Posts Tagged ‘Sepp Klemens’

At Home In Heinz Hollow – #2

August 12, 2010 2 comments

Okay, I’m still not sure where this will end up, but here’s the next part of the story.

* * *

“Thank you for a fine meal, Marge,” said Sepp. “I always look forward to Friday evenings and your good cooking.”  He pushed back his chair from the big kitchen table, preparing to leave.

“You’re most welcome. We’re always grateful for your help,” she replied with a friendly smile. “Many hands make light work of the milking, and we’re always glad for your company, Sepp. Won’t you stay a little longer, though? It’s a nice night, too nice to spend it all alone.”

Sarah and her husband Alex were busy washing dishes over at the sink and afterward they would all have a family hymn sing, but Sepp was impatient to leave the tidy kitchen and return home to his book. Normally he stayed with his neighbors later than this on Fridays, but this evening he was restless and craved solitude. “Thank you, but I have a few things I need to do before bed tonight. I’ll see you on Sunday morning.”

He rose and discovered that Dan Radamacher was walking by his side to the door. That was unusual. He wondered why. He took his old black hat from the hook by the door and slapped it carelessly on his head. The older man held the door for him and followed him outside to the porch. Sepp looked at him, curious.

“I’d like a word with you, if you can spare the time,” said Dan. He gestured toward two chairs that were off in the corner, facing the sunset sky.

Sepp sat down in one, a nervous feeling kindling in his stomach. Dan and Marge Radamacher had always been his neighbors. They had known his grandparents. They were godly, kind people and he enjoyed lending a hand on their farm when he was needed, but he often felt awkward if he were forced to be too close to people. All of the six Radamacher children were younger than he was, and in fact the youngest was one of his students. His solitary life was so different from their big bustling family. Dan’s blue eyes were serious as they looked at each other.

“You haven’t come to the community meetings the past couple of months,” he said abruptly. “Is something wrong, Sepp?”

His mouth dropped open in surprise and heat rose in Sepp’s cheeks. Was it so obvious that he was feeling uneasy? He fought an urge to squirm, wondering suddenly how many of his brethren watched him as he went about his everyday life. What could he say? He inhaled slowly.

“I don’t feel like my presence is really needed at every meeting,” he began, struggling to find the right words. “Since I don’t farm or produce much of anything to sell in the shop, I don’t feel like the community’s business is mine. I’m paid by all of you to teach, that’s all, and I don’t know that it would be proper for me to be advising all of you about finances.”

Dan frowned. “I’m disappointed, my friend. It’s true that our meetings are mainly to discuss community finances, but you’re an equal part of our fellowship, and what concerns one or more of us, concerns us all. You’ve got a quick mind for numbers, and you ask good questions about the figures Gebhard and the others give us.” Sighing, he continued more slowly, “Maybe I’ve spent too long working on the farm here, but those financial reports from the shop, the inventory and especially the ones about profits, they confuse me at times. I like having you there. I think it’s important for all of us to understand our common finances. After the meeting last week I asked Ben to explain again to me why we made so little money over the past season. He talked for pretty near half an hour and I left still feeling as confounded as before.”

Crickets chirped, filling the silence that followed. The sound of children’s voices drifted out of the house and Sepp realized that they were waiting for Dan to go inside.

“I don’t believe I know any more than you about how the finances should be, but if you think it’ll help, of course I’ll come to the next meeting.” He watched Dan’s frown lighten, but sensed there was something more that was left unsaid. Perhaps there’s something in the air these days, he thought, that’s breeding discontent and worry.

“I’d appreciate it if you’ll be there. I’d like to talk these things over with you,” said Dan. “Now Sepp, you do so much to help us here, is there anything that needs doing over at your place? We’d be glad to do something to help you.”

It shouldn’t be so hard to accept help from a neighbor, he thought, irritation rising in him. Dan meant well, but… “No thanks, there’s nothing,” he exclaimed, scrambling to find an excuse that would not offend. “Next summer the house will need painting, but everything’s fine right now.”

Dan nodded. “I see you’re ready to be off. Thank you for your help then, as always, and we’ll see you at Sunday service.”


At Home in Heinz Hollow – #1

August 8, 2010 2 comments

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.

Francesca’s Legacy is Now available!

Francesca’s Legacy, the second of the Sepp Klemens novels, is now listed on Amazon. I’m really excited!