Become a Fan
By David Rumer
Monday, July 28, 2003
Rated "G" by the Author.
"The Hun" is based on an incident occurring in the neighborhood I lived in as a youngster. We will never know why Walter Franz had reached his breaking point.
The boys, sitting high on their perch in the maple tree, watched the Hun as he strode the diagonal path. A dusty groove worn deep by feet traversing the vacant field four times a day, five days a week, for longer than he wanted to remember. Every morning to the factory, the round trip at lunch, and home after a long day.
"Here comes the Hun," said Gene, the edge in his voice belied his casualness. "Yeah," his companion snickered, " I s"pose his old lady cooked kraut and weenie snizzle ag'in today."
Observing his approach, each boy had his own thoughts:
"He's still wearing it and it's almost summer," thought Gene,
staring at the long leather coat worn by the Hun. . . year round, it seemed. His friend couldn"t keep his eyes off the meticulously trimmed mustache making him look "like them Austrian princes in the history book at school." Engrossed in his own thoughts, he passed directly under the boys, uinaware of their presence. Later, trudging home, their sidelong glances at the Hun's garage picked out his forlorn figure slouching dejectedly on the running board of the old model "T" touring car he forever tinkered with, but never drove.
Gene's dislike for the Hun was pressed on him by his father, Roy. Roy fought the "huns" in "the big war in France," and had the scars to prove it. He spit a little blood each time a chronic cough wracked lungs disfigured by poison-gas clouds rolling over American trenches twenty years before. Recounting his war experiences, he took pride in showing where the bayonet slashed his shoulder. His bardic re-creations of trench warfare always ended with the gory observation: "Them huns didn"t care how they killed ya."
He considered it a personal effront when the german immigrant and his family moved in up the street. "I don"t see how they let anybody from Germany come over here any way," he would say, shaking his head in disbelief. But the Hun had moved in with his wife, a toddling daughter, and an infant son several years before. He had a job right away, too, which set Roy's teeth on edge as he recalled how he struggled for a decent job after the war. Roy talked about the "problem" at every opportunity, and over years had managed to enlist considerable sympathy in the neighborhood for his case.
One neighbor who hadn't succumbed was Mrs. Nesmith, living a couple of houses away between Roy"s house and the Hun's. According to Roy she was "pretty chummy with the Hun's wife, but she'll talk to anybody that'll listen." Mrs. Nesmith claimed the family hadn"t come directly from Germany, but from somewhere out east where they first settled. The little boy, according to her, was born some time after they arrived in America. She thought the Hun's name was Franzen, but was not sure whether his given or surname. In reality, after several years living in the same neighborhood, Mrs Nesmith knew very little about the Hun.
She didn"t know Franzen was a skilled wood carver who built elegant hand crafted furniture for rich people back in Germany after the war, before things got so bad. Nor his disappointment on bringing his skills to America to find work only as a diesel mechanic. ("Bein' German, he must know diesel engines," reasoned the commission agent, who procured jobs for new immigrants.} His manual skills and German thoroughness soon made him a top engine mechanic and, when the depression came, forcing the company to combine their east coast and midwest operations, he was one of the 'lucky" few to retain his job in the new combined operation.
Franzen regarded Dr. Diesel's creation as a crude, entirely plebian, piece of ironwork. Its inelegance depressed him. He longed for the pliant feel of good wood in hands hardened and scarred by the relentless edges of metal he handled daily. The only mechanical device truly pleasing to him; the touring car he acquired soon after he arrived in America. It served him and his family well and carried them west. After a while the model "T" had minor problems that seemed to get worse as time passed, giving him the eerie impression it mirrored his deteriorating circumstance. Franzen had a nagging, troubling feeling he had not held up his end of a bargain when the car failed and he could not afford to repair it. In any case, without it his freedom was curtailed and he was trapped within the radius ofl walking distance.
For the past year he toyed with the idea of returning to his beloved Germany. His initial hope of the new Fuh'rer returning the country to the good days before the war had long faded as more and more bad things happened. Now, the so called anschluss could only lead to yet another war, a folly bound to return them to where they were at Versailles in '19, or worse. What a disaster the Great War had been. . . his father killed in the exploding ammunition works,and his brother gone at Belleau Wood. It had surely killed his dear mother when she could not bear the grief. How he wished he hadn't listened when she urged him to emigrate to this dismal country. The depression made everyone poor, . . .and where are the opportunities in this "land of golden opportunity?"
Back east, it wasn't this bad, most of the neighbors were also immigrants and everyone supported everyone else. Here, the dreary repetitive work stifled his spirit, his thick accent provoked derision, and the daily childish tricks wore him down. His good frau hung her laundry and tended her flowers missing the friendly chats with her neighbors. She was almost a prisoner in her own house, but worst of all, were the brats who belittled their children. What could he have been thinking? What had he done to his family? What is there to look forward to? The burden is too great.
The boy spotted the black and white police car at the Hun's house, and all the neighbors standing around. Even Roy was gawking. His friend, Gene, came running "like his can was on fire." The horrified look on his face portended a terrible pronouncement.
"The Hun's dead," Gene blurted, "honest to God, he's dead. . . went out in the garage and put a shotgun in his mouth and pushed the trigger with a screwdriver."
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|Reviewed by Edmund Jonah
I am not surprised you had stories published as you write very well indeed. However this story needs some work.
The first serious problem is the question of shifting points of view, especially at the beginning when I wasn't certain to whom you were referring. This is a turn-off for readers as they have to read the same thing twice to try to understand what you are saying. However the good news is that it is easily fixed.
Not so easily fixed is the problem of introducing characters who play little or no dramatic role in the story to bring it to its final conclusion. You intrigue us with Gene and his father and you make us believe one or both will play a serious role in your story. It doesn't happen. This is probably because it is a true story and you are trying to be as truthful as possible. However, as this is written as a story, you can exercise your right to writer's license. You have to give us more motivation for the German taking his own life. As it stands, you give us no clue what drove him to such a desperate act. You have to show us in a dramatic way how he and his family are ostracised by the community, how he watches his wife clean the bloody nose of their son after a run-in with some kids from school on his way home. You have to make it clear to us why he doesn't take his family away to, say, Canada, which isn't as far as Germany and much easier to reach. Why did Franz feel so impotent? This is too good a story to remain as raw as this. If you do fix it, please let me know. I would like to read it again.
|Reviewed by J Thill
|This is a tough story. Well written, incredible set up!|
|Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado
|so sad how teasing can affect a person years later. heartbreaking story; well done! :( (((HUGS)))|