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131 31 For Maria, the year 1916 does not start well at all. She has a toothache. She feels a gnawing and piercing and hammering in her lower jaw. With a disgruntled face she does her work. She has put a scarf over her head as she thinks the warmth might drive out the pain and cure the sick tooth. At night, too, she wraps her head up well, but she still can’t sleep. It gets worse and worse each day. Sometimes she cries quietly. She feels absolutely miserable with the pain and the lack of sleep. Her left cheek swells up, bulges more and more, and is taut and shiny. Maria is in so much pain that she doesn’t feel like working any more. She goes upstairs to Grandmother’s cold bedroom where the old woman is lying sick in bed. Frost flowers have formed on the windows. Maria pulls off her heavy boots and crawls under the blanket at the foot of the bed. There it is warm, and she curls up and whimpers with misery. Grandmother stays quite still and Maria knows that she feels sorry for her.After a while, she is shaken roughly.Tortured, Maria raises her wrapped-up head. Father is standing there, the corners of his mouth turned down contemptuously . He makes a mocking face.“Get up! Work! Not so weak, so soft! Not to bed with toothache! Get up! Get up!” Maria obeys and gets up. For two weeks, she drags herself around the house, the picture of misery. She sits at the stove sometimes, cradling and rocking her head in both hands. She cries.“Tomorrow we go to Blankenheim to the dentist,” Father says when he has had enough. “Thank God!” is all she can answer. The next morning, Maria puts on Grandmother’s bonnet. It has a shoulder cape knitted to it, and it is pointed at the top. Grandmother urges her to take an umbrella.There is driving snow outside, and she should protect her face.“Umbrella too good for that!” Maria exclaims. How many people have an umbrella, and one with a mother-of-pearl handle at that?! Stories Main Pgs 1-258.indd 131 4/26/2017 12:17:39 PM 132  Maria Wallisfurth “Take it,” Grandmother insists. The snow is so deep that the trains cannot run through the Ahr valley. Maria and Father have to trudge all the way to Blankenheim. The telephone wires mark the way. On the top of the hill, it is difficult to hold the umbrella against the bitter, icy wind. When they finally reach the dentist’s office, they find other people sitting in the waiting room.They have come from the town, the surrounding villages, and isolated farms. The dentist is not there yet. Father signals to Maria to sit down.“I wait in the fresh air. I pick you up here,”he says and disappears. Maria waits until the dentist arrives and it is her turn.The dentist works very quickly, but she does not care what happens to her if he can help her. And then, out comes the bad tooth! Dazed, her mouth full of blood, she sits on a chair again to wait for Father. She waits for a long time, and when she is tired of just sitting there, she goes out to the street, where she can spit out the blood into the snow. She walks up and down the street, looking into the narrow side streets. There is no sign of Father. Maria is exhausted and shivering with cold. It must be well past midday. Then, at last, she sees Father approaching. He comes swaying down the street arm in arm with another man. She knows straightaway how he has been passing the time. His face is bright red, his twinkling eyes are tiny, and he keeps bowing in front of Maria. She takes a step back. She cannot stand the smell of an inn right now. “Tooth is out!” says Maria, pointing to her cheek and spitting more blood into the snow. “Come,” Father beckons and goes on ahead with his pal. The people stop and grin and turn around to stare at the three of them. Maria can see Father opening his mouth wide and waving his free arm about, which means he is singing loudly all the way down the street. My God! she thinks. How will I ever get home? When they arrive at the square...


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Subject Headings

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