Thu Mar 22, 2012, 07:18 PM
Curmudgeoness (15,594 posts)
The Master Butchers Singing Club-Chapter 14-SPOILERS
Getting near the end of the book. Thinks have been falling into place.
Chapter 14 – The Army of the Silver Firs
Delphine was sure that she would never have children of her own, but she had helped raise Eva’s children, and she did not feel the loss. Markus especially got her maternal attention. After coming out of the hill, he had become quieter. He became a reader and was studious. She comforted him when he learned he had to wear glasses, but she was glad, thinking it would keep him out of the service. But somehow, he got accepted anyways, probably by cheating on the eye test.
He was excited to be going, but she wanted him to understand that war was not like in the movies, that men got mangled and mutilated in battle. He didn’t believe her. She was angry at all the spin put on war, like it was a wonderful thing. Ads about patriotism bothered her, and she knew this was fueling the desire for boys to go fight.
Markus had overhead Fidelis on the phone with Delphine telling her that the twins would not be returning. (It doesn’t specify whether they would not be able to leave because of the war, or if Tante would not send them, or it they refused.)
Fidelis and Delphine had fallen into a sort of love for each other---not a romantic love, but a pleasant love of familiarity, and it was not overpowering to her. And she enjoyed the life of a butcher’s wife. Overnight, she had become a respected woman in town.
The war changed their business…it was so busy. Customers flooded in, and shortages were the norm. Fidelis was worried about the twins, and she kept assuring him that they were too young. She worked long, hard hours, but at night, she felt the need to walk before bedtime to wind down. Sometimes she would walk into the cemetery. She often talked to Eva, telling her that she had taken her ambitions from her and left her with Eva’s life.
Fidelis had grown a mustache, and it had come out gray although his hair had little gray in it. Lately, his feet were numb and cramped. The dog was old, but still guarded the door to their bedroom.
Emil’s war was very short. At this point, the German army was taking anyone and recruited the entire Adolf Hitler school he and Erich were in. Emil stepped on a land mine, before his uniform was even dirty. Erich saw it, but continued on, although he felt that half of him was gone. He was captured, but kept his mind and did not answer in English. But when he tried to escape and was going to be shot, he yelled “please don’t shoot me, I don’t even have hair on my balls” in English. The GIs laughed so hard that his fellow German POWs thought he must be brilliant, or crazy.
Erich and other POWs were shipped to America and put on a train that took them to Wisconsin or Michigan. He kept from speaking English because there were some prisoners who would kill anyone who collaborated. They kept looking for all the blackened fields, bombed out cities, and dead farms that they had been told about, but everything was lush. The travelled into the pine forests, to a small station where they were unloaded, chained, and marched to a prison camp. They were given clothes, shoes, coats, wool blankets, and personal supplies. They were fed from huge pots of food, and given white sliced bread (is this the Wonder Bread that had enticed Fidelis to America?). The POWs knew then that they had lost the war, that there was so much to give to them, the dregs.
They worked in the forest daily. It was thought that none of the boys had inherited Fidelis’ voice, but when Erich got to puberty, his voice came out beautiful. The prisoners started a little singing club.
Erich had hardened himself to the loss of Emil, and to his family in America. He was thoroughly German, and he believed that this would save his life from the prisoners who would kill anyone who associated with Americans. He had one belief in life, that of loyalty to Hitler, death loyalty, and hatred of the weak.
Back home, Mazarine was still taking care of her mother and the house. She had left and gone to teacher’s college and had a grade school certificate. She came home and was teaching there. Lilacs were in bloom and she went outside to sit…she had a letter with her. Franz had written her a note saying that he heard she had not married, and that he was going to be home soon and she was going to see him no matter what because he never stopped thinking of her.
Franz got home and went straight to see Mazarine. They took a walk to the river bank and sat. He didn’t know how to talk to her, she was a quiet woman. He told her that he had wronged her, and she said that wasn’t important any more. She wanted to know about where he had been and what it was like. He said that from now on, he would be on safe duty---he was “tired out”. She held him and kissed him. He told her he had been shot down once, and his engine died another time. He told her what he had seen of friends killed. They held onto each other.
Delphine could tell by the way they were with each other that they were lovers. Franz had to leave again, and Mazarine came to visit, and they worked side by side.
Markus wrote to say that he had flunked the vision test and had a desk job. Delphine was grateful for the break. When he got to visit home, he told Fidelis about a story he had been told about a POW who looked familiar to him and had his same last name. And he had finagled a clearance to go there and visit him. She would not go, but Fidelis wanted to go. They drove all day and got there in the late afternoon. The man on duty said that they were still out working….so they waited in the car.
When the POWs came back, they stood looking, and saw Erich. He saw them too. But he just looked straight ahead of him and ignored them completely. He had looked at his father and saw a foolish old man who looked bony and defeated. He was not heroic or strong. Not like Erich, who had struggled to be German, who believed all he had been taught. His father was now Germany.
They drove away, silent. They drove until they needed gas, and stopped for gas. There was a bar there too and they went in for a drink. Fidelis got drunk. Finally Fidelis spoke. He said the Erich must have thought he had lost his mind, seeing them.
Mazarine brought a letter from Franz over to Delphine for her to read. She was seven months pregnant. Delphine, early on, had gone to a jewelry store in Fargo and got her a ring so there would be no rumors, then Franz sent an engagement ring. The letter was long, but she had kept the last page, a love letter. He said that the war was over and they were just doing cleanup so there was no danger.
An atomic bomb was dropped on Japan. They got the Fargo newspaper and read it over and over. The war was over. They would all be coming home.
Franz had expected to be killed in a battle with an enemy fighter pilot. The real war was usually boring and tedious. He was walking into a supply room in a hanger when a plane took off behind him. One of the ground crew had forgotten to unhook the steel cable. As the plane gained speed, the cable snapped and whipped out, brushing his temple. There was no warning, no moment of surprise.
Mazarine and Delphine walked into the hospital. Delphine had came with her across country to help with the baby. She sent Mazarine in to see him alone. She didn’t know what to expect. He was asleep. He looked his body over, afraid to look at his face. Finally she looked, and it was still Franz…half of his face was bandaged and there were black bruises down his neck. The doctor said they would not know for a while how it would go, how he would be.
It is sad to notice Fidelis getting older and weaker. I know, it happens to us all, but I feel as if I know him and it is hard to "see". The book made it more evident that there are little signs of his change with age....and we see it through the eyes of Erich too, who had grown up and can see his father as one not to the feared anymore. I was so glad to see Mazarine and Franz get together again because they were so in love. Franz.....I wrote in the summary the same way it was done in the book. I thought he was killed the way Erdrich wrote it. I was so relieved to find that he was not killed by the cable. OMG....this was written so well to keep you on the edge of your seat!
3 replies, 1117 views
Response to Curmudgeoness (Original post)
Thu Mar 22, 2012, 07:54 PM
Little Star (14,654 posts)
1. How sad...
Those boys, two on each side of the war. Emil dead. Franz hurt by the cable (you scared me at first, I thought he was dead too).
Did Erich stay a POW or just choose not to go home with Fedelis?
The good part is that Mazarine and Franz are having a baby. Or at least I hope that's a good thing.
I'm glad you are enjoying the book. I'm enjoying you telling us about it. I know that I will read it, for real, myself after awhile.
Response to Little Star (Reply #1)
Thu Mar 22, 2012, 09:35 PM
Curmudgeoness (15,594 posts)
2. This is a book that is sad, but
it is sad like real life is sad. Shit happens. I was thinking a lot about that in finishing up this book---the characters are not spectacular in any way. They are just ordinary people who are living ordinary lives, with all the sorrows and happiness, ups and downs of life. There are no heroes. They all have faults and good qualities. This is just life.
Erich stayed in the POW camp, never acknowledging his father and brother. He just went back into the gate of the prison camp. His choice was to survive there. He was indoctrinated.
I think it was good for Mazarine and Franz to have the baby....although I never feel good about starting out right off the bat with a child. But that was what happened all the time back in those times. I would have preferred for them to have time as a married couple before the baby, but I don't think that they see it as a bad thing.
I am ready to post the final segment....OMG.