Letters From Gronow, Episode 5

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Magdeburg

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

22 May 1635

 

Tuesday

Breakfast–

1 winter apple 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

Supper–

1 bowl fish stew 3 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

 

Dreamt last night. Was mostly about the plague, everyone around me was getting sick. Woke up just as I found it on me. Was glad to do that. Think it was Herr Poe's story Masque of the Red Death that caused it this time. Although Herr Lovecraft may write more evilness in his characters, Herr Poe writes the scarier stories, I think.

Herr Schiller looked at me when I came in this morning and raised his eyebrows. I knew he was asking about my story, so I shook my head. He frowned and said I'd have to do better. I knew what he meant, but both Thomas and Martin were confused. Quiet day at work, otherwise.

Pinned the fourth letter up on the wall next to the others. Reread them all. I will sell a story to Herr Gronow.

Spent the rest of the evening rereading Portia in Tauris. Think I see what Herr Gronow talked about. Have to tell a good story. Have to make sense. Can't just throw pretty things together. Have to build it right. Have to think about how to do that.

Meanwhile, will reread all four issues of Der Schwarze Kater. Need to learn from the masters.

Recited evening prayers, and so to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

25 May 1635

 

Friday

Breakfast–

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

Supper–

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

 

Dreamt about Portia again last night. Is weird when character in my story starts showing up in my dreams. She yells at me, too. Or at least, I think she yelled at me last night. Don't remember very well, because Max showed up, too, and started telling me jokes even dumber than Pastor Gruber's jokes. Got me laughing so much that Portia stomped her foot and left. Woke up after that. Wish I could remember some of the jokes. Pastor Gruber might like them. Stupid dreams.

Thomas was gone most of the day. His relative needed him again. Made for easy day. Spent a lot of it working with Martin showing him more about how to check the entries. Started showing him how to work with the contract files, and how to keep them organized. Catching on pretty good. I think I could trust him to work with them. Better him than Thomas.

Stopped at Syborg's Books tonight. Herr Matthias was there, and greeted me. Asked me what I was doing, told him I was writing stories to submit to Der Schwarze Kater. He whistled at that and said good for me. He asked me how I was doing with it. Told him I hadn't sold one to Herr Gronow yet, but with every try I learn something. Told him I needed some of the cheap paper to write the first copy of the next version on. He said to hang on, went in the back, and came back with a couple of what almost looked like soft-bound books like the magazine, only the binding was across the top rather than the side. He flipped the top cover up, and showed me all the pages inside were blank. Not white paper. Cheap stuff. Kind of grayish, actually. He gave them to me, told me they were a couple of samples that one of the papermaking firms had given them. Told me I could have them. Thanked him a lot. Saves me some money, which I need to do because the white paper for the final copy I give to Herr Gronow is so costly. Cash is low, so no wheat bread for a while. Barley instead.

After spending three evenings thinking about it and rereading the magazine issues, think I know what to do now with the story. Fourth rewrite. Think I can keep parts of what I wrote before, but need to join them together better. Tell a story, not just word paint pictures. Think I see how to do that.

Will start tomorrow.

Recited evening prayers. Now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

27 May 1635

 

Sunday

Breakfast–

Fasted

Lunch–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

Supper–

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

 

Dreamt last night, I'm sure. Don't remember any, and don't remember waking up, but was very tired when I got up this morning, so must have. Almost didn't go to church, but Lord's Day, Lord's work, so went. Bright sunny day, so more people there than has been usual. Enough there I couldn’t stand by my favorite pillar and lean against it. Music was good—loud, anyway, as everyone seemed to be glad to be there. Sang with a will. Reader was good with the reading. Homily wasn't great, but at least no one went to sleep, and it was short. If it's not going to be good, at least let it be short.

Spent the afternoon reading. Over half-way through The City of God. Admiration for St. Augustine as a writer continues to grow as my Latin improves. Then spent some time in Kings. Story of King Ahab and Naboth. King acted like spoiled child. Needed to be spanked. Wife murdered a man just so the king could have what he wanted. He was bad, she was worse. Is a piece of ground, any piece of ground, worth a man's life? Is anything tangible worth a man's life?

Spent the evening writing. Don't have a title for the new version. Very slow going, as I'm having to think about not only what needs to happen in the story, but if and where the story I wrote before can be made or altered to fit in the new story. Almost at the point of having to think about every single word. If I'd known writing would be this much work, might not have chosen to go into it. (Bit of a joke, there . . . but only a bit.)

Got a page and a half done before the next to last of my candle stubs guttered out. Will have to get some more from Herr Schiller tomorrow.

Tired, but good tired.

Recited evening prayers, and now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

28 May 1635

 

Monday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

Supper–

1 sausage 2 pfennigs

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 mug beer 1 pfennig

 

Dreamt of The Pit and the Pendulum again. Funny how although Herr Lovecraft's stories tend to ooze more evil, it is Herr Poe's stories that seem to most haunt my dreams. Woke up at least twice, but when went back to sleep was back in the dream. Have to wonder what I could write that would affect a reader like that? Can't use the pendulum . . . that's already been done. But what could I use? Water? Think about it.

Cloudy today, cold west wind blowing. No rain, thank God, but still nasty weather.

Had big argument with Thomas today at work. Martin found more errors in his work from last week. He brought to me, I took to Herr Schiller. When Herr Schiller called him over to talk about it, it was like T was a gunpowder firework that exploded. He started shouting and cursing and accusing us—me more than Martin—of trying to falsify his work and get him in trouble when he's doing things right, and we're the ones who are getting it all wrong. He was standing there, hands clenched, face red, shouting at Herr S's face. Suddenly realized that T has grown some, just like I have, and he is not a boy any more.

I tried to tell him that we didn't, but he just turned on me and shouted a lot of the same things in my face. He ended by pushing a stack of contract files that I was reviewing off my desk and kicking them across the office, then picked up the ledger book Martin was working in off Martin's desk and threw it on the floor hard.

Then he got scary. He stopped, pulled his jacket back into place, smoothed his hair, and said in a hard quiet tone that we'd be sorry we treated him so bad. Then he left.

Herr S looked weary, almost scared. Martin was definitely frightened. Me, not sure what I looked like, but my stomach hurt, and I felt like I was about to puke.

Herr S got down off his stool and told us to pick things up. He even helped us. Martin's ledger book was scuffed and bent but not broken, which was good. The contract files had been scattered around, though, and it took all three of us quite a while to get all the pages back in the right files and in the right order. When we got done, Herr S got out his bottle of wine and gave each of us a small drink of it. Not sure if it was a reward or medicine, but it did help me calm down a little.

At the end of the day, after Martin left, Herr S put most of our candle stubs in a paper and wrapped them up, then handed them to me. Then he handed me my full day's pay. When I told him he hadn't taken out the money for the candle stubs, he told me to consider it a small bonus after the events of the day.

When I asked him what was going to happen next, Herr S just shook his head and said he didn't know. Master Gröning had already told him he couldn't discharge T again, and without that resort, and with the leverage that T's relative seems to have, Herr S doesn't think anything can be done. He said he'd try to protect Martin and me. Then he pushed me toward the door.

Really scared. T was really scary today.

Don't want to leave. Might have to. But can I find another job if I do? One that pays as good as what Master G is paying?

Mind has been spinning in circles all night. No words, no writing, not able to think about the story for more than a fraction of a minute.

Recited evening prayers. Over and over again. Lost count of how many times. Need to go to bed, but mind is spinning so hard don't think I can sleep.

Help.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

1 June 1635

 

Friday

Breakfast–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup morning broth 1 pfennig

Supper–

1 barley roll 2 quartered pfennigs

1 cup small beer 1 quartered pfennig

 

Dreamt last night. Was like The Cask of Amontillado. Thomas was in the place of Fortunato, and I was Montresor, laying the stones to seal him away. Scary how much I was enjoying listening to him scream in the dream. Just as scary that I enjoy the thought just as much when I'm awake.

Today was quiet at work. Thomas was there, but didn't say or do much. In the middle of the morning, saw Martin just stop working for a long time. Just sat there, hands on his desk, pen in his fingers above the worksheet but not moving. Finally got down from my stool and walked over. He was looking at one of T's work pages from earlier in the week. I nudged him. He looked up at me, then pointed to a number on the page with one of his left hand fingers.  I looked at the numbers leading up to it. It was wrong. Very wrong. So wrong I couldn't figure out how T had got to it. Martin's hand was shaking. Didn't say anything, just took the page back to my desk, fixed it, then took it to Herr Schiller and pointed to what I did. He looked at it, looked at me, then looked back at the page. After a moment he nodded slowly, then gave the page back to me. Took it back to Martin, then went back to my desk. Don't know if T saw. Don't care.

Sure the up-timers have words that describe what I've been feeling this week. They have words for everything. I think pressure is best word. Feel like what happens when something blocks one of the river channels and the water builds and builds behind it, before it finally gives way.

Have discovered you can get used to anything, even pressure. After a while, guess you start feeling numb. Not scared, much, anyway. Actually was able to write some tonight. Only half a page, but more than I've done since Sunday.

Recited evening prayers. Three times. Now to bed.

****

 

From the Journal of Philip Fröhlich

 

3 June 1635

 

Sunday


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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.