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1635 The Dreeson Incident: Chapter Twenty Seven

       Last updated: Friday, November 7, 2008 20:04 EST




    Pam Hardesty looked at the newspaper. Blinked, and looked again.

    That’s what it said, all right. Under the column headed MARRIAGES:

    MAUGER, Laurent, of Haarlem, Netherlands, and HARDESTY, Velma, of Grantville, at City Hall.

    The groom wore a scarlet satin suit with a lace collar and black patent leather boots. The bride wore a lavender vinyl wrap dress and matching backless, toeless high-heeled slip-on sandals. They exchanged rings. Official witnesses were Jacques-Pierre Dumais, formerly of La Rochelle, now of Grantville, and Veda Mae Haggerty, of Grantville. The groom is a wine merchant well-known as a frequent visitor to our town. The bride was most recently employed as a waitress at the 250 Club.

    "Goddam her," she hissed, half under her breath. It would be just like her mother Velma to get re-married without even bothering to mention it to her own children.

    Pam grabbed the telephone. There was no way to reach her half-brother Cory Joe Lang quickly, but she could at least reach her half-sister Susan Logsden. That was more important anyway, since Susan was still a teenager.

    "Grandpa Ben," she wailed. "Have you seen the Times? Page three, column four. I’m at work, so I’m going to check in Principal Saluzzo’s office for her class schedule, find Susan, and tell her before some spiteful little bitch does. In the meanest way possible, of course. High school is the pits. You and Grandma Gloria better come, too. Yeah, I know it’s too far for her to walk. Take the trolley; everybody else does."



    "I could scarcely believe she wore that dress. And talk about a pair of slut shoes." Veda Mae swallowed the last of her spinach pudding.

    Jacques-Pierre had scarcely been able to believe the dress at all. Much less that anyone would wear it. However, who was he to question Madame Hardesty’s sartorial preferences? They had served their purposes - and, more to the point, his purposes. The happy couple had already departed for the Netherlands. With even the slightest amount of luck, he would never be obliged to speak with Velma Hardesty again.

    "Mauger seemed to have a favorable enough view of her choice."

    "How would he know what’s good taste or not? Satin and lace on a man. I remember those clothes people wore when Schmidt from Badenburg married Delia Higgins’ daughter Ramona. Stupid little whore. Trousers blown up like balloons. They have to have stuffing inside. What is he, a fag?"

    Jacques-Pierre reviewed the progress of the match he had initiated, from introduction to, presumably, consummation. "I seriously doubt it."

    Veda Mae snorted.

    "Mauger and his first wife had several children."

    "What does that tell anybody? You have no idea how many politicians they used to catch, back up-time, with perfectly nice wives and children, from the pictures that the papers published afterwards, doing what they shouldn’t in men’s restrooms at truck stops or lay-byes on the highways."

    He nodded.

    "This so-called emperor of the USE. Have you seen some of the clothes he wears? Purple. Silver embroidery. Ruffles on his cuffs. And he’s left his wife up there in Sweden by herself for years at a time, now. That tells you something, doesn’t it?"

    Jacques-Perre sipped his coffee, thinking rather abstractedly that Madame Haggerty was in rare form, tonight. As loquacious as always and spiteful to boot. Now, what more fruitful topic might he introduce into the conversation?

    "I have heard that one of the Kelly Aviation planes has been taken on a test flight."

    "By Lannie Yost, that stupid sot. With Keenan Murphy, who can’t shoot at all. And Buster Beasley’s kid, Denise. Bob Kelly has to be nuts to send up a crew like that."

    "There are some rumors that he didn’t approve the flight in advance."

    "Probably too henpecked."

    "His wife approved it?"

    "Not that I know of. Kelly and his wife are outsiders, you know. He was here in Grantville working on a construction project. They got stuck. And stuck-up is what Kay Kelly is. Serves her right to have to spend the rest of her life in some little hick town. Which is how she sees it, I’m sure. That’s probably why she accepted the nomination."

    "What nomination?"

    "To run against Chad Jenkins on the Crown Loyalist ticket. For the seat that Kraut wife of Mike Stearns is giving up. Talk about scraping the bottom of the barrel - they managed to find someone lower than von Drachhausen. Bottom of the barrel for both parties. When Chad served a term as county commissioner, up-time, he was a real fizzle."


    "But I suppose there’s one bright spot. No matter which of them wins, at least it won’t be a Kraut."



    He could scarcely ask Madame Haggerty to give him a good reason for someone to demonstrate against the Grantville hospital.

    She gave him one, without his asking. Truly, the woman was a free gift.

    It came in the course of a long recitation of her quasi-medical grievances against what he had learned was called "the establishment." In this case, "the medical establishment" and the physicians whose diagnoses had denied her late husband’s right to receive certain benefits for "black lung disability" prior to the Ring of Fire. Madame Haggerty was quite certain that he had been entitled to them, no matter what the doctors claimed that the x-rays showed.

    Her specific complaint in this matter escalated into resentment of the medical profession as a whole. Particularly the portion of it that managed the Bowers Assisted Living Center, where she worked.

    It would not have occurred to Jacques-Pierre that such a manifest benefit as the prevention of smallpox would have been controversial among the up-timers. However, she brought him a group of "alternative medicine" pamphlets she had found stuffed into the drawer of a lamp table in the vestibule of the assisted living center. By, Madame Haggerty said, somebody who obviously understood "what those quacks who call themselves doctors are up to."

    The pamphlets had been very valuable in allowing him to develop the medical rationale that would be used by the protesters at Leahy Medical Center.

    He wondered what the Canadian Chiropractic Association had been. Canada, to the best of his knowledge, was very sparsely populated by French settlers, but these pamphlets had been printed in English. The members of the organization had, in any case, been vociferous in their opposition to vaccinations, inoculations, and immunizations. Since the up-time doctors, through the new medical school in Jena, were at the forefront of a campaign to introduce these ways of warding off smallpox, the discovery that there had been up-time opposition to the practice was a delight.

    Yes, given his current assignment from Mauger, it was a delight and a comfort to learn that not all up-time influence would be pulling in the same direction. After some questioning, he had discovered that there were a few, though not many, Grantvillers who shared this philosophy.

    He took the pamphlets to the Grantviller who called himself a chiropractor. That did not turn out to be very rewarding. The man did not agree with their contents. But his usual presentation of himself as a humble seeker of enlightenment had been quite successful. The man had shown him other materials of the same type that he had collected at "conventions." These appeared to be equivalent to diets or parliaments, but conducted by "professional associations," which were not the same as guilds, but in some ways comparable. The materials had confirmed the existence of differences of opinion.

    He notified Mauger.

    And Duke Henri, of course, although the duke had never displayed the slightest interest in the topic of vaccinations, pro or con.

    He duplicated a couple hundred copies of the anti-vaccination pamphlets for use in central Thuringia. Mauger wrote, saying that he should mail a couple of copies to Frankfurt for printing and distribution from there.

    They would soon be circulating quite widely throughout the USE. No one would be surprised when protesters inspired by their contents appeared in Grantville.



    "Hey, Katerina, come in," Missy called from her perch among the pie crusts. "I can use some company. This is our cousin Chandra. Lenore is over at Bryant’s sister’s." Missy proceeded with the pie crusts.

    About fifteen minutes later, Debbie shooed Katerina outside to join Chip. "Go out with the guys," she said. "This kitchen isn’t all that big to start with, and it’s getting crowded. They’re around in the side yard."

    "Poor kid," Missy said. "I sort of like her, but talk about a fish out of water."

    "They’re not likely to settle in Grantville. The kind of career that Chip’s aiming at, she’ll be in her normal habitat ninety percent of the time, at least. And, as your dad says, a real asset to him."



    "Hey, Katerina, come on," Chip called. "I’ve got more family for you. Meet my uncle, Wes Jenkins, and his new wife, Clara. And Mikey, he’s Chandra’s oldest. She managed to get the other three down for naps right after she got here, or they would all be out here running us ragged. Plus Ron and Gerry Stone. Ron’s sort of informally attached to Missy and Gerry is his brother. Uncle Wes, this is my just-about-to-be-a-fiancée Katerina."

    Wes smiled. "I would offer to shake hands," he said, "except that I am carrying two dozen eggs."

    Chip turned to the older woman. "I guess you’re my Aunt Clara now, aren’t you."

    She smiled. "Oh, yes. Though I have been someone’s Aunt Clara for many years, already." Clara stood on her tiptoes, kissed Wes on the cheek, took the eggs from his hands, and said, "Have fun with Mikey. I’m going to run in and help Debbie and the girls."



    Chandra looked out the window, noticed that Mikey had diverted Grandpa and Clara as well as the boys for a visit to the swing set and that Katerina had found them. Then she sighed.

    "Aunt Debbie?"


    "Have you noticed anything different about Lenore, lately?"

    "Like what?"

    "Lenore’s quite a bit like Mom, you know. She’s never been right up front when it comes to expressing her own opinion about anything."

    "Yes." Debbie sighed. "Every Thanksgiving, when we were deciding who would bring what, Lena would always say, ‘everybody else pick and I’ll bring whatever is left on the list.’"

    "That was Mom. Sometimes, at dinner, Dad would ask her questions for fifteen or twenty minutes trying to find out if she actually had a preference about where we were going on vacation or what color car they should buy. He was always awfully patient about it. More than I was, once I got into my teens," Chandra admitted.


    "So Bryant isn’t patient like that with Lenore, Aunt Debbie. And he doesn’t care at all what she wants, as far as I can tell. He was sort of squashing her between when he got back from Magdeburg and when he left for Frankfurt. At least, he was trying to. Lenore doesn’t ever really want to speak up for herself. She’s like Mom that way, but this time, she dug in her heels. He wasn’t listening. I’m not looking forward to having him get back from Frankfurt next month."

    There was a tap, or a light kick to be more precise, at the back door. Missy, hands still sticky, opened up. Clara was waiting. "Hello Debbie, Chandra, Missy. Sorry, my hands are full, but it is eggs, because I promised to show you how to make the egg-glazed flatbreads we always had for the autumn Kirmess."

    Missy took the eggs so that Clara could get her cloak off, without interrupting the preceding conversation. "Like you said, Bryant isn’t even in town most of the time, any more," she protested to Chandra. "He’s off working on these big fire prevention projects. Lenore pretty much has to cope on her own."

    "That doesn’t keep him from trying to boss her. This time, she honestly doesn’t want to do what Bryant is telling her she has to. Not one little bit. I sort of like being a stay-at-home mom, but she went to all the trouble of learning how to read the German handwriting and stuff. She liked what she was doing at work and she doesn’t want to give it up permanently. Lenore didn’t mind staying home for a while after Weshelle was born. Well, she did, really, even though she went along with him on it, but Weshelle is completely weaned now, old enough that she doesn’t have to be an ‘office baby.’ I can keep her along with my kids."

    "What is this leading up to?" Debbie asked.

    Chandra looked around from where she was chopping onions for the stuffing. "Lenore’s going to go back to work after New Year’s. She’s already set things up with the judge."

    "Isn’t that going to cause major problems?" Debbie frowned.

    "I don’t know if they’ll get to be ‘major’ as long as Bryant is out of town. All he can do from someplace like Frankfurt or Magdeburg is write letters complaining about it. But she hasn’t told him. She’s trying to evade. That’s what bothers me. I’m getting nervous about what might happen when he comes back later on and finds out that she is working again, if she doesn’t tell him that she’s going to first. Or if someone who doesn’t realize how touchy things are right now happens to mention that she’s going to while he’s here over Christmas. And now that Dad’s back, she’s likely to ask him to back her up against Bryant."

    "Oh." Missy frowned, glancing over at Clara, who was constructing the pastries. Uncle Wes had a temper, sometimes. She wondered if Clara knew that, yet. Probably. They’d worked together long enough.

    "You’re smart to be taking the librarian training," Chandra said. "Dad would have been happier, you know, if we had both gone through college. Not Lenore taking a few courses here and there and me not going at all because I married Nathan right out of high school. I wasn’t really thinking about it, then. Mom only finished high school, after all, and Nathan thought that I needed to work. But since he’s been out of town on this armaments business, I’m beginning to think that Dad was right."

    "Any change in that argument?" Missy asked.

    "No, Nathan still doesn’t want me to come to Frankfurt. He’s still saying that health care and schools for the kids are so much better here in Grantville, and that’s true enough. But he’s been gone more than a year and a half. Other guys in other cities have their wives with them, now. And their kids. And he’s only come home once. Suhl wasn’t that far away, but he’s never even seen Lena Sue and Sandra Lou. They’re a year old, now. It’s scarcely worth making a cake for the first birthday, is it? Sugar is so expensive. They don’t really know what’s going on, yet, and it’s not as if we can take snapshots any more. And he’s not coming for Christmas. I took the kids to that new old-fashioned photography shop downtown and got their picture taken together, to send him for a present. But if . . ."

    "If he hasn’t come by spring, I’m going to Frankfurt, whether he wants me to or not. Just to see what’s going on. That was one thing that I wanted to ask you, Aunt Debbie. If I go to Frankfurt in the spring, could you and Missy keep the kids for a few weeks? Even though you’re managing the teacher training now and she’s going to school?"

    "I’m sure we can."

    Chandra looked down at the onions again, blaming them for the tears in her eyes. "Don’t skimp on the teacher training program, though. If, well, if things don’t work out with Nathan in the long run, I may need it. Or something."

    Tom, up from his nap, came wandering down the hall barefoot.

    Missy looked up. "Who’s on babysitting patrol?"

    "You take it, honey," Chandra said. "Get all three of them up, will you, and then take them out where Katerina and the guys are to run off some steam before we start eating.

    "And talk to Katerina. She’s bound to be feeling a little out of it. Keep her company."



    "Nani and Pop are having dinner with Aura Lee and Joe. Ray’s family will be there, too. They all decided to go to Aura Lee’s when we decided not to have dinner at home but come over to Gran’s instead." Missy’s tone was very neutral.

    "Presumably," Chip said, "Nani has her nose a bit out of joint because the rest of us are here."

    "She was expecting a formal presentation of Katerina."

    "There’s time after dinner. Katerina and I can walk over there and I’ll introduce her to everyone else."

    "You two," Missy said, "certainly do have an unending store of excuses to go for walks." She gave him a wink. Not only she but everyone else at the table could make a pretty good guess as to what they spent some of their time doing on those walks.

    Then she turned. "I’m sure this is exactly how you wanted to spend your first visit to Grantville, isn’t it, Katerina? Meeting more and more apparently endless bunches of Chip’s relatives, most of whom are going to give you that ‘is she really suitable?’ look. You’ll survive. Clara had to go through it last month and she’s flourishing. Aren’t you?" She waved to Clara at the other end of the table, who waved back.

    Missy turned back to Katerina. "But, of course, she didn’t have to face up to inspection by Nani. That’s Mom’s side of the family."

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