Welcome to the newest slot on this blog, the Sunday night Novel Nights In, where I bring you guests’ novels, in their entirety, over a maximum of ten weeks.
And now I’ve added Saturday nights with the serialisation of my chick lit novel The Serial Dater’s Shopping List!
A German-born UK national, Rose Mary Boehm now lives and works in Lima, Peru. Two novels (‘Coming Up For Air’ and the follow-up ‘The Telling’) have been published in the UK, as well as a poetry collection (‘Tangents’). Her latest poems have appeared, or are forthcoming, in US poetry reviews. Among others: Toe Good Poetry, Poetry Breakfast, Burning Word, Muddy River Review, Pale Horse Review, Pirene’s Fountain, Other Rooms, Requiem Magazine, Full of Crow, Poetry Quarterly, Punchnel’s, Verse Wisconsin, Naugatuck Poetry Review (contest semi-finalist), Avatar…
Her poem ‘Miss Worthington’ won third price in the coveted Margaret Reid Poetry Contest: http://winningwriters.com/contests/margaret/2009/ma09_epaminondas.php.
You can find out more about Rose and her writing at her blog: http://houseboathouse.blogspot.com, and you can also read one of Rose’s short stories on http://shortstorywritinggroup.wordpress.com/2013/01/12/short-story-for-critique-003-mrs-boffa-by-rose-mary-boehm.
Coming Up For Air
A young girl’s struggle to take control of her life – click here to read Book I, Part 1. If you don’t want to wait the 10 weeks for the whole story, you can purchase Coming Up for Air at Amazon.com (just $2.95) Amazon.co.uk (only £1.87). The rest of the ‘adventures of Annie’ can be read in THE TELLING.
As part of the blackout effort, there was no longer any light in our hallway. On each half landing between one flat and the next one were two lavatories, separated from each other by a wooden partition. When we first arrived at the village, Adelheid and Ulla showed me their ‘secret lavatory telephone system’: the holes in the wooden seats had wooden lids which one could pick up by a handle and put on the side of the box seat. Enormous pipes ran from either lavatory to one even bigger main pipe which then ran all the way down into the cesspool. An outside lavatory in the yard served the workers and us children when we played out there. When we played ‘telephone’, one of us would be in the yard loo, one of us somewhere half-way upstairs, and another one all the way up in one of the lavatories on the top landing. We’d lift up the lids, first let the flies escape and then shout to each other through the pipes until the grownups told us to stop it. So much for ‘secret’!
It’s bed time and Mother finishes the story… I have been holding my wee for some time now because there’s no way I can leave our flat, walk alone up the dark staircase to go to the lavatory. Out there is everything I fear. I need Mother to accompany me but she is busy and impatient with me. But I know that something will get me in the dark. My heart is beating fast. I wobble on my stool. I try to pretend I don’t need to go any more. Mother’s face promises storms, and – not for the first time – I can’t hold it any longer. It’s inevitable, wet and warm and totally embarrassing. Every morning in the light of day I promise myself that tonight I’ll face the dark. After several weeks of this I cannot hold my wee at all. I hurt. The doctor diagnoses a severe bladder infection.
It’s harvest time. I watch the horses pull empty carts out into the fields. They trot, the farmhand holding the reins. They are the same horses that pulled the plough in the spring but then they take turns. Now, late summer, they go out together. Soon all the corn will be cut, it’ll be tied into bales and five of them will be stacked against each other to form something resembling an Indian tepee. This way the corn can dry, and we can play hide and seek inside the stacked-up bales. Inside each ‘tepee’ is just enough room for one of us.
I have learned to run across the dry stubble without hurting my feet. Even though I tread on a thistle from time to time, it’s not much of an event because the soles of my feet are now as tough as leather.
The sun stays with us. The summer never ends. Soon the corn is dry and can be taken to the barns. The rhythmic sound of the flails echoes through the village.
When the harvests begin, we pick up empty sacks and bags and go to those fields where the farmers have nearly finished and where the last bundles of wheat, corn or barley, or the last sacks of potatoes, are being lobbed onto the carts. As soon as the farmer gives us the go-ahead, we begin to walk slowly across the field. Taking a sack each, we pick up whatever the machines have left, and the field is picked clean in no time.
The whole village is here, well, everyone who does not live on a farm. Old women, young women, children, some old men. Each gatherer follows his ‘own’ track. Some are gathering faster than others and take from the tracks of the slower ones. Some old people who can’t move very fast or bend very easily have very little to take home, and then there are some mean farmers who rake the fields until there is nothing left anyway.
We also gather sugar beets. Mother boils the sugar beets in the washhouse. It takes many pestilential hours of boiling the beets until a bowl of brown, sticky mush is left which Mother keeps for the winter. I can’t stand the taste of sugar-beet syrup because it reminds me of the smell when she boiled it in the washhouse.
I am by myself. The evening sun is still warm. It paints golden specks on the world. I feel lonely and like it. I can hear Armand’s voice from afar. Armand is one of the French prisoners of war who help the farmers. Armand is the nicest. He always has a smile for us children. He sings beautiful and sad songs. His voice makes me shiver. I can see him now. He sits high up on the wagon, the reins left lose, the horses walking very slowly. When he comes over the hill, down the hill, towards me, he sings the most beautiful and sad song of all – the song of the Normandy. I recognise it because Father often used to sing this song to me and, even though I don’t understand the words, I remember Father’s translation and feel sad – Armand must be lonely for his home. Now he sees me. He waves his beret at me. This is how pirates must have looked – proud, strong, beautiful. I hope that he can go home soon, home to his Normandy. Everybody seems to be in the wrong place.
I have learned French:
“Bonjour, mademoiselle, ma belle!”
An estimated 2,000 thunderstorms are in progress at any one moment anywhere in the world, with lightning striking around 100 times each second. Daily, there are about 45,000 thunderstorms and yearly around 16 million all over the world.
And still it is hot. It’s already autumn, but the midday sun burns. The horizon behind the church steeple is now covered by a threatening dark metallic grey. The sparrows on the telephone wires are quiet; there is no wind. The horizon is blackening and slowly takes over most of the sky. The sun is still free, but its light has grown weaker. Everything made from polished metal takes on an eerie shine. And still there is no wind. The black spreads like a disease. The sun slowly expires, and the air grows heavier. Soon the wild riders will fill the sky. We wait. Nature waits. The trees await their punishment. My friends and I are holding hands and look up into the trees, waiting for the first sign. There… the leaves begin to whisper – quietly at first, then more urgently.