1636 The Devil’s Opera – Snippet 11

“No more than the man deserved.” He folded his arms around his wife. Her arms went around his waist, and she laid her head on his shoulder. They stood that way for a moment, then he murmured, “I am sorry.”

          She leaned back head and looked at him. “For what?”

“For allowing that fool to come and disturb you, and for not warning you what the Lutherans and Calvinists teach about . . .” He couldn’t finish the sentence.

“About children like Alison.” Marla completed it for him, and he nodded. “That’s okay, dear.” She raised a hand to his cheek for a moment, then gave him an impish grin that brought warmth to his heart. “Lennie came by last week, remember?”

Lennon Washaw was a Grantviller Methodist deacon who resided in Magdeburg now. He was a good and kind man who was a lay preacher for those up-timers who had gravitated to Magdeburg, whether Methodist or not, who were not comfortable with the various down-timer congregations in the town. He had spoken at Alison’s funeral, and was held in high esteem by both Marla and Franz. For all that Franz didn’t agree with the man on several points of doctrine, he knew and trusted Herr Washaw to care for their welfare more than any of the Lutheran pastors in Magdeburg — Pastor Nicolai in particular now being a case in point.


“Well, one of the reasons he did was to warn me of this very thing. He knew that it was going to come up sooner or later, and he wanted to prepare me for it.”

“Ah.” Franz began to smile in return. “And so you knew which scripture to quote to a pastor.”

“Yep.” Marla giggled, hugged him tight, then released him. “Now, aren’t we supposed to be meeting Mary soon?”


          Simon jumped up the steps of Das Haus Des Brotes. He opened the door and hurried through, panting. He’d run the last few blocks to the bakery because he thought he might be late. Once inside, he looked for Frau Zenzi — Frau Kreszentia Traugottin verh. Ostermännin, mistress of the bakery — but she was busy with a late customer, so he stepped into the back, found the broom and went to work.

The boy swept the broom across the floorboards of the bakery with care. Frau Zenzi always inspected his work, so he needed to do his best. He concentrated on the corners with special care. The coarse twigs of the broom were hard to maneuver, especially one-handed. Not for the first time in his young life he cursed his right arm where it hung straight by his side, just as it had for as far back as he could remember.

He couldn’t remember just when he noticed that he was different from other children, that his right arm wouldn’t work. But as far back as he had clear memories, it had always hung limp. He did remember crying about it when he was little, screaming about it. When he was older, he remembered praying about it. And then there were the times when he would sit and try by force of will to make it move. But no matter how he willed it, no matter how he strained, the response, always, was nothing. The arm hung there like a limb broken from a tree but still hanging by some shred of tissue or bark, just like now.

And of course, since the arm didn’t work, the musculature had atrophied — withered — early in Simon’s life, leaving it looking like nothing so much as a dead twig. He’d never known anything else. The left arm, however, since it had to do the work that the two healthy arms of normal people would do, was very well developed and strong. Other people were sometimes surprised by just how much Simon could do with his one good hand.

Simon stopped sweeping for a moment. He no longer grew angry with himself or his arm. It was what it was. He mostly just worked out ways to do what he needed to do one-handed. But sometimes he grew irritated at the way it flopped around, like it was doing now. He placed the broom between his legs, reached over with his left hand and with a practiced motion hooked his right hand and stuffed it in his jacket pocket. There, he thought. Now he could finish the sweeping without his arm getting in the way.

Just before he grasped the broom again, Simon looked at his left hand, closing and opening his fingers. If he ignored his right arm most of the time, the reverse was true of his left. It was never far from his thoughts. What would he do if he ever hurt that hand? It was a constant fear. Life was difficult one-handed — he could barely imagine the hell it would be if he had no hands.

Back to sweeping, he told himself. He swept the back area, then moved out to the front room where Frau Zenzi met her customers. She brushed by him as he swept along. Again, he took pains with the corners.

“Simon?” Frau Zenzi’s voice came from the back of the bakery, and he could hear her steps approaching. “Are you done yet?” The mistress of the bakery appeared in the door from the rear.

“Almost, Frau Zenzi.” One of the things that Simon really liked about the mistress was that she let everyone call her by her nickname. A large woman with a broad friendly face, she was not one to ordinarily stand on position. She was a caring woman, as well, who often would tend to the unfortunates of Magdeburg. In fact, she had taken a young blind boy named Willi into her household recently. Her husband, the baker Anselm Ostermann, would simply shake his head and smile whenever she added another person to her list of special people.