Revenge is best served with a side-salad of Schadenfreude
I have been doing some “housekeeping”, on the computer, that is, searching for files, and sorting them. I came across this tale from my high school days. Wish it were true, but more likely it’s wishful thinking from an over-active imagination.
However, as is the case with so many authors’ works, the following is based on real events, but the names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.
Sowing and Reaping
She perched on the kerb waiting. The minutes stretched, ticking into what seemed to her, an eternity. Cars whizzed past. With each car that emerged around the corner, the hope—her mum’s car. That battered blue FJ Holden, had suffered many knocks in its fifteen years of life. Like me, same age and having suffered hard knocks, she thought. But cars with anonymous drivers passed by and so did her hope…until she just sat…waiting…expectations drained…waiting.
A mixture of gloom and uneasiness had shadowed her all day. Ever since the first period, home class, when Dee, yes, that’s right, Dee, her arch enemy, had sidled up to her and hissed, ‘He’s mine, Lillie. He’s mine. He never liked you. He likes me.’
Dee slithered into her seat; pink lips pursed in a smile. She flicked her brown mane, and then glancing at Lillie, she smirked and then rubbed her hands together. ‘Mine!’ she mimed. ‘All mine.’
Lillie imagined Dee at that moment morphing from the budding model she was, into a female form of Gollum, bent on possessing the ring offered by her latest conquest—Danny. Why else was Dee gloating?
Lillie’s heart plummeted to the pit of her stomach. A drop of rain plopped on the pavement and sizzled. Lillie sighed. She’d seen him—Danny—that morning. Lofty, blonde hair tousled, framing his high cheek-bones, strong jaw and his face all tanned. But Danny hadn’t seen her. He never saw her.
On the way back from chapel, Danny had been walking behind her and she’d worried about her uniform. Was her dress hitched up in her regulation stockings? Autumn and the school demanded girls wear the winter uniform with the awful scratchy woollen skirt. The month of May in Australia, that day, hot and all steamed up, clouds billowing with purple bellies, threatening a storm, but not before all the students at College were fried having to wear their blazers as well as their uniforms woven in wool. The principal threatened suspension if they shed any part of their school attire.
Plop! Another drop. A rumble of thunder.
During the day, her usual foes added to her discomfort. She was already hot, sweaty, and itchy, and then they had to weigh in. On the way to English class, Dee and her clutch of fiends attacked from behind. They threw verbal abuse; the usual “stones” of “loser”, “dog” and “no one wants you, Lil”.
Lillie fixed her eyes ahead even as the heat rose to her cheeks. She trod up the stairs to Dee chanting, ‘Poor Lil, poor Lil, what a dill.’
As Lillie turned the corner of the stairs, she glanced down. Danny leaned against the rail. Dee slid up to him and pointed. ‘Hey look! She’s got a hole in her stocking. Poor Lil, poor Lil. Too poor to buy new stockings, Lil.’
Dee laughed and her gang joined in.
Lillie turned and continued plodding up the stairs.
‘Charge!’ Dee yelled.
At her command, Lillie quickened her pace. She knew what was coming. The thudding, the cries and the horde as her foes surged upon her. They crowded in and jostled her. Big beefy Twisty jammed her into the lockers and then bumbled down the corridor.
As Lillie straightened herself, Dee strode up to her and poked her. ‘He’s mine, understand?’ She then waved her hand in front of her nose. ‘Phew! You stink! B.O.!’
Danny lingered an arm’s length from Dee, and as she minced into English class, she blew him a kiss. Lillie’s stomach churned, and with her gaze riveted to the floor, she followed Dee into class. Her scalp prickled with the sense that the eyes of every class member had set upon her. Her orthodontic braces took on astronomical proportions and her pig-tails drooped like greasy strips of seaweed.
Then Scripture class. Just her luck! Lillie picked Dee’s name out of the Encouragement Box. So she had to find a verse from the Bible to encourage Dee. Dee? What sort of blessing could Lillie bestow on her worst enemy? The girl who had everything—popularity, beauty and a boyfriend.
Lillie opened up her Bible and picked out the first verse that caught her attention. She wrote down the verse from Galatians 6:7: “…for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” She plopped the note for Dee back into the box. From what she could tell, Dee seemed happy with her note, if not mildly miffed by the message.
After school, as she sat on the kerb waiting, Lillie reflected on the verse she received. Matthew 5:3: “Blessed are the poor in spirit…” She nodded and mused, That’d be right, Dee had me. Still, it does say I’m blessed.
A flash of lightning. A crack of thunder. Fat dollops of rain splatted on the footpath. Lillie sighed and muttered, ‘I’ll just have to risk getting laughed at. My mum’s car. What a relic! How embarrassing!’
She shrugged her bag full of books over her shoulder and sauntered to the shelter of the chapel. Rain pelted down on her and she sought refuge in an alcove hidden behind a diosma bush. There, she drew her knees up to her chin and sniffed. The rain and then the tears had melted her mascara. Her vision blurred. She drew a soggy tissue from her blazer pocket and wiped her eyes.
The downpour stopped. Fellow students emerged from shelter and straggled along the road to the carpark where their cars or parents in their shining white Commodores awaited them.
Lillie examined her calloused knees that had broken through the holes in her stockings. When would mum be able to afford new stockings? Dad and mum barely scraped together the school fees. ‘We go without for your education,’ mum says. Lillie had begun to understand how that worked in a posh school like this one. No friends, no choice but to study and get good grades.
A car screeched. Lillie looked up. She saw them. Dee and Danny. They held hands. Dee nestled into Danny’s side as he held an umbrella over her, even though the sun now shone casting an eerie golden glow over the gum trees and oval. Lillie winced.
The couple perched on the chain fence where they swung back and forth and whispered into each other’s ears. Lillie parted the diosma bush. She watched and cursed them as wrapped in each other’s arms they consumed each other’s lips.
‘Ugh! How could they? In public!’ Lillie muttered. ‘I hope the principal catches them and puts them on detention.’
Lillie heard a familiar roar. She stepped from the bush and strode towards the carpark.
The FJ Holden raced up the driveway, it’s wheels crushing the carpark’s gravel in its rush to meet Lillie. Dee and Danny remained oblivious in their passion on the chain fence.
Mum’s car cut through a large puddle. Water flew high in the air and then dumped on the couple.
Dee shrieked. They stood like two drenched rats, their legs and arms spread in their sodden clothes.
Now Dee really does look like Gollum, Lillie thought. Her nemesis’ mascara streamed down her face and made her eyes look like a panda’s and her hair was pasted on her head.
The couple glared at the FJ Holden as it screeched to a stop in front of Lillie. She smirked as she jerked open the white door of the mostly blue car and then scrambled in.
‘How was your day, dear?’ Mum asked.
‘You’re late,’ Lillie snapped.
As the FJ Holden with Lillie and her mum merged with the crowd of cars on the main road, Lillie glanced back and smiled. Revenge is best served cold…and wet.
Friedrich was sure it was his fault. He was always getting smacks or the belt from his father—usually for not polishing his boots perfectly. Or for spilling milk on the floor. But when he saw the blue line in the air, the urge to escape, was too great. This was not the first time he’d ventured beyond the thin blue line under the outhouse. He just had to go through the light—for Wilma…
Then bang. Everything went black…
Friedrich put out his hands and shuffled forward. He groped for a wall, a surface, anything to orient himself.
He tripped over some bulk. He fell onto it. It groaned.
Friedrich scrambled to his feet. His mouth went dry. It was like his heart, lungs and guts were in his mouth. Oh, no! I’m on an alien world without light and with groaning monsters.
The thing at his feet moaned. It sounded like a man.
Friedrich gulped. He knelt down. He held out his shaking hand. He touched something soft and greasy. Was that hair under his fingertips?
‘Who are you?’ he asked in his Silesian language. ‘What’s your name?’
The man-thing with hair moaned again and then mumbled what sounded like forbidden words in another language. He’d heard Joseph use such words when angry.
‘My name’s Friedrich,’ the boy said. ‘And you?’
‘Oh, the pain! The pain!’ the man-thing said in that strange language. It did sound like the tongue Joseph and Amie used. They spoke using similar sounds when they were together.
Friedrich presumed the man spoke English. But he knew few English words, so he still hoped the man understood his native language. ‘How are you?’
‘Oh, the pain! My stomach! My head!’
Friedrich traced the head, the shoulders, arms and distended stomach. ‘You’re a man, aren’t you?’ He patted the spongy surface in the middle.
The man groaned and squirmed.
‘You’re a sick man,’ Friedrich said using the word in his language “krank”.
‘Too right, I’m cranky!’ the man straightened up. He grabbed Friedrich’s wrist. ‘And who the heck are you?’
Friedrich shook his hand free from the man. How was he to make sense of this man in the dark? How was he to make this man understand him? Joseph and Amie could speak his native tongue, Silesian, but this man couldn’t, apparently. Friedrich rubbed his hand.
‘Who are you?’ the man asked. ‘Where the frick are we?’
The seven sat around the dining table in silence. The roast steamed in the centre. Candles either side guarded the meal. Thunder rumbled over the hills and mountains. Lightning flashed.
Boris nursed his ray-gun hand and then he placed it beside his knife; a reminder in case any member of the group chose not to cooperate, Joseph assumed.
‘Oh, I’m going to enjoy this,’ Boris purred. ‘Thank you, Herr and Frau Biar, for inviting me. I do apologise for not being at the service this morning. I had a little business to take care of.’ With an evil twinkle in his eye, he glanced at Amie. ‘How was the service?’
‘Boring,’ Friedrich said in a sing-song voice.
Frau and Herr Biar tightened their mouths. They frowned at Friedrich and shook their heads.
Wilma piped up. ‘Joseph and Amie are in love.’
‘I know,’ Boris looked at Herr Biar. ‘Well, aren’t you going to do the honours? Cut up the chicken. I’m sure you’re all dying for the roast.’
A black bug crawled out of the chook’s orifice. Everyone watched as it meandered across the tablecloth.
Boris drummed the table. ‘Come on! I’m hungry!’
Herr Biar sighed. He sharpened his knife and sliced off some chicken breast.
‘No! No! A proper cut! Cut the chicken open!’ Boris rose and stood over Herr Biar.
Herr Biar jabbed the knife in the centre and flayed the roast.
Cockroaches teamed from the cavity and over the plates, cutlery and vegetables.
Joseph flicked them as they sauntered over his plate. Amie shook them off her dress.
‘Come on! Cut the meat up Biar!’ Boris raised his voice. ‘We want to eat.’
Herr Biar served portions onto the plates. Boris helped. He scooped up the black stuffing and slopped a spoonful on every plate. The stuffing reeked of a rancid stench that filled the room.
‘Now, the vegetables,’ Boris said. ‘Frau serve the vegetables. We must have our vegetables.’
Frau Biar lifted with fork and knife, the roast potatoes garnished with cockroach entrails and plopped them on the plates. Then she added the steamed peas and carrots mixed with bugs.
Six stunned people studied their portions of festering food, not daring to touch it. Boris presided over the group. He grinned from ear to ear, imitating the Cheshire cat from “Alice in Wonderland”, as he poured lumpy gravy over the chicken on each plate.
‘Go on, eat up,’ he urged. ‘Oh, and by the way, Amie and Joseph, I have your families—just where I want them.’
Joseph tracked a couple of roaches tumbling in the gravy.
By the light of the “hand of God” cloud, that hadn’t moved, Amie galloped to the chook yard.
Herr Biar and his son Friedrich paced the pen. Herr Biar carried an axe.
‘It’s over there,’ Friedrich said. With hands outstretched, he ran to the corner of the hen house.
The chooks whooped and bocked in protest. Something feathery skittered out into the yard with Friedrich in hot pursuit. Herr Biar joined the chase. Round and round the pen they ran. Tracking their frantic laps made Amie dizzy.
Amie mused. What were they doing chasing some small feathery animal, probably the rooster? Did his crowing tick them off that much, they get up in the middle of the night to kill the poor bird?
Rays of a torch lit up the scene. ‘Wicked! A headless chook!’ a voice said behind her.
Amie glanced over her shoulder. Joseph stood there grinning like the Cheshire cat. ‘What do you mean, headless?’ she asked.
Leading the father and son on a merry chase, a rooster’s body. Blood spurted out of the open neck. Hens pecked at the detached head. They looked like they were enjoying a feast.
Meanwhile, Biar and his son cornered the headless creature. Father made a grab for it, but it ducked out of his reach. Friedrich hurled himself on the rooster’s body, but with a life of its own, it slipped from his tackle.
Friedrich rose to standing and dusted poultry poop off his shirt and trousers. ‘That beast is not normal. It has eyes on its body, I swear.’
‘Why do you think we kill it?’ his Papa said.
Biar darted left, his son right, again trying to trap the unruly body. But the ball of feathers and muscle darted in between them.
‘It’s got a life of its own,’ Joseph said.
‘It’s one very angry body,’ Amie said. ‘It didn’t like them chopping its head off. Why did they do it?’
Joseph leaned close to Amie and whispered, ‘I heard Herr Biar talking to his Frau last night at dinner. Apparently, the cock has been fathering defective stock.’
‘Stock? What do you mean? Mutant chickens?’
‘Yes, not surprisingly, knowing this place. Look around. Look up at the sky. How could the chickens come out normal?’
[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!’
A Story where the past and present, and vast distances in space intersect…and Boris does what he always does…
Eastern Europe, 1848
Prussian War raged, and the Wends as a village, left their homeland, with plans to set sail for Australia. From the Eastern edge of Prussia, they journeyed on a barge destined for Hamburg’s port, where they hoped to catch a cheap fare in the cargo-hold of a ship destined for the Promised Great South Land.
These villagers, never made their Australian destination. No one ever noticed, nor missed them. The neighbouring villagers assumed they had arrived in the Great Southern Land, and considered them so far away, and too distant to maintain contact. In Adelaide, also, the city for which they headed, the inhabitants were blissfully unaware of their existence. Migrating Prussians had taken their place in the over-flowing cargo-hold and were sailing across the Atlantic to Australia.
On this barge, headed by a man, Boris Roach, the Wends sang hymns of praise to God for their liberation from religious persecution, and the war. They looked to the promise of prosperity and freedom to worship God according to the Word. Their hope that their children and their descendants may thrive in their faith in the Promised Land of South Australia.