Tag Archive | writing

A Milestone

I’ve been blogging since 2011. This is my 450th post. (I did take a whole year off to produce a novel, so I’m not a slacker.)  I haven’t repeated any “words of wisdom” during that time, so you might imagine writing something interesting can be a challenge.When I’m really dry, you might have figured out I talk about the weather. Sometimes I even enlist Ken to help with an idea. I hoped I could reel in more than 1500 folks during this four-year endeavor, but I refuse to pay to attract more readers. On average, I only get two or three folks who will take the time to write a comment on the post of the day. That’s a bit disappointing too because I spend at least a good hour putting “the thoughts of the day” down in writing. Oh well. People are busy. I understand. I’m not complaining, nor am I bragging.

This morning I wasted almost two hours playing my computer games that are all basically the same as Candy Crush. If I was efficient and savvy I would delete these time stealers from my Kindle and just use the tablet to read novels. But I guess I’m not as proficient as I like to believe. For some reason I can’t pull the plug on the games. It’s digital crack.

I started playing these games during commercials. I think I’m right when I say there are more commercials on television today than ever. When I fill the time designated to hawk products and services, I turn my attention to these challenging games. (Believe me, after you to get level 150 on all of them, it’s a challenge to win.) Of course, there’s always the option to spend money to by tools or extra moves, if you so want to invest. And I confess. I resort to such foolishness when I get really stuck on a level I’ve grown tired of.

Well, will you look at that! I actually came up with a topic for discussion this morning just by writing — I only  hope I haven’t wasted your time.

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5 (CONTINUED)

Chapter 18

 Paris, France – September—Emma’s whereabouts continued to be a secret. After exhausting her attempts to find her, Marta visited city hall to speak to Pierre, Emma’s former boss.  She entered the office where Emma used to work and spied another woman sitting at her desk. Seeing a replacement for her dear Emma brought tears to Marta’s eyes. She walked up to the woman and requested to speak with Pierre.

The stranger asked, “May I tell him who you are?”

“My name is Marta Schiller. I am a cousin of Emma who used to work here.”

“Wait here, please.” The woman got up and opened a door down the hallway. In a couple of minutes the stranger reappeared.  “You may go in. Third door on the left.”

Marta smiled. “Merci.” She walked down the hallway and knocked on the door. She heard a man say, “Come in.”

Pierre stood up behind his desk to greet his visitor. “How can I help you mademoiselle?”

Marta moved toward him and in a low voice said, “Pierre, I need to find Emma. Do you know where she is?”

Pierre’s forehead wrinkled and he scratched his head. “Why do you think I would posses such information?” He turned on the radio and classical music filled the office. Then he put his finger up to his lips.

Marta moved closer and whispered, “I thought perhaps you might know where she is serving her sentence in Germany.”

“Marta, when Emma went to prison the authorities did not tell me where they took her.”

Marta studied his eyes and realized he held something back. “I wish you possessed more information. I am going crazy.”

Pierre discovered the Gestapo had bugged his office so sharing information with Marta at the office was impossible. In a normal tone he said, “I am sorry to disappoint you.” He paused. “The Germans do not inform employers if their employees get in to trouble.” He led Marta to the door and whispered. “Meet me at Moulin Rouge tonight at eight o’clock. I will tell you what I know.”

Marta nodded. “Thank you for your time.” She turned on her heel and left.

After meeting Pierre, Marta went back to her apartment with a glimmer of hope. A letter from her mother lay on the floor. Her landlord always thrust her mail under the door. She ripped open the envelop anticipating good news. She said a short prayer hoping her mother found Emma. Or even better, she got Emma released.

August 15, 1942

 My Dear Marta,

 How wonderful to get your letter, dear. I miss you so much, especially now.

 Yesterday I received a telegram informing me your father died at Stalingrad.  and I can’t stop weeping. We spent over  twenty-five years together, and I can’t think of living without him. This terrible news is too hard to bear. I realize you questioned his political choices, but I hope you understand how much he loved you under his false bravado.

 About the other matter. I spoke with my friends and can only tell you your cousin is at Anrath. I will try to get more news, but all of us must be careful. I wish I could tell you more, but I cannot. With your father gone, I am only one more woman living alone in Berlin.

 Love, Mutter

Marta fell into her favorite chair and wept. She wondered whether her father’s body would be returned to Germany or whether he lay rotting on a battlefield somewhere in Russia. What a dissapointing fate for such a proud, stoic soldier.

*****

Promptly at eight o’clock, Marta strutted into the Moulin Rouge in her best dress. She scanned the theatre and found Pierre sitting at a small table in a dark corner. He greeted her with a smile and a kiss on each cheek before he led her to his table.

“I am so glad you accepted my invitation,  mademoiselle.” Pierre smiled.

Marta played along as Pierre pulled out a chair for her to sit. She smiled up at him. “I would not miss an opportunity to see this show, Pierre. I do not get to come here often.” She flirted with him understanding German officers sat at a nearby table drinking heavily.

Pierre bent close to her. “I learned through our channels Emma is imprisoned at Anrath. Do you know about the city?”

“No.” Marta snuggled closer to Pierre still promoting their clandestine rendezvous.

He smiled at her, then whispered in her ear. “Anrath is a moderate sized city near Dusseldorf in the Northern Rhine area.”

“I understand.” She sipped her cognac. “Can the Resistance rescue her?”

“Perhaps.”

“That is encouraging.” Marta brightened.

“I cannot tell you more for your own safety.” Pierre hesitated then added, “I must not endanger my family.” He kissed her, ordered two more drinks, and they both settled into watch the show.

Chapter 19

Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands – September—Ordinarily, a soldier in Angelo’s dire condition would be airlifted to a base hospital after the doctors stabilized him in the field hospital, but the marines on Guadalcanal didn’t enjoy the luxury of a close enough base to evacuate severely wounded soldiers. The Japanese fleet overwhelmed the American navy, and to be able to fight another day, the battleships fled to regroup.

When the Japanese finally emerged from the jungle, they fought to the death. The Marines on the beach, fought hand-to-hand and casualties quickly mounted. Medical personnel did their best to provide adequate treatment for the wounded in a tent hospital, but without better facilities and the ability to airlift critical patients to a better facility, large numbers of men died. Worst of all, the situation wouldn’t get better until the navy came back and secured the island.

While the fighting went on the beach, Angelo lay in a coma spending his twenty-first birthday in a state of unconsciousness. His weak body battled fever and pain. Nurses tried to keep him comfortable with cold compresses and heavy doses of pain medication.

In the distance bomb blasts sounded like kettle drums. Cots rocked and IV bottles swayed on steel poles with every strike. Close by the rat-tit-tit-tat of automatic rifles caused medical personnel to wear steel helmets as they treated their patients. Screaming wounded men who lay waiting for help sent shivers through everyone in the hospital.

Two weeks after surgery Angelo opened his eyes. His return to consciousness elated the medical personnel because doctors originally gave him less than a fifty percent chance of survival. His recovery lifted the spirits of the nurses who attended so many young lives who died too soon. Angelo’s spark of life renewed their purpose to provide the best medical care with the meager tools and facilities they had.

After Angelo woke, his first thought was about the Rosalie and the children. His second thought centered on Bobby. He remembered he had been assigned to Red beach. He listened to conversations of medical personnel and learned Red Beach was the place the heaviest fighting took place.

In his waking moments, Angelo prayed Bobby would be one of the lucky ones. No sixteen year old should face battle. But Bobby wanted to fight bad enough to lie about his age. Angelo realized Bobby believed nobody cared if he lived or died, but Angelo did. If he should die on that beach, it would be unfair because the boy never got a chance to go on a date, or make love, or be loved.  Instead his father sent him off to military school with no tenderness where Bobby endured loneliness and harsh discipline. Angelo hoped God listened when he prayed, but then thought God must be very busy listening to requests like his coming from around the world.

Once the fierce fighting started, the battle went on around the clock for days. A constant stream of wounded men filled the hospital at all hours. Medical staff slept little.  Angelo lay sweating as the nurses scurried around him. They buzzed with caffeinated energy doing their best to make the wounded comfortable.  When darkness fell, they took on the appearance of the walking dead, instead of pretty twenty-one year old girls.

A week after Angelo regained consciousness, a man in a body cast lay in the bed next to him. The poor guy had IVs in both arms and cuts and bruises on his face. His sun-bleached blond hair made Angelo want to vomit because he realized the limp body in the next bed belonged to Bobby.

When a nurse came to check on Angelo, he asked “Nurse, what happened to him?”

The distracted nurse said, “He’ll tell you later, soldier.”

Angelo persisted. “Please, tell me. He’s my little brother.”

She appeared incredulous as she compared Bobby’s fair complexion and white blond hair to Angelo’s deep eyes and dark brown curls. “Your brother, huh?”

Angelo gave her his winning grin. “Aren’t we all brothers and sisters, nurse?”

“Your “brother” got injured on the beach. A Jap bayoneted him through the kidney and a bomb blast broke his back. He’s in pretty rough shape.”

Angelo swallowed hard. “Oh, my God.”

The nurse turned away. “Indeed.”

*****

Bobby woke a few hours later screaming and thrashing with pain. A nurse rushed to his bedside with a syringe,  swabbed his arm with alcohol on a piece of gauze, and injected him with morphine.   “This will help.”

Bobby whispered, “Thank you, nurse” before his body went limp.

Bobby’s dreams brought memories of the pain which pierced his ears-like ice picks plunging into both ear canals. He experienced the shaking earth knocking him down. He breathed in hot white smoke and smelled the sickening odor of rotten eggs. When he took a breath, instantly he got a headache worse than a hangover from drinking cheap booze. When a shell landed too close, his bones felt like metal being struck with a sledgehammer. He crawled through sand where body parts of his buddies lay around him. The guys he went with on night patrols lay dead with blank stares into nothingness.

Nightmares like these plagued Bobby every time he drifted off to sleep. He lived again and again the horrific battle ending with a scene of his friend Tommy taking a shot to the face, His headed exploded. A headless Tommy fell forward into the sand.  Bobby froze. The sight paralyzed him. Before he realized a Jap with a bayonet loomed before him. He struggled with the boy about his own age before white lightning streaked up his backside and everything went black. Smudgy, dirty faces of two medics appeared above him. This was the part of the dream when he woke screaming.

*****

Bobby drifted in and out of consciousness as the days went by. Angelo did his best to make his stretches of consciousness longer.  “Hey soldier! What brought you in here?”

Bobby recognized Angelo’s voice and opened his eyes. “Now I’m sure I’m definitely not in heaven. Angelo’s here!” It took all of his energy to make a joke, and he fell asleep smiling.

Later in the afternoon, Bobby woke again. “How’d I get here?”

Angelo smiled when he heard Bobby’s voice.  ” You got here the usual way.” He answered. “By stretcher and ambulance.”

“I don’t remember anything about getting here.”

“That’s good.” Angelo said. “I don’t remember anything either. All I know is some damn Jap bomb bore my name.”

“A Jap bayonet got me.” Bobby said. “What do I look like, Ang?”

“Like hell.”

“That good, huh?” Bobby tried to laugh and put his hand on the cast. “What the hell did they do to me?” He knocked on the plaster body cast.

“I guess they thought plaster would put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

“How long was I out?” Bobby asked.

“A couple of days. They tell me I took two weeks to wake up.”

“Sure, you always need to one-up me, don’t you?”

“What are big brothers for?” Angelo smiled. “Did you enjoy sweet dreams when you traveled to coma-land?”

“No. Just the same damn nightmare playing again and again like a bad movie. What about you?”

“Actually, my brother Tony visited me. We went home together to help Rosie plant a garden in our backyard. We grew whopper tomatoes and cucumbers. And I even got a peak at my new baby boy.”

“No kidding?”

“Honestly, Bobby, I went home. My beautiful Rosie brought me my son, and she told me she named him Angelo. The little tiger even looked like me with my dark eyes and curly hair. My sweet little girl, Gina, put her arms up wanting me to hold her. Do you suppose Rosie’s spirit visited me?”

“Sure Ang, and Santa Claus is a real guy living at the north pole.” Bobby chuckled and then cringed. “I need to stop doing that to myself.” He took a shallow breath. “No wonder you didn’t wake up for weeks, especially if you rendezvoused with your wife.” He smiled. “I wish I didn’t get wounded, but I’m glad we’re together again.”

“Just getting a look at your ugly mug made my day kid.” Angelo said, “I guess God just doesn’t want us yet.”

“He definitely doesn’t want me. He’ll probably never want me.” Bobby closed his eyes.

“Don’t be stupid. He’ll want you someday. But not now. You’re too young to die; you’re whole life is ahead of you.”

“Yeah, like what?”

“Like having a home, a girl, and a family.” Angelo’s thoughts went to Rosie.

“What girl would want me? I’m a wreck.” Bobby knocked on the cast which encased him.

“You’re young. You’ll heal. And I think my little sister would think you’re a catch.” Angelo said.

“So, you’ll introduce me when we get stateside?”

“Of course. I’ll introduce you to my entire family and all of my friends.”

“Thanks, Ang. You must really love me, bro.” Bobby teased.

“Probably–” Angelo chuckled.

Bobby changed the subject. “Do you think they’ll send us home?”

“I hope so.” The conversation tired Angelo. My two year hitch is only half over, so I don’t know what’ll happen.”  Angelo’s pain began to escalate. “The doctor told me yesterday as soon as our planes can land here, we’ll be airlifted to Sydney.”

“Do you think they’ll send us back to the field?’ Bobby’s voice quivered.

“Like I said, I don’t know what will happen.” Angelo hesitated and then asked, “We’re damaged goods. Are you disappointed?”

“Nah,” Bobby said. “I broke my back and lost a kidney on this damn rock, so I think my country is satisfied they got my pound of flesh.”

“Amen to that, little brother.” Angelo said.

“Ang?”

“Yeah, Bobby.”

“I like you calling me your brother.”  The boy drifted off to sleep.

*****

Bobby and Angelo turned out to be two of the first Marines on Guadalcanal to be airlifted to a hospital in Sydney, Australia in September 1942. After their rehabilitation, they would be sent to Pearl Harbor where this whole ugly war began.

 

In With the New

After looking at my new computer for almost a month, I got brave yesterday and plugged the cord into the electrical outlet. Completing the set-up was pretty easy, as the machine walked the user through simple commands. But that was all that was easy.

What I never anticipated a smaller keyboard would drive me nuts. The new computer doesn’t have a 10-key layout so my hands automatically went to the wrong keys. I never expected this fact when I purchased the machine.

I did expect the Office Suite of programs would be challenging, and boy, where they! I haven’t upgraded those programs since version 2003, which means I’ve been working on the old version for over ten years. I hoped I’d pick up the ins and outs of the updated programs like I have programs in the past. (So far, I’ve taught myself all the programs I’ve ever used.) The new programs proved I’m not so smart. EVERYTHING changed. To give you an idea–it took me several minutes of searching to open a new document!  Between the smaller keyboard and the changes in the program, I was spent about ten minutes to write a new paragraph. I understood going any further would require a pile of patience.

I think a person gets old when he/she doesn’t want to learn about new technology. So far, I’ve been pretty good at staying young. But this upgrade might be my undoing. And yes, I’m posting to my blog on my old, comfortable laptop that has been used so much “n” and “c” are completely worn off.  After yesterday, I’m not ready to retire her any time soon.

After my baptism, I promised myself I will boot up the new beauty once a day and spend at least ten minutes of frustration while I absorb Windows 10 and Office 2013. Wish me luck. I bet you can’t wait until I upgrade my phone!

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 5

Chapter 1

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-January—Tony’s death plunged Angelo into a deep depression. He found happiness in nothing–even the funny antics of his precious toddler Gina didn’t bring smiles to his face. He stayed distant. He put himself in a place where the girls in his life couldn’t go.

Rosalie remained patient as Angelo went through his grieving. She made his favorite meals and provided anything else that might bring him a smile. Angelo appreciated her efforts, but he couldn’t shake the emptiness in his heart.

One day Sunday afternoon he said, “Rosie, sweetheart?”

“Yes Angelo.”

“You understand I love you, more than my own life, don’t you?”

“What a silly thing to say. Of course I know.”

“Since Tony’s death, I’m–

She filled in his sentence, “You’re lost.”

“Yeah. I can’t stop thinking about him and everyone else in my life. I need to do something to avenge his death.”

His words puzzled Rosalie. “And that is?”

“I’m going to join up. Most of the guys my age at the shop are enlisting.”

Rosalie couldn’t believe what he just said. She asked him to repeat himself.

“I’m going to join the marines.”

“But, sweetheart,” she said with a gentle voice, “Most guys your age are supporting a wife and a baby girl.”

“Rosie, I feel useless.”

“Useless! Whatever do you mean? You put a roof over our heads and food on the table. With Tony gone your parents will need you more too. Did you think about any of us? How can you enlist and leave us?” Rosalie’s voice rose higher.

Angelo said in a soft voice. “I talked to my Pa about how I feel.”

“And what did he say?”

“He said the final decision is mine, but he wants me to stay home.”

Rosalie’s stiffened. “Good. Your father is a smart man. You should listen.”

“Pa also said he understood why I want to fight the Japs for Tony.”

Rosalie didn’t believe him. “This makes no sense. I don’t believe your father would ever say such a thing.”

“I realize accepting this decision is hard, Rosie. But sooner or later they’ll draft me anyway, and I want to do this on my own terms.”

Rosalie folded her arms across her chest and stared at Angelo directly into his eyes. Her tone became stern. “Men with children are not being drafted.”

“This is a huge war, sweetheart. We’re not only fighting the Japs, in the South Pacific, but we’re fighting the Krauts in Europe, too. The military will eventually draft me. They need me.”

“I need you!” Rosalie screamed. “Doesn’t that count for anything?” She ran to the bedroom and threw herself on the bed.

Angelo followed her and took her in his arms. “I love you, Rosie. I don’t want leave, but don’t you understand? I need to do this. I can’t hide behind your skirt.”

“No! I don’t understand!” Angry tears covered her face.  “You’re being selfish and irrational.”

He said softly. “Please try to understand. I don’t want to go to war with you hating me, but I must to do my part.”

“Just because Tony died doesn’t mean you need to go off to war and die too. Angelo, think! I can’t live without you, and Gina needs her Daddy!”

He took her in his arms and she sobbed into his chest. “Don’t do this, please!”

*****

A month later Angelo left. The whole Armani and Lombardo clans came to Rosalie’s house to send him off. Josie and Donna and a few friends from the Autolite plant came too. Rosalie’s friends imagined how hard Angelo’s departure must be for her. With so many people in the house, Gina kept putting her arms up for her Daddy to hold her; somehow she sensed her father leaving. Angelo held the toddler close while he tried to visit with everyone who came to wish him well.

The bus picked up Angelo up at one o’clock in the afternoon; Rosalie prayed they wouldn’t come, but the damn vehicle showed up right on time. She wished everyone would go away, so she could spend the last minutes with her husband alone.

The driver honked the horn summoning Angelo’s departure. He picked up his duffle bag and shouted goodbye to his family and friends. Rosalie walked him to the back door and kissed him long and hard. He held her so close he almost squeezed her breath away. Rosie’s tears flowed freely. How can I say goodbye? We’ve been together for so many years, but we’ve only been married for two. How will I tell Gina her Daddy is off to war and may never come home again?

Rosalie looked up at him. “I love you so much Angelo. I don’t agree with you, but I love you. Please take care of yourself.”

“I will sweetheart.” He kissed her again. “I’ll write everyday.”

The bus horn honked again. Angelo let go of Rosalie, opened the door, and ran to the bus. He took one last, long look back at the home and the people he loved. He waved to everyone with a tearful smile.

Rosalie turned around to find her Papa at the top of the stairs. He held his arms out to her. She ran to him and sobbed into his chest.

“Oh, Papa, this is so hard.”

“Oh bambina.” Eduardo’s heart broke as he witnessed his little girl suffer such a huge loss. “Oh honey, you will be okay. Papa is here.” He thought saying goodbye to his sons going off to war was easier than watching the heartbreak of his little girl. His sons volunteered.  Rosalie did not.

Rosalie collapsed in a kitchen chair. A systemic numbness ran through her body. Her world just collapsed. Josie and Donna sat with her in silence. Eduardo went into the living room and escorted all of the other guests out the front door.

After Josie and Donna hugged Rosalie and assured her they would stay close, a crushing stillness filled the room. Eduardo approached his daughter who still sat in the kitchen with dead eyes.

“Rosalie?”

Rosalie let out a deep sigh. “Yes, Papa.”

“I want you to remember Mama and I are right down the street, and we will help you. All of the Armani’s are also with you.”

“Yes, Papa. I know.” She forced a smile.

Eduardo kissed the top of her head and left. He realized at that moment some hurts even a father couldn’t fix.

With everyone gone, Rosalie sobbed. Her body already ached for her husband.

Gina toddled to her mother’s side and pulled on Rosalie’s skirt. “Mama cry?

She picked up her daughter and held her close. “Yes, Mama is sad. But I’ll be okay.” Then she said whispered, “Somehow.”

Gina put her thumb in her mouth and rested her head on her mother’s shoulder. Rosalie walked to the nursery and placed Gina in the crib covering her with her favorite blanket. Rosalie stared at the child’s innocence and realized she now would do the job of two parents. Without Angelo, she needed to stay strong and provide for her daughter.

Rosalie slipped back into her bedroom and embraced Angelo’s pillow trying to memorize his scent before it would fade away into nothingness. She wondered how she would ever fall asleep without being in his arms.

Chapter 2

Paris, France–January 1942—Rations in Paris became critically low, and Marta often went to bed hungry. She walked through her life everyday in a daze. Pierre learned Emma whereabouts and shared the news with Marta.  In the French prison she couldn’t receive anything from the outside.–no letters, no visitors, and no packages. Marta couldn’t imagine how Emma would survive confinement in a small cell. She told herself Emma was strong but even her spirit would break with enough abuse.

One afternoon when she picked up the mail, Marta found a letter in her box written from her father.

Jan. 15, 1942

My dear Marta,

I regret I got angry with you for staying in Paris with Emma. A young girl should decide her own life and enjoy a chance to explore a little before settling down in the humdrum of adulthood. I am sorry, Marta.

In retrospect, you are probably safer in France than you would be in Germany. I fear our Fuhrer made a terrible decision by sending us into Russia and declaring war on the United States. Our ranks will be stretched to thin.

When all three million of us boldly marched into Stalingrad six months ago, we anticipated the campaign would be over in six months. We wanted to be victorious before winter, but our calculations did not come to pass. We are fighting an awesome beast, plus the weather is colder here than anywhere on earth. I fear I will never leave Russia alive. I wanted to fix what went wrong between us before I die.

I want you to understand I always loved you, Marta, as much as I love your mother. Please remember the good times.

Your loving Vater

After Marta read her father’s apology, her eyes filled with tears. The tender times of her childhood flashed through her mind. Her father always championed her desires, but he became unreachable ever since he joined the Nazi party. What really troubled her was knowing her father never would write such a letter unless he found himself sick or injured, even though he never mentioned such a situation in his letter.  His stoic behavior took over when unpleasant events came along in his life. Marta returned the letter to its envelope and said a silent prayer for her estranged father.

 

The First Signs of Fall

This summer (I use that noun loosely) showed up about three weeks ago in our little corner of the world. Since the magical date of June 21st, we’ve had below normal temperatures while the rest of the country has endured hot temps. We had a one stretch of 90 degree temperatures for about five days, and then it was back into the 60’s and 70’s.

I’m not complaining because I enjoy cool temperatures. But the combination of cool temperatures and a backyard which is still in disarray, made this a summer of few at home pleasures. I don’t feel like I’ve had summer at all this year.

After the garage went up, the area around it looked like a disheveled heap. The long grass lays like a bad hair piece, and baby trees have sprung  up like weeds all around the yard. When I decided to hire a landscaper, I hoped we’d have the project done by the first of August. Well, that didn’t happen.The landscaper won’t start our project until the middle of September, so it looks like no “Taj Garage” picnic celebration this year.

The little bit of summer is fading away. Last night we needed to turn the lights on before eight o’clock. Mums have arrived at the garden centers. My planted pots look beautiful like they always do before a frost. Going back to school ads are blasted in the media,  and even Halloween decorations are up in the stores.

All of these signs of Autumn are coming too soon. Why do we have to rush everything? Doesn’t time go too fast as it is!

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APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

Chapter 6

Lacrosse, Wisconsin-May 1941—After her graduation party, a reunion with Johnny, and her promised weekend with Donna, Josie grew antsy to put her nursing skills to work.  The short break in her busy routine showed her she needed more than baking cookies with her mother and chumming with her friends.

Josie wanted to work at St. Mary’s hospital where she was born, but she learned no open positions for surgical nurses existed. Josie’s disappointment dragged her down; she thought she would step into a position right out of the blocks because of her high honors in college.

When the hospital didn’t provide her employment, she visited every place in town that might need a nurse. Her search uncovered an opening at the Allis Chalmers plant for a company nurse. Josie applied for the position, and two days later, the personnel director called her in for an interview. She dressed in a conservative navy blue shirtwaist dress and to interview with the plant’s doctor. The interview went on for over an hour; a day later she was hired as the night shift nurse.

A boxy plywood structure stuck in the center of the plant served as a medical station in the noisy factory. The office provided a desk and chair as well as several file cabinets. The adjacent examining room included a doctor’s table, a lighted magnifying light, a wash basin, and a cabinet full of basic medical supplies.

Most of the work Josie ended up doing seemed to be paperwork, with a sprinkling of minor plant injuries from time to time. The only good thing about the position centered on generous checks every Friday. But Josie wanted more. Instead of action she labored in boredom. She wondered how Donna Jean could be satisfied sitting behind a desk for eight hours  pounding on a typewriter.

A month after she took the position, a handsome man came into the office with one hand covering his left eye. “I got something in my eye. Can you help me?”

Josie jumped up and ushered him into the examining room. “You didn’t rub your eye, did you?”

He shook his head no.

She sat him in a chair and positioned the magnifier with a light beside him and said, “Just lay back and relax, and let me take a look.”

Josie searched his large dark eyes but didn’t find anything except longer lashes than a man should ever possess. “I can’t see anything, but to be on the safe side, let’s flush your eye.”

“Whatever you say, doc.” He grinned. The man in coveralls moved over a small sink which looked like a drinking fountain.

Josie instructed, “Turn your head and open your eye as wide as you can, and then I’ll spray it with clear water. The water might be a little cold.”

“Squirt away, doc.” He bent over and held his eye open.

After she finished flushing his eye, she handed him a small terry cloth towel. “Here. Dry your face. Is that better?”

“Yes ma’am. Much better.” He smiled and winked at her.

Josie ignored his wink. “I need to do a little paperwork and then you can get back to work.” She went to her desk.

He followed her into the adjoining office.

Josie pulled out an accident report form. “What is your name?”

“I thought you’d never ask.” He winked at her again. “My name is Mario.”

Josie kept her eyes on the keys of the typewriter. “Mario what’s your last name?”

“Venturini.”

“And what do you do in the plant, Mr. Venturini?”

“Mario, please. Mr. Venturini is my father.” He grinned. When he recognized she ignored him, he replied, “I’m a mechanic on the assembly line, ma’am.”

“And who’s your supervisor?”

“Dan James.”

“Okay, Mr. Venturini–I mean Mario–you’re all set. Here’s your pass to return to work.” She handed him a yellow note.

“I didn’t catch your name, nurse.”

“I didn’t throw it.” She smirked.

“Aw, come on. Give a poor injured guy a little pity.” Mario looked at her with puppy dog eyes.

“If you must know, my name is Josephine Schneider.”

He nodded. “Nice to meet you, Nurse Josephine Schneider. You’re a life saver. Can I have your number?”

“Nice to meet you, too, Mario Venturini. Now go!”

Even though he struck out with the new pretty nurse, he grinned and made up his mind he would make a point of seeing this spunky gal again.

“See ya around!” He gave her a little wave and winked one more time as he walked out the door.

Josie shook her head and realized Mario wasn’t used to women turning him down. He was a born charmer. She pretended to be disinterested. “Yeah, sure, Mar-i-o.”

Chapter 7

Paris, June — Marta searched the entire city to find Emma with no luck. How could she vanish into thin air? Marta’s fear mounted every day. She could not be too persistent because her interest in Emma might raise the suspicions of the Gestapo.

After a full day at the Louvre, Marta went home, made herself a cup of hot water, and poured some cream into her steaming cup. Nowadays, coffee disappeared. In fact, the cafe where Emma first found employment when they came to Paris went out of business.  As her thoughts drifted to Emma, Marta allowed herself to cry. She longed for her best friend and lover. She missed Emma’s quick wit and active conversations. Going forward alone was getting too hard.

Marta shifted her thoughts to concentrate on the daily mail. She found a letter from her mother and ripped open the onion skin envelope. She stood as she read her mother’s lines.

 My dear Marta,

 I hope you are well, darling. Your father sends his best to you, too. He softened up a bit since you decided to stay in Paris, but his German pride gets in the way of his own feelings. He truly does miss his little girl.

I need to tell you some sad news. Your friend Leisel Fuchs Reinhart miscarried her baby and died shortly afterward. The details are sketchy, but the newspaper reported her mother found in her bathroom tub. I went to the funeral because you could not. Her mother suffered a terribly at the funeral. Such a thing goes against nature; the young should not die before their parents. But I realize thousands of youngsters die everyday because of this war we are fighting.

My other news is that your father just received new orders; he is being sent to Stalingrad to fight the Soviets. Up until now, I did not feared where the Nazis assigned him, but this mission causes me to worry. Oh, Marta, he is not a young man for this fight. The Soviets are ruthless barbarians, and they will fight to the death. The Fuhrer thinks this campaign will be over in six months, but I fear it will last much longer.

I realize your father and you are not on speaking terms, but for me, pray for him. Ask God to keep him safe as he goes to war against this terrible enemy. I pray everyday he comes home to me. Our love is strong and has lasted a long time.  I cannot think of being without him.

Love, Mutter

Marta put the letter down on the kitchen table. She read it again–this time sitting on one of the kitchen chairs. The news about her father was troubling, but Leisel’s death shook her to her core. She wondered if Franz even cared if she died because of the things he said the night he raped her.  If true justice existed at all, Franz Reinhart should be made to fight the ruthless Soviets under the command of Leisel’s father.

Chapter 8

Lacrosse, Wisconsin, June—The phone rang at the Schneider house around six o’clock in the evening  and Josie answered. “Hello?”

“Oh Josie, I’m so excited!” Donna Jean screamed.

“What’s going on?” Josie asked.

“I got promoted to be the secretary to the President of the Company!”

“Gee, that’s really swell, Donna. I’m so proud of you!”

“The best part of the whole thing is, I’m getting a fifty cent an hour raise! I want to take you and Rosie out for a celebration. Can you get away with me on Saturday night?”

“Sure.”

“Peachy. Do you think Peter would bring you into town? Otherwise, maybe Rosie could pick you up? Afterward, you can sleep at my place.”

“I’ll ask Peter.  He usually buzzes into town on Saturdays. Where are we going?”

“I got tickets to hear Glenn Miller!”

“Really? Wow! He’s the greatest. I love his music.”

Donna exclaimed, “Me too. His music is dreamy.  A trombone never sounded so good.”

“Before the show I want to go out for dinner at the Palace. My treat.”

“Donna, that place is expensive.”

“Don’t you know? I’m rollin’ in the dough now, sweetie!”

“Did you ask Rosalie yet?”

“No, but Angelo never gets in her way. She’ll come.”

“What time?”

“How about seven o’clock? That’ll give us enough time to enjoy a big, fat T-bone steak before we go cut a rug to ol’ Glenn Miller.”

“Meet you at the Palace. Seven o’clock. Saturday night.”

“Swell! Gotta go.”

Josie hung up the phone. Donna’s invitation would be her first big outing since she returned home and she realized she had nothing to wear. Most of her college clothes were worn, and her work clothes were too dowdy. She owed herself a shopping trip and a new haircut to prepare for the big night.

*****

Saturday night came around fast. Josie chose a red shirt-waist dress and a long string of pearls to celebrate Donna’s promotion. She still didn’t walk well in heels, so she bought on a pair of red patent leather flats. She thought if she got asked to dance, at least her feet wouldn’t kill her at the end of the evening.

Rosie and Donna waited for Josie in the lobby of the Palace. A blue-eyed, blond man with an enticing smile showed them to their table. After he seated the girls in the chairs, he handed them over-sized menus to study. Josie scanned the prices.

Donna must have read her mind. “I told you two this is my treat. If I couldn’t afford the dinner, I wouldn’t invite you. Pick whatever you want. I want to celebrate top-shelf and don’t you dare order chicken!”

Rosalie said, “We can’t do that, Donna. This place is so expensive.”

“Hush, little mama. Let me feel like the rich and famous. I never got to send flowers or buy a baby gift when little Gina came along.  And Josie, I want to give you this evening as a graduation present. I figure being together for a fun night out is the best present any of us could get. Right?” Donna smiled.

Rosalie and Josie’s prior experience arguing with Donna usually ended as a no-win proposition, so the two girls said thanks and ordered dinner.

After a divine dinner, the girls drove to the Dance Hall at nine o’clock. The “warm-up band” played old favorites. Donna Jean handed the tickets to a woman at the door who led them to one of the small tables at the edge of the dance floor. The waitress placed cocktail napkins in front of each girl. “There’s a two drink minimum, girls. What can I get you?”

Rosalie ordered a Coke, Josie a glass of red wine, and Donna a whiskey cocktail.

“I wonder who we’ll meet tonight.” Donna said as she removed her white gloves and slipped them into her clutch purse.

“I didn’t think we came here to meet anyone, just to listen to the band.” Rosalie said.

“Well, you never can tell.” Donna winked.

“What is up your sleeve, Donna?” Josie asked as she noted Donna wore a come-hither smile as she stared across the room.

Donna came back with a quick retort. “I’m up to nothing. My dress is sleeveless.”

They all laughed at Donna’s quick come back.

The emcee introduced The Glenn Miller Band and as the famous band leader took the microphone to introduce “In the Mood” he invited everyone to dance. Couples rushed to the floor and whirled around to his signature song.

A handsome man in a dark suit came by their table and asked Donna to dance. She flashed him a warm smile, took his extended hand, and left Josie and Rosalie sitting together. “Well that didn’t take long.” Josie watched Donna foxtrot to the next tune.

A few minutes later, Mario spied Josie from across the room. He swaggered across the dance floor and approached her.

“Well, look who’s here!” He said, “Florence Nightingale!”

Josie looked up from her glass of wine, “Why Mario, who let you in here?”

“I bought a ticket just like you, sweetheart.”  He smiled.

Josie blushed. Rosalie recognized flirting when she saw it and wondered where Josie met the guy. She never spoke about a guy named Mario. He bent over with a sweeping gesture. “Would you do me the honor and dance with me?”

“Well, I don’t know, Mario. My friend will be left alone. That wouldn’t be nice.”

Rosalie piped up, “Go Josie, I’m fine. Go dance!”

With no graceful way of getting out of dancing with him, Josie took Mario’s hand. He held her in a tight dancing frame as he guided her around the room like a professional. She never guessed such a big man would be graceful and light on his feet.

Mario whispered, “My friend James would like to dance with your friend.”

Josie said, “I don’t think so. She’s married.”

“Where’s her husband?”

“At home with the baby.”

“Jesus, god.” He exclaimed. “She doesn’t look old enough to drink!”

“Please don’t say anything.  She already is awkward without Angelo being here.”

“No sweat. But you must promise me another dance to keep my mouth shut.”

Josie smiled. “You’re blackmailing me?”

“Sure. It’s fun to dance with you. I bet you thought I danced like a trained elephant before we got on the floor. Didn’t you?”

Josie blushed. “Well–

“Don’t worry, doll. Everybody underestimates my talents.” He winked and walked Josie back to her table.

Josie sat down beside Rosalie and took a sip of wine while she watched Mario stroll away to the bar.

Rosalie asked, “Who’s that guy? He’s really a doll.”

“Oh, he’s just a guy from work. Nothing special.

Rosalie sighed. “I wish Angelo was here. We haven’t danced since our wedding.”

Josie said. “Mario says his friend would love to dance with you.”

Rosalie hesitated. “No. That wouldn’t be right.”

“Rosie, why not? Angelo wouldn’t mind.”

“I think I’ll just say goodnight to Donna and go home.” Rosalie picked up her dainty evening bag and walked toward Donna where a group of good looking men surrounded her.

“I’m leaving, Donna. Thank you for a wonderful evening.” Rosie waved.

“You’re going so soon? Can’t you at least wait until the set is over?”

“No. My day begins early. We’ll talk soon.”

“Okay, Rosie. Thanks for helping me celebrate.” Donna hugged her.

Rosie walked toward the door and for the first time since she married Angelo, she wished she wasn’t married.

 

 

Morning Exercise

Since I vowed to get back into the habit of blogging each morning, I have been true to myself. The worst thing about putting the laptop on my lap while I sip my first cup of java is wondering what to write about. I’m sure you all are thinking right now . . . I can see you’re stalling!

When I taught writing, one exercise to get going was to sit and write for two minutes. The pen had to stay on the paper and it had to keep moving for that length of time. No stalling. No thinking. Just writing . . . anything. The exercise was to help students see that even though they had nothing to write about at that moment in time, the thoughts came as they scribbled away.

This morning I’m having trouble finding something profound to say. I could tell you Ken woke early and felt well. That would be a good story, right? I could tell you about a video of a mama bear and her three cubs enjoying a wading pool in the backyard of a New Jersey home. I saw that story on the morning news. I could even tell you about being woke up with a hug from my pug.

But I won’t. Promise.

Instead I’m showing you to break the drought of writer’s block you have to write. If you produce crap, so what? Nobody knows but you. And then there’s the waste basket or the delete button.  Two great inventions.

The success comes because you produced something. The good words will come.

#####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 4

Chapter 4

Minneapolis, Minnesota-May—Josie’s completed a three-year nursing program in two years because she accelerated her program by attending summer classes. In a few days she would receive her diploma and graduate with honors.

Her parents took the train to Minneapolis on the Friday before her graduation. Josie went with Tommy to pick them up at the station, while Anna stayed back to clean the Schneider’s overnight sleeping quarters.

When Josie saw her parents, she realized how much she really missed them. She ran to her father and hugged him in the middle of the station. Such public display of affection appeared to be uncomfortable for him because he received her show of affection with his arms at his side not knowing how to react.

Josie backed away. “I’m so glad you’re both here! Anna and I arranged for you to stay in a dorm room in our building for the night.” Josie announced.

“That’s nice dear,” her mother said, “I’m sure we’ll be very comfortable.”

Her father muttered, “I’m just glad we only need to stay one night.”

“Oh come on, Dad, I told the girls living on that floor they can’t run around in their underwear because you’ll be there.” She giggled.

“Gee, thanks, Josie.” He smiled back at her. “You eliminated the one thing I might enjoy.”

Mrs. Schneider playfully slapped him on the arm.

Josie introduced her parents to Tommy, and the men shook hands. Tommy directed them to his jalopy. Josie’s parents sat crammed in the backseat of the coupe, and Tommy drove straight to the campus.

Josie thanked Tommy for the lift and directed her parents to their room. She unlocked the door and said, “Why don’t you two get settled in, freshen up, and dress for the parent’s dinner while I go upstairs and get changed. The administration planned a special meal for parents who came long distances to attend the graduation ceremony.”

Josie handed her father the keys to the dorm room. “I’ll be back with Anna in thirty minutes, okay?” She smiled from ear to ear.

“We’ll be ready, sweetheart.” Her mother said as she entered the room.

Josie ran up three flights of stairs to her room. When she got to the top, she wasn’t the slightest bit winded. She smiled because she had come so far since the first day when she nearly died lugging her heavy trunk up the staircase.

When Josie opened her door, Anna stood half dressed staring into the closet. “Your parents got in okay?”

“Yeah, I just left them. Dad’s not enamored about staying in the dorm.”

“Don’t worry. He’ll be fine. I think he just wants to give you the raspberries. Anybody can endure a dorm for one night.” Anna giggled.

“I hope you’re not going to the dinner like that!” Josie teased.

Anna gave her a dirty look. “You smarty pants!” She threw a pillow at Josie.

A half an hour later, the two girls emerged from their dorm looking like they stepped out of the pages of “Everyday Woman” magazine. Both dressed in smart little black dresses. Anna wore glass pearls she found at J. C. Penny’s and Josie showed off her slim boyish frame with a silver belt. Anna topped her ensemble with a pill-box hat with sheer netting that covered her eyes.

Josie’s dad whistled when he saw the two girls. “How am I going to escort all of you beautiful ladies? God only gave me two arms!” He joked.

The balmy night allowed students and parents to stroll to the cafeteria without sweaters. Usually this early in May Minnesotans enjoying such warm weather was a rarity.  Josie hoped the good weather would hold for tomorrow when she would “walk the plank” in her cap and gown.

When the girls entered the building, the class president of the Junior class greeted them, gave them name tags, and then escorted their party to an assigned table. Josie didn’t recognize the place where they ate most of their meals for over two years. Round tables covered with gold linen table clothes replaced the long utilitarian banquet tables.  Candles and bouquets of maroon carnations sat on mirrors which reflected a soft, warm light to make the cavernous cafeteria more intimate.

Just after Josie, Anna, and the Schneiders sat down on metal folding chairs, the event began. The chancellor strolled up to the microphone. “Good Evening everyone! Please take your seats and we’ll get started. I want to call up our campus chaplain, Steven Samuelson who will say the blessing.”

A young man in a black suit and white shirt with a chaplain’s collar stepped up to the microphone and asked everyone bow their heads. In a strong, confident voice he prayed. “Thank you Lord, for bringing all of our graduate’s parents safely to our campus. We thank them for producing such a wonderful crop of graduates who will go off into the world very soon to do your work. Thank you for the food we will eat tonight and bless everyone when they travel back home. Amen.”

Everyone repeated the word “Amen.”

As the chaplain left the stage, servers dressed in school colors served plates filled with roasted chicken, baked potato with butter and sour cream and green beans. Bread sat in a basket on the table. The chef made the simple main course appear like it came from a five-star restaurant. When the guests didn’t think they could eat another bite, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies came out of the kitchen for dessert. After dinner, the Scholastic award winners went to the stage to receive engraved plaques.

When the festivities ended, the crowd flooded the grounds as they leisurely strolled back to the student housing buildings. The perfect night ended with a breathtaking sunset; the sky was ablaze in shades of pinks and purples.

Josie lagged behind with her mother as Anna and Mr. Schneider walked ahead of them. Mrs. Schneider put her arm around her daughter’s shoulder. “I’m so proud of you, Josie. You worked hard and gave up so much to graduate.” Her eyes filled with proud tears.

“Mom, I didn’t graduate yet.”

“Oh yes you did. Sure “Pomp and Circumstance” hasn’t played yet, but you’ve graduated already. You grew up and became a beautiful, educated woman. Do you realize you are the first person in our family to complete college? And with honors, no less. I couldn’t be more proud.”

“Oh, Mom.” The two women hugged. “Without you in my corner supporting me all through high school, I would never accomplished this.”

“We both know that isn’t true, Josie, but thank you.” Her mother kissed her cheek, and they caught up to Anna and her father.

Chapter 5

Minneapolis, Minnesota, May—Graduation ceremonies proved to be bittersweet for Josie. The endless essay papers, all-nighters before exams, and the anxiety that went with both had ended. The dances, pantie raids, bonfires, and long talks with Anna in the darkness would cease too. With college completed, adult life would set in. The saddest part about leaving campus and going home would be the separation Josie and Anna knew was inevitable.

Peter drove the family truck to campus to haul all of Josie’s things back home. Mrs. Schneider hugged Anna before she climbed in the truck. “You plan on coming to Lacrosse, Anna. Any time is just fine. You’re always welcome in our home.”

Anna held her tears back. “Thank you” was the only two words she could produce.

Josie waved to her folks as they drove away. She would take the train back to Lacrosse in the afternoon because the truck cab didn’t accommodate four of them.

A few hours later Anna, Josie, and Tommy stood on the platform waiting for the train to arrive; the girls stayed quiet for fear tears would start falling. The reality of not knowing when they would meet again seemed to overwhelm both of them.

Tommy broke their silence. “I think this is your train, Josie.”

Josie nodded. “I sure will miss you, Anna. Promise to write. I want all the gory details about your adventures with Tommy this summer.”

Anna brushed a tear a rolling down her check.  “No problem.” She hugged Josie like they were saying goodbye forever. She whispered, “Come and visit me, okay?”

Josie nodded. “Take my mother up on her invitation, okay? I’ll try to get up north, but everything depends on the job I find.”

Anna nodded as any of her words seemed to be lodged in her throat.

The girls’ show of affection made Tommy uncomfortable. “Come on you two. This is not the end of the world. We only live about one hundred fifty miles from each other. Come on Jos, you gotta go.”

The conductor just sounded the last call to get on board.

Josie broke away from her two friends and disappeared through the last car of the train. She found a window seat before the train chugged forward. She couldn’t see Tommy holding a bereft Anna on the platform. During their three years on campus they became closer than sisters. They laughed, cried, and went through the trials and tribulations of going through a college curriculum, and they both wondered how they would ever get along without each other.

Josie readjusted herself in the seat and thought about going home.  She looked forward to sleeping in her own bed that evening, and waking up to the sweet scent of hot cinnamon buns her mother often made. She planned to decompress for about a week, and then turn her energies into finding a surgical nursing position. Above all, she looked forward to seeing Donna and Rosalie again. After all, they stepped in as her sisters before Anna came along.

When Josie finally arrived home, she opened the back door to the lovely old farm house and shouts of “Surprise” greeted her.  Relatives and friends filled the house. Rosalie and Donna had decorated the room in her school colors of maroon and gold. She got hugs and congratulations from everyone, but best of all, in the midst of the crowd, Johnny stood in his Army Air Corps dress uniform. He lingered on the periphery of the crowd and hugged her last.

Josie cried, “You’re here! Oh Johnny!”

“In the flesh!” He kissed her cheek. “I wanted to get to the graduation celebration, but my plane ride didn’t get there in time.”

A table laden with gifts wrapped in colorful wrapping paper waited for her in the corner of the living room, while a table filled with chaffing dishes filled with different Italian dishes waited. Mr. Lombardo waited in the background. “Little Josie,” he said. “Ima so proud of you!” He kissed her old world style on both cheeks and then went to work behind the overflowing table to serve the guests.

Rosalie stood near. “Papa insisted he cater your party.”

The shock of everyone’s generosity and desire to celebrate her accomplishment thrilled Josie. “How do I ever thank all of you?”

Donna teased. “You can’t, silly. Just go through the food line so the rest of us can eat!”

Josie laughed. “Same old Donna.” Everyone at the party laughed with her.

Rosalie’s little fifteen-month Gina walked around the legs of the adults like a wind-up doll in a frilly pink dress. Josie last saw the baby at Christmastime. “Rosalie, Gina’s so darling! She’s gotten so big!”

“Well, you’re home now; you can watch the little weed grow.” Rosie laughed.

Donna Jean handed Josie a beer, “I hope college gave you an appreciation of the good stuff.”

“Good stuff? Pointe beer is not the champagne of bottled beer, you know.” Josie joked.

“So now you can distinguish the difference!” Donna laughed.

“Leaving Anna was hard, I am so happy to be hone with you two again.” Josie said.

“We’re happy our trio is back together too.” Donna clinked the neck of her beer bottle to Josie’s bottle and Rosie’s Coca Cola.

“So what are your plans now?” Donna said as she took a long drag on her cigarette.

“When did you start smoking?” Josie snarled.  “Do you realize you’re destroying your lungs?”

“No lectures, today, kiddo. I asked you what your plans are.” Donna said.

“I guess I’ll go be a nurse somewhere.”

“No kidding.” Donna cajoled. “Are you going to take any time off?”

Josie answered. “About a week; I got so used to working all of the time, I think by then I’ll be ready to hit the pavement.”

Donna reminded her, “You promised me you’ll come and stay at my place for a few days.”

“Me and my big mouth. Maybe next weekend. I’ll need to rest up to keep up with you, Donna.”

Donna laughed. “Good plan. You’re going to need it!”

 

 

 

Hunkerin’ Down in the Heat

This summer didn’t show up until a few weeks ago. our temperatures were in the high 60s and low 70s–PERFECT.  But since Thursday, things have changed. Wisconsinites are not used to temperatures in the 90s, and the temperatures soared into the 90s with little “warm up.”

Usually when temperatures get this hot, we have a big thunderstorm and it cools off. Not this time. Oh, we did get a thunderstorm bad enough to haul out Ernie’s “thunder jacket,”  but instead of cooling off, the temperature returned to its intensity. As MS patients don’t do well in the heat, Ken and I are marooned until the weather gets more like Wisconsin instead of Florida. Luckily, we don’t have a problem keeping busy because we both have our own distractions. Even so, we do much better when we can get out and enjoy our friends. So, we’re keeping our fingers crossed the temperature will drop and we will be able to escape our four lovely walls.

I hope all of you are surviving this goofy weather that seems to be happening all over the country. Have a wonderful weekend, and if you’re indoors like we are here’s the next two chapters of APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3.

Chapter 25

Paris, France-October 1940—By autumn, the French people stood in line for food rations. Gasoline for cars and coal for heating required specific stamps to purchase any quantity. Electricity service became sporadic. Parisians even suffered a shortage of fabric and leather which caused department stores’ racks to be empty. The German occupation provided a lack of everything but fear.

The outside world never realized the reality Parisians suffered. Other countries never read stories about French citizens standing in long lines to receive weekly ration tickets for potatoes, carrots, and any seasonal fruit every month; they never realized the rations allotted amounted to a third of what they received before the Germans took control.  The rest of the world thought the French were soft because the Germans rolled over them so easily.

Marta wondered how much time would pass before Jewish property would be confiscated, and the owners would be deported on trains.

Marta carried her fear with her; she wanted to leave Paris and go somewhere else. But where? All of Europe fell under German control. And why should she leave?

The morning after Marta’s confession she might be pregnant, Emma felt compelled to avenge her.  She intended to join the French Resistance. Her German background would be a great help to the movement, and her fluency in French would pass for any native.

For some time she surmised her boss Pierre to be a leader in the movement, so when she got back to work after Marta recovered, she walked into his office. “Pierre, I must talk to you.”

“Yes, mademoiselle?”

“I need to speak to you in private.” Emma’s voice dropped.

Pierre turned on the radio. “What do you need?”

Emma said in hushed tones. “I want to get involved. I need to get involved. How do I start?”

Pierre smiled. Emma worked in the office making identity cards, passports, and other official papers, so her help would be essential to the cause. If a German officer requested to look at a citizen’s identification papers, he or she needed to produce them on the spot. Emma would now produce false papers for people needing to escape Paris. “You start from where you are already.”

Emma nodded.

“You possess numerous invaluable skills, Emma. Your penmanship is exemplary. Your ability to write with your right and left hands will also come in very handy. Above that, you speak German. Someday we may even need your translating skills. I am pleased you want to help.”

Emma agreed she would be very good at forgery.

Pierre rubbed his goatee as if deep in thought. “You are quite convinced you want to be involved in this dangerous work?”

Emma nodded. “I am most serious, monsieur.”

Pierre smiled. He hoped someday Emma would come to him and volunteer her exemplary her skills. “Beside forging identity cards when they are needed, you will also deliver documents and communiques in the confines your bicycle. Can you do that?”

Emma shook her head. “Yes, Pierre. I will do whatever you need me to do.”

“Good.” He handed her an identity card he received from another operative. “I need you to deliver this. Where is your bicycle?”

“Out behind the building.”

“Good. Show me.”

Emma went down two flights of stairs with Pierre in tow. She opened the ground floor door and pointed out her bicycle. “There it is.”

Pierre went right to work, schooling her on how to conceal documents in the handlebars of her bicycle. He removed the rubber grips, rolled up the documents, and slid them into the hollow tubing. As soon as Pierre secured the identity papers, he handed Emma an address. “Meet Edward Gessler at that address. He is a German national on our side. He got stranded in Paris after the Nazis attacked Warsaw. He realized he would be a dead man should he return to his homeland, so he wants to flee to England.”

“I’ll be back in about twenty minutes.” Emma rode her bike down a back street in the red light district. She went around the back of the building to meet the contact. A very tall man with blond curly hair appeared. He spoke fluent French. “Please miss, might you spare some bread for a hungry man?”

He used the correct password. “Of course.” She pulled a baguette from her basket and removed the handlebar grips to remove the documents. The man stood close to her as she transferred the documents in a slice made on the baguette.

“You are so kind.” He smiled.

“I am happy to help.” She smiled at the stranger and wondered would become of him.

He disappeared into the darkness and Emma pointed her bicycle in the opposite direction. After her encounter with Mr. Gessler, she experienced a moment of clarity. She vowed the resistance movement would be part of her life as long as the Nazis remained in France.

*****

Her next assignment came the following week. She met the mayor and police chief to procure their signatures. Her heart bounced inside her chest as she looked each man in the eye, but she remained cool and under complete control leaving them both with a smile. They just gave her what she needed to forge important documents.

Emma always kept to herself at work. As a lesbian, other French people didn’t wish to interact with her, which worked to her advantage. Even if someone ever suspected her as a spy, they wouldn’t tell for fear the Gestapo might associate them with her.

Emma thought it best not to burden Marta with her new role in the Resistance. This way, if Emma ever got arrested for her activities, Marta would be protected. The Nazis would learn nothing because she didn’t know anything about the operation. The strategy might save her life.

Chapter 26

Paris, France-October, 1940—Marta didn’t want to think about being pregnant. But every morning when she vomited, and every afternoon when she needed a nap in a closet at the Louvre, she realized denying her situation would not be an answer. She couldn’t let herself think about the mass growing inside of her as a baby; soon her body would give her secret away.

Emma stayed patient with her and did small favors to make Marta comfortable. She took the burden of preparing meals, cleaning the apartment, and other small chores off of Marta’s shoulders to allow her enough time to come to terms with herself. Marta appreciated Emma’s efforts to let her decide how to proceed without voicing her opinion.

Under the pressure from the Germans, the puppet government in Vichy passed a law making abortion a capital crime in France. Marta never thought she would break any law, but now she faced the realization if she terminated her pregnancy, she would do just that. But how could she in good conscience carry Franz’s Reinhart’s bastard child?

When she told Emma she had made the decision to terminate the pregnancy, Emma hugged her and rejoiced. “You did not disappoint me. I believed given enough time you would not want to carry this child of rape. I understand how hard this decision is for you. For what it is worth, I believe you chose wisely.”

Marta’s eyes filled with tears. “If the situation happened differently–

“But it did not, Cherie.” Emma embraced her and said in an understanding soft voice, “You are very brave.”

Marta cried. “But how do I get rid of it? How do I do this? Everything I tried failed. I lifted heavy weights; I douched; I punched myself in the abdomen, but I am still pregnant.”

“Some of those methods are old wives’ tales, Cherie, and they are not reliable.”

Marta replied. “I cannot think about shoving a coat-hanger or a knitting needle up myself, either.”

“You should never think about hurting yourself; there are other means.”

The two women stared at each other as if searching for answers from each other.  Emma spoke first. “I do not want you to be angry with me, but I learned about a housewife in Cherbourg by the name of Marie-Louise Giraud who performs abortions in her home. I understand she is quite expensive but very effective.”

“We can barely get by now. Where will we get the money?” Marta said.

“Money is a problem.” Emma agreed. “But if we need to, my friends will help.”

“Before we borrow any money, what do you think of this?” Marta handed Emma a recipe.

Ingredients:

  •  Fresh parsley
  •  500 mg pills of Vitamin C
  • Treatment should last three days only: DO NOT EXCEED 3 DAYS!!
  1. Insert a fresh sprig of parsley as far as possible into the vagina. Parsley induces contractions. Change every twelve hours. The parsley will become soft and may be difficult to remove, but this is not dangerous.
  1. At the same time, drink parsley infusions. Two to six tablespoons four times daily.

To make the infusion: Boil 2 1/2 cups of water for every ounce of parsley. Add parsley to boiling water, remove from heat and cover. Do not boil parsley in the water because the infusion will be less effective. Steep for at least twenty minutes to two hours. (The longer the parsley steeps, the more potent it will be.)

3. During the three days (or until your period starts) take high doses of Vitamin C orally–500 mg every hour up to 6000 mg a day. You can continue using the Vitamin C for up to six days. Vitamin C can bring on menstruation even three weeks after a “late” period.

 

If successful you should start to bleed in two to three days. You may experience severe cramps.

High amounts of Vitamin C can cause loose stools. You may also experience “hot flashes” – A side effect of Vitamin C.

Watch for signs of toxicity specific to parsley: Nausea, hallucinations, vomiting, vertigo, hives, paralysis, swollen liver, scanty and darkly colored urine, and tremors. Contact a doctor if any of these symptoms occur.

After Emma read the instructions, she said, “The hardest thing about this will be to find the Vitamin C, and you are more than three weeks late.”

“A pharmacist comes to the Louvre often. I will ask him where to get it.” Marta said.

“This is worth a try.” Emma said. “If the treatment does not induce a miscarriage, then we will pursue Marie-Louise Giraud.

Marta sighed. “All right.”

Emma said something totally unlike her. “Amen!”

*****

The Friday after their conversation, Marta came home from work with a bottle of Vitamin C her pharmacist friend gave her along with a bunch of parsley Brigetta brought from her home garden.

Emma boiled the water on the hot plate and waited. Marta thought the water took an unusually long time before Emma removed the boiling pot from the heat. Marta tossed in the big bunch of parsley.

Emma looked at her wristwatch. “Six o’clock. We’ll begin in two hours. Are you ready?”

Marta looked at her with determination. “Yes. I want my body to be my own again.”

Emma nodded. “You are very brave, Cherie.”

Marta stuffed her vagina with the fresh green herb, and took six vitamin pills. She poured herself the required amount of the hot parsley water and kept up the procedure every four hours through the night. She slept periodically between doses, but when she woke, she prayed God would forgive her for ridding herself of this child.

The cramping started the next morning. Marta cried with pain and rocked on the floor holding her stomach. Emma shared every spasm. In any other circumstance, she would fill a hot water bottle to relieve Marta’s cramps, but in this situation, they wanted Marta’s uterus to contract and expel the fetus.

Marta continued the process all weekend. The pain grew in its intensity. Marta cried in pain. “He still is hurting me, Marta.”

Emma held her. “I know, darling. But the treatment appears to be working. Perhaps you will not suffer much longer. Hang on. Let’s put you to bed.”

Marta rolled back and forth unable to find a comfortable position to fall asleep. When she did sleep, nightmares of the rape haunted her. She cried out, sending Emma to Marta’s side.

The third morning, Marta cried from the bathroom. “Emma, come here!”

Emma raced to the bathroom and found Marta pale and breathless. “What is it, Marta?”

“Look.” She pointed to the water in the toilet where a bloody mass floated.

“Oh my god, the treatment worked!” The two of them cried in each other’s arms.

Marta flushed the toilet and put the most horrendous chapter of her life right where it needed to be.

That Four-Letter Word: WORK

When I first started painting about three years ago, I just looked at the activity as a tool of stress release. Every afternoon I walked to the back bedroom and slopped some pigment on canvas and called it painting.

Painting, like writing, needs constant attention and practice to get better, so I reached out to my friend Marie who is an outstanding water color artist. At the time she lived in Florida and tried to tutor me over the computer. Learning this way was difficult; I wished I could have attended one of her classes, but I got a little better.

Last summer she moved back home to Racine. Marie out-lived most of her Florida friends, and she wanted to be near her children here in Racine. Since coming back north, Marie has continued to work with me to hone my painting skills.

What I’ve learned through this journey is any artistic talent needs to be honed. Finding and inspiring teacher is a gift and a curse. The teacher can pinpoint the things you need to work on and other things you are do well. The curse is this: if you listen to your teacher and become aware of the proper techniques to use, every time you sit down to do something you started as fun becomes work. Yup, that nasty four-letter word. . . WORK.

I’m not saying work is bad, I’m just saying the activity would never be the same. I felt the same when I took voice lessons and writing classes. I always need a challenge and staying in a stagnant place is harder than striving for better results. So, WORK shows up. Just remember, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. You be the judge.

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3 (Continued)

Chapter 19

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – Summer, 1940—Mrs. Schneider welcomed Donna to stay in Josie’s bedroom, until Josie came home for the summer. By that time, Donna saved enough money to afford an apartment of her own. She moved into a small, affordable flat downtown within walking distance from her office.

By now Rosalie had recovered from Angelina’s birth, and baby Angelina became her mother’s most precious little girl. Angelo worked overtime on Saturdays, so the girls could visit without male intervention. Autolite got a government contract to make spark plugs for military boats which required the line to be redesigned and Angelo had been promoted to “Apprentice Mechanic” at the plant. Rosalie missed her usual leisurely Saturday morning breakfast with Angelo, but today she happily prepared the house for a visit with Donna and Josie.

Rosalie greeted them with a broad smile. “I’m so glad you both are here. Come in!” She hugged them as they entered the cozy little home. “I made some tea sandwiches and cinnamon rolls for us. Let’s go into the kitchen.”

Donna and Josie gave Rosalie the flowers the brought and followed Rosalie into her bright delightful kitchen. The white walls made the small kitchen appear large. The tiled black and white floor, the trend of the time, gave the room a diner-like aura. White painted cupboards lined two of the four walls, and a new white Formica counter-top edged in chrome trim matched the chrome lighting fixture which dangled from the ceiling. Rosie painted the table and chairs white to match the cupboards. Images of bright red geraniums appeared in the wallpaper, which brought some warmth into the otherwise sterile setting.

The table top was covered with a crisp white and red checked tablecloth, and three heavy restaurant mugs sat waiting to be filled. A dessert plate and a linen napkin sat beside the cup. In the center of the table Rosie arranged the sandwiches in an attractive configuration with colorful fruit pieces surrounding them.

“Jeez, Rosie, your kitchen looks like one pictured in ‘Better Homes and Garden’s magazine.” Donna said. “And I can’t wait to bite into one of those luscious rolls! You’ve become a real Suzy Homemaker, sweetie.”

Josie concurred. “You and Angelo really made a nice cozy home.”

Rosalie beamed. “Thanks. I’m just so glad to have you both over. It seems like eons since we’ve been together. Since the baby, I don’t get out much.” Rosalie looked down. She didn’t want to talk about the birth or her lack of nurturing behavior she felt toward the baby after she got home from the hospital.

“Are you back to normal now?” Josie asked.

“The birth was hard and my recovery took about two months, but I’m okay now. When I first got home, I felt pretty sick, but now it is all worth it. Gina is my precious little girl. I can’t wait to show you how she’s grown!”

The girls relaxed and spent the afternoon catching up on their lives until a tiny cry came  from the next room. Rosalie jumped up to attend to her daughter while Donna and Josie waited for her to return. The new mother came back in a couple of minutes with a rosy cheeked, chubby little baby girl dressed from head to toe in pink.

“Well, no doubt she’s your little Italian girl! Look at those big brown eyes and curly red hair! Oh, Rosalie, she’s the cutest thing!” Donna said. “When Angelo made her, he definitely followed the pattern in front of him.”

“Donna!” Josie blushed. “Sometimes the things you say!”

Rosie giggled, “You can’t deny she’s right.”

Josie smiled. Seeing Rosalie with a baby on her hip seemed unreal.  After all a year ago they just graduated from high school. But when Rosalie lifted her blouse to nurse the baby, Josie and Donna felt a little uncomfortable; Rosalie’s reality was a little too much for both of them.

 

Chapter 20

Paris, France-August—The summer of 1940 changed Paris, even though the Nazis wanted the world to believe French citizens went about their lives in the same way they did before the occupation. They allowed many cultural aspects go on without interference. In reality, life in Paris existed with a threatening undercurrent.

The occupation spoiled Paris for Marta. The city no longer appeared as a new toy she wanted to unwrap and explore. Her adventure ceased. Fear took hold.

As Emma predicted, the Nazis required the French Jewish citizens to wear yellow stars on their clothing; they also sectioned off a part of the city for them to live in. Marta hoped Paris would be different from the other cities across Europe, but as time went on, Paris followed the rest of Europe under German rule.  Defenseless people took beatings from Nazi thugs in the streets. Their barbarian behavior made others flee because if they came to the aid of the Jewish man, they received the wrath of the attackers too.

Emma cautioned Marta to be alert at all times. “Marta, you must never be alone. Always walk to the trolley with other people. If you sense you are being followed, duck into a store or cafe where other people are gathered. Never be alone with any Nazi even though you might have gone to school with them. They might consider you a traitor.”

Marta nodded. “I want to gag when they come into the Louvre, especially when giggling French girls are with them. I suppose the girls think they will be treated better by befriending our captors.”

Emma nodded. “Do not worry about such girls. They will suffer in the long run.”

*****

One warm afternoon Marta left the Louvre after her shift and walked to the plaza where she always met her friend Brigetta to ride the trolley home. Today Brigetta seemed to be late because Marta did not find her in the groups which usually gathered there.

Hairs on the back of Marta’s neck stood up when she sensed a SS officer was watching her like a menacing hawk. A chill washed over her when she realized he now walked in her direction. Emma’s words rang in her head as she looked around to seek refuge from this possible stalker. She quickened her gait toward the trolley stop. Where is Brigetta? Her heart hammered as the man in black got closer. The click of his heavy black boots on the stone plaza quickened. Marta ran. Her Nazi pursuer picked up his pace too. Then he yelled, “Marta, please Stop!”

She gasped when she realized the voice belonged to Franz Reinhart.

Marta squirmed like a trapped mouse. She saw no escape. She decided to be pleasant and then excuse herself after a few cordial words.

Franz came up behind her. “Marta! It is you!”

“Franz! What a surprise!” She smiled sweetly.

He smiled back. “When we marched into Paris, I hoped I would meet you again.”

“Really? Why? Leisel wrote and said you are now a married man.”

He looked sheepish. “Well, yes. But we still can be friends. Right?”

She said nothing and looked at her feet.

He shifted his weight from foot to foot like an awkward secondary student. “We did not leave things on a good note before you left the Fatherland.”

“You are right. We did not.” She turned to walk away from him.

He rushed to stay by her side. “I would like to make up for our argument. Can I buy you a glass of wine?”

“You need not be sorry, Franz. I remember you did nothing wrong. I’ll take the blame, but I must go.” She continued toward the trolley stop.

“Please, frauline. I insist.” He grabbed her elbow with a pinching grip and steered her into the nearest tavern called the Le Cheau. He pushed her onto a stool at the bar and barked, “Bitte sitzen.”

She sat on his order.

He banged on the bar to demand service. He ordered a beer for himself and a glass of Merlot for her. When the drinks came, Franz took a long swig of his beer and wiped the foam on his face with the back of his hand. “Not exactly as good as home, but it will do.”

Marta didn’t attempt to drink the wine.

His smile turned to a scowl. “What? Why will you not drink with me? Now that you are in Paris, are you too superior to drink with me?” His voice boomed with a threatening tone.

“Franz, please.” She whispered. “I do not drink alcohol.”

He turned to the other patrons in the bar. “Do you believe a beautiful girl in Paris does not drink wine? The only answer must be she must not be a true French woman, ja?” He laughed.

The patrons seemed to shrink into their booths, and they kept their heads down staring into their drinks.

Marta jumped off the stool. “I am expected at home, Franz. I need to go.”

He caught her arm and twisted her back on the stool and screamed, “Bitte sitzen!”

Sensing trouble, the other patrons got up and left. The bartender scurried into the back room.

“Do you understand what I suffered after you left Berlin?” He yelled.

“Yes. You went on with your life and married Leisel.” She said flatly. “I would think you would be very happy.” She faked a smile.

Franz rose, went to the door, and turned the lock. The bartender ran out the back door slamming the door.

Marta gulped. She was alone to fend for herself.  She froze.  Franz snickered. “It seems your superior French countrymen realize I want to be with you alone, mademoiselle.”

Marta attempted to leave, but Franz dragged her back to a bar stool. He slammed the glass of wine down on the bar. “I will teach you to love wine.” He snarled before he pulled her head back by her hair and poured the wine over her face. “I said we will drink together.”

She sputtered as the wine went up her nose. “Franz, stop!”

“Stop! I am just getting started!” He poured another glass of wine from a bottle sitting on the bar. He slammed the full glass down in front of her and ordered. “Trinken!”

Her hand shook as she picked up the glass and sipped the bitter vintage.

“Much better.” He sneered as he gulped down another beer.

Trinken!” He ordered again. Obediently, she gulped down the wine. Her cheeks warmed and turned red before the wine sent a numbing sensation throughout her body.

“You lied to me, mademoiselle. You do like wine. The blush shows in your pretty traitor face.” He poured another glass. “Trinken!”

Marta wanted his assault to stop. She tried conversation. “So Franz, tell me how you like married life.”

He growled. “I do not want to talk about Leisel.”

“Why?”

“Because she is not the girl I wanted. The good things about her are her flawless beauty, and she’s a lioness in bed. I married her because her father is rich and a senior officer.” He gulped down another glass of beer. “Her old man helped me get good assignments and rise in the ranks.” He pulled at his collar. “I am already a full lieutenant!” His speech started to slur his words.

He slithered close to her. He turned her on the stool to face him then pulled her onto her feet. His arms engulfed her, and he pulled her into his body. The scent of stale beer lingered in his breath as he kissed her mouth with force. His forceful tongue lunged into her mouth. She clenched her jaws shut and struggled to push him away. “Marta. Do not play with me. Clearly, you want me. Do not fight me.”

“What?” Her voice quavered.

“You know you want me.”

“I know nothing of the sort. Let me go, Franz.”

“Not before I get what I want!” He tore at her blouse, ripping the buttons away, exposing her bra. His face turned to stone.

Marta pulled her blouse tightly across her body and attempted to reach the door.

The strong man screamed. “Oh no. You will not deny me!” He wrenched her arm and tore her blouse away. He unlatched her bra and her breasts spilled out. “You will not get away, my little bird.”

Marta stood shivering, too frightened to move. He paced around her like a threatening panther before he grabbed her breast and squeezed with a crushing grasp. He bent down and bit her nipples.

She cried, “Franz, stop! No! You are hurting me!”

He dismissed her pleas. He pressed himself closer His arousal evident.  She squirmed and beat his chest.

He taunted. “You have become a weak little bird, mademoiselle.”

Marta snarled. “Stop! I do not want you! You are disgusting and crude.”

Nein! You will surrender to me!” He pulled out his pistol and pointed the gun at her. “Nehmen sie rock aus!” He ordered her to take off her skirt.

She didn’t move. He moved toward her and put the gun to her head. “Nehmen sie rock aus!”

She stared at him with hate and spat in his face. “I would rather die.”

He backhanded her with the pistol. She reeled backward and crashed into a chair before falling to the ground.

She screamed.

He picked her up with one hand, reached around her back, and unbuttoned the closure of her skirt. Now she stood only in her panties, garter belt, and stockings.

His nose flared as he pawed at her underwear to fully expose her. He growled, “I wanted this since my fourteenth birthday. You shamed me when you rejected my marriage proposal last summer. But before you die, you will experience a real man!” He slammed her face down over one of the tables.

The impact with the table bruised her cheek. Her attacker held her head down with a powerful grip and laid his two hundred pounds of muscle on top of her. Marta shuddered when his belt buckle hit the tiled floor with a clunk. His sweating legs pushed up against her. He separated the cheeks of her buttocks. She screamed as a piercing pain split her in half. His hand smothered her cries as he growled, “Halt den Mund!” She obeyed to keep quiet while she swallowed the powerful pain.  He thrust himself in and out of her virginal body until she collapsed. His semen ran down her legs, leaving a warm sticky mess behind. As soon as he withdrew himself, he spun her around and forced her to look at him. Tears streamed down her face.

“Oh, poor little Marta.” He hit her again. “Am I not good enough for you?” Anger burned in his eyes.

Marta trembled and remained silent. He crushed her onto the table and attacked her again; this time he faced her. After he ejaculated the second time, he collapsed in a chair and closed his eyes. Marta realized this might be the only chance to escape.  She dragged her violated body into the backroom. She stumbled into a shelf of bottles, and the crash of glass woke him. He rushed toward the sound and caught her just before she got to the door. He grabbed her and forced her back into the bar. He had once again regained an erection. He threw her down onto the cold tiled floor and dropped on top of her. He attacked her even more violently than before; Her skin tore as his animal groans made her choke on her vomit.

Marta slipped into unconsciousness. Franz removed himself from her body, stood, and sneered at her. “Never again will you be superior to me! You bitch! No one humiliates Franz Reinhart.” He spat. “You can thank me, frauline. At least you experienced a real man before you die!”

The last thing Marta remembered was the sound of the small bell above the front door tinkling as he left.

*****

When she regained consciousness, the darkness shrouded the bar. Marta struggled to get to her feet, but her broken body didn’t cooperate with her wishes. She lapsed into unconsciousness again. The street lights lit the front of the bar when she woke again. Her head throbbed. A sharp pain pierced her chest when she took a breath. She tasted her own blood from a gash on her lower lip. She couldn’t open her right eye. She crawled to retrieve her torn, dirty clothing. Getting dressed took over an hour. She used a bar towel to wrap her head and to hide her battered face. She limped to the trolley stop, willing herself not to pass out before boarding the vehicle.

She exited the trolley at her usual stop and stumbled in the direction of her flat. She opened the door and collapsed on the stairs. She broke down and sobbed. She cried in a weak voice, “Emma. Emma. Please help me!”

Emma poked her head out of their apartment to find a woman lying in a heap at the bottom of the stairs. “Oh my god!” She rushed down not wanting to believe the woman could be Marta. “Marta! My darling! Whatever happened?”

Marta gazed at Emma with pleading eyes. She wept from the bottom of her soul sounding much like a dying animal.

Marta leaned heavily on Emma to travel up the stairs. She removed the towel from around her head and gasped when she revealed Marta’s battered face.

Anger rose in Emma’s chest.  “Who did this to you?”

Marta eyes went blank. She trembled unable to speak.

Emma laid Marta in their bed and stripped off her tattered clothes. Her bruises came alive throughout her entire body.  Emma cried as she cleansed Marta’s wounds. She redressed Marta in a soft cotton nightgown and covered her with a warm blanket. “I will be here for you, my darling. Do not worry. No one will ever touch you again.” Emma never told Marta she bought a gun and kept it in the night table beside her bed.

Marta’s sobs turned to whimpers like a puppy on his first night away from his litter mates. She fell asleep and Emma’s heart broke as tears rolled down her cheeks imaging what Marta had endured. “I love you, Marta. You are safe.” Emma whispered.

After several hours of vigilance beside Marta’s bed, Emma slipped into the kitchen. She made a cup of tea and tried to quell the rage overtaking her. She had toyed with the idea of volunteering for the French Resistance movement for a long time, and Marta’s attack made her decision clear. She would serve the resistance in any capacity.

 

Normalcy on Monday?

After the surprise of my life on Saturday, I slipped back into normalcy today. As I watch the television new show sipping my morning coffee, I am so glad I’m not one of the gladiators fighting traffic to get to work. Like many of commuters, I did this for over ten years. Caregiving does have some advantages.

The big news today is the contractor is here. He arrived at 6:45 a.m. and you guessed it, I was still slumbering. Thank goodness Ken was up. Kevin (the contractor) needed to move my car, so he could park his truck and tools in the space my car occupied in front of our house. The commotion woke me, and yes, Kevin saw me with disheveled hair in my pajamas.

Sounds like a Monday morning, yes?

Enjoy your MONDAY.

Here’s the next two chapters of the book for your reading pleasure. Let me know if you’re enjoying me unfolding the book in this way.

####

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 3

Chapter 6

Lviv, Ukraine – March, 1940—With every passing day, Dora spiraled down from a beautiful, cultured, professional woman to a defeated person who couldn’t face the day. She didn’t care if she got up in the morning, combed her hair or got dressed.  She ate little. She slept over fourteen hours every day. During her few waking hours she gathered the children to her bed and told them stories she made up from her imagination.

Heidi found it difficult to watch Dora’s despair. Coaxing her to go get out of bed and get some sunshine fell on deaf ears. Instead, she would stare into nothingness for hours. Her large dark eyes sunk into her face. Their safe life in Lviv slowly ate away at her.  Saddest of all, Dora chattered everyday that Edward would come and rescue them. But even young David understood his father would never find them.

The children adapted to their situation with the help of Heidi. She kept them happy with games and songs she remembered from her childhood. She taught them simple lessons every day after they ate their paltry breakfast. With baby Jacob sleeping in a dresser drawer, Heidi took David and Ruthie outside to run and play with the other children who lived in the building. When Heidi ran out of stories, she taught them all basic ballet steps. Before long, Heidi acquired a dance class of over forty children.

The neighbors thanked Heidi for keeping their children occupied during the day as they looked for work. The few who found some kind of employment shared their meager wages with others to buy bread. With the influx of so many refugees food shortages affected everyone. Many nights people in the apartment went to bed hungry. Only laughter from the dancing classes kept Heidi and the children wanting to get up the next morning.

Seven months had passed since they left Warsaw even though it seemed much longer. Periodically news about Poland trickled into Lviv. None of it was good, and getting messages outside of Ukraine proved difficult and expensive. Nonetheless, Heidi wrote to her uncle and prayed the message would reach him.

Dear Uncle Hans,

I am writing this letter from Lviv. Gossip tells us the Nazi’s are in complete control in Warsaw, so I pray everyday you and the children are safe and affected little by the invasion.  

I made a good decision to accompany Dora on this journey because she couldn’t possibly go alone.  She has succumbed to dire sadness and has become so weak many days she does not get out of bed. She worries about about her husband, her parents who stayed in Warsaw, and her many friends. No matter how many times I tell you she did her best to get her family out of Poland. The worst part is when David and Ruthie ask when their father will come and get them. 

My few talents entertain the children in the apartment building while their parents are at work. I’m teaching them dancing and some of the girls are very good.  I hope Gertruda is still practicing her dance steps. Please tell her I miss her and hope someday to return.

The future is uncertain. I pray every night that we will remain safe. Even though food is scarce, the Soviets do not separate the Jews from everyone else, so we are somewhat protected. One thing is for sure, living in Lviv is better than Warsaw.

Please advise Vater and Mutter I am all right. I would write to them, but I fear writing to Berlin might be dangerous for Dora and the children.

I love all of you.

My best, Heidi

Heidi entrusted her letter with the landlord who said he would give the correspondence to the mail carrier the next day.

Changes continued which made normal life anything but normal. Lviv city officials instituted blackouts and curfews which seemed like a promise of war. Heidi needed a new plan to keep them save from the Nazis. Dora drifted farther away with every passing day.

 

Chapter 7

Paris, France – March, 1940—Marta found another letter from Leisel in her mailbox after a long day at the Louvre. Her letters since she had married Franz were full of Nazi propaganda about how superior Germany was. Her friend succumbed to her father and husband’s demands to accept Hitler’s ideology. She thought a brilliant girl like Leisel would see through the ridiculous lies and practices of the Third Reich. Marta also realized Leisel needed to find happiness which meant fitting in with the people around her. She gave up her true self and allowed her father and Franz control her. Marta sighed and half-heartedly slit open the envelope and read:

March, 1940

 Dear Marta,

You’re the first person I wanted to tell I am pregnant! I am so happy, but so sick. I’m happy Franz is not here because I vomit every day and sleep a lot. The doctor tells me after the first three months, this sickness should subside. Now I am just miserable. I’m sure Franz would say I am no fun any more.

He’s still stationed in Poland. He is in charge of walling up part of the city to imprison the Jews. What a terrible assignment. I feel fortunate not to be born Jewish. Being a pregnant blue-eyed blond will make me very superior, even though I did nothing to merit such honor.

 I will now put my energies into preparing a nursery for our new child. After I finish this letter, I plan to tell my mother she will become a grandmother sometime in October. She will be over the moon; I am quite sure. I wish I could be happier about this situation. I wanted to remain childless a little longer to enjoy Franz alone, even though he gets very little time away from the army.

 I hope you are still happy in Paris. It is selfish of me to want you closer as I go through this exciting time in my life. Letters are not the same as face to face visits. I try not to be lonely, but I am. A friend named Gretchen from the bride school received her assignment to marry an SS officer, now she lives a few blocks away, so we meet most everyday for tea. But, spending time with her is not the same as being with you; after all, a short-time acquaintance will never replace a long-time friendship like ours.

Pray for me that this morning sickness goes away soon. I look forward to being well again.

Love, Leisel

 

 

 

It’s a Fibro Day

My fibromyalgia has reared its ugly head today. That means I’m sore and fatigued, and I’m sorry to admit it, but I’m crabby and cranky too. When this happens, I should lock myself in a room and wait until it passes. So, to insure I won’t offend anyone, I’m keeping this post short. I will say one thing, though, pray for Ken, Ernie and Vinnie. They will need your kind thoughts today.

In the meantime, I’ll entertain you with the next two chapters.

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

 Chapter 14

 Lacrosse, Wisconsin – August, 1939—Josie and Donna never attended an Italian wedding before, and they found out what they missed the second they opened the door to Lombardo’s restaurant. A spicy aroma of tomato sauce, oregano, and garlic filled the room.  White linen tablecloths replace the everyday red and white checked ones.  A clear glass bud vase with a yellow rose and baby’s breath sat in the center of each table.

Rosalie’s loud, gregarious relatives greeted each other with hugs and kisses, and in a few short minutes the wine flowed freely. The heavy laden food table offered an abundant feast of pasta, beef, chicken, and shrimp. Several different salads accompanied the main entrees. Donna thought Eduardo certainly out did himself with this beautiful display of Mediterranean cuisine, and one bite of the festive food along with the liveliness of the party made Josie and Donna wish they could be Italian.

After lunch, the band played and Angelo’s older brother Tony grabbed Donna Jean’s hand and led her onto the dance floor. They jitterbugged, waltzed, fox-trotted, and quick stepped all afternoon. Dance after dance, Donna smiled at Josie as Tony led her around the floor.

Angelo’s other brother Benito approached Josie and asked her to dance. Compared to Tony and Angelo, Benito emerged as the shy boy in the Armani family, “Would you dance with me, Josie?”

Benito’s invitation to dance surprised her. “Are you sure you want to dance with me, Benny? I’m pretty much of a klutz.”

“We’ll stumble together, okay?” His smile warmed her heart.

“Okay, but don’t say I didn’t warn you.” Josie let out a nervous giggle.

Benny took Josie in his arms and led her in a slow waltz. She stumbled over his foot and turned a bright shade of crimson as he caught her. “I’m afraid I’m not very good at this, Benny.”

He laughed. “Just relax. Take a deep breath and follow me. You’re as tense as Uncle Nuncio’s violin string.”

She blushed with embarrassment and tried again. “I’ll give it my best.”

When she let Benny lead, Josie learned to dance the waltz, fox trot, and even the tango quite gracefully. The afternoon slipped into early evening, and Josie still danced in Benito’s arms.

“Benny?”

“Yeah.”

“Am I the only one who thinks Rosie and Angelo are too young to get married?”

He looked at her with surprise. “No, but Angelo never looked at any other girl since he went through puberty. I really don’t think Rosie ever looked at another guy either. They seem destined to be together.”

“She does look happy.” Josie slurred her words a bit as the wine showed its effect.

“Yeah. She’s never looked more beautiful, and Angelo never appeared happier.  My brother’s a lucky guy.”

“I hope their marriage lasts.” Josie said. “If a wedding could be perfect, this one is.”

“Yeah.” Benny said as he dipped Josie for the first time then pulled her into his arms. The daring dance move brought the crowd’s attention to be focused on Benny and Josie. She blushed on the way up and warned, “If you want to do that again, big boy, give me a warning!”

He laughed at her tigress response. “You’re one in a million, Josie. I’m having a really good time. I’m usually a failure with girls, but you make it easy.”

“Why would you say that, Benny? You’re gorgeous and so interesting.” Josie smiled.

Benny’s cheeks took on a crimson color. “You think so? I’m always in Tony’s shadow.”

“Don’t be silly. Any girl would be thrilled to be your girlfriend.”

Benny held her tight. “Thanks, Josie. You’re the greatest.”

The band leader took the microphone. “We need all of the single girls to come to the stage.”

Donna jumped to her feet like a rocket staging to fire. She pulled a reluctant Josie along toward the female throng gathering near the band. Other girls from their graduating class joined them along with Rosalie’s hoard of cousins.

Rosalie stood with her back facing the girls on the opposite side of the room. A steady drum roll rumbled, and then Rosie launched a bouquet backward to the awaiting single girls. A mad scramble ensued before one of Rosalie’s cousins came up with the flowers.

Josie said, “Whew! My baseball fielding gene kicked in and I almost caught the dang thing! I didn’t think.  Who in the heck wants to get married?”

Donna Jean laughed. “I wouldn’t mind a honeymoon with Tony!”

Josie socked her in the arm. “Donna Jean! The things you say!”

 

Chapter 15

Lacrosse, Wisconsin – August, 1939—As darkness fell, Angelo and Rosalie left the reception which probably would continue until well after midnight. They planned to stay in their little house before heading up north to Minocqua, Wisconsin for their honeymoon. Angelo parked in the driveway and went around the front of the car to open the door for his bride. He gathered Rosalie and her fluffy dress into his strong arms and carried her through the doorway.

Rosalie protested as she laughed. “Angelo! What do you think you are doing?”

“I’m being a good husband. I promised your Papa I would do everything right by you including carrying you over our threshold.” The yards of lace and organza brushed against the door jamb giving them a challenge to enter the house.

Angelo climbed up three steps and gently set his new wife down in the kitchen. He held Rosalie tight and kissed her long and hard. “Do you realize this is the first time we’re alone all day!” He removed her veil and laid it on the table. Then he took off his bow tie and unbuttoned the top two buttons of his shirt. He laid his jacket, folded it neatly and put it over one of the kitchen chairs. “That’s better.” He took a deep breath and kissed Rosalie. “Sweetheart, you are the most beautiful girl in the world. I love you so much.”

Rosalie hugged him. “And you, honey, are the sweetest and most handsome husband a girl could wish for.” She pressed herself against his strong chest as she unbuttoned his shirt to his waist to reveal a muscled chest, the telltale evidence of how hard he worked. “Angelo, I love you so much.”

He tipped her chin up and searched her eyes. The little girl he loved grew up and turned into a sensual woman. Gazing at Rosalie took his breath away. He kissed her as he fingered the cover buttons going down the back of her gown. He took his time pulling the yards of satin, lace, and organza off her slim young body. In minutes she stood in front of him in her bra and panties. She shivered in his arms.

He whispered, “Don’t be afraid sweetheart. I will never hurt you.”

Her mother told her the most important thing a bride would ever do is please her husband. With no other explanation, Rosalie didn’t understand what she meant.

Angelo was almost as naive as she in the art of love making, but his father did a little better job of preparing him for his first intimate encounter with Rosalie. He told Angelo to be gentle and to go slow. A man needed to treat his wife like a fragile bird the first time they made love.

The couple clung to each other in their kitchen until Angelo took his bride’s hand and steered her toward their bedroom. They sat on the edge of the bed in their under garments and continued to kiss. They lay down onto the white, crisp cotton sheets before Angelo unhooked her bra. Her small, round breasts revealed her passion for him. He cupped each breast in his hand and kissed them. As his hands explored her body, he wanted her more than ever. He removed her panties and stared at her nakedness. He slipped out of his boxer shorts and for the first time Rosalie saw her man.

Her eyes fixated on his erect penis, and she wondered how he would ever fit inside her. He lay down beside her and moved his hands from her breasts down past her stomach before they found their way between her legs. She didn’t resist him, as he slipped his finger gently inside of her. He discovered her most private part became warm and wet, ready for him.

Angelo rolled on top of her and his father’s warning echoed in his ears. “The first time for a woman is not pleasurable. Be gentle when you love her. Do not hurry.”  Angelo whispered, “Spread your legs, sweetheart. I love you so much.” He gently slid himself inside of her.

She closed her eyes and let out a small gasp.

Rosalie received him like a good wife should, but she never thought sex would hurt.  A small tear escaped from her eye, and she clung to him as he moved slowly in and out of her.

A tear escaped from Rosalie’s eye. Angelo stopped. “Oh Rosalie, I’m so sorry. Am I hurting you?”

“No. I’m alright.”  She lied.

The pain subsided as he pushed deeper. She felt a tearing inside, making her a full bloomed woman. As the minutes passed, her natural instincts taught her how to move her hips with him. As she did, Rosalie enjoyed this special intimacy with the man she loved. They became one. She arched her back and whispered, “Oh Angelo.” He didn’t say a word as he let his love fill her. The two young lovers lay exhausted in each other’s arms.

Angelo brushed her hair out of her eyes. “I love you so much, Rosie.”

She smiled. “I love you more.”

Angelo held her close all night, vowing to always be a good husband. Rosalie fell asleep in the protection of his arms realizing she never wanted to be anywhere without him.

 

 

 

Love Keeps Me Going

I don’t often like to talk about my caretaking responsibilities for Ken, but a person told me yesterday I should write about these things because there are so many people out there who find themselves in the same position.

Most of the time I go from day to day without thinking about all the things I need to do for him that I didn’t have to do a year ago. I find this fact hard to swallow because I realize he will continue to fail until I can’t be the person who cares for him any longer.

Death of a loved one is difficult to accept in any situation, but I think watching the degenerative progression of someone you love is worse. It’s like I lose him a bit each day. Because of this one fact, the disease has changed the dynamic in our marriage. I have to coach him to remember things. Sometimes I have to coach him on how to move his body in order to sit straight, or to get up after a fall.

Ken always loved doing little things for me–like buying a corsage for me the first time he heard me sing a solo. Like buying me a dress I loved but didn’t need and running around with it in the trunk of his car until he could give it to me on my birthday. He bothered to know me well enough to ALWAYS give me something that was just right. Whether it be a hug, a smile, or a little remembrance. I miss his thoughtfulness. I miss my husband.

I know as time goes on everyone will experience caretaking on some level–either as the recipient or the one giving the care. Not being independent enough to do simple things like cutting your own meat at dinner, or putting on your own shoes everyday is humiliating. Falling and having to call 911 for help to get up is frustrating, but necessary. I can’t imagine how he truly feels because he never complains.

If Ken were a different person, I don’t think I could do all that is required. But he is the sweetest most loving man I’ve ever met. I loved him when we married almost twenty years ago, and through the years that love has grown exponentially. It’s that love that keeps me steady. I’m no hero. I’m no saint. I just love the man I married. That’s enough.

#####

Here’s the next installment to APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – Book 2

Chapter 6

Paris, France — June 1939—Emma traveled from Germany to Paris several times since she graduated from secondary school. She loved the city with its beautiful walkways and parks, museums, and art galleries. She loved to linger in the outdoor cafes while enjoying a conversation with a Parisian. She spoke fluent French and even acquired a Parisian accent. Emma loved Paris because French people worked to live instead of living to work like typical Germans. Life in the city of lights went on at an easy pace. The French found joy in simple things like good wine, beautifully presented food, fresh-baked baguettes and croissants. Every meal turned out to be a special event, even if the meal only consisted of bread and cheese.

When Uncle Klaus requested Emma to accompany Marta to Paris for the summer, she looked forward to spending time with her favorite cousin. Emma recognized Marta possessed the same spark she held for art, history, and culture. Emma looked forward to witnessing Marta’s first impressions of the beautiful city. Expressing a love for culture proved to be something a German woman never spoke about, especially now with the Nazis in power. Women in their eyes could do only one thing–to serve their husbands, even when they showed great intelligence and achieved high grades in school. In France, Emma escaped the ugly whispers of others because she didn’t marry. Rumors circled Emma preferred women to men.

Emma booked a room in a small hotel in Montparnasse, the highest point in Paris. The hotel didn’t offer luxury, but the immaculate rooms provided safety for women traveling without men. The rickety elevator chugged and snorted on the way up as Marta rode with her heavy trunk to the fifth floor. The clanks and clunks of the elevator unnerved Marta so she rode with her eyes shut.

When Emma opened the door to their home for the summer, Marta’s mouth dropped. The sitting room was painted a soft peach with stencils of spring bouquets dancing on the walls. In the adjoining bedroom was the same shade of peach and white lace duvets covered the two beds. A small table with a stained-glass lamp shade sat between the beds. A desk painted blue sat in front of a large window with lace curtains.

Emma stayed at this hotel on another trip, and she requested this room because she wanted to relive the tranquility of looking out over the city every evening, even though much of the scene included views of roofs and chimneys.

Hunger set in for both Emma and Marta after the long train trip, so they agreed to unpack after lunch. Once again they road the rickety gilded birdcage elevator down to the lobby. They traveled through the revolving glass door to step onto the sidewalk. “Do you sense the pulse, Marta?” Emma asked.

“What?”

“The pulse. The soul of the city. The easiness of this place.”

“Give me time, my dear cousin. My eyes are overwhelmed with so many beautiful sights.” Marta laughed.

Emma smiled at the exuberance of her cousin. “This way. We will go to my favorite sidewalk cafe where we will enjoy a light lunch.” Emma grabbed Marta’s hand and pointed her to a group of colorful table umbrellas in the next city block.

As they strolled down the streets filled with flowers and bright colors, Marta thought up until now she lived her life in black and white. Here life and rich color cried out from every shop window. People dressed in bright summer clothing and wore warm smiles as they strolled down the avenue. The city kept Marta’s eyes stimulated. Her ears listened to the musical French language and let it wash over her like sweet honey.  The words gracefully flowed into one another unlike the guttural nature of her German tongue.

As they neared the cafe, a handsome young artist sat at the corner painting a nearby landscape. Above a young woman feed her little pet canary in a second floor window, while the bird entertained the neighborhood with its lovely song. If Marta didn’t experience the colorful sights herself, she would believe she lived in a child’s fairy tale.

Marta said. “Will the whole summer be like this?”

“Of course. We will enjoy everyday! This is only the beginning, my sweet cousin.”

Marta nodded. “How will I ever return to Germany after living in Paris? I think I am destined to live here forever.”

Emma laughed at her cousin because she remembered feeling the exact same way on her first trip to the city.

They sat down on padded floral seat on metal chairs under a bright umbrella. The waiter came as soon as they got situated. “And what do you ladies desire today?”

Emma looked at him and said, “We’ll both have baguettes and brie.”

“Very good mademoiselle.”

After the waiter disappeared into the building, Marta spoke. “Where shall we go first?”

Emma studied Marta’s delicate fawn-like face. “Tonight I thought we would take a taxi into the heart of the city and view the Eiffel Tower lighted against the dark sky.”

“That sounds lovely. And tomorrow?”

“Each day will unfold, darling. We will not plan and rush. But if you would be more comfortable with a strict itinerary, we can sit down and plan one for the days ahead.” Emma teased.

Marta giggled, “Stop. Please do not make me feel like a child.”

Emma laughed.  “I am sorry, Cheri, but I want you to learn the whole world does not want to be German, even though the Nazis seem to prefer everyone to be the same. People are quite different in every country. Here you can fill your soul with culture and astonishing beauty, Marta. No place is like Paris.”

Marta nodded.

Emma placed her hand over her cousin’s fine-bonded fingers. “The summer will whisk by, Marta because good times always seem to disappear faster than the day to day activities. But we will cherish each day like it is our last together.”

They lingered in silence and sipped strong coffee as the sun dipped toward down to the horizon and the sky changed into rich shades of pink, blue, and purple. Both girls stayed silent knowing the summer would be magical.

Chapter 7

Berlin, Germany – June 1939 — Heidi Schiller stayed home over the summer helping her mother with the younger children and never-ending housework. She loved her mother and enjoyed their time together, but Heidi grew bored and restless.

“Heidi, you cannot stay home forever.” Mrs. Schiller told her. “With no serious suitors, you must make a life for yourself.”

“Yes, Mutter.”

“You should sit for the entrance exam for the university and become a teacher. You are such a smart girl.”

“Mother, I really do not want to teach. I want to be a dancer.”

“Dancing-all the time, dancing!” Her mother threw up her arms. “Yes, you are a beautiful dancer, but the world does not need a dancer in these times.”

Heidi hung her head to hide her tears. “I think the world would be better with more music and dancing.”

Her mother raised Heidi’s chin and met her eyes. “I sang like a canary at your age, but am I starring in operas?”

“No Mutter.” Heidi’s eyes dropped to her feet.

“Life presents many disappointments, my dear girl. As German women we are limited to a few choices, especially when someone does not want to marry after finishing secondary school.”

Heidi protested. “Mutter, the only boys who come around are brainwashed by the Youth Movement. I do not think like them, and I would never marry anyone who is so rigid.”

“I understand.” Her mother nodded.

Marta continued. “The Nazis closed my church and now the school. They smashed shopkeeper’s windows and beat defenseless men in the streets. How can Vater belong to such a violent group? I do not want to live here any longer, Mutter, but I am trapped.”

“Heidi,” Her mother said in a low voice. “You must be careful what you say. The wrong person might be listening.”

Heidi confessed in a whisper. “You are right. I forgot myself. But do you think neighbors should turn on neighbors?”

Her mother put her hand on her daughter’s hand. “Liebling, do not despair. We will find an answer for you.” Her mother handed her an ad for a nanny position in Poland. “What do you think about this?”

“A nanny?” Heidi said with surprise. “I never considered such a position.”

“My cousin who lives in Warsaw, and she wrote many wealthy people are looking for good nannies.” Her mother continued. “As much as I want you to be near me, Liebling, I too want you to live away from Germany right now.”

Heidi looked at her mother with bright eyes. “This is a good plan, Mutter. Vater asked me about my future plans yesterday. I cannot image him approving of me leaving Germany?”

“You leave your Vater to me.” Her mother said. “By the time I am done with him, he will be convinced he thought to send you to Poland.”

 

Woke by a Thud

The worst way to wake up from a good night’s sleep for me is to hear my dear husband fall. Through this MS experience, Ken has become a falling expert. So far, he hasn’t hurt himself except for developing a few bruises. But this morning, I found him on his belly, hips balancing precariously on the first step leading to the basement, arms out-stretched on steps three and four, while his legs lay in the back hall.

I thought for a few seconds how I was going to get him safely on the landing, and the only answer seemed to be to tell him to push with his arms while I pulled on his legs. Long story short — I rescued him. This time.

I’ve cautioned him a zillion times not to go near the basement steps, but the MS has formed lesions on his decision-making part of the brain, and he believes he can accomplish tasks he really shouldn’t take on in the first place. Today may have done the trick. I think he scared himself silly and will be less apt to attempt any activity which involves being any where near the back hall.

These kind of experiences first scare me and then frustrate me. My sadness comes from the ever-changing dynamics in our marriage, making me more of a caregiver than a wife. But what’s a person to do? I guess the only answer is to live in the present, try not to think of the past, and not anticipate the future. Yeah. That’s what I’ll do once I can breathe again.

*****

APPLE PIE AND STRUDEL GIRLS – BOOK 1 1936-1938

Chapter 8

Berlin, German -1937—Heidi Schiller considered herself the black sheep of her family because her fair complexion and blond hair set her apart from her three siblings with dark hair and eyes. Heidi stood almost five feet tall, and she carried herself like a graceful bird in flight when she walked. Her dreams of becoming a ballerina and dance on the biggest stages of Europe kept her busy. When she danced, an exciting stimulating current moved through her body. As she moved her body to the notes of classical music, her spirit soared to heights she wanted to keep forever.  Best of all she realized audiences sat breathless as she floated across the stage like a fragile butterfly.

Her parents wanted her to travel the regular journey of a girl–to marry, keep house, and give birth to healthy children, which was a world away from what Heidi wanted for herself. Her world centered on dance. Even now at age sixteen she never bothered thinking about boys. The boys her age stayed focused on the expanding army while they dreamed of serving Germany. Heidi found their political talk nauseating.

Her sweet personality endeared her to her father, but her shyness frustrated him. He usually caught Heidi curled up with a book in some corner of the house when she should be attending parties with her schoolmates.

Heidi held no realistic visions after completing her secondary education. Her parents made it abundantly clear dancing needed to be left in her past and she should quit dreaming about such a frivolous future.  When the pressure of her future got too much, Heidi ran into the woods and danced among the trees. How could she ever forget about dancing when this art filled her soul?

 

Book Two

1939

Chapter 1

Berlin, Germany – April 1939—Leisel invited Heidi and Marta to help her shop for a special outfit for the Fuhrer’s fiftieth birthday celebration. Heidi loved beautiful clothes as much as her friends, but such frivolous purchases didn’t fit into the family budget. Instead she encouraged Leisel and Marta while they selected pretty dresses, shoes, and hats for the Nazi party. Heidi only bought new hair ribbons. Over a lunch of bratwurst and potato salad at the Hoffbrau Haus they rested their aching feet and tried to guess what the special birthday party would offer.

“Marta, I just love the dress you bought; that blue suit brings out the color in your eyes.” Leisel commented and added. “Heads will turn when you walk by.”

Marta teased. “No. Boys will only look at you. We are only dust in the wind.”

Leisel blushed. “I can’t help I am beautiful.” She tossed her head back and laughed. “Perhaps you girls should get your heads out of the clouds and get serious about finding a beau. Heidi your parents will never allow you to dance as a ballerina, and Marta you are just as bad wanting to become an artist. You must realize our fates are set in stone. Why torture yourselves with such dreams?”

“What are your dreams, Leisel?” Marta turned the tables.

“My Vater will not allow anything but marriage. He informed me he intended to choose my husband.”

Marta persisted. “But if you dreamed of the most wonderful future in the world, what would you like to do when you graduate secondary school?”

“I would become a teacher. No. A professor at the university. As long as we are dreaming, I may as well make my non-existent plans large, ja?” She laughed.

Marta never heard Leisel be serious about a career. “What would you teach?”

Leisel waited before she answered. “I would teach mathematics. No. astronomy. I wonder what is beyond earth in the stars. I wonder how the sun continues to burn keeping a whole planet inhabitable. Yes. Astronomy. I would choose astronomy.”

Marta and Heidi sat stunned.

Marta said, “You must go to university, Leisel. You would make a grand professor.”

“And how would I so such a thing? My Vater would rather die than encourage a girl to rise to such heights. Even if he condoned my studies, only men get into the university.”

“You must think of a way.” Marta encouraged her. “Women go to university. What about Ida Noddack, the chemist who co-discovered rhenium?”

“Why should I dream of such things, Marta? It is impossible to change my Vater’s mind about anything.”

“Or how about Emmy Noether the mathematician?”

“Marta, please stop. I admit some women are exceptions to the rule, but we all realize only men are professors. If I possessed the stamina to travel such a lofty track, I would only become a bitter unfulfilled woman. I am content to accept reality and be happy about marriage and children.” Her tone showed an element of defeat.

“You are so brainwashed, Leisel!” Marta blurted. “Why should men deem our destiny?” She realized her voice and grown loud.  She softened her tone and added. “I guess we all look at the future in different ways.”

Heidi remained silent. She would never let go of her dream of dancing. As the other two girls pictured their non-existent futures, she pictured herself floating across the national stage as a world famous ballerina.

Marta sat silent, too. She vowed she would not let her father quash her dreams no matter what.

*****

The Fuhrer’s birthday party started on the afternoon of April nineteenth and continued for a couple of days. Throngs of his followers lined the streets with flaming torches to light the way for their charismatic leader. People screamed as a cavalcade of fifty white limousines brought the Fuhrer into the city. The motorcade traveled a four-mile route to a newly built boulevard which became the central thoroughfare to Hitler’s new capital of “Germania.”

The parade traveled to the Reich Chancellery, Hitler’s residence in Berlin. He appeared in a window and saluted the crowd below. Leisel didn’t understand why he appeared with no expression. If she thought people wanted to celebrate her in such a flamboyant way, she would be waving with great enthusiasm.

Marta concluded Hitler seemed bored. She didn’t understand why most people screamed with hysteria. She thought he clearly viewed himself above all others.

Because Leisel’s father secured invitations for his daughter and her friends, the three girls went inside the Chancellery to attend the ball after the parade. The girls strolled into the grand ballroom to witness hundreds of gifts piled on tables around the periphery of the room. A twelve-foot high model of a huge triumphal arch designed by Albert Speer sat as the centerpiece in the room. Everyone attending the party got a sneak peak of the architect’s dream of the future.

The over-the-top affair took Leisel’s breath away, and she realized she would carry this special night with her for the rest of her life.

A handsome Nazi officer approached Leisel and bowed. “Frauline, will you dance with me?”

Leisel extended her hand, winked at Marta, and took the hand of the boy. He whisked her away twirling to a Strauss waltz.

Marta’s aristocratic beauty attracted a good-looking young man asking her to dance, but she refused saying she didn’t want to leave her friend Heidi alone. Heidi longed to sway to the beautiful waltzes, but in her plain-looking house dress, no boy approached her all evening.

*****

A bigger spectacle took place the next day on April 20th–the Fuhrer’s actual birthday. Huge tanks, trucks, and half-tracks drove by the crowds. Fifty flag bears escorted goose-stepping Wehrmacht soldiers in straight lines. Leisel put her hand over her heart as the new country flag of red with a black swastika passed by. Waves of the Luftwaffe flew in formation overhead. Hitler seemed more pleased with this show of military strength than the previous night’s events. As his car passed, he stood and saluted the crowd.

“Isn’t this parade the most exciting thing?” Leisel screamed as the most popular leader in Europe went by.

Heidi and Marta nodded. No words could explain such a spectacle.

Since Hitler’s election as Chancellor, Germany took her place among the world’s greatest powers. New buildings and a system of roads named autobahns put people back to work throughout the country. People once again held their heads up with national pride. Down-trodden Germany was the past, and a new Germania emerged.  Hitler pulled Germany out of the deepest depression the world ever experienced and now life held promise for a prosperous future.

After the parade, Marta realized the show of military might positioned Hitler as a catalyst of impending catastrophe. She read accounts of the “Night of the Long Knives,” in the newspaper when Hitler executed leading members of the party to maintain his position. Under his instruction, a propaganda program designed to humiliate and dehumanize Jews grew up around Berlin. Posters and graffiti littered windows and the streets.  Many people laughed, but Marta felt ashamed because of her father’s involvement with the movement.

Marta believed a man like Hitler should never be celebrated.