Home > Uncategorized > At Home in Heinz Hollow – #1

At Home in Heinz Hollow – #1

At Home in Heinz Hollow

At last, thought Sepp Klemens as he drew the heavy wooden schoolhouse door shut firmly and headed for home. The sun was still high in the sky and he adjusted his wide-brimmed felt hat on his head, grateful for the protection of it. He glanced around the schoolyard to make sure the last of his students had finally headed home to do their afternoon chores. Martha Burger and her cousin Mary were just disappearing around the curve in the road. He was alone now on the doorstep of the school and, exhaling heavily, he turned toward home, mentally preparing for the weekend ahead.

Normally his mind drifted ahead to the chores awaiting him at home as he trod this familiar dirt road, but today was different for some reason. His mind was unsettled and he frowned. Thinking back over the events of the day, he recalled Katie Millar’s announcement. “Mama’s expecting again, and she needs my help, so I have to hurry home,” she had exclaimed importantly. Eliza Millar was thirty-five, less than a year younger than he was. In their small community, he alone was a single man now. All the other boys and girls he attended school with as a child were long married and lived busy contented lives on their farms. But even now, when he thought of Mrs. Millar, he still remembered the gap-toothed little girl of his early school days, the laughing Elizabeth who had shared his childhood and been his friend.

She could have married me, he thought for the thousandth time. What would his house be like now if he shared it with Eliza, if the silent rooms were full of noise and life? In shock, he realized he still harbored bitterness in his heart, something he had tried to put behind him long ago when he accepted that his fate was different from the others in Heinz Hollow. He had always been different. His family was different. The Lord God loves all of us, his mother had told him when he was young, and he had believed her. But long years later he was pretty sure the Lord had favorites and he wasn’t one of them. Man was not meant to be alone, the Bible said it, but here among God’s faithful, he was alone. A rare rebellion stirred in him, anger at the unfairness of his fate. He had no one belonging to him on this earth, no kin and no wife. His strides grew longer as he moved along the quiet lane that led to his house. Tomorrow was the day that he would go out to tend the small community cemetery for the autumn season ahead. Fitting, he thought, that his was the task of caring for that place of the departed ones. Maybe his place was with the dead, like Hades in his dark realm. He recalled the day that his father’s broken body was brought up the hill to lie among his forefathers. It had been seven years ago. He had felt a guilty sense of relief at the older man’s death, and Sepp had naively hoped that maybe something might change for the better. Instead the house had grown quiet without the crippled man’s angry voice echoing through it. Now the silence was thick and suffocating.

His home came into view, a simple white farmhouse set pleasantly among seven venerable oak trees. It needs painting, he thought critically. Not now, but certainly next summer. Under the shady trees a gentle breeze cooled the air and a sense of resigned peace began easing the tension in him. Everything wasn’t bad, he mused. The beauty of the early autumn day began to penetrate his gloom. Mama’s old rocking chair beckoned to him from the porch and her little flower garden offered a blaze of yellow, white, crimson and violet to delight his eyes. Walking around to the kitchen door, he slipped his black vest off and went inside. The breakfast dishes were waiting next to the sink, but he still had a couple of hours before he was due over at the Radamacher house, and he decided he was going to spend it reading. A few weeks ago Rab Partou had given him a small box of old books that had been discovered in the attic of the family home. In recent years, most of the old books that turned up around town had made their way to his house, since he was the teacher and also known to actually read them. His neighbors hated to waste anything. Several books about ancient Greece and Rome by a woman named Hamilton were among this batch, and they were fascinating. He wished he could tell some of the stories to his students, but it was hard to justify taking away time spent on learning the fundamentals to learn about a long-ago foreign culture. Deep in thought, he realized suddenly that he had already rolled up his shirtsleeves and was running dishwater, and shook his head with a rueful smile. I’d make a damned poor hedonist, he thought. His mother’s words still lingered in his mind. “First we do the chores, and when we’re finished it’s time to play.” He gathered the dirty dishes and set them in the warm water, feeling calm again, if not happy. It would just take a few minutes, and then he could sink into a world of ancient gods, war, passion and heroes for a time. There was a comforting order in his quiet life, and at least he had his books.

  1. August 8, 2010 at 12:57

    This makes me appreciate Claire even more!

  2. August 8, 2010 at 21:00

    How tragic if he hadn’t met Claire, even in the horrible circumstances of being shunned. It’s really a hopeful message to think that something wonderful later comes out of Sepp’s troubles.

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