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108 26 The month of April is really only there to prepare the house for the first Sunday in May, which is the outdoor festival of Kermis (May fair)! Father has ordered a general cleaning of the house. He hires their neighbor Johann Neu to come paint the house. All of the rooms upstairs are emptied one after the other so Johann Neu can whitewash the ceilings with chalk-white paint.Then, he paints the walls different colors—blue, green, or pink. But that is far from being all! He has also brought stencils with him. Maria helps him to put them up on the wall. He holds several of them up, one after the other, and paints over them with different colors. Then he adds flowers, scrolls, circles, and loops on the walls. If Maria stares at them for a long time, the shapes and contours blend and she seems to make out new figures: faces, animals, and things, as if looking at drifting clouds. When the work is finished, the rooms look fresh and clean. But, the color will not last long. Over the beds and by the doors they fade fast, wherever people brush against it. Maria scrubs the floors clean with lots of water, so that they don’t look gray. Up and down the stairs, she hauls the water.When the house is clean and the painting finished, the furniture is moved back into the house, put back into place, and wiped clean. Finally, fresh straw is stuffed into everyone’s bedding. Downstairs, the front room is painted as well. Over time, flies have dirtied the edges of the ceiling beams, and the smudge marks made by the children above the long bench are also a sorry sight. Maria scrubs and washes them with old rags, and wipes the doors and the window panes clean, not forgetting the window frames. While she cleans the house, Father and her brothers tidy up the stable and barn. The stable is whitewashed as well. Father has also checked his tools and repaired them. Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 108 4/26/2017 12:17:38 PM The Stories They Told Me  109 What a pity, it is still so cold outside! All of a sudden, fat snowflakes will begin to fall, or there is a hailstorm or thunderstorm. When the low, dark clouds disperse, the sun breaks through. Sometimes it brings out a beautiful rainbow over Lommersdorf, and the children stand in the Giefers’ doorway and marvel at the display of colors on the pearly bridge. On reasonably dry days, Father harnesses the horse, ploughs the fields, and sows seeds. Turnips are already in the ground, and potatoes, too. On the flat fields, sometimes the water forms shallow lakes. Flocks of crows fly across them. After a cloudburst, water collects in front of the Giefers’ farm, and more and more flood water gushes down the street. Father, Klöss, and Willi wait until the worst of the storm is over, then they each take a sack, turn one corner inside out, pull the sack over their heads like a pointed hat and run out with spades and shovels to dig a channel for the water to drain away. At the end of April, Willi takes the last of the wheat grain down to the grist mill. Maria quickly climbs on the cart to go with him. She hasn’t been to the mill for a long time. On top of the sack of grain, she has a soft seat. Inside the mill, there is a good smell of bran and flour.The huge millstones turn continually. Everything is powdered white. The miller greets Maria with a nod. He is busy because at fair time everybody needs their saved wheat to be ground so they can bake cakes. Since no one pays any attention to Maria, she goes to a little door she knows well and opens it cautiously. Immediately, coldness and wetness hit her; water foams and crashes from above, falls on the paddles of a wheel, and keeps it turning.The waterwheel is enormous. Father once told her that it was the biggest waterwheel in Germany. It measures 29 feet in diameter. For a while, Maria watches the regular rhythm of the wheel turning and the play of the water, and she senses the tremors coming from their movement. Meanwhile, Willi has unloaded the cart and loaded it again. Maria can tell by his face that...


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Subject Headings

  • Prisoners of war -- United States.
  • Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp.
  • Prisoners of war -- Cuba -- Guantánamo Bay Naval Base.
  • Afghan War, 2001- -- Prisoners and prisons, American.
  • War on Terrorism, 2001-2009.
  • Khan, Mahvish Rukhsana -- Diaries.
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