[An Extract from my new novel, The Lost World of the Wends]
World of the Wends, Luthertal—the Other Side of the Galaxy
Jane suspended her potato peeling and looked out the window to the dam. Alpine mountains cast shadows over the valley where the men were digging up potatoes. One minute she remembered singing hymns on a barge floating down the Elbe, the next, they were in ready-made community houses and she was peeling potatoes for the midday dinner. Jane frowned as she tore slivers of skin off the potato. She peered through the hoary window, into the dazzling light, searching. Herr Boris Roach had assured them they had reached the Promised Land—Australia. Now that they were here, settled, and with questions…he turned cruel; more like the rulers they’d fled than the friendly man he’d been. Questions? Herr Boris Roach forbade questions.
Jane yawned, then sighed and began chopping. Her vision blurred, and the knife shaved the top of her thumb. She put the injured digit to her mouth and paused. She checked her thumb. Ah—no blood. With a bread and butter knife, Jane slathered the potato quarters with butter. She stopped. Studying the empty path winding down from the mountain, she pulled at her fringe. Stray wisps escaped from her scalp and she watched them fall through her fingers. One hair laced itself over the tray and onto a greasy quarter demanding to be roasted. She extracted it and placed the tray in the wood oven.
Lunchtime and the men returned from farming to gather in the communal dining hall. Hans, Jane’s husband and village bürgermeister (mayor) gave God thanks and sat down to the roast beef and vegetables.
Jane looked directly at him. ‘Hans, what is going on?’
‘What do you mean?’ Hans spoke through a mouthful of meat.
‘All this! It just doesn’t make sense.’
‘Looks normal to me.’
‘But it’s not right.’
‘You should be grateful for the land God has given us.’
‘Papa, the sky’s so purple,’ Friedrich, their son of twelve, said. He rubbed his nose and gazed out the window at the end of the rough timber table.
Hans leaned forward and peered out the window. ‘Purple? It looks blue to me.’ He sat back down on the bench. ‘Anyway, this is Australia, there’s bound to be a few differences.’
‘But it’s so hot!’ Wilma, his five-year-old daughter fanned herself with the prayer book.
‘I don’t understand, dear. They never said it would be so hot.’ Jane hid her mouth from the fellow diners. ‘I’ve had to dispense with all the petticoats, or I’d faint from the heat.’
Hans threw back his melon-shaped head in mock horror. ‘Oh, dear! That is terrible! What would people think?’
‘Mama!’ Wilma screamed. ‘There’s a cockroach in my prayer book!’
© Lee-Anne Marie Kling 2021
Feature Photo: Austrian Alps © L.M. Kling 2014