Letters From Gronow, Episode 6

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Magdeburg

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

6 July 1635

 

Saturday

Breakfast–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

Supper–

1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Dreams were almost riotous last night. I remember them being colorful, which I don't do very often. Usually dream in shades of gray or sepia. Don't remember any one dream well, but some were stories, and some were conversations, and a few were Max laughing, either at the other dreams or at me. Didn't care. Was pretty happy myself.

Herr Wulff closed the office today. The up-timer July 4th holiday lasted three days this year. Shows, concerts, baseball games. He told us to have fun over the weekend and come to work tired on Monday morning. Wasn't sure if he was serious, but he's the master over the office, so Christoph and I could not argue with him over something like that.

So wandered around today, looking at some of the things. There was an outdoor dance thing that I saw part of. Pretty girls, anyway. Wandered over to where the baseball game was being played. Didn't make any sense to me: bunch of guys standing around while one guy throws a ball past a guy with a stick who tries to hit it. Up-timers supposedly like it . . . but up-timers are different. If they like baseball, they're really different.

Herr W asked to see Herr Gronow's letter yesterday after I read it. No great surprise to me that Herr G didn't buy the story. Getting better, though . . . Herr G said as much. So maybe next time. Anyway, Herr W read the letter and handed it back to me. He said it sounded promising and that his wife would be interested in hearing about it.

So, thinking about what Herr G said, think I see what he means. Didn't go far enough in last rewrite to show how the characters were touched. Need to show, not just tell. That's not what he said, but think that's what he meant.

And need another title. Titles are hard. Would rather rewrite whole story than to try to find new title. But Herr G asked for one, so need to think of one.

Long day. Church tomorrow. Need to go to bed.

Recited evening prayers. Now for bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

9 July 1635

 

Tuesday

Breakfast–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

Supper–

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 bunch raisins 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Dreamt of home last night. Don't do that very often. Dreamt I was cold. Woke up shivering, although it was actually warm in the room. Not sure what that was about.

Quiet day at work today. No problems, just regular business. Quiet until Frau Grubb came in, I should say. She teased Christoph and me, then went into Herr Wulff's office. I heard him laughing a few minutes later.

Frau G came out of the inner office on Herr W's arm and stopped in front of my desk. She said she wanted to read my story. After a moment, she reached out with a finger and pushed up on my chin to close my mouth. Told her it wasn't good. It wasn't ready for anyone to read yet. She told me that since she was Portia, she was entitled to read anything that had Portia for a character. And besides, she might be able to help me make it better. All I could do then was stutter. She beckoned with her fingers. Finally said it wasn't here and I'd have to bring it in tomorrow. She smiled and said, see, that wasn't so hard. Then I said, but you're going to find it hard to read. It's my original copy, not a clean submission copy. She laughed and said if she could read her father's hand, she could read anything. So gave up and said I'd bring it in. She said she'd be here after lunch tomorrow, told Herr W goodbye, and swirled out the door.

Realized then that I hadn't seen a companion for Frau G in the two times I've seen her. Asked Christoph about that. He said she seldom takes one. He said she appears to have no fear, but that she also has a small Hockenjoss & Klott revolver in the little bag she carries, and according to Herr W she knows how to use it.

Wow. Never thought of a woman I know carrying a pistol. I mean, I can understand it, especially in parts of Greater Magdeburg, but still . . . On the other hand, Julie Sims and Gretchen Richterin both handle guns, and the CoC thinks the world of them. The world is changing. Why not?

Started making notes on what to do to make the story better, where and how to make the reader feel what's going on. Not done, but good start.

Good tired tonight.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

10 July 1635

 

Wednesday

Breakfast–

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 bunch raisins 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

Supper–

1 wurst 2 pfennigs

1 cup strawberries 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Dreamt about Portia—my character, not Frau Grubb—who was yelling at me again about how I couldn't get anything right, and she was getting tired of my taking so long to tell her story. Didn't look like Frau G, didn't sound anything like her. Probably a good thing. Not sure I want my master's wife in my dreams. Max floated in and out while she was yelling, smirking at me over her shoulders. Not fair. Max needed a good smack, and I couldn't reach him. Dream, though . . . probably wouldn't have been able to smack him anyway. Not fair.

Interesting day. Sergeant Brendan Murphy came in the office in the morning. Up-timer, client of Herr Wulff. Came in to tell Herr W something that had happened about a matter that Herr W had handled for him not long ago and to pay on his account. He started telling jokes, and even with his up-time English and his use of what's started to be called Amideutsch, he can make you laugh. My ribs were hurting and I was out of breath when he left. He says he tells jokes some nights at The Green Horse, one of the nights when Marla Linder and her friends aren't singing and playing. Heard them once. Really good. Need to go hear him, just to see what a 'comedy routine' is like. Think that's what he called it.

Frau G came in after lunch just like she said she would. Not used to someone like that keeping a simple promise like that. Guess not all people of rank are that casual about their word, even to a clerk like me. Reluctantly handed her the story copy. She took it with more of a grin than a smile, moved over to a work table beyond Christoph's desk, and settled down to read.

Worked on the files I was supposed to be preparing, but was hard to do . . . especially when she giggled. Giggled! Not supposed to giggle at a horror story. What could she be giggling at? And do I really want to know?

When she got done she came back and asked if I had the latest letter from Herr Gronow with me. Actually did. Hadn't gotten around to pinning it up on the wall in the room. So took it out of my pocket and passed it to her. She took that back to the table and spent more time reading it than I think it deserved. Then she brought the papers back over to me and said she wanted to think about it, but she would see me tomorrow, and she would clear it with Herr W so I wouldn't get in trouble. Not sure what she meant by that. Sounds ominous.

Went back to rooms at end of day. Pinned the letter up on the wall next to the others. Spent rest of evening thinking over story and wondering what Frau G was going to say.

Finally recited evening prayers, and now for bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

11 July 1635

 

Thursday

Breakfast–

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 cup berries 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

Supper–

1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Dreamt about Herr Wulff as a wolf again. He was walking around on his hind legs and dressed as a man working in the office. Weird. Was even wearing his regular clothes. Looked like they fit, too. Weird. Max was with me, didn't say much, just had his rifle ready and kept his eyes on Herr W. Did say that Herr W was a very hard man, and I should be careful with him, not be stupid. Asked him if he was evil. He said no, just partook more of the nature of the judge than he did of an intercessor. Not sure I understand that, but maybe it will become clearer.

Mama Schultz told me she was glad I was eating more than bread and meat. Told her I don't like most other stuff. She said it was good for me. I laughed.

Really like working for Herr W. Instructions are clear, materials are available, know what to expect from him. Makes sure I know what I'm doing before he gives me responsibility for something. Like Christoph, too. He is a big help. So much calmer than back in Master Gröning's office. Didn't see Martin last night. Wonder what's going on.

Frau G came in after lunch. No clients were here, so she went into the inner office, and came back out a few minutes later. Told me that she would be by at 3 o'clock and that I was going to go down to Walcha's Coffee House with her for an hour to talk about my story. She said Herr W said it was okay. Behind her I could see Christoph nodding his head and mouthing the words Say Yes. So I did. She smiled and left. Looked over at Christoph. He grinned and said that if she said Herr W had said so, he had. She never said anything like that if it wasn't true. I said I wasn't sure I'd have my assigned work done by then. He said he'd help me.

And he did. We finished the last of my projects right before 3 o'clock. Frau G walked in the door just as I wiped my pen nib clean and placed my pen on its rest. Did I mention I got my own metal nib pen here at Grubb, Wurmb, and Wulff? I did, I do, and it is very nice. Again, I really like working for Herr W.

Anyway, Frau G told me to come with her. I looked at Christoph just to make sure. He nodded, so I followed her down the stairs and out through the door, then into the adjacent door to Walcha's Coffee House. The place was a little larger than The Green Horse on the inside, with I think more chairs and tables, but only because the tables were smaller.

She led me to a small table to one side with only two chairs. She sat in one and pointed to the other. I sat. She asked me if I have ever had coffee or chocolate or tea. Said no, no, and no. She laughed. Woman came over, said Good afternoon, Frau Grubb, will you have your usual. Frau G said yes, and bring Philip a small Dutch chocolate. The woman nodded and left. Frau G leaned over the table and said, what I ordered you isn't coffee. It's a drink made from chocolate. The taste isn't as strong as coffee, and it's a bit rich. If I'd ordered the American style, it would have had so much sugar in it it probably would have made you sick. Up-timers put sugar in almost everything. Or at least, they used to. Then she leaned back.

The woman came back about that time with two cups on a tray. One she set before Frau G and one she set before me. Frau G lifted hers, took a sip, and smiled. Perfect, she said. Tell Georg I said so. The woman smiled and looked at me. After a moment, realized she was waiting on me to taste mine. Took up my cup and took a sip. It was hot, and the flavor was a bit bitter, and dark, if that makes sense, but after a moment, realized I liked it. Told Frau G. She smiled.

Wasn't sure why we were there or what to do, so said nothing. Watched Frau G . . . when she took a sip, I took a sip. Cups weren't very big, before long they were empty. She pushed hers to one side, and got a thin book out of her bag and put it on the table.

You don't know much about girls, she said. Wasn't a question. Definite statement, almost declaration. Said no, had two brothers, but only sister I had died as a baby. She closed her eyes for a moment and nodded.

It shows in your story, she said. Portia sounds like a boy or young man. She doesn't talk like a girl. She doesn't think like a girl. She doesn't act or walk like a girl. That's a big part of what your editor is trying to tell you, but I'm not sure he even understands it. That's something the up-time authors were better at than most of our writers today and historically. Even the men up-time writers could usually portray a woman more realistically than the writers of today. You need to read some of the up-time writers.

Said I was reading Herren Poe and Lovecraft. She snorted. Surprised me. Big sound out of little woman, little lady. She said that by late up-timer standards, both were second-rate writers. Poe was, Lovecraft not even that good. Both could work the ideas, but they weren't very good at description or at characterization. Think that's the word she used. Making the character seem real and alive. She said one writer made his characters so real to her she found herself praying for them one day.

Sat back, surprised. Don't look at me like I'm a heretic, she said. Shook my head, said I'd never thought of it like that. She quirked a corner of her mouth, said if I learned it, I'd be the first seventeenth-century bestseller. Really confused by that, but pushed it back to think about later. How does a girl think, I asked. She smiled and said I'm glad you asked that. Spent the rest of the hour talking about boys and girls, how they were the same and how they were different and how they needed to be described to come alive. She made lots of notes in her book, and when we were done she handed it to me. Told her I would have the notes copied tonight and get the book back to her tomorrow. She said to keep it . . . she had others.

This is a bound volume, in very nice calfskin, of very fine paper. This book probably costs more than everything I own put together. And she gave it to me. Surprised. Confused. Wondering.

Made it through rest of work.

Spent evening reviewing her notes.

Tired.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

15 July 1635

 

Monday

Breakfast–

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 cup berries 1 pfennig

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

Supper–

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 bunch raisins 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Dreamt a little bit last night. Didn't wake up, don't remember much other than knowing I was dreaming. Funny how you can be in a dream, and know you are dreaming, but still have the dream.

Busy day at work today. Several new consultations, lots of action for some existing clients. Lots of paper generated. Christoph was typing almost all day long and was using something called carbon paper to make more than one copy at a time while he typed. Didn't know that was possible. Really neat. Makes me wish I had a Goldfarb und Meier machine of my own. But it costs way more money that I have, or will probably ever have. I should be content with my new pen nibs.

Stopped by Syborg's Books after supper. Herr Johann says the next issue of Der Schwarze Kater will be out early next month. Really looking forward to it. Saving my pfennigs.

Meanwhile, still need a new title for the new version of my story. Thinking about The Apotheosis of Portia. Will have to think about that.

Started writing the new version tonight. Have a strong idea of where this one is going as a story. Will keep that in mind as try to put the words down.

Tablets that Herr Matthias gave me are not great paper. Not the same. Some pages take the ink fine, some pages the ink spreads a bit, almost blots. Have to keep the touch very light and not put much ink down. May have to go to pencil. Not cheap there.

Got opening of story done. Trying to keep in mind everything Frau Grubb told me about writing girl characters. Never occurred to me that have to write them differently. But after thinking about it, makes some sense. Never had a sister, never had a betrothed, but the guys I knew who did sure talked like girls are a mystery. Have to take their witness for it.

Spent some time rereading Issue 2 of Der Schwarze Kater. The story "Legion" . . . didn't like it at first. But tonight when I read it, it really seemed to connect somehow. The idea of a demon possession happening seemed farfetched at first. Despite the Inquisition and the witch finders active over by the Rhine, had trouble accepting that. But they did happen in the time of Our Lord. Scripture says so. So what if they could happen today? What would be the effect if there was a modern-day Legion possession? And would people be scared about what could happen, remembering what happened when the Lord exorcised the Legion of his day? Guess sometimes you have to read stories more than once to understand them. Definitely do with this one. Wow.

Recited evening prayers, twice. Now for bed.

*

Not sleeping. Recited evening prayers again—twice. Try again.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

17 July 1635

 

Wednesday

Breakfast–

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

Supper–

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 cup sauerkraut 1 pfennig

1 wheat roll 3 pfennigs

1 mug beer 2 pfennigs

 

Dreamt I was back in Master Gröning's office, only Thomas was in charge and was sitting at Herr Schiller's desk. Was working very hard, and every few minutes he'd pick up the page I was working on, tell me it was all wrong, tear it up, and make me start over again. Felt hopeless in dream. Very glad when I woke up from that one. Rest of night was quiet. Where was Max when I needed him?

Regular day at the office. Did lots of filing, finally got caught up from Monday.

Christoph started showing me how to use the typewriting machine. Letters don't make any sense, why they are arranged the way they are. Why would QWERTZ be put next to each other? He says the arrangement is something that came down from the up-time, and that all their typewriters and keyboards, whatever they are, use it, except that the Z and Y keys are in different places. Guess it becomes normal. C can sure type fast. And he says the woman in Grantville who taught him could type twice as fast as he does, and that she says she knew people who could type a lot faster than she does. Wow.

Even typing slowly, really like how nice the letters look, and how they look the same every time they're used. See now why Herr Gronow said that he lusted for one of the typewriting machines. Afraid I do too, now.

Wednesday. Managed to speak with Martin after work. Saw him at the corner where we had talked before. He told me that he was doing good at his new job, and that they had even increased his pay a little. Told him I was glad. We talked about what I'm doing for a bit, then he asked me if I had heard about Herr Schiller. I said no. He said that one day last week Thomas had apparently started shouting at Herr S and then physically assaulted him, hitting him and kicking him and actually knocked him down. Said that Herr S was bruised and cut and had a black eye and a big lump on the back of his head. Said that what he heard was that when Master Gröning came to the office the next day he blamed Herr S for the trouble, although Herr S was the one who had been hurt. Herr S told Master G that if he was so concerned with preserving his relationship with Master Schmidt over taking care of his long-time employees, he wished him well of it, and he quit and left right then. Supposedly Master G stood in the doorway of the office and shouted after him that he would make sure that Herr S never worked in Magdeburg again. M said that the story is making the rounds of all of the offices, and Master G is losing respect everywhere.

Angry. Really angry. Never thought Master G was a fool, but he acts the fool now. Herr S may not have been the best manager in Magdeburg, but he was fair and tried hard. Did not deserve that.

Took a while to calm down after got back to the room. Finally started working on new Portia story. Wrote enough to make a stopping place. Hard to write a girl. Guess it makes sense. I'm a boy . . . man, I guess. Not a girl. Hard to think like one. Frau Grubb's notes really help.


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About David Carrico

David 2013-03-03 small

David Carrico made his first professional SF sale to The Grantville Gazette e-magazine in 2004. His stories have also appeared in the Grantville Gazette and Ring of Fire anthologies from Baen Books and in Jim Baen’s Universe e-magazine. Baen Books has published a story collection by David entitled 1635: Music and Murder, and two novels written in collaboration with Eric Flint: 1636: The Devil’s Opera, and The Span of Empire, which was nominated for the 2017 Dragon Award for Best Military SF or Fantasy novel. David is currently working on a solo project.