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1635 The Dreeson Incident: Chapter Eight

       Last updated: Monday, July 28, 2008 06:55 EDT



State of Thuringia-Franconia

    Dear Nathan,

    Chandra Prickett wished that she still had a pencil with an eraser on it. She still had plenty of pencils. There had been a lot of pencils around the house when the Ring of Fire hit. A whole ceramic pot full of pencils of various lengths. Plus a hand-cranked pencil sharpener, which still worked and didn’t show any signs of quitting. And, when she had looked around and made an inventory of their stuff, a lot more pencils here and there. Like two in the kitchen, one fastened to the refrigerator with a magnet and one tied onto a hook screwed into the wall by the sink where she kept her grocery list.

    She wasn’t going to run out of pencils any time soon.

    Ball point pens were another story.

    None of the pencils had erasers any more, though. Since Nathan went down to Suhl last year, she had chewed them all off while she was trying to write letters to him.

    Dear Nathan.

    No. She’d already written that.

    What could she say, if she didn’t want to sound whiny? She hated sounding whiny.

    Dad got married again over in Fulda, which is why I’m writing an extra letter, in spite of what postage costs. She’s Clara Bachmeierin from Badenburg. She’s a widow and has been over there for eighteen months or so, helping the administration handle the abbot, after he went back.

    Deflect what she could deflect.

    So they’ve known each other quite a while and they’ve been working together. Mom’s been gone three years, now.

    The metal band on the top of this pencil had tooth marks. Doc Sims had told her not to bite on those any more, after she went in to have a chipped tooth smoothed down.

    We’d been sort of wondering if he’d ever take the big step again, so Lenore and I are both real happy for him. I hope that you will be, too. Bryant’s in Magdeburg, of course, so Lenore doesn’t know what he thinks about it. Weshelle is getting to be a big girl, now. She’s already pulling herself up on the furniture.

    Dad’s going to transfer back to Grantville, to take over the SoTF consular service for Ed Piazza. Clara will be coming back with Dad. Maybe you could take a couple of weeks off, over the holidays, and come meet her, especially since I hear that you’re being transferred to Frankfurt.

    That was okay. It didn’t say, “Our little twin girls are now nine months old and you haven’t been home to see them yet.” It didn’t sound whiny.

    We all hope and pray that the war will be over pretty soon.

    That was safe enough.

    Mikey has started all-day kindergarten and I’ve put Tom into preschool three mornings a week this year. The money you’re having put into our bank account every month is plenty to cover that. I’m sending him to the St. Veronica’s school that Mayor Dreeson’s wife Ronnie runs. We all hope that she gets home safe after the problems this summer. I sort of decided about the school at the last minute, after I talked to Paige. She thinks it’s better for the kids to start learning German right away, these days.

    That was good. That would tell him that she expected to be here in Grantville the whole school year. That she wasn’t going to do something he didn’t want her to, like packing up all four kids and going off on her own to wherever he was working.

    I hope that the guys who have their wives in Suhl now invite the rest of you over for home cooking every now and then.

    Your Uncle Simon will be home from Italy, pretty soon. Aunt Mary Ellen says they should be here early next month. He’s coming back with Ron and Gerry Stone. He must have had an exciting time there with Father Mazzare, especially in Rome this summer. I wonder what it’s like to meet a pope.

    Well, anyway, that’s the news this week. I guess I’d better quit, since I’m coming to the end of this page and don’t want to start another one, what with paper and postage costing what they do these days.

    Love from all of us.


    She’d drop it at the post office on her way to pick up Tom from St. Veronica’s.

    So she wouldn’t cry, because she didn’t want Pam or Bernita to see tears on her cheeks.

    She didn’t have a job that was keeping her in Grantville. She was a plain vanilla housewife. Why was Nathan so dead set against having her join him?




    Dear Chandra,

    Nathan Prickett sighed. He didn’t want to write this.

    I know I’m not much of a correspondent. But look, we’ve been married for going on ten years now, and I can see through you like a pane of glass.

    He looked down at Chandra’s latest letter again. Transparent, all right. Hint, hint, hint. Why couldn’t she leave it be?

    He wanted another beer, but he wasn’t going to have one. He was strict with himself about that, come what may. Some guys claimed that a man couldn’t become a drunk on beer, but it wasn’t true. A mug with lunch and a mug with supper. That was going to be it, Ring of Fire or no Ring of Fire. As far as that went, it was twice as much as he used to drink, back home.

    He’d had his life planned. Graduate from high school, go into the army for four years, go to college. It hadn’t worked quite that way, but pretty close. He’d come out after three years with a skilled trade; joined the Army Reserves, gotten a job in manufacturing in Fairmont, and concentrated on making foreman as fast as possible. He’d done it, too, all the while living with his parents in Grantville, saving his money, going to church regularly, playing baseball for fun. Baseball was pretty cheap fun. Girlfriends, but only one really serious.

    He hadn’t planned on Chandra. She just happened to him. He must have seen her now and then when she was a kid, but he hadn’t noticed her. Then all of a sudden, one day, there she was. It had been sort of like finding a sinkhole in his front yard. The size sinkhole that can swallow a man’s car whole and then start working on the house.

    No, he sure hadn’t planned on Chandra. He’d done his best to fit her into his plans, though. By the time he was close to making foreman, he started dating her, which her parents did not like much, since he was seven years older and she was still in high school. But his folks were good Methodists too, like Wes and Lena, and nobody could say that he wasn’t a responsible churchgoing, man.

    After he proposed and she accepted, the fall of her senior year, Wes Jenkins had a talk with them about being willing to go ahead and pay for her to go to college after they married, if Nathan was willing for her to commute to Fairmont—no big problem, since Nathan worked there anyway.

    Chandra had gotten a bit antsy. The “go to college while married” idea had appealed to her some. He’d had to get up on his high horse about “I’m able to support my own wife” and say “no way, José.” After all, now he was planning for Chandra to work for four or five years after they married, which should cover the extra expense of buying their own place instead of living with their respective parents, and by that time, he should have enough ahead to start his own business.

    She’d almost backed out of the engagement after that, so he started putting on a bit of steam in the sex area and like the good little girl she was, she wasn’t about to let him go even a half inch further in any direction than they had already gone until she actually had a wedding ring on the third finger of her left hand. And that was the kind of girl he had wanted as a wife, really. So she went along with his ideas and they got married right after she graduated.

    Putting on the steam hadn’t been a bit of a problem, the way he had reacted to her then. He still did now, for that matter, every time he laid eyes on her, every time he laid hands on her, every time he laid her, which was what had caused the current mess.

    Mikey arrived four and a half years after they got married, right on schedule. They’d saved every cent Chandra earned up to that point and had enough for a really good down payment on a house in Grantville. It wouldn’t have gone nearly as far in Fairmont.

    When the Ring of Fire came, Chandra was five months along with Tom. She was being a stay-at-home mom, the way they’d planned. He’d put enough money in the bank to leave the factory and go out on his own. Then it happened and everything fell in. He didn’t care for unplanned events and you had to say that the Ring of Fire was as unplanned as things came. Well, everything collapsed except that Tom was a second boy, so they had the perfect family, exactly what he had hoped for.

    He’d found work right away, with the Mechanical Support Division, but it didn’t pay anything like what he was earning before, and the mortgage on the house was on contract with the seller who made it through the Ring of Fire too, so they didn’t have any windfall there. They had to keep paying. And it looked like he wouldn’t ever have a business of his own, even though he at least had the savings account in the Grantville bank, so he didn’t lose the money.

    They seemed to be doing okay, not losing ground, at least, but then, hell, he couldn’t keep his hands off her when they were right there in the same house and bed, so she got pregnant again. Unplanned.

    Probably what he said when she told him hadn’t been the best comment he could have come up with. “How could you possibly do anything so stupid?” Especially considering that it took two to tango. He was ashamed of himself later, but couldn’t make himself apologize, so they sort of jogged along until he got the chance to buy into this new firm in Suhl and took it. She’d been six months along, then.

    The third pregnancy turned out to be twins. Girls.

    It had been nice of her to name them for both of their moms, and the “Sue” and “Lou” rhyme for the middle names was sort of cute. He wished…

    Damn it, he was staying out of Grantville and Chandra was staying in Grantville; that was the end of it. He didn’t have to worry that she would start fooling around on him, not the kind of girl she was. The business in Suhl was doing well. They were opening up the new branch in Frankfurt. He’d already gone back and forth a couple of times because he was in charge of training the militia there on how to use the new weapons. He was making a lot more money here than he ever could have again if he had stayed at home and he liked all the guys he was working with. The down-timers had as much energy and smarts as any up-timer he had ever met. But he wasn’t going to give in to her whining about wanting to come and join him. No way was he going to end up fathering a dozen children like some backwoods redneck hillbilly, digging his own grave with his penis, never being able to better himself. He was supporting her and the kids, wasn’t he? The two extras as well as Mikey and Tom? What more could she reasonably ask?

    I’ve told you my reasons. You know yourself that schools for the kids are better in Grantville. They can have real teachers, not home schooling, and I’m not about to start in on health care again.

    Give it up, honey. I’m working out of town now and you’re staying put. And I don’t have the time or money to come running back and forth to Grantville on vacation, the stage the business is in now. Not even when I’m on my way from here to Frankfurt. I go down the other way, south of the Thüringerwald.

    But I will write Mom and Dad oftener. Promise.

    Say Hi! to Wes and the new bride for me. I hope, given the way it happened, that the old biddies like Veda Mae Haggerty aren’t giving you and Lenore too much grief. That could get embarrassing. I guess I’ll meet her when I meet her, more or less.

    Love to all of you.


    That was about all there was to say.

    He picked up another sheet of paper.

    Dear Don Francisco.

    He always felt like it wasn’t very polite of him to write to the don that way, but the don said himself that it was correct and “Don Nasi” would be the wrong form, even though a lot of people in Grantville used it because they were trying to be polite themselves.

    Nathan sighed. A guy could get himself into the damnedest things, without even trying. Just because he’d already been working in Suhl and knew Ruben Blumroder when that “selling arms to the enemy” thing blew up eighteen months ago….

    Somehow or other—he still couldn’t quite figure how it had happened—Nathan had gotten talked into becoming Nasi’s agent in Frankfurt. Or one of his agents. Nathan was pretty sure he wasn’t the only one. Don Francisco was the kind of guy for whom the saying “have a second string to your bow” came automatically.




    “Thanks for coming over, Paige. I didn’t want to embarrass you but… I guess I was to the point where I had to ask.”

    “It’s okay, Chandra.” Paige Modi picked up her cup. “You were bound to be thinking about it, I guess, considering that some of the other Grantville guys who’ve spent so much time out of town are ditching their first wives. But honestly, there’s not a shred of anything. Not so much as a whisper that Nathan has been seeing some other woman down in Suhl. Or over in Frankfurt, when he goes there for Blumroder.”

    Chandra stirred some honey into her herbal tea. She didn’t really like the taste all that much, but that was what she had. There wasn’t a lot of point in spending money for sugar. It was a lot more expensive than honey. The down-time sugar tasted a little funny, too, and was sort of a tannish-gold color.

    “What’s weird,” she said, “is that I don’t know whether that makes me feel better or worse. I know that it makes me feel more up in the air. If Nathan was seeing someone else… Well, at least I’d know why this is happening.”

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