Publish the Word
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Angelus -- a novel, by Michael

 

 The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it. Psalms 68:11





This is a story of love, forgiveness and a supernatural power greater than we can imagine.

      Chapter 1


April 10, 1944 / Obersalzburg
 


            To my precious Leibchin:

I am certain today you are here, growing inside me.  From my calculations you are eight weeks old -- the first time in twenty years I have missed two consecutive months, and me, who is punctual to the day, like a Munich clock.  We could schedule trains from my regularity.

I am certain you were conceived February 10, our last full week together since he has gone to East Prussia.  I am compelled to record my thoughts for you as we both change from month to month.  I have told no one, absolutely not even Herta, nor my sister Gretl who would immediately inform Mutti and Vati and then I would hear no end to their recriminations.  I want to run to the peak of the Watzmann and shout to the world.  I am dying to tell your father -- if only I could.

He  said an overnight ice storm has made Wolfsschanze look like an enchanted fairyland.  I wish we were with him.  The forest makes him homesick for the walks we took last summer in the Bavarian woods.  Oh yes, Odessa has been taken by the Russians and he is so furious I could feel his rage through the phone.  As usual, the connection was bad.  He promises to phone me again tomorrow.  When I prepare for bed, I wonder, if you live in some dark nether world of dreams or can you feel my warmth enclose you and my heart tha-thump, tha-thumping?   

April 13, 1944

I want to write more and tell you, if I can, all about your new family since you have left the angels of heaven to come and dwell inside me, though I cannot imagine if you are a boy or girl.  I am excited to know and have tested names all day in my mouth to see how they feel as I utter them -- Franz to please Mutti or Maria or Inge or Fritz, after your grandfather,  or something dramatic, like Scarlett from Gone with the Wind, which HE would never allow. 
             
I must select names with great care because, as the sisters taught me in school, a proper name can be a blessing or a curse.  To be named after a saintly person, such as Johann, will bring special spiritual protection..  Heinz will not do.  Nor Hugo.  Uggh!  I like Edmund?  Do you?  Are you an Edmund?

My breasts are sore to touch and seem fuller today, a symptom I am not complaining about.  I have also been experiencing an increased pressure in my bladder.  Is this normal?  I have sent Liesl to find any medical books she can, but I must be discrete and not allow my behavior to raise anyone's suspicions.  I lightly massage my abdomen but cannot yet feel you.    
          
I want you to be born on November 1, All Saints Day.  The secret of you is too much to contain.  I will burst soon if I cannot tell someone.  Ten straight overcast days finally ended about three this afternoon when the sun split the clouds and bathed the mountains in a glorious, golden light.  It made me think of Siegfried descending from the fire just before he found his true love.  All of Herr B's workmen who are reinforcing the bunker stopped and threw their hats into the air and cheered the sun.  What a sight!  Such a trifle, but everyone's mood improved.


Not a word how the fighting is going.  The radio fades in and out, voices consumed by static.  I have been restless all day, wandering from room to room, nibbling old, rubbery carrots, wishing to tell someone how I feel, but Herta says Uschi is too ill to travel, so she will not visit for several days yet.  I must still myself and write, to tell you the essential facts.         

I am thirty-two years, robust, married in spirit to your father, but once the war ends we will have a legal ceremony, as his devotion to our people and the war is so great now I would be selfish to demand anything more than he can give.  But we have loved each other for almost 15 years, a fact known to every one close to either of us.  He is 55, a great man, ordained by God to bring peace to Europe and prosperity to the German people.  He has already restored the empire.  He is brilliant and best of all, he loves me, a simple girl from Munich without title or nobility.  He too comes from humble ancestors.  I grew up in Bogenhausen, a pleasant suburb of Munich with my parents and two sisters, Ilse, three years older and Gretl, three years younger.  The middle child suffers the most, but my disposition is sunny.  My father was a schoolteacher and mother the most wonderful cook.  Wait until you are old enough to taste her sweet cakes.  She will spoil you.


Oh, I am distracted again by Stasi and Negus pawing at the door.  I must go let them out or they will wake me in the middle of the night.  An hour later and I am finally back and fuming that I had to chase after them in my silk dressing gown.  A fox or a cat was prowling the Berghof, so Negus, as usual, darted off into the woods with Stasi behind him.  I should have shut them out all night but then their howling an hour later would have disturbed everyone.  Scottish Terriers are not the smartest breed, if anyone were to ask me.
           But if I had not gone out I would have missed the stars, so distinct and brilliant I felt if I reached up I could have plucked a handful from the sky.  The moon was a glass slipper just above the horizon. The air smelled of pine smoke.  Salzburg sparkled in the distance like a tiara against the purple mountains.  For a moment I wished I had someone to share the beauty with, but then I thought of you, like a little potato rooted inside me, growing in the darkness.  If only you could see out my eyes, I thought, at the wonderful world that awaits you.  Tonight God displayed His diamonds across the heavens, millions of them, too many to behold.  I have worn myself out running after the dogs so I will continue our family history tomorrow.

 

April 14, 1944

            After a breakfast of pumpernickel and spatzle I am back in bed.  I never get indigestion, but immediately after eating I told Konstanze, the cook, I felt rummy and had to go lie down.  She followed me, apologizing, and I told her it wasn't the food, but she insisted on preparing the warm herbal tea she gives the F., so I let her, even though I can't stand the stuff and will probably pour it out the window.  My first nausea.  A positive sign because Herta suffered through temporary spells of vomiting early in her pregnancy with Ursula.  I feel better and stretch like a lioness, ready to purr if only HE were here to stroke my belly.
           I don't know what I will do when you start to protrude because then our secret is up.  I must be honest and say my feelings are torn between wanting you so much and wishing to please him.  He has absolutely insisted he wants no children until we are at peace and he can step down as Chancellor.  I must plan my own strategy to win him over.  I, too, must be a tactician.


I worry when I don't hear from him every day.  He travels along the front to encourage our troops, but why, I have asked him, must you risk your life, that is what you have generals for.  He pats my hand and says, you should see the eyes of our men light up when they see their Fuhrer.  They are renewed.  They are willing to march into hell itself if I order them.  You must not worry, Tschapperl (little one).  I am Achilles, he insists,  with an indestructible heel.  Nothing will happen to me.  But silence is too much to bear some days, especially now when I need him.


To stop fretting, I shall tell you about your mother as a schoolgirl.  When I was 12 we moved to an  airy, second-floor apartment at 93 Hohenzollernstrasse, just a couple blocks from the Tengstrasse secondary school.  Mutti also saw that we took music, painting and dancing lessons, and because I was athletic, I excelled at dance.  If Ilse wanted to stop into the confectioners after school, I would refuse because the greatest dancers were slim.  My true love, however, was ice skating, and during my thirteenth year I performed during Fasching Fest on the frozen pond in front of Nymphenburg Castle.  So many people!  
            I skated flawlessly -- figure eights, spins, my back arched like an Olympian.  If my parents had been more affluent I could have taken private lessons at the Sports Academy, but father earned a modest salary and after the war everyone was frugal.  I recall having to eat oatmeal porridge for days in a row or rutabaga soup.  I will never eat another rutabaga.  The music and dance lessons were expensive, but your grandparents knew that with widespread unemployment, a well trained girl would attract a more suitable husband.
  
            We attended Mass at St. Ursula's in Kaiser Platz every Sunday.  It was there I met my first boyfriend, a ruddy-cheeked young man named Hans Pfal, who walked me home on Palm Sunday, 1925.  It seems so long ago now.  We went to the cinema with his parents the week after Easter.  I remember catching the tramway and riding past the Botanic Gardens, his hand lightly touching mine as we tried to ignore his parents sitting across from us.
  
            We saw a Fritz Lang film, Kriemhild's Revenge, dark and moody, but oh! the fire-breathing dragon was majestic.  What a romantic film!  My boyfriend was less so.  When his parents went to the refreshment bar  during the film I leaned closer to him, hoping he would take the opportunity to kiss me, but his mouth was full of peanuts -- even stuck in his teeth.  A shattered romance before it even began.  He was a sweet boy, though.  I don't know what happened to him.

 I did meet Fritz Lang years later and told him his Nibelungen dwarfs gave me nightmares and he grinned and said just wait until films really learn how to tell stories.  Who ever expected films to talk, but now?  The Chief said when UFA Studios makes a film of our lives I will play myself.  I could be an actress as good as Olga Tschechowa or Brigitte Helm or Hedy Lamar.  Or even Greta Garbo whom Herr Hoffmann says I greatly resemble.  
            The air raid sirens are just now going off with their eerie, banshee wail.  I suppose I must run down to the damp, musty bunker and subject myself to Liesl's whimpering for the next hour.

Adieu for now.