1635: THE DREESON INCIDENT – snippet 21:
“Hey, Veda Mae. Can I share your table?”
She looked up. The dining room at the Willard Hotel was crowded for lunch and it was Bryant Holloway. She had known him all his life and he was her cousin somehow through the Cunninghams, so she couldn’t very well say no. Therefore, she cleared her purse off the other side where it had been staking her claim and said, “Sure. Haven’t seen you for a while.”
“I’ve been in Magdeburg since the middle of last winter. I’m just back for a month or so now for a fire prevention training conference.”
“What’s Magdeburg like?”
“Start with this. The Fire Marshall of our wonderful United States of Europe is that prick from Baltimore, Archie Stannard. One of the Masaniellos’ relatives who got caught in the Ring of Fire because of Vince and Carla’s fortieth anniversary party over at Pray Your Rosary Catholic Church, or whatever they’re calling it these days.”
“What’s wrong with him?”
“From the minute the Grantville fire department chief Steve Matheny picked him up as assistant chief, Stannard’s been trying to make us more ‘professional.’ Sometimes I thought that if I heard the word ‘professional’ one more time, I would gag. Steve kept us right up to the mark on equipment and training, but he didn’t preach about it. Stannard does. I guess I could have lived with that, though. Since the Ring of Fire, we’d all been on call 24/7 and that wears you out, so I sort of put it down to stress. But then in the fall of ‘32, Stearns made this agreement with What’s His Name, the captain general you know, and Stannard started on this kick of expanding modern fire prevention into the rest of the New United States. It’s one thing to work your ass off for Grantville. It’s something else when they expect you to do it for a bunch of foreigners.”
Sensing a kindred spirit, Veda Mae actually smiled. “You didn’t have anyone in Magdeburg back then, did you?”
“No. But they sent me over to Rudolstadt, right off the bat, as soon as Steve insisted that he needed me to go full-time rather than volunteer. Which I agreed to do, even though, with overtime, I was sure making more at Ollie’s than the government pays us. The count over there speaks some English, at least, even though he sounds like one of those Shakespeare plays that Lisa Dailey tried to make us read in high school.”
“Shakespeare’s not so bad. We even read some of his stuff back in my day, and he sounded a lot like the King James Version. Which the Reverends Jones never should have gotten rid of and put in one of these so-called modern translations of the Bible.” Veda Mae veered off on a tangent, pursuing one of her favorite grievances. By the time she ran down, Bryant had finished half of his lunch.
“Anyway, you asked what Magdeburg is like. We’re trying to prevent all of the wonderful Emperor Gustavus Adolphus’ Kraut allies from turning themselves into krispy kritters, which, if you ask me, most of them deserve. They’re the ones who messed up and caused the disaster at Underwood’s coal gas company. And now Quentin’s dead himself, poor guy. None of the Krauts up at Wietze went running to help him, as far as I’ve ever heard.
“I’m not even at the Navy Yard, which might make some sense. I drew Station Number One. With Bibi Blackwood, of all people, as Captain and Officer in Charge. I never did hold with women ‘firefighters’ and I still don’t. They even had to change the word from ‘firemen.’”
“I never heard anyone complain that Bibi couldn’t handle it. She’s a big woman.”
Bryant couldn’t argue with that. Bibi was a big woman, all right. He nodded, then said, “At least her boys are grown and Sara stayed back here in Grantville with Dean and his new wife, so she’s not distracted by having to find child care and schools. I’ll give her that much.”
“Dean’s new wife. Would you believe that her name is Krapp?”
Bryant laughed so loud that people stared at them.
“The whole town is going to pot,” Veda Mae said. “You can’t believe how many decent Americans are marrying these Kraut whores. There must be a half dozen or so who are actually taking classes at that Kraut church out on what used to be Route 250 on the way to Rudolstadt so they can marry them in Kraut ceremonies. And it won’t be any too soon for Ryan Baker and his girlfriend if you know what I mean, believe me. Little slut. She works in Cora Ennis’ kitchen at the cafe.”
“I can see that it’s getting to be a problem. Hell, Veda Mae. Have you heard what Lenore’s dad did?”
“Wes? Not a word. Not since he and the other people we sent over to Fulda were kidnapped by a bunch of ungrateful Krauts. That was in the paper a while back. I don’t have time to read the papers much, though.”
“Well, the rest of our people over there got them back, including Wes. Anyway, he celebrated his delivery from the dungeon, or wherever he was, by marrying a Kraut woman himself. Sister of that Dietrich Bachmeier from Badenburg who’s a sort of cousin of the guy who’s Birdie Newhouse’s partner these days. That farmer up at Sundremda. Same last name.”
“At his age, he should have known better. Wes, I mean. Stearns and Piazza must be nuts to have appointed someone as chief civilian administrator in one of our Kraut territories who would behave like that. He ought to have kept his distance, so they would respect him. What did they call it after World War II? ‘Nonfraternization policy.’ That’s it. Not that it worked the way it should have. Arnold Bellamy’s own mother was one of those Kraut war brides. He’s not from here, of course; he was from someplace in New Jersey when Natalie Fritz married him. So he’s half-Kraut himself. And Curtis Maggard’s mother, too. The woman’s as crazy as a coot. Well, of course, Stearns… Becky’s a Kraut, no matter what people say. Sometimes it seems to me that half of this town is going native. Thank god he’s no relative of mine. Neither one of them is, Stearns nor Jenkins.
“Nor, thank heavens, the daughter of that idiot Pat Murphy. Did you hear that she’s back in town again, with that Kraut named Junker she works with? Junk’s a good name for him. Back from whatever it was she’s been doing down in Franconia. Probably up to no good. She’s working for Carol Unruh at the Department of Economic Resources, did you know. With that name, Carol’s likely a Kraut herself. I know her husband is, that Koch. She met him in Germany, up-time, for all he tells people that he was actually born in Greece.”