with him. She screws up her face. “Sorry, I didn’t mean…” he starts. “No, don’t apologize. You just caught me by surprise. A car ride – why not?” Robert H. Andersen is one of the first in Bloomington to own a Ford Model T. They meet on a Saturday afternoon and Susan likes it when he drives her to the countryside and pollen starts to accumulate inside her nostrils and the sun falls on her face – the part where she can almost feel her skin going red. “Did you enjoy this afternoon?” he asks before he drops her in front of the house she used to share with Thomas Erfurter. “Oh, yes,” she answers. “What about you?” “I prefer to drive in town. But I’ll drive you to the country side again and again, if you’ll let me.” They get married in early July after a year and a half of courtship – mostly car rides on Saturday afternoons. It was his idea. A summer wedding doesn’t interfere with his headmaster duties. What Susan Erfurter-Andersen likes best about her married life with Robert H. Andersen is the trips in the car although they only happen one Saturday in three if she’s lucky. One day, when they’re out driving in the countryside, she takes his hand and puts it on her thigh. It’s not even under her skirt. He withdraws it and murmurs about the dangers of reckless driving. It’s so Robert. But, all in all, she considers her married life to be a happy one. A fulfilling one, as some say. At thirty-five she gives birth. Baby Harold Thomas Andersen is ugly and chubby and stinky. She hugs him in her bed – her and Robert’s bed - and revels in his ugliness, chubbiness, stinkiness. A week and a half later, she ventures outside the house for the first time. While Robert H. Andersen is teaching, she walks to the school, goes to the library and takes her old phonograph back home. Standing by the cradle, she plays Caro Nome. Baby Harry gurgles and smiles before Robert H. Andersen returns from the school.
The Hired Girls of Norway Wisconsin, 1880 Paula C. Lowe
Bought to wash blood out of sheets and beds. to mend heartbreak with ice. Small girls who would sew themselves into the sleeves of Wisconsin. In their thin coats. Standing in the North Sea gales. A month over lake and land to Green Bay. Drafted into houses of sick and dying babies. Native tongues frozen in their mouths. Pilfered from Finnmark. Each a dot in seal skin. Each a lost button on the snow. Nothing near enough to say You are small. Hired girls sent for from Bodø. Steerage paid to Québec. Trapped below the waists of women whose hair grew like rope down their backs to where those girls could almost reach it. If only they could only reach it. Sent west Norwegians. Littler people inside them. Hushed tongues sorting what they ate – kept, tossed, gristle, bone. Hauling wash and wood. Keeping their heads bowed.
Fall of the Rust Bucket J.C. Jones
Captain James Fairbeard stood in the navigation room of his sky-ship, The Rust Bucket, making the hardest decision in his life: was he going to let his beloved ship fall into the sea, or was he going to try and fix her, again? Kenneth, his First Mate, had been the one to bring him the news that a large panel had fallen off in the night and left a gaping wound in the side of the hull. If they didn’t repair the damage soon more components could get dislodged and fall out. ‘Loggins just informed me that there is an Oaken-Wood Navy vessel that should cross courses with us in about half an hour. We could intercept it and commandeer it. Let our lady fall with grace as we sail away with one of the Queen’s ships. Might help us to dock at the Oaken-Wood City Harbour. What do you think, Captain?’ Kenneth asked as he returned to the meeting table. James was sat at the head of the table with his boots up on the corner of the curling map that was laid out on the surface. He had his brown tri-corner hat tipped over his face as he leaned back in this chair. It helped him to think in this position but it also presented an air of collectedness, that he wanted his crew to believe he had, even if he was stressed about the situation. ‘If they’re going to cross us in half an hour we could be done for. If they spot what is left of the green sails, they’ll start firing at us and, with the damage we already have, we’ll sink,’ James said from under his hat. ‘So, what are you going to do, Captain?’ He thought for a moment. ‘Let’s get them. We haven’t had any serious fights for a while and I think the men and women on board could do with the practice. Where’s that new recruit we picked up with the treasure from the last one?’ ‘Little Terry? He’s down in the kitchen with the Cook. Learning the ropes… and burning himself a lot,’ Kenneth chuckled. ‘Boy’s gotta learn.’ ‘Why did you save him from the wreck we left?’ ‘Cook won’t be around forever. I think a young pair of hands down there could help a lot.’ Kenneth nodded though he had his own thoughts on the matter. Especially as the Cook they had already was younger than the Captain himself. James pushed his hat back up onto his head and sat in his chair properly. ‘Well then, it looks like we’ve got a fight to prepare for. Tell the crew and get a group of them together to organise moving the treasure over. I want a few of the gun-maidens on deck when we’re getting close so they can initiate the battle. I do love how fierce they get.’ He smiled to himself as though remembering something. Kenneth left the room to pass on the Captain’s demands. The Queen’s ship was larger than The Rust Bucket and the sun shone off her royal blue panels. Her golden sails were iconic to any sky-farer. Golden sails usually spelled immediate trouble for any Sky-Pirate but James wasn’t scared. He’d had plenty of run-ins with the navy. He was ready for the test. Half an hour later, as predicted, the navy vessel came within firing range of The Rust Bucket and James gave the order to start shooting. The gun maidens took aim with the machine guns and released a barrage of bullets into the side of the navy ship, taking out the main firing points on the starboard side. It wouldn’t do too much damage; they’d have to repair it if they were successful, after all. ‘Right on target!’ James smiled as he watched his crew get The Rust Bucket into position for docking onto the side of the navy ship. They were close enough for him to read the name. It was The Juliet Abercrombie: the controversial ship named after the Queen’s lover. The pirates waited at the docking doors as the two vessels connected with a loud metallic clunk that echoed down the corridors. A line of 6 naval officers with rifles began to fire at the clear shot between the doors. James’s crew dived to the sides and started to return fire. They took out the men in uniform quickly using distraction tactics and finally James was able to make his way onto the royal ship. He told his crew to make progress through the main hallways while he took an engineer’s ladder up to
the bridge. The climb was longer than he’d expected. He paused just before he reached the top, pulled out his revolver, and checked it was loaded. It was certainly his weapon of choice. Shots rang out towards him as he poked his head up through the engineer’s trap door in the control room of the ship. He raised his gun and fired at the men he could see guarding the controls before ducking down any time they fired back at him. At this point, he was uncertain as to which one was the Captain. He pulled himself up and into the room completely after shooting the last man he could see. Blood seeped into the cracks between the oak-wood floorboards. Cleaning that up would be a job for the new guy, he thought. There was a huge explosion and James fell forward onto his face as The Juliet Abercrombie was knocked hard to the left. He scrambled to get back on his feet then looked out of the windows at his beloved ship. Black smoke bellowed out of a hole in the port side. The explosion had forced her to detach and James watched as she started sinking through the clouds. He panicked, wondering if any of his crew and treasure would still be on the ship. A whistle came from one of the control panels so he picked up the receiver and put it to his ear. ‘They’re going down, sir. All of them. What are we going to do?’ Kenneth must have made it on board as he was calling from the deck. James looked out of the windows and down to where his First Mate was. He saw a handful of his crew standing there as well looking up at him. ‘What can we do?’ James asked. ‘If you can get us close enough, I’ll be able to jump back on board and divert the last of her power to the thruster engines. I should be able to hover her long enough to get everyone across.’ There was a click very close to James’s head and he felt something cold and hard press against the nape of his neck. ‘Tell them to surrender. Your ship and crew members will fall into the sea and die like the rest of you filthy pirates,’ said a sharp feminine voice from behind him. ‘Please, there are women on board that ship, I need to save them.’ ‘Pirates are all the same to Her Majesty. You’ve already killed plenty of my men. I don’t see any evidence to suggest your crew are worth saving.’ She pushed the barrel of the gun harder into James’s neck. He put the receiver down and stepped back from the control panel. She pulled the gun back and he turned to face her. ‘Miss Abercrombie, I presume?’ ‘Correct. Judging by the amount of rust on that carcass of a ship you must be Captain Fairbeard.’ James reached for his gun. ‘You make one more move for that revolver and I will shoot you through the heart, do you hear me?’ She took a step closer to him so that her gun was pressing against his chest. ‘What do you intend to do with me, Captain?’ She looked uncertain of how to answer him. It was true, she could just kill him and the rest of his crew. At the same time, she was probably running low on sailors herself given the attack from his men. Not to mention that the guns on the starboard side of her ship were all out of action for now. She was in a position of power but not much. James wondered whether she had been in such a difficult position before. Rumour suggested that The Juliet Abercrombie had only been used a handful of times so far and purely for peacekeeping exercises. ‘I can help you,’ James said in a calm tone. ‘I don’t need help. Why would I?’ ‘Your ship is damaged, many of your crew are probably dead, and you have a small gang of pirates who could pretty easily overwhelm you and take control of your ship at any moment. I think you need me to give the word that will stop my First Mate from bursting through the door and killing you. What do you think?’ James smirked. Juliet chanced a look over her shoulder at the door. Through the glass window she could see one of James’s crew members standing there waiting for a signal. As her attention was diverted for a moment, James reached for his revolver with one hand and with his other he knocked her arm so that her gun wasn’t directed at his heart any more. The knock caused her to panic and she squeezed the trigger. The shot rang through the room and pain pierced James’s left bicep. Juliet dropped her gun and ran to the other side of the room in fear as James’s crew members, led by
Kenneth, burst through the door. One of them raised their gun towards her. ‘No,’ James cried. ‘Don’t kill her.’ The man looked at him in confusion but daren’t disobey an order from his Captain. He grabbed Juliet by the arm instead and hauled her over to where Kenneth had started seeing to James’s wound. ‘How bad is it?’ James asked. ‘It’s only a scratch. You’ll be fine soon enough; I’ve saved you from worse.’ ‘Where’s Rusty? Would she be in the water yet?’ ‘She’s probably getting close to the surface now, but if we hurry we might have a chance of saving the others.’ Juliet watched as they took control of her ship and flew it quickly down, through the clouds, towards the sea. ‘I didn’t mean for them to die. I was told the explosion would only detach your ship, not sink it.’ Juliet’s voice was quiet as she sat watching James’s men search for their fallen Rust Bucket. ‘You know, they give us pirates a bad reputation, not that we always complain, but we’re not so different at the end of the day, are we?’ James asked. Juliet didn’t have an answer to that. ‘What will you do if we can’t find them?’ ‘Probably kill you for a start,’ Kenneth said. There was a whistle from the control panel again. ‘External call coming in, Captain.’ James picked up the receiver. ‘Hello, who is this?’ ‘Captain? It’s Terry,’ the boy’s voice crackled down the line but James could just about hear him. ‘I managed to divert the power to the thruster engines. We’re hovering but I’m not sure how much power we have left. Do you think you can find us in time to save us?’ James looked out of the windows of the control room again and, just as they passed through a cloud, he made out the unmistakable orange-tinted panels of his old Rust Bucket. He turned to the Queen’s former lover and winked at her. ‘It looks like it’s your lucky day, Miss.’
Little Soldier A.S. Ford
Narrow passages mud mixed with shit wooden walls too slippery and steep to climb Rub hands and face got to keep clean avoid the black, blistered skin and splintered bone the water’s red and brown so catch the rain and when the tins arrive don’t mind the little soldier who needs to eat, keep his strength, to dodge the snares and bullets he’ll stay quiet except the patter of his feet.
The Incident at Mayerling John Mueter
In 1889 Crown Prince Rudolf, heir to the throne of the Dual Monarchy of Austria–Hungary, formed a suicide pact with his lover, the young Marie Vetsera. His death shook the Empire and altered the course of European history. But what if things had happened otherwise at the hunting lodge? Mayerling The gentle hills of the Vienna Woods sported a fresh coat of snow and the landscape glistened in the faint January moonlight. It was bitterly cold. Marie, alone in the carriage, pulled her fur wrap tighter around her shoulders. To take her mind off the cold she turned her thoughts to the prospect of spending the coming night alone with her lover, the Crown Prince. The recollection of the oath they had sworn to each other just a few days before both thrilled and frightened her. As usual, precautions had been taken to avoid detection by the secret police. The Emperor Franz Josef, Rudolph’s father, had created a vast network of spies to keep tabs on the many disgruntled subjects in his vast realm. But they also spied on Rudolf, something which irked the young prince to no end. It was necessary to use the services of one of Marie’s friends to relay messages and coordinate their assignations. They had to communicate in code and to have Marie picked up and dropped off at inconspicuous places. Sometimes she had been brought to the summer palace at Schönbrunn so that they could walk together in the gardens in the dead of night. She would not have been invited inside, and certainly would not have appeared anywhere with Rudolf by the light of day. On this occasion it had been arranged that Marie would arrive first at a certain inn outside of town, now closed for the season, and that Rudolf would shake the police who were tailing his phaeton, joining her in the carriage she occupied. All this transpired according to plan. As the phaeton was traveling through a heavily wooded area it slowed down just enough for Rudolf to jump out. He then made his way to the inn and quickly got into Marie’s waiting carriage. The Crown Prince resented having to act like a criminal on the lam. They kissed briefly but did not exchange a single word. It was impossible to keep secrets in Imperial Vienna. Franz Josef and the Empress Elizabeth had been informed by His Majesty’s spies that Rudolf was having an affair with Marie Vetsera. Others in the Imperial circle knew about it as well, but it was not spoken of openly. Their Imperial Majesties did not approve. Heated arguments had taken place between Franz Josef and his son. Invariably, Rudolf felt himself humiliated in these exchanges. He was treated like a child, like a mere subject. He did not dare stand up to his father too strongly but he did continue to lead a double life and carry on his illicit affairs. It was the only thing that gave him any relief from the grinding boredom and emptiness of his official life at court. Although Baroness Marie Vetsera could count herself among the aristocratic elite, she was only seventeen – nearly half of Rudolf’s age. She was considered a great beauty. Rudolf had been attracted to her and they had been intimate at first but the nature of their relationship soon changed. Marie became a confidant, one of the few individuals with whom the Prince could share his most private feelings. With Marie Vetsera he could relax completely. *** The major complication in any relationship of the Crown Prince was the fact that he was married. His union with the Crown Princess Stéphanie, daughter of King Leopold of Belgium, had been loveless from the beginning: it had been a matter of political expediency. After the birth of their daughter they drifted apart and Rudolf took to seeking comfort elsewhere. To make matters worse, Rudolf had left Stéphanie with the most dreaded of afflictions – syphilis. She would never forgive him for that. To call Rudolf handsome would have been a bit of a stretch but he did cut a fine figure in a military
uniform. He possessed two dozen of them; each appropriate for a special occasion. He often felt that his life consisted of little more than standing around in uniforms, festooned with golden epaulets and braids, looking charming and regal. If power was the ultimate aphrodisiac, Rudolf, as Crown Prince, possessed the ultimate dosage. Women found him irresistible. Among the ladies of Vienna, married and unmarried alike, it was whispered about that the young Prince was a passionate lover and that he wielded a big sword. They would titter and blush behind their fans when he passed by. While he enjoyed the attentions of these women, and slept with a good many of them, he was not a roué at heart. He was a quiet, thoughtful and sensitive man. He knew that he deserved something better and that he would never find it in the life he led as heir to the throne. Most of the citizens of the vast empire could only dream of the luxury and privilege that was his at court but he thoroughly hated the whole charade of being Crown Prince. He detested being powerless and ignored, doomed to waiting for his turn to come. Unlike his father, the Crown Prince harbored progressive ideas. As he saw it, the Empire was crumbling from within and in desperate need of reform. Franz Josef would have none of it. He obdurately refused to entertain any ideas that would change the present arrangement. He had run the Empire already for over forty years – why change anything now? *** The hunting lodge at Mayerling was only an hour’s drive from the center of the city. Rudolf had arranged for himself and Marie to be there alone. But there was no such thing as being completely alone; the lodge was staffed by the inevitable entourage of groundskeepers, servants and bodyguards. They could be trusted by Rudolf to keep things to themselves. There would also be two other guests at Mayerling. They had been invited in order to maintain the appearance of a legitimate hunting party. Conveniently, they would be housed in another wing of the lodge. When Marie and Rudolf arrived at Mayerling they immediately retired to the Prince’s rooms. Officially, he was alone; no one but his personal valet would know otherwise. He gave orders that he not be disturbed, that no one be permitted entry into his room. The lovers ordered a dinner and a few bottles of wine. It was discretely served by the valet who entered and left by a secret door that led to the downstairs kitchen. After that there was coffee and a bottle of Rudolf’s favorite cognac. A fire blazed in the fireplace and all was gemütlich. They talked until way past midnight then retired to the royal bed. Marie changed into a silk dressing gown, the one in pink she always wore when with Rudolf. He remarked to himself how fetching she looked in it. He himself did not change clothes; a Crown Prince must look his best at all times. There was no thought of carnal pleasures. Although they had known each other barely a year, their relationship was a deep and complex one based on mutual dissatisfaction with their current existences and an understanding that they would leave this world together. They regarded each other as soul mates, their destinies intertwined. A pact had been formed between them and the logistics worked out in every detail. This was the night. The plan was for Rudolf to shoot Marie first, then turn the weapon on himself. This seemed to Marie the most appropriate way to end things. They said their goodbyes and kissed tenderly one last time. She smiled at Rudolf as she stretched herself out on her side of the bed, blew him one last kiss, and closed her eyes. Rudolf took the pistol and fired one single shot to her forehead. She died instantly. Although he was an officer in the Imperial Army, he had never participated in a battle and had never killed another human being. He had seen the wounded and dying before but still he was horrified at the sight of the lovely girl whose blood was now streaming onto the pillow. He covered her head with a napkin and put a single rose in her crossed hands. Then he sat down to write a few letters – to his wife Stéphanie, to his mother, and to his loyal valet. But there would be no letter to his father. Not one word. By the time he had finished with the letters it was already half past three in the morning. He reclined himself on the bed, next to Marie whose body was already growing cold, and placed the pistol within reach. He needed to compose himself before committing the final act of his life. Weariness settled upon him, the effects of the wine and cognac overpowered him. Without wanting to, he dozed off. When he came to, with a heavy head and barely coherent, the first light of day was already visible through the heavy laced curtains. He wondered where he was. Who was this lying next to him? Then it came crashing down upon him: he had shot his dear Marie Vetsera and had intended to make his own exit from this life. But
things seemed different now. The poetic expression bei klarem Tageslicht (by the clear light of day) repeated itself over and over in his head and he realized that he could not go through with the plan. There were other options for solving his existential predicament. He had let himself get caught up in some romantic notion and had pushed the more sensible solutions aside. He resolved to stand up to his father and fight for what he believed in. His pact with Marie seemed now to be utter folly. What to do? He nearly panicked. The situation was extremely delicate. How to discretely dispose of a corpse; how to break the news to her family – to his own family! He had killed another person – there were no two ways about that. He briefly sank into a morass of regret and remorse. He had truly loved the pretty, foolish girl. But the episode of self-pity soon passed. What was done, was done. Rudolf was a practical man and a problem solver. By the time his valet, Loshek, knocked on the door, he had mentally sketched out a course of action. He would instruct Loshek to enlist the assistance of one of the trusted groundskeepers and they would personally bring the body over to the nearby cemetery of Heiligenkreuz Monastery. It could be buried there in an unmarked grave. The abbot would have to accede to the wishes of the royal family, likewise the local bureaucrats. All this would have to be done after nightfall to avoid detection. He would return to the Hofburg Palace immediately and inform the Emperor and his mother of what had transpired. He would have to figure out some way to make it seem like the gunshot was an accident. Perhaps he was showing Marie his new pistol and it inadvertently discharged? The carriage ride would give him time to think of something. The court would be horrified, but at the same time would do everything possible to cover up the events that had taken place at Mayerling. Scandal was to be avoided at all costs. Franz Josef would be furious, his mother extremely distraught, but with time they would get over it and life would go on. He would also need to pay a personal visit to the Baroness Helene, Marie’s mother, to offer an explanation and his personal consolation. That would be the trickiest part. How would he explain the death of her daughter? As he was the Crown Prince, the Baroness was not in a position to challenge his explanations. She would have to accept whatever story he gave her. But first Rudolf needed to burn the letters, the ones he had written and the ones Marie had left. He asked Loshek to stoke the fire. Vienna News of Marie Vetsera’s death had caused minor shock waves in Vienna but that was to be expected. Many questioned the official version given out by the Hofburg, especially the press. They were always sniffing about for a scandal of some sort. The secret police were avid in their efforts to squelch any speculation that might damage the venerable institution of the monarchy. Within a short time the story became stale. The city gave itself over to the festivities of the pre-Lenten Fasching season. Who wanted to dwell on such unpleasantries when there were glittering balls to attend, sumptuous food to eat, champagne to drink, and spirited waltzes to dance to? After a brief interval of withdrawal from the social scene Rudolf resumed his place in Viennese society as the dashing Crown Prince. He was biding his time, making plans, weighing various options. He was wildly popular not only in Vienna but in Budapest as well. His mother, the Empress Elizabeth, had always had a warm spot in her heart for the Hungarians. She had made the effort to acquaint herself with the language, as had her son. They used to play word games in Hungarian when Rudolf was a child. This familiarity with their language endeared them greatly to the Magyars who were the second largest ethnic group within the Empire. Rudolf was well aware of the dynamics of the current state of the Empire. He was more finely attuned to the signs of unrest in the provinces; a smoldering fire that was about to flare up into a destructive conflagration. His father dismissed these mutterings as the work of extremists. Was he, Franz Josef, not the model of a benevolent ruler? Had the Empire not provided order, stability and a sense of pride to all its citizens? Demonstrations had erupted in Prague, in Kiev, Lemberg, Sarajevo and Milan over the attempt to implement German as the official language. Local newspapers in the provinces expressed outrage. It was becoming increasingly difficult for the agents of the government to suppress all of them. While Vienna partied on during the late winter, Rudolf began constructing a plan, a course of action that would, he was convinced, diffuse the causes of unrest and change the situation for the better. It would require bold action, even an act of treason: a coup d’état was the only viable option. Assassination of the Emperor was out of the question. While he despised his father, he could not bring
himself to order an act of such crude violence. Besides, the brutal and sudden removal of the reigning monarch could easily backfire and make Franz Josef into a martyr. Rudolf needed to count on the good will of the people. He had many allies. The Empress Elizabeth was sympathetic to her son’s desire for reform but she could only go so far in offering support. She was rarely in Vienna anyway, removing herself from the capital for months at a time, traveling around Europe. Life at court didn’t suit her either. With all due dispatch and the greatest secrecy, Rudolf contacted his prospective allies. These were mostly Hungarians who would be only too happy to see things turned on their heads. But he also had supporters in Serbia, Croatia and Slovakia. The plan was for Rudolf to secretly slip out of Vienna, to show up in Budapest with much pomp and circumstance, at which time he would be offered the Apostolic Crown of Saint Stephen by the Hungarian nobility (the Emperor was also King of Hungary), thereby making him a rival ruler of the Empire. The nobilities of the other minorities would line up behind him. If all went according to plan, public sympathy would lean his way too. Franz Josef would see himself cornered and voluntarily relinquish the imperial crown in favor of the Crown Prince. Rudolf would become Emperor. Although it was an act of treason, it was a necessary evil through which the Empire would be saved and necessary reforms instituted. In the end all would be well. *** It just so happened that Helene Vetsera had a lover, a Hungarian count by the name of Istvan Andrássy. He was filthy rich and lived in the Palais Obizzi when in Vienna. He was also a kind man. Helene knew that she could rely on him in times of need. The recent tragedy concerning her daughter Marie was one of those times and the Count was able to offer much appreciated consolation and advice. As a member of the ruling nobility in Hungary, Count Andrássy knew of all the intrigues swirling around the Imperial capital. He was aware of the plan to install Crown Prince Rudolf as the King of Hungary and mentioned this in confidence to Helene. After her recent treatment by the Habsburg household she nursed a burning hatred for Franz Josef. The Emperor’s aides had blatantly and repeatedly lied to her about the events at Mayerling and had secretly buried her daughter without even letting her view her child’s body. Then, to compound the outrage, she was forbidden to visit the cemetery for two months, until the public had lost interest in the matter. Maintaining the prestige of the royal family was always of primary importance. For Rudolf she also felt a hatred – he had all but murdered her daughter (she never learned that it was a deliberate act). But, in light of Marie’s infatuation with him, she could perhaps forgive the Crown Prince. At any rate, Helene was eager to throw oil on the flames. She had made no promise of secrecy and immediately started spreading the rumor that there was soon to be a coup d’état. Let Franz Josef and his cronies in the Hofburg quake in their boots and let Rudolf’s plans be confounded – it was all the same to her. Budapest Rudolf had no idea that his conspiracy was now common knowledge. The plan was set for March the fifteenth. The Crown Prince boarded a train incognito in Vienna. His usual entourage dressed inconspicuously to deflect attention from the operation. They occupied three adjoining compartments in a first class rail carriage on the overnight train to Budapest. Rudolf hardly slept at all as he was tremendously excited, and a bit apprehensive, about what was to happen the following day. By the time the train pulled into the Keleti Railway Station Rudolf had already changed into one of his ceremonial uniforms. He expected to be greeted by a delegation of the Hungarian nobility, a military guard in smart uniforms, and a jubilant crowd. A military band would have been nice too, he mused. But, to his amazement, the station was nearly empty. There was no official delegation and he was not permitted to even alight from the train. Instead, some government officials, anonymous and pallid men, boarded the carriage and informed Rudolf unceremoniously – no polite address, none of the usual bowing – that he was persona non grata in the Kingdom and was to leave Hungarian territory by the next departing train. Rudolf and his entourage were stunned by the news. Obviously, word had preceded their arrival, giving the Imperial secret police the opportunity to thwart the coup before it even got underway. Half of Rudolf’s entourage deserted on the spot and melted away. The next train leaving Keleti was headed south, to the Adriatic coast. After a meagre breakfast of coffee
and rolls in the station café, which they ate under the eyes of an armed guard, the Austrians were escorted to that train. Not a word was spoken between Rudolf’s party and their guards. The Crown Prince and his advisors sat in glum silence for a long while after the train left the station. The flat Hungarian countryside slipped by. They had not expected this at all. When they finally managed to gather their wits about them again it was decided not to stray too far from Imperial borders, and to throw themselves at the mercy of the Croatians as the Austrian Emperor was also nominal King of Slovenia and Croatia. The Croats had also been making noises for autonomy. As a Habsburg, Rudolf would not be beloved but the Croats would be only too happy to use him to undermine Franz Josef. The train stopped briefly in Laibach. The party clambered down and headed for the station exit with utmost dispatch. If they traveled by road they just might throw the authorities off the trail. Zagreb could be reached by nightfall. Meanwhile, in Vienna, the Emperor Franz Josef took the news badly. Although he had been warned that his son was planning a coup against him, he did not want to believe it. He employed his usual tactic of dismissing whatever he didn’t want to know. But the news was undeniable. And it was bad. Rudolf would have to be exiled forever. It would be nearly impossible to disown him. Therefore, by legal right, Rudolf was still the heir apparent to the throne of Austria-Hungary. It was a terrible dilemma. A dispatch was personally delivered to Rudolf in Zagreb informing him that he was banned in perpetuity from the entire Empire and that his continued presence in Croatia would be taken as a further act of hostility. The news of the intended coup spread like wildfire to the far corners of the Empire. The various minorities within its borders lost no time in recognizing that the moment for agitation had arrived. The mighty edifice of Imperial rule was showing cracks in its foundation. The truth that remained unspoken by the ruling elite was that the Austro-Hungarian Empire had no raison-d’être at all. The Empire was united by history and the unshakeable belief of the House of Habsburg that it was destined to rule. The Empire was held together by habit, the inertia of centuries. Everyone was aware that habits could be broken. Soon there was unrest all over. The Ruthenians, Croats, Slovenians, Poles, Ukrainians and Slovaks all took to the streets. But the worst trouble was in Serbia where a ragtag group of insurrectionists (probably instigated by the local government) attacked government offices and declared an independent republic. This put the Hofburg in an uproar. Franz Josef firmly believed that military might was the only way to reestablish order and bolster respect for the monarchy in Vienna. Zagreb After Rudolf and his party finally arrived in Zagreb the Croatian government give him sanctuary. This was in itself an act of defiance. It was Serbia that declared war on Austria-Hungary first. The Austrians lost no time in mobilizing and sending troops into Serbian territory. The first battle took place just across the Serbian border, outside the town of Sombor. The Battle of Sombor on April 27th, 1889 would be forever celebrated by Serbia as one of the greatest victories in their history. The Austrian forces were routed and fled back across the border in disarray. The news of the defeat was a stunning blow to the Austrians. The military had flouted its strength for decades and presented itself as nearly invincible. That they should be defeated in their first battle (and by the Serbs!) was unthinkable. A second attempt of the Austrians to enter Serbia was also repulsed. By now public opinion in Vienna had soured. Many citizens wore black armbands in public, and officers in military uniform were taunted in the streets. The validity of the monarchy was questioned. There were demonstrations in Vienna itself. *** The two imperial powers of Prussia and Austria-Hungary didn’t trust each other at all. The Prussian Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, a masterful adept at political machinations, decided that Prussia should bide its time. His nation would wait to see how the political winds were blowing before taking sides. The Prussian military and the armaments industry, both itching for a conflict, would have to be kept in check for a while. The senior officers of the army of Tsar Alexander III were also clamoring for action, but the Tsar himself was a cautious man. He had to weigh the benefits of engaging in a conflict or staying out of it. While waging a war might offer a means of displaying military might, and thereby bolstering the Tsar’s own standing with
his people, the other side of the coin was a Pandora’s Box of unforeseen consequences that might be opened. In the end, Russia opted for a halfhearted intervention as a means of grabbing some territory on its western flank. Under the pretext of coming to the aid of their fellow Slavs, Russia declared war on Austria-Hungary, marching into Galicia at the beginning of June. Bulgaria likewise declared war on Serbia, hoping to regain lost territories. The Western European powers, most importantly Great Britain and France, had no treaties with the nations involved in the ever-widening conflict and wished to stay out of it. What happened in Bessarabia or the Banat was of no interest to them. And so the struggle of nationalities began. It would be tedious to recount here the details of the conflict which was to become known as The Great Central European War. It raged on, and by 1891 there was a military stalemate. Austria could not sustain a war on multiple fronts and the army was unable to achieve a decisive victory anywhere. The various nationalist forces were determined to succeed. Prussia ultimately stayed out of the conflict, but its armaments industry made a brisk business in supplying all sides with weapons. With increasing international pressure to resolve the conflict, Austria was forced to swallow a bitter pill. *** The Empress Elizabeth was abroad when Rudolf undertook his ill-fated journey to Budapest. She had been apprised of his stratagem and thought it best to stay out of the way. The Empress could not be seen to take sides in the struggle between her son and her husband. She and Rudolf were in regular contact by way of coded messages. As war became a grim reality, with no end in sight, the precariousness of Rudolf’s situation grew increasingly apparent. After their initial poor showing, the Austrian forces rallied a bit and began to occupy more of Croatia and Serbia. It was no longer possible for Rudolf to remain in Zagreb. His mother urged him to join her in Switzerland, a neutral country. She was staying at a villa on the shores of Lake Geneva, near Lausanne. To reach Switzerland, the Prince was forced to make a lengthy detour in order to avoid Austrian territory. By now he had only three trusted companions left. It became clear to the rest of them that they had bet on the wrong horse. One by one they had left Zagreb to return to Vienna with their tails between their legs. They wanted to salvage what they could of their careers. Emperor Franz Josef I was despondent over the situation. He never would have imagined that his own son could betray him; that his realm, at relative peace throughout his forty plus years on the throne, could begin to disintegrate so quickly. Moreover, his consort Elizabeth had all but abandoned him, only rarely returning to Vienna. He was a shattered man. Although barely over sixty, Franz Josef died in 1892, some say of a broken heart. There was a state funeral – the Emperor had been truly loved by his subjects – but even that was marred by ugly incidents in which the monarchy was insulted. With Franz Josef’s passing the very institution of the monarchy was in crisis, its survival at risk. Rudolf’s attempt to usurp the throne was now seen as the beginning of the whole disaster and sentiment ran strongly against him. Although he was the legal heir to the throne, he could not be invited to come to Vienna to be crowned. That was out of the question. The aristocracy and the military were likewise held in contempt. They had shown themselves to be inept and corrupt. During this interregnum the country was ruled by a coalition of the leading members of parliament. The main cities of Austria – Vienna, Graz and Innsbruck – saw continued unrest. Civil War was imminent. The ministers of His Majesty’s former government were called together. They were handed an ultimatum by the parliamentary leaders: they had to sign on to the dissolution of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic. Some were reluctant to do so at first but were gradually brought around by the sobering reality of impending anarchy. A delegation was sent to the Empress Elizabeth. Rudolf had no choice but to abdicate and renounce any future claim to the Imperial throne by his progeny. The French and British, motivated by a wish to see the continent restored to peace, instigated the creation of a European Council. It was made up of the leading nations of Europe, excluding Austria-Hungary. The Council met in Baden-Baden late in 1892. The dissolution of the Dual Monarchy and establishment of an Austrian Republic was agreed to by all. It was further decided that the various nationalities that had comprised the former Empire should receive some measure of autonomy or independence. There was much wrangling and diplomatic arm-twisting behind the scenes. Eventually, the more powerful nations got their way and the map of Europe was drastically altered. The Habsburg Empire that had existed since 1526 was wiped off the map. In its place, the Austrian First Republic was established and the monarchy abolished.
In the Treaty of Baden-Baden the biggest winners were Prussia, whose territory remained virtually intact while it managed to strengthen its own economy, Russia which gained some territory, Bulgaria which gained some territory from Serbia, and Hungary which kept its territorial integrity. Serbia, Croatia and Slovenia each became sovereign states. Small republics were carved out for the Rumanians and the Poles. Northern Italy was returned to the Italians. Austria was reduced to the small area where German was the predominant language. The Ottoman Empire, which had also stayed on the sidelines during hostilities, was itself hovering on the brink of dissolution. That situation would later be resolved in what was to become known as the Third Balkan War. The end With no power, no kingdom, and no hopes of ever having one, Rudolfâ€™s situation was truly hopeless. After a few years the terms of his exile were relaxed and he was permitted to return to Austria but he had no desire to do so. With no occupation or real aim in life he slid into dissipation. He ate and drank too much and could be seen waddling about the casino in Monaco or whiling away the hours in the cafĂŠs of St. Moritz and the South of France. He made no effort to see his wife again, or even his daughter. He never set foot in his homeland again. In late June of 1914, during a visit to Sarajevo, Rudolf was struck and killed by a tram while crossing a street. His passing received only limited attention in the press, the world having moved on to other concerns by then. He had requested burial in the Heiligenkreuz cemetery as it was not permitted that he be interred in the Habsburg royal crypt in Vienna. He was laid to rest next to Marie Vetsera. Their graves are overgrown and rarely visited these days.
THE HERMIT AND THE PARTY GIRL Oceano, CA 1933 Sydney Avey
Crackling flames light his craggy face. Cross-legged, he sits before a bonfire, feeds sticks to the blaze, sates his thirst from a cracked clay jug filled with honeyed home brew. “Come to join my party, have you?” Cloaked moonlight shrouds her features. Bare-limbed, she draws up the edge of the blanket she sits on, shields her shoulders against the cold, picks at a scratch where sand burrs scraped her skin, asks the seer, “Why do you live out here?” He pokes the woodpile, sparks spit burning embers into the dark night, cinders descend, nestle in the blanket, smolder in its folds, chew its cotton threads. “Don’t much matter, mansion or shack, I’m a poor man who knows his lack.” Distant light filters through the Eucalyptus, performs shadow play on the dunes, dances to band tunes drifting along with the night breeze. The party girl stares at the bare-chested anchorite, reflects on the scene— “Just a poor man.What does that mean?” His glittering eyes warn her how strong his grasp will be when he grabs her arm. He pulls her hand to his breast, presses her fingers tightly against his sternum, “This is the place. Nothing will change if you don’t make space.” How long has she been gone? Since she stuffed bitterness into four chambers at the intersection of longing and disappointment, hung a do-not-disturb sign on the door and walked away. Time for change. Divesting her heart of hoarded hurts seems a good place to start.
Adapted from The Trials of Nellie Belle
Martyrs of the Apennines Mark Galliford
‘Have a seat, Maggiore, won’t you?’ Father Eusebio gestured towards the only surface in his cluttered study that was not covered with piles of books and papers – an uncomfortable-looking polished wood chair made marginally more welcoming by the threadbare cushion laid on its seat. His guest, Maggior Luigi Grimaldi, head of the Carabinieri in the town of Torrentino, took off his cap, which he perched on top of a teetering pile of papers on an adjacent table, and sat down. Father Eusebio transferred a load of books from a similar chair to the floor, stirring up a cloud of dust that set him coughing, and sat down opposite the Maggiore. ‘Well, Maggiore,’ he said when the coughing had subsided, ‘this is a pleasure.’ In fact, he felt no pleasure in a visit from the most high-ranging officer of the Carabinieri in the region. ‘I don’t think you’ve ever visited me here in the Presbytery before, have you? What can I do for you? ‘No, I’ve never had occasion to visit you before, Father. Your name has never come up before in connection with any of our enquiries.’ ‘Before, Maggiore? Do you mean to say that I am now under suspicion?’ ‘Oh no, Father! By no means. I doubt whether we would ever need to bother you. Unless you’ve been breaching the curfew or selling black market goods.’ The Maggiore chuckled at the image of the ageing priest as a lynch-pin of the local crime scene. ‘I assure you, Maggiore, that my duty to comfort the sick and the lonely and bring the word of God to the faithful in these difficult times leaves me little time to indulge in crime.’ ‘Exactly, Father. No, I came to warn you.’ ‘Warn me? Am I in need of warning?’ ‘I don’t know. You might be. Where is your young friend at the moment? I didn’t see him when I arrived.’ ‘My young friend?’ ‘Oh come now, Father. Don’t let’s play with each other.’ The Maggiore stared hard at Father Eusebio, who would not meet his gaze. ‘You know perfectly well that I mean the young man who has been living here with you for the past six months.’ ‘Paolo? I don’t know where he is at the moment.’ Father Eusebio knew perfectly well where Paolo was. He was up in the attic, crouching behind the false partition that they had constructed out of old lengths of timber and panelling shortly after he had first arrived at the Presbytery. The Maggiore must have noticed a look of anxiety on the old priest’s face because he said, ‘Don’t worry, Father. I haven’t come to cause trouble for you. But don’t try to hide anything from me. How much do you know about this ‘Paolo’?’ ‘Not much, Maggiore. He arrived here, exhausted and filthy, one evening after dark over six months ago.’ ‘So you just took him in?’ ‘Of course! Would you have had me turn him away?’ ‘That’s up to you. I don’t suppose he would have lasted very long out there if you had.’ The Maggiore looked out of the window at the flat, scrubby fields that began from the unfenced edge of the dusty road that ran past the front of the Presbytery. Beyond them, the Appenini rose in the distance, purplish brown in the autumn sunlight of a late afternoon. ‘But you know what they say about him in the town?’ ‘No, I don’t.’ ‘They say he’s a Jew.’ ‘I wouldn’t know about that,’ said Father Eusebio. ‘I didn’t ask. All I know is that his family were all killed in a bombing raid, somewhere south of here. He was the only survivor.’ ‘That’s what he says.’ ‘I am accustomed to believing what people tell me, Maggiore.’ There was a note of reproach in Father Eusebio’s voice. ‘Touché, Father,’ said the Maggiore. ‘As a policeman, I suppose I am more inclined to be sceptical.
Anyway, while he’s here, he’s in danger and, more importantly, so are you. I don’t care whether he’s a Jew or not. Personally, I’ve never shared the hatred for that race that seems to have taken over the world. Of course, in my position I’ve had to be seen to enforce the race laws. Otherwise, the very least I could have expected was to lose my job – the very least! Do you understand what I’m saying?’ Father Eusebio nodded. ‘But beyond that,’ the Maggiore went on, ‘I’ve not gone out of my way to pursue them. But there are those who would pursue them, to the ends of the earth if necessary; and they’re about to arrive here. So if you want my advice, you’ll tell your young friend to make himself scarce. Don’t put it off, thinking a day here or there won’t make any difference or you may find yourself caught up in something very unpleasant that you can’t control. You know about all those Jews, and others, who were sent east a while back?’ ‘Of course,’ said Father Eusebio, ‘They were sent to resettlement camps on unoccupied land in Eastern Europe, weren’t they?’ ‘Resettlement camps? Ha, ha! Most of them were subjected to the kind of resettlement it’s hard to bounce back from and that’s without the ministrations of one of your lot,’ said the Maggiore. ‘But they were the lucky ones, I think. The remainder will be joining them, sooner or later. They’ll die of exhaustion, disease or starvation. So heed what I say, Father. And now,’ he said, getting up and picking up his cap, ‘I must be off. So much to do.’ Father Eusebio got up too. ‘Can I offer you something before you go, Maggiore?’ he said. ‘I don’t have much. The war, you know? But I can probably find a little wine somewhere.’ ‘Thank you, Father, but no. I really must go.’ The Maggiore turned and took several steps towards the door. Then he turned back. ‘By the way, Father,’ he said, ‘it really would be unwise to repeat anything I’ve said, even to your young friend. Of course, I would deny it vehemently, and it would end very badly for you.’ ‘I am well used to maintaining confidences,’ said Father Eusebio. ‘What you’ve said amounts to a kind of confession. And as you know, what is said in the confessional stays there.’ ‘I’m so glad you see it that way, Father. D’you know, when all this is over I think I might come back and have that glass of wine. If I’m still alive,’ he added. ‘I think I could grow to enjoy our company.’ ‘If the Good Lord spares me, I will be happy to welcome you, Maggiore,’ said Father Eusebio. ‘And now, arriverderci.’ ‘Arriverderci, Father, until the next time.’ As far as he could, Father Eusebio preferred to remain detached from the mundane events of the world. But Italy was living through a period in which its citizens were denied the luxury of detachment. The Allies had landed in Sicily months before. It wasn’t long before they crossed over to mainland Italy. Now they were fighting their way up the Italian peninsula. Italy had capitulated and Mussolini had been deposed. In a daring raid, the Germans had rescued him, installing him as leader of a new, puppet regime in the north, based in Salò on Lake Garda. And now they were pouring troops into Italy in a desperate attempt to stem the Allies advance. Within days they would be in Torrentino. It was the awareness of their imminent arrival that had prompted Maggiore Grimaldi to call on Father Eusebio. When the Maggiore returned to Torrentino, he found that he had not been a moment too early in visiting Father Eusebio. As he turned into the Piazza Centrale, he saw that his usual parking spot outside the Comune was occupied. There were three unexpected vehicles lined up neatly, side by side, blocking off the front of the building: a German officer’s staff car, an armoured car, and a light lorry, its rear covered with a canvas awning. Standing either side of the wide stone steps leading up into the Comune, two soldiers of the Wehrmacht stood at attention. When one of them hoisted his rifle and tried to block the Maggiore from entering, with a brusque ‘Halt’, he simply pointed at the insignia on his uniform. ‘Stand aside, soldier,’ he said, pushing past the sentry. The man obviously didn’t understand Italian but he didn’t try to impede the Maggiore any further. ‘Well, Enrico?’ said the Maggiore, as he entered the foyer of the Comune. Maresciallo Enrico Palazzi was sitting at a desk on the left, just inside the entrance. ‘In your office, Signore,’ he said, pointing over his shoulder with his thumb to a door behind him. ‘A German officer.’ He spoke in a stage whisper. The Maggiore opened the office door and stepped inside. Behind the desk, an officer of the Wehrmacht
was sitting writing furiously. He was squinting at his work through gold-framed glasses. He had taken off his cap and laid it on the desk, revealing a head of short-cropped, greying hair. Without looking up, he said something in German that the Maggiore didn’t catch. ‘Scusi?’ ‘I didn’t say come in,’ said the Officer in heavily-accented Italian, still not looking away from his work. ‘I don’t need permission to enter my own office,’ said the Maggiore. The German officer looked up and then got to his feet. ‘And you are?’ he said. ‘Maggiore Luigi Grimaldi, commanding officer of the Carabinieri, Torrentino division.’ The officer came out from behind the desk. ‘Heil Hitler,’ he said, giving the Nazi salute. The Maggiore returned the salute without enthusiasm. ‘UberLieutenant Eric Gruber of the Wehrmacht,’ said the German. ‘You will have to find yourself another office. I need this one. I can’t blame you for not knocking. You weren’t to know. But you will knock next time.’ Charming, thought the Maggiore, I can see you and I are going to get on just fine. ‘Very good, Lieutenant,’ he said. ‘Now, I have a job for you,’ said Gruber. ‘We are here to organise the defence of Italy, since you Italians are clearly incapable of doing it for yourselves. I intend to start with the enemy within.’ He glowered at the Maggiore who wondered what he meant. ‘The German High Command is concerned at the amount of partisan activity in this area and they have ordered me to stamp it out. I intend to do so with the utmost firmness.’ He emphasised his words by slamming his fist down on the desk, knocking over a hinged photo frame which fell to the floor with a tinkle of broken glass. The photo, of the Maggiore’s wife and two small sons, lay exposed to view. ‘And who do you suppose are these partisans, Maggiore?’ ‘I’ve no idea, Lieutenant.’ ‘Think, man. They are idle, disaffected young men, of course. I want you to draw up a list of all men in the area between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five. No, make that sixteen. All those without a valid reason for remaining at liberty will be transported to the Fatherland, where their capacity for causing mischief will be severely limited. And while they’re there,’ he went on, with a grin, ‘they will have the privilege of contributing to the German war effort through their labour.’ The Maggiore could think of nothing to say in response, so he stood gazing at Lieutenant Gruber, his mouth slightly open. ‘Well, man, what are you waiting for? The Maggiore picked up the remains of the photo frame. If there is anyone left in Italy who still doesn’t regret entering into an alliance with this lot, I’d be very surprised, he thought. He turned and walked towards the door. But he stopped and turned back when the Lieutenant spoke again. ‘By the way, Maggiore, it would be better if nothing of what I’ve said leaked out, for now. Not unless you want to be a guest of the Fuhrer yourself, that is.’ By the time Father Eusebio clambered up the rickety ladder into the loft at the top of the Presbytery, it was fully dark outside. As soon as the Maggiore had left, he had gone out to call on someone. He had been back barely five minutes. There was no light in the attic. Reaching under his black cassock, he pulled out a stub of candle and a box of matches. He lit the candle, then called out, ‘Paolo, Paolo! Are you there?’ There was no sound for a few moments. Then he heard someone knocking against a wooden panel at the far end of the attic. The panel fell away and a face appeared. It was the face of a young man of about twenty-five with dark, unruly hair and a scrubby, patchy beard. His eyes were wide with fright. He squeezed through the aperture and then there he was, standing in front of Father Eusebio, shivering. He was short and from the way his shabby clothes – dark trousers and a light blue shirt – were hanging off him, it looked as if it had been a long time since he had last eaten his fill. ‘What is it, Father?’ ‘Come, quickly!’ ‘But why?’
‘You must go.’ ‘Why? Can’t I stay here?’ ‘No, it’s not safe anymore. The Germans…They could be here at any moment. If they find you, it will be bad for you, very bad…and for me too.’ Without further demur, Paolo followed Father Eusebio down the ladder. ‘Get your things together, Paolo. Take everything with you. You won’t be coming back. At least, not until all of this is over.’ It barely took a moment for Paolo to gather together his few miserable possessions: some odd items of clothing, an empty brown leather wallet, a photograph of a family group, in a cardboard folder, and a hundred lire in coins – of little use when there was nothing to spend it on. He put everything into a battered old hold-all, a gift from the Father, and squeezed a thick rough woollen jumper in on top, another gift. ‘You’re going to need that. It gets cold at night where you’re going,’ Father Eusebio said. He was following the Father out of the front door of the Presbytery when Paolo paused. ‘Do I have to go right now, Father? In the dark like this?’ ‘Yes, I’m afraid you do, my son. To wait until daylight would be to risk disaster. Now, stick close to me. And remember, if we run into any patrols, make sure you’re not seen.’ The Presbytery and the adjacent church formed the nucleus of a little frazione of a few dozen houses clustered together on the edge of Torrentino. They set off, Father Eusebio leading the way, along the road that led to the town. It was dark. There was no moon, and no light from the scattered houses they passed. In all the months since he had arrived at the Presbytery, Paolo had never been into the town. He had no idea where he was going and had to be content to follow the Father blindly. The houses were becoming more densely packed, and they were clearly getting nearer to the town centre, when Father Eusebio turned into a narrow side street. He knocked on one of the doors on the left and it was opened at once by a young man of about Paolo’s age. ‘Quick,’ he said, ‘come inside.’ They followed him into a narrow, low-ceilinged scullery where an elderly couple were sitting at an old, worn wooden table. ‘Paolo, this is Livio,’ said Father Eusebio. ‘I’m going to leave you with him. Good luck.’ ‘Thank you, Father,’ said Paolo. Before he could add anything else the elderly priest had gone. ‘Paolo,’ said Livio, ‘I’m going to be very frank with you because I don’t want any misunderstandings. When the Father came to me this afternoon, practically begging me to take care of you, I didn’t want to. It was too much of a risk. But he must have played on my better nature because, in the end, I relented. There’s a group of us, about twenty altogether, all young men. We know that if we just sit about here and wait the Germans are going to round us up. And that means forced labour in Germany, or worse. So we’re going up into the mountains to sit it out until the Americans get here. I don’t know how long that will be. It could be months. We’ve got a place where we should be fairly safe. Some of them are already there. I’m going tonight. If you want to join us, you’ll have to come tonight too – on foot, of course. We haven’t got any transport. Are you in?’ ‘Yes, please,’ said Paolo. ‘Good. Have you eaten?’ ‘I feel as though I haven’t eaten anything for months.’ ‘Right. Mamma, could you get him something? Some cheese, salami, a bit of bread?’ The elderly woman got up and began to prepare some food for Paolo. ‘When you’ve eaten, we’ll set off straight away. It’ll take us most of the night to get there, but there’s no hurry. Once we’re clear of the town, we’ll going cross country and there’s no danger of running into anything dangerous. Now, fill your belly, because you might not have another chance to eat for a while. Va bene?’ ‘Va bene,’ said Paolo. Next morning, when the Maggiore reported to the Comune with the list of names he had compiled, he found Lieutenant Gruber in a testy mood. ‘Now, you bring it to me? Now, at half past eleven? I expected to have rounded up half the delinquents on that list by now. Give it to me,’ he said, grabbing the sheaf of papers that the Maggiore was holding out to
him. ‘Will there be anything else?’ said the Maggiore. ‘No, I won’t be needing anything from you,’ said the Lieutenant. ‘You can go and get on with whatever it is you do all day.’ The Maggiore turned to leave the office without further comment. ‘There is one thing, Maggiore.’ ‘Yes?’ ‘A couple of your men. Good ones, if you have any. I need someone who knows the town and the people. Do you think you can manage that?’ ‘Yes, I’m sure I can find someone.’ ‘Good. Send them here right away. I’m going to start trawling for these types now. The sooner we can get them on their way to the Fatherland, where they will actually do some good, the better.’ ‘Very good, Lieutenant,’ said the Maggiore. Meanwhile, after tramping half the night over farmland, rough open country and, finally, up narrow forest paths, Paolo and Livio had reached their destination: the deserted mountain village of Sasso Alto. They found that about a dozen of their number had already arrived. There were several young men from Torrentino, one or two Italian army deserters from further afield, and a couple of English prisoners of war who had apparently escaped from POW camps elsewhere in Italy during the confusion that surrounded the capitulation of the Italian forces. No one could be completely sure of this, however, as neither of the men spoke a word of Italian. A school teacher from Torrentino, Aldo, had appointed himself leader of the band. ‘It’s fairly safe here,’ he said. ‘It is possible to get here in a vehicle, but it would have to be something like a tank or an armoured car to manoeuvre on the track that leads up here. And we’d have plenty of warning of their arrival. Time enough to disperse. We sleep in that old barn over there.’ He pointed to an imposing structure some way from the centre of the village. ‘It’s the only building whose roof has not caved in. There’s room in there for plenty more. It’s not the Ritz. We sleep on hay, but it’s comfortable enough. We spend the daylight hours outside, mostly looking for food, as you can imagine. Anyway, gentlemen, welcome to the nonFascist Republic of Sasso Alto.’ Three days! Three days he’d been chasing around that godforsaken hole, and still Lieutenant Gruber was missing over thirty of the names on the Maggiore’s cursed list. He was beginning to wonder if the missing people even existed. But every time he tried to track down the Maggiore, to give him the benefit of his opinion on his efficiency, the man seemed to have gone to ground. Italians! If he never saw another member of that blasted race he would be content. As for the men he had managed to apprehend, they were in custody awaiting transport to Germany. And every time he phoned to enquire when transport would finally be available the answer was the same: ‘Don’t you realise there’s a war on. Do you think we’ve got nothing better to do than organise transport for a few useless Italian prisoners?’ On the morning of the fourth day, his gloom lifted slightly when one of his men, Sergeant Schneider, came to see him. ‘Sir, one of the Italians wants to see you. He says he’d like to cooperate.’ ‘Is that right, Sergeant? Very well, bring him in.’ The Italian, when he arrived, escorted by two burly, helmeted troopers who dwarfed him completely, looked like a frightened weasel. ‘Well, man,’ said the Lieutenant, ‘Speak. And whatever you’ve got to say, it had better be good.’ ‘I believe you are still looking for a handful of men,’ said the Italian, whose name was Angelo Buongiorno. ‘Well, what if we are? What’s that to you?’ ‘I might know where some of them are.’ ‘If you do, then tell me.’ ‘I’ll tell you, but I want to do a deal. If I give you the information, you must promise that I can stay here and not be shipped to Germany.’ The Lieutenant glanced at the troopers standing either side of the man and then at a chair beside him.
His meaning was clear. One of them took hold of the wretch as if he were nothing more than a rag doll and forced him down into the chair. The Lieutenant slapped his face several times. A little blood trickled out of the man’s nose. ‘I’m going to do a deal with you,’ said the Lieutenant. ‘Unless you tell me everything you know, I’m going to tell these men to take you somewhere soundproof, where no one will be able to hear your screams. Have we got a deal?’ ‘I’ll tell you,’ he said, ‘but you aren’t going to hurt them when you find them, are you?’ ‘Of course not. They are too valuable. We need their contribution to the German war effort.’ ‘All right,’ said the man, ‘there’s a little deserted village up in the mountains. It’s called Sasso Alto. There’s a group of them there. They’ve gone there to wait until the end of the war. I can show you where it is, if you like, but you must promise not to tell anyone that I betrayed them.’ ‘Of course I promise,’ said the Lieutenant chuckling to himself. It wasn’t an ideal life, up in the mountains. There was never quite enough food to satisfy Paolo completely, though he wouldn’t starve. A soft pillow, goose down perhaps, and some crisp linen sheets would have been nice instead of the hay. And the company of a comely young woman would have been perfect, though he had been deprived of female company for months anyway. But at least he was free. And after a day spent in the open air, he had no trouble in dropping off to sleep. Every now and then, he had to take his turn keeping watch at night. Someone had to do it, just in case. But otherwise, he could sleep untroubled. On the fifth day, two newcomers arrived from Torrentino bringing a bottle of grappa and several bottles of wine. Certain by now that they were too far from any habitation to be noticed, they built a big fire at the front of the barn and sat around singing, chatting and drinking until late into the night. Paolo staggered into the barn and collapsed onto the compacted pile of hay that he called his bed at well after two o’clock. He was asleep almost as soon as he had lay down. When Paolo woke again, it was still dark. Someone was gripping his shoulder, shaking him. ‘Paolo, Paolo, wake up! ’ It was Livio. ‘What?’ he said. ‘Quick! Get up! Smoke! Can’t you smell it? There’s a fire.’ Paolo sat up, immediately wide awake. Yes, he could smell it. And he fancied he could see it as well, swirling around in the barn. ‘Those idiots, they can’t have put out the fire properly,’ he said. ‘I don’t think it’s that,’ said Livio. ‘The fire was in front of the barn. That smoke seems to be coming from the back. Sure enough, the smoke was billowing up more and more. And it was much thicker at the back of the barn. All those who slept towards the back had already been alerted to the danger. They were on their feet moving towards the front. Then a panicky cry went up: ‘Look! The barn’s on fire!’ Flames were now leaping up the inside of the barn. Hay, wood, anything combustible, were beginning to catch fire. ‘Quick, get out, before the whole place goes up!’ There was a mad scramble for the door. Anyone who hesitated was pushed aside or trampled underfoot in the rush to get out. But in the end, no one remained trapped inside. Sixteen of them, shivering in the early morning air, some not even fully clothed, stood gazing in dismay at the barn, which was now almost completely engulfed in flames. Suddenly, they were aware of a competing source of light, somewhere behind them. They turned, blinking, to see that someone had switched on a powerful spotlight. It was mounted on some kind of vehicle and it was trained on them. ‘Stand still! Hands in the air! Do not attempt to resist!’ To the side of the vehicle, they could make out a figure with what looked like a megaphone. At least a dozen others, arrayed in a broad semicircle either side of the vehicle were standing, stock still, with rifles raised to their shoulders. They were aiming at them. Suddenly, another figure, much shorter and not carrying a weapon, broke away from the others and came running towards the barn. As he ran, he was shouting. It sounded like Italian but Paolo could not make
any sense of it. ‘Halt!’ The man kept running. ‘Halt!’ Still he ran on. Then a single shot broke the morning stillness. The man pitched forward onto the grass and lay there, still. At that, seemingly without any order being given, all the assembled figures began firing. Paolo was hit in the knee and fell to the grass. All around him people were going down, killed or wounded. At last, the firing stopped. Most of the sixteen were dead. One or two lay groaning in pain. Paolo watched, unable to move, as the man with the megaphone, strolled over to them, apparently as relaxed as though he were out for a Sunday afternoon stroll. He stood over one of the others, who was writhing in agony. Drawing a pistol from a holster at his waist, he took aim at the fellow’s forehead, squeezed the trigger, and fired. Then again and again until at last he came to Paolo. He stood over the helpless young man, a grin on his face. What was he waiting for? At last, he aimed and fired. Paolo fell back, sprawling on the grass, lifeless like the rest of those martyrs of the Apennines.
In a Mist
Lori Hahnel January 1955 The music on the kitchen radio grows fainter as I carry the last box of Christmas decorations downstairs. Dust motes float in the beam of sunlight slanting through the basement window that leads my eye to the wooden crate on the bottom shelf. For a moment I wonder if Phil and I had somehow overlooked a box of ornaments but it all comes rushing back to me when I pull it out and see my name on the dusty label, in neat, precise script: Miss Alice O’ Connell, #207 83 - 47th St., New York City The heavy crate had arrived at my apartment twenty-four years earlier. Not long before Christmas, in fact. Inside was a yellow manila envelope and records, maybe a hundred of them. And a letter. I remembered bursting into tears the first time I’d read it:
December 15, 1931 Davenport, Iowa
Dear Miss O’Connell,
Hoping this finds you well. My parents and I thought you might want some of Bix’s things. The envelope contains a few articles about him that appeared in the Davenport Daily Democrat. The records are Bix’s own. He sent them along to us as he recorded them.
Mary Louise Shoemaker (née Beiderbecke)
I pick out a few of the 78’s to listen to on the hi-fi upstairs while I put on a pot of coffee. After I play “Rhythm King”, “Davenport Blues” and “Sorry”, I go back downstairs to get some more. Some jazz critics and historians (how Bix would have laughed at the idea of a ‘jazz historian’) now say the box was a myth; that Bix’s parents of course played and loved all the records. Some also say that I was a myth, or that my name was really Helen Weiss. How can something that happened a mere twenty years ago be lost in the mists of time already? Let them say what they want, though – what people think doesn’t matter to me. I know what Bix told me. And I was there. March 1930
One evening I’d gone with my friends Russ and Tillie to the Landmark Tavern, a speakeasy in Hell’s Kitchen, a tough part of Queens. My parents were immigrants -- my mom German and my dad Irish -- and both had died in the Spanish Influenza epidemic when I was nine. I was sent to live with the nuns, and Patrick and Katie, being much younger than me, went to live with Aunt Kathleen. On my eighteenth birthday I’d gotten my inheritance. It was a fine chunk of change for a young girl and I left the convent, nine years being enough for anyone, and set myself up in a decent apartment on W 72nd Street. I’d done a lot of writing in my time with the sisters and decided I’d be a freelance writer. In two years I’d managed to get a few bylines in the entertainment pages of The Evening World and The Tribune and I wanted to work up a piece on jazz for The New Yorker. I’d already pitched it to an editor there, Katharine Angell, and she was willing to at least have a look. So I was on a mission to go to as many jazz clubs as possible, which in 1930 meant going to as many
speakeasies as possible. Russ knocked a secret knock on the heavy Dutch door at the bottom of a steep and dimly lit stairway at the back of the restaurant. The top half of the door opened a crack and Russ said, “Marvin sent me.” Then the whole door opened and we were ushered in. The air was blue, heavy with smoke and the sharp tang of bootleg gin, and we squeezed in to the last empty table, close to the stage in back. A waitress took our order and brought the drinks over while, on stage, a combo made up of clarinet, cornet, drums, piano and saxophone got ready to start their set. Then someone yelled, “Raid!” “Jesus, no!” Tillie screamed and, in her rush to get up, spilled her gin-tonic all over my new green silk dress. People scrambled blindly, knocking over chairs and tables, trying to make it out before the cops arrived. Someone grabbed my arm. The man, blond and round-faced, in a tattered, rumpled suit, held a cornet in one hand. “Come on. This way. We’ll never make it out the doors.” He was right. The panicked crowd jammed the stairs and the police banged on the door, demanding to be let in. I dodged with the man into a dim hallway behind the stage. He pulled me into a janitor’s closet, closed the door and we crouched in the dark together behind brooms, mops and pails. “Thank you,” I said. “I don’t –“ He hushed me. “Shh…they might find us,” he whispered. We listened in silence to shouting, screaming, feet on the floor, a policeman shouting orders at the crowd through a megaphone. My stomach knotted up as the sound of footfalls approached in the hallway. “Flanagan! I need you over here, man!” someone shouted, then we heard Flanagan run toward the voice. I don’t know how long we were in the dark, dank closet, smelling of lye soap, ammonia and floor wax – a half-hour, forty minutes – but when the noise died down, we crept quietly into the hallway and peeked into the barroom. Tables and chairs were knocked over, broken glass covered the floor. And everyone was gone, undoubtedly in paddy wagons going to the police station. “I think we’re all right,” said the cornet player. “But we should get out of here.” We climbed the stairs and ducked out the back door into the now-empty alley. “Say, young lady,” he said. “You smell of gin.” “No offense, mister, but so do you.” He laughed, and produced a rumpled pack of Chesterfields from his jacket pocket. “Cigarette?” “Sure. So, now that we’re at liberty to talk, let me introduce myself. I’m Alice. Alice O’Connell.” “I’m Bix.” “Bix?” I looked at him, looked at the cornet. “Bix Beiderbecke?” It was hard to tell in the dark, but I think he might have blushed a little. “That’s right.” “I have some of your records at home!” “I hope you like them.” “Are you kidding? They’re swell. Imagine, I’ve been hiding out in a broom closet with Bix Beiderbecke.” “That’s nothing, kiddo. I’ve been hiding out in a broom closet with a redheaded baby.” ******* Bix was one of those musicians who hated the limelight, who wasn’t a performer – yet his talents took him to the limelight -- and it was a constant struggle for him. He struggled with his parents’ disapproval, too. They wanted him to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather; respectively a successful businessman and a successful banker. But even from early childhood, it was clear Bix was a musician. One of the clippings in the envelope his sister had sent was an article about his ability to pick out tunes on the piano by ear that appeared in the Davenport Daily Democrat before he was three years old. It began: “Little Bickie Beiderbecke plays any selection he hears!” Ironically, this ability kept him from learning to read music well since he didn’t need to. In fact, he wasn’t allowed to join the musicians’ union in Davenport for this reason. Despite being a self-taught musician, he was still a ‘musician’s musician’. Hoagy Carmichael described falling onto a davenport desk the first time he heard the angelic sound of Bix’s cornet. The great Louis Armstrong recalled weeping at a jam session because he realized he “could never play as good as Bix”. The composer Maurice Ravel dropped in to a recording session of Bix’s in 1928, joined the group for a few
numbers, and was extremely impressed with Bix’s playing. Bix loved Stravinsky, Schoenberg and Debussy and was himself a pianist and composer as well as a cornet player. He made recordings of three of his own piano works: “In a Mist”, “Candlelights” and “Flashes”. And yet I think he had trouble accepting himself, and suffered from impostor syndrome: the unfounded idea that sooner or later he would be found out as a no-talent phony. So he drank. Drinking got him expelled from the private school his parents had enrolled him in – the lure of nearby Chicago jazz clubs was too much temptation for him. Then drinking got him expelled from the University of Iowa. He spent much of his life touring with different bands – the Wolverines and Jean Goldkette’s Orchestra among others. A star player on four number-one records in 1928 with the renowned Paul Whiteman Orchestra, he had a breakdown while on a road trip with the band, caused by delirium tremens, or the D.T.s. Exhausted, he returned to the family home in Davenport to rest. But he made a discovery one day that made him decide to leave. “I was looking for something in the upstairs linen closet,” he told me. “And I came across a wooden crate. It was full of all the records – my records – that I’d been sending back home to Mom and Pop over the years. They never even opened them.” That was the moment Bix decided to move to New York. He hadn’t been in town long and was back on the bottle when we met but I convinced him to quit. This time we both thought it was for good. “Alice,” he said one night, “I’d love to marry you, but I just can’t do it until I have a couple thousand in the bank.” I showed him my bankbook, winked and said, “You’ve got it.” Still, my having money in the bank wasn’t good enough for him. We got engaged in June, but after that he took on as many gigs as he could. As long as it was a paying gig, he would play anywhere, anytime, with anyone, until any crazy hour. The heat in New York got to him and late-night work was wearing him out. Before long, he caught a bad cold. It rapidly took a turn for the worse and became pneumonia. *******
August 1931 On the sweltering afternoon of August 6th, I visited Bix in his apartment on 46th St., a few blocks from mine. He didn’t eat much of the sandwich I’d made him and his coughing was worse than ever. But he felt well enough to play piano for almost an hour. Around seven, I could see he was getting tired. He got into bed and I turned off the lights and kissed him. “When are your mom and brother arriving?” “In a couple of days. I’ll be fine by the time they get here, just you wait and see.” “Sure, you will. Goodnight, Bix.” “Goodnight, kiddo. Come back tomorrow, will you?” “I will. Sleep tight, my love.” To this day, I’m not sure what happened after I left; not exactly. He hadn’t been drinking when I was there, and he was under doctor’s orders not to touch the stuff. But he could have been hiding some hooch somewhere. Sometimes I think he must have. I’d been back in my apartment for a couple of hours. Rudy Vallee’s radio show had just ended when the knock came on my door. “Miss Alice O’Connell?” asked the grim-faced officer. “Yes?” “I’m afraid I have some bad news about your fiancé, Mr. Beiderbecke.” He took me back to Bix’s apartment, and there he was, as quiet and still as when I’d left him but on a stretcher. I screamed, fell to my knees and wept over his body, his lips already turning cold in the heat of the summer night. Then they took him away. When I had calmed down a little, the building manager told me he’d heard screams coming from Bix’s apartment around 9:30. Bix had answered his knock, trembling violently, pointing to his bed. “He told me there were two Mexicans with long daggers hiding under it. So I got down and looked under it, just to make him feel better. And then he just fell. I ran across the hall to get the doctor who lives there
but it was already too late. I’m sorry.” Soon the same policeman, who’d come to get me, took me back to my apartment. I cried long into the night. Although I met Mrs. Beiderbecke and Bix’s brother, Burnie, briefly before they returned home, I decided not to go to Davenport with them for the funeral. How could I face all those people I didn’t know, the rest of Bix’s family and friends and neighbours, in Iowa? Lord knew it wouldn’t matter to Bix anymore.
Bix was twenty-eight years old when he died, and I was twenty-one. “I’ll change him,” I thought when we met, as a twenty-one year old might. Now, of course, I know how naïve expecting to change anyone is. Maybe alcohol would have killed him sooner or later, anyway, but I can’t help thinking about the unregulated, black market, poisonous hooch that so many people drank during Prohibition. Bix wasn’t the only one to be poisoned, not the only to die so young because of it. How many hearts were broken and how many lives were torn apart because of it? There’s probably no way to know. He was a shy man, quiet, like I said before. He didn’t want to be a public person, and I respected that, then and now. I’ve often thought about writing a book, setting the record straight once and for all about the details of his life. What always stops me is thinking that he most likely wouldn’t want me to. I finish my coffee, carry Bix’s records back downstairs, close the crate carefully, and put it back in its place on the shelf. I hope he knows, somehow, that his records are not unplayed – I’ve listened to them all over the years, and I love them still.
Martyrs of the Apennines – The Real Story Mark Galliford
When the Allies landed in Sicily on 10 July 1943, it must have seemed as though the end was in sight for the Fascist regime. Less than ten days later, they were bombarding Rome for the first time. The king, Vittorio Emanuele, previously a supporter of the Fascists, decided that the only way to safeguard the monarchy was to cut his ties with Mussolini. At his regular weekly meeting with Il Duce on 25 July, he asked for his resignation, naming Marshal Badoglio as his successor. Mussolini, dazed by this unexpected turn of events, did not demur. Later, he was placed under arrest. At a meeting in Feltre before his fall, Mussolini had heard Hitler refuse to commit any more resources to the defence of Italy. But during the period of vacillation that lasted the whole of August, the Germans poured troops into the country. Eventually, Badoglio announced the signing of an armistice. He ordered Italian troops to cease hostilities against the Allies, without telling them precisely what they were supposed to do. He subsequently fled from Rome to the Adriatic port of Pescara, with the king and the rest of the royal family. There the party took ship for Brindisi, in Puglia, where they were fortunate enough to find that the Germans had already abandoned the city. Meanwhile, Mussolini was being held high up in the mountains in Abruzzi. Daringly, in a raid that in some of its aspects might have seemed like a precursor to the episode recounted in the film Where Eagles Dare, German troops rescued him and carried him back to Germany. Before long, he returned to Italy and was installed as the head of a puppet regime based in Salo on Lake Garda. Thus Italy was divided into two: the Allies and the King, who had declared war on Germany, were south of Naples; everything north of there was controlled by the Germans. To the incoming Germans, their erstwhile allies, the Italians, were figures of, at best, suspicion. Partisan bands, operating out of remote or mountainous regions, were increasing their activities. Their numbers were swollen by deserting Italian troops and Allied prisoners of war, who had taken advantage of the general confusion in the country to escape. Conscious that it would be hard enough to hold back the Allies even without having to reckon with an ‘enemy within’, the Germans acted with characteristic ruthlessness. In many areas they carried out brutal reprisals against the civilian population at every instance of partisan activity, and they cut off one major source of new partisan recruits by rounding up all young men who did not have a valid reason for remaining at liberty, transporting them to Germany to work in factories. In the little central Italian town of Tolentino (in the Adriatic region of Le Marche) – Torrentino in my story Martyrs of the Apennines – a group of young men were not content to sit quietly, waiting to be taken. They escaped together into the nearby Apennini, finding refuge near the mountain village of Montalto (literally ‘High Mountain’). They formed themselves into a partisan group, meaning to oppose the German forces and to sit out the months that it would take the Allies to sweep the occupiers away. They were almost entirely without weapons or means of support, but they did receive assistance from sympathetic nearby villagers. Towards the end of March 1944, after the capture of one or two local partisans, rumours began to spread of an imminent rastrellamento (literally ‘raking’ – a military operation intended to capture partisans and others). But the group was not persuaded to disperse and on 22 March they were taken by surprise. Many of them were shot there and then; some were executed later; and only one individual managed to escape altogether. In the end, over 30 of them died. The bodies of the victims were buried in the cemetery in Montalto. After the war they were transferred to Tolentino in a solemn ceremony and a monument to the fallen, who came to be known as I Martiri di Montalto (the Martyrs of Montalto), was erected in the village. The members of the group were posthumously honoured and an annual ‘March of Memory’, passing through sites of significance to the tragedy, between Tolentino and Montalto, was instituted in 2003.
Teaching Her to Dance J.C. Jones
The steam-powered automatons serving drinks and canapes to the guests at Jenny’s eighteenth birthday party caught her attention as she danced with one of the managers who worked at her father’s factory. The way their movements seemed fluid and natural despite the puffs of steam that would erupt from their joints every so often was quite fascinating. She stopped halfway through the dance to take a closer look. Her partner seemed annoyed at the sudden stop but daren’t question the actions of his boss’s daughter. He moved on to another masked lady waiting at the side of the dancefloor. Jenny walked towards the tables at the back of the hall. Her father had been sure to book the biggest hall in the city for the masquerade party so there was plenty of room for dancing and tables to sit and chat at. He’d even hired the automatons. Jenny hadn’t seen any before. They were a fairly new invention to be released into public hire. Hitching up the skirt of her gown, she swished between tables all the way to the back where a femalelooking automaton was refilling the glass pitcher of wine she had been serving with. The robot turned to face her as she stepped closer. ‘Hello, Miss Scarlet. How may I help you tonight?’ asked the robot, her voice was soft but there was a metallic echo within it. Jenny took a step back. She hadn’t expected the robot to recognise her. She was the only guest not wearing a mask but she didn’t know the robots were that advanced. ‘Hi, er... do you have a name?’ ‘I am Serving-Bot 72 Susan-Model.’ ‘I’ll just call you Susan,’ Jenny said. She looked around at the other Serving-Bots. The male ones all looked the same as one another. Susan was the only female-looking bot there. ‘Yes, Miss Scarlet. Can I help you further?’ ‘I want to dance,’ Jenny said and turned her attention back to the robot in front of her. ‘You’re going to dance with me.’ Susan remained motionless and silent as she searched through her memory and programming to find a suitable response. ‘I am unable to perform that task,’ she said. ‘Nonsense,’ Jenny said and took the pitcher from the automaton’s hands. ‘Come on, let’s go.’ The factory-owner’s daughter grabbed onto the smooth metal hand of the Serving-Bot and pulled her towards the dancefloor, pushing empty chairs out of her way as she barged through. Most of the guests had decided to start dancing by this point so there were few people sitting at the tables. The automaton moved along behind the young woman, her gears and cogs turning quickly to keep up. ‘Jennifer Scarlet, what do you think you are doing?’ A deep voice carried over the chatter and music in the hall. Jenny froze. Susan ran into the back of her and they both fell to the floor with a loud clatter. ‘Quickly someone, get that robot out of here and save my girl,’ the voice shouted at the other guests. Jenny felt the weight of Susan lift off of her back and she was able to turn over to sit up. Two men struggled to hold Susan as she tried to get to Jenny. ‘I must help Miss Scarlet,’ she said over and over but they wouldn’t let her. Jenny’s father stood over her and offered her his hand. Once she was upright again, she dusted off her dress and checked her face for any cuts or sore spots. She felt fine and didn’t find any damage. ‘Have that robot destroyed. My daughter could have been killed by the thing,’ her father told one of the men holding Susan. ‘No, please don’t. I want her to stay. It was my fault,’ Jenny said. ‘I told the company I didn’t want any Susan-Models. They’re never as good as the Benjamin-Models.’ ‘It’s my party, Father, I want her to stay.’ The men let go of Susan and the guests all returned to their previous activities as they sensed an argument that they didn’t want to be a part of. They continued to listen in though, of course.
‘I don’t want to discuss this in front of all of your guests,’ her father said. Jenny looked at the masked faces of all the people her father had invited. She only had three close friends so he’d sent out the rest of the invites to make sure there was a big gathering. ‘Go and find yourself a nice young man to dance with. I’m going to talk to some of my colleagues about the factory. I don’t want to hear any more nonsense that you’ve been dancing with this Serving-Bot,’ he said and turned away from her. ‘Her name is Susan,’ Jenny told him. ‘I don’t care, just go and dance,’ he said as he strode away. Jenny moved towards the Susan-Model and reached out to take her hand again. The robot pulled back. Susan looked up into her face. The metal faceplate designed to make her look like a friendly woman was smiling but Jenny wondered if that was actually how the robot felt. ‘I must not interact. Your father instructed it,’ Susan said. Jenny took Susan’s hand and pulled her towards the dancefloor once again. The robot processed the actions to decide the safest way to stop her but she did not want to disobey Miss Scarlet either. The two reached the gathering of other dancers and Jenny pushed her way through to the centre. Susan stood and stared at her. ‘I’ll lead,’ Jenny said. She moved the robot’s hands into position and started trying to lead her around the floor. The robot had been programmed to dance but all of the logic in her system was telling her to stop. Jenny noticed that Susan’s movements were jerky. She would move perfectly but then stop. Over and over. Jenny stopped and folded her arms across her chest. ‘Are we finished, Miss Scarlet?’ Susan asked. ‘No, we’re not finished. I want you to dance properly.’ ‘I have been instructed to serve the guests. Dancing is not one of my required tasks.’ ‘Don’t you want to dance with me?’ The Susan-Model paused. ‘I am unable to ‘want’ anything, Miss Scarlet,’ Susan explained. ‘Is there something you want, Miss Scarlet?’ Jenny looked around at the guests who had stopped to watch the exchange. She saw her father as he was standing at the far side of the hall. They locked eyes with each other but her father shook his head and returned to chatting to his colleagues. ‘I just want to dance,’ Jenny said. She reached and pressed her lips to the cold metal cheek of the Susan-Model. The robot wrapped her arms around Jenny’s waist and started to dance around with her.
A.S. Ford Overgrown garden and the throne is cracked while in the shadows thorned stems surround it. Red roses bloom first enjoying the sunlight on their petals growing fuller with each hour until the white unfurl and begin to fight for the light. The many petals pushed together until neither side knows which petal belongs to which briar and soon they start to fall. The torn roses rest almost bare amongst the thorns by the broken throne, their stems withered and wilting as they hide in the shadows. Then a man comes to the garden to cut the roses from their thorns and make a single flower from their remaining petals which he places upon the throne and calls: the Tudor Rose.
Author Bios Mark Mellon Mark Mellon is a novelist who supports his family by working as an attorney. Short fiction by Mark has recently appeared in Deadman’s Tome, Yellow Mama, and Thuglit. Four novels and over fifty short stories have been published in the USA, UK, and Ireland. A novella, Escape From Byzantium, won the 2010 Independent Publisher Silver Medal for F/SF. A website featuring Mark’s writing is at www.mellonwritesagain.com.
Paula C. Lowe Paula C. Lowe’s recent book, MOO, was selected as a finalist for the International Book Awards. Finalist poem awards include The Iowa Review, Comstock, Dogwood, Mark Fisher and Cape Cod. Lowe’s poetry appears in River Styx, Apercus, Burntdistrict, Tule, Askew and more. She is a doctoral student at Antioch University.
Joel F. Johnson Joel F. Johnson is the author of Where Inches Seem Miles, a book of poetry published by Antrim House and selected by Kirkus Reviews as one of the best books of 2014 in the independent category. The author’s website is JoelFJohnson.com.
John Meuter John Mueter is a pianist, composer, educator, and writer. His short fiction has appeared in many journals, including the American Athenaeum, Lowestoft Chronicle, Halfway Down the Stairs, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, Simone Press Publishing, and the Bethlehem Writer’s Roundtable. Website: www.johnmueter.wordpress.com
Sydney Avey Sydney Avey is the author of three historical fiction novels that explore the passions that drive women to live unconventional lives. She enjoys theater, travel, and choral singing. She and her husband divide their time between the Sierra foothills near Yosemite, CA and the Sonoran Desert in Arizona.
Lori Hahnel Lori Hahnel is the author of two novels, Love Minus Zero (Oberon, 2008) and After You’ve Gone (Thistledown, 2014), and a story collection, Nothing Sacred (Thistledown, 2009), which shortlisted for an Alberta Literary Award. Her work has been nominated for the Journey Prize three times and has appeared in over forty publications in North America, Australia and the U.K. Her credits include CBC Radio, The Fiddlehead, Joyland and The Saturday Evening Post.
Eva Ferry Originally from Galicia in Spain and a resident of Glasgow in Scotland, Eva Ferry’s fiction and non-fiction work has been published or is forthcoming in Salome Lit, The Public Domain Review, The Cold Creek Review, Foliate Oak, Adjacent Pineapple and Novelty Magazine, among others.Twitter: @TheDrRodriguez
Mark Galliford Having recently sloughed off the dreaded Impostor Syndrome, Mark Galliford is currently working on his third novel, set amongst the Camorra of Naples. He is committed to producing 52 stories in 2018. He is also planning a series of blogs and the screenplay of a major TV drama.
A.S. Ford A.S.Ford grew up in a small village within Buckinghamshire. Since moving to Cirencester four years ago she has completed a Creative Writing Undergraduate and Creative and Critical Masters degree at the University of Gloucestershire. She currently has twenty-two small publications under her literary belt and lives with her fiance and their pack of dogs.
J.C. Jones J.C. Jones lives in a small town in Oxfordshire, working at a local restaurant where she finds characters to use in her stories. She is currently working on a Steampunk Crime novel. She enjoys dressing as fictional characters on her days off and spends her evenings drinking hot chocolate while reading books.
This is our most current issue of Historical Feathers, featuring a variety of short fiction, poetry, and non-fiction pieces. We hope you enj...
Published on Jan 25, 2018
This is our most current issue of Historical Feathers, featuring a variety of short fiction, poetry, and non-fiction pieces. We hope you enj...