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HOMECOMING/Steue Yates EVEN AFTER THE NIGHT of gunfire and cannon, of surging, drunken crowds on Market and Water Streets, all down the river front; after flares and rockets; even after the box-shaped gunboat finished thumping its bursts of fire and black mounds of smoke, men still staggered under the Weitzers' window and paused at the visage of the brown Mississippi River. One gentleman in glorious white trousers and a soiled but fine crimson coat, the collar pulled up to his cheeks, swigged from a bottle of amber liquor, then spat the whiskey in a glittering spray at the sun rising. "Kerr! Bee! Smith!" He shouted each portion ofthe name with happy derision. The newspapers the evening before, dated June 5, 1865, had proclaimed the Confederate general's surrender somewhere in Texas, so the last Confederate army in the West was no more. The gentleman drew a pistol and flung his bottle high into the air. Pressing her cheek against the window frame, Patricia Weitzer cowered . The bottle plunked in the mud beside the boardwalk. The gentleman slipped and fell to his knees, then blasted at the sky. When his pistol was empty he stared at it, then struggled up and weaved toward the river, shouting the song about Cock Robin, just the chorus. She imagined he was Irish. Any article or fixture the Weitzer hadn't already sold was stowed in steamer trunks. What the Weitzer kept, the few chairs and desks, her own Saxony spinning wheel, he cowled in sheets so that the furniture squatted like the spirits of dead animals. Her mother whispered at her father in German, "Is this not a city we can start in? After four years I lose two boys, and still we leave?" Patricia's father, Claus Weitzer, had been a trustee of the National Mineral Bank in Springfield, had doled out most of his own currency to the bank's major depositors when the Federals liquidated it after Wilson's Creek. There were still dozens of individuals, several of them prominent citizens of Springfield, whose entire accounts he would never be able to cover—the Martins, the Pearsons of Pearson's Tack, the Morkan Quarry, the Dixons. Patricia turned but kept her head bowed. Claus Weitzer sat scowling at the window, where the drunken man's song still floated above dazed St. Louis. Her father's eyes were black in the amber light; strands of gray wormed in his goatee where none had been before. Her mother, Marta, made sure Patricia understood that the Weitzer had only a The Missouri Review · 11 daughter left to barter with the world. Her brothers had died fighting for Franz Sigel, one at Second Manassas, the other in a Confederate prison after his capture at New Market. The family was just father, mother, and daughter now. Marta asked her questions again. Claus' face, resolute as the blade of a plow, fixed on the nothing at the center of the room. "Step from the window, dear one," he said to Patricia in a terse whisper that kept both women silenced. Patricia was a slim girl, taller than she wished to be. She had a long face and a prominent, rounded jaw that, ifshe raised her chin, assumed grave pride. Her eyes were a startling gray flecked with green, but because they were crescent-shaped, they appeared too full of scrutiny, or so a young cadet had told her at the Turnverein. With a daughter like her, the Weitzer was strapped indeed, she thought. She was thirteen. Marta often reminded her at meals that she was not growing as she should, and plied her with biscuits and cheap sweets. Mornings Patricia taught English to wounded German soldiers at the old Turnverein meeting hall, now a hospital. Today she wheeled her favorite patient into the stream of sunlight pouring from a high window. His name was Feodore, and he had lost both legs to the knee and both arms to the shoulder at Pea Ridge on the second day of fighting . He had sandy blond hair, brown eyes, the soft fuzz of a beard. She promised to shave him today, his first shave. First, though, she propped...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 11-25
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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