Dinner With the Wends
[Luthertal, World of the Wends, Other side of the Galaxy]
The big man’s lips thinned. ‘Friedrich August Biar, you are late!’ He pointed a sausage-thick finger in his son’s direction. ‘Go to my study and wait for me there.’
Staring at the ground, the boy shuffled out the hall and into the darkness. Amie and Joseph watched him go. Then they glanced at each other.
‘I hope we haven’t got him in trouble,’ Amie muttered.
‘He’ll be fine,’ Joseph replied and then chewed his lip.
‘I’m not so sure. Did you see how angry his dad looked?’
‘If it was my dad, I’d be worried.’
‘I don’t know.’ Amie stood on tiptoe to see through the window and catch sight of Friedrich as he ambled down the road to his home and the consequence that awaited him in his father’s office.
The man worked his generous girth around the benches and diners, arms outstretched. ‘Welcome!’ He grasped Joseph’s arm with both hands and shook. ‘Welcome to our humble village.’ His hand engulfed Amie’s fingers, squeezed and with a flick released them. ‘My name is Hans Biar. I am the burghermeister, here.’ He turned and gestured them to follow. ‘Come, there is plenty left over. Have some dinner. You must meet Frau Biar.’
‘What about Friedrich? Poor Friedrich.’ Amie asked as they side-stepped through the dining room.
‘Shush! Be quiet!’ Joseph touched his finger to his lips. ‘You’ll get us into trouble!’
Amie chewed a nail and examined where the large man called Hans Biar was taking them. At the head of the narrow and crowded room, a lady rose tall and thin as the man was wide. She bowed her head which was shrouded in a brown scarf.
‘This is Frau Biar.’ The man put his arm around her waist. ‘Let me introduce, now who did you say you were?’
‘Joseph Smith,’ Joseph said and bowed.
‘Amie Fleisher, pleased to meet you.’ Amie thrust her hand between the men and crockery. Frau Biar hesitated, before accepting the gesture.
Herr Biar indicated space on the wooden bench. ‘Please, sit down.’
Joseph sat beside a petite girl who appeared to be a miniature model of Frau Biar. As Amie climbed in next to the Frau, she couldn’t help but feel conspicuous in shorts and tee-shirt, while surrounded by women covered neck to toe in modest dress, and frilly caps covering their hair. These women seemed to frown at her, their eyes narrowing disapprovingly as if she were some sort of brazen hussy. And the men in their long-sleeved shirts and trousers held up with braces, blushed and tried not to stare at Amie. Joseph opposite, appeared almost naked, if not delicious, his muscular arms bulging out of his tank tee-shirt.
China basins of pumpkin soup with fresh baked bread, appeared, delivered by a rotund woman in black. The visitors gulped and slurped. Amie went one step further and dunked her bread.
When Joseph raised an eyebrow at Amie’s boldness, she threw a piece of bread at him.
Joseph caught the chunk of bread and popped it in his mouth.
‘Just as bad,’ Amie joked in English.
‘So where did you say you were from?’ Hans wiped his mouth and waited for Joseph to finish his mouthful of bread.
Amie didn’t wait for Joseph to answer. ‘We’re, I mean, I’m from Adelaide.’
‘Adelaide? Hmm!’ Hans stroked his beard. ‘And, you? Young man? Are you from Adelaide too?’
Joseph covered his mouth and made a muffled sound.
‘Yes, I think.’ Amie could not help speaking for him. ‘He got lost in the bush and we had everyone looking for him. Even the aborigines.’
Joseph blushed. ‘I’m from the Adelaide Hills, just outside of Adelaide. And I’m not lost.’
‘Lost, you say? Mmmm!’ Herr Biar folded his napkin and placed it on the table. ‘So, where exactly were you before you became lost?’
‘I’m not lost. I’m on adventure. We both are.’
‘Where were you when you started this—adventure?’
Amie replied, ‘Central Australia, of course.’
‘Out West of the MacDonnell Ranges to be exact, where only the aborigines live. In the middle of the desert.’ Joseph took another chunk of bread and popped it in his mouth.
‘Why would they want to know that?’ Amie said under her breath to Joseph.
‘I don’t know. But perhaps they want more detail than just—Central Australia. It’s a big place. And Germans like detail.’
‘I mean, they must know that they are in Central Australia, or there is something wrong with them.’ Joseph scanned the room. ‘Or, maybe there is.’
‘Now, now, no need for a lovers’ quarrel,’ Frau Biar said. She then whisked up the dishes and ferried them to the kitchen.
Herr Biar leant back in his ornately carved Grandfather’s chair at the head of the table and placed his fingers in his vest pocket. His thumbs stuck out as if pleased with themselves. ‘Well, well, that’s settled then, is it not? I think we have answered all of the Frau’s questions. Indeed we are in Australia. And not that far from Adelaide, are we not?’
‘Not exactly—Adelaide’s—’Amie started, but the burghermeister had turned from her and was whispering to his wife. ‘—one thousand, five hundred…’ Amie concluded into the air.
‘Right, early start tomorrow,’ Herr Biar said to his wife and then turned back to Amie and Joseph. ‘Joseph, you will be with the doctor, Doctor Zwar. I will do the introductions. He has a nice home not far from here, with lots of rooms, just for visitors. And Amie, you will be with us—you can share a bed with Wilma, here. I think it will be good for her.’
Amie glanced about her and at Frau Biar. The Frau should protest at the arrangement, but she didn’t. With a sense of obligation, Amie and Joseph filed out of the dining hall behind Burghermeister Biar. At the door before parting, Amie caught Joseph by the arm. ‘First light tomorrow, we’re out of here.’
‘I don’t know.’
‘All right for you getting a room all to yourself in the doctor’s house, but I have to sleep next to a little girl. So annoying!’
‘You got any other suggestions?’ Joseph’s eyes lit up. ‘Perhaps you could get the doctor to put you up too. It would be nice to have you close by.’
‘Already am, so?’
‘LOL!’ Amie gave Joseph a gentle nudge. ‘Don’t you want see your family again? Don’t you want to go home?’
‘No, not particularly. Told you, you don’t know my family.’
‘Yeah, but, can’t be more crazy than these guys. I mean, talk about Dark Ages. They’re loonies.’
‘Better than my mum and dad.’
‘Impossible—besides, there’s no computers, mobile phones. I can’t live without my Ipad.’
‘You’ll survive, you’ll see. It’ll be a new experience for you.’ Joseph patted his back pocket. ‘Anyway, I have my digital camera, if you get techno-lonely.’
‘I’ll be fine,’ Amie said.
Frau Biar ushered Amie over to the Biar home. Once Herr Biar had delivered Joseph to Doctor Zwar’s, Herr and Frau Biar, Wilma and Amie crowded into the living area of the tiny brick home. Frau Biar swept dust off the mud-packed floor while Herr Biar showed Amie Wilma’s room. From the hallway, she noticed Friedrich in a small room lined with books. He riveted his eyes to the floor and did not see her.
A little later on, Amie poked her head out the door. Herr Biar was pacing towards the study, belt strap cradled in his palms. Amie gasped and then hid under the quilt and covered her ears with the feather stuffed pillow.
After the third thwack, a tiny voice beside her said in German, ‘He was a naughty boy, you know. He did play truant. He made Herr Roach very upset. Made him throw his machine hard across the room, he did. It broke into pieces. I guess he won’t be playing his magic slate anymore, will he?’
‘I guess not,’ Amie replied as she tried to block out the sobs from down the hallway.
‘Herr Roach taught us English,’ Wilma said. ‘Do you speak English?’
Amie blocked her ears from the muffled sniffs that seeped from the room next door. ‘Yes, I do. But it’s time for sleep,’ Amie said and then she rolled away from her companion.
‘Herr Roach, you know, he is mean,’ Wilma said.
‘Is he?’ Under the soft soothing feather down quilt, Amie’s mind spun, as she plotted her escape.
Wilma had the final word. ‘I don’t like Herr Roach.’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2017
Photo: Full Moon © Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2013